Once again the U.S. hosted a sham “peace” process in Annapolis dedicated to forcing Palestinians to further submit to the American-Israeli demands. While various diplomats convened in the U.S. the siege on Gaza tightened and deepened and there are rumors of an all out invasion of Gaza looming in the not-so-distant future. Gaza’s borders remained tightly sealed and Israel’s dubious categorization of Gaza as a “hostile entity” has enabled them to continue its extra-judicial assassinations, prohibiting the import and export of basic supplies such as food, fuel, and medicine, keeping Palestinians from seeking medical care, arresting Palestinians at a far greater rate than those who were released (who were political prisoners and whose sentences were already up), and imprisoning students within Gaza so they cannot attend school. One such case of refusing a patient exit from Gaza in order to access urgent medical care is Mahmoud Abu Taha, who is one of many such cases (Human Rights Watch is currently documenting the status of these cases, many of which have led to deaths). The statements coming out of the White House and State Department regarding this conference are so completely out of touch as to not warrant any comment, but you may, of course, read and judge for yourself. It’s delusional, though not quite as outlandish and outrageous as what is coming out of the Zionist right wing propaganda such as Front Page; but from both the U.S. government and rags like Front Page what we have is a complete inversion of reality, facts, history, on every possible level.
Of the most ridiculous demands made by Israel is their demand to be recognized by Palestinians as a “Jewish state.” Israeli writer Uri Avnery explains the absurdity–not to mention racism–of this demand:
Does the USA demand to be recognized as a “Christian” or “Anglo-Saxon state”? Did Stalin demand that the US recognize the Soviet Union as a “Communist state”? Does Poland demand to be recognized as a “Catholic state”, or Pakistan as an “Islamic state”? Is there any precedent at all for a state to demand the recognition of its domestic regime?
The demand is ridiculous per se. But this can easily be shown by analysis ad absurdum.
What is a “Jewish state”? That has never been spelled out. Is it a state with a majority of Jewish citizens? Is it “the state of the Jewish people” – meaning the Jews from Brooklyn, Paris and Moscow? Is it “a state belonging to the Jewish religion” – and if so, does it belong to secular Jews as well? Or perhaps it belongs only to Jews under the Law of Return – i.e. those with a Jewish mother who have not converted to another religion?
These questions have not been decided. Are the Palestinians required to recognize something that is the subject of debate in Israel itself?
According to the official doctrine, Israel is a “Jewish and democratic state”. What should the Palestinians do if, according to democratic principles, some day my opinion prevails and Israel becomes an “Israeli state” that belongs to all its citizens – and to them alone? (After all, the US belongs to all its citizens, including Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, not to mention “Native-Americans”.)
The sting is, of course, that this formula is quite unacceptable to Palestinians because it would hurt the million and a half Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. The definition “Jewish state” turns them automatically into – at best – second class citizens. If Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues were to accede to this demand, they would be sticking a knife in the backs of their own relatives.
Olmert & Co. know this, of course. They are not posing this demand in order to get it accepted. They pose it in order that it not be accepted. By this ploy they hope to avoid any obligation to start meaningful negotiations.
Jeff Halper, who runs the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, recently contextualizes Israel’s objectives in this current “peace process”:
The end result, towards which Israel has been progressing deliberately and systematically since 1967, can only be called apartheid, which means “separation” in Afrikaner, precisely the term Israel uses to describe its policy (hafrada in Hebrew). And it is apartheid in the strict sense of the term: one population separating itself from the rest, then dominating them permanently and institutionally through a political regime like an expanded Israel locking the Palestinians into dependent and impoverished cantons. The overriding question for the Israeli government, then, is not how to reach peace. If peace and security were truly the issue, Israel could have had that 20 years ago if it would have conceded the 22 per cent of the country required for a viable Palestinian state. Today, when Israel’s control is infinitely stronger, why, ask the Israeli Jewish public and the government it elects, should we concede anything significant? We enjoy peace with Egypt and Jordan, and Syria is dying to negotiate. We have relations with most Arab and Muslim states. We enjoy the absolute and uncritical support of the world’s only superpower, supported by a compliant Europe. Terrorism is under control, the conflict has been made manageable, Israel’s economy is booming. What, ask Israelis, is wrong with this picture? No, the issue for Israel is rather how to transform its Occupation from what the world considers a temporary situation to a permanent political fact accepted by the international community, de facto if need be or, if apartheid can be finessed in the form of a two-state solution, then formally.
