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‘A Game Changer’: Ilan Pappe and Awad Abdelfattah on the One Democratic State Campaign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 2:59am in

As the US ruling elites have fully succumbed to Israel’s political discourse on Palestine, the Israeli government of right-wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may feel that it, alone, is capable of determining the future of the Palestinian people. 

This conclusion is, perhaps, gleaned from Israel’s behavior in recent years and months. The expansion of illegal Jewish settlements, the plan to annex large swathes of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the entrenching of the existing system of apartheid and perpetual colonialism are all evidence that demonstrates Israel’s renewed sense of empowerment. 

Israel is further emboldened by the fact that the so-called ‘international community’ has, thus far, failed to challenge American and Israeli intransigency. The European Union, which is fighting for its own identity, let alone survival, is proving to be a marginal force in Israel and Palestine. Without American guidance, the EU seems incapable of leading its own independent initiatives. 

Moreover, the lack of an alternative global power that could offset the political imbalance created by Washington’s blind and unconditional support for Tel Aviv is making it difficult, if not impossible, for the Palestinian leadership to invest in an entirely new political paradigm. 

Normalization among various Arab countries and Israel has added yet more fuel to the fire. Without official Arab solidarity, the Palestinian leadership, which has historically defended its position based on some kind of a collective Arab vision, now feels orphaned, abandoned.


 

But all is not lost. The dismantling of the US-engendered ‘peace’ paradigm should not automatically indicate that Palestinians are not capable of championing their own political vision for liberation and freedom. On the contrary, the US and its ‘moderate’ allies in the region have always represented an obstacle to Palestinian freedom. For this camp, the objective was maintaining the status quo of endless, futile talks without a timeframe, without a legal frame of reference and without any mechanism that is meant to place any kind of pressure or accountability on the Israeli occupier to bring its military occupation to an end. 

Palestinians and their allies are now engrossed in a process of introspection, revisiting old maxims, challenging tired clichés, and imagining a new future where dead ‘solutions’ are no longer an option and where justice is not tailored to fit the expectations and demands of the occupying party. 

A one democratic state, as envisaged by the Haifa-based One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC) is one of these initiatives that hopes to take the conversation on a possible shared future from being an academic subject to an active political process with actual, measurable support on the ground. This is the only way, according to the group, that the minimal requirements for justice can be achieved. These include the right of return for Palestinian refugees who are still scattered, in their millions, in many refugee camps in Palestine and throughout the ‘shataat’ (diaspora). 

On December 30, we reached out to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, a well-known author and highly regarded academic and the respected Palestinian political analyst, Mr. Awad Abdelfattah, who is also the coordinator of the ODSC. 

We asked both intellectuals to make a case of why the two-state solution is not a viable answer to the Israeli occupation and apartheid and why a one democratic state is possible and just.

Ilan Pappe on why a two-State Solution was never viable: 

“The two-state solution was never viable. There were times when, maybe, it looked a little more viable for a few weeks after the June 1967 war, when the Jewish settlers came to the West Bank. But it was not viable even then, because it did not fit the basic policy of the Zionist movement since its inception and its arrival in Palestine in the late 19th century. Zionism is a settler-colonial movement and Israel is a settler-colonial state. 

Israel Palestinians

Orthodox Jews take part in a protest against the expansion of Jewish settlements near Salfit, Dec. 3, 2020. Majdi Mohammed | AP

 

“Its support – and this includes what is even called the ‘peace camp’ in Israel – for a two-state solution is an idea that says that you do not have to directly control every part of historical Palestine in order to establish your dominance and hegemony between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. So, if you can squeeze the Palestinians into small Bantustans and allow them to have a flag and a semblance of a government, there are quite a few Israelis who do not mind at all, so long as this will be the last and final kind of settlement for the Palestine question. Which means no real political rights for the Palestinians, no right of return for the refugees and keeping all Palestinians in different parts of historical Palestine, at best as second-rate citizens, at worst, as subjects in an apartheid state.

“I think the two-state solution was never a viable solution because what really mattered was the Israeli interpretation of the two-state solution. This interpretation was always accepted unconditionally by the United States. Because of this, even the European countries did not dare to challenge this interpretation and, as we have unfortunately seen recently, some Arab regimes are also beginning to accept the Israeli interpretation. For a while, they tried to challenge it in the Arab League’s famous Peace Plan in 2002. This is not being tried any more.

“I think we have only had one option since the creation of the State of Israel, and this was to replace a settler-colonial state with a genuine, democratic state for all.” 

Awad Abdelfattah on why Israel is not serious about peace and why one state is a strategic Palestinian choice: 

“I am a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, one of the survivors of the Nakba, one of the descendants of the people who succeeded in remaining in their homeland. I belong to that group of the Palestinian people who have been struggling peacefully inside the State of Israel against all forms of discrimination and apartheid. Despite that, we have been under continued and systematic colonization. 

“For many years, people (even those who support the Palestinian cause) did not look at Israel as a settler-colonial state. We, Palestinians within the Green Line, have played an important role in exposing the nature of this regime and to show that the occupation in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip is not something separate from the existing Israeli regime. The opposite is true. It is an extension of this regime.

“We have to expose to the world that we, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, are not treated equally and I think we should recognize that Israel is not keen on making any peace with anybody, either Palestinians or the Arab world. If Israel was indeed serious in wanting peace, then it should have made peace with its own non-Jewish citizens (this is the term that Israel uses to describe us). So, I think we can have a strategic role in promoting the ‘One Democratic State’.

“The apartheid regime cannot be sustainable. I think Israel is behaving like the Crusaders in Palestine. It will never be sustainable. I do not say that this is going to happen soon, but I do not think that this unjust and cruel apartheid regime can be sustained, because half of the Palestinian people are still in their homeland and they are determined to resist, not to surrender, despite the grim reality that they are living.”


 

Ilan Pappe on why one state is gaining momentum among Palestinian youth: 

“There is a big difference between the opinion of the younger generations and the older generations when it comes to the one-state solution. When you ask the older generation, the despair from the two-state solution as a feasible idea is, indeed, the main motive for rejecting the two-state solution. However, if you go to the younger generation (and do remember that more than 50% of Palestinians are under 18; it is a very young population) their belief in the one-state is based on a certain moral, ideological infrastructure. It is not just about despairing over the two-state solution; it is the genuine belief that post-liberation, Palestine should be a place where they would like to live.

“It is not just a dream of having another Arab state, like Egypt. We have to remember that they are also part of the Arab Spring generation, so the aspirations here are not just about national independence. This is far more than just having a one-state because the two-state does not work. This is really a genuine idea that we need to respect human rights and civil rights and, in the case of Palestine, the rights are very clear – from the right of return for the refugees to the making sure that Palestine is part of the Arab world and the Muslim world; making sure that within that world, Palestine can be a lighthouse when it comes to human rights and civil rights.

“I think this is why the topic is never limited to Palestine, geographically or morally. We have seen this during the demonstrations in the Arab world at the time of the Arab Spring. So many demonstrators from Morocco to Bahrain were carrying the Palestinian flag because of what it symbolizes to them, even in their own country.

“I think that despair comes more from political elites. Yes, they are right in their own analysis, that their belief in the two-state solution was, in a way, betrayed by the Israelis and the international community.  There is no doubt about it, but I think that the main push for the one-state solution will come from a popular movement with a lot of young people in it, building their own future, not just the future of the present leadership who, I think, will join, whether it is because they are desperate or because they will be loyal to ideas that they themselves once believed in – and they should remember – in the 1960s and 70s.

“So I think there is good potential for support on the Palestinian side for this idea. The question is whether there will be an organization that will democratically and authentically represent the symbols. Because if this will happen, I think it is a game-changer which will force everyone in the region – and in the world – to look very differently at the Palestine Question.”

(To watch the interview in full click here)

Feature photo | The West Bank Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit rises in the background while a protestor waves a Palestinian flag in front of Israeli troops during a protest against Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank village of Bilin. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appeared in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation.

The post ‘A Game Changer’: Ilan Pappe and Awad Abdelfattah on the One Democratic State Campaign appeared first on MintPress News.

When the People Rose: How the Intifada Changed the Political Discourse around Palestine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 2:37am in

December 8 came and went as if it was an ordinary day. For Palestinian political groups, it was another anniversary to be commemorated, however hastily. It was on this day, thirty-three years ago, that the First Palestinian Intifada (uprising) broke out, and there was nothing ordinary about this historic event.

Today, the uprising is merely viewed from a historic point of view, another opportunity to reflect and, perhaps, learn from a seemingly distant past. Whatever political context to the Intifada, it has evaporated over time.

The simple explanation of the Intifada goes as follows: Ordinary Palestinians at the time were fed up with the status quo and they wished to ‘shake off’ Israel’s military occupation and make their voices heard.

Expectedly, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) quickly moved in to harvest the fruit of the people’s sacrifices and translate them into tangible political gains, as if the traditional Palestinian leadership truly and democratically represented the will of the Palestinian people. The outcome was a sheer disaster, as the Intifada was used to resurrect the careers of some Palestinian ‘leaders’, who claimed to be mandated by the Palestinians to speak on their behalf, resulting in the Madrid Talks in 1991, the Oslo Accords in 1993 and all other ‘compromises’ ever since.

But there is more to the story.

Thousands of Palestinians, mostly youth, were killed by the Israeli army during the seven years of Intifada, where Israel treated non-violent protesters and rock-throwing children, who were demanding their freedom, as if enemy combatants. It was during these horrific years that such terms as ‘shoot to kill’ and ‘broken-bones policies’ and many more military stratagems were introduced to an already violent discourse.

In truth, however, the Intifada was not a mandate for Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian official or faction to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people, and was certainly not a people’s call on their leadership to offer unreciprocated political compromises.

To understand the meaning of the Intifada and its current relevance, it has to be viewed as an active political event, constantly generating new meanings, as opposed to a historical event of little relevance to today’s realities.

