For previous blogs see our First Thursdays archive posted by year.
7 July 2022 4 items
1) According to their email of 29 June, the BDS Movement is still focussed on the West Bank. They rightly take French insurance company AXA to task for its investments in Israeli banks. They write that “a shareholder asked AXA management when it would end its support for the Israeli apartheid and settler colonial regime”. So far, so good, but this central organ of BDS then writes only of the fact that AXA is thus involved in “Israeli illegal settlements” – in the West Bank. What about the illegitimate – and perhaps even illegal – settlements in the 1948-occupied territories? The problem with this focus is that presumably, were Israel to withdraw from the 1967-occupied territories and treat the new rump-Palestine nicely, one would call of the boycott. But that contradicts the BDS Call of 2005, which includes ‘48’ and all the Palestinians in the diaspora.
2) The same criticism applies to the Good Shepherd Collective based in the South Hebron Hills. While it laudably calls itself “anti-Zionist”, by focussing on the West Bank it enables Zionism to get away with its divide-and-conquer approach. At this stage in the fight Zionists profit from the West-Bank-Gaza-Strip focus because the more attention we put there, the less attention and energy we have for the entire Zionist state, in all of historic Palestine, and its meaning for the ca. 7 million ethnically-cleansed Palestinians. The website is not clear whether by “Palestine” they mean all of ‘historic’ Palestine or just WBGS. Also, without argument they want to get away from the “binary discourse of ‘Israelis vs. Palestinians’”. Why would one want to get away from that accurate discourse?
3) All Palestinian leaders during the Mandate told the British time and time again that all they wanted was an independent, unpartitioned constitutional democracy. Perhaps the most eloquent advocates of this vision, which is simply ODS, was George Antonius. Susan Boyle’s excellent biography of Antonius, The Betrayal of Palestine (2001), writes that “he is… needed today as Palestinian-Israeli negotiations proceed without attention to first principles. The talks and solutions reflect the ongoing failure [on the Palestinian side] caused by lack of vision and of faith [, a] vision that could embrace and elevate, forgive and move, compensate and alleviate… Although demographics have changed, the country today hosts as much diversity as it did yesterday, and its need for institutions supporting democracy based on individual rather than communal rights is as great as ever.” Indeed, Antonius, along with Jamal al-Husseini, Musa Alami, Izzat Tannous and other heroes, continually lectured the British on the pitfalls of approaching Palestine’s future through the lens of Jewish and Palestinian collectives. They stood up for individual citizens’ rights, whether Moslem, Christian, Jews or Druze.
4) Another bit of history: When on 21 July 1937 the House of Commons was debating the recommendation of the Royal (‘Peel’) Commission to partition Palestine into sovereign Jewish and Arab states, Communist MP William Gallacher stood for Palestinian rights: “I rise as an absolute opponent of partition. I have heard Members talk about the Palestinians as though they had no right to Palestine, but we can never solve this question unless the basic right of the Palestinians to Palestine is understood right from the start. That is very important. There can be co-operation only if the Jewish people will recognise that basic right. But if you have a situation where the Zionists, who are not representing the interests of the Jewish people but who represent a particular political trend, say, ‘Yes, we will meet round a table with the Arabs,’ but always with the understanding that the Jews must get a majority in Palestine, to talk about meeting round a table is utterly futile. We have had people say in the House that in no circumstances will the Zionist movement consider anything else but a majority of Jews in Palestine. That can never bring us understanding. … Let the Zionists make an arrangement with the Arabs.” Can you imagine any politician anywhere – even in the West Bank or Gaza Strip! – today loudly acknowledging that Palestine belongs to the Palestinians? I can’t.
2 June 2022 3 items
1) U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Michigan, is not only Palestinian but supports one democratic state; see our entry of June 2020. (The only Palestinian U.K. MP, Layla Moran, by contrast supports the Zionist two-state solution and believes in Israel’s right to exist; see our entry of September 2019.) Precisely because she sticks to principles Tlaib is facing a well-funded AIPAC-backed opponent in the late-summer primaries, according to this report in Mondoweiss by Mitchell Plitnick. Whoever wins the primary is certain to go to Congress for this safe Democratic seat.
2) Further on the U.S. scene, Philip Weiss at Mondoweiss reports on polls by Pew and Shibley Telhami of U.S.-Americans’ attitudes towards Palestine, Israel, the two-state solution and both the one-Zionist-state and one-democratic-state visions. The article usefully shows exactly how the questions are formulated. Pew “found surprising support for one democratic state among Democrats”. But also that “30% of all U.S. adults say God gave the land that is now Israel to the Jewish people”. With God there is no rational argument, so how to settle a dispute?
