Category Archives: Oslo Accords

Palestine’s Africa Dichotomy: Is Israel Really ‘Winning’ Africa?  

The decision by the African Union Commission, on July 22, to grant Israel observer status membership in the AU was the culmination of years of relentless Israeli efforts aimed at co-opting Africa’s largest political institution. Why is Israel so keen on penetrating Africa? What made African countries finally succumb to Israeli pressure and lobbying?

To answer the above questions, one has to appreciate the new Great Game under way in many parts of the world, especially in Africa, which has always been significant to Israel’s geopolitical designs. Starting in the early 1950s to the mid-70s, Israel’s Africa network was in constant expansion. The 1973 war, however, brought that affinity to an abrupt end.

What Changed Africa

Ghana, in West Africa, officially recognized Israel in 1956, just eight years after Israel was established atop the ruins of historic Palestine. What seemed like an odd decision at the time – considering Africa’s history of western colonialism and anti-colonial struggles – ushered in a new era of African-Israeli relations. By the early 1970s, Israel had established a strong position for itself on the continent. On the eve of the 1973 Israeli-Arab war, Israel had full diplomatic ties with 33 African countries.

“The October War”, however, presented many African countries with a stark choice: siding with Israel – a country born out of Western colonial intrigues – or the Arabs, who are connected to Africa through historical, political, economic, cultural and religious bonds. Most African countries opted for the latter choice. One after the other, African countries began severing their ties with Israel. Soon enough, no African state, other than Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland, had official diplomatic relations with Israel.

Then, the continent’s solidarity with Palestine went even further. The Organization of African Unity – the precursor to the African Union – in its 12th ordinary session held in Kampala in 1975, became the first international body to recognize, on a large scale, the inherent racism in Israel’s Zionist ideology by adopting Resolution 77 (XII). This very Resolution was cited in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted in November of that same year, which determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. Resolution 3379 remained in effect until it was revoked by the Assembly under intense American pressure in 1991.

Since Israel remained committed to that same Zionist, racist ideology of yesteryears, the only rational conclusion is that it was Africa, not Israel, that changed. But why?

First, the collapse of the Soviet Union. That seismic event resulted in the subsequent isolation of pro-Soviet African countries which, for years, stood as the vanguard against American, Western and, by extension, Israeli expansionism and interests on the continent.

Second, the collapse of the unified Arab front on Palestine. That front has historically served as the moral and political frame of reference for the pro-Palestine, anti-Israel sentiments in Africa. This started with the Egyptian government’s signing of the Camp David Agreement, in 1978-79 and, later, the Oslo Accords between the Palestinian leadership and Israel, in 1993.

Covert and overt normalization between Arab countries and Israel continued unabated over the last three decades, resulting in the extension of diplomatic ties between Israel and several Arab countries, including African-Arab countries, like Sudan and Morocco. Other Muslim-majority African countries also joined the normalization efforts. They include Chad, Mali and others.

Third, the ‘scramble for Africa’ was renewed with a vengeance. The neocolonial return to Africa brought back many of the same usual suspects – Western countries, which are, once more, realizing the untapped potential of Africa in terms of markets, cheap labor and resources. A driving force for Western re-involvement in Africa is the rise of China as a global superpower with keen interests in investing in Africa’s dilapidated infrastructure. Whenever economic competition is found, military hardware is sure to follow. Now several Western militaries are openly operating in Africa under various guises – France in Mali and the Sahel region, the US’ many operations through US Africa Command (AFRICOM), and others.

Tellingly, Washington does not only serve as Israel’s benefactor in Palestine and the Middle East, but worldwide as well, and Israel is willing to go to any length to exploit the massive leverage it holds over the US government. This stifling paradigm, which has been at work in the Middle East region for decades, is also at work throughout Africa. For example, last year the US administration agreed to remove Sudan from the state-sponsored terror list in exchange for Khartoum’s normalization with Israel. In truth, Sudan is not the only country that understands – and is willing to engage in – this kind of ‘pragmatic’ – read under-handed – political barter. Others also have learned to play the game well. Indeed, by voting to admit Israel to the AU, some African governments expect a return on their political investment, a return that will be exacted from Washington, not from Tel Aviv.

Unfortunately, albeit expectedly, as Africa’s normalization with Israel grew, Palestine became increasingly a marginal issue on the agendas of many African governments, who are far more invested in realpolitik – or simply remaining on Washington’s good side – than honoring the anti-colonial legacies of their nations.

Netanyahu the Conqueror

However, there was another driving force behind Israel’s decision to ‘return’ to Africa than just political opportunism and economic exploitation. Successive events have made it clear that Washington is retreating from the Middle East and that the region was no longer a top priority for the dwindling American empire. For the US, China’s decisive moves to assert its power and influence in Asia are largely responsible for the American rethink. The 2012 US withdrawal from Iraq, its ‘leadership from behind’ in Libya, its non-committal policy in Syria, among others, were all indicators pointing to the inescapable fact that Israel could no longer count on the blind and unconditional American support alone. Thus, the constant search for new allies began.

For the first time in decades, Israel began confronting its prolonged isolation at the UNGA. America’s vetoes at the UN Security Council may have shielded Israel from accountability to its military occupation and war crimes; but US vetoes were hardly enough to give Israel the legitimacy that it has long coveted. In a recent conversation with former UN human rights envoy, Richard Falk, the Princeton Professor Emeritus explained to me that, despite Israel’s ability to escape punishment, it is rapidly losing what he refers to as the ‘legitimacy war’.

Palestine, according to Falk, continues to win that war, one that can only be achieved through real, grassroots global solidarity. It is precisely this factor that explains Israel’s keen interest in transferring the battlefield to Africa and other parts of the Global South.

On July 5, 2016, then Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, kick-started Israel’s own ‘scramble for Africa’ with a visit to Kenya, which was described as historic by the Israeli media. Indeed, it was the first visit by an Israeli prime minister in the last 50 years. After spending some time in Nairobi, where he attended the Israel-Kenya Economic Forum alongside hundreds of Israeli and Kenyan business leaders, he moved on to Uganda, where he met leaders from other African countries including South Sudan, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Within the same month, Israel announced the renewal of diplomatic ties between Israel and Guinea.

The new Israeli strategy flowed from there. More high-level visits to Africa and triumphant announcements about new joint economic ventures and investments followed. In June 2017, Netanyahu took part in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. There, he went as far as rewriting history.

“Africa and Israel share a natural affinity,” Netanyahu claimed in his speech. “We have, in many ways, similar histories. Your nations toiled under foreign rule. You experienced horrific wars and slaughters. This is very much our history.” With these words, Netanyahu attempted, not only to hide Israel’s colonial intentions, but also rob Palestinians of their own history.

Moreover, the Israeli leader had hoped to crown his political and economic achievements with the Israel-Africa Summit, an event that was meant to officially welcome Israel, not to a specific African regional alliance, but to the whole of Africa. However, in September 2017, the organizers of the event decided to indefinitely postpone it, after it was confirmed to be taking place in Lome, capital of Togo, on October 23-27 of that same year. What was seen by Israeli leaders as a temporary setback was the result of intense, behind-the-scenes lobbying of several African and Arab countries, including South Africa and Algeria.

Premature ‘Victory’

Ultimately, it was a mere temporary setback. The admission of Israel into the 55-member African bloc in July is considered by Israeli officials and media pundits as a major political victory, especially as Tel Aviv has been laboring to achieve this status since 2002. At the time, many obstacles stood in the way, like the strong objection raised by Libya under the leadership of Muammar Ghaddafi and the insistence of Algeria that Africa must remain committed to its anti-Zionist ideals, and so on. However, one after the other, these obstacles were removed or marginalized.

In a recent statement, Israel’s new Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, celebrated Israel’s Africa membership as an “important part of strengthening the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations”. According to Lapid, the exclusion of Israel from the AU was an “anomaly that existed for almost two decades”. Of course, not all African countries agree with Lapid’s convenient logic.

According to TRT news, citing Algerian media, 17 African countries, including Zimbabwe, Algeria and Liberia, have objected to Israel’s admission to the Union. In a separate statement, South Africa expressed outrage at the decision, describing the “unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU Commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union” as “appalling”. For his part, Algerian Foreign Minister, Ramtane Lamamra, said that his country will “not stand idly by in front of this step taken by Israel and the African Union without consulting the member states.”

Despite Israel’s sense of triumphalism, it seems that the fight for Africa is still raging, a battle of politics, ideology and economic interests that is likely to continue unabated for years to come. However, for Palestinians and their supporters to have a chance at winning this battle, they must understand the nature of the Israeli strategy through which Israel depicts itself to various African countries as the savior, bestowing favors and introducing new technologies to combat real, tangible problems. Being more technologically advanced as compared to many African countries, Israel is able to offer its superior ‘security’, IT and irrigation technologies to African states in exchange for diplomatic ties, support at the UNGA and lucrative investments.

Consequently, Palestine’s Africa dichotomy rests partly on the fact that African solidarity with Palestine has historically been placed within the larger political framework of mutual African-Arab solidarity. Yet, with official Arab solidarity with Palestine now weakening, Palestinians are forced to think outside this traditional box, so that they may build direct solidarity with African nations as Palestinians, without necessarily merging their national aspirations with the larger, now fragmented, Arab body politic.

While such a task is daunting, it is also promising, as Palestinians now have the opportunity to build bridges of support and mutual solidarity in Africa through direct contacts, where they serve as their own ambassadors. Obviously, Palestine has much to gain, but also much to offer Africa. Palestinian doctors, engineers, civil defense and frontline workers, educationists, intellectuals and artists are some of the most highly qualified and accomplished in the Middle East. True, they have much to learn from their African peers, but also have much to give.

Unlike persisting stereotypes, many African universities, organizations and cultural centers serve as vibrant intellectual hubs. African thinkers, philosophers, writers, journalists, artists and athletes are some of the most articulate, empowered and accomplished in the world. Any pro-Palestine strategy in Africa should keep these African treasures in mind as a way of engaging, not only with individuals but with whole societies.

Israeli media reported extensively and proudly about Israel’s admission to the AU. The celebrations, however, might also be premature, for Africa is not a group of self-seeking leaders bestowing political favors in exchange for meager returns. Africa is also the heart of the most powerful anti-colonial trends the world has ever known. A continent of this size, complexity, and proud history cannot be written off as if a mere ‘prize’ to be won or lost by Israel and its neocolonial friends.

The post Palestine’s Africa Dichotomy: Is Israel Really ‘Winning’ Africa?   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

On “Conflict”, “Peace” and “Genocide”: Time for New Language on Palestine and Israel

On May 25, famous American actor, Mark Ruffalo, tweeted an apology for suggesting that Israel is committing ‘genocide’ in Gaza.

“I have reflected and wanted to apologize for posts during the recent Israel/Hamas fighting that suggested Israel is committing ‘genocide’,” Ruffalo wrote, adding, “It’s not accurate, it’s inflammatory, disrespectful and is being used to justify anti-Semitism, here and abroad. Now is the time to avoid hyperbole.”

But were Ruffalo’s earlier assessments, indeed, “not accurate, inflammatory and disrespectful”? And does equating Israel’s war on besieged, impoverished Gaza with genocide fit into the classification of ‘hyperbole’?

To avoid pointless social media spats, one only needs to reference the ‘United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’. According to Article 2 of the 1948 Convention, the legal definition of genocide is:

“Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part …”

In its depiction of Israel’s latest war on Gaza, the Geneva-based human rights group, Euro-Med Monitor, reported:

The Israeli forces directly targeted 31 extended families. In 21 cases, the homes of these families were bombed while their residents were inside. These raids resulted in the killing of 98 civilians, including 44 children and 28 women. Among the victims were a man and his wife and children, mothers and their children, or child siblings. There were seven mothers who were killed along with four or three of their children. The bombing of these homes and buildings came without any warning despite the Israeli forces’ knowledge that civilians were inside.

As of May 28, 254 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and 1,948 were wounded in the latest 11-day Israeli onslaught, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Though tragic, this number is relatively small compared with the casualties of previous wars. For example, in the 51-day Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed and over 17,000 were wounded. Similarly, entire families, like the 21-member Abu Jame family in Khan Younis, also perished. Is this not genocide? The same logic can be applied to the killing of over 300 unarmed protesters at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel between March 2018 and December 2019. Moreover, the besiegement and utter isolation of over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza since 2006-07, which has resulted in numerous tragedies, is an act of collective punishment that also deserves the designation of genocide.

One does not need to be a legal expert to identify the many elements of genocide in Israel’s violent behavior, let alone language, against Palestinians. There is a clear, undeniable relationship between Israel’s violent political discourse and equally violent action on the ground. Potentially Israel’s next prime minister, Naftali Bennett, who has served the role of Defense Minister, had, in July 2013, stated: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

With this context in mind, and regardless of why Ruffalo found it necessary to back-track on his moral position, Israel is an unrepentent human rights violator that continues to carry out an active policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the native, indigenous inhabitants of Palestine.

Language matters, and in this particular ‘conflict’, it matters most, because Israel has, for long, managed to escape any accountability for its actions, due to its success in misrepresenting facts, and the overall truth about itself. Thanks to its many allies and supporters in mainstream media and academia, Tel Aviv has rebranded itself from being a military occupier and an apartheid regime to an ‘oasis of democracy’, in fact, ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.

This article will not attempt to challenge the entirety of the misconstrued mainstream media’s depiction of Israel. Volumes are required for that, and Israeli Professor Ilan Pappé’s ‘Ten Myths about Israel’ is an important starting point. However, this article will attempt to present some basic definitions that must enter the Palestine-Israel lexicon, as a prerequisite to developing a fairer understanding of what is happening on the ground.

A Military Occupation – Not a ‘Conflict’

Quite often, mainstream Western media refers to the situation in Palestine and Israel as a  ‘conflict’, and to the various specific elements of this so-called conflict as a ‘dispute’. For example, the ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ and the ‘disputed city of East Jerusalem’.

What should be an obvious truth is that besieged, occupied people do not engage in a ‘conflict’ with their occupiers. Moreover, a ‘dispute’ happens when two parties have equally compelling claims to any issue. When Palestinan families of East Jerusalem are being forced out of their homes which are, in turn, handed over to Jewish extremists, there is no ‘dispute’ involved. The extremists are thieves and the Palestinians are victims. This is not a matter of opinion. The international community itself says so.

‘Conflict’ is a generic term. Aside from absolving the aggressor – in this case, Israel – it leaves all matters open for interpretation. Since American audiences are indoctrinated to love Israel and hate Arabs and Muslims, siding with Israel in its ‘conflict’ with the latter becomes the only rational option.

Israel has sustained a military occupation of 22% of the total size of historic Palestine since June 1967. The remainder of the Palestinian homeland was already usurped, using extreme violence, state-sanctioned apartheid, and, as Pappé puts it, ‘incremental genocide’ decades earlier.

From the perspective of international law,  the term ‘military occupation’, ‘occupied East Jerusalem’, ‘illegal Jewish settlements’ and so forth, have never been ‘disputed’. They are simply facts, even if Washington has decided to ignore international law, and even if mainstream US media has chosen to manipulate the terminology as to present Israel as a victim, not the aggressor.

‘Process’ without ‘Peace’

The term ‘peace process’ was coined by American diplomats decades ago. It was put to use throughout the mid and late 1970s when, then-US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, labored to broker a deal between Egypt and Israel in the hope of fragmenting the Arab political front and, eventually, sidelining Cairo entirely from the ‘Arab-Israeli conflict’.

Kissinger’s logic proved vital for Israel as the ‘process’ did not aim at achieving justice according to fixed criteria that has been delineated by the United Nations for years. There was no frame of reference any more. If any existed, it was Washington’s political priorities which, historically, almost entirely overlapped with Israel’s priorities. Despite the obvious American bias, the US bestowed upon itself the undeserving title of ‘the honest peace broker’.

This approach was used successfully in the write-up to the Camp David Accords in 1978. One of the Accords’ greatest achievements is that the so-called ‘Arab-Israeli conflict’ was replaced with the so-called ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’.

Now, tried and true, the ‘peace process’ was used again in 1993, resulting in the Oslo Accords. For nearly three decades, the US continued to tout its self-proclaimed credentials as a peacemaker, despite the fact that it pumped – and continues to do so – $3-4 billion of annual, mostly military, aid to Israel.

On the other hand, the Palestinians have little to show for. No peace was achieved; no justice was obtained; not an inch of Palestinian land was returned and not a single Palestinian refugee was allowed to return home. However, American and European officials and a massive media apparatus continued to talk of a ‘peace process’ with little regard to the fact that the ‘peace process’ has brought nothing but war and destruction for Palestine, and allowed Israel to continue its illegal appropriation and colonization of Palestinian land.

Resistance, National Liberation – Not ‘Terrorism’ and ‘State-Building’

The ‘peace process’ introduced more than death, mayhem and normalization of land theft in Palestine. It also wrought its own language, which remains in effect to this day. According to the new lexicon, Palestinians are divided into ‘moderate’ and ‘extremists’. The ‘moderates’ believe in the American-led ‘peace process’, ‘peace negotiations’ and are ready to make ‘painful compromises’ in order to obtain the coveted ‘peace’. On the other hand, the ‘extremists’ are ‘Iran-backed’, politically ‘radical’ bunch that use ‘terrorism’ to satisfy their ‘dark’ political agendas.

But is this the case? Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, many sectors of Palestinian society, including Muslims and Christians, Islamists and secularists and, notably, socialists, resisted the unwarranted political ‘compromises’ undertaken by their leadership, which they perceived to be a betrayal of Palestinians’ basic rights. Meanwhile, the ‘moderates’ have largely ruled over Palestinians with no democratic mandate. This small but powerful group introduced a culture of political and financial corruption, unprecedented in Palestine. They applied torture against Palestinian political dissidents whenever it suited them. Not only did Washington say little to criticize the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority’s dismal human rights record, but it also applauded it for its crackdown on those who ‘incite violence’ and their ‘terrorist infrastructure’.

A term such as ‘resistance’ – muqawama – was slowly but carefully extricated from the Palestinian national discourse. The term ‘liberation’ too was perceived to be confrontational and hostile. Instead, such concepts as ‘state-building’ – championed by former Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, and others – began taking hold. The fact that Palestine was still an occupied country and that ‘state-building’ can only be achieved once ‘liberation’ was first secured, did not seem to matter to the ‘donor countries’. The priorities of these countries – mainly US allies who adhered to the American political agenda in the Middle East – was to maintain the illusion of the ‘peace process’ and to ensure  ‘security coordination’ between PA police and the Israeli army carried on, unabated.

The so-called ‘security coordination’, of course, refers to the US-funded joint Israeli-PA efforts at cracking down on Palestinian resistance, apprehending Palestinian political dissidents and ensuring the safety of the illegal Jewish settlements, or colonies, in the occupied West Bank.

War and, Yes, Genocide in Gaza – Not ‘Israel-Hamas Conflict’

The word ‘democracy’ was constantly featured in the new Oslo language. Of course, it was not intended to serve its actual meaning. Instead, it was the icing on the cake of making the illusion of the ‘peace process’ perfect. This was obvious, at least to most Palestinians. It also became obvious to the whole world in January 2006, when the Palestinian faction Fatah, which has monopolized the PA since its inception in 1994, lost the popular vote to the Islamic faction, Hamas.

Hamas, and other Palestinian factions have rejected – and continue to reject – the Oslo Accords. Their participation in the legislative elections in 2006 took many by surprise, as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) was itself a product of Oslo. Their victory in the elections, which was classified as democratic and transparent by international monitoring groups, threw a wrench in the US-Israeli-PA political calculations.

Lo and behold, the group that has long been perceived by Israel and its allies as ‘extremist’ and ‘terrorist’, became the potential leaders of Palestine! The Oslo spin doctors had to go into overdrive in order for them to thwart Palestinian democracy and ensure a successful return to the status quo, even if this meant that Palestine is represented by unelected, undemocratic leaders. Sadly, this has been the case for nearly 15 years.

Meanwhile, Hamas’ stronghold, the Gaza Strip, had to be taught a lesson, thus the siege imposed on the impoverished region for nearly 15 years. The siege on Gaza has little to do with Hamas’ rockets or Israel’s ‘security’ needs, the right to ‘defend itself’, and its supposedly ‘justifiable’ desire to destroy Gaza’s ‘terrorist infrastructure’. While, indeed, Hamas’ popularity in Gaza is unmatched anywhere else in Palestine, Fatah, too, has a powerful constituency there. Moreover, the Palestinian resistance in the Strip is not championed by Hamas alone, but also by other ideological and political groups, for example, the Islamic Jihad, the socialist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and other socialist and secular groups.

Misrepresenting the ‘conflict’ as a ‘war’ between Israel and Hamas is crucial to Israeli propaganda, which has succeeded in equating Hamas with militant groups throughout the Middle East and even Afghanistan. But Hamas is not ISIS, Al-Qaeda or Taliban. In fact, none of these groups are similar, anyway. Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic nationalist movement that operates within a largely Palestinian political context. An excellent book on Hamas is the recently published volume by Daud Abdullah, Engaging the World. Abdullah’s book rightly presents Hamas as a rational political actor, rooted in its ideological convictions, yet flexible and pragmatic in its ability to adapt to national, regional and international geopolitical changes.

But what does Israel have to gain from mischaracterizing the Palestinian resistance in Gaza? Aside from satisfying its propaganda campaign of erroneously linking Hamas to other anti-American groups, it also dehumanizes the Palestinian people entirely and presents Israel as a partner in the American global so-called ‘war on terror’. Israeli neofascist and ultranationalist politicians then become the saviors of humanity, their violent racist language is forgiven and their active ‘genocide’ is seen as an act of ‘self-defense’ or, at best, a mere state of ‘conflict’.

The Oppressor as the Victim

According to the strange logic of mainstream media, Palestinians are rarely ‘killed’ by Israeli soldiers, but rather ‘die’ in ‘clashes’ resulting from various ‘disputes. Israel does not ‘colonize’ Palestinian land; it merely ‘annexes’, ‘appropriates’, and ‘captures’, and so on. What has been taking place in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, for example, is not outright property theft, leading to ethnic cleansing, but rather a ‘property dispute’.

The list goes on and on.

In truth, language has always been a part of Zionist colonialism, long before the state of Israel was itself constructed from the ruins of Palestinian homes and villages in 1948. Palestine, according to the Zionists, was ‘a land with no people’ for ‘a people with no land’. These colonists were never ‘illegal settlers’ but ‘Jewish returnees’ to their ‘ancestral homeland’, who, through hard work and perseverance, managed to ‘make the desert bloom’, and, in order to defend themselves against the ‘hordes of Arabs’, they needed to build an ‘invincible army’.

It will not be easy to deconstruct the seemingly endless edifice of lies, half-truths and intentional misrepresentations of Zionist Israeli colonialism in Palestine. Yet, there can be no alternative to this feat because, without proper, accurate and courageous understanding and depiction of Israeli settler colonialism and Palestinian resistance to it, Israel will continue to oppress Palestinians while presenting itself as the victim.

The post On “Conflict”, “Peace” and “Genocide”: Time for New Language on Palestine and Israel first appeared on Dissident Voice.

On the Politics of Victory and Defeat: How Gaza Dethroned the King of Israel

How did Benjamin Netanyahu manage to serve as Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister? With a total of 15 years in office, Netanyahu surpassed the 12-year mandate of Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion. The answer to this question will become particularly critical for future Israeli leaders who hope to emulate Netanyahu’s legacy, now that his historic leadership is likely to end.

Netanyahu’s ‘achievements’ for Israel cannot be judged according to the same criteria as that of Ben Gurion. Both were staunch Zionist ideologues and savvy politicians. Unlike Ben Gurion, though, Netanyahu did not lead a so-called ‘war of independence’, merging militias into an army and carefully constructing a ‘national narrative’ that helped Israel justify its numerous crimes against the indigenous Palestinians, at least in the eyes of Israel and its supporters.

The cliched explanation of Netanyahu’s success in politics is that he is a ‘survivor’, a hustler, a fox or, at best, a political genius. However, there is more to Netanyahu than mere soundbites. Unlike other right-wing politicians around the world, Netanyahu did not simply exploit or ride the wave of an existing populist movement. Instead, he was the main architect of the current version of Israel’s right-wing politics. If Ben Gurion was the founding father of Israel in 1948, Netanyahu is the founding father of the new Israel in 1996. While Ben Gurion and his disciples used ethnic cleansing, colonization and illegal settlement construction for strategic and military reasons, Netanyahu, while carrying on with the same practices, changed the narrative altogether.

For Netanyahu, the biblical version of Israel was far more convincing than secular Zionist ideology of yesteryears. By changing the narrative, Netanyahu managed to redefine the support for Israel around the world, bringing together right-wing religious zealots, chauvinistic, Islamophobic, far-right and ultra-nationalist parties in the US and elsewhere.

Netanyahu’s success in rebranding the centrality of the idea of Israel in the minds of its traditional supporters was not a mere political strategy. He also shifted the balance of power in Israel by making Jewish extremists and illegal settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories his core constituency. Subsequently, he reinvented Israeli conservative politics altogether.

He also trained an entire generation of Israeli right-wing, far-right and ultra-nationalist politicians, giving rise to such unruly characters such as former Defense Minister and the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, former Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, and former Defense Minister, and Netanyahu’s likely replacement, Naftali Bennett.

Indeed, a whole new generation of Israelis grew up watching Netanyahu take the right-wing camp from one success to another. For them, he is the savior. His hate-filled rallies and anti-peace rhetoric in the mid-1990s galvanized Jewish extremists, one of whom killed Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s former Prime Minister who engaged the Palestinian leadership through the ‘peace process’ and, ultimately, signed the Oslo Accords.

On Rabin’s death in November 1995, Israel’s political ‘left’ was devastated by right-wing populism championed by its new charismatic leader, Netanyahu, who, merely a few months later, became Israel’s youngest Prime Minister.

Despite the fact that, historically, Israeli politics is defined by its ever-changing dynamics, Netanyahu has helped the right prolong its dominance, completely eclipsing the once-hegemonic Labor Party. This is why the right loves Netanyahu. Under his reign, illegal Jewish colonies expanded unprecedentedly, and any possibility, however meager, of a two-state solution has been forever buried.

Additionally, Netanyahu changed the relationship between the US and Israel, where the latter was no longer a ‘client regime’ – not that it ever was in the strict definition of the term – but one that holds much sway over the US Congress and the White House.

Every attempt by Israel’s political elites to dislodge Netanyahu from power has failed. No coalition was powerful enough; no election outcome was decisive enough and no one was successful enough in convincing Israeli society that he could do more for them than Netanyahu has. Even when Gideon Sa’ar from Netanyahu’s own Likud party tried to stage his own coup against Netanyahu, he lost the vote and the support of the Likudists, later to be ostracized altogether.

Sa’ar later founded his own party, New Hope, continuing with the desperate attempt to oust the seemingly unconquerable Netanyahu. Four general elections within only two years still failed to push Netanyahu out. Every possible mathematical equation to unify various coalitions, all united by the single aim of defeating Netanyahu, has also failed. Each time, Netanyahu came back, with greater resolve to hang on to his seat, challenging contenders within his own party as well as his enemies from without. Even Israel’s court system, which is currently trying Netanyahu for corruption, was not powerful enough to compel disgraced Netanyahu to resign.

Until May of this year, Palestinians seemed to be marginal, if at all relevant to this conversation. Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation looked as if they were mollified, thanks to Israeli violence and Palestinian Authority acquiescence. Palestinians in Gaza, despite occasional displays of defiance, were battling a 15-year-long Israeli siege. Palestinian communities inside Israel seemed alien to any political conversation pertaining to the struggle and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

All of these illusions were dispelled when Gaza rose in solidarity with a small Palestinian community in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. Their resistance ignited a torrent of events that, within days, unified all Palestinians, everywhere. Consequently, the popular Palestinian revolt has shifted the discourse in favor of Palestinians and against the Israeli occupation.

Perfectly depicting the significance of that moment, the Financial Times newspaper wrote, “The ferocity of the Palestinian anger caught Israel by surprise.” Netanyahu, whose extremist goons were unleashed against Palestinians everywhere, similar to his army being unleashed against besieged Gaza, found himself at an unprecedented disadvantage. It took only 11 days of war to shatter Israel’s sense of ‘security’, expose its sham democracy and spoil its image around the world.

The once untouchable Netanyahu became the mockery of Israeli politics. His conduct in Gaza was described by leading Israeli politicians as “embarrassing”, a defeat and a “surrender”.

Netanyahu struggled to redeem his image. It was too late. As strange as this may sound, it was not Bennett or Lieberman who finally dethroned the “King of Israel’, but the Palestinians themselves.

The post On the Politics of Victory and Defeat: How Gaza Dethroned the King of Israel first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Israel’s new government will deepen rifts, not heal them

The photo was unprecedented. It showed Mansour Abbas, leader of an Islamist party for Palestinians in Israel, signing an agreement on Wednesday night to sit in a “government of change” alongside settler leader Naftali Bennett.

Caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fervently try to find a way to break up the coalition in the next few days, before a parliamentary vote takes place. But if he fails, it will be the first time in the country’s 73-year history that a party led by a Palestinian citizen has joined – or been allowed to join – an Israeli government.

Aside from the symbolism of the moment, there are no other grounds for celebration. In fact, the involvement of Abbas’s four-member United Arab List in shoring up a majority for a government led by Bennett and Yair Lapid is almost certain to lead to a further deterioration in majority-minority relations.

There will be a reckoning for this moment, and Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens, a fifth of the population, will once again pay the heaviest price.

The sole reason that this makeshift coalition exists – the only glue holding it together – is the hostility of the various parties towards Netanyahu. In most cases, that is not a hostility towards his political positions; simply towards him personally, and towards the corrupting stranglehold he has exerted on Israel’s political system for the past 12 years.

The “change” referred to by this proposed government coalition begins and ends with the removal of Netanyahu.

Doubly offended

It barely needs stating again that Bennett, who will serve first as prime minister in rotation with Lapid, is even more right wing than Netanyahu. In fact, three of the new coalition’s main parties are at least, if not more, rabidly nationalistic than the Israel’s longtime leader. In any other circumstances, they would be enthusiastically heading into government with his Likud Party.

As Bennett and Mansour huddled inside a hotel near Tel Aviv to sign the coalition agreement as the clock ticked down on Lapid’s mandate to form a government, far-right demonstrators noisily chanted outside that Bennett was joining a “government with terror supporters”.

Much of the ultra-nationalist right is so incensed by Bennett’s actions that he and other members of his Yamina party have been assigned a security detail for fear of an assassination attempt.

No one has forgotten that it was Bennett’s own settler camp that produced Yigal Amir, the man who in 1995 shot dead the then-prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in a bid to foil the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians. Amir killed Rabin in large part because the latter was seen to have betrayed the Jewish people by allowing “Arabs” – Palestinian parties in the parliament – to prop up his minority government from outside. They did so to pass legislation necessary to begin implementing the Oslo process.

The chain of events that followed the assassination are well-known. Israelis lurched further rightwards and elected Netanyahu. The Oslo track with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was derailed. A Palestinian intifada erupted. And – coming full circle – Netanyahu returned to power and is now Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Today’s potential Yigal Amirs are doubly offended by Bennett’s behaviour. They believe he has stabbed the right’s natural leader, Netanyahu, in the back, while at the same time allowing Abbas – seen by the right as Hamas’s man in the Knesset – to dictate policy to the Jewish owners of the land.

Digging in heels

It was notable that Bennett and Abbas were the last to sign the coalition agreement, after both made great play of digging in their heels at the final moment for more concessions. Each risks inflaming their own constituency by being seen to cooperate with the other.

Commentators will try to spin this agreement between a settler leader and the head of an Islamic party as a potential moment of healing after last month’s unprecedented inter-communal fighting inside Israel.

But such a reading is as misleading as the narrative of the recent “Jewish-Arab clashes”. In fact, protests by Palestinian youths against systematic discrimination escalated into confrontations only after Israeli police turned violent and let Jewish gangs take the law into their own hands. Just as the balance of power on the streets was weighted in favour of Jewish vigilantism, so the balance of forces in this new coalition will work solidly against Abbas.

When Bennett spoke publicly on Sunday, as the horse-trading began in earnest behind the scenes, he underscored his credentials as the former head of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements. That will be the theme of this proposed “government of change”.

Pact with the ‘devil’

During the coalition-building negotiations, the more moderate Labor and Meretz parties conceded time and again to the demands of the far-right and settler parties on ministerial positions and policy. That is because the moderates have nowhere else to go.

They have built their whole electoral strategy on ousting Netanyahu at any cost, using the anti-Netanyahu street protests of the past two years as their rallying cry. They cannot afford to be seen as missing this opportunity.

By contrast, as the death threats highlight, Bennett has far more to lose. Some 60 percent of his party’s voters recently told pollsters they would not have backed him had they known he would join a coalition with Lapid. Equally at risk are Gideon Saar, whose New Hope party broke away from Likud to challenge Netanyahu, and Avigdor Lieberman, a settler politician whose right-wing base has found in him their local strongman.

These three must now do everything in their power during the term of this new government – if it happens – to prove to their constituencies that they are not betraying the far-right’s favourite causes, from settlements to annexation. Baiting them from the sidelines at every turn will be Netanyahu, stirring up passions on the right – at least until he is forced to step down, either by his party or by a verdict against him in his current corruption trial.

The Achilles heel Netanyahu will keep prodding as viciously as he can is the fact that his rivals on the right have made a Faustian pact with the Arab “devil”. Netanyahu has never been shy to incite against the Palestinian minority. To imagine he will restrain himself this time is fanciful.

Bennett understands the danger, which is why he tried to legitimise his dealings with Abbas on Thursday by calling him “a brave leader”. But Bennett was also keen to emphasise that Abbas would not be involved in any security matters and that he was not interested in “nationalism” – in this case, indicating that Abbas will neither offer support to Palestinians under occupation nor seek to advance national rights for Palestinian citizens of the kind Israeli Jews enjoy.

Early on Thursday, Netanyahu had decried the new coalition as “dangerous” and “left wing”. He will most likely be in the driving seat, even while in opposition. Far from healing the country, a “government of change” could rapidly provoke yet more street violence, especially if Netanyahu believes such a deterioration would weaken Bennett as prime minister.

Extracting benefits

Abbas, the United Arab List leader, reportedly held out until last before signing. His whole electoral strategy was built on a promise to end the permanent exclusion of Palestinian parties from Israel’s national politics. He will be keen to show how many benefits he can extract from his role inside government – even if most are privileges the Jewish majority has always enjoyed by right.

Abbas trumpeted that the agreement would “provide solutions for the burning issues in Arab society – planning, the housing crisis, and, of course, fighting violence and organised crime”. He has reportedly secured some $16bn in extra budgets for development and infrastructure, and three of the many Bedouin villages the state has long refused to recognise will be given legal status.

Abbas is also pushing for the repeal of a 2017 law that makes tens of thousands of homes in Palestinian communities inside Israel vulnerable to demolition.

One of his fellow legislators, Walid Taha, observed of the United Arab List’s new role: “For decades, Arab Israelis [Palestinian citizens] have been without any influence. Now, everyone knows that we’re the deciding votes as far as politics goes.”

Abbas has every incentive to use such claims as a whip to beat his rivals in the Joint List, a coalition of several other Palestinian parties that are staying in opposition. He needs to emphasise his role in bringing about change to make them look weak and irrelevant.

Hostility and disdain

But despite the promises that lured Abbas into the new government, he will face a rough ride getting any of them translated into tangible changes on the ground.

Lapid will be busy as foreign minister, selling this as a new era in Israeli politics. Meanwhile, Benny Gantz, the current defence minister who just oversaw the destruction yet again of Gaza, will offer continuity.

Back home, the key internal ministries will be held by the far-right. Lieberman will control the purse strings through the finance ministry, directing funds to settlements before Palestinian communities inside Israel. Bennett’s partner, Ayelet Shaked, will be interior minister, meaning the settlements in the occupied West Bank will be treated as more integral to Israel than the communities of Palestinian citizens. And Saar will be justice minister, helping to drive the legal system even further to the right.

Faced with this bloc, all of them keen to be seen as upholding the values of the right, Abbas will struggle to make any progress. And that is without considering the situation he will find himself in if Bennett pushes for annexation of the West Bank, or authorises another police invasion of al-Aqsa, or oversees the expulsion of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, or launches a fresh attack on Gaza.

Abbas put the coalition negotiations on pause during Israel’s assault on Gaza last month. He won’t be able to do the same from inside the government. He will be directly implicated.

As a result, Palestinian citizens are likely to end up growing even more disillusioned with a political system that has always treated them with a mix of hostility and disdain. They will finally have representatives inside government, but will continue to be very much outside of it. The triggers for the protests that erupted among young Palestinians in Israel last month are not going away.

The most likely scenario over the coming months is that Netanyahu and Bennett will engage in a furious competition for who deserves the title of champion of the right. Netanyahu will seek to break apart the coalition as quickly as possible by inciting against Abbas and the Palestinian minority, so he has another shot at power. In turn, Bennett will try to pressure Likud to abandon Netanyahu so that Bennett can collapse the “government of change” as quickly as possible and rejoin a large majority, far-right government with Likud.

Rifts will not be healed; coexistence will not be revived. But the preeminence of the ultra-nationalist right – with or without Netanyahu – will be restored.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Israel’s new government will deepen rifts, not heal them first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Fumbling King of Palestine: Palestinians are Defeating the Oslo Culture

The political discourse of Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, is similar to that of an ineffectual king who has been isolated in his palace for far too long. The king speaks of prosperity and peace, and tirelessly counts his innumerable achievements, while his people are dying of starvation outside and pointlessly begging for his attention.

But Abbas is no ordinary king. He is a ‘president’ by name only, a designated ‘leader’ simply because Israel and the US-led international political system insist on recognizing him as such. Not only had the man’s political mandate expired in 2009, it was quite limited even prior to that date.  At no point in his career did Abbas ever represent the entire Palestinian people. Now, at 85 years, chances are Abbas will never serve this role.

Long before Abbas was the US and Israel’s favorite Palestinian ‘candidate’ to rule over occupied and oppressed Palestinians in 2005, two separate political discourses were evolving in Palestine and, with them, two uniquely separate cultures. There was the ‘Oslo culture’, which was sustained by empty clichés, platitudes about peace and negotiations and, most importantly, billions of dollars, which poured in from donor countries. The funds were never truly aimed at achieving the coveted just peace or Palestinian independence, but to sustain a dismal status quo, where Israel’s military occupation is normalized through ‘security coordination’ between the Israeli army and Abbas’ Authority.

This culture, seen by most Palestinians as treacherous and corrupt, was celebrated in the West as ‘moderate’, especially if compared to the other Palestinian culture, dubbed ‘radical’, or worse, ‘terrorist’. The other culture, which has been shunned for nearly three decades is, thanks to the recent popular revolt in Palestine and the stiff resistance in Gaza, finally prevailing. The show of strength exhibited by the Palestinian Resistance in the besieged Gaza Strip, commencing May 10 – especially within the context of a popular uprising that has finally unified Palestinian youth across, not only in the occupied territories but all of historic Palestine as well – is inspiring a new language. This language is not only being utilized by a handful of ‘radical’ intellectuals, but by many political and academic figures who have long been affiliated with the PA.

In an interview with the British newspaper, The Independent, soon after the end of the Israeli war on Gaza, former PA Minister and veteran politician, Hanan Ashrawi, spoke of the changes underway at the socio-political level in Palestine. “Hamas has evolved, and it is gaining support among young people, even Christians,” Ashrawi said, adding that “Hamas has every right to be represented in a pluralistic system.” However, this is not about Hamas alone. It is about Palestinian resistance as a whole, whether represented in islamist, nationalist or socialist trends.

At one time, Abbas had referred to the Palestinian resistance in Gaza as ‘frivolous’. Today, not many Palestinians in the West Bank, or even in Ramallah, would agree with his assessment.

The above assertion was apparent on May 25, when US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, rushed to Israel and the Occupied Territories in a desperate attempt to revive an old language, one that Palestinians are now openly challenging. Inside Abbas’ luxurious office, Blinken spoke of money, negotiations and, inaptly, ‘freedom of expression’. Abbas thanked the American diplomat, oddly demanded a return to the ‘status quo’ in Jerusalem, renounced ‘violence and terrorism’, and called for ‘peaceful popular resistance’.

Yet, in the streets of Ramallah, a few hundred meters away from the Blinken-Abbas spectacle, thousands of Palestinians were battling with PA police while chanting “America is the head of the snake”, “Security coordination is shameful,” and “The Oslo Accords are gone.”

The protesters comprised Muslims and Christians, men and women, young and old and represented all Palestinian factions, including the PA’s dominant party, Abbas’ own, Fatah. The protesters were accurate in their chants, of course, but what is truly significant is that Palestinians in the West Bank are finally overcoming many obstacles and fears, the stifling factional division, the brutality of Abbas’ security goons and are openly challenging –  in fact, ready to dismantle –  the entire Oslo culture.

Blinken’s visit to Palestine was not compelled by concern over the plight of occupied and besieged Palestinians, and certainly not over the lack of freedom of expression. If that was, indeed, the case, the US could simply end or, at least, condition its $3.8 billion of military aid to Israel. But Blinken, as the top representative of the Joe Biden Administration’s foreign policy, had nothing new to offer by way of new ideas, strategies, plans, let alone language. All he had were promises of more money to Abbas, as if American aid is what Palestinians are fighting and dying for.

Like Biden’s foreign policy, Abbas is equally bankrupt. He fumbled as he spoke, repeatedly emphasizing his gratitude for renewed American funds, money that made him, his family and a very corrupt class of Palestinians undeservingly rich.

The latest Israeli bloodbath in Gaza – the killing of hundreds and the wounding of thousands, the wanton destruction and systematic violence in the West Bank and elsewhere – are watershed moments in the history of Palestine, not because of the tragedy that Israel has, once more, orchestrated, but because of the resilience of the Palestinian people in their collective response to this tragedy. The consequences of this realization are likely to change the political paradigm in Palestine for years to come.

Frequently, many have rightly argued that the Oslo Accords, as a political doctrine, was long dead. However, the Oslo culture, that of unique but misleading language, factional division, classism and utter political chaos, which persisted for many years, is likely on its way out, too. Neither Washington, Tel Aviv, nor Mahmoud Abbas’ PA can possibly resuscitate the past and the miserable culture that Oslo has imposed on the Palestinian people. Only Palestinians can lead this transition for a better future, that of national unity, political clarity and, ultimately, freedom.

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Palestine’s Moment: Despite Massive Losses, Palestinians Have Altered the Course of History

The ‘Palestinian Revolt of 2021’ will go down in history as one of the most influential events that irreversibly shaped collective thinking in and around Palestine. Only two other events can be compared with what has just transpired in Palestine: the revolt of 1936 and the First Intifada of 1987.

The general strike and rebellion of 1936-39 were momentous because they represented the first unmistakable expression of collective Palestinian political agency. Despite their isolation and humble tools of resistance, the Palestinian people rose across Palestine to challenge British and Zionist colonialism, combined.

The Intifada of 1987 was also historic. It was the unprecedented sustainable collective action that unified the occupied West Bank and Gaza after the Israeli occupation of what remained of historic Palestine in 1967. That legendary popular revolt, though costly in blood and sacrifices, allowed Palestinians to regain the political initiative and to, once more, speak as one people.

That Intifada was eventually thwarted after the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. For Israel, Oslo was a gift from the Palestinian leadership that allowed it to suppress the Intifada and use the then newly invented Palestinian Authority (PA) to serve as a buffer between the Israeli military and occupied, oppressed Palestinians.

Since those years, the history of Palestine has taken on a dismal trajectory, one of disunity, factionalism, political rivalry and, for the privileged few, massive wealth. Nearly four decades have been wasted on a self-defeating political discourse centered on American-Israeli priorities, mostly concerned with ‘Israeli security’ and ‘Palestinian terrorism’.

