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Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is demand that Palestinians abandon their rights and dreams

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The following is a report by Richard Falk on “The Arab International Forum for Justice for Palestine,” held in Beirut on July 29, 2018. His report is followed by a personal account to Falk’s blogreaders of a more personal character, describing the style and manner of the gathering.

My note: This “Deal” was discussed during Clinton tenure and it is Not a new plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause and identity.

1. There was bright sunshine throughout the entire Forum thanks to the announcement that Ahed Tamimi and her mother were released on that very day, and boldly reaffirmed their abiding commitment to resistance.

This teenage Palestinian icon from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh had completed an 8-month jail term for slapping an IDF soldier after her cousin had been shot in the face.

Instead of exhibiting empathy for Ahed Tamimi, Israel exhibited its vindictive approach to the Palestinian reality by jailing such a sensitive young woman rather than acting in a civilized manner by exhibiting sympathy for the normalcy of her reactions, indeed their dignity, to being a witness of such brutality by an agent of the Israeli state.

The Tamimi family were prominent resisters before “the slap heard around the world.” It was evident by the frequent reference to Ahed by speakers at the Forum that her show of defiance and youthful exuberance was worth a thousand missiles, expressing not only sumud (steadfastness), but also the conviction that nonviolent resistance can become transformative if adapted to the realities of an oppressive situation.

Of course, not a word in the NY Times about Ahed’s release, while papers in Lebanon wrote complementary feature stories with sympathetic pictures of this heroine, and in every Turkish paper I saw her release was a front page story.

Ahed seems comfortable with the prominence of her role despite being so young. As far as the eye can see, Ahed seems completely unaffected by the dark shadows cast over her young life by the harshness of Israel’s response to her totally spontaneous gesture of resistance.

While celebrating Ahed release, we should also pause to remember Razan Al-Najjar, the heroic nurse tending the wounded at the Gaza Great March of Return fatally shot on June 1st by an IDF sniper in cold blood while apart from the demonstrators, away from the fence, dressed in easily identifiable white medical clothing, working in the vicinity of Khan Yunis.

We should also salute Dareen Tatour, fine Palestinian poet, author of the poem “Resist My People, Resist Them,” sentenced to prison just now for the sin of writing defiant poetry, having only recently been released from years of house arrest, denied access to the Internet, and even to her own village community.

2. There was one feature of the Forum that I admit made me increasingly uncomfortable as I listened to speaker after speaker pour cold water on Trump’s promise, or was it a threat, to end the conflict with “the deal of the century.

When it came my turn to speak at the very end of the day, I started by saying how astonished I was by the attention given by prior speakers to this catchy phrase used by Trump. According these words of the demagogue so much attention gave the still undisclosed U.S. proposal a political weight it didn’t deserve or possess, and could put the Palestinians in an unnecessarily awkward, defensive, and combative position. (This is how Israel was created by non-abiding promises kept by the colonial powers to the Jews and Not kept to the Palestinians)

I pointed out that Trump’s erratic approach to the world since he became president had weakened greatly the U.S. global leadership role, and that his extreme partisanship with respect to the Palestinian struggle had reduced to zero American credibility as an impartial or constructive arbiter in relation to the future of the two peoples. (

Actually, the people in the region never believed in the US credibility as a fair mediator. Mind you that it was the “Christian” Evangelical movement in the USA that precede Herzel, 50 years, in his ideology)

U.S. credibility as a peacemaker had long ago been convincingly challenged, for instance, by the devastating book of Rashid Khalidi, “Brokers of Deceit,” and even more comprehensively by Jeremy Hammond in his important assessment, Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” (2016).

It seemed to me that the words “the deal of the century” had entranced and bewitched this Palestinian audience, and maybe others, leading to my fear that Trump had put them on a road leading to a political dead end for the Palestinian aspirations, crushing their struggle by being tricked into entering such a spiderweb of bombastic irrelevance.

What the U.S. seems ready to offer, besides bombast, and what Israeli leaders have been talking about more and more openly, is that if the Palestinians abandon their rights along with their dreams, “peace” becomes possible.

This includes abandoning political goals associated with the right of self-determination. If the Palestinians are so foolish as to do this, then they can become hapless beneficiaries of “an economic peace” courtesy of Israel’s generosity and charitable nature.

The deal of the century reduced to substance is nothing more than “geopolitical bribery,” exchanging the prospect of some dollars for the renunciation of inalienable rights.

In such a bargain the devil is NOT in the details, but is the very essence of what is being proposed.

Of course, there are almost certain also to be humiliating details involving the concrete implications of permanent submission by the Palestinians: acceptance of uncontested Israeli control of Jerusalem, a complete denial of any right of return for  Palestinian refugees or exiles, and a series of master/servant economic arrangements.

My plea at the Forum was to put “the deal of the century” in its proper perspective by ignoring it, or if it must be discussed, then re-frame all references to the deal by recognizing that it is less a deal that an attempted diktat, in actuality a crude attempt to commit “the crime of the century!”

