By Afro-Middle East Centre
Israel’s government ended its eighteen-month ‘freeze’ on settlement construction in the West Bank with an announcement ofplans to construct 153 housing units across the territory. That the expansion of these units includes large settlement blocs as well as settlement towns deep into the West Bank reveals the far-reaching designs for a resurgent settlement enterprise. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon labelled the settlements ‘an affront to the Palestinian people and the international community’, with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu predictably responding that Ban gave a ‘tailwind to terrorism’.
The announcement came just days after twelve Israeli settlers were evicted from two homes in Hebron, which they had invaded and occupied. Their evictions caused an uproar in Netanyahu’s coalition government, with Immigrant Absorption and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin, himself a West Bank settler, calling on the defence minister, Moshe Ya'alon, to halt the eviction. Elkin’s comments were echoed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. Likud’s coalition partner, Habayit Yehudi, which holds three prominent cabinet portfolios, condemned the action.
The settlement announcement is a very public attempt by Netanyahu’s government to placate the vocal settlement supporters (and settlers) in the coalition. It also represents another episode in an ongoing challenge to the international community, following Netanyahu’s numerous foreign ministry appointments of individuals who actively support the settlement programme and oppose international law on this issue. These include Tzipi Hotovely, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, who advocates for Israeli sovereignty over the whole of the OPT (West Bank and Gaza). In August 2015 he appointed Danny Danon as ambassador to the UN. Danon opposes a two-state solution, and positions himself to the right of Netanyahu. The appointment of Dani Dayan, former chair of the settlement group Yesha Council, as ambassador to Brazil was met with strong objections by Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff.
Little under a week before the announcement of the settlement expansion, the European Union Foreign Affairs Council passed a resolution criticising Israeli settlement activity. The resolution said the EU would closely monitor developments on the ground and assess their broader implications. The resolution is intended as a follow up to the EU’s new guidelines last year for the labelling of products from Israeli settlements. Alongside established trade deals with Israel and engagement with the Israel-Palestine peace process, the EU has funded numerous development projects in the OPT; some in Area C, which is under full Israeli control. Most Palestinian buildings subject to Israeli demolition orders are in Area C, and EU-funded structures are not immune. Between January and May 2015, forty-one EU-funded structures built at a cost of 236 000 Euros were torn down by the Israeli army.
The EU is not the only big power publicly criticising Israel’s settlement project. Earlier this month US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, spoke against what he called two standards of law that Israel applies in the West Bank – one for Jews and one for Palestinians, and Israel’s tolerance of settler vigilantism. He questioned Israel’s commitment to peace and the two-state solution in light of continued settlement expansion. Following strong criticism from the Israeli government, Shapiro’s comments were defended by the US State Department as being correct. Relations between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama have seldom been warm, but such direct criticism from within the US administration suggests that concern over Israel’s attitude towards the ‘peace process’ is broad.
The swing to the right in the Israeli political landscape since the signing of the Oslo Accords has provided the settlement enterprise increasing credibility within Israel’s political institutions. A number of mainstream parties now contest elections on pro-settlement platforms: Habeyit Yehudi runs on an overt pro-settler anti-two-state platform, whilst most in Likud, the largest party in government, either sympathise with the settler movement or openly advocate for the complete annexation of the West Bank.
As this phenomenon has crystallised, discontent within the UN General Assembly has grown. Emerging regional powers in Central and South America and BRICS countries have voiced doubts about Israel’s commitment to the peace process. Popular grassroots pressure from civil society groups across Europe has forced Israel’s long-standing allies within the EU to take action on Israel’s human rights transgressions. Although Israel remains the US’s strongest ally in the Middle East, public disagreements over the Iranian nuclear deal have created unprecedented discord between Washington and Tel Aviv; Shapiro’s comments fall within this context. Yet little over a week after Shapiro’s barbed statement, Obama made the most ‘philosemetic, pro-Jewish’ speech in the Israeli embassy in Washington DC. In the last months of Obama’s presidency, back channel disagreements and distaste with Israeli policy by State Department officials has led to embarrassment for his administration, with the president often deploying a doting speech to reaffirm US commitment to ‘Israel’s security’. These contradictions, although not significant enough to alter US policy towards Israel in the short term, will be difficult to paper over as Israel intensifies its settlement expansion.