Historically, the Palestinian people have struggled with the issue of political representation. As early as the mid-20th century, various Arab regimes have claimed to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, thus, inevitably using Palestine as an item in their own domestic and foreign policy agendas.

The use and misuse of Palestine as an item in some imagined collective Arab agenda came to a relative end after the humiliating defeat of several Arab armies in the 1967 war, known in Arabic as the ‘Naksa’, or the ‘Letdown’. The crisis of legitimacy was meant to be quickly resolved when the largest Palestinian political party, Fatah, took over the leadership of the PLO. The latter was then recognized in 1974 during the Arab Summit in Rabat, as the ‘sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people’.

The above statement alone was meant to be the formula that resolved the crisis of representation, therefore drowning out all other claims made by Arab governments. That strategy worked, but not for long. Despite Arafat’s and Fatah’s hegemony over the PLO, the latter did, in fact, enjoy a degree of legitimacy among Palestinians. At that time, Palestine was part and parcel of a global national liberation movement, and Arab governments, despite the deep wounds of war, were forced to accommodate the aspirations of the Arab people, keeping Palestine the focal issue among the Arab masses as well.

However, in the 1980s, things began changing rapidly. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 resulted in the forced exile of tens of thousands of Palestinian fighters, along with the leaderships of all Palestinian groups, leading to successive and bloody massacres targeting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

The years that followed accentuated two grave realities. First, the Palestinian leadership shifted its focus from armed struggle to merely remaining relevant as a political actor. Now based in Tunis, Arafat, Abbas and others were issuing statements, sending all kinds of signals that they were ready to ‘compromise’ – as per the American definitions of this term. Second, Arab governments also moved on, as the growing marginalization of the Palestinian leadership was lessening the pressure of the Arab masses to act as a united front against Israeli military occupation and colonialism in Palestine.

It was at this precise moment in history that Palestinians rose and, indeed, it was a spontaneous movement that, at its beginning, involved none of the traditional Palestinian leadership, Arab regimes, or any of the familiar slogans. I was a teenager in a Gaza refugee camp when all of this took place, a true popular revolution being fashioned in a most organic and pure form. The use of a slingshot to counter Israeli military helicopters; the use of blankets to disable the chains of Israeli army tanks; the use of raw onions to assuage the pain of inhaling teargas; and, more importantly, the creation of language to respond to every violent strategy employed by the Israeli army, and to articulate the resistance of Palestinians on the ground in simple, yet profound slogans, written on the decaying walls of every Palestinian refugee camp, town or city.

While the Intifada did not attack the traditional leadership openly, it was clear that Palestinians were seeking alternative leadership. Grassroots local leadership swiftly sprang out from every neighborhood, every university and even in prison, and no amount of Israeli violence was able to thwart the natural formation of this leadership.

It was unmistakably clear that the Palestinian people had chosen a different path, one that did not go through any Arab capital – and certainly not through Tunis. Not that Palestinians at the time quit seeking solidarity from their Arab brethren, or the world at large. Instead, they sought solidarity that does not subtract the Palestinian people from their own quest for freedom and justice.

Years of relentless Israeli violence, coupled with the lack of a political strategy by the Palestinian leadership, sheer exhaustion, growing factionalism and extreme poverty brought the Intifada to an end.

Since then, even the achievements of the Intifada were tarnished, where the Palestinian leadership has used it to revive itself politically and financially, reaching the point of arguing that the dismal Oslo Accords and the futile peace process were, themselves, direct ‘achievements’ of the Intifada.

The true accomplishment of the Intifada is the fact that it almost entirely changed the nature of the political equation pertaining to Palestine, imposing the ‘Palestinian people’, not as a cliche used by the Palestinian leadership and Arab governments to secure for themselves a degree of political legitimacy, but as an actual political actor.

Thanks to the Intifada, the Palestinian people have demonstrated their own capacity at challenging Israel without having their own military, challenging the Palestinian leadership by organically generating their own leaders, confronting the Arabs and, in fact, the whole world, regarding their own moral and legal responsibilities towards Palestine and the Palestinian people.

Very few popular movements around the world, and throughout modern history, can be compared to the First Intifada, which remains as relevant today as it was when it began thirty-three years ago.

Feature photo | Musa Alsha’er

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post When the People Rose: How the Intifada Changed the Political Discourse around Palestine appeared first on MintPress News.

Shunned by Trump, Mahmoud Abbas Looks to Biden to Revive a Long Dead “Peace Process”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 1:44am in

No one seemed as excited about the election of Joe Biden being the next President of the United States as Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. When all hope seemed lost, where Abbas found himself desperate for political validation and funds, Biden arrived like a conquering knight on a white horse and swept the Palestinian leader away to safety.

Abbas was one of the first world leaders to congratulate the Democratic President-elect on his victory. While Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, delayed his congratulatory statement in the hope that Donald Trump would eventually be able to reverse the results, Abbas suffered no such illusions. Considering the humiliation that the Palestinian Authority experienced at the hands of the Trump Administration, Abbas had nothing to lose. For him, Biden, despite his long love affair with Israel, still represented a ray of hope.

But can the wheel of history be turned back? Despite the fact that the Biden Administration has made it clear that it will not be reversing any of the pro-Israel steps taken by the departing Trump Administration, Abbas remains confident that, at least, the ‘peace process’ can be restored.

This may seem to be an impossible dichotomy, for how can a ‘peace process’ deliver peace if all the components of a just peace have already been eradicated?

It is obvious that there can be no real peace if the US government insists on recognizing all of Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal’ capital. There can be no peace if the US continues to fund illegal Jewish settlements, bankroll Israeli apartheid, deny the rights of Palestinian refugees, turn a blind eye to de facto annexation underway in Occupied Palestine and recognize the illegally-occupied Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel, all of which is likely to remain the same, even under the Biden Administration.

The ‘peace process’ is unlikely to deliver any kind of a just, sustainable peace in the future, when it has already failed to do so in the past 30 years.

Yet, despite the ample lessons of the past, Abbas has decided, again, to gamble with the fate of his people and jeopardize their struggle for freedom and a just peace. Not only is Abbas building a campaign involving Arab countries, namely Jordan and Egypt, to revive the ‘peace process’, he is also walking back on all his promises and decisions to cancel the Oslo Accords, and end ‘security coordination’ with Israel. By doing so, Abbas has betrayed national unity talks between his party, Fatah, and Hamas.

Unity talks between rival Palestinian groups seemed to take a serious turn last July, when Palestine’s main political parties issued a joint statement declaring their intent to defeat Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’. The language used in that statement was reminiscent of the revolutionary discourse used by these groups during the First and Second Intifadas (uprisings), itself a message that Fatah was finally re-orienting itself around national priorities and away from the ‘moderate’ political discourse wrought by the US-sponsored ‘peace process’.

Even those who grew tired and cynical about the shenanigans of Abbas and Palestinian groups wondered if this time would be different; that Palestinians would finally agree on a set of principles through which they could express and channel their struggle for freedom.

Oddly, Trump’s four-year term in the White House was the best thing that happened to the Palestinian national struggle. His administration was a jarring and indisputable reminder that the US is not – and has never been – ‘an honest peace broker’ and that Palestinians cannot steer their political agenda to satisfy US-Israeli demands in order for them to obtain political validation and financial support.

By cutting off US funding of the Palestinian Authority in August 2018, followed by the shutting down of the Palestinian mission in Washington DC, Trump has liberated Palestinians from the throes of an impossible political equation. Without the proverbial American carrot, the Palestinian leadership has had the rare opportunity to rearrange the Palestinian home for the benefit of the Palestinian people.

Alas, those efforts were short-lived. After multiple meetings and video conferences between Fatah, Hamas and other delegations representing Palestinian groups, Abbas declared, on November 17, the resumption of ‘security coordination’ between his Authority and Israel. This was followed by the Israeli announcement on December 2 to release over a billion dollars of Palestinian funds that were unlawfully held by Israel as a form of political pressure.

This takes Palestinian unity back to square one. At this point, Abbas finds unity talks with his Palestinian rivals quite useless. Since Fatah dominates the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestine National Council (PNC), conceding any ground or sharing leadership with other Palestinian factions seems self-defeating. Now that Abbas is reassured that the Biden Administration will bequeath him, once again, with the title of ‘peace partner’, a US ally and a moderate, the Palestinian leader no longer finds it necessary to seek approval from the Palestinians. Since there can be no middle ground between catering to a US-Israeli agenda and elevating a Palestinian national agenda, the Palestinian leader opted for the former and, without hesitation, ditched the latter.

While it is true that Biden will neither satisfy any of the Palestinian people’s demands or reverse any of his predecessor’s missteps, Abbas can still benefit from what he sees as a seismic shift in US foreign policy – not in favor of the Palestinian cause but of Abbas personally, an unelected leader whose biggest accomplishment has been sustaining the US-imposed status quo and keeping the Palestinian people pacified for as long as possible.

Although the ‘peace process’ has been declared ‘dead’ on multiple occasions, Abbas is now desperately trying to revive it, not because he – or any rational Palestinian – believes that peace is at hand, but because of the existential relationship between the PA and this US-sponsored political scheme. While most Palestinians gained nothing from all of this, a few Palestinians accumulated massive wealth, power and prestige. For this clique, that alone is a cause worth fighting for.

Feature photo | Joseph Biden, left, talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 10, 2010. Tara Todras-Whitehill | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Shunned by Trump, Mahmoud Abbas Looks to Biden to Revive a Long Dead “Peace Process” appeared first on MintPress News.