(How many crimes of century have the Palestinians  to deal with? Every decade in Israel existence was a crime of the century committed)

3. I highlighted the second portion of my presentation by quoting the opening line of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

I felt this kind of interface well depicted the current situation of the Palestinians. It was the worst of times because the alignments in the Arab world together with the geopolitical forces seemed to favor the success of the Zionist Project to an unprecedented degree. The major Arab governments were moving toward postures of “normalization” with Israel without any longer insisting on the precondition of reaching a sustainable peace with the Palestinians.

This regional setback has weakened Palestine diplomatically, and materially. At the same time the Trump presidency has made no secret of its endorsement of maximal Zionist goals, agreeing to support whatever Israel (and Saudi Arabia) want.

Above all this commitment involves ramping up a dangerous confrontation with Iran. Most of Europe seems unhappy with these developments, but has so far lacked the energy, incentive, and leadership to play an offsetting role to balance Trump’s one sidedness and thus act to keep alive what has become a Zombie solution, the barely flickering flame of “a two-state solution.

In other words, from the international community of states, the best that can be hoped for at this stage, is a rather lame show of support for the two-state mantra, which has been effectively moribund for several years.

In sum, if Palestinian prospects are interpreted through the prism of standard international relations, the outlook is dismal, and not by chance this is the line being pursued by the Middle East Forum, an ultra-Zionist NGO.

Its chosen mechanism to drive the point home is its rather diabolical scheme labeled “the victory caucus,” which is actively recruiting, with a disturbing degree of success, members of the U.S. Congress and the Knesset.

It wants the world to understand that since international diplomacy is dead and with Trump in the White House the occasion offers Israel the opportunity of adopting more muscular tactics to force the Palestinians to understand that their game of resistance is over, that to avoid collective suicide there is no alternative left to the Palestine other than political surrender.

And by such reasoning, if the Palestinians are wise enough to accept this line of thinking, then they will become beneficiaries of some variant of economic peace as a sign of Israeli gratitude.

Fortunately, these dismal scenarios of defeat do not tell the true or real, much less the whole, story.

Several recent developments have created new and promising opportunities for the Palestinian national movement to move its own agenda forward. These developments involve a welcome shift of the center of gravity of the Palestinian movement from reliance on inter-governmental initiatives, including those pursued at the UN, to a phase of struggle that combines new modes of Palestinian resistance with a rapidly expanding global solidarity movement.

This solidarity movement is receiving a great boost in credibility as a result of the militant support that BDS campaign is receiving in South Africa.

In effect, on the basis of their experience of racism, South Africa is delivering this urgent message to the world: we alone know from experience the full horror of an apartheid regime, and what Palestinians daily face is a form of apartheid that is even worse than what we endured, and finally overcame by a struggle that combined the brave resistance of our people buoyed by the solidarity of the world; although the circumstances are far different, apartheid in Israel can be overcome by a similar shift in the balance of forces due to an intensifying popular struggle neutralizing the repressive capabilities of military and police domination.

I mentioned two developments of particular importance in the emergence of this altered scenario of struggle more encouraging for the realization of Palestinian aspirations.

First, the Israeli nation-state law of the Jewish people that by its bluntness in asserting the exclusivity of Jewish rights in Israel, including that of self-determination, amounts to a formal adoption of an apartheid ideology by Israel in all but name. In effect, this development vindicated the conclusions of the ESCWA report on Israeli apartheid prepared by Virginia Tilley and myself that was condemned so fiercely by the Israeli ambassador, and even more so by Nikki Haley, the American ambassador at the UN, when it was released in March 2017.

As the discourse at the Forum and the mainstream media now illustrate, it is no longer controversial to attribute apartheid to the particular Israeli mode of dominance imposed on Palestinians. What makes the nation-state law so politically and psychologically helpful in this respect is that the relation of the Israeli state to its Palestinian minority was, although discriminatory enough to form one domain of the apartheid system, far less onerous than Israeli policies and practices toward refugees in neighboring countries or Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Thus for Israel to acknowledge apartheid as the modus operandi in Israel itself amounts to a signed and voluntary confession as to the racist character of overall domination.

Such an interpretation of the nation-state law is important for mobilizing popular support for more militant forms of solidarity with respect to the Palestinian people.

Apartheid is an international crime, one type of crime against humanity that is set forth in Article 7 of the Statute governing the operations of the International Criminal Court, and deprives Israel of the propaganda value of claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East, a major pillar of its claimed politic al legitimacy. That pillar crumbled the moment the Nation-State bill became Israeli law.

The second development that creates opportunities for advancing the Palestinian struggle is the exposure of the violent nature of Israel’s control mechanisms, especially its reliance on grossly excessive force in calculated response to the Great March of Return.

These demonstrations at and around the Gaza fence are demands to implement the most fundamental of Palestinian rights as set forth by international law. Killing unarmed demonstrators with live ammunition exposes to the world the violent nature of Israel’s structures of domination.