Old but befitting terminologies such as ‘liberation’, ‘resistance’ and ‘popular struggle’, were replaced with more ‘pragmatic’ language of ‘peace process’, ‘negotiation table’ and ‘shuttle diplomacy’. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, according to this misleading discourse, was depicted as a ‘conflict’ and ‘dispute’, as if basic human rights were the subject of political interpretation.

Predictably, the already powerful Israel became more emboldened, tripling the number of its illegal colonies in the West Bank along with the population of its illegal settlers. Palestine was segmented into tiny, isolated South-African-styled Bantustans, each carrying a code – Areas, A, B, C – and the movement of Palestinians within their own homeland became conditioned on obtaining various colored permits from the Israeli military. Women giving birth at military checkpoints in the West Bank, cancer patients dying in Gaza while waiting for permission to cross to hospitals, and more, became the everyday reality of Palestine and the Palestinians.

With time, the Israeli occupation of Palestine became a marginal issue on the agenda of international diplomacy. Meanwhile, Israel cemented its relationship with numerous countries around the world, including countries in the Southern hemisphere which have historically stood beside Palestine.

Even the international solidarity movement for Palestinian rights became confused and fragmented, itself a direct expression of Palestinian confusion and fragmentation. In the absence of a unified Palestinian voice amid Palestine’s prolonged political feud, many took the liberty of lecturing Palestinians on how to resist, what ‘solutions’ to fight for and how to conduct themselves politically.

It seemed that Israel had finally gained the upper hand and, this time, for good.

Desperate to see Palestinians rise again, many called for a third Intifada. Indeed, for many years, intellectuals and political leaders called for a third Palestinian Intifada, as if the flow of history, in Palestine – or elsewhere – adheres to fixed academic notions or is compelled by the urging of some individual or organization.

The rational answer was, and remains, that only the Palestinian people will determine the nature, scope and direction of their collective action. Popular revolts are not the outcome of wishful thinking but of circumstances, the tipping point of which can only be decided by the people themselves.

May 2021 was that very tipping point. Palestinians rose in unison from Jerusalem to Gaza, to every inch of occupied Palestine, including Palestinian refugee communities throughout the Middle East and, by doing so, they also resolved an impossible political equation. The Palestinian ‘problem’ was no longer that of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem alone, but also of Israeli racism and apartheid which have targeted the Palestinian communities inside Israel. Further, it was also the crisis of leadership and the deep-seated factionalism and political corruption.

When Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, decided on May 8 to unleash the hordes of police and Jewish extremists on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, who were protesting the ethnic cleansing of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, he was merely attempting to score a few political points among Israel’s most chauvinist right-wing constituencies. He also wanted to remain in power or, at least, to avoid prison as a result of his corruption trial.

He did not anticipate, however, that he was unleashing one of the most historic events in Palestine, one that would ultimately resolve a seemingly impossible Palestinian quandary. True, Netanyahu’s war on Gaza killed hundreds and wounded thousands. The violence he perpetrated in the West Bank and in Arab neighborhoods in Israel killed scores. But, on May 20, it was the Palestinians who claimed victory, as hundreds of thousands of people rushed to the streets to declare their triumph as one unified, proud nation.

Winning and losing wars of national liberation cannot be measured by gruesome comparisons between the number of dead or the degree of destruction inflicted on each side. If this was the case, no colonized nation would have ever won its freedom.

Palestinians won because, once more, they emerged from the rubble of Israeli bombs as a whole, a nation so determined to win its freedom at any cost. This realization was symbolized in the many scenes of Palestinian crowds celebrating while waving the banners of all Palestinian factions, without prejudice and without exception.

Finally, it can unequivocally be asserted that the Palestinian resistance scored a major victory, arguably unprecedented in its proud history. This is the first time that Israel is forced to accept that the rules of the game have changed, likely forever. It is no longer the only party that determines political outcomes in occupied Palestine, because the Palestinian people are finally a force to be reckoned with.

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Israel election: The Far-right is Triumphant: The Only Obstacle Left is Netanyahu

As 13 parties struggle with Israel’s complex post-election maths, seeking alliances that can assure them power, the most significant outcome of the vote is easily missed. The religious fundamentalists and settler parties – Israel’s far right – won an unprecedented and clear-cut victory last week.

Even on the most cautious assessment, these parties together hold 72 seats in the 120-member parliament. For more than a decade they have underwritten Benjamin Netanyahu’s uninterrupted rule. That is why all the current talk in Israel and the western media about two equal camps, right and left, pitted against each other – implacably hostile and unable to build a majority – is patent nonsense.

The far right has a large majority. It could easily form a government – if it wasn’t mired in a now seemingly permanent crisis over the figure of Netanyahu.

Standing against the far right are what are loosely termed the “centrists”, equally committed to the takeover of swaths of the occupied territories, if in their case more by stealth.

There are two parties on the “centre-right” – Yesh Atid and Blue and White – that won between them 25 seats. The “centre-left”, represented by the Labor party and Meretz, still struggling to maintain the pretence that they comprise a “peace camp”, secured 13 seats. A final 10 seats went to the various parties representing Israel’s large minority of Palestinian citizens.

Both the far right and the “centrists” subscribe to versions of the settler-colonial ideology of Zionism. To outsiders, the similarities between the two camps can sometimes look stronger than the differences. Ultimately, with the possible exception of Meretz, both want the Palestinians subjugated and removed.

The “centrists” may best be understood as the apologetic wing of Zionism. They worry about Israel’s image abroad. And that means they have, at least ostensibly, emphasised dividing territory between Jews and Palestinians – as the Oslo accords proposed – rather than visibly dividing rights. The centrists’ great fear is that they will be seen as presiding over a single apartheid state.

Jewish Supremacy

The 60 percent of the parliament now in the hands of extreme religious and settler parties takes the opposite view. They prefer to divide rights – to create an explicit apartheid system – if they can thereby avoid dividing the territory. They want all of the region, and ideally only for Jews.

They care little what others think. All subscribe to an ideology of Jewish supremacy, even if they differ on whether “Jewish” is defined in religious or ethnic-nationalist terms. In 2018 Netanyahu’s government began the process of legislating this worldview through the Jewish Nation State Law.

The far right explicitly views Palestinians, the native people whose homeland the European-led Zionist movement has been colonising for the past 100 years, as interlopers or unwelcome guests.

Unlike the centrists, the far right places little weight on the distinction between Palestinians under occupation and the fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian and have degraded citizenship. All Palestinians, wherever they live and whatever their status, are seen as an enemy that needs to be subdued.

Allying with Centrists

So why, given the far right’s incontestible triumph last week, are the media filled with analyses about Israel’s continuing political impasse and the likelihood of a fifth election in a few months’ time?

Why, if a clear majority of legislators are unapologetic Jewish supremacists, has Netanyahu kept courting centrists to stay in power – as he did after the last election, when he ensnared battle-hardened general Benny Gantz into his coalition? And why after this election is he reported to be reaching out for the first time to a Palestinian party for support?

Part of the answer lies in a deep disagreement within the far right, between religious fundamentalists and its more secular components, on what “Jewish rule” means. Both sides focus on the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians and refuse to make a meaningful distinction between the occupied territories and Israel. But they have entirely different conceptions of Jewish sovereignty. One faction thinks Jews should take their orders from God, while the other looks to a Jewish state.

Further, they disagree on who counts as a Jew.

It is hard, for example, for Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, to break bread with the extremist rabbis of Shas and United Torah Judaism, when those rabbis don’t regard many of his supporters – immigrants from the former Soviet Union – as real Jews. To them, “Russians” no more belong to the Jewish collective than Palestinians.

Oppressive Shadow

But an even bigger obstacle is to be found in the figure of Netanyahu himself, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

The far-right is largely unperturbed by Netanyahu’s trial on multiple corruption charges. Israel’s short history is full of major crimes: wars of aggression, forcible population transfer, executions and looting, land theft and settlement building. All Israeli leaders, Netanyahu included, have had a hand in these atrocities. The current focus on allegations against him of fraud and acceptance of bribes looks trivial in comparison.

The far right’s problem with Netanyahu is more complex.

He has been presiding over this bloc, relatively unchallenged, since the early 1990s. He has become by far the most skilled, experienced and charismatic politician in Israel. And for that reason, no other far right leader has been able to emerge from under his oppressive shadow.

He may be King Bibi – his nickname – but the far right’s more ambitious princes are getting increasingly restless. They are eager to fill his shoes. Their knives are out. Gideon Saar, his Likud protege, created a party, New Hope, to run in last week’s election precisely in the hope of ousting his old boss. But equally, Netanyahu is so wily and experienced that he keeps outsmarting his rivals. He has managed to avoid any of his opponent’s lethal lunges by exploiting the far right’s weaknesses.

Netanyahu has employed a twofold strategy. Despite perceptions abroad, he is actually one of the more moderate figures in the extreme religious and settler bloc. He is closer ideologically to Benny Gantz of Blue and White than he is either to the rabbis who dictate the policies of the religious parties or to the settler extremists – or even to the bulk of his own Likud party.