Racially, the Palestinians May Be the Real Jews

In his piece critiquing the article by Catherine Heszer, professor of Jewish Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the Jewish Chronicle, Tony Greenstein argues very strongly that biologically it is the Palestinians, not the Israelis, who are descended from the people of ancient Israel. Heszer had claimed that Israel isn’t a colonialist state and that it is simply the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland. Greenstein disputes this, citing Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, who believes that European Jews are really the descendants of converts to Judaism. He also cites studies, including articles published in extreme right-wing settler magazines, that the Palestinians are descended from the peoples of ancient Israel and Judea. Greenstein writes

Let us leave aside the fact, as Tel Aviv University Professor Shlomo Sand has shown in The Myth of the Jewish Nation that there never was a Jewish exile from Palestine. The idea that rights deriving from where one’s ancestors lived 3,000 years ago trumping those who live there today is a product of Western Colonialism and Orientalism. The same myths of a 1,000 year Reich justified Hitler’s colonisation of  Eastern Europe and the expulsion of its inhabitants.

But in reality not even this is true. Jews from Europe and America had no physical connection whatsoever with Palestine or Israel.  Their only claim is that they profess a religion whose centre is Jerusalem. That does not confer any material rights over those living there.

The Jews who left Judea and Palestine over 2,000 years ago did so because the land would not support them. Palestine saw many peoples, among whom were the Hebrews, wander over the area. The idea that this gives people who are Jewish and living in London the right to displace the indigenous population is a fascist idea.  SOAS should not be in the business of propagating racial myths.

2,000 years ago a million Jews were living in Alexandria alone as well as other Hellenised cities such as Antioch and Seleucia. According to Jewish historian Salo Baron there was an explosion of Jews in the Middle East at the time owing to massive proselytising. He suggests there were 8 million Jews living in the Middle East. Sand suggests half that number. The Jews, like the Phoenicians before them, became a trading people.

The pastoralist Jews who remained in Palestine after the destruction of the second temple either converted to Christianity or remained speaking Aramaic. With the Arab invasion they largely converted to Islam whilst continuing to speak Aramaic, a biblical form of Hebrew.

The irony, as Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and its second President Yitzhak ben Zvi accepted, is that the Palestinians, not the Jewish settlers, are the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. [see e.g. Dov Ivri’s Most Palestinians Are Descendants Of Jews]. Ben Gurion even sent Moshe Dayan with a rabbi to convert the Bedouin!

In Jewish-Roots Arabs in Israel in the far-Right settler news agency Arutz Sheva, Tzvi MiSinai claimed that ‘Up to 85 percent of Arabs in greater Israel stem from Jewish ancestors, it is estimated’. The article describes how

‘One Arab says his father told him the secret of his family’s Jewishness on his deathbed, while another one, on the backdrop of a photo of the saintly Cabalistic sage Rabbi Abuchatzeira on his wall, says their roots have been known in his family for generations. Wrapping what apparently used to be kosher tefillin on his arm, he says, “My father used to do this, and he taught us to do it whenever someone was sick or in trouble.”

The myth of a Jewish ‘exile’ from Palestine and the idea of their ‘return’ is a Christian racial myth born of colonialism’s desire to establish a friendly settler state adjacent to the Suez Canal. That is why the first western Zionists were Evangelical Christians like Lord Palmerstone and Shaftesbury and also why the vast majority of western Jews were hostile to Zionism when it began.  Because if Jews belonged in Palestine they didn’t belong in England.

See: If SOAS Cares For Its Reputation It Should Send Racist Professor Heszer, Head of the Jewish Studies Centre, on an Unpaid Vacation to learn what Zionism means for the Palestinians – Tony Greenstein

Sand’s is an extreme view. I’ve also come across the argument that European Jews were the descendants of Jewish merchants rather than political exiles. The impression I had of Israelite history was that after the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt in the 2nd century AD, the Jews were forcibly expelled from Jerusalem. This became a Roman colonial city and the Temple desecrated and dedicated to Zeus. The Jewish religious leadership moved to Galilee, which thus became the centre of the Jewish faith. However, there were still Jewish communities in Israel. I believe that there was conflict between Jews and Christians and Jewish revolts against Roman imperial persecution when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

It also would not surprise me in the slightest if genetics showed that the majority of Palestinians were descended from the ancient Israelites. Archaeologists and geneticists have been studying the genetic makeup of the British people since the 1980s. This has overturned some of the traditional views about the origin of the English. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the English are descended from Germanic invaders, the Angles, Saxon and Jutes, who conquered the country from across the North Sea in the 5th-7th centuries AD. But genetic studies of the modern English doesn’t show a comprehensive replacement of the existing Romano-British population. Furthermore, recent archaeological studies of migration period human remains have shown that the vast majority of the skeletons of people buried with Anglo-Saxon grave goods were from people, who had been brought up in this country. There were very few continental invaders. It now appears that instead of a full-scale invasion and replacement of the indigenous population, the conquest simply consisted of the Romano-Brits and their leaders adopting continental Germanic customs and language in a rejection of Roman identity as Roman rule collapsed.

Genetic studies also show that there was no replacement of the indigenous British population. It now appears that the British, including the English, are largely descended from the Bronze Age population of the British Isles and Ireland. At the level, the English are genetically the same as the Irish. When this was revealed to one Irish personality on TV a few years ago, he remarked that it must be galling for the English to find that they’re the same as the peeps of the Emerald Isle. Well, at one time, when the Irish really were looked down upon and there were crazy racial hierarchies being devised to show how they and the Blacks were at the bottom of human evolution, perhaps. But not now, when so much British popular culture comes from Ireland.

My guess is that the racial history of Palestine is pretty similar. I doubt that there was any replacement of the indigenous Jewish population. Many of them would have converted to Christianity. I’ve seen it estimated that about a third of the Jewish people would have converted to Christianity during the late Roman Empire. These were Greek-speaking Jews, whose conversion was assisted through theirs and the Christians’ use of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible. The remaining Jews probably did speak Aramaic. It was the popular language of the Jewish people at the time of Christ. It’s the language of the Targums, paraphrases of the Hebrew scriptures to help people, who couldn’t understand Hebrew, and the Talmud, the compilation of the rabbinical oral law and the debates and opinions of the sages. I also think that Aramaic would have been the language of some Christians as well. Syriac, the language of some eastern Orthodox Christians in Lebanon and Syria, developed from the form of Aramaic spoken by those communities in the fourth century AD.

As for the Arab conquest and the adoption of Arab culture, this seems to be the result of a conscious policy by the caliph Mu’awiya in the 8th century AD. The Arabs were a tiny minority amongst the subject peoples of the new Islamic empire, who had retained their languages and customs. Greek continued to be used as the language of the imperial civil service in the western half of the empire. Mu’awiya was afraid that the Muslim Arabs would lose their ethnic identity through being absorbed by the non-Muslim population, so that their only distinction between them and the peoples they ruled would be their Islamic faith. He therefore passed a series of legislation designed to strengthen Arab ethnic identity, such as changing the language of the civil service to Arabic. This set in motion the process of Arabization which saw the majority of the population of that part of the Roman Empire adopt the Arabic language, culture and Islam.

I’m not sure about Sand’s argument that European Jews are descendants of proselytes and aren’t racially Jewish. That’s an extreme view. But Greenstein’s right about the size of the Jewish population of the Roman Empire. It may have been as large as 8 per cent and there were huge synagogues in places like Alexandria and Sardinia.

I therefore consider it highly likely that the vast majority of Palestinians are descended from the Jewish people of ancient Israel and Judea. I’m also not surprised that many Muslim Palestinians have more recent Jewish ancestry. There were large Jewish communities in Palestine before the establishment of the state of Israel, and many Jews preferred to live under Muslim rule as there wasn’t the restrictions there they faced in Christendom.

From the genetic perspective, they’re probably as Jewish as the Israelis, and so from that perspective also have an absolute right to remain on their ancestral lands against the attempts to expel and cleanse them by the Israeli state.

The ‘Empire Files’ on the Plot to Attack Iran

This is an excellent little video that explains Trump’s and the US state and military’s hostility to Iran and the real reasons behind the latest attacks. This ultimately goes back to western imperial control over the country’s oil industry. From 1908 until 1951 the Iranian oil industry was owned and controlled by a British company, Anglo-Persian Oil, now BP. It was nationalised by the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, who was consequently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. The Shah was installed as an absolute monarch, ruling by terror through the secret police, SAVAK. Which the CIA also helped to set up.

Causes of American Hostility

The Shah’s oppression was eventually too much, and he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the American state has resented the country ever since. Iran and Israel were America’s bulldogs in the Middle East, so the US lost an important locus of influence in the region. Iran is now politically independent, and is one of the leaders of the group of non-aligned nations. This was set up for countries that did not wish to align themselves either with America or the Soviet Union, but after the Fall of Communism is now simply for nations not aligned with America. America is also unable to control what Iran does with its own oil, from which American companies are excluded from profiting. Another major cause for America’s hostility may be that Iran and Syria are obstacles to Israel’s territorial expansion and the creation of a greater Israel.

Trump’s Attacks on Iran

The Empire Files is a Tele Sur show dedicated to exposing the horrors and crimes of American imperialism. Presented by Abby Martin, it was originally on RT. In this edition, she talks to Dan Kovalik, a human rights lawyer and author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran. The show was originally broadcast in January this year, 2020, when there had been a series of incidents, including Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general, Soleimani, which many feared would bring about a possible war. As tensions and reprisals increased, many Americans also took to the streets to protest against a possible war. The tensions had begun when Trump unilaterally reneged on an agreement with the Iranians over the enrichment of nuclear materials. Barack Obama had made this agreement with the Iranians, in which they pledged only to enrich it to levels suitable for civilian use but not for the creation of weapons. In return, Obama had agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on them. The Iranians had kept to their side of the agreement, but Trump had abandoned it because he wanted to impose further conditions containing Iran. For their part, it had been a year before the Iranians had reacted to the agreement’s failure. The EU had been keen to keep the agreement, despite American withdrawal, but now were unable or unwilling to do so. Kovalik states that Iran doesn’t want nukes. In the 1950s America and General Electric were helping the country set up nuclear power for electricity production. The Ayatollah Khomeini also issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, condemning them as ‘unIslamic’. The claim that Iran is now a threat to America is based on intelligence, which claims in turn that Iran had a list of American targets in Syria. As a result American troops, ships, missiles and planes were moved to the Gulf. It was also claimed that the Iranians had attacked three civilian ships. Some of these are very dubious. One of the attacked vessels was Japanese, and the ship’s owners deny that any attack occurred. The attack also makes no sense as at the time it was supposed to have happened, the Japanese and Iranians were in negotiations to reduce tensions. Kovalik states here how devastating any war with Iran is likely to be. According to retired General Williamson, a war with Iran would be ten times more expensive in financial cost and lives than the Iraq War. It also has the potential to become a world war, as Russia and China are also dependent on Iranian oil.

Iran Potential Ally, Not Threat

Trump has also re-imposed sanctions on Iran at their previous level before the nuclear agreement. As a result, the Iranians are unable to sell their oil. They are thus unable to buy imported foodstuffs or medicines, or the raw materials to manufacture medicines, which is naturally causing great hardship. Kovalik and Martin are also very clear that Iran doesn’t pose a threat to America. It doesn’t pose a threat to American civilians, and the country was actually a partner with the US in the War on Terror. Well, that was until George W. declared them to be an ‘axis of evil’ along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein. This disappointed the Iranians, whom Martin and Kovalik consider may be potential allies. America wishes to overthrow the current regime because the 1979 Revolution showed countries could defy America and topple a ruler imposed by the US. Although America may resent the country’s freedom to do what it wishes with its oil, the US doesn’t actually need it. America is an exporter of oil, and so one goal of US foreign policy may simply be to wreck independent oil-producing nations, like Iran, Libya and Venezuela, in order to remove them as competition.

The programme also attacks the claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism. This is hypocritical, as 73 per cent of the world’s dictatorships are supported by the US. This includes the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which in turn supports al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran does support Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, but most political analysts don’t consider them terrorist organisations. They’re elected. The American state really objects to Iran having influence in its own region, but it is the Iranians here who are under threat. They are encircled by countries allied with the US.

Iran anti-Israel, Not Anti-Semitic Country

Kovalik also personally visited Iran in 2017, and he goes on to dispel some misconceptions about the country. Such as that it’s particularly backward and its people personally hostile to Americans. In fact Iran has the largest state-supported condom factory in the Middle East. Alcohol’s banned, but everyone has it. The country also prides itself on being a pluralist society with minorities of Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians, the country’s ancient religion. And contrary to the claims of Israel and the American right, it’s got the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel, and Jews are actually well treated. Kovalik describes meeting a Jewish shopkeeper while visiting the bazaar in Isfahan. He noticed the man was wearing a yarmulka, the Jewish skullcap, and went up to talk to him. In answer to his inquiries, the man told him he was Jewish, and didn’t want to leave Iran. He also told Kovalik that there was a synagogue, and led him a mile up the road to see it. Despite the regime’s genocidal rhetoric, when polled most Iranian Jews said they wish to stay in Iran. There’s a Jewish-run hospital in Tehran, which receives funding from the government. After the Revolution, the Ayatollah also issued a fatwa demanding the Jews be protected. The status of women is also good. Education, including female education, is valued and women are active in all sectors of the economy, including science.

Large Social Safety Net

And the Iranian people are actually open and welcoming to Americans. Martin describes how, when she was there, she saw John Stuart of the Daily Show. The people not only knew who he was, but were delighted he was there. Kovalik agrees that the people actually love Americans, and that if you meet them and they have some English, they’ll try to speak it to show you they can. Martin and Kovalik make the point that Iran is like many other nations, including those of South America, who are able to distinguish between enemy governments and their peoples. They consider America unique in that Americans are unable to do this. Kovalik believes that it comes from American exceptionalism. America is uniquely just and democratic, and so has the right to impose itself and rule the globe. Other countries don’t have this attitude. They’re just happy to be left alone. But America and its citizens believe it, and so get pulled into supporting one war after another. They also make the point the point that Iran has a large social safety net. The mullahs take seriously the view that Islamic values demand supporting the poor. Women enjoy maternity leave, medicine is largely free and food is provided to people, who are unable to obtain it themselves. In this respect, Iran is superior to America. Kovalik states that while he was in Iran, he never saw the depths of poverty that he saw in U.S. cities like Los Angeles. These are supposed to be First World cities, but parts of America increasingly resemble the Third World. He admits, however, that the US-imposed sanctions are making it difficult for the Iranians to take care of people.

British Imperialism and Oil

The programme then turns to the country and its history. It states that it has never been overrun, and has a history going back 4,000 years. As a result, the country has preserved a wealth of monuments and antiquities, in contrast to many of the other, surrounding countries, where they have been destroyed by the US and Britain. Iran was never a formal part of the British empire, but it was dominated by us. Oil was first discovered there in 1908, and Britain moved quickly to acquire it for its own military. The oil company set up favoured British workers and managers, and the profits went to Britain. This was bitterly resented at a time when 90 per cent of the Iranian population was grindingly poor. People wore rags, and some oil workers actually slept in the oil fields. Conditions reached a nadir from 1917-1919 when Britain contributed to a famine that killed 8-10 million people. Those, who know about it, consider it one of the worst genocides.

The Iranian oil industry was nationalised by Mossadeq, who gained power as part of the decolonisation movement sweeping the subject territories of the former empires. Mossadeq offered Britain compensation, but no deal was made before he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup. Details of the coup came to light a few years ago with the publication of official records. It was the first such coup undertaken by the intelligence agency, but it set the rules and strategy for subsequent operations against other nations.

CIA Coup

The CIA paid protesters to demonstrate against the government, and they were particularly keen that these were violent. They wished to provoke Mossadeq into clamping down on the protests, which they could then use as a pretext for overthrowing him. But Mossadeq was actually a mild individual, who didn’t want to use excessive force. He was only convinced to do so when the CIA turned the Iranian tradition of hospitality against him. They told him Americans were being attacked. Mossadeq was so mortified that this should happen in his country, that he promptly did what the CIA had been preparing for. The Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s absolute monarch with General Zadegi as the new prime minister. Zadegi got the job because he was extremely anti-Communist. In fact, he’d been a Nazi collaborator during the War. After the restoration of the Shah in 1953, there were some Nazi-like pageants in Tehran. The CIA assisted in the creation of SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police. They gave them torture techniques, which had been learned in turn from the Nazis. By 1979, thanks to SAVAK, Amnesty International and other organisations had claimed Iran was the worst human rights abuser in the world.

Reagan, the Hostage Crisis and Iran-Contra

The attack on the left meant that it was the Islamicists, who became the leaders of the Revolution as revolutionary organisation could only be done in the mosques. The left also played a role, particularly in the organisation of the workers. The pair also discuss the hostage crisis. This was when a group of students took the staff at the American embassy hostage, although the regime also took responsibility for it later. This was in response to the Americans inviting the Shah to come for medical treatment. The last time the Shah had done this had been in the 1950s before the coup. The hostage-takers released the women and non-Whites, keeping only the White men. The crisis was also manipulated by Ronald Reagan and the Republicans. They undercut Jimmy Carter’s attempts to free the hostages by persuading the Iranians to keep them until after the US election. America also funded and supplied arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War, which left a million people dead. They also supplied arms to Iran. This was partly a way of gaining money for the Contras in Nicaragua, as the US Congress had twice stopped government funding to them. It was also partly to stop Saddam Hussein and Iraq becoming too powerful. Kovalik notes that even in the conduct of this war, the Iranians showed considerable restraint. They had inherited chemical weapons from the Shah, and the Iraqis were using gas. However, Khomeini had issued a fatwa against it and so Iranians didn’t use them.

The pair also observe that Trump is bringing back into his government the figures and officials, like John Bolton, who have been involved in previous attacks on Iran. This raises the possibility of war. Kovalik believes that Trump is a brinksman, which means that there is always the danger of someone calling his bluff. He believes that the American military doesn’t want war, but it’s still a possibility. The American public need to protest to stop Trump getting re-elected as a war president.

Stop War, But Leave Iranians to Change their Regime

This raises the question of how to oppose militarism and support progressive politics in Iran. Iranian Communists, the Tudeh are secular socialists, who hate the Islamicists. They state that it is up to them to overthrow the Islamic regime, not America or its government. They just want Americans to stop their country invading and destroying Iran. External pressure from foreign nations like America through sanctions and military threats actually only makes matters worse, as it allows the Islamic government to crack down on the secular opposition. However, Kovalik believes that the American government doesn’t want reform, but to turn Iran back into its puppet. The video finally ends with the slogan ‘No War on Iran’.

The Plot to Attack Iran – Myths, Oil & Revolution – YouTube

Readers of this blog will know exactly what I think about the Iranian regime. It is a brutal, oppressive theocracy. However, it is very clear that Iran is the wronged party. It has been the victim of western – British and US imperialism, and will be so again if the warmongers Trump has recruited have their way.

Events have moved on since this video was made, and despite Trump’s complaints and accusations of electoral fraud, it can’t really be doubted that he lost the US election. But it really does look like he means to start some kind of confrontation with Iran. And even with his departure from the White House, I don’t doubt that there will still be pressure from the Neocons all demanding more action against Iran, and telling us the same old lies. That Iran’s going to have nuclear weapons, and is going to attack Israel, or some such nonsense.

And if we go to war with Iran, it will be for western multinationals to destroy and loot another Middle Eastern country. The video is right about western oil companies wanting the regime overthrown because they can’t profit from its oil. Under Iranian law, foreign companies can’t buy up their industries. A few years ago Forbes was whining about how tyrannical and oppressive Iran was because of this rule. I think the Iranians are entirely justified, and wish our government did the same with our utilities. I think about 50 per cent of the country’s economy is owned or controlled by the state. Which is clearly another target for western companies wishing to grab a slice of them, just as they wanted to seize Iraqi state enterprises.

And at least in Iran medicines are largely free, and food is being provided to those who can’t obtain it themselves. They’ve got something like a welfare state. Ours is being destroyed. We now have millions forced to use food banks instead of the welfare state to stop themselves starving to death, and the Tories would dearly love to privatise the NHS and turn it into a private service financed through private health insurance. The Iraq invasion destroyed their health service. It also destroyed their secular state and the freedom of Iraqi women to work outside the home.

We’ve got absolutely no business doing this. It shouldn’t have been done to Iraq. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to Iran.

From Myth to Reality: Zionist Archeologists Are Using the Bible to Rewrite History

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 4:23am in

One of the many gems that exist in the city of London is a unique bookstore by the name of Jarndyce Booksellers. Jarndyce specializes in first editions, rare books, and wonderful collectors’ editions of the complete works of Shakespeare, Dickens, and countless others. Also displayed in the store are enormous antique illustrated copies of the Bible. These mammoth books are beautifully adorned with illustrations that bring Biblical characters and stories to life.

I remember sitting as a child, leafing through an old, illustrated copy of a Bible that was part of my father’s book collection. It too had wonderful illustrations, and I would sit there and look at the pictures of the great men and women, and experience the great moments that are described in the Bible. The angel who stopped Abraham as he was about to sacrifice his son; Moses coming down from Mount Sinai; the young David slaying the giant Goliath, and so many more. They all came alive in front of my very eyes and it was as clear to me as a child as it is today and to so many others, that those stories describe real historic events.

These lovely renditions were intended to create the impression that the Bible tells stories that are historically true. They lead readers and even those who do not read but hear the stories and look at the illustrations, to believe that these were real people and real events that took place.

Israel Silwan Feature photo

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at the opening of an “ancient road” that cuts into the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. Tsafrir Abayov | AP

It is easy enough to point to an ancient city in Palestine, say Bethlehem or Jerusalem or some corner of the desert near Bi’r Saba, and claim that a particular Biblical event took place there. This literal reading of the Bible, and particularly of the Old Testament, has given and continues to give Zionism enormous impetus.

Zionists rely on millions of people across the world who have been misled to believe that there is historical truth to the Bible, who think that today’s Israel is the true and rightful successor of Biblical Israel and who allow Zionists to claim the Bible as their actual history book.

 

Mythology religion and history

The Greeks and the Nordic people replaced their ancient indigenous mythologies with Christianity, retaining their mythology as a part of their cultural history. In India, ancient mythology is very much alive and ancient gods are still worshiped in temples throughout the country, yet that is never confused with India’s actual history. Vishnu is never confused with Ashoka or Buddha with Akbar. Each has its respective place within the rich Indian culture.

Neither the people of Greece, the Nordic people, or even those who practice various faiths in India regard their mythology as history. You will not find Greek archeologists digging to find the home of Zeus. There are no signs that the Nordic people are searching for the ancient city where Odin and Thor resided, and even in India, where the ancient gods are very much part of life, there is no expectation that the city of Shiva will be dug up by archeologists.

This is because the separation between myth and religion and history is clear, except in the case of Zionism. Zionists, both Christian and Jewish, firmly hold to their demand that the Bible is history. Archeologists working in the name of Zionists have been digging up Palestine for two centuries, often ignoring or even destroying valuable artifacts that do not serve their purpose.

This is because Zionist archeologists are motivated not by scientific curiosity, but by a political agenda. They ignore the wealth of history and archeology that exist in Palestine and search for proof of their own theories.

 

Destruction of monuments

The need to validate Zionist claims that connect current day Israel with the ancient Hebrews and the glorified mythology as it is presented in parts of the Old Testament often comes at the expense of important historical sites and monuments. In fact, is not uncommon to see invaluable historical sites destroyed by design at the hands of Zionist institutions.

The Mamilla Cemetery is one such example. It is an ancient Muslim burial ground and holy site in the center of Jerusalem believed to date back to the seventh century. Numerous saints of the Sufi faith and thousands of officials, scholars, notables, and Jerusalem families have been buried in the cemetery over the past 1,000 years.

Companions of the Prophet Muhammad were said to be buried there, but since the Zionist conquest of West Jerusalem, the cemetery has fallen into disrepair, with ancient tombstones destroyed and desecrated. Over the last decade, a significant portion of the cemetery has been razed and human remains have been desecrated so that the Simon Wiesenthal Center can build a facility, shamelessly called the Museum of Tolerance.

Mamilla Cemetery 1951

The Mamilla Cemetery, shown here in a 1951 aerial photo, sat undistributed for centuries until the Israeli government paved the way for the construction of the Museum of Tolerance atop its historic ruins

Since 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Campaign to Preserve Mamilla Cemetery have worked to halt the construction of the new facility and preserve what remains of the ancient site. To this end, petitions have been filed with various UN bodies, including UNESCO, to protect the sacred site.

The “Museum of Tolerance,” as it is called, has resulted in the disinterment of hundreds of graves, and the whereabouts of the countless human remains that have been disposed of are unknown. Recognized as one of the most prominent Muslim cemeteries in the world, where seventy thousand warriors of Saladin’s armies are interred, is now all but gone.

Bab al-Rahmeh is yet another famous Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem. It extends from Lions Gate to the end of the wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque near the Umayyad palaces in the south. The Israeli government is in the process of confiscating parts of the cemetery to implement a settlement project. Plans include creating, “paths of biblical gardens,” once again erasing historical sites in order to build monuments to commemorate a history that never was.

Another classic example of the destruction of real history for the sake of mythology is the opening of the so-called “Temple’s Baptism station” on the historic land of the Umayyad palaces in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Temple in question is the Jewish Temple and the Umayyad palaces on which it is to be built date back nearly 1,400 years, built in the early stage of the Islamic period, and used to house the Islamic Caliphs and institutions that managed the affairs of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

 

Monuments in disrepair

Zionist authorities have not only destroyed precious historical sites in search of mythical ones, they have also allowed invaluable historical sites to fall into disrepair. There are countless such sites throughout Palestine, such as the mosque of Dhaher Al-Umar in Tabariya, which now stands alone, in ruins, a solitary witness to the glorious Arab past of the city.

Daher al-Umar was a Palestinian leader who ruled most of Palestine and shaped its history throughout the entire 18th century. Not only has his memory been erased, but the monuments that carry his name and still exist now lay in ruins.

The mythology of the Old Testament was turned into history through a successful attempt to make the stories and the figures in these stories, mythical as they may have been, into actual historical events and figures. At the same time, the real history of Palestine, a glorious history of culture and religion, politics, commerce, and unmatched art and architecture, has all but been lost so that Zionists can claim that they are the true successors of Joshua and King David.

There is no harm in enjoying the wonderful illustrations that adorn the Bible, the likes of which one finds at Jarndyce Bookseller. In fact, I intend to continue to visit that store whenever I can and enjoy those wonderful renditions of Old and the New Testament stories. However, we must be careful not to confuse those stories and the illustrations with the actual history of Palestine.

Author’s note | Readers in search of an accurate history of Palestine can check out Nur Maslaha’s book, “Palestine, A Four Thousand Year History.

Feature photo | An Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist walks through what Israeli authorities say is a 2,000-year-old drainage tunnel leading to Jerusalem’s Old City. Dan Balilty | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post From Myth to Reality: Zionist Archeologists Are Using the Bible to Rewrite History appeared first on MintPress News.

Malawi is Just the Beginning: How Israel Changed the Political Narrative of an Entire Continent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/11/2020 - 4:32am in

In June 2020, Malawi’s opposition leader, Lazarus Chakwera, defeated Peter Mutharika in a rerun presidential election. With last year’s poll results annulled due to fraud or irregularity, Chakwera, a theologian, pastor, and former president of the Pentecostal denomination group known as the Malawi Assemblies of God, secured over 58% of the votes in this year’s race. “I do feel like Lazarus, I’ve come back from the dead, it’s been a long journey and we feel vindicated in a way,” he told the BBC shortly after being sworn in.

“God spoke to my heart,” Chakwera said on another occasion, describing his political ambition as a divine calling. ‘I am not pulling you out of ministry. Instead, I am extending your ministry. I want you to get into politics.” The General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Malawi, Rev. Francis Mkandawire, expressed joy for Chakwera’s electoral victory. “We are indeed grateful to God, however, it demands of us, as evangelicals in the nation, to earnestly pray for him and get more involved in the public and marketplace as the salt and light. Pray for us.”

Five months after his inauguration, Chakwera’s Foreign Minister, Eisenhower Mkaka, announced the opening of Malawi’s embassy in Jerusalem by the summer of 2021. It will become the first African diplomatic mission to operate in occupied Palestine since the 1950s. In response to the decision, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said, “Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the State of Israel, will be a bridge of peace for the whole world, and I call on more countries to follow in Malawi’s path and move their embassies to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

For decades the African continent has served as a battleground of influence between Israeli lobbyists and supporters of Palestinian rights. With the election of Lazarus Chakwera, they can count on Malawi as being not only a trusted ally in isolation but a beacon of influence in sub-Saharan Africa. History attests, however, that this has not always been the case.

Palestinian George Floyd

A protester in Turkey holds a sign with photos of George Floyd, left, and an Israeli soldier kneeling a Palestinian boy, June 4, 2020. After the killing of George Floyd, pictures of Israeli authorities kneeling on the necks of Palestinians began appearing on social media. Emrah Gurel | AP

 

History of Africa-Israeli relations

Relations between African countries and Israel date back to the late 1950s and early 1960s. As this period saw a wave of independence movements sweeping across the continent, Tel Aviv waged a campaign to lure the aspiring and newly independent nations to its side. Using economic assistance as bait, the campaign achieved relative success. By 1967, more than 25 sub-Saharan African countries had established some form of diplomatic relations with Israel. However, rifts began to occur during the 1967 Israeli-Arab war and the subsequent occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel.

In an unprecedented move, Zambia and then Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), two countries which previously were known to have very cozy relations with Tel Aviv, voted against a UN resolution sponsored by a bevy of Latin American countries in support of Israel. The October Israeli-Arab War proved to be the final straw between African countries and Israel. In line with a resolution of an emergency session of the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U) Council of Ministers, more than 40 African countries broke diplomatic ties with Israel. This watershed moment, much to the chagrin of Israel and its supporters, also saw increased support for the Palestinian cause by African Nations at the UN.

 

Israeli diplomatic offensive

Following the severance of diplomatic relations in the aftermaths of the October Israeli-Arab war, Israel launched a diplomatic offensive to win back favor with sub-Saharan African countries. The strategy employed carrot and sticks. In effect, African leaders who showed signs of warming up to Tel Aviv were rewarded with economic and military aid, agriculture and youth support programs, and other incentives. On the other hand, African nations that maintained support for the Palestinian cause faced threats of coups and rebel groups backed by the Israeli government.

The late Ugandan President, Milton Obote, accused Israel of having played a key role in the 1971 coup against him by General Idi Amin. Just a few years prior to the coup, Amin had attended a paratrooper course in Israel and he maintained close relations with Tel Aviv during his tenure as Chief of Staff for Uganda’s army.

Obote had steadily fallen out of favor with Israel as he strengthened ties with African-Arab countries such as Egypt and Sudan. Israeli viewed such positions as threats to its agenda on the continent. The Ugandan president’s reluctance to allow Israel to channel military aid to the Anya-Nya anti-government rebels in southern Sudan further strained relations. As expected, Israel denied providing military aid to the rebel group. After the coup which removed Obote from office, Amin’s first international trip was to Israel. Soon thereafter, he promised to reverse Uganda’s pro-Palestine position at both the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) and the UN.

Israel-Africa relations

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi welcomes Malawian counterpart Eisenhower Mkaka, November 3, 2020. Photo | Israeli GPO

Israel went on to provide intelligence and military support to Ethiopian strongman Haile Mariam Mengistu in his war with Eritrean pro-independence fighters who were also seen as being too close to Arab states. Despite these geopolitical investments, Tel Aviv’s positioning on the African continent produced lukewarm results and, by the 1980s, only a handful of African countries had restored full diplomatic relations with Israel. Many more continued voting against their occupation of Palestine at the UN.

 

Enter Pentecostalism

The 1990s gifted Israeli with an unexpected ally, the newly emergent Pentecostal movement. Influenced by U.S evangelicals, the Pentecostals would also adopt hardline views on the Palestinian cause. The Pentecostal wave, which had been sweeping across Africa for the past two decades, reached a crescendo in the early 1990s for a number of reasons.

Researchers such as Malawian writer Mkotama Katenga-Kaunda, have attributed this phenomenon to the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) which many sub-Saharan countries were implementing at the behest of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The implementation of the SAPs left many African economies in tatters. Graduates were unable to find jobs and unemployment spiked exponentially, significant funding to social sectors such as health and education were cut, and crime and political violence increased. This environment provided a fertile ground for the burgeoning prosperity gospel.

Millions of citizens across Africa who had lost all hope in their governments found refuge in Pentecostal churches that promised instant solutions for issues ranging from unemployment and sickness to finding suitable spouses. As millions flocked to these churches, the influence and political clout of the charismatic preachers also increased.

Israel-Africa relations

A Nigerian evangelical preacher receives worshippers at a religious retreat in Nazareth, northern Israel, in June 23, 2019. Ammar Awad | Reuters

In November 1991, Frederick Chiluba, a trade unionist, self-proclaimed pastor, and devotee of U.S. Tele-Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, was elected President of Zambia. Within a month of his election, he declared Zambia to be a Christian nation. A largely symbolic decision, it served no purpose other than pandering to his Pentecostal base, which had played a key role in ushering him into office.

In another unorthodox decision, Chiluba created a Religious Affairs desk at the state house. Such decisions exemplified just how much Pentecostalism was muscling its way into Zambian politics. The phenomenon was also taking place in other parts of the African continent.

In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and the epicenter of the continent’s Pentecostal movement. While there is no doubt that numerous social and economic factors contributed to Obasanjo’s election, Pentecostal organizations such as the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria played a key role in mobilizing support for Obasanjo, a Christian from southern Nigeria. This period marked the beginning of what the U.S based Nigerian scholar, Ebenezer Obadare refers to as the ”Pentecostalization” of governance.

As the newly emergent ‘theocratic elite’ wormed its ways into presidential palaces across Africa, fundamental changes also occurred in the political discourse. A key point was the 360-degree turnaround on Afro-Palestine relations.

The African Pentecostal movement’s views on Israel and Palestine are largely based on the views of their peers across the Atlantic ocean—U.S evangelicals. The basis of their position is that Israel is God’s chosen nation and the return of Jesus Christ, that fulfillment of prophecy, will occur on occupied Palestinian land. They also refer back to the old testament to push the claim that Palestinian land belongs to the Jews, a view which Pentecostal members have also been indoctrinated with. According to this concept, it is a “sin” for one to criticize or condemn any act committed by the state of Israel.


An evangelical Christian worshipper reacts during a religious retreat in Nazareth, northern Israel, in June 23, 2019. Ammar Awad | Reuters

Long before assuming a more prominent political role, Pentecostals had mobilized support for Israel through a number of initiatives including taking members on tours of Israel as part of a so-called “religious diplomacy.” As the movement enjoyed numerical growth and gained more political influence, they started to push pro-Israel propaganda within the corridors of powers.

In 1993, largely due to Pentecostal lobbying, President Chiluba restored diplomatic relations between Zambia and Israel. Rapprochement came after ties had been severed by his predecessor, Kenneth Kaunda, twenty years earlier. Pentecostal religious elites have also used their influence to neutralize any criticism of Israel and its human rights violation by portraying such criticism as an attack on the Christian faith. While most African governments have, to a large extent, maintained their position and voting bloc at the UN regarding Palestine, politicians and officials are much more timid when it comes to condemning the Israeli occupation and the abuse of Palestinian rights.

The Palestinian cause was pivotal on the agenda of many African political parties in the 1970s and 80s. Over the last three decades, however, it has been pushed to the fringes of political discourse save for a handful of countries. In South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) and trade unions such as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA) have maintained their unwavering support and solidarity with the Palestinian people. This, despite fierce opposition from Pentecostal organizations, right-wing opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance and African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), and organizations such as the South Africa Friends of Israel (SAFISA).

Pentecostal organizations, in collaboration with right-wing political and civil organizations, have, in the last couple of years, organized in different parts of Africa what they call, Jerusalem Prayer Breakfasts. These poorly disguised religious events are, in fact, political forums held for the sole purpose of mobilizing support for Israel and ending African support for the Palestinian cause. The 2019 breakfast in Uganda’s capital of Kampala was attended by several business leaders, diplomats, pro-Israel legislators, and other senior government officials, including the country’s first lady, Janet Museveni.

Israel-Africa relations

Malawi’s newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera greets supporters after being sworn in in Lilongwe, Malawi, June 28 2020. Thoko Chikondi | AP

Numerous pro-Israel politicians and political parties have emerged across Africa as a result of Jerusalem Prayer Breakfasts and similar events. One prime example is the United Progress People (UPP) Party of Zambia, which is led by a former Member of Parliament, Saviour Chishimba. He describes himself as a “devout Christian and staunch pro-Israel politician.” Chishimba’s party’s logo is an Israeli flag, three doves, and the blue star of David.

In an interview with an Israeli newspaper during a visit to Jerusalem, Chishimba described Kaunda’s decision to cut ties with Israel as “the worst atrocity” and blamed the decision for the country’s economic woes. He added that “Israel is a blessed nation and this is why we should be closer to it so the blessings that God pours out on Israel will be spilling to us.”

The UPP is just one example of the many quasi-political organizations that have been established with the help of Pentecostal organizations for the sole purpose of pro-Israeli advocacy and suppressing African support for the self-determination of Palestine.

The deafening silence by African governments and political movements on maneuvers by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to annex Palestinian territories is not by chance. It is a reflection of how fast and deep the tentacles of this pro-Israeli, religious-political alliance are spreading on the continent. South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), African National Congress, NUMSA, COSATU, and Zambia’s Socialist Party issued statements condemning the U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem two years ago.

We are very disappointed at African countries which had celebrated the declaration of Jerusalem as the official capital city of Israel by the USA,” said Julius Malema, leader of the EFF. “That is the highest form of betrayal because us as Africans should know that colonialism and imperialism have no place in humanity. It’s a violation of human rights to go and occupy the land of Palestinians. We don’t support that.”

Despite voices like Malema, far too many political party leaders in Africa have purposefully decided to feign blind to Israel’s illegal actions. Hence, the question remains. How long will it take before even those handful of progressive voices are silenced?

Israel-Africa relations

A Palestinian man hides his head from Israeli tear gas while holding a photo of Nelson Mandela during a protest Nabi Saleh. Nasser Nasser | AP

 

Way forward

Basking in Malawi’s promise of opening an embassy in Jerusalem, there is little doubt that Israel will continue its efforts to gain more allies in Africa, thus diffusing the continent’s historic support for Palestine. Just how Malawi’s overture will, according to its Foreign Minister Eisenhower Mkaka, “contribute towards the country’s food security strategy and accelerated and sustained socioeconomic development of the people,” remains to be seen.

Albeit not having a single chair on the UN security council, Africa’s 54 countries still remain a critical voice and voting block at the international body. A number of African countries are also active members of the Boycott, Disinvest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Consequently, African progressives and human rights activists do not have the luxury of standing on the sidelines and watching Zionists sympathizers sway the continent’s principled position regarding Palestine.

There is an urgent need for progressive African organizations to unite in highlighting the plight of Palestinians and why African support is essential to the cause. It is also necessary for these organizations to expose the shallow viewpoint perpetuated by pro-Israeli supporters that aim to portray the Israeli occupation as a conflict between Christians and Muslims. It is important to remind Africans that as a people who experienced centuries of oppression, we have a noble duty to expose and fight oppression wherever it rears its ugly head, irrespective of the color, creed or religious affiliation of the victims. In the words of Nelson Mandela,

We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the Freedom of Palestinians.’’

Feature photo | An African migrant boy holds an Israeli flag during a demonstration against the deportation of African migrants, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Oded Balilty | AP

Clinton Nzala is a Political Strategist and Analyst based in Quito, Ecuador. He works for Pan-Latin American news outlet, teleSUR. He has worked with various political and social movements across Africa as a mobilizer and organizer.

The post Malawi is Just the Beginning: How Israel Changed the Political Narrative of an Entire Continent appeared first on MintPress News.

The Political Background to the Balfour Declaration and the Harm Done by Western Interference in Palestine

2017 was the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. This was the statement of the British government during the First World War committing Britain to supporting a Jewish state in Palestine. There’s a very interesting article on it in Bowker’s Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, which makes it very clear that our support for Zionism was hardly disinterested. It states very clearly that, enacted as it was by politicos who were ignorant of religion, it has resulted in immense harm and conflict. The article says that it was the

British declaration of sympathy with Zionism. It was made in a letter of 2 November 1917, from the British Foreign Secretary (i.e., Balfour) to Lord Rothschild: ‘His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people ….’It was qualified by a clause ‘that nothing should be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. But at the time, the British supported the idea of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine under British protection in order to detach Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, and as a means of encouraging Russian Jews to pressurize the new Bolshevik government to stay in the First World War. According to Field-Marshal Smuts (in 1947), it had been passed ‘to rally Jewry on a worldwide scale to the Allied Cause’. The declaration was endorsed in 1920 by the allies at the San Remo Conference. It was, however, in apparent conflict with the McMahon correspondence, which made commitments to the Arabs. Sharif Hussein and ibn Sa’ud were ‘courted in order to secure their help against the Ottoman Turks. Thus are the seeds of conflict sown by politicians who (as almost always in post-Enlightenment countries) neither understand nor care about religions. (p. 121).

We had absolutely no business making that commitment. The British Jewish establishment, including the only Jewish member of the cabinet at the time, didn’t want it. They wanted British Jews to be accepted as patriotic fellow Brits, and felt that the establishment of a Jewish state would lead to them being accused of disloyalty. The British government may have envisaged the founding of a small canton, rather than the populous country that emerged. It has also been claimed that the British government was anti-Semitic in issuing the declaration, because they followed the anti-Semitic view that Jews had considerable power in Soviet Russia. It has been remarked that it’s one of the few times anti-Semitism has worked to the Jews’ advantage.

Tony Greenstein has written a long piece about how we courted the Saudis and other Arab leaders to get their support for Israel against the interests of the Palestinians. It’s a convoluted, violent, and sordid tale. It’s also been argued that Israel was founded and supported with the aid of Britain and America as a kind of western colony and centre for European and American imperial influence in the Middle East.

The West has frequently interfered in the affairs of the Middle East not for the benefit of its people, but for the West’s own geopolitical and commercial interests. These have been very much against those of the region’s indigenous peoples. The Iraq invasion, for example, wasn’t about liberating the Iraqi people from a murderous tyrant, but about grabbing its oil and state industries. Ditto the invasion of Afghanistan. We never went in to punish al-Qaeda for the horrendous attacks of 9/11 nor the Taliban’s oppression of the Afghan people. It was just another attempt to secure American oil interests in the region against those of Russia and Iran. And the article on ‘Anti-Semitism’ in the same Dictionary states that, in contrast to the hopes of the Zionists, ‘as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Muslim anti-Semitism is today even more virulent than its Christian counterpart’. (p.77).

It could therefore be said that Zionism, or at least the persecution of its indigenous Arab population by the Israeli state, far from combating anti-Semitism has simply spread it still further.

The Last Negotiator: The Death of Saeb Erekat Could Mark the End of Palestinian Reconciliation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 4:59am in

The untimely passing of Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat marks the end of not only a period, but of a generation. Almost 14 years to the day after the death of Yasser Arafat, Erekat succumbed to complications from Covid-19, and it is remarkable to see that even though so many years have passed since Arafat’s death, there are still serious people who, like Erekat, hold on to the belief that a negotiated settlement with Israel is possible, and that a Two-State Solution is viable.

Unlike Arafat, who started his career as a leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization promoting “radical” ideas, like the liberation of Palestine and freedom for the Palestinian people, Erikat’s career began in what may be considered the final chapter of the PLO. That chapter was marked by negotiation upon negotiation with the hope, unrealistic as it may have been, of reaching a negotiated peace agreement with the Israeli government.

I never met Saeb Erekat, but I know many people like him who, even today, hold on to the belief that Palestinians must never stop negotiating. The belief that cooperation and even collaboration with Israel are critical so that someday a Palestinian state can exist alongside Israel.

 

Yasser Arafat: A leader of transformation

For three decades, from the mid-1970s to the day he died in 2004 – Yasser Arafat was the most consistent voice for peace in the Middle East. When he spoke at the United Nations in 1974, he said, “I come with an olive branch in one hand and a gun in the other,” and added, “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” Arafat let go of the gun and held on to that olive branch for the rest of his life.

Under his leadership, the Palestinian national movement went from calling for the total liberation of Palestine through a military struggle, to a binational secular democratic state spanning all of Palestine, and from there, to recognizing Israel and denouncing “terrorism.”

Arafat eventually accepted whatever part of Palestine that was made available for his people on the basis of a Two-State Solution and finally signed the Oslo Accords, which led to nothing but more suffering for Palestinians and more control for Israel. The suffering and violent takeover by Israel was not new of course, only this time it had Arafat’s signature on it. From decade to decade, starting in the 1960s, the Palestinian leadership went from revolutionary to accommodating and to what some would say, collaborating. All under the leadership of the same man, Yasser Arafat.

 

Appearing on the world stage

The first time Yasser Arafat was introduced to the world was in a Time magazine cover story. It was the December 13, 1968 issue, and it featured a dramatic rendition of Arafat on the cover and an armed Palestinian fighter in the background. Arafat was described as “Fedayeen Leader” and the caption across the top read, “The Arab Commandos, a Defiant New Force in the Middle East.”

Time Magazine Yasser Arafat Cover

Time’s December 1968 cover launched Arafat into the international spotlight

The piece began as follows, “The revolution of Fatah exists! It exists here, there and everywhere. It is a storm, a storm in every house and village.” The article quoted from the “Voice of El-Fatah” radio. It went on to describe it.

Faithful and unfailing as the muezzin’s call from the minaret, that heady cry goes out nightly from a radio station in Cairo to the Arab lands. It is the “Voice of El Fatah,” speaking for the Arab commando organization whose bands of raiders cross each night into hated Israel, bent on bringing death, destruction and terror. To Arabs huddled in wind-chilling refugee tents outside Amman, sipping thick coffee in drawing rooms in Damascus, or lounging in the common rooms of the American University of Beirut.”

Arafat made it to the cover of Time largely because of the fame that followed the Battle of Karama. It was in May of 1968 that Israel decided to invade Jordan and punish the Palestinian fighters in the village of Karama, which incidentally means dignity in Arabic. The “El-Fatah” forces had been quite literally terrifying Israel. Every Israeli, even children, became aware of the dangers of what we knew as “Al-Fatah” and “Fedayeen.”

I describe the battle and the precise force that Israel mobilized for this invasion in my book, “The General Son.” For now, suffice it to say that it was an enormous, cumbersome force that turned out to be as clumsy as it was bulky. The operation included ground and air, commando and paratrooper as well as tank divisions. The tanks got stuck in the mud and the whole thing was a terrible blunder with the Israeli forces being humiliated and paying a heavy price.

Although Palestinian and Jordanian forces also paid a heavy price, they saw the previously victorious Israeli army leave with its tail between its legs. The Battle of Karama came to be known as a military victory and a morale boost for all Arabs, but none more than the Palestinians with Yasser Arafat as their leader. Arafat was based in Karama, and his forces prevailed. It was in the aftermath of Karama that his name appeared to the outside world.

 

UN General Assembly, 1974

In his first appearance in front of the UN General Assembly in 1974, Arafat stood wearing his famous Keffiyeh and carrying a pistol. Not unlike Che Guevara and other revolutionaries who spoke at the UN, Arafat spoke as a true revolutionary. He spoke not only about the plight of his own people but of that of other nations who suffered the indignation and oppression of imperialism and settler colonialism. He spoke harshly and truthfully about Zionism, about the racism and violence that it brought to his land and his people:

Just as colonialists in Africa used religion, color, race, and language to justify exploitation and cruel subjugation, so too are these methods employed in Palestine.

Zionism is an ideology that is imperialist, colonialist, racist.

It pains our people greatly to witness the propagation of the myth that its homeland was a desert until it was made to bloom by foreign settlers, that it was a land without a people, and that the colonialist entity caused no harm.

Those who call us terrorists wish to prevent world public opinion from discovering the truth about us. They seek to hide the terrorism and tyranny of their own acts.

When we speak of our hopes for the Palestine of tomorrow we include all Jews now living in Palestine who choose to live with us in peace and without discrimination.

I call upon Jews to turn away one by one from the illusory promises made to them by Zionist ideology and Israeli leadership. They are offering Jews perpetual bloodshed, endless war.

We offer them the most generous solution, that we might live together in a framework of just peace in our democratic Palestine.”

He ended his speech with the words, “I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

As Arafat was making this speech, his top emissaries in Europe were making contacts with renegade Israeli figures like my father, Matti Peled, at that point a retired Israeli general, and Uri Avneri, a veteran of the 1948 war and a journalist. Although both of them had come out criticizing Israel for its treatment of the Palestinian people and called for an end to the occupation of 1967, both were staunch and patriotic Zionists.

Connecting with Avneri and my father marked a departure from the previous PLO policy of dealing only with anti-Zionist elements in Israel. It clearly demonstrated a shift in thinking at the highest echelons of PLO leadership.

The contacts between Zionist Israelis and top PLO diplomats like Sa’id Hamami in London and Issam Sartawi in Paris, both of whom were consequently assassinated, took place under the auspices and full support of several notable figures. These included the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, King Hassan II of Morocco as well as non-governmental groups like the Quakers and particularly individuals like Landrum Bolling.

From the Israeli perspective, the purpose of these meetings was twofold: To legitimize the PLO in the eyes of Israeli public opinion – in which they failed – and to convince Yassar Arafat to recognize Israel and accept the Two-State Solution. The latter objective succeeded but proved catastrophic for the Palestinian people.

 

A shift

In 1988 Arafat was once again invited to speak at the United Nations General Assembly. However, as a result of Israeli pressure, the Regan-Bush administration did not grant him entry into the United States and the General Assembly had to meet in Geneva instead. The 1988 speech that Arafat gave was very different from his 1974 speech.

Clinton Arafat Erekat

Bill Clinton meets with Arafat and Erekat, center, at Camp David, July 14, 2000. Photo | Reuters

By 1988, Arafat had taken a new position on Israel and the recognition of the Zionist State was integral to his speech. No more revolutionary. Instead, appeasing. It was about asking for negotiations and peace rather than justice and an end to racism and settler colonialism.

I have come to you in the name of my people, offering my hand so that we can make real peace. On that basis I ask the leaders of Israel to come here, under the sponsorship of the United Nations, so that together we can forge that peace.

Our people, who seek dignity, freedom and peace for themselves and security for their State, want the same thing for all the States and parties involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Here, I would address myself specifically to the Israeli people

Let us make the peace of the bold, of the courageous,

I have come to you in the name of my people, offering my hand so that we can make real peace, peace based on justice.”

Talk of peace with Israel replaced freeing Palestine from Israel.

 

Till when?

As these words are being written, the Palestinian Authority reportedly announced its willingness to resume military and civilian coordination with Israel. If there is any criticism today towards the generation of negotiators comprised of people who, like Saeb Erikat, believed that negotiating and talking was the only way forward, it is that they didn’t know when to stop. Missing what became obvious to many, that three decades of Palestinian concessions were only making things worse for the Palestinians.

Once the PLO committed to the Two-State Solution, it held on to it and, in fact, continues to hold on to it today. For decades, Israel claimed that the Palestinians were using the Two-State Solution as a stepping stone to replacing Israel through the creation of a Palestinian state on all of historic Palestine. But that is little more than what some would call “projecting.”

It was Israel who used the endless and fruitless negotiations as a tool by which to take more and more Palestinian land, to “Judaise,” as they call it, more and more of Palestine, and to complete its plan of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and deepening of the apartheid regime.

One grieves the loss of a dedicated man like Saeb Erekat, and one grieves even more that Palestine is disappearing before our very eyes.

In his 1974 speech at the United Nations Yasser Arafat warned the world not to let the olive branch fall from his hand. The truth is that he himself held on to the olive branch with such ferocity that one might say it cost him his own life.

Feature photo | Then-Vice-President Joe Biden shakes hands with Palestinian Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat upon Biden’s arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 9, 2016. Mohamad Torokman | Reuters

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post The Last Negotiator: The Death of Saeb Erekat Could Mark the End of Palestinian Reconciliation appeared first on MintPress News.

Book Review: Polarized and Demobilized: Legacies of Authoritarianism in Palestine by Dana El Kurd

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/10/2020 - 10:01pm in

In Polarized and Demobilized: Legacies of Authoritarianism in PalestineDana El Kurd examines how the increased involvement of international powers in Palestinian politics has insulated Palestinian elites from the public and strengthened their ability to engage in authoritarian practices, leading to polarisation and the weakening of the capacity for collective action. Combining theoretical sophistication with a seamless narrative, this is one of the most astute empirical analyses of authoritarianism in the region, writes Hesham Shafick

Polarized and Demobilized: Legacies of Authoritarianism in Palestine. Dana El Kurd. Hurst. 2020.

One of the rare moments of optimism in the Palestinian struggle was the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993, which contracted arrangements of unprecedented self-governance to the Palestinian people. A Palestinian Authority (PA), constituted from leading members of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, was confirmed to assume most governing responsibilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the exception of border control. Israel and the United States also pledged to financially support these endeavours, through direct tax-money transfers from the former and monetary aid packages from the latter (the European Union also supported the Accords, but without direct financial commitments).

However, almost three decades later, nothing testifies to an improvement in the life conditions of Palestinians that matches the initial optimism. The only significant change in Palestinian politics is the waning of the discourse of resistance with the parallel normalisation of the Israeli occupation. It is now commonly established, therefore, that the Oslo Accords practically failed to achieve its promise of Palestinian self-governance.

In Polarized and Demobilized, Dana El Kurd, a Palestinian researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, critiques the dominant ‘failure’ thesis for wrongly presuming the positive intentions of the Accords in the first place. She rather affirms that the negative repercussions of the Accords were, in fact, its intended strategic agenda. Nominal self-governance, she argues, aimed to polarise and demobilise the Palestinian resistance, so as to confine, rather than facilitate, the Palestinian liberation project. From this perspective, the Accords successfully intensified Israeli repression through indigenous ‘outsourcing’ (5).

So, what brought us to this point? ‘How did the PA demobilize [Palestinian] society, when years of Israeli occupation had failed to do the same thing?’ (3). Acting as a ‘subcontractor for the occupation’ (143), El Kurd argues, the PA was capable of repressing resistance with much more effectiveness than the Israeli occupation itself. The fact that it is conceived of as an indigenous ruler, a semi-sovereign, rather than an occupying state, gave the PA carte blanche to violate civil and human rights and evade international accountability. More significantly, its limited yet strategic legitimacy as an indigenous ruler made the PA more capable of garnering domestic support for its authoritarian measures, be this violent repression or clientelist cooptation. Moreover, the contentions around these measures have polarised Palestinian civil society, complicating the conditions for collective action through civil society organisations and grassroots activism. As such, not only did the PA rule extend the conditions of occupation, but it also subtracted from resistance to this condition.

This dynamic is by no means specific to Palestine. It is rather characteristic of clientelist postcolonial states. Polarized and Demobilized argues that the ‘principal-agent’ model of authoritarian rule it proposes can be generalised across the Middle East region and beyond (28-33). In this model, international powers replace the population that the regime purportedly represents as the source of political legitimacy and financial rent, and hence act as the ‘principal’ that grants and revokes authority and holds it accountable to its mandate. The book presents in detail how this dynamic has worked in the case of the PA, but also comparatively demonstrates that it can be applied to other cases in the region, like Iraqi Kurdistan and Bahrain.

I cannot help but compare it as well to the current Syrian regime. The latter is not under occupation (at least not strictly so), but it firmly abides to the brand of clientelist authoritarianism El Kurd describes. This brand is characterised by the intransigent appeal to ‘indigenity’ as a source of undoubted legitimacy, while being practically accountable to the very international forces it sets its domestic legitimacy on countering. The book shows that this obvious contradiction is more than an exposed hypocrisy. It is rather an intended and indeed effectual mode of colonial governance by outsourcing.

Drawing on a rich multi-method approach that includes interviews, historical analysis and quantitative data analysis, the book outlines the causal mechanisms of how this outsourcing effectively represses anti-colonial resistance. An attempt to summarise this mechanism is difficult in a short review due to the richness of the book’s analysis, but four overlapping steps in this mechanism can be singled out, which I briefly outline below.

The first is the insulation of the political class from the public they govern. This not only makes them immune to public accountability, but also, and more significantly, disengaged from the lived reality of the public and positioned in existential opposition with their demands and aspirations. This is quite obvious in the lavish lifestyles of the PA and their reliance on occupational remittances to lead these lives. The ‘target funding’ (62) co-administered by Israel and their indigenous clients has conditioned both the personal prosperity of state officials and the economic capability to finance state institutions to the satisfaction of the occupier.

The second is making state autonomy, a public aspiration, conditional on a certain form of rule and particular political leaders. This was evident in the Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and its war on Gaza in 2008-2009 after the victory of Hamas, the Islamist opposition party, in the 2006 legislative elections. It was also shown in the broader international refusal to recognise the Hamas-led government (although the elections had been called for by the US, it is one of a number of states that consider Hamas a terrorist organisation (55)). The message was clear: either accept – or ‘elect’ – a political class that openly concedes to Israeli policy or lose political representation altogether and risk direct intervention.

The third is the polarisation of civil society through a dual mechanism of cooptation and repression – the carrot and the stick. By selectively coopting segments of society and repressing others, the PA has divided Palestinian society into regime loyalists and regime dissidents, each accusing the other of enhancing the occupation in one way or another. For the regime loyalists, dissidents enact the conditions for occupation by disempowering the indigenous authority. For dissidents, this authority itself is an instrument of occupation. Through these divisions, the national front is dismantled.

The fourth is the demobilisation that ensues from all of the above. Primarily, social polarisation complicates the possibility of collective action. Moreover, the association of state independence with the ruling regime discredits resistance and justifies repression. Furthermore, the insulation of the political class enables the de-politicised policing of civil society, in which the security apparatus, rather than politicians, takes the lead in dealing with dissent. With a full third of the state budget spent on the security apparatus, it is used not only as a coercive force, but also as a massive and high-paying agency of employment through which the PA rewards its loyalists. These conditions coalesce into a gigantic ‘police state’ (‘one security officer for every forty-eight Palestinians’, 14) that closely monitors civil society and disbands any potential for collective mobilisation.

Polarized and Demobilized provides such a sophisticated account that any sort of summary or short review would fail to do it justice. Not only is it one of the most astute empirical analyses of authoritarianism in the region, but it is also an invaluable contribution to international political theory on authoritarianism, (post)colonialism and the social spaces in which the two intersect. The book is also useful as an analytic historical sociology of post-Oslo Palestine. Over and above, it is a truly enjoyable read: one of the very few academic works that combines theoretical sophistication with a smooth, seamless and beautifully articulated narrative.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics.

Image Credit: Ronan Shenhav (CC BY NC 2.0).

 


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