Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A New Gimmick - Occupation With Equality

No serious observer of the Israeli political scene ascribes any significance whatsoever to a new highly publicized flurry of publications emanating from right wing circles. For the journalist, ever in search of a new angle, these circles are supposed to represent a sea change in basic attitudes regarding the rights of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories. The evidence for this is that a number of right wing politicians came out for a one state solution based on equal rights for the Palestinians. Of course, there is no real program, and not even the semblance of an organization. Just a rather quaint list of right wingers who seem to be willing to make some limited concessions on their way to the imposition of complete, sovereign, control of all of the land of Palestine, the Land of Israel.

The best guess as to the reason for this wave of sensitivity among right wing annexationists for “equal rights for the Palestinians” appears to be linked to the ‘legitimacy crisis”. The existence of such a crisis is now part of the received wisdom of Israeli political discourse. Many semi-official experts (PR people, pollsters, analysts) have joined forces to impress the public that the deligitimization of Israel is the greatest threat, bar none, to the very existence of Israel. This is of course a rather superficial way of looking at matters, but even so, anyone can see that there is some truth to it. Israeli policy and actions have destroyed the last vestiges of sympathy for Israel the whole world over. But official Israel would have Israel’s growing isolation seen as matter of imagery, public relations and unfair coverage.

There are some annexationist politicians intelligent enough to understand that they need some sort of answer to the obvious objection that they meet with regularly. People have asked them what is supposed to happen after the annexation of the territories. Therefore, it has occurred to some of them that they need an answer to the objections against pure Israeli control, and so they came up with the idea of Israeli citizenship for all. None of them see any need to grapple with the fact that they have turned their back on the principles of democracy and equality absolutely essential in addressing the basic rights of the Palestinians. The individuals concerned (a few leading lights of the right, several MK’s and a former minister) reject, without exception, any solution of the Palestinian refugee problem or the inclusion of Gaza and its people as part of the new one state entity. None of these people have ever uttered a word of compassion and regret regarding the imposition of decades of suffering and degradation on the Palestinians under occupation. You do not even have to read the fine print. It’s a gimmick from the beginning to the end and almost all readers’ responses noted that the “plan” is based on the unilateral imposition of a new form of occupation. One can be certain that the inevitable resistance to the ‘approaching unilateral generosity’ will be suppressed with the full might of the Israel Defense Forces.

This being clearly the situation, it was rather strange to see that a number of Palestinians and their friends rose to take the bait. One outstanding example is Ali Abunima*, the editor of the Electronic Intifada. Abunima makes almost every conceivable mistake as he totally misreads the map and the significance of the latest gimmick. Believe it or not, for Abunima, the print splashed on a weekend supplement is, no more and no less than an important sign that the Israeli occupation is crumbling. Not only the occupation, but the entire Zionist edifice is shaking to its foundations.

“This awakening can be likened to what happened among South African whites in the 1980s. By that time it had become clear that the white minority government's effort to "solve" the problem of black disenfranchisement by creating nominally independent homelands -- bantustans -- had failed. Pressure was mounting from internal resistance and the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

By the mid-1980s, whites overwhelmingly understood that the apartheid status quo was untenable and they began to consider "reform" proposals that fell very far short of the African National Congress' demands for a universal franchise -- one-person, one-vote in a nonracial South Africa.”*

This attempt at a parallel interpretation of current events and South Africa before the end of Apartheid is so far off base as to almost eliminate any need for rebuttal. First of all, it exhibits a total and complete misunderstanding of Israeli politics and the power structure in the country. Secondly, it shows a strange inability to analyze current reality. The South African ANC was basically united and enjoying international prestige and respect. Unfortunately, the movement for Palestinian national liberation is deeply divided, in a deep crisis and the Palestinian Authority has lost all authority. Part of the Palestinian cause has been literally taken over by the military and economic direct control and influence of the United States, which also acts as a surrogate for Israeli interests. The US and Europe in its wake refuse to impose any genuine curbs on Israeli control and expansion. I could go on and on, but Abumima’s entire conception is obviously dictated by wishful thinking. He is so enthusiastic over the meager incomplete reflections of a handful of chauvinist politicians that he is close to declaring victory. Sadly, he is hopelessly wrong and conceptual narrowness has led him far astray from genuine contact with political reality.

Abunima goes on to define this week end supplement gimmick as a major development furthering the cause of a one state solution.

You see, the Israeli right and the militant Palestinians really want the same thing. It is only a question of terminology.

“The proposals from the Israeli right-wing, however inadequate and indeed offensive they seem in many respects, add a little bit to that hope. They suggest that even those whom Palestinians understandably consider their most implacable foes can stare into the abyss and decide there has to be a radically different way forward.

We should watch how this debate develops and engage and encourage it carefully. In the end it is not what the solution is called that matters, but whether it fulfills the fundamental and inalienable rights of all Palestinians.”

One is left with deep concern that our “one staters” have become the last bulwark of sterile dogmatism. If Abunima sees the statements of this almost random collection of Israeli annexationists as a serious political development, he will be sorely disappointed. One has the impression that his opposition to a two state solution and his dislike of the Zionist left has seriously impaired his critical faculties.

*Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. This article first appeared on Al-Jazeera English and is republished with permission.