Netanyahu has become a bogeyman abroad chiefly because he is so adept at harnessing the energy of the religious and settler parties and mobilising it to his own political and personal advantage. Israeli society grows ever more extreme because Netanyahu has for decades provided an aura of respectability, statesmanship and intellectual heft to the rhetoric surrounding the far right’s most noxious positions.

In this election he even brokered a deal helping to bring Jewish Power – Israel’s most fascistic party – into parliament. If he has to, he will welcome them into the government he hopes to build.

Wearing Thin

But Netanyahu’s relative moderation – by Israel’s standards – means that he has, at least until recently, preferred to include centrists in his coalitions. That has helped to curb the excesses of a purely far right government that might antagonise the Europeans and embarrass Washington. And equally, it has kept the extreme right divided and dependent on him, as he plays its parties off against the centrists.

If the princes of the settlements push him too hard, he can always tempt in a Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), or a Gantz (Blue and White), or an Ehud Barak (Labor) to replace them.

He has been loyal to no one but himself.

Now that strategy is wearing thin. His corruption trial and the resulting campaign he has waged to weaken Israel’s legal and judicial systems to keep himself out of jail has left a sour taste with the centrists. They are now much warier of allying with him.

After last year’s election, Gantz only dared join a Netanyahu government after citing exceptional grounds: the urgent need to fight the pandemic in an emergency government. Even so, he destroyed his party in the process. Now, it seems, only a rookie, conservative Islamist leader like Mansour Abbas may be willing to fall for Netanyahu’s trickery.

Sensing Netanyahu’s weakness and his loss of alternative partners, parts of the far right have grown unruly and fractious.

Netanyahu has kept the extreme religious parties on board – but at a steep cost. He has given them what they demand above all else: autonomy for their community. That is why Israeli police have turned a blind eye throughout the pandemic as the ultra-Orthodox have refused to close their schools during lockdowns and turned out in enormous numbers – usually without masks – for rabbis’ funerals.

But Netanyahu’s endless indulgence of the ultra-Orthodox has served only to alienate the more secular parts of the far right.

Betrayed on Annexation

Worse, as Netanyahu has focused his energies on ways to draw attention away from his corruption trial, he has chosen to play fast and loose with the far right’s political and emotional priorities – most especially on annexation. In the recent, back-to-back election campaigns he has made increasingly earnest promises to formally annex swaths of the West Bank.

But he has repeatedly failed to make good on his pledge.

The betrayal hit hardest after the election a year ago. With then-President Donald Trump’s blessing, Netanyahu vowed to quickly begin annexation of large sections of the West Bank. But in the end Netanyahu ducked out, preferring to sign a “peace deal” with Gulf states on the confected condition that annexation be delayed.

The move clearly indicated that, if it aided his political survival, Netanyahu would placate foreign capitals – behaviour reminiscent of the centrists – rather than advance the core goals of the far right. As a result, there is a growing exasperation with Netanyahu. Sections of the far right want someone new, someone invested in their cause – not in his own political and personal manoeuvrings.

In the fashion of Middle Eastern dictators, Netanyahu has groomed no successor. He has cultivated a learnt helplessness in his own ideological camp, and the princes of the settlements are fearful of how they will cope without him. He has been their nursemaid for too long.

But like rebellious teenagers, they want a taste of freedom – and to wreak more havoc than Netanyahu has ever allowed.

They hope to break free of the political centre of gravity he has engineered for himself. If they finally manage it, we may yet look back on the Netanyahu era as a time of relative moderation and calm.

• First published in Middle East Eye

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Beyond Slogans: Palestinians Need an Urgent, Centralized Strategy to Counter Israel in Africa

Arab normalization with Israel is expected to have serious consequences that go well beyond the limited and self-serving agendas of a few Arab countries. Thanks to the Arab normalizers, the doors are now flung wide open for new political actors to extend or cement ties with Israel at the expense of Palestine, without fearing any consequences to their actions.

African countries, especially those who worked diligently to integrate Israel into the continent’s mainstream body politic, are now seizing on the perfect opportunity to bring all African countries on board, including those who have historically and genuinely stood on the side of Palestinians.

‘Empower Africa’, an Israeli firm that is constantly seeking financial opportunities throughout the African continent, was one out of many who jumped on the opportunity to exploit Arab normalization with Israel. The goal is about maximizing their profits while promoting Arab normalization as if an economic opportunity for struggling African economies. In December, ‘Empower Africa ’hosted its first event in Dubai under the title “UAE and Israel Uniting with Africa”. In its press release, celebrating what is meant to be a momentous occasion, the Israeli company said that its guests included representatives from UAE, Israel, Bahrain, Nigeria, Rwanda, Egypt, among others.

Such events are meant to translate normalization with Israel into economic opportunities that will entangle, aside from Arab countries, African, Asian and other traditional supporters of Palestine, worldwide. The central message that the advocates of normalization with Israel are now  sending to the rest of the world is that closer ties with Tel Aviv will guarantee many benefits, not only direct American support, but innumerable economic benefits as well.

Those who promote solidarity with Palestine worldwide, based on moral maxims, are correct to argue that solidarity and intersectionality are crucial in the fight against injustice everywhere. However, realpolitik is rarely shaped by moral visions. This is the truth that Palestinians now have to contend with, as they watch their own Arab and Muslim brothers move, one after the other, to the Israeli camp.

Unfortunately, it was the Palestinian leadership itself that strengthened the normalization argument many years ago, especially in the early 1990s, when it first agreed to negotiate unconditionally with Israel, under the auspices of the US and not exclusively the United Nations. The Palestinian/Arab engagement with Israel in the Madrid Talks in 1991 provided the impetus for Washington to reverse a 1975 UN Resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

Ironically, it was the African Union that, in fact, first championed UN Resolution 3379, soon after it passed its own Resolution 77 (XII), earlier that year in the Kampala Assembly of  Heads of State and Governments, where it condemned Zionism as a racist, colonial ideology.

Those days are long gone and, sadly, it was the Middle East and Africa that altered their views of Israel, without compelling the latter to abandon its racist political doctrine. On the contrary, racism and apartheid in Israel are now even more integrated within the country’s official institutions than ever before. Moreover, Israel’s military occupation and siege of the West Bank and Gaza seem to accelerate at the same momentum as that of Arab and African normalization with Israel.

The now defunct Oslo Accords of 1993 served as a major pretense for many countries around the world, especially in the global South, to draw nearer to Israel. “If the Palestinians themselves have normalized with Israel, why shouldn’t we?” was the knee-jerk retort by politicians in various countries, in response to the advocates of the Palestinian boycott movement. This immoral and politically selective logic has been reinforced since the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco joined the camp of Arab normalizers in recent months.

While arguments that are predicated on moral values and shared history are, still, very much valid, making a case against normalization cannot rest entirely on ethical reasoning or sentimentalities. True, the shared anti-colonial past of Africa and the Arab world, especially that of Palestine, is uncontested. Still, some African countries did not side with the Arabs in their conflict with colonial Israel based on entirely moral and ideological arguments. Indeed, the Israel-Africa story has also been shaped by outright economic and business interests.

Africa’s significance for Israel has acquired various meanings throughout the years. Soon after Israel was established upon the ruins of historic Palestine, diplomatic ties between the newly-founded Israel and African countries became essential for Tel Aviv to break away from its geopolitical isolation in the region. That, in addition to the strategic importance of the Bab Al-Mandab Strait – separating Africa from the Arabian Peninsula and offering Israel breathing space through the Red Sea – gave Africa additional geostrategic significance.

In fact, on the eve of the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, 33 African countries had full diplomatic ties with Israel. Immediately following the war and in the run-up to the war of 1973, African countries abandoned Israel in large numbers, signaling the rise of an unprecedented Arab-African unity, which continued unhindered until the 1990s. It was then that Israel began, once more, promoting itself as a unique ally to Africa.

In recent years, Israel has accelerated its plans to exploit Africa’s many political and economic opportunities, especially as the continent is now an open ground for renewed global attention. The United States, the European Union, China, Russia and others are jockeying to win a piece of Africa’s massive wealth of material and human resources. Israel, too, as a regional power, is now part of this renewed ‘scramble for Africa’.

A statement by Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in 2016 that “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is returning to Israel,” should not be dismissed as another political hyperbole by the Israeli leader. One could even argue that Israel’s burgeoning political and economic ties with Africa are Netanyahu’s greatest achievements in recent years. More, diplomatic rapprochements with Muslim-majority African countries, such as Mali and Chad, have served as the backdoor entrance to African Arab Muslim countries, such as Sudan and Morocco.

There is more to Israel’s keen interest in Africa than mere business, of course. Since the US’ superpower status in the Middle East is being challenged by other global actors, namely Russia and China, Israel is actively trying to diversify its options, so it is not exclusively reliant on a single benefactor.

Now that Arab and Muslim countries are normalizing, whether openly or discreetly, with Israel, some African governments feel liberated from their previous commitment to Palestine, as they are no longer forced to choose between their Arab allies and Israel.

