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After the elections, the Palestinians must scare Israel into ending the occupation

Our post-election depression comes from being reminded that an end to tyranny and inevitable war is as distant as ever. It’s time for new ideas – or old ideas that haven’t been tried.

Well, that was fun. And now it’s over, and who really cares whether Yair Lapid becomes minister of this or minister of that; the twin elephants of tyranny over the Palestinians and the inevitability of war are still in the living room, and if anything, the country seems more determined than before to pretend they aren’t there.

For those who do see those elephants, there’s a sense of let-down, of anti-climax: all that excitement for nothing. It’s post-election depression, caused by the realization that after all the excitement over Da’am or Meretz or Hadash or whoever, an end to the tyranny and the automatic wars remains so damn far away. After all the excitement, we’re back to normal with a thud, and we remember with depressing clarity that this gradualism isn’t working, that it plays right into Israel’s hands, and that something has to change. So I think it’s time to forget the election, to treat the formation of the government as entertainment at most, and think anew about how to force the change, how to uproot the status quo.

I keep coming back to one conclusion: Israel isn’t going to do it, and the West isn’t going to force Israel’s hand, certainly not now. It’s up to the Palestinians. That’s not fair, but that’s reality.

The best that I or any other non-Palestinian can do is offer ideas and support for supportable Palestinian goals and tactics. And it seems to me that the Palestinians have to scare the shit out of this country, and the best ways I’ve heard of to do that are 1) taking Israel to The Hague, and 2) demanding Israeli citizenship for the 4 million-plus Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Regarding the first tactic, taking Israel to the International Criminal Court, the Palestinian Authority would face a backlash from the United States, and very possibly a cutoff of U.S. funds. But at some point, the Obama administration would be disgraced, while the Palestinians would gain huge international political support (and probably money). Punishing the Palestinians for taking their case to the world’s highest arbiter of justice is a losing proposition for Obama, and it seems he’s decided he no longer has to lose just to make AIPAC happy.

To those who warn that Israel could retaliate by taking the Palestinians to the ICC over terrorism, I’d like to see that happen, because then the Palestinians could retort with the pre-state record of Begin’s Irgun, Shamir’s Lehi and the mainstream Ben-Gurionist Haganah and Palmach, which between them committed scores upon scores of terror attacks against British officials and soldiers as well as Arab civilians (and in Lehi’s case, the assassination of the UN envoy to the Middle East, Count Folke Bernadotte). If such a trial gained international attention, it would be devastating to Israel’s claim of self-defense against terror. So I think the Palestinians have the winning hand over Israel and the U.S. at The Hague.

About the second tactic, a collective Palestinian demand for Israeli citizenship, this is what Ehud Olmert said about it in 2007:  ”If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”

Here’s the scenario Jeffrey Goldberg envisioned two months ago were Mahmoud Abbas to say that if the Palestinians couldn’t have independence, what they wanted from Israel was democracy – citizenship in the country where they lived.

Reaction would be seismic and instantaneous. The demand for voting rights would resonate with people around the world, in particular with American Jews, who pride themselves on support for both Israel and for civil rights at home. Such a demand would also force Israel into an untenable position; if it accedes to such a demand, it would very quickly cease to be the world’s only Jewish-majority state, and instead become the world’s 23rd Arab-majority state. If it were to refuse this demand, Israel would very quickly be painted by former friends as an apartheid state.

I don’t quote Olmert and Goldberg as political or moral pathfinders, but as people who know something about Israel’s place in the world – and when they say a Palestinian demand for Israeli citizenship is a political weapon of frightful power, they should be listened to.

I wish all 300,000 or so Palestinians in East Jerusalem would take out Israeli citizenship right now; they don’t have to demand that right, it’s theirs under Israeli law. Imagine what would happen if they did so and declared their intention to use their numbers – which give them nearly 40% of the “unified capital’s” population – to gain power in City Hall. Moreover, imagine if all 4 million-plus Palestinians declared their intention to join with 1.7 million Israeli Arabs as citizens to gain power in the Knesset.

Everyone understands the Palestinians’ reluctance to give up their demand for independence and instead insist on their democratic rights within Israel, which is the sovereign power over every inch of land they live on, including the Gaza Strip. But to use the title of Goldberg’s blog, this is “the quickest path to Palestinian independence,” because it would terrify Israel into giving up the occupation and leaving the settlers to decide where they wanted to live, in Israel or Palestine.