This use of lethal force at the Gaza border recalls vividly the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, which many commentators identified as the point of no return for South African apartheid, revealing the true racist nature of its governing process to the world.  The Gaza massacre is actually far worse than Sharpeville (although there were other massacres to follow including crushing the Soweto Uprising), as the willful killing at the Gaza border has now been repeated on a series of successive Fridays.

It is the extreme character of these two developments that provides this golden opportunity to civil society activists and their organizations to mobilize wider and deeper support for the Palestinian struggle.

The BDS Campaign, already commencing its 14th year, becomes more central in this effort to isolate Israel internationally and emphasize the criminal illegitimacy of Israeli apartheid. It is appropriate to mention that South Africa sought to demonize opposition to its racist policies by dubbing anti-apartheid activists as “terrorists” or “Communists.”

Israel uses a similar rhetorical tactic by branding its critics and activists as “anti-Semites.” Although Israeli apartheid is different in many aspects from South African apartheid with regard to both internal and international contexts, both instances of apartheid involve structures of subjugation based on race with the overriding purpose of maintaining domination of one race, and the victimization of the other. South African apartheid proved vulnerable to resistance and solidarity initiatives.

It is my belief that the opportunity now exists, more so than ever before, to establish a comparable vulnerability with respect to Israeli apartheid.

It should be appreciated that the great unlearned lesson of the last half century is that military superiority has lost much of its historical agency.

The colonial wars were won by the weaker side militarily. The Vietnam War was lost by the United States despite its overwhelming military superiority. The side that control the heights of legal, moral, and political opinion eventually usually controls the political outcome in contemporary struggles for control of sovereign states, especially if the struggle takes place in a distinct political entity, and not as a secessionist move by a captive nation with an existing large sovereign state (for example, Catalonia, Chechnya, Puerto Rico).

The Palestinians have been winning the legitimacy war to achieve such nationalist aspirations, and now is the time for soft power militancy to get on with the job.

4. Despite the implicit acknowledgement of apartheid by the adoption of the nation-state law as Basic Law of Israel, that is, as not subject to change except by enactment of another law with Basic Law status, it seems helpful to reassert the relevance of the ESCWA Report.

That study, arousing great controversy at the time of release, is no longer as relevant or as needed for purpose of debating whether or not Israel is an apartheid state. Even before the Basic Law was adopted, the evidence of Israeli practices shows, as the Report argues, that Israel is an apartheid state. The Report remains relevant, however, to obtain a better understanding of the distinctive, specific, and comprehensive nature of Israeli apartheid.

For one thing, the Report examines the allegation of apartheid from the perspective of international law as it is set forth in various authoritative places, especially the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the International Crime of Apartheid.

Secondly, it argues on the basis of evidence that Israeli apartheid extends to the Palestinian people as a whole, not just to those living under the dual legal systems of the West Bank or as the discriminated minority in Israel. The apartheid regime developed by Israel applies also to the refugees confined to camps in neighboring countries and to those Palestinians living in Jerusalem, which is governed as if it is already wholly incorporated into the state of Israel.

We reaffirm the central conclusion of the Report that the only valid path to a sustainable peace for both peoples requires the prior rejection of the ideology and the dismantling of the structures of apartheid.

Any other purported peace process will produce, at most, a new ceasefire, most likely, with a very short life expectancy. A secondary conclusion is that as a matter of law, all governments and international institutions, as well as corporations and banks, have a responsibility to do their utmost to suppress the crime of apartheid as being perpetrated by the leadership of the state of Israel.

It also would follow that lending assistance to Israel either materially or diplomatically is now unlawful, aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise.

Conclusion: The time is ripe for civil society to represent the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Israeli apartheid regime. This struggle is just and the means being pursued are legitimate. Resistance and solidarity are the vital instruments by which to challenge apartheid, and its geopolitical support structure. This was the path that led to the collapse of South African apartheid, and a similar path is now available for the Palestinian struggle.

Afterword: Falk’s note on the conference of a personal character.

My initial impression after experiencing a 90-minute airport line for those carrying foreign passports to gain entry to Lebanon was that the conference was incredibly disorganized. There was no program available to the participants even after the Opening Ceremony began in a packed hotel auditorium with a crowded and passionate gathering of persons dedicated to justice for Palestine, hailing from many countries, from as far away as Mumbai and San Francisco, including diplomats, religious personalities dressed in traditional garb, and those who in a diversity of ways had kept faith over the years with the Palestinian struggle.

Not surprisingly, the Irish participants stirred the crowd the most with their fiery eloquence, drawing on their shared experience of a somewhat similar prolonged, and often anguished, struggle. The Forum was a microcosm of Palestinian inclusiveness. I was not really surprised that Ramsey Clark was the beloved Honorary Chair of the Forum, and learned that only a recently broken hip kept him away.