Solidarity with Palestine, in all traditional platforms, certainly stands to lose as a result of these seismic changes. Even the UN General Assembly is no longer a safe space for Palestinian solidarity.  For example, in the UN General Assembly Resolution titled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”, which was adopted on December 3, 2019, by 147 countries, 13 countries abstained from the vote. Unprecedentedly, several African countries including Cameroon, Rwanda, South Sudan and Malawi also abstained from the vote. The trend worsened a year later, on December 2, 2020, when more African countries abstained from voting on a similar resolution, with Cameroon, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, and even South Africa refusing to acknowledge what should have been a straightforward recognition of Palestinian rights.

Based on this disturbing trajectory, more such African countries are expected to either adopt a ‘neutral’ position on Palestine and Israel or, depending on the nature of their interests or the combined US-Israeli pressures, could potentially take Israel’s side in the future.

The Palestinian dichotomy rests on the fact that African solidarity with Palestine has historically been placed within the larger political framework of mutual African-Arab solidarity. Yet, with official Arab solidarity with Palestine now weakening, Palestinians are forced to think outside this traditional framework, so that they may build direct solidarity with African nations as Palestinians, without necessarily merging their national aspirations with the larger Arab body politic.

While such a task is daunting, it is also promising, as Palestinians now have the opportunity to build bridges of support and mutual solidarity in Africa through direct contacts, where they serve as their own ambassadors. Obviously, Palestine has much to gain, but also much to offer Africa. Palestinian doctors, engineers, civil defense and frontline workers, educationists, intellectuals and artists are some of the most recognized and accomplished in the Middle East; in fact,  in the world. Palestine must utilize its people’s tremendous energies and expertise in winning Africa back, not as a bargaining chip, but as a true and genuine attempt at reinvigorating existing solidarity between the Palestinians and the peoples of Africa.

Israel is trying to lure in Africa’s elites through business deals which, judging by previous experiences, could become a burden on African economies. Palestine, on the other hand, can offer Africa genuine friendship and camaraderie through many areas of meaningful cooperation which, in the long run, can turn existing historical and cultural affinities into deeper, more practical solidarity.

The post Beyond Slogans: Palestinians Need an Urgent, Centralized Strategy to Counter Israel in Africa first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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

December 8 came and went as if it were 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.

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

“Optimism of the Will”: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now

In a recent TV discussion, a respected pro-Palestine journalist declared that if any positive change or transformation ever occurs in the tragic Palestinian saga, it would not happen now, but that it would take a whole new generation to bring about such a paradigm shift.

As innocuous as the declaration may have seemed, it troubled me greatly.

I have heard this line over and over again, often reiterated by well-intentioned intellectuals, whose experiences in researching and writing on the so-called ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ may have driven some of them to pessimism, if not despair.

The ‘hopelessness discourse’ is, perhaps, understandable if one is to examine the off-putting, tangible reality on the ground: the ever-entrenched Israeli occupation, the planned annexation of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, the shameful Arab normalization with Israel, the deafening silence of the international community and the futility of the quisling Palestinian leadership.

Subscribing to this logic is not only self-defeating, but ahistorical as well. Throughout history, every great achievement that brought about freedom and a measure of justice to any nation was realized despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Indeed, who would have thought that the Algerian people were capable of defeating French colonialism when their tools of liberation were so rudimentary as compared with the awesome powers of the French military and its allies?

The same notion applies to many other modern historic experiences, from Vietnam to South Africa and from India to Cuba.

Palestine is not the exception.

However, the ‘hopelessness discourse’ is not as innocent as it may seem. It is propelled by the persisting failure to appreciate the centrality of the Palestinian people – or any other people, for that matter – in their own history. Additionally, it assumes that the Palestinian people are, frankly, ineffectual.

Interestingly, when many nations were still grappling with the concept of national identity, the Palestinian people had already developed a refined sense of modern collective identity and national consciousness. General mass strikes and civil disobedience challenging British imperialism and Zionist settlements in Palestine began nearly a century ago, culminating in the six-month-long general strike of 1936.

Since then, popular resistance, which is linked to a defined sense of national identity, has been a staple in Palestinian history. It was a prominent feature of the First Intifada, the popular uprising of 1987.

The fact that the Palestinian homeland was lost, despite the heightened consciousness of the Palestinian masses at the time, is hardly indicative of the Palestinian people’s ability to affect political outcomes.

Time and again, Palestinians have rebelled and, with each rebellion, they forced all parties, including Israel and the United States, to reconsider and overhaul their strategies altogether.

A case in point was the First Intifada.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of the Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s most crowded and poorest camp, the timing and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and necessary. Earlier that day, an Israeli truck had run over a convoy of cars carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, Gaza was, within days, the breeding ground for a real revolution that was self-propelled and unwavering. The chants of Palestinians in the Strip were answered in the West Bank, and echoed just as loudly in Palestinian towns, including those located in Israel.

The contagious energy was emblematic of children and young adults wanting to reclaim the identities of their ancestors, which had been horribly disfigured and divided among regions, countries and refugee camps.

The Intifada — literally meaning the “shake off” — sent a powerful message to Israel that the Palestinian people are alive, and are still capable of upsetting all of Israel’s colonial endeavors. The Intifada also confronted the failure of the Palestinian and Arab leaderships, as they persisted in their factional and self-seeking politics.

In fact, the Madrid Talks in 1991 between Palestinians and Israelis were meant as an Israeli – American political compromise, aimed at ending the Intifada in exchange for acknowledging the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a representative of the Palestinian people.

The Oslo Accords, signed by Yasser Arafat and Israel in 1993, squandered the gains of the Intifada and, ultimately, replaced the more democratically representative PLO with the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

But even then, the Palestinian people kept coming back, reclaiming, in their own way, their importance and centrality in the struggle. Gaza’s Great March of Return is but one of many such people-driven initiatives.

Palestine’s biggest challenge in the movement is not the failure of the people to register as a factor in the liberation of their own land, but their quisling leadership’s inability to appreciate the immense potential of harnessing the energies of Palestinians everywhere to stage a focused and strategic, anti-colonial, liberation campaign.

This lack of vision dates back to the late 1970s, when the Palestinian leadership labored to engage politically with Washington and other Western capitals, culminating in the pervading sense that, without US political validation, Palestinians would always remain marginal and irrelevant.

The Palestinian leadership’s calculations at the time proved disastrous. After decades of catering to Washington’s expectations and diktats, the Palestinian leadership, ultimately, returned empty-handed, as the current Donald Trump administration’s ‘Deal of the Century’ has finally proven.

I have recently spoken with two young Palestinian female activists: one is based in besieged Gaza and the other in the city of Seattle. Their forward-thinking discourse is, itself, a testament that the pessimism of some intellectuals does not define the thinking of this young Palestinian generation, and there would be no need to dismiss the collective efforts of this budding generation in anticipation of the rise of a ‘better’ one.

Malak Shalabi, a Seattle-based law student, does not convey a message of despair, but that of action. “It’s really important for every Palestinian and every human rights activist to champion the Palestinian cause regardless of where they are, and it is important especially now, ” she told me.

“There are currently waves of social movements here in the United States, around civil rights for Black people and other issues that are (becoming) pressing topics — equality and justice — in the mainstream. As Palestinians, it’s important that we (take the Palestinian cause) to the mainstream as well,” she added.

“There is a lot of work happening among Palestinian activists here in the United States, on the ground, at a social, economic, and political level, to make sure that the link between Black Lives Matter and Palestine happens,” she added.

On her part, Wafaa Aludaini in Gaza spoke about her organization’s – 16th October Group – relentless efforts to engage communities all over the world, to play their part in exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza and ending the protracted siege on the impoverished Strip.

“Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists outside are important because they make our voices heard outside Palestine, as mainstream media does not report (the truth of) what is taking place here,” she told me.

For these efforts to succeed, “we all need to be united,” she asserted, referring to the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora, and the entire pro-Palestinian solidarity movement everywhere, as well.

The words of Malak and Wafaa are validated by the growing solidarity with Palestine in the BLM movement, as well as with numerous other justice movements the world over.

On June 28, the UK chapter of the BLM tweeted that it “proudly” stands in solidarity with Palestinians and rejects Israel’s plans to annex large areas of the West Bank.

BLM went further, criticizing British politics for being “gagged of the right to critique Zionism and Israel’s settler-colonial pursuits”.

Repeating the claim that a whole new generation needs to replace the current one for any change to occur in Palestine is an insult – although, at times, unintended – to generations of Palestinians, whose struggle and sacrifices are present in every aspect of Palestinian lives.

Simply because the odds stacked against Palestinian freedom seem too great at the moment, does not justify the discounting of an entire nation, which has lived through many wars, protracted sieges and untold hardship. Moreover, the next generation is but a mere evolution of the consciousness of the current one. They cannot be delinked or analyzed separately.

In his “Prison Notebooks”, anti-fascist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci, coined the term “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

While logical analysis of a situation may lead the intellect to despair, the potential for social and political revolutions and transformations must keep us all motivated to keep the struggle going, no matter the odds.