Winner of the 2014 Palestine Book Award
Efforts to achieve a “two-state solution” have finally collapsed; the struggle for justice in Palestine is at a crossroads. As Israel and its advocates lurch toward greater extremism, many ask where the struggle is headed. This book offers a clear analysis of this crossroads moment and looks forward with urgency down the path to a more hopeful future.In this essential work, journalist Ali Abunimah takes a comprehensive look at the shifting tides of the politics of Palestine and the Israelis in a neoliberal world and makes a compelling and surprising case for why the Palestine solidarity movement just might win.
Ali Abunimah is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli Palestinian Impasse, and co-founder and director of the widely acclaimed publication The Electronic Intifada. Based in the United States, he has written hundreds of articles and been an active part of the movement for justice in Palestine for 20 years. He is the recipient of a 2013 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship.
‘Every community that stands fast, loving its people and its land, its customs and its ways, will be seen, eventually, as worthy of saving. This is because it is our own humanity we are learning from, our own value. There will also arise a special voice to champion us, one that is brave, trustworthy and true. In The Battle for Justice in Palestine it is the voice of Ali Abunimah, fierce, wise - a warrior for justice and peace - someone whose large heart, one senses, beyond his calm, is constantly on fire. A pragmatist but also a poet. This is the book to read to understand the present bizarre and ongoing complexity of the Palestine/Israel tragedy. And though it is filled with the grim reality of this long and deadly, ugly and dehumanizing, conflict, it also offers hope: that as more people awaken to the shocking reality of what has for decades been going on, we can bring understanding and restitution to the Palestinian people. Their struggle to exist in dignity and peace in their own homeland - and this may be the biggest surprise of Abunimah's book - is mirrored in the struggles for survival and autonomy of more than a few of us.’
‘This is the best book on Palestine in the last decade. No existing book presents the staggering details and sophistication of analysis that Abunimah’s book offers. Abunimah’s scope includes an analysis of the politics, economics, environmental policies, identity politics, international relations, academic scholarship and activism, global solidarity, and official and unofficial lobbies that have come to bear on Palestine and the Palestinians. The Battle for Justice in Palestine is the most comprehensive treatment of Palestinian suffering under Israeli control and offers the only possible way to end it. It is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the current situation of the Palestinians and Israel.’
—Joseph Massad, Columbia University
‘With incisive style and scrupulous attention to documentation and detail, Ali Abunimah's new book offers a complex portrait, from every angle, of the Palestinian struggle for justice today.’
—Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace
'A crucially needed dose of educated hope. This is what hits me from this fascinating amalgam of incisive journalism, analytic prose and intellectually compelling vision that emanates from many years of brilliant activism. Sailing effortlessly from the domestic to the global, from Johannesburg to Belfast and from Chicago to Tel Aviv, Ali Abunimah paints a lucid, accessible picture out of a complex web of racism, racialized oppression, and creative resistance. Abunimah does not give us hope; he helps us dig for it within us by meticulously laying out before us the facts, the trends, the challenges and the inspiring resistance to them.’
—Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights
‘In The Battle for Justice in Palestine, Ali Abunimah—the most astute commentator writing on Palestine today—bursts the leaky myths of Israeli exceptionalism while carefully examining where the battle for Palestine is currently being waged. Forget the endless “peace process,” which has ushered in little more than massive economic exploitation, tragic environmental degradation, and servile and destructive politics. Focus instead, Abunimah tells us, on the many civil society and campus initiatives around the world that are bravely ushering in a new era of global grass-roots organizing for justice. Rich in information and deep in analysis, The Battle for Justice in Palestine will inspire readers that Palestinian self-determination is not only possible but absolutely necessary.’
—Moustafa Bayoumi, author, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America
‘Those familiar with Ali Abunimah’s writing know to expect sophistication without theoretical jargon... His latest book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine, both reflects and synthesizes the dramatic shifts in the discourse around the Israel-Palestine conflict in the United States as well as in Israel and the Arab world, in particular the emergence of one-state demands and the coalescence of an anti-Zionist position on the left.’
—Steven Salaita, The New Inquiry
‘Though he never loses sight of the grim reality on the ground, Abunimah's writing is infused with a sense of optimism about the possibility of realising decolonization and a just future for all who live in historic Palestine.’
—Ben White, Middle East Monitor
‘The Battle for Justice in Palestine is a crucial book appearing in a crucial time... Abunimah strips away Israel’s justifications for its occupation and makes a vital contribution to real justice in Palestine.’
—Ron Jacobs, CounterPunch
‘The inspiring vision Abunimah lays out reflects the hope stirred by a growing and increasingly successful movement on the ground, which is helping to turn the tide in the struggle for Palestine. For those active in this movement, this book is a must-read, but its lessons are for anyone interested in the fight for a better world.’
—Wael Elasady, Socialist Worker
By Nick Rodrigo
On 1 September, Alejandro Maldonado was installed as Guatemalan president. The choice was controversial due his role in nullifying the conviction of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who had been sentenced for acts of genocide during the civil war. This thirty-six year war was a particularly brutal episode in Guatemala’s troubled postcolonial history and still leaves deep wounds, particularly on the collective psyche of the country’s Mayan population. Israel’s support of Guatemala government forces during this time is an example of Zionist foreign policy at its most calculated.
During the 1960s the entrenched status of servitude and poverty for Guatemala’s Mayan peasantry led to a series of armed and unarmed insurrectionary movements in the countryside. The state responded with unbridled brutality, attacking anyone deemed to be a dissident, including Mayan activists and trade unionists. In 1982, a coup brought Rios Montt to power; in the same year an Inter-American Human Rights Commission issued a report pointing the blame at the Guatemalan government for thousands of illegal executions and missing persons in the 1970s, particularly against campensinos and Indians. The following year Montt deployed the “Firjoles y Fusiles” (beans and guns) campaign which was essentially a scorched earth military programme against “unruly” villages. Taking on the tactics of his predecessors, Montt entrenched agricultural resettlement schemes into the military’s counterinsurgency plans. His successors emulated his pacification techniques in an attempt to destroy indigenous life and rural existence, replacing it with agricultural cooperatives that maintained the feudal status quo. By the time that the UN had brokered peace in 1996, the http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/migrate/uploads/mos_en.pdf" target="_blank">UN-backed Historical Clarification Commission estimated the total number of deaths at around 250,000. The report, in line with the findings of a Catholic Church-sponsored truth commission, found that the state’s military operations had a disproportionate toll on indigenous communities, including https://www.ictj.org/our-work/regions-and-countries/guatemala" target="_blank">more than 600 massacres, but also incidents of torture, rape and forced displacement.
Rios Montt finally faced justice on 10 May 2013. Convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, he was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Dozens of survivors gave testimony at his trial; some were women who had been raped repeatedly, others were children when the Guatemalan forces attacked their villages. The killings, displacement and disappearances carried out under Montt and other Guatemalan leaders could not have been conducted to such effect without the special relationship that the country enjoyed with Israel, which extended from agricultural assistance to counterinsurgency techniques.
Beans, guns and training: Zionist support of Guatemalan state repression
Six years before the “Beans and Guns” campaign ripped through Mayan village life, the Israeli government initiated a two-year programme for Guatemalan officials to study agricultural schemes in Israel. The Kibbutzim pioneer culture of Zionism shares much with the Gaucho frontierism of colonial and postcolonial Latin America, and in the 1978-1979 period, about 1,000 Guatemalans were trained by Israeli settlement study centres in Rohovot and other areas. When the Guatemalan congress gave Israel its highest honour in 2009, the speaker commented, “If there is thriving agriculture, it’s an Israeli contribution.” In reality, there is no thriving agriculture which benefits Guatemalans today, with hundreds of thousands of rural families dependent upon aid.
By the late 1970s, reports of human rights abuses by US-trained and armed Guatemalan soldiers were causing headaches for the Carter administration in Washington; the US http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/ronald-reagan-finance-genocide-guatemala/story%3Fid=19179627" target="_blank">congress subsequently suspended military aid in 1977. Within months, Israel had stepped in to fill the void with President Ephraim Katzir signing an agreement for military assistance. According to the Stockholm Institute for Peace, Israel supplied Guatemala with $38 million worth of arms during the civil war period. This included Arava aircraft, artillery pieces and gunboats. The Galil assault rifle, an Israeli-made weapon, was standard issue for the Guatemalan army by 1980, with the state owned small-arms production facility in Alta Verapaz producing its ammunition under Israeli licence. Indeed, corporate enterprise was a significant aspect of Israel’s involvement in the Guatemalan civil war, with a number of Israeli firms active on Guatemalan territory, providing services ranging from military equipment to radar control systems to water development projects. Israel also utilised its shadowy arms industry to avoid embarrassing the US, often shuttling arms to Guatemala through intermediaries, normally retired generals and “securocrats” with dual nationalities. In June 1977, Barbados customs agents discovered a shipment of 26 tons of arms and ammunition destined for Guatemala from Israel in an Argentinian cargo plane; similar shipments were discovered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Reagan’s election in 1979 and his http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/11/the-first-principles-of-ronald-reagans-foreign-policy" target="_blank">policy of containment in Central America were exploited by Israel. The late Ariel Sharon engineered a relationship with the US in which Israel would carry out much of its dirty work in the region, in a bid to cement a closer relationship and align the countries’ geostrategic interests. This included funnelling weapons to Nicaragua and El Salvador. In a special report by the New York Times in 1983, it was noted that Israel had a role in supplementing US strategic interests.
Israel had contributed considerably to Guatemala’s counterinsurgency programme by the late 1980s, with at least 300 retired and Israeli government affiliated trainers active in the country, passing-on expertise on everything ranging from computer tracking of insurgents and activists through complex snooping techniques, to training elite troops known as “Kaibiles” for the rural pacification programme.
Nicaragua vs USA: The framework for reparations from Israel
In the International Court of Justice case Nicaragua vs USA, America was forced, due to its military and paramilitary acts in Nicaragua, to pay compensation to the Nicaraguan people. There are a number of merits from this ruling which could be used to draw up a case against Israel. Under paragraph 220 of the case it notes that states are obliged to refrain from encouraging a party to commit violations or provide concrete assistance: “The United States is thus under an obligation not to encourage persons or groups engaged in the conflict in Nicaragua to act in violation of the provisions of Article 3 common to the four 1949 Geneva conventions.” http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/RemedyAndReparation.aspx" target="_blank">Under the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation, it states:
4. In cases of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law constituting crimes under international law, States have the duty to investigate and, if there is sufficient evidence, the duty to submit to prosecution the person allegedly responsible for the violations and, if found guilty, the duty to punish her or him […]
Israel’s work in providing Guatemala with military advisors and technical assistance to Rios Montt could constitute such “assistance” for a Guatemalan to conduct genocide and violations of international humanitarian law.
Solidarity of rights
What is most remarkable about the tactics used by the Guatemalan government against the indigenous communities is how much they emulate strategies used by Israel to control and break those under its military occupation. Development towns and forced displacement are official policy used by Israel against its Bedouin population; a http://www.csmonitor.com/1998/1215/121598.intl.intl.5.html" target="_blank">scorched earth policy was deployed in South Lebanon; counterinsurgency techniques used by the Shin Bet are deployed to stifle popular protest by Palestinians. Truth, reconciliation and reparations are amongst the hardest of socio-legal programmes to implement. It has been a long and torturous process for Guatemala’s impoverished and marginalised communities to extract confessions from those guilty of atrocities committed during the war. Any admittance of guilt from Israel, in complicity with Guatemalan state crimes, will be difficult to ascertain. Israel’s intricate web of lobby groups, as well as one of the strongest legal defence teams in the world, would make the task difficult. Nevertheless, by bringing a case to the ICJ, a deeper bond of solidarity between Guatemala’s oppressed peoples and their natural allies in Palestine could well be fostered.
* This article was first published inthe Middle East Monitor
By Tariq Dana
By Rod Such, The Electronic Intifada
retending Democracy: Israel, an Ethnocratic State is a collection of essays by Israeli, Palestinian and South African intellectuals dissecting the nature of the Israeli state and proposing how to get beyond the ethnic nationalism that characterizes Zionism and Israeli apartheid.
The book follows a conference held in Pretoria in 2010 by the Afro-Middle East Centre, a South African think-tank.
The argument that Israel cannot be both “Jewish and democratic,” especially when 20 percent of its citizens are Palestinian, is one that is finally beginning to resonate among US intellectuals who have long given the ideology of political Zionism a free pass because of the Holocaust.
Most recently, Joseph Levine, a philosophy professor at the University of Massachusetts, wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times challenging the idea that a state can belong to one ethnic group without, as Levine put it, “violating the core democratic principle of equality” (“Om questioning the Jewish state,” 9 March 2013).
A majority of Americans have soundly rejected its corollary — “a white, Christian and democratic country” — as a result of the struggles waged by blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and other people of color against a long-standing system of white supremacy.
So if not a democracy, then what kind of state is Israel? In this volume, several authors find common ground, though each has a slightly different emphasis.
Oren Yiftachel writes that Israel is more properly defined as an ethnocracy because the organizing principle around which the state is structured is based on what ethnic group one belongs to, rather than on citizenship.
In another essay, Nadim N. Rouhana expands on the notion of ethnocracy. Rouhana notes that the Israeli state links equality of opportunity — a concept central to a liberal democracy — to ethnic affiliation, rather than citizenship. Yiftachel and others argue that the Nakba — the 1948 ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians from lands in present-day Israel — is “the cornerstone of Israeli ethnocracy.” And Rouhana suggests that the only way to end the conflict is “to attack and expose” Israel’s denial of the Nakba.
South African political scientist Daryl Glaser calls Israel a “settler-minority democracy” (SMiD). A SMiD, he writes, is a democracy for the European or European-sponsored settlers who established colonies in circumstances where they were outnumbered by the indigenous people but still managed to dominate them.
Glaser argues that Israel was at one point a “settler-majority democracy” from 1948 to 1967 but managed to once again become a SMiD by occupying the West Bank and Gaza. It is therefore “a democracy for some and a dictatorship for others, its ethnic oligarchy beset by permanent demographic panic.”
Ronnie Kasrils believes that Israel fits the definition of “colonialism of a special type.” For Kasrils, “it is essential to grasp the colonial factor” to understand that the Palestinian struggle “is a national liberation struggle … against a colonial-settler project” that claims “democratic rights exclusively for its own group. It is the settlers’ racist, colonialist agenda that is the fundamental cause of the conflict,” he writes, “as was the case in South Africa.”
Pretending Democracy goes beyond simply examining the nature of the Israeli state. It offers valuable ideas for ending Israeli apartheid and the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Ran Greenstein proposes an alliance between Palestinian and progressive Jewish Israelis that could acquire the leverage needed to help start changing the Israeli regime from within. Along these lines, Fouad Moughrabi finds hope in an emerging Israeli “new left” that speaks a “dramatically different” language: “The old slogans for peace have been replaced with a call for an end to injustice.” He even envisions a third intifada that might be a joint Jewish-Palestinian uprising.
Ali Abunimah, in his essay, “Towards a One-State Solution in Palestine/Israel,” addresses the argument that Jewish Israelis will never agree to renounce an ethnic state and give up their privileges. He notes that polls of white South Africans showed entrenched opposition to the concept of one person, one vote even up to the eve of the dismantling of apartheid.
What was key, Abunimah argues, was the apartheid state’s loss of legitimacy in the international arena, a process that is also beginning to weaken Israel. “Zionism,” he writes, “will never be able to bomb, kidnap, assassinate, expel, demolish, settle and lie its way to legitimacy and acceptance.”
Pretending Democracy is unique in addressing the national question as it relates to Palestine and Israel. Zionists have long argued that Jews have simply exercised their right to self-determination in establishing the State of Israel and that the concept of a Jewish state has international legitimacy by virtue of the 1947 United Nations resolution partitioning Mandate Palestine.
The latter argument suffers many flaws, including the circumstances surrounding the UN vote, the fact that the resolution created a state for Jews “residing” in Palestine, not for Jews throughout the world, and the fact that Israel violated most of the provisions of the partition resolution regarding the rights of Arabs in the new Israeli state.
But many people concur that Jews in Palestine deserved the right of self-determination as understood in international law. By including a chapter from Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People and an essay by Na’eem Jeenah and Salim Vally, Pretending Democracy raises the question, albeit indirectly, of whether Jews represent an oppressed nation or a persecuted people.
Sand’s research has challenged the Zionist historiography that attempts to re-imagine the history of the Jewish people as a centuries-long struggle for nationhood, rather than as a struggle against racist and religious persecution.
As Jeenah and Vally show, the question is not just academic. No one envisions a solution — whether two states, one state, or a bi-national state — that denies rights to Jewish Israelis. Nevertheless, they argue that a bi-national state, which assumes the existence of two nations, will ultimately subvert the creation of a democratic, secular state by reinforcing division.
The Zionist argument that only state power can protect Jews from persecution has long since proved morally and politically bankrupt. The logical consequence of a Jewish state was the racist dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian Arab majority and the creation of a militaristic, ethnic supremacist state.
There is probably no such thing as a safe refuge. There is only perpetual struggle against racism and inequality, a struggle that is most likely to be won in a society that values diversity and democracy.
* Rod Such is a freelance writer and former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He is a member of the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign and Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights.