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How we can stop the normalization of the occupation

Those who want the occupation to end should make every effort to push their governments to express the illegitimacy of Israeli policy and demand the establishment of a Palestinian state.

By Yuval Halperin

A Palestinian youth rides a bicycle adorned with Palestinian flags past the Israeli separation wall near Jerusalem. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

A Palestinian youth rides a bicycle adorned with Palestinian flags past the Israeli separation wall near Jerusalem. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Following the establishment of Israel in 1948, more than 100 new states were created around the world. In fact most of the sovereign states now in existence have been established in recent decades, most of them on the ruins of global empires on the basis of the principle of self-determination for all people.

Israel is virtually the only country to continue maintaining colonial rule in the form of a military government over 4.7 million people who define themselves as a nation and who strive for national independence. This is one of the last cases in which colonial rule is perceived to be legitimate by the government that maintains it, as well as by the public that supports the government and is influenced by it. In order defend continuous military rule, we hear the same arguments that were once deployed during the heyday of colonialism, but which now sound as obsolete as arguments in favor of slavery or denying women the vote. For example: “there is no Palestinian people,” and “nations have been expending militarily at the expense of others,” etc.

Security-based arguments are also offered, but these lose validity when considering that the government of Israel is based on a coalition of political parties that view perpetual occupation as not only justified, but also as being a principled nationalist and ideological duty.

Netanyahu’s verbal support for the two-state solution is no more than a thinly-veiled deception. Not only has Netanyahu never received the approval of his cabinet for this position, but in practice Netanyahu is strongly opposed to the policy he claims to support.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an event honoring firefighters and first responders, Haifa, December 26, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO CC 2.0)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an event honoring firefighters and first responders, Haifa, December 26, 2015. (Kobi Gideon/GPO CC 2.0)

Worse yet, however, is the international community’s support for the occupation.

True, statements against the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are often made — but such statements are effectively nullified by the widespread international adoption of Netanyahu’s false slogan: “Peace will be achieved only through negotiations without preconditions.”

The practical outcome of this reality is that an occupation-supporting Israeli government can maintain an endless series of futile negotiations, thus perpetuating the occupation. In effect, the occupied people’s right to self-determination is dependent on the good — or bad — will of the occupier.

Peace will indeed be achieved via negotiations, but there is an important prerequisite to negotiations: they must be between two equal parties. Therefore, if one of the parties is a sovereign state, the other must be a sovereign state, too.

For the negotiations to be meaningful and successful, their starting point must be an international ultimatum — one that demands that an independent and sovereign Palestinian state be accepted as a fundamental right of the Palestinian people, rather than an issue to be debated during negotiations. Yet there still remains much to be decided in negotiations: the modalities and duration of ending the occupation, along with the security arrangements to be implemented afterward.

Israeli border policemen detain a Palestinian man at a checkpoint in Beit Enoon, near the West Bank city of Hebron, April 04, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)

Israeli border policemen detain a Palestinian man at a checkpoint in Beit Enoon, near the West Bank city of Hebron, April 04, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)

Moreover, the prospect of peace is damaged by the ridiculous and kitschy actions in “support of Israel” we are seeing around the world. From the outside, it is impossible to separate the name “Israel” from the policy of Israel’s government. The act of flying the Israeli flag in large European cities following violent attacks inside Israel does not prevent further attacks, nor does it prevent wars to come. On the contrary, such acts give a boost to the current Israeli policy and thus work against the true interests of Palestinians and Israelis alike. The same goes for those who issue a automatic condemnation of any manifestation of public and economic protest against the occupation, whether in the form of demonstrations or of consumer boycotts (targeting all Israeli products or only those coming from the settlements).

The responsibility for the continuation of the occupation does not fall on Donald Trump, but on Barack Obama. It was Obama who over eight years ago expressed verbal support for a Palestinian state, yet opposed it in practice after taking up Netanyahu’s slogan of “negotiations without preconditions.” This led the president to veto nearly every UN Security Council resolution that condemned the occupation, as well as granting the Netanyahu government the largest military aid package ever offered by any U.S. administration, without so much as conditioning the money on Netanyahu changing his policies.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks on Middle East peace, Washington, DC, December 28, 2016. (State Dept Photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks on Middle East peace, Washington, DC, December 28, 2016. (State Dept Photo)

As opposed to what British Prime Minister Theresa May claimed following John Kerry’s final policy speech, it is not possible to separate Israeli politics from the make up of Israel’s government. The government is composed of parties that oppose the two-state solution, and the government’s actual policies designed to foil that solution prove that Netanyahu’s verbal support for two states is no more than lip service.

Because Israel maintains policies of a kind that the international community considers illegitimate, there is no reason that Israel should be treated any differently from South Africa during its apartheid regime.