3) Going back a century, exactly to 11 July 1919, one of Sherif Hussein’s sons, Emir Faisal, supported a unified democratic state in all of Syria against the (successful) British-French attempt to divide up Ash-Sham and deny democracy in its Palestinian, Transjordanian, Lebanese and rump-Syrian parts – just as the two-state solution today attempts for Palestine alone. Ever since the 1850s, he said to Palestine Military Governor Gilbert Clayton, “the Syrians desire to establish a Democratic Government on the decentralisation principle, safeguarding the rights of minorities and maintaining local traditions”. This is in the British National Archives’ file FO 371/4181. Faisal was not alone: the Syrians, including the Southern Syrians (Palestinians) virtually unanimously supported this vision.
5 May 2022 4 items
1) Two more reports accuse Israel of apartheid: First, according to Mondoweiss of 5 April 2022, Harvard Law School’s “human rights clinic in partnership with Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association” claims the Zionist entity practices apartheid “on the West Bank”. Second, the “United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Michael Lynk,” reported to the “UN Human Rights Council on March 21, 2022” that it practices apartheid in “in the occupied Palestinian territory”. Both are anti-climactic in covering only the 1967-occupied territories, ignoring the 1948-occupied territories as well as the slight majority of Palestinians who do not live in either area. In this they fall behind the reports of Richard Falk & Virginia Tilley (2017) and Amnesty International (2022) – see our entries for February 2021, July 2021, and February 2022. In their blindness to the facts that Israel also occupies ‘Israel’ and that the crime of apartheid hits the 7,000,000+ Palestinians in the diaspora, these two studies arguably contribute to the problem as well as to the solution.
2) The Balfour Project - https://balfourproject.org - will hold webinars on 17 & 18 May 2022 featuring Ghada Karmi, Hanan Ashrawi, Leila Sansour, Michael Lynk, Avi Shlaim and Rory Stewart MP. Topic: the Mandate, which resulted in the partition of Palestine and destroyed the possibility of what the Palestinians during the thirty Mandate years demanded: a united and independent Palestine with a proportional-representative, democratic government (ODS) – see next entry just below. The group’s two aims are: 1) “Acknowledging Britain’s historic and continuing responsibilities to uphold equal rights for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples through popular education and advocacy”; and 2) “To persuade the British Government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.” The Balfour Project is a two-state group through and through, with almost exclusively British, non-Palestinian Board members and Advisors.
3) One of several dozen examples of Palestinians during the Mandate presenting their demand for a normal democratic state were the resolutions of the Palestine Women’s Congress of 26-29 October 1929, which the women presented in person to High Commissioner John Chancellor in Jerusalem. They rejected with no ifs or buts the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, and demanded “a National Government, responsible before a Representative Council in which the population will be represented in proportion to their numerical strength”. Among their many other lobbying attempts, with the same message, they sent resolutions on 28 January 1932 to the Permanent Mandates Commission in Geneva. The delegation refused the coffee Chancellor offered them. Present were Mrs. Mogannam E.T. Mogannam, Anbara Khalidi, Mme Zakiyya al-Husayni, Mrs. Awni Abdul Hadi, and others, including some of the following members: President Madame Dr. Khalidi; Treasurer, Miss Shahinda Duzdar. Members: Mesdames Jamal Husseini, Musa Alami, Shukry Deeb, Boulos Shihadeh, Subhi El Khadra; Misses Zahia Nashashibi, Fatma Husseini, Khadijah Husayni, Zleigha Shihabi. The Congress had branches in Jerusalem, Acre, Nazareth, Haifa, Yaffa, Ramallah, Tulkarem, and Safed.
4) On 4 May 2022 the Jewish Network for Palestine did a webinar, hosted by long-time ODS supporter Haim Bresheeth, discussing Jonathan Kuttab’s book Beyond the Two-State Solution. It was recorded and will soon be available on the JNP’s website. Kuttab by no means denies the ethical, political and historical assymetry and inequality between the claims and rights of the two sides, but believes only “relative” justice can be attained and thus proposes a constitutional one-democratic-state structure which in effect treats both sides as equally. He supports the Right of Return and also, in effect, Israel’s Law of Return – any Jew should be able to emigrate to Palestine. It is difficult to understand his concept of “a Jewish state that’s not exclusively Jewish” and “an Arab state that is not exclusively Arab”, but that is a minor criticism. His physical book can be bought, or the electronic version is free online.
7 April 2022 3 items
1) Longtime ODS supporter Jafar Ramini, who lives in London, back in October 2021 posted a timeless and heartfelt plea for the reclamation of his homeland.
2) The Jewish Insider on 11 March covered a hot speech given to the Woman’s National Democratic Club of Washington, D.C. by Paul O’Brien, Amnesty USA’s Director. The talk focussed on the political opinions of US-American Jews, not Palestinians. Journalist Gabby Deutch correctly interprets Amnesty’s recent identification of Israel as an apartheid state as amounting to the belief that “the Jewish state does not have a right to exist”, while O’Brien says only that Israel “shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state”. Deutch also says US Jews do not want the “one-state solution” implicitly supported by Amnesty. Whether the state in Palestine that is presently Jewish would still be ‘Israel’ if it were no longer Jewish and apartheid, is a question not delved into.
3) Under the auspices of our ODS group, young academic, journalist and author Yousef Aljamal on 8 March interviewed veteran ODS supporters Mohammad El-Helu (Ramallah) and Mazin Qumsiyeh (Bethlehem) in Arabic.
3 March 2022 3 items
1. As John Quigley from a lawyer’s point of view succinctly wrote on 11 February in Politics Today, Israel is One (literally criminal) Apartheid State. ODS wants to replace the ‘Apartheid’ with ‘Democratic’, with the demos including all former citizens of mandatory Palestine and their descendants. See also our entry of 3 February 2022.
2. Phil Weiss in Mondoweiss on 18 February writes about the two-state solution “lie” which U.S. Democrats keep telling themselves. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, in the House of Lords nine months ago, similarly fell back on the unjust, unpeaceful two-state solution – in an otherwise passionate pro-Palestinian speech. This ideology, which erases the Palestinians in Israel and in the diaspora, has gotten the Palestinians nowhere – on the contrary.
3. One of the best books on Palestine has since 2008 been Palestine Inside Out by ODS supporter Saree Makdisi, Professor of English Literature at UCLA. Now he has written a new one, Tolerance Is a Wasteland. Compare the less incisive sweeping histories by Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University, who does not support ODS (The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, 2020), and Enemies and Neighbours by Zionist Ian Black, long-time Guardian journalist now at home at the London School of Economics.
3 February 2022 7 items
1) Amnesty International’s exposure of Israel as an apartheid state is 280 pages long, but Yumna Patel in Mondoweiss on 1 February published an outstanding summary. She points out that Amnesty has here gone a laudable step farther than the similar reports of early 2021 by Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem (see our entries for 6 May 2021 and 1 July 2021) in including in the concept ‘apartheid’ Israel’s treatment of the millions of refugees Israel won’t allow to return to Palestine; in this, of course, Amnesty follows and references the groundbreaking study of Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley in 2016/17 (see our entry for February 2021). To be sure, the HRW report did list among Israel’s “abuses” its “not permitting the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in 1948 and their descendants to return to Israel”, but this is given only miniscule space in the report. Patel gives space as well to Palestinian human-rights expert Rania Muhareb to criticise the Amnesty report for omitting any serious discussion or criticism of Zionism itself, which is inherently apartheid.
2) Rania Muhareb’s analysis of Amnesty’s report also emphasises that “it signals a shift in long-term human rights policy towards Palestine, from one focused on the Israeli occupation since 1967 to one encompassing the Palestinian people as a whole. This includes Palestinian refugees…”. She also, in contrast to Patel’s piece and the Amnesty report itself, references Falk and Tilley’s 2016/17 study (see just above). She points out that Amnesty “fails to recognise the Palestinian people’s collective right to self-determination” (in all of Palestine, of course).
3) Ghada Karmi in the Middle East Eye on 20 January, in an article sub-titled “Reclaiming all of Palestine, not just the 1967 territories, should be a top priority for Palestinians everywhere”, pleas with Palestinians to seek citizenship in Israel – as she has done numerous times, e.g. in Loewenstein & Moor’s After Zionism, on Open Democracy, in the London Review of Books and for Al Jazeera. (see our entries of September 2019, January 2020 and November 2021). She notes that this would be true emulation of the ANC’s successful tactic against apartheid South Africa. This move would not close the doors to finishing the project of a single democratic state, for with “political rights [and] representation in parliament” there would emerge “eventually an immigration policy that could admit Palestinian refugees”. She shows understanding for the largely emotional reasons why many Palestinians don’t want to pursue this path, but finishes by saying of this “reclaiming” of all of Palestine: “If that can come only through Israeli citizenship, then so be it.”
4) Karmi also cites a 6 January Washington Post article by Mairav Zonszein advising Israel to “grant the right to citizenship, full equality and enfranchisement of all those living under [its] control, at least until a genuine negotiated solution is back on the table”. Since Zonszein doesn’t mention the 7 million Palestinians seeking return, she presumably does not, in contrast to Falk and Tilley (see just above), regard them as also under Israel’s “control”. She also sees “Israel’s internationally recognized 1948 borders” as OK and legitimate, so her position comes down to the soft-Zionist two-state solution.
5) The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) on 28 January published a moving interview of very-longtime ODS supporter, filmmaker and professor Haim Bresheeth. It is truly inspiring.
6) For those interested in opinions of Gazans and West Bankers on the one-democratic-state versus two-state solutions, a recent one (scroll down to Poll No. 98) by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung shows diminishing support for the latter. Unfortunately, the poll’s pertinent question – Q11 – speaks only of a “bi-national” option to two states and reports many Palestinians’ support for an undefined “Palestinian state”. Not least because Gazans and West Bankers are numerically not even half the total Palestinian population, we are none the wiser.
7) A bit off-topic: Al Jazeera recently posted a 47-minute documentary called ‘Palestine 1920’. It is excellent, with wonderful visual material, but I have no idea why they chose Ian Black, the Zionist former Guardian editor, as their British interlocutor. I would love to see Black in head-to-head conversation with one of the main Palestinian interlucutors, the 91-year-old Ismail Abu Shehadeh, who grew up in Jaffa and experienced the theft of his homeland first-hand. Sadly, as Al Jazeera writes in the closing frames, “Eyewitness Ismail Abu Shehadeh died soon after he recorded his interview for this programme.” Also analysing from the Palestinian side are renowned historians Johnny Mansour and Bayan al-Hout, an ODS supporter and longtime Beirut resident.
6 January 2022 5 items
1) Henry Cattan (1906-1992) of Jerusalem, lawyer and advisor to the (Palestinian) Arab Higher Committee and the Arab UN-member states while UNSCOP was other-determining Palestine’s future in 1947, upheld before the General Assembly’s ‘First Committee’ the ODS position espoused by the Palestinian leadership ever since at least 1921. This 11-minute video captures the essence of what he told them on 9 May, not a week before Israel’s usurpation of Palestine. His full testimony (search for ‘Kattan’) contained a remark relevant to today’s non-sensical conflation of Palestine liberation with antisemitism: “The problem was not an Arab-Jewish problem. Arab opposition to Jewish immigration would be equally strong against any group attempting to force immigrants into the country against the will of the Arabs.”
2) Mondoweiss founder and editor Phil Weiss on 2 January 2022 wrote a heartfelt plea for his fellow internationals, specifically in his own Jewish community, to support “one democratic state”. The article’s title is ‘If you had a Palestinian child – could you support the “2-state solution”?’ He answers, “I’m sure the answer is No.” Further: “I wonder if this is the year when the two-state solution finally dies in Washington.”
3) 350,000 Palestinians live in Chile, most of them presumably supporters of Club Deportivo Palestino football team and also of newly-elected President Gabriel Boric. The Palestine Chronicle on 22 December 2021 reported this good news: “The 35-year-old – who called Israel a “murderous state” – has previously campaigned for a boycott of goods, services and products from illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.” He has called on Israel “to return the illegally occupied Palestinian territory.” But can Boric go farther than this partition rhetoric, perhaps joining U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for the actual end of the murderous state (see our entry for June 2020)? Will he even stick to his soft-Zionist position in the face of the Zionist lobby?
4) Speaking of Rashida Tlaib, her fellow Michigan Congressperson Andy Levin has introduced a bill called the ‘Two-State Solutions Act’ to officially back the destructive partition of Palestine. Despite that, so this article, the two are friends although Tlaib “opposes Israel’s existence as a Jewish state”.
5) Is the UN ‘Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process’, who is firmly stuck in the UN’s two-state paradigm and allied with the so-called ‘Middle East Quartet’ (the U.S., the U.N, the EU and Russia), part of the solution or part of the problem? The ‘peace process’ is after all an Oslo term which incorrectly presupposes two legitimate and equal combattants facing off against each other. In this briefing given by Coordinator Tor Wennesland to the Security Council on 19 October 2021, the penultimate paragraph implores the world to return “back to genuine negotiations and end the occupation and allow for the realization of a two-State solution, on the basis of 1967 lines, international law, UN resolutions, and previous agreements.” This is the solution?
2 December 2021 3 items
1) The ideology of the new Palestine-Liberation movement Masar Badil (Alternative Path), which was simultaneously founded on 30 October in Madrid, Saõ Paolo and Beirut, is almost identical to that of ODS. On 29 November, the 74th anniversary of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 giving faux-legitimacy to a Jewish state on 55% of the land of historic Palestine, Masar Badil wrote this letter to the UN Secretary General. A report on the Madrid conference of this new organisation appeared in the Palestine Chronicle of 10 November, and another one appeared in Middle East Monitor of 17 November.
2) On 14 November at Bethlehem University a panel discussed ‘The Struggle for a Democratic State in Historic Palestine – consisting of Munir Nuseibah, Jonathan Kuttab, Lamis Deek, Miko Peled, Jeff Halper and Claudia Chaufon. It was organised by the International Manifesto Group, which perhaps will upload a recording of the discussion.
3) Check out this one-democratic-state group which is abbreviated as ODSP and since 2018 works for “One Democratic State of Palestine for its indigenous people, the refugees who we were forced out of the country and its current citizens.” They urge a re-unification of Palestinian forces under a single-democratic-state ideology before the single state can be founded, and “believe in the need to withdraw completely from farcical negotiations with the colonial entity” which “the old Palestinian leadership” continues to do, serving only “regression”.
4 November 2021 5 items
1) Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the UN on 24 September pleading with the international community to save the two-state solution, which Israel is torpedoing. He said if the Zionist world powers don’t free the West Bank and Gaza Strip soon, ‘Palestinians’ (not necessarily he himself) would demand a normal democracy between the river and the sea. Of course he didn’t mention the refugees. And why does he want the Palestinian state to be on the 1967 borders, not the 1947 ones?
2) Ghada Karmi back on 16 July 2020 wrote in Open Democracy that the next step in the liberation of Palestine should be exactly what Abbas ‘threatened’ the UN with: equal rights for all those now living in Palestine. She originally advocated for this in her chapter in the 2012 Loewenstein & Moor anthology After Zionism and at the 2013 Stuttgart ODS conference, and will expand on it in her chapter in the forthcoming anthology edited by Ramzy Baroud and Ilan Pappe. The idea seems to be that after that is achieved, new majorities can start to work on enabling the return of the refugees as citizens.
3) Blake Alcott wrote an appeal in the Palestine Chronicle for a Call for ODS, patterned on the 2005 Call for BDS, to be sent out by Palestinians only. The ODS vision, already popular among international solidarity activists, could resound within general Western opinion, leading the pro-Zionist governments on which Israel still depends to re-think things. The article asks Palestinians whether they really mean it when encouraging activists to chant the well-known slogan at rallies, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ – a slogan blatantly inconsistent with any two-state solution.
4) Back to the bankrupt mainstream, just to check the pulse of power and watch its oh-so-reasonable face: the Middle East Policy Council interviewed one Perry Cammack, apparently a high-up in Washington policy circles, who argues that in Palestine ‘both peoples are equal’, mentions ‘one state’ ambiguously without mention of Right of Return or ODS, defends Israel’s right to defend itself and co-opts the ‘rights-based approach’ for the goal of a two-state solution.
5) For hope and refreshment, take a look at this 2012 report by BADIL and Zochrot on their research-on-the-ground into the modalities of Return. Working with both indigenous Palestinians and colonial settlers, they ask the tough questions: ‘How, for instance, is return to materialize to a village whose inhabitants numbered less than two thousand before the Nakba, and who now number in the tens of thousands? Are the descendants of large landowners to return to bountiful properties, while the many more descendants of workers, sharecroppers and tenant farmers to return to no property at all? Is what remains of Palestine’s terraced hillsides to be turned into concrete jungles of parceled out houses over which present and future heirs can differ? What will be the fate of a productive factory that lies on the land of Palestinian returnees?’ We need answers if we are to explain ODS (+ RoR) to the public.