And if it didn’t do the trick, then Israel, as Olmert said, would get the full South Africa treatment, and not just on a few dozen college campuses. The world’s reaction would be a catastrophe for this country. And in the end, that reaction would save Israel and the Palestinians, just like the South African treatment saved that country’s whites and non-whites.

None of these ideas, of course, are mine – the notion of taking Israel to The Hague, of demanding Israeli citizenship, and of East Jerusalemites implementing their right to citizenship, all were first raised by Palestinians. I just want to throw in my two cents by saying they sound real promising, they do not get anyone killed, they do not require the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority and the imposition of new hardships on the people, and, again, they do not mean the end of Palestine but rather the hastening of its arrival.

Finally, these tactics haven’t been tried yet, while the ones that have been tried – mainly terror and conciliation – have not worked. By taking the peaceful and legal yet radical route outlined above, the Palestinians, it seems to me, have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. The Trespasser

      >To those who warn that Israel could retaliate by taking the Palestinians to the ICC over terrorism, I’d like to see that happen, because then the Palestinians could retort with the pre-state record of Begin’s Irgun, Shamir’s Lehi and the mainstream Ben-Gurionist Haganah and Palmach,

      The only difference is that Palestinian Arab terrorists are still pretty much alive, while Jewish terrorists are dead or too senile. However I wouldn’t mind if ICJ would put Peres behind bars.

      Reply to Comment
    2. The Trespasser

      I’ve never heard of that Goldberg guy, but I have to say that he hardly has any understating of the situation.

      The problem is not citizenship for 4 000 000 Palestinian Arabs in WB and Gaza – it is the RoR, which Israel will never grant, and Palestinians will never drop.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      (1) will have about as much of an impact as the ICJ ruling against the separation barrier. It is about as earth-shattering as the Palestinian run at the UNGA.

      (2) is an empty threat. The Palestinians can demand whatever they want. If it isn’t within a framework for resolving the dispute it will be ignored by international policy makers and it is pretty obvious that a demand for a one state is not going to lead to any kind of resolution.

      The Israeli (and American) responses to either of these would be to collapse the Palestinian Authority which would let Hamas become the primary Palestinian leadership. If the PA isn’t going to sign the piece of paper then the value in its continued existence is low. If it is going to continue to pursue hostile actions against Israel then it is preferable to take them out of the picture entirely.

      The argument that money and support would come from somewhere out there and the PA shouldn’t be concerned by the cutoff in American or Israeli transfers is also unconvincing given that it has been tested in the past few months and as the employees of the PA will attest, proven wrong.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Michael W.

      @Larry Derfner,
      (1) First, the ICC has no jurisdiction over events that have taken place before July 1, 2002. Second, the ICC can only prosecute individuals. Third, why would Palestine get any money? The Arabs have shown that they won’t do it, the Europeans won’t do it because then it would set a precedent to prosecute NATO.
      (2) If the Palestinians do ask for Israeli citizenship, it would mock the entire history of Palestinian nationalism. Wouldn’t that piss off many of their supporters for leading them the wrong way for so long? Regardless, I have yet to see any such demand by a Palestinian representative.

      Reply to Comment
      • leen

        That would not explain the yugoslavia tribunals nor the Rwandan ones as both have occurred pre-2002.

        Reply to Comment
        • Michael W.

          What’s your point?

          Reply to Comment
    5. Aaron Gross

      It’s already been pointed out that the ICC tries natural persons, not states.

      Olmert is not exactly a deep thinker on international politics. Goldberg comes up with some great one-liners, and I like his Jewish schtick, but, well, Norman Finkelstein said it best: Goldberg has no political instinct whatsoever. Either you have a feel for politics or you don’t, and Goldberg doesn’t.

      To those who talk about a Palestinian demand for Israeli citizenship, I say: Just stop and think about what you’re saying. Think it through. Think.

      Reply to Comment
    6. ronit kory

      how about palestine giving palestinian citizenship to the settlers instead of the other way around? 300,000 green IDs in the mail. it would at least turn some heads.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Danny

      Going to the ICC is not really an option because the U.S. would never allow the court to act. However, demanding equal rights for all residents of Greater Israel most certainly is an option, one that will likely be exercised sooner or later. The reason the Palestinians haven’t done that yet is because Israel’s contractor in the West Bank – namely, the P.A. – will never willingly throw in the towel and relinquish their power over the Palestinian population; they enjoy too many privileges to do that. What must happen first is a “Palestinian Spring” to rid themselves of their old corrupt collaborationist leaders and essentially hand back to Israel the responsibility of handling the day-to-day welfare of 2.5 million people. If that happens, Israel will be forced to either find new collaborators to contract Palestinian welfare out to, or else to give up entirely and finally quit the West Bank.
      .
      We can only hope that after Abbas’ eventual passing (he’s pushing 80), no other leader takes his place, and the P.A. simply folds. But trust Israel to find a replacement puppet that will take his place; the Palestinian people must reject all replacements, violently if necessary.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Yaron

      Sorry, Larry, but these are all just ways to push some lever. But where should it bring us? What solution will this bring forward? And do these pushes bring back trust between the two parties? I am afraid they do the opposite. If there is not a final solution anywhere around, these pushes are useless. It will only harden the frost of the existing situation. There are still way too many ‘buts’ around, when it comes to negotiations. Some we may never have heard of. And, btw, there are still way too many Gazans that prefer to ‘scare the hell’ out of Israeli’s by shooting rockets instead of demanding passports.
      Any Israeli government still has truckloads of excuses to occupy, despite all the protests.

      Reply to Comment
    9. For me, the most compelling reason for the PA to ask the ICC for standing are the regular reports on 972 of the death or maiming of young Palestinians. Most clearly, The State has shown no interest in altering effective command and control on the ground, nor bringing trigger fingers to justice. While no arrests could be made (assuming the ICC goes that way), the right to life would find a jurisdiction. As to reciprocal call for prosecution of Palestinians by Israel in the ICC–I’m all for it.

      Israel has managed to sever Gaza from the West Bank; that is, progress on the Bank no longer entails progress in Gaza. The Right of Return is a symbolic mechanism for linking refugees beyond these two locals into a nation. Asking for Israeli citizenship sunders this imagined nation, and nationalism is one of the few tools on the ground (religion being another). As I have said elsewhere on 972, if Israel annexes something, it must grant, at birth, citizenship for all born after the annexation. Citizenship is a check on the State, not a lure for the State. As long as Israel continues to frame Palestinians, citizens or not, in its de jure jurisdiction as cattle, it abolishes, as applied, real democracy. And, sadly, this is the what a majority of Israeli Jews seem to want.

      Reply to Comment
      • They can theoretically try Israelis in the ICC for allegedly criminal deaths of Palestinians, as you say, but the ICC was also set up with the occupation specifically in mind. The Rome Statute lists among “war crimes” the following: “[t]he transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies….” [emphasis added]. It’s been noted that the emphasized phrase was aimed right straight at Israel and its interpretation the word “transfer” in the Geneva Convention. So, theoretically, any Israeli official responsible for, say, the E-1 building project, could be tried by the ICC for war crimes under the Rome Statute.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Accordingly to the Rome Stature, Israel had a right to bomb the Shifa hospital in Gaza strip during Cast Lead:

          “Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives;”

          Highly arguable violation of one single paragraph of the Stature is hardly enough to cause any serious consequences, especially in the light of fact that current conflict predated both Statute and Geneva conventions, which means that the very jurisdiction of these documents is questionable.

          Reply to Comment
          • directrob

            Jus cogens

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Military and security needs have priority over “humanitarian concerns”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Michael W.

            I wouldn’t classify it as matter of priorities, but a balance that uses the principles of distinction and proportionality (which doesn’t mean what most people think it means).

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Most people don’t think at all, which is why we need religion and laws.

            Reply to Comment
          • directrob

            There are universally accepted legal criteria that are prevalent in customary international law, but not present in Article 51, namely, the requirements of necessity and proportionality.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            “Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives;”

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            Under international humanitarian law, you cannot target military targets that are not currently engaged in combat. So the assassination of Ahmad Jabari was illegal.

            Now if we follow the premise that it IS permissible to target military personnels/combatants while not currently engaged in combat, you can then argue that it is permissible to fire rockets into Israel as with the exception of children under the age of 18, people over the age of 45 and ultra orthodox, all people are military personnels (reservists, current soldiers, commanders, whatever), therefore it is permissible to kill them while they are not engaged in combat.

            Because I heavily disagree with this premise and find it immoral and unethical, there is a reason why International Humanitarian law is in place. Which means targetting news stations that MIGHT have hosted a Hamas commander or journalists conducting interviews with Hamas spokesman is illegal and unethical, IF the Hamas commander/spokesman is not currently engaged in combat.

            This also applied to schools, hospitals, and mosques. If there are Hamas members/leaders/military personnels around and they are not engaged in combat, then it is against IHL to target these places. And according from footage (not submitted from the IDF), most of the combatting seems to emit from open fields near the borders of Gaza.

            Reply to Comment
        • Aaron, I’m not gleeful over trying Israelis in absentia in the ICC; nor even in having convictions which produce international arrests warrants limiting the travel options of Israelis, especially young soldiers, if that came about. But something must be done; the life violations must be called to account. The ICC is a way of keeping faith in justice alive. If arrests warrants ever are issued, it is the cavalier attitude of several Israeli governments and IDF commanders which will have eventuated such.

          Palestinians in the Bank must have this minor redress in justice. My belief in the concept of jurisdiction demands it. As Madison over here said long ago, “every right must have a remedy.” And this is a rather weak one.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            I am presuming that you would like to apply your principles globally. Do you really think that the occasional death during confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian rioters should be the highest priority for the ICC?

            Reply to Comment
          • Excuse me for jumping in for Greg, but the problem isn’t confined to the “occasional” Palestinian death, any more than the problem of anti-Semitism is confined to the, shall we say, hardly noticeable number of Jewish deaths. There’s also this little matter of Israel’s theft of a country and subjugation of a nation.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Compared to various other conflicts raging in the world, yes, refering to the occasional Palestinian death is entirely accurate.

            I have no idea what you are talking about in the rest of your post. What country? Stolen from who? Is this a reference to some magical Palestinian country that the history books forgot to record?

            Reply to Comment
          • FrankW

            I think this discussion concentrates too much on the side issues (sorry, I know killing people isn’t a matter of little import, but in the end it is a consequence rather than a fundamental cause) and too little on the primary one: the establishment of peace and a modus vivendi between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

            At the moment there is precious little that points to a way forward on this, but not thinking about/not discussing it won’t help much either.

            Reply to Comment
    10. Reuel

      Arabs tried using Wars.
      Then “oil weapon”. Now Israel has found own oil and gas soon.
      They tied rockets – now Israel has “iron dome”.
      Iran wants to use Nuclear bombs. Even then Israel will destroy it.

      Abbas terms expired in 2009 and he himself is too scared to even stand for reelection.

      Reply to Comment
    11. meron

      Michael W,
      I agree with Derfner, but you made two good points.
      True, if the Palestinians do ask for Israeli citizenship, it would mock the entire history of Palestinian nationalism. That’s why many Pals in East Jerusalem prefer to have a permanent residentship (btw, I would do the same if I were a Pal). This would legitimize a unilateral an illegal act.
      I do believe that in this respect Derfner wanted to make a simple provocation.
      .
      As for your first point, everybody knows that ICC can only prosecute individuals. When you read “Israel” you should think about “Israeli leaders”, the people that materially push for the colonization of the Palestinian Territories and the humiliation of millions of human beings.
      True, the ICC has no jurisdiction over events that have taken place before July 1, 2002. But we don’t have to go back to the Stern gang to find some forms of terrorism in the Israeli side. Just ask to Izzeldin Abuelaish what terrorism really is.
      The real point is that there is an occupier and an “occupied”. All the rest comes afterwards.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >The real point is that there is an occupier and an “occupied”.

        Unwillingly, you said half of the truth.

        Indeed, there is an “occupier” and an “occupied”.

        Reply to Comment
    12. Ran Ever-Hadani

      As to the demand that Israel annex the WB and grant voting rights to its inhabitants, Israel will only be to happy to comply – on it’s own terms of course. Namely, it will annex most of area C, and renounce its claim for the rest. At that point we will be back to square one, namely the dispute over borders, and we already know that the world will do nothing about that.

      Reply to Comment
    13. meron

      “on it’s own terms of course”: as usual

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Yes. Normally, the victorious party is making terms.

        Oh, I know that you would looove to sea Jews losing.

        Hey, why won’t you help them?

        Go to Ramallah and try to persuade locals that they should live in peace with Jews. Please.

        Reply to Comment
    14. meron

      “Oh, I know that you would looove to sea Jews losing”:
      No, I would love to see Israeli like you to acknowledge the right of the Palestinians to self-determinate their future and to live a dignitous life. Until the day in which there will be around so many people like you with their settler mentality we will never have peace.
      .
      “Go to Ramallah and try to persuade locals that they should live in peace with Jews”:
      I spent enough in the West Bank to tell you that if you were a Palestinian in the West Bank you would become crazy. But you live in your little bubble, that you brought from Russia or wherever else: you will never understand such a feeling.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >No, I would love to see Israeli like you to acknowledge the right of the Palestinians to self-determinate their future and to live a dignitous life.

        Palestinian Arabs have a full right to self-determine their future as long as it does not interfere with the same right of other ethnicities.

        >Until the day in which there will be around so many people like you with their settler mentality we will never have peace.

        I see. So I represent entire problem, while Hamas militants, for example, who sworn to destroy Israel, are not part of the problem at all.

        I rarely see people as full of shit as you are. Revitalizing experience it is.

        >I spent enough in the West Bank to tell you that if you were a Palestinian in the West Bank you would become crazy.

        Apparently, you’ve never tried to argue that Jews also have some rights, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

        >But you live in your little bubble, that you brought from Russia or wherever else: you will never understand such a feeling.

        You don’t know where I am from and what experienced in my life, yet you make baseless assumptions just to draw conclusions which have to suit your understanding of how the world is built.

        So who is in the bubble?

        Reply to Comment
    15. meron

      “Palestinian Arabs have a full right to self-determine their future as long as it does not interfere with the same right of other ethnicities”:
      Perfect, we agree on that. So don’t keep steeling their natural resources, don’t justfy the humiliation of million of human beings and fight against the settlements. Afterwards, if they “interfere with the same right of other ethnicities” you can start to blame them.
      .
      “I see. So I represent entire problem, while Hamas militants”: You represent a big part of the problem. Hamas, a wrong “consequence” whose roots can be found in Majdal, is another big part of the same problem.
      .
      “I rarely see people as full of shit as you are”: it is already the second time in the same post that we agree on something!
      .
      “you’ve never tried to argue that Jews also have some rights, otherwise you wouldn’t be here”: when I find a racist with a settler mentality like you among the Pals I fight with exactly the same passion for the rights of the Jewish people. Trust me.
      .
      “You don’t know where I am from”: but I know that just a person that arrived here from “another world” could perceive the other as you do.
      .
      “So who is in the bubble?”: You, thanks God I still believe in the right of both people to self-determinate their future.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >Afterwards, if they “interfere with the same right of other ethnicities” you can start to blame them.

        But they already has interfered with said rights. in 1922, 1947, and before and after that on numerous occasions.

        >when I find a racist with a settler mentality like you among the Pals I fight with exactly the same passion for the rights of the Jewish people. Trust me.

        And what rights of Jewish people are you defending, if may I ask?

        >“You don’t know where I am from”: but I know that just a person that arrived here from “another world” could perceive the other as you do.

        I see. So someone who is born in Israel is native to this place and is inherently able to perceive others not as an immigrant could. An interesting theory.

        >“So who is in the bubble?”: You, thanks God I still believe in the right of both people to self-determinate their future.

        Ok. Can you please describe in short words your perception of future peaceful coexistence?

        Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Can you please describe in short words your perception of future peaceful coexistence and steps which all sides have to take.

        Reply to Comment
    16. Paddy O'C

      Check this out kids; There’s a novel about the Palestinian plight, and it’s so good that I tracked down the author, and managed to get her permission to put the detailed press release on my blog : http://thealmondtreeproject.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/the-almond-tree/?preview=true&preview_id=4&preview_nonce=648a9f47d8

      UK Amazon Link:

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Almond-Tree-Michelle-Cohen-Corasanti/dp/1859643299/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359299705&sr=8-1-spell

      US Amazon Link:

      http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=michelle+corasanti

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Yep. That’s exactly what Palestinian plight has became.

        Nothing personal, business only, huh?

        Reply to Comment
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