There were many moments of personal satisfaction during my long one day visit (that seemed like three), including a warm coffee chat with Rabi3 Bashour, recalling our ESCWA experiences, and discovering that his venerable father, Maan, was the heart and soul of the Forum, both as moderator of the event and its guiding spirit throughout the entire process from its origins until the present.

The formative idea of the Forum is to establish a platform that is wide enough to accommodate all tendencies in the Palestinian national movement provided only that there exists ample evidence of dedication to justice for the Palestinian people.

This meant Fatah and Hamas in the same room, religious figures and firmly secular persons, representatives of trade unions, student organizations, prisoner and detainee family members, women’s groups, members of parties from the far left and the center (I never became aware of any right wing participation).

It was the central task of the Forum to keep this symbolic expression of Palestinian unity in robust good spirits, and only secondarily, to address matters of substance. The unspoken dream of the occasion was that the success of the Forum would nudge the political leaders of the now deeply divided Palestinian movement to put aside their differences and achieve sustainable unity so as to pursue together the far greater convergence of goals at the common core of their struggle.

There was a call from the podium at the outset for “practical proposals” rather than just “speeches,” but rhetorical style is almost impossible to discipline, and especially so in the Arab world. And so, inevitably, there were an assortment of speeches mainly validated by frequent emotional flourishes throughout their delivery, yet in fairness there were also several promising concrete suggestions for action initiatives.

I came to appreciate greatly the anarchistic style of hospitality, above all by Nabil Hallak, the guiding conference presence, with No observable capacity for conventional organization beyond a restless vitality that made us all feel welcome, appreciated, and well cared for.

Once I overcame my own anxieties about the chaotic logistics enough to go with the flow I enjoyed being in such a setting, and everything important worked out somehow. It turns out Nabil has a beautiful wife, has fought in Palestinian resistance, and as a result possesses a body that was pierced by nine Israeli bullets.

Despite this, Nabil is modest about his past, projects a joy-for-life esprit and manifests day and night an intense dedication to the Forum as an ongoing political project. He is close to Tima Issa, a TV producer in Beirut with whom I had done a program a year ago, who extended the initial invitation and made the social dimension of my brief visit both enjoyable and memorable.

About Richard Falk
Richard Falk is a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. He is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”

Other posts by .

The Other Side of the Wall

The Other Side of the Wall is my new book that recounts my experiences with the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine. It has recently been published by Cune Press and is now available at Amazon and Cune Press.

You can find a free sample from the book here.

Reviews:

Robert FantinaMiddle East Eye.

Jim Miles, Palestine Chronicle.

Ramona Wadi, Middle East Monitor.

Paul LarudeeInternational Solidarity Movement.

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Testimonials:

  • “A brave, poignant, and invaluable exposure to the daily suffering and dangers endured by the Palestinian people living under a cruel occupation that has lasted for 50 years with no end in sight.
  • Richard Hardigan is no spectator of this ordeal, writing as one who has for some months stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the Palestinians, inspired by their extraordinary resolve, resilience, and above all by their loving hospitality.  Every American should be forced to read this illuminating book!”

Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. Professor Falk has written 20 books, the latest of which is Palestine’s Horizon: Towards a Just Peace.

  • “The Other Side of the Wall is a wrenching and revealing account that can only be conveyed by someone who has lived its exasperating and at times heartbreaking details. Richard Hardigan tells the story of the occupation of Palestine with utmost integrity. It is a powerful experience that is neither intended to be ‘balanced nor neutral’ but dauntingly real and unapologetically honest. A strongly recommended read.”

– Ramzy Baroud, scholar and author of several books, the latest of which is My Father was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.

  • “In The Other Side of the Wall, Richard Hardigan not only takes you onto the ground in occupied Palestine, but into his shoes as a member of the International Solidarity Movement operating in the West Bank to try to bring the world’s attention to the suffering the Israeli occupation regime is inflicting upon the Palestinians. As the words flow off the page, candidly laying bare the thoughts and emotions that accompanied him on his journey, you feel the fear of confronting armed Israeli soldiers at demonstrations against the occupation.
  • You feel the sense of surrealism as you watch Palestinian youths get shot and carried away, bleeding. You feel the anticipation of wanting to do something to make a difference, followed by the sense of helplessness that comes with the realization that, even if the outside world, beyond that wall, was aware of the reality of life under Israeli occupation, too few would care enough to do anything about it.
  • You struggle with the sense of guilt knowing that, in the end, you, too, will be returning to a life of relative luxury and comfort, while the Palestinians you’ve gotten to know, who’ve opened their homes to you, will remain trapped in that nightmarish existence.
  • The Other Side of the Wall is the next closest thing to doing what he has done and actually traveling into the West Bank to enter that reality for oneself. Hardigan does a tremendous job of bringing that reality to you and, in doing so, conveying the message that, for the sake of our own humanity, we must not avert our eyes and look away, but each in our own capacity join in solidarity with the oppressed.”

Jeremy Hammond, award-winning political analyst, author and founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal. His latest book is Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

  • This is an important book. As Palestine has become a human rights cause, and large segments of the land turned into virtual prisons, a call has gone out to foreigners of conscience to help Palestinians and many have responded. Richard Hardigan is one and he has written what we have been waiting for for years: a measured, you-are-there account of volunteering for the International Solidarity Movement, a vivid journal that takes us past slogans and ideologies.
  • Hardigan is a fine, mature writer. He tells us only what he saw and how he felt when he saw it, in a supreme effort to compensate those who gave him great hospitality with the only thing they sought from him in return: recognition in the eyes of the world.
  • Hardigan’s record is marked by endless imprisonments, tear gassings, shootings, but also moments of comedy and weakness that show Palestinians to be human beings very much like others in political stories that last. The moral questions that haunt Hardigan will haunt his readers. What made one group of humans do this to another group of humans? How can these people go on like this?

Philip Weiss, journalist and author. He co-edited The GoldStone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, and he is the founder of Mondoweiss.

  • “In this informative and disturbing book, Richard Hardigan brings the reader into the stark, brutal reality of Palestinian suffering. From personal accounts of the suffering of people who quickly became close friends, to the biased reporting in the western media, the reader is brought face-to-face with the harsh truths of the Israeli occupation. A must-read for anyone wanting to be fully informed about this timely issue.”

– Robert Fantina, activist, journalist and author of numerous books. His latest is Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy.

  • “In this searing first-person account, Hardigan describes the murder, theft, desecration and destruction regularly visited on Palestinians by their Israeli tormentors with near-perfect impunity. He also chronicles systemic injustices such as the Wall that swallows land, water, and hope and a ‘justice’ system that regularly beats, incarcerates, and interrogates childen as young as twelve without due process. Any human who reads this account and is not furious enough to be spurred into action should check his or her pulse.”

– Pamela Olson, author of  Fast Times in Palestine.

  • “Following his experiences of the Tahrir Square uprising, in the summer of 2014 Richard Hardigan volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement to join in and to document the resistance to the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine.
  • THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL reveals his own personal awakening to the realities of the apartheid wall, the deadly struggles in Palestinian villages, and the level of violence of Israeli forces and right wing settlers. Set in a backdrop culminating in the devastating seven week assault on Gaza, Hardigan’s voice moves from innocence to a deep seated rage as he bears witness to the brutality of Israeli policies, politicians, and the soldiers tasked with committing a long list of atrocities. 
  • In the tradition of Rachel Corrie, this book joins a growing collection of voices from the ground, calling out the endless grief and loss, and making it more difficult for anyone to say they didn’t know.”

 – Alice Rothchild, physician, author, filmmaker and social justice activist. Her films include the award-winning documentary Voices Across the Divide. Her latest book is Condition Critical: Life and Death in Israel/Palestine.

It hugely Matters: unnecessary extended trial Experience of Palestinian teenage girl Ahed Tamimi

Israel’s prosecution of Ahed Tamimi under an Israeli military court for putting up resistance to Israel’s occupation regime epitomizes the unspeakable inhumanity of holding a civilian population captive for generations.

It is now known by virtually everyone who follows the Palestinian struggle that a 16-year-old girl named Ahed Tamimi, who is now 17, confronted Israeli soldiers on her family’s land shortly after her cousin, Mohammed, was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, causing a coma.

The video of her actions has gone viral, showing the world a courageous young woman engaging in nonviolent acts of resistance, and then a day later in the middle of the night being arrested in her home and then charged with a series of crimes.

As is standard Israeli practice in the arrest of children, Aden was hauled off to an Israeli prison facility out of reach of her family and then denied bail.

As has been widely noted, Ahed Tamimi is a heroic victim for those in Palestine and elsewhere who approve of the Palestinian national struggle, and commend such symbolic acts of nonviolent resistance. Ahed has also been often called ‘iconic’ because her story, now and before, is so emblematic of the extraordinary perseverance of the Palestinian people who having endured fifty years of occupation, and seventy years since the mass dispossession of 1948 known to Palestinians as the Nakba.

This prolonged ordeal continues to unfold without a decent ending in sight.

The fact that Ahed is a child and a girl reinforces the double image of courage, stubborn resistance, and victimization. It is also notable that as early as 2013 Ahed gained prominence when given The Handala Courage Award by a Turkish municipality in Istanbul, an occurrence given great attention due to a breakfast in her honor arranged by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

While only 13, Ahed opened an art exhibit in Istanbul aptly titled “Being a Child in Palestine.”

The Israeli reaction, as might be expected, was as negative and denigrating as the Palestinian response was affirmative; maybe more so. Israel’s Minister of Culture, no less, Mira Regev referred to Ahed this way: “She is not a little girl, she is a terrorist. It about time they will understand that people like her have to be in jail and not allowed to incite racism and subversion against the state of Israel.”

The internationally known Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, was more precise in describing the punishment that fit Ahed’s supposed crime: “Ahed Tamimi should serve a life sentence for her crime.”

