on process

the other night when i felt a strong urge to throw a stiletto at condoleeza rice it was because i was listening to her speak about the impending united nations security council resolution 1850. in a press conference here is what the secretary of state had to say for herself:

What that resolution does is to put the international community on record in believing in the irreversibility of the Annapolis process – bilateral negotiations toward a two-state solution, a comprehensive solution, and the various principles of Annapolis and what the parties have established since then. And I believe that that will then add the voice of the international community through its most powerful and its most consequential body – that is, the Security Council – to establish Annapolis as the way – the Annapolis process as the way forward.

Obviously, Israel will have a prime minister one way or another after February, and the Israeli Government will have to chart a course. But I believe that the international community will have done what it can do in the strongest possible terms, and that is to put the weight of the Security Council behind not just the two-state solution but a particular process for getting there. And I might just emphasize that Annapolis, of course, is not just a top-down – that is negotiated process toward the solution of two states, but also a bottom-up process of Roadmap obligations and of improving life for the Palestinian people on the ground. And that is really the reason for the resolution tomorrow….

I believe that if you look at the language of Annapolis, it says that the parties will make the best efforts that they can – they could to come to an agreement by the end of the year. I think they have made best efforts and they continue to make best efforts. And so what this resolution does is to urge, as the parties did with us and the Quartet when we were in Sharm el-Sheikh, the continuation of this process to the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement, and also within the context of a broader Israeli-Arab peace. And so that is the reason for the resolution.

But I’d just like to take one moment to speak to the question of not having achieved an agreement by the end of the year. They won’t achieve agreement by the end of the year, but they have achieved a good deal of progress in their negotiations, a good deal of progress in the work that is being done on the ground. And I would just remind that this is the first time in almost a decade that Palestinians and Israelis are addressing all of the core issues in a comprehensive way to try to get to a solution. And if that process takes a little bit longer, so be it. But we are very much further along, certainly than we were in 2001, and I would argue even than we were in 2007 when Annapolis was concluded.

so apparently annapolis has moved from a conference to a “process.” is this going to be anything like the so-called peace process (better known and experienced in palestine as a ware process)? should it be also known as oslo 3? this is an excerpt from rice and the other members of the quartet’s comments (yes, that same quartet which has received a failing grade) at the united nations yesterday. you may read the rest by clicking on the above link. but rather than quote from that transcript ad nauseum i think it is more fruitful to look at the actual language of the new un resolution as well as this supposed “progress” that rice claims to have made.

first, the resolution reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling all its previous relevant resolutions, in particular resolutions 242, 338, 1397, and 1515 and the Madrid principles,

“Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

“Welcoming the 9 November 2008 statement from the Quartet and the Israeli‑Palestinian Joint Understanding announced at the November 2007 Annapolis Conference, including in relation to implementation of the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,

“Noting also that lasting peace can only be based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement, and terror, and the two-State solution, building upon previous agreements and obligations,

“Noting the importance of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,

“Encouraging the Quartet’s ongoing work to support the parties in their efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,

“1. Declares its support for the negotiations initiated at Annapolis, Maryland, on 27 November 2007 and its commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations;

“2. Supports the parties’ agreed principles for the bilateral negotiating process and their determined efforts to reach their goal of concluding a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception, which confirm the seriousness of the Annapolis process;

“3. Calls on both parties to fulfill their obligations under the Performance-Based Roadmap, as stated in their Annapolis Joint Understanding, and refrain from any steps that could undermine confidence or prejudice the outcome of negotiations;

“4. Calls on all States and international organizations to contribute to an atmosphere conducive to negotiations and to support the Palestinian government that is committed to the Quartet principles and the Arab Peace Initiative and respects the commitments of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, to assist in the development of the Palestinian economy, to maximize the resources available to the Palestinian Authority, and to contribute to the Palestinian institution‑building programme in preparation for statehood;

“5. Urges an intensification of diplomatic efforts to foster in parallel with progress in the bilateral process mutual recognition and peaceful coexistence between all States in the region in the context of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;

“6. Welcomesthe Quartet’s consideration, in consultation with the parties, of an international meeting in Moscow in 2009;

“7. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

as is the case with far too many un resolutions–and with rice’s rhetoric–this resolution is empty. it is empty for so many reasons. whatever so-called progress discussed in either of the above quotations can only be understood in relation to israel’s facts on the ground: more palestinian political prisoners, more illegal israeli settlements, more israeli checkpoints, an increased siege on gaza, increased oppression of palestinians in 1948 palestine, increased home and village demolitions. but of course what rice and the security council fail to understand is that peace will never come without justice.

illegal israeli settlements, for example, have increased since annapolis according to adri nieuwhof in electronic intifada:

In Annapolis, Olmert committed to freezing settlement expansion. However, since that time according to numerous sources ranging from Israeli newspapers, to Peace Now, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the websites of the Israeli Central Bureau, and the Ministry of Construction and Housing, Olmert’s government has been accelerating illegal settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian land.

