So now let me qualify my opening claim: the Palestinians are winning the argument and Zionists are losing it. Israel’s panicked but formidable counterattack—a key topic of this book—underscores that the battle for justice in Palestine is and has always been, first and foremost, a battle of ideas: that Zionism has a right to colonize Palestine, expel its indigenous people, and deny rights to those who remain; that Jews form a collective that has a right to claim Palestine for itself; that resisting Zionism’s violent takeover of Palestine is “extremism” and “terrorism” while acquiescing to it is “moderation” and “peace”; that there is no future except through partition and segregation; that decolonization and a just future for all who live in historic Palestine remains within reach.
In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein offered Israel as a cautionary example for the rest of the world. The assumption in the early days of the “peace process” was that Israel needed peace in order to foster and sustain economic growth and prosperity. But in the post–9/11 environment, Klein shows how Israel transformed its economy into one “that expands in direct response to escalating violence” and has become the world’s “shopping mall for homeland security technologies,” reaping billions. In 2012, Israel’s “security” and “defense” industries, including conventional arms sales, saw record exports worth $7.5 billion, with much of the recent growth coming from the Asia-Pacific region. Israel’s arms exports have more than doubled from $3.5 billion in 2003, making it the world’s sixth largest arms exporter. Israel’s global sales of unmanned aerial vehicles—more commonly known as drones—are second only to those of the United States.
Global Palestine, John Collins speaks about a “Palestine that is becoming globalized and a globe that is becoming Palestinized.” He observes that “colonized territories have long served as laboratories for new forms of violence and social control and should thus be viewed, in an important sense, as ahead of their time.” In “an emerging world of pervasive securitization,” the technologies of control and repression Israel is constantly refining, in Palestine in particular, have proven to be a “prophetic index” of what is to come for disempowered communities all over the world. Even if its full extent and impact have yet to be exposed and understood, there is no other country in the world that is making a more deliberate, sustained, and broad effort to gain a foothold in the business of US law enforcement than Israel. As the United States expands its various wars within its own territory and around the world, this is bound to have dire consequences for Palestinians, Americans, and others, especially those already targeted by mass incarceration and the escalating brutality of militarized and racist policing.
Arafat, once Israel’s nemesis, had granted legitimacy and a right to exist to the state that had expelled his people from their homeland and refused to allow them to return. He thereby transformed the Palestine Liberation Organization into a subcontractor and enforcer for the occupying power from which Palestinians were seeking liberation. But Israel was dissatisfied with its gains and began to set the bar even higher with the demand that Palestinians recognize it as an explicitly “Jewish state,” meaning, in practice, a state with an overwhelming Jewish majority in which Jews could always monopolize political power. Arafat obliged, effectively conceding this demand in a New York Times op-ed in 2002: “We understand Israel’s demographic concerns and understand that the right of return of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns.”2 In other words, Arafat was all too ready to subordinate Palestinian refugee rights to Israel’s demand for Jewish supremacy.
Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the occupied territories together comprise half the population living under Israeli rule. Simply put, Palestinian parents are trampling all over Israel’s right to maintain a Jewish majority by having children, and their babies, by virtue of not being born to Jewish parents, are violating Israel’s right merely by living and breathing.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai had declared, “Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man.”
In practice, Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state” translates, as Joseph Massad puts it, into a right “to colonize Palestinian land, to occupy it, and to discriminate against the non-Jewish Palestinian people.”
Israel was created as a “Jewish state” by expelling Palestinians and preventing their return. It can only survive in this form by maintaining current and committing future violations of the rights of Palestinians. To deny the rights of Palestinians wherever they are so that Israel can maintain a Jewish majority created through violence and discrimination flouts every contemporary principle of human rights and international law. It flouts the will of the Palestinian people, the vast majority of whom, after almost seven decades, show no sign of being ready to give up on their rights. Respecting all the rights of Palestinians, by contrast, requires no violation whatsoever of any legitimate rights of Israelis, an issue I will discuss in chapter 7. Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state” is one with no proper legal or moral remedy and one whose enforcement necessitates perpetuating terrible wrongs. Therefore it is no right at all.
This leaves open the question of whether Israel has a “right to exist” at all. Here the answer is straightforward. States either exist or do not exist and other states either recognize them or do not, but no other state has claimed an abstract “right to exist.” If Israel is indeed a normal state among the nations, as its Zionist founders wished it to be, then it has no greater “right to exist” than East Germany, Czechoslovakia, South Vietnam, or the Soviet Union. All of those states dissolved, and there is no one with any standing to bring a case in any forum demanding that they be resurrected based on any abstract “right to exist” separate from their legitimate residents’ right to self-determination. Israel, even if its legitimacy were universally accepted, would have no more “right to exist” than the United Kingdom, which would cease to exist in the form it has taken for more than three centuries if the people of Scotland were to vote for independence. Similarly, Belgium has no inherent “right to exist” if its people decide to break it up into separate Flemish and Walloon states. Israel has no greater right to exist than its chief sponsor, the United States, whose own Declaration of Independence affirms that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of” the inalienable rights of those who live under it, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”
The ideological collapse of the two-state solution leaves no alternative but to shift our discourse and practice toward democratic and decolonizing alternatives. I have long argued that the transitions in South Africa and Northern Ireland offer instructive experiences. In neither place did the end of one political regime and the beginning of another result in a utopia. Both countries demonstrate that decolonization is a very lengthy, difficult, uneven, and contentious process that occurs within an internal context of “post-conflict” politics that must balance healing and “putting the past behind” with the need for justice and radical redistribution of material resources and power. These goals are often at odds. Any new regime must also contend with an international neoliberal economic and geopolitical order that constrains every state’s sovereignty and scope for action and hinders economic democracy in favor of an unrestrained capitalism that only exacerbates inequalities. Changing the political regime to one that is legitimate and formally democratic is an essential but insufficient condition. But only in such a context can the kinds of decisions on transitional justice, social reform, restitution, land reform, affirmative action, or planning needed to advance “ethical decolonization,” as Omar Barghouti has termed it, take place.
Israel’s self-image as a liberal “Jewish and democratic state” is proving impossible to maintain and market internationally against the reality of a militarized, ultranationalist Jewish sectarian settler colony that denies equal rights to its non-Jewish citizens and must carry out periodic massacres of “enemy” civilians in order to check the resistance of the region’s indigenous people, a practice Israeli military and political leaders frequently call “restoring deterrence.”
Israel’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state” is in effect an acknowledgement of failure: without Palestinian consent, something unlikely ever to be granted, the Zionist project of a Jewish ethnocracy in Palestine has fading long-term prospects.
Some Palestinians even called their condition a “double occupation”—not just by the Israeli army and settlers, but by the Palestinian Authority as well.
“Fayyadism represents, above all, a fundamental attitudinal shift. Its emphasis on self-reliance is a conscious effort to change the role of the Palestinians in their narrative from that of victims to that of agents of their own fate.” In other words, to change the “narrative” from a true one, where Palestinians were and are indeed victims of a prolonged and brutal US-financed Israeli occupation and colonization, to a false and fraudulent one where, with some pluck and entrepreneurialism, Palestinians can pull themselves up by their bootstraps without Israel having to do much except move the occasional checkpoint here and there. Israel thus becomes the aggrieved party to whom Palestinians have to prove their good intentions and faith. “As the situation on the ground improves and the PA delivers increasing economic prosperity and security for the Palestinians and, ultimately, for Israel,” Danin asserts, “the PA will provide a sense of possibility where one has been sorely lacking.” This narrative takes as a given that Israel has only refused to withdraw from the occupied territories because it feels insecure. This circumvents the obvious reality that Israel is engaged in a massive, continuous, and state-directed settlement project, a necessarily violent process that itself generates Palestinian resistance. Reality has shown that it is delusional to expect that Palestinians can bring prosperity and good governance under such circumstances—even with a little help from their occupiers. It is as though Palestinians, collectively, are a prisoner lying on the ground with his hands and legs shackled and Israel is a soldier standing over him with a boot on his neck. “Stand up,” the soldier says, “and then I will remove your shackles and take my boot off you.”
The destruction Israel has wrought on Gaza’s economy is not incidental to its “security” policies; it has been a deliberate goal. As Sara Roy points out, Israel has “explicitly referred to its intensified closure (or siege) policy in Gaza as a form of ‘economic warfare.’” Israeli officials even argued that “damaging the enemy’s economy is in and of itself a legitimate means in warfare and a relevant consideration even while deciding to allow the entry of relief consignments.” “Israel’s goal is no longer simply Gaza’s isolation and disablement,” Roy states, “but its abstraction and deletion. Israeli policy has shifted from addressing the economy in some manner (whether positively or negatively) to dispensing with the concept of an economy altogether.” Israel now treats the economy in Gaza as “a dispensable luxury”; its impact has been the “near total collapse” of the private sector, the traditional engine of economic growth there.
“Over more than 40 years of occupation, restrictions imposed by Israel on the Palestinians’ access to water have prevented the development of water infrastructure and facilities in the [occupied Palestinian territories], consequently denying hundreds of thousands of Palestinians the right to live a normal life, to have adequate food, housing, or health, and to economic development,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera.
But Israel has continued to use water as a weapon, first and foremost by denying Palestinians adequate access, damaging and exhausting their supplies, destroying and inhibiting the development of necessary and sustainable water management infrastructure, and more recently in its dishonest and cynical greenwashing propaganda.
He argues persuasively that, as conceived and practiced, the right of self-determination belongs not to national groups as national groups, but to the legitimate residents of any region whose status is unsettled, for example because it was previously colonized or recently liberated from foreign domination, or which is endangered because the current sovereign has persistently failed to protect or has itself consistently violated the fundamental rights of the legitimate residents. The residents of regions meeting these criteria “have a right to determine their political future either by constituting themselves as an autonomous political unit, or by merging with another state, or by dissolving into smaller states.”
One State Declaration: The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status; Any system of government must be founded on the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens. Power must be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all people in the diversity of their identities.
(Source: Nathan Colquhoun )