More luridly, Ben Caspit, a prominent journalist, made a rather shocking assertion of how Ahed’s type of defiant behavior shockingly deserves to be addressed outside the framework of law: “In the case of girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark without witnesses or cameras.”

Some critics have read this statement as advocacy of sexual abuse, even rape, but whatever its intention, the fact that such language can be used openly at the higher levels of Israeli discourse, without arousing an Israeli backlash is suggestive of a terrorist style of governance relied upon to break the will of Palestinian resistance.

Mira Regev’s reaction to the Tamimi video clip situates the Israeli reaction to Ahed Tamimi’s in ways that seem to reflect the dominant mood in the country that perversely reverses the realities of oppressor and oppressed, victimizers and victims: “When I watched that I felt humiliated. I felt crushed,” finding the incident “damaging to the honor of the military and the state of Israel.” (Is this sentence good to Israel or against its brutal actions?)

It is in this strange sense that it is Israelis, not Palestinians, who experience humiliation in the current situation—despite Israel being in total control of every aspect of the Palestinian life experience, which for Palestinians involves a daily encounter with oppressive policies designed to frighten, humiliate, and subjugate.

In contrast, Israelis enjoy the benefit of urban freedom and prosperity in an atmosphere of normalcy with relatively high levels of security in recent years that has greatly diminished the security threat, and in the process, effectively erased Palestinian grievances and aspirations from public consciousness.

When Palestinians are noticed, as in this incident, it tends to be with derision, and expressions of a domineering Israeli political will that considers it entirely fitting to impose punishments on Palestinian children of a severity totally disproportionate to the gravity of the supposed crime.

It is this disparity between the reality of Palestinian resistance and the rhetoric of Israeli oppressive options that gives Ahed Tamimi’s story such symbolic poignancy.

Of course, there are more sophisticated Israeli responses to Ahed’s challenge.

Some commentators claim that what is disproportionate is the global attention devoted to the incident, even suggesting that it was a cynical ploy meant to distract world public opinion due to the failure of Hamas to deliver on its call for a third intifada in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and so move the U.S. Embassy.

Other critics insist that the incident was staged by the Palestinians, with cameras at the ready, and not as spontaneous as the video wants us to believe. Such a contention seems irrelevant, even if correct, as Ahed’s defiance was prompted by the shooting and wounding of her cousin a short time before, which was certainly not staged, but rather a reflection of oppressive and violent Israeli responses to Palestinian demonstrations of resistance.

To belittle her acts as instruments of ‘infowar’ is also to ignore the uncertainty she faced when so strongly confronting Israeli soldiers and challenging their authority. She could not have known that these soldiers would not violently retaliate, as indeed some Israelis wished had happened to avoid ‘humiliation’ on the Israeli side.

Ahed’s bravery and dignified reaction seem to be authentic given the wider context, as does the resistance of the Tamimi family in the town of Nabi Saleh that undoubtedly socialized Ahed into a culture of nonviolent practice.

I think these polarized responses to the incident offer a defining metaphor for the current phase of Israel/Palestine relations.

The metaphor is given a special vividness because Ahed Tamimi as a child epitomizes the mentality and tactics of an oppressive state: the prospect of Ahed’s case being heard by a military court that finds that more than 99% of defendants are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused.

This is reminiscent of South African administration of criminal justice at the height of apartheid racism.

Beyond the legal fate of Ahed’s case is the unspeakable inhumanity of holding a civilian population captive generation after generation.

Related article: Benny Morris’s Untenable Denial of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

This article was originally published at RichardFalk.WordPress.com on February 13, 2018.

 

Investing in Israeli settlements continues “cycle of violence” — Desmond Tutu

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Fierce apartheid critic Desmond Tutu has denounced businesses that aid repression. (Joshua Wanyama)

Other victories have received less publicity.

The Swedish fund KPA Pension, for example, has published an exclusion list on its website featuring a number of Israeli banks and telecommunications firms, the weapons manufacturer Elbit and Alstom, a French corporation that has been involved in building a light rail system linking up Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

KPA manages the pensions of more than a million people working in local government.

Sweden’s state pension fund AP7, meanwhile, has excluded the technology giant Hewlett-Packard because of its provision of surveillance technology to Israel, as well as Cemex, a Mexican company which has been quarrying in the West Bank in violation of international law.

Enabling war crimes

AP7 is not as clean as it would have us believe, however.

In August, the Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet complained that AP7 is continuing to invest in3 Israeli banks.

According to the paper, this was not compatible with the views of most Swedes, who wanted pension funds to respect ethical principles.

Similarly, the third largest Dutch pension fund ABP has a €51 million ($64 million) stake in 3 Israel banks: Leumi, Hapoalim and Mizrahi-Tefahot. All three of these banks finance settlements in the West Bank.

The construction of Israeli settlements breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention and amounts to war crimes.

ABP is under pressure to ditch these enablers of war crimes. Around 1.8 million people have signed a petition calling on it to do so.

Desmond Tutu, the South African archbishop, has written to ABP’s board contending that investing in Israeli institutions that lend to repressive and illegal projects “helps perpetuate the cycle of violence.”

“Respect the UN”

ABP could follow the example set by another Dutch pension fund, BPL.

A list published by BPL for 2013 states that it has excluded the three aforementioned Israeli banks, along with Alstom and Veolia (the major player in the East Jerusalem tramway).

Gerard Roest, BPL’s chairman, told me that the decisions to exclude these firms were taken because the fund is guided by international standards on human rights. “The UN is a kind of world government and we should respect its decisions,” he said.

A UN fact finding mission on the Israeli occupation stated last year:

“A number of banks provide mortgage loans for home buyers and special loans for building projects in settlements. They also provide financial services to businesses in settlements and, in some cases, are physically present there.”

Richard Falk, a former UN special rapporteur for the West Bank and Gaza, has warned that “financial institutions and real estate companies may be held criminally accountable for their involvement with illegal settlements in occupied Palestine.”

Pension funds that keep on investing in Israel can be sure that they will come under pressure from people of conscience throughout the world. Support for war crimes will result in damage to their reputations.

Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures..

Jadaliyya Interview Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani on this new Book “Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures”

Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?

Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani (NE & MR): The book represents a compilation of articles and documents published by Jadaliyya during the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations in 2011-2012.

We felt this moment represents—for better or worse—a critical juncture in Palestinian history and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, deserving of proper analysis and contextualization.

It will either mark the moment at which Palestinians began to definitively disengage from the Oslo framework that has dominated their world for the past two decades and must, alongside the 1948 Nakba, be seen as the most catastrophic development in contemporary Palestinian history.

Alternatively, it forms another attempt by a leadership lacking in strategic vision, tactical acumen, and political dynamism, to revive Oslo yet again.

As such, it marks the last hurrah of the Palestinian national movement as we have known it since the 1950s. Thus far, the latter interpretation certainly seems the more sensible.

[Cover of

[Cover of “Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures”] Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker

Nevertheless, these things also have the potential to take on a life of their own, driving their sponsors in directions they have not anticipated or may not want, and even marginalizing or consuming them in the process.

Despite the resumption of bilateral negotiations, the potential to shift away from the Oslo framework remains viable precisely because the options created by the statehood bid remain available. But in view of the present Palestinian leadership’s regional and international alliances, vested interests, and economic constraints, this is highly unlikely.

Regardless of outcome, the broader point is that one way or another, this represents a critical moment that deserves analysis and reflection beyond mere reporting of actual events.

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does it address?

NE & MR: The book is divided into 4 sections that examine what we believe to be the main themes highlighted by the statehood bid.

1. “National Liberation Strategies examines the bid from the point of view of a viable Palestinian national strategy, and the lack thereof.

2. “International Law and Statehood analyzes the proper role of international law, if any, in achieving Palestinian self-determination in light of legal strategies used by other colonized peoples, together with the new realities that exist on the ground.

3.  “US Foreign Policy” concerns the elephant in every room and china shop, and addresses the crucial role of the United States as what objectively can only be characterized as a direct participant in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A final section entitled

4.  Representation focuses on the broader issue of the crisis of representation that Palestinians have been experiencing for at least the past two decades, and how the statehood bid ameliorates and intensifies it in various ways.

The contributions to this volume represent points of view that are both critically for and against the UN initiative.

Still, they are written from a common perspective seeking to promote Palestinian self-determination. The book does not provide equal space to those who support Palestinian rights and those who do not think they should have any.

Since the majority of essays were written around the time of the initial 2011 Palestinian application to the United Nations, a number of additional contributions look at this question one year later. We have also included key documents, among them the speeches of Mahmoud Abbas, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Barack Obama to the UN General Assembly in September 2011.

J: How does this work connect to and/or depart from your previous research and writing?

NE & MR: We have both been involved in research and advocacy for Palestinian self-determination throughout most of our lives, and in this respect this volume fits right in.

Both of us also believe that a more intensive exchange of views and perspectives on the key issues addressed in this collection are essential and indeed a pre-requisite for the reconstruction of the Palestinian national movement and the development of a coherent and effective national strategy.

The contents reflect and contribute to broader conversations on the Palestinian question as well as internal ones amongst Palestinians themselves. On this score as well, this volume contributes to our earlier and existing work.

J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have?

NE & MR: The book is intended both for a general audience that would like to enhance its understanding of how supporters of Palestinian self-determination view the UN initiative. Why was there not unanimous support amongst Palestinians?

Why did legal scholars disagree about its implications for the rights of refugees?

What was the Palestinian leadership thinking and did it have a Plan B?

The anthology aims to answer those questions, making it a good fit within both graduate and undergraduate university classes, as well as beyond, among a general readership.

This book is also intended for people who have been part of the debates addressed in this collection of essays and would like to explore these various perspectives in greater depth.

It therefore should also benefit long-time advocates, writers, and scholars who are similarly concerned about the political impasse that has faced Palestinians globally since at least the onset of the Oslo accords.

J: What other projects are you working on now?

NE: I am working on a couple of pieces of legal scholarship, as well as an essay on international law and the Palestinian question. My current legal scholarship explores the impact of the Obama administration’s policy of targeted killings upon the international law and self-defense.

Another piece examines the impact of overlapping refugee legal regimes in the Middle East on Palestinian refugees during secondary forced displacement, as is now the case in Syria. The essay regarding the Palestinian question attempts to unpack whether international law has been part of the problem, or the solution, or neither, in response to Israel’s settler-colonial project.

MR: I am writing a book with Norman Finkelstein that examines how the internationalization of the “Question of Palestine” can contribute to achieving Palestinian self-determination and peace in the Middle East, in accordance with international law and the international consensus on the relevant questions.

Excerpt from Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures

From the Foreword, by Richard Falk

Ever since the collapse of European colonialism, the side in a conflict that controls this moral and legal high ground has generally, although not invariably, prevailed over an opponent with hard power superiority.

Palestinian reliance on non-violence has recently been dramatized by an extraordinary series of lengthy hunger strikes by Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons without charge or trial. These have in duration surpassed those of IRA prisoners in 1982, which eventually led London to change its approach to the IRA. This shift enabled negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. While not perfect, the Agreement has led to a generally peaceful process of conflict resolution in Northern Ireland, replacing what had been previously regarded as a struggle without a foreseeable end.

It is in this regard most unfortunate that the world media has looked the other way during the Palestinian prisoner strikes, and done so despite years of lecturing the Palestinians that if they adopted non-violent tactics their cause would experience an immediate upsurge of sympathetic attention.

Today, most Palestinians are not only disillusioned with the United Nations and international law, but also with their own leadership. The Palestinian leadership works within established inter-governmental channels of traditional diplomacy augmented with awkward periodic shows of deference to American political priorities.

Each episode in the Peace Process constructed on the basis of the Oslo Declaration of Principles has ended in frustration for the Palestinians, and is coupled with mutual recriminations that assign blame for the failure, with the Palestinian side represented in the media as mainly responsible for the disappointment and Israel lauded for its supposed generosity.

What often follows is a perverse reaffirmation of the confidence of both sides that “the process” forms the only viable option for a peaceful settlement, which has led to a cycle of raised and shattered expectations associated with the resumption of direct negotiations.

It is here that bewilderment merges with disillusionment. Why give credibility to a structure of negotiation that is so deeply flawed? Can any sane person expect such a negotiation to lead to a just outcome when the intermediary is both the most powerful political actor on the global stage and an explicitly unconditional partisan of the stronger side?

The unintentionally candid Dennis Ross in his diplomatic memoir tells it all when he indicates that the central question that tormented him throughout the 2000 Camp David negotiations was “Will the Israelis swallow this?” He never asks, or even considers, the relevance of the complementary issue, “will the Palestinians swallow this?” Or rather, “can, should the Palestinians swallow this?”

This double standard is so revealing because it discloses the unconscious depths of the American approach: defer to Israeli sovereign consent while providing the Palestinians with a single alternative:  accept what is on offer.

In his long book, Ross never pauses to reflect on how odd it should seem for an “honest broker” to consider the responses of only on one side to the conflict. This last observation brings us back to the statehood bid.

In one respect, as has been ably argued by John Quigley in his The Statehood of Palestine, Palestine is already a state. It has garnered  over a hundred diplomatic recognitions by governments since the 1988 PLO Declaration of Independence, and subsequently established a governmental presence within relatively fixed boundaries.

Of course, this PLO proposed resolution of the conflict was the most gigantic territorial concession made by either side since the end of World War II, seemingly accepting a Palestinian state limited to the territories occupied in 1967. These territories constitute only 22% of historic Palestine and form less than half the territory allotted to an Arab state pursuant to the partition of Palestine proposed by the United Nations in General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947).

This partition was rejected at the time as unfair by the Palestinians and the Arab states. With hindsight, it should not be surprising that Israel has offered the Palestinians nothing in response to acknowledge the significance of their willingness to normalize relations with Israel on a basis that evinced a clear intention to resolve the conflict.

Despite this background to the statehood bid of 2011 and 2012, it is correct to appreciate that United Nations certification of Palestinian statehood gives the claim considerable additional political weight. The American effort to defer indefinitely the Palestinian Authority’s 2011 bid for United Nations membership bears on whether an acknowledgement of statehood without membership is a step forward for the Palestinian people. It becomes questionable whether General Assembly recognition of Palestine as a state entitled the enhanced observer status is of sufficient practical benefit to offset the earlier, more fundamental UN rebuff by the Security Council.

[Excerpted from Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures, by Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani, by permission of the authors. Copyright © 2013 Tadween Publishing. For more information, or to order a copy of the book, click here.]

Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani, editors, Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures. Washington, DC: Tadween Publishing, 2013.

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