In all of this so-called “peace process” Palestinian voices are rendered silent as they are not represented in Annapolis for a number of reasons–from Mahmoud Abbas’ collaborationist strategy to the refusal to invite the democratically elected Hamas officials (many of whom remain in Israeli jails). Palestinians in the West Bank whose lives are made difficult entrapped by illegal Israeli settlements and Jewish-only roads as well as those living in the world’s largest prison, Gaza, protested this Annapolis sham and some participants voiced the following concerns:
“No recognition of Israel! No recognition of Israel!” thousands of Gaza residents chanted in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) building in Gaza City.
A young woman taking part in a large women’s rally cried angrily, “We don’t want more alleged peace conferences, which bring us more suffering. We prefer poverty to accepting shameful peace.”
A young man at a nearby rally voiced similar frustration: “What peace are they are talking about? They want us to give up our legitimate rights. We prefer more years of suffering to conceding our rights.”
The speaker of the elected PLC, Dr. Ahmad Bahar, told the crowds, “Today, the Palestinian people tell those meeting in Annapolis that they refuse to concede their inalienable rights.”
Bahar said that the PLC passed a new bill prohibiting the concession of the Palestinian refugees’ right to return as well as the Palestinian nation’s rights to Jerusalem and to resist the occupation.
“This bill is intended to protect Palestinian rights from those who coordinate with the Israeli entity,” the speaker added, referring to President Abbas’ parallel, unelected government that holds talks with Israel.
In an article in Dissident Voice, Susan Abulhawa brilliantly lays out the racism and imperialist policies behind the demands being made upon Palestinian people in Annapolis:
Palestinians are the natives of the land that was called Palestine for the last several thousand years until 1948 when Jewish foreigners changed its name to Israel. We are the natives in every sense of that word: historically, legally, culturally, ethnically, and even genetically! True there were Jewish tribes in that land some 3,000 years ago. There were also Canaanites, Babylonians, Sumarians, Philistines, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, and Brits. Palestinians are the natural descendants of all of these peoples who passed through that land, intermarried and converted between religions. When you understand this, it becomes clear why Palestine has always been a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society. In other words, the idea of “tolerance” and co-existence that the West fought to attain and claims to cherish and hold dear, was already a reality in Palestine. Israel has taken that ideal, turned it on its head, and beat it to a pulp so every Jew in the world can have a place where he or she can go and see none but fellow Jews. Remarkably, the world sees nothing wrong or out of the ordinary with this and would like us to simply live with it, negotiate with a juggernaut military power that has made no secret of its desire and intent to take all of Palestine and get rid of as many of us Gentiles as it possibly can.
Never in history has the world so cruelly called on an oppressed, robbed, and battered native people to sit down with their oppressors to “negotiate” for their freedom. Even worse, what we are expected to negotiate away are our basic human rights, in order to have a few checkpoints removed so we can call those ghettos — surrounded by a 20 foot concrete wall with guard towers — a “state.”
We are being asked to give up our natural right to return to the homes from which we were forcibly removed because, and only because, we are not Jewish. We are asked, as native Muslims and Christians, to give up our natural right to live and thrive in Jerusalem as we have for all of time. We are told that we should not expect to have the right to control our own water, economy, airspace, or borders. Why? Why should we accept such an inferior status and inferior fate? We are not children of a lesser god that we should be expected to relinquish God-given, self-evident rights accorded and upheld for the rest of humanity. We are not animals to be disposed of so that Jewish individuals around the globe can have dual citizenship, a sort of summer country in the Hamptons.
Would anyone have thought to support the desire of White South Africans to live as separate and superior humans and expect Black South Africans to “negotiate” with the Apartheid government for their basic human rights? Of course not! Anyone with a mind and conscience took for granted that Blacks have equal rights as Whites. That is self-evident and non-negotiable. So is our right as non-Jews in Palestine to be accorded the same rights and privileges as Jews in our ancestral homeland. Human dignity and equality simply should not be topics of negotiation in the 21st century.
Even more vulgar is Israel’s insistence that we recognize its right to be a state of the Jewish people. This country that stole everything from us – our homes, our holy places, our trees and farms, our institutions, our history and heritage, the cemeteries where our grandparents and forefathers are buried – because we are not the right kind of human in their eyes. They want us not only to attest that such an affront to humanity is legitimate and appropriate, but that it is somehow a right!
Let me, as one dispossessed and disinherited Palestinian, say with all the force of my love and anguish for my country, my family, and my countrymen, that I do NOT recognize such right. A right is something inherently and unquestionably just. Jewish exclusivity and entitlement at the expense of non-Jews is not a right, for God’s sake, it is racism!
Of course, the most brilliant analysis of all of this comes from Ali Abunimah who was interviewed with the always fabulously smart Nora Barrows-Friedman on Flashpoints this week. Moustafa Barghouti was also quite fantastic analyzing the sham conference on Democracy Now! this week.
Overshadowed by this sham conference was a conference of a far greater importance, a conference engaging with creating a one state solution in Palestine where ALL people are citizens and treated equally under the law, not just those who are Jews. What a one state solution does that NO “peace process” does is create a justice process where no Palestinians are left out; under such a rubric Palestinians living in the 1948 territories, refugees in the camps in the region, Palestinians embattled in Iraq, and Palestinians throughout the global diaspora are granted their right to repatriation, their right to return under international law. The layout of the proposal reads as follows:
The two-state solution entrenches and formalizes a policy of unequal separation on a land that has become ever more integrated territorially and economically. All the international efforts to implement a two-state solution cannot conceal the fact that a Palestinian state is not viable, and that Palestinian and Israeli Jewish independence in separate states cannot resolve fundamental injustices, the acknowledgment and redress of which are at the core of any just solution.
In light of these stark realities, we affirm our commitment to a democratic solution that will offer a just, and thus enduring, peace in a single state based on the following principles:
* The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status;
* Any system of government must be founded on the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens. Power must be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all people in the diversity of their identities;
* There must be just redress for the devastating effects of decades of Zionist colonization in the pre- and post-state period, including the abrogation of all laws, and ending all policies, practices and systems of military and civil control that oppress and discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion or national origin;
* The recognition of the diverse character of the society, encompassing distinct religious, linguistic and cultural traditions, and national experiences;
* The creation of a non-sectarian state that does not privilege the rights of one ethnic or religious group over another and that respects the separation of state from all organized religion;
* The implementation of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194 is a fundamental requirement for justice, and a benchmark of the respect for equality;
* The creation of a transparent and nondiscriminatory immigration policy;
* The recognition of the historic connections between the diverse communities inside the new, democratic state and their respective fellow communities outside;
* In articulating the specific contours of such a solution, those who have been historically excluded from decision-making — especially the Palestinian Diaspora and its refugees, and Palestinians inside Israel — must play a central role;
* The establishment of legal and institutional frameworks for justice and reconciliation.
The struggle for justice and liberation must be accompanied by a clear, compelling and moral vision of the destination — a solution in which all people who share a belief in equality can see a future for themselves and others. We call for the widest possible discussion, research and action to advance a unitary, democratic solution and bring it to fruition.
If such a proposal were to be on the world stage in Annapolis or anywhere else for that matter (God, it would be unbelievable if Archbishop Desmund Tutu were to call for a justice process instead of these U.S.-driven conferences and meetings!), there would be a lasting and just peace. But peace cannot come before justice. Without a just solution, particularly for Palestinian refugees there will be no enduring settlement in the region.
While I remain hopeful that Abunimah and others will continue to push forward their brilliant agenda, there remains a siege situation in Gaza which demands attention. Donations for urgent supplies are needed at the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which distributes urgent medical and food aid among other things to Gaza. Developments can be tracked on the Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza.