Feb 25, 2013

Liberating the Land of Canaan


I just returned to Palestine after a productive but tiring short tour of European cities (Paris, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Geneva) to rejoin the growing uprising against the occupation/colonization (a change) and to witness the PA and Israel still engaged in “security coordination” with our own tax money used as “leverage” (a no change).  Today was a day of anger as we buried Arafat Jaradat, a 32 year old father of two (and a third on the way) whose autopsy clearly showed he was tortured to death in Israeli jails (over 200 Palestinians lost their lives in Israeli prisons).* 

The tour featuring me and Jeff Halper to discuss the one-state solution was organized by the European branch of “Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace”. The organizers are mostly young students (though some of them are in graduate programs).  They did a tremendous amount of work.  They had invited me and Jeff to speak on the issue knowing that we hold somewhat different views (he is for a binational state within a confederation of Middle Eastern states while I am for one democratic secular state).  We both agree though that any dreams about the mirage of a two-state solution must be abandoned.  The discussions both during and between presentations were rather useful to all concerned including me. 

I had written a book on the subject called “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle”.  As it is out of (second) print now, I went ahead and put it on my website (http://qumsiyeh.org/sharingthelandofcanaan/ ).  Briefly I argued then (nearly 10 years ago) that a just peace can be achieved and that it can be durable and a win-win situation for all involved.  I suggested that instead of wasting time and energy talking about fictional solutions (like that of two-states) or less workable ones (vague binational state), we should insist on human rights as a basis for our activism.  Human rights are well enunciated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  These basic rights include the right not to be removed from one’s own lands and thus the rights of refugees to return to their homes and lands.  They include the rights to equality regardless of religion (thus Israel’s basic laws favoring Jews and discriminating against the native Christians and Muslims are against human rights). 

The various provisions of the UDHR clearly present us with only one way forward: one country for its entire people.  This happens to be also the main demand made by the native Palestinians from their first encounter with the harmful effects of political Zionism in 1880 (the colony of Petah Tikveh).  It remained our demands despite the Nakba of 1948, the Naksa of 1967, and the political setback of the Oslo “process”.  The latter was like a second Nakba: devastating to the psyche of the people. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of these disastrous “Declarations of Principles” and the agreements emanating from them.  They were supposed to be for a five-year (1993-1998) interim period while Palestinians and Israelis “negotiated” the final status issues.  But as most people realized then and all people realize now, no peace can be achieved by negotiating between a weak, imprisoned population and a strong colonial power that has no incentive to give up any stolen lands/resources.  After all, the occupation of the 1967 areas is the most profitable occupation in history (>$10 billion in direct profit annually to the state of Israel).  And this is not taking into account the benefit Israel gets from continued use of the land it occupied in 1948 by continuing to deny the refugees the right to return to their homes and lands.  It is also not taking into account the hundreds of billions Israel got over the past 65 years from Western Government and individual “donors” by playing the victim card while it was the most repressive regime engaged in massive war crimes and crimes against humanity.

These kinds of facts are slowly being recognized by civil societies around the world.  Many of those people finding these facts are also acting on them.  The Israel-Palestine question remains the most pressing issue in the world agenda since the collapse of apartheid in South Africa.  This is because, like that situation, the racism and apartheid in Palestine presents a severe challenge to the “world order” created after WWII.  After all, what value is all this talk about democracy, human rights, international law, and peace if the western governments continue to support a racist apartheid regime that ethnically cleansed 530 villages and towns and imprisons the remaining Palestinians in open air prisons (ghettos, Bantustans, cantons, people warehouses)?  Add to that this is the Holy Land where members of one religion now determine everything that happens with a set of discriminatory laws against members of other religions.

My humble recommendations for going forward (not in any order):
-Palestinians should rise-up against the system created in Oslo and rejuvenate the Palestine Liberation Organization to be representative of all 12 million Palestinians. This must be based on a clear strategy advocating for one democratic state.
-Palestinians continue and intensify resisting the occupation and colonization schemes of the Israeli government and settlers including pushing for a new wave of resistance (the 14th or 15th uprising)
-The international community intensifies its efforts at Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) in the same manner as we did with apartheid South Africa.  We encourage all to act by visiting Palestine and see for themselves the horrors of apartheid and then to act by many methods (see http://qumsiyeh.org/whatyoucando/ for 64 ways to act)
-We intensify the use of the internet (social networking, Tweets, Facebook etc.) to bring millions more to join the global struggle against Zionist apartheid and colonization.
-We should increase outreach among Israeli Jews who were isolated and brainwashed by their own government, so that they can see reality and the writing on the wall that there is no future for the programs of racism and ethnic cleansing done grotesquely in the name of “Jewish nationalism” (a false messiah).

“Our food is our curse” was a title of an article in an Egyptian newspaper I read on the way back home.  The author argued that Egyptians have become so focused on making their daily living as individuals that interest in issues, knowledge, and societal improvement have diminished or disappeared.  I agreed somewhat especially after being tricked to pay more on three occasions just in the last day of my travels.   But I would think he was a bit too pessimistic.  I think there is still a lot of good in Egypt, in Palestine, and in the Arab world.  The fact that he can write and critique is in itself a good indication.  I am also optimistic because the growth of the internet made change inevitable.  There is now hundreds of millions of people logging in and socially networking and learning from each other.  Ideas spread like viruses and power, previously concentrated in the hands of the few, is slowly diffusing to the hands of the many.  While we have no illusions about the obstacles we face (greed, institutionalized racism, western politicians beholden to Zionist lobbies, apathy etc.), we are 100% confident in the inevitability of democracy, justice and peace.  Much of our work will only help speed up the arrival of that inevitable future.  This acceleration will save lives and reduce other forms of suffering.  I see the change happening all around our shared blue planet.


Action: Please work for the release of all prisoners: Israel continued to kidnap Palestinians including several people we know or are friends of friends.  For example they arrested our activist colleague Mohammad Shabaaneh was kidnapped by the Israeli occupation authorities and has been isolated without seeing a lawyer and without charges.  He is a cartoonist.  He is added to the thousands of Palestinians imprisoned in the apartheid jails. http://mondoweiss.net/2013/02/palestinian-cartoonist-international.html
See also this report about other human rights violations including the arrest of 27 year old Yazan Mohammad Sawalha who was imprisoned years before and returned to university and was about to graduate

2 comments:

  1. Is Jeff Halper the activist in the anti-demolition organization? I saw him in Maine a few years ago. If it's him, that also reminds us how few Israeli Jews are making a serious critical effort.
    Uri Avnery takes a step forward, a half step or two steps back. The way forward is to ask why "the West" backs Israel. Can anyone be manipulated, given enough bribes and intimidation? Does the Jewish Zionist lobby (as opposed to the Christian Zionist lobby) have that much money and power? (Same question for the Christian Zionist lobby.) And on the other hand, the US and Europe have a famous racist history--Congo jumps to mind, where King Leopold killed a third of the population so he could build palaces in Belgium, according to Adam Hochschild. So isn't it more likely that "the West" are making Jews pay for the privilege of ending up in another Holocaust, after they outlive their usefulness as Arab-, Persian-, and Central-Asian-killers?
    I'd like you to ask Halper this for me, please, and Noam Chomsky, and anybody you meet who holds out any hope for a Jewish state in Palestine.
    Thanks.

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