Six months since Annapolis the planning of settlements has accelerated. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the construction of almost 1,000 housing units in several settlements in the West Bank. Furthermore the Israeli authorities announced plans, approved by Olmert, for the construction of an additional 2,900 units in settlements in the West Bank, including 750 units in Giv’at Zeev, and 1,900 housing units to be built this year for settlers who had to leave Gaza in 2005. In addition, Israel worked on the advancement of another 9,500 housing units in and around East Jerusalem, of which over 5,000 units have already been submitted for public review. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz the municipality of Jerusalem started the process of approving a plan for a new settlement complex with a synagogue in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan.

this is the only sort of process i can glean from whatever it is that rice is talking about or whatever this un resolution will bring to the fore: just more negotiations to obscure the israeli construction of facts on the ground. last month hasan abu nimah predicted that this will continue on in the form of some “process” in electronic intifada:

This is a game that suits the participants well; Rice — the lamest of lame ducks — is heading back to the region to meet a powerless caretaker prime minister in Israel and a powerless Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah. What can this possibly achieve other than to preserve the illusion of an ongoing “process?”

Sadly, many others who heavily invested in the peace process industry will prefer to latch on to these empty maneuvers as signs of “hope” rather than admit that they contain no substance that can ever lead to justice and peace.

But let me be clear: the negotiations did not reach a dead end because the negotiators ran out of time and are now leaving the scene. They failed because there was no viable peace project, because Israel, the strongest party, was not interested in reaching a reasonable settlement, and the sponsors of the process lacked the political courage to stand up to Israeli obstruction.

too, in electronic intifada osamah khalil saw this “process” coming immediately after the annapolis conference concluded and shows us why negotiations are a never-ending song and dance rather than anything remotely resembling an actual treaty or document that the zionist regime could be held accountable to:

Historically, successful diplomatic summits have resulted in a peace treaty not a “process” or a “framework for negotiations.” This is due to the presence of senior government officials and the momentum and trust built from negotiations that are actively facilitated by a major power. It is not a photo-op with a disengaged and indolent president who promises to be active in the future. The resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been known for over 40 years, an additional 14 months of negotiations is not intended to conclude a peace but prevent one. Moreover, the Arab League Peace Initiative which is based on existing UN resolutions and international law has been offered to Israel twice in the past five years and rejected both times. In addition, countless studies have been conducted by the UN, the World Bank, and numerous universities, think-tanks and non-governmental organizations on the different parameters not just for a peaceful settlement, but for political and economic coexistence and cooperation. What is needed now is not another “process” for negotiations, but the political will by the US and Israel to agree to, and institute, the existing agreements. Anything less is designed to further entrench and institutionalize the occupation while wringing additional concessions from the Palestinians and the Arab states.

Of course that is the true goal of this “process,” an amalgam of the strategies of two former Israeli Prime Ministers: Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon. After leaving office, Shamir explained why he agreed to attend the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, stating that although Israel participated in negotiations with the Palestinians, “I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years and meanwhile we would have reached a half million people in Judea and Samaria.” Sharon’s strategy is best described by his adviser, Dov Weissglas, who explained in 2004 that the Gaza disengagement plan “supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.” This would not only “prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state” but also forestall “a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.” In launching this new “peace process,” the Bush Administration continues to provide Israel’s ongoing colonization of Palestinian land with the requisite time to create further facts on the ground and stifle Palestinian aspirations for a viable, independent state. In order for this to be successful, Washington and Tel Aviv need a Palestinian leadership that will actively participate in such a charade in return for US funding and the title of President or Prime Minister. Abbas and his appointed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are perfectly suited for this role and are in the process of obtaining the necessary political, economic and military support from the US and Israel to maintain their positions against internal opponents, including Hamas and other members of Fatah.

it is an illusion. it is a charade. nothing will come of this un resolution just as nothing came of annapolis. it’s all a ruse. but at the same time part of the problem when such vacuous language appears in a un security council resolution: how does one implement it? is this resolution suggesting that palestinians should stay on this merry-go-round while their land continues to be confiscated, while they are continuously kidnapped and imprisoned, murdered, under siege, and while refugees are still waiting–and thankfully not compromising on–their right of return? notably there were several protests of annapolis from those who felt most marginalized by this and all other so-called peace processes. palestinian refugees, most importantly, issued this statement from canada last year in protest:

It is our belief that the purpose of the Annapolis round of negotiations is to extract further critical concessions from the Palestinians while further delaying final status agreements. In particular, we believe that Israel will attempt to redefine the conflict with the Palestinians as being only about ending the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, or parts thereof. Such a redefinition leads the Palestinians into the trap of the “two-state” formula which subverts our legitimate rights under international law. We stress that the central issue in the Palestinian conflict with Israel has always been the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their land and property caused by the Zionist ethnic cleansing of 1948 and the Israeli denial to Palestinians of the basic human right to return and to live in peace and security as equal citizens on their land.

We further specifically caution you against any recognition of Israel as a “Jewish” state. Such a recognition would give Israel the facade of moral and legal legitimacy while critically compromising the full implementation of the inalienable Palestinian right of return. In addition, it would contradict the struggle by Palestinian citizens of Israel to maintain their identity and gain equal rights as citizens. We point out that Israel was established through United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (Partition Resolution) which does not envisage or consent to the establishment of states on a religious or ethnic basis. In addition, we underscore that Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on the basis of its having recognized the full right of return of the Palestinian people on the basis of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (Right of Return Resolution).

one of the reasons i stress week in and week out the necessity of placing un resolution 194 at the forefront of a just solution–and clearly i am not alone in this– is because this gets at the root of the problem. if you get to the heart of a problem you can find a solution. but in spite of israel and its lobbying buddies in the u.s. feigning interest in a solution of any kind–two states or otherwise–i would argue that the real reason they press on with this roller coaster of occupation known also known as a two-state solution because it really doesn’t matter what they agree to. from the beginning they have lied, stolen, cheated. they sign documents promising not to build settlements, for instance, and they continue to do so. but all of this daily reality–as brutal as it is–forces us to deal with the pressures of the moments: checkpoints, imprisonment, settlements rather than the core issue: the ethnic cleansing and rights of refugees to return home. this is codified in international law in the form of even the un resolutions mentioned in this new resolution 1850. this is like treating a lung cancer with a diet of cigarettes.

instead those who have called for and actively participated in a program of boycott, divestment and sanctions with a vision towards a one-state solution ensure the rights of refugees, and by extension all related issues. when you allow palestinians their right of return you immediately solve the problem of borders, water, settlements, land. ali abunimah and omar barghouti make this point abundantly clear in an electronic intifada article from last year:

Since the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo agreements were signed in 1993, the colonization of the West Bank and all the other Israeli violations of international law have intensified incessantly and with utter impunity. We see this again after the recent Annapolis meeting: as Israel and functionaries of an unrepresentative and powerless Palestinian Authority go through the motions of “peace talks,” Israel’s illegal colonies and apartheid wall continue to grow, and its atrocious collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza is intensifying without the “international community” lifting a finger in response.

This “peace process,” not peace or justice, has become an end in itself — because as long as it continues Israel faces no pressure to actually change its behavior. The political fiction that a two-state solution lies always just around the corner but never within reach is essential to perpetuate the charade and preserve indefinitely the status quo of Israeli colonial hegemony.

To avoid the pitfalls of further division in the Palestinian rights movement, we concur with [Nadia] Hijab and [Victoria] Brittain in urging activists from across the political spectrum, irrespective of their opinions on the one state, two states debate, to unite behind the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, as the most politically and morally sound civil resistance strategy that can inspire and mobilize world public opinion in pursuing Palestinian rights.

The rights-based approach at the core of this widely endorsed appeal focuses on the need to redress the three basic injustices that together define the question of Palestine — the denial of Palestinian refugee rights, primary among them their right to return to their homes, as stipulated in international law; the occupation and colonization of the 1967 territory, including East Jerusalem; and the system of discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

and indeed the other key issue that gets solved with a just solution–meaning the return of refugees–is the plight of palestinians who are citizens of israel living in 1948 palestine. nadim rouhana demonstrates, by way of american analogies, how this ongoing process excludes palestinians living in 1948 and why they, like palestinian refugees, demand to have a voice in the so-called “peace process”:

Like many Mexican-Americans, we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us. We have been struggling ever since against a system that subjects us to separate and unequal treatment because we are Palestinian Arabs — Christian, Muslim and Druze — not Jewish. More than twenty Israeli laws explicitly privilege Jews over non-Jews.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is under intense pressure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This is not a matter of semantics. If Israel’s demand is granted, the inequality that we face as Palestinians — roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population — will become permanent.

The United States, despite being settled by Christian Europeans fleeing religious persecution, has struggled for decades to make clear that it is not a “Christian nation.” It is in a similar vein that Israel’s indigenous Palestinian population rejects the efforts of Israel and the United States to seal our fate as a permanent underclass in our own homeland.

We are referred to by leading Israeli politicians as a “demographic problem.” In response, many in Israel, including the deputy prime minister, are proposing land swaps: Palestinian land in the occupied territories with Israeli settlers on it would fall under Israel’s sovereignty, while land in Israel with Palestinian citizens would fall under Palestinian authority.

This may seem like an even trade. But there is one problem: no one asked us what we think of this solution. Imagine the hue and cry were a prominent American politician to propose redrawing the map of the United States so as to exclude as many Mexican-Americans as possible, for the explicit purpose of preserving white political power. Such a demagogue would rightly be denounced as a bigot. Yet this sort of hyper-segregation and ethnic supremacy is precisely what Israeli and American officials are considering for many Palestinian citizens of Israel — and hoping to coerce Palestinian leaders into accepting.

Looking across the Green Line, we realize that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has no mandate to negotiate a deal that will affect our future. We did not elect him. Why would we give up the rights we have battled to secure in our homeland to live inside an embryonic Palestine that we fear will be more like a bantustan than a sovereign state? Even if we put aside our attachment to our homeland, Israel has crushed the West Bank economy — to say nothing of Gaza’s — and imprisoned its people behind a barrier. There is little allure to life in such grim circumstances, especially since there is the real prospect of further Israeli sanctions, which could make a bad situation worse.

In the poll I just conducted, nearly three-quarters of Israel’s Palestinian citizens rejected the idea of the Palestinian Authority making territorial concessions that involve them, and 65.6 percent maintained that the PA also lacked the mandate to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Nearly 80 percent declared that it lacks the mandate to relinquish the right of Palestinian refugees — affirmed in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 and reaffirmed many times — to return to their homes and properties inside Israel.

palestinian authority billboard in tabariyya
palestinian authority billboard in tabariyya

indeed. but there were more recent polls taken, too–each problematic in their own way. these polls are related to the ads that abbas ran last month in israeli newspapers about his so-called promise of “peace.” the ads, as it turns out, are also billboards in hebrew all over 1948 palestine, though i only saw them in jewish-only cities when my friends and i were touring ethnically cleansed palestinian villages (see above photo):

Last month, Abbas ran ads telling Israeli newspaper readers they would win recognition from 57 Arab and Islamic countries if Israel withdraws from all the territories it occupied in the 1967 Mideast War.

According to the survey, 61 percent of Israelis oppose the trade-off and 36 percent support it. Among Palestinians, 66 percent support the idea and 30 percent oppose it.

clearly we see that israelis are not willing to give up any land for “peace.” that’s point one. point two is that just who was polled in this palestinian poll? palestinians in 1948 and palestinian refugees in syria and lebanon? no, none of these people were included in this poll. thus, the people who are most marginalized by this charade of a “process” are excluded and the poll is therefore deceptive.

at a protest against annapolis last year people interviewed by rami almeghari for electronic intifada expressed these same concerns showing that rights are far more urgent than “peace” because on the ground “peace” becomes like war:

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.

Many Palestinian bodies, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)-linked parties and intellectuals have voiced their objection to the peace summit in Annapolis.

Dr. As’ad Abu Sharekh, a professor of English literature and a political analyst in Gaza, believes that the efforts underway will not lead to real peace.

“This conference should have instead been convened by the United Nations, which has been sponsoring the Palestinian question over the past six decades. The United Nations is the sole body that should implement its long-pending resolutions concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

“Resolution 194 of 1949 should be on top of such resolutions, which demands the return and compensation of Palestinian refugees to historical Palestine,” he added.

it should be clear that this never-ending process will continue to be never ending because the issues that are at the core continue to be ignored. and yet the un security council voted unanimously to maintain the status quo. further it absolutely ignores key issues at stake as jamal el khodary shows us:

El Khodary added that this resolution provides protection to the illegal Israeli measures against the Palestinian people, as it supports unbalanced bilateral Palestinian-Israeli talks. He also said that this resolution gives Israel another free hand to annex the Palestinian lands, increase the Gaza siege and allow Israel to annex the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The independent legislator said that one of the most dangerous issues in this resolution is that it “puts the victim and the oppressor in equal positions”, and added that this resolution denies the legitimate Palestinian rights, especially the rights of independence, self determination and the right to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

El Khodary also said that the resolution did not place any timeframe, did not call for dismantling the Israeli colonies, did not even hint the release of political detainees and ignored the internationally guaranteed Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees.

Furthermore, El Khodary added that the resolution totally ignored the Israeli siege on Gaza, collective punishment practiced by Israel and also ignored the settlements and the Annexation Wall.

el khodary brings up another essential point in the way that occupier and occupied are treated as equals in all of these international negotiations. but the problem is, too, that occupier and occupied are never treated equally by international parties; instead, the occupier is always given special treatment in spite of its incessant complaints of anti-semitism. this is precisely why the zionist state never wants people from the un like richard falk to enter palestine or why miguel d’escoto brockmann is now receiving death threats for speaking out against its apartheid regime. clearly in this “process” there is no room for justice and this new un resolution at best will bring no change and at worst will bring more of the same.

and just a couple more words on another process…or the lack thereof. i thought that there was some interesting timing today in that human rights watch released a new report about the lack of due process and justice in the iraqi criminal court system. this comes as muntathar al-zaydi is due in court. it also comes after reports on his torture in prison as well as dick cheney reporting that he approved the use of torture during his tenure as vice president.

rania had some really important things to say today about the meaning of muntathar al zaydi and how we can mobilize our collective energy and power in relation to this euphoria:

Now, the question becomes not only what will happen to Muntadher al-Zaidi and when he will be released (if he will be released) — but the larger question is how many more shoes will be launched towards the heads of occupiers and puppets and oppressors?

Let us also remember that resistance in Iraq existed prior to the shoes-thrown. And resistance in Iraq will continue to exist after the shoes-thrown. The question for us is: for those of us inspired, empowered, moved, energized by the action of Muntadher al-Zaidi, what shall we do? individually, what shall we do? collectively, what shall we do? it is not enough to be inspired and to be moved emotionally. What creates change is action. What inspires action is hope and strategy.

these are very important questions for us and our friend abed attempted to pose further questions and challenges that we should also consider:

But at the same time, i never once doubted the reactions of the people facing occupation all over the world, not just in the Arab World…

I never doubted their will to fight the power structures, and their courage to do so… that people, will engage in their own individual initiative to say NO, in the absence of a group project…

But what we need is more than personal/individual experiences, we need a collective approach to advance…

The entire world watched the Shoe thrown by a Iraqi journalist, just like we remember the Chinese guy in the Suit over in Tinamen Square… Muntather Zaidi is synonymous to Tommie Smith from the 68 Olympics who lost the Gold Medal because of the Black Power Salute… These are all examples of how individuals can challenge the status quo, and there are millions of these examples everyday everywhere, but these particular people were caught on tape or by the lens of a camera…

The only difference is that, today, only individuals are ready for sacrifice and have the courage and creativity for such actions while groups/parties/new possible progressive systems are dormant/non existent… while in the past (Tienanmen & Mexico city), the people were inspired by a collective action happening & taking place (Student movement, & civil rights movement)…

Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful action, but it was always there in Iraq everyday, it was just not on camera… and what we need is way more than what individuals can offer to save Iraq, Palestine, Sudan…
Muntather should not be turned into a hero because turning him into a hero will make him lose his humanity, nationalism & common sense which were the reasons for his actions… Making a hero out of him is isolating his action, while we need to multiply this kind of actions on camera while waiting for the collective project to wake up…

The excess of happiness over the shoe is our incapacity for actions at the Arab collective level…

so what shall we do? collectively? certainly there are the petitions–and a new one which i will add below–but this is minimal a simple petition is helping just one man. how can we help an entire nation or region resist colonialism and apartheid and occupation in all of its nefarious forms? think about that while you sign this third petition for al-zaydi:

حملة لجمع 50000 توقيع لإطلاق سراح البطل منتظر الزيدي

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