Israel does have more than a million Arab-Palestinian citizens, although though they are far from equal citizens. Palestinian citizens suffer from structural discrimination in various spheres such as land allocation, zoning plans, and creation of new communities (since 1948, not a single new Arab community has been created in the territory of sovereign Israel, although quite a few villages have been destroyed).

In the territories captured and held since 1967, Israel operates a full-fledged military apartheid regime. The Israeli army controls the territory, while Palestinian residents have no Israeli citizenship and are subject to the rule of a military government. The Palestinian Authority, which was originally designed to be no more than an “embryo” for an independent state, does not have any real power; Israeli government officials regard it in much the same way as South African officials once treated the Bantustans. On the other hand, Israeli settlers in these territories do have Israeli citizenship and full civil rights.

Members of the Palestinian security forces take part in a graduation ceremony for a youth training camp in the West Bank city of Jericho, January 25, 2017. (Flash90)

Members of the Palestinian security forces take part in a graduation ceremony for a youth training camp in the West Bank city of Jericho, January 25, 2017. (Flash90)

Israel is a parliamentary democracy in terms of its internal political arrangements, but so was South Africa during apartheid — for its white citizens alone. The same goes for countries that maintained democracy in their metropolitan centers while ruling over huge colonial empires. Since colonialism is now considered illegitimate, its perpetuation should not be tolerated. The argument that “there are worse regimes” than Israel should be rejected as a poor excuse. The international community can and must help bring about the realization of the right to self-determination everywhere.

By virtue of that right, democracy must not be imposed on any country “from the outside.” Such attempts do not bring democracy; on the contrary — they often lead to tyranny. Just as countries with different and opposing regimes took part in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, so too should a heterogeneous international front oppose the Israeli occupation, which denies the existence of a Palestinian state. Such a global coalition should include both NGOs and governments, democratic or otherwise.

Nowadays, there exists a Palestinian national movement of which the great majority supports an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories to be evacuated. Even representatives of relatively extremist movements among the Palestinians say they will honor an agreement on such a basis, as is enshrined in the Arab Peace Initiative. The dispute between Palestinian factions today is primarily regarding the extent of peace to be offered to Israel and over cooperation with Israel following the establishment of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, the occupying state is ruled by a government that regards perpetual occupation not as security measure or a safeguard against feared future hostility, but as an ideological and religious aim and duty in and of itself.

A Masked Palestinian from the Fatah movement is seen during clashes with Israeli soldiers following the funeral of 17-year-old Palestinian Qusai Al-Amour, who Israeli and Palestinian officials said was shot dead by Israeli Border Police during clashes with protesters ,Tuqu, West Bank, January 17, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

A masked Palestinian from the Fatah movement is seen during clashes with Israeli soldiers following the funeral of 17-year-old Palestinian Qusai Al-Amour, who Israeli and Palestinian officials said was shot dead by Israeli Border Police during clashes with protesters ,Tuqu, West Bank, January 17, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Those who love the people of Israel and are concerned for their future, yet are opposed to the occupation and to apartheid policies against the Palestinian people, must not support the continuation of normal relations between their country and Israel. In fact, such people should make every effort to push their governments to express the illegitimacy of Israeli policy. The demand should be raised for all states to recognize the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders.

Yuval Halperin is an editor and an activist involved in workers and peace groups. This article was translated from Hebrew by Adam Keller.

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    COMMENTS

    1. R5

      Sigh…really, what is the point of repeating these fallacies over and over and over? It’s easy to refute them: (1) Yes, Israel’s government has messianic elements, but mainstream support for the occupation is based on security concerns, which are very legitimate and very real, (2) Israel is much too strong as an economy and military to surrender its vital through pressure from the outside (3) A sizable minority at LEAST of Palestinians support perpetual war against Israel, so giving them sovereignty 10 miles from Tel Aviv is a prescription for catastrophe. We done? +972, can we please stop finding new mush-brained leftists to write this same article? You’re wasting their time too.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @R5: I’m a little bit puzzled as to how the home demolitions are necessary for Israel’s security, to mention just one delightful aspect of the occupation:

        http://icahd.org/

        Can you explain?

        Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      I am afraid the writers of the piece have missed the main point of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. The Palestinians are NOT fighting for “self-determination”. Arafat defined the fight as the “Palestinians Revolution” which is the front-line of the fight of the Arab world against Israel, whose existence is viewed as an abomination and a perversion of history.
      Accepting a compromise peace, which particularly would involve giving up the Palestinian’s claim for the “right of return’ of the refugees would be viewed as treason.
      Many Israelis of the so-called “peace camp” say “it will be very bad for Israel if there is no Palestinian state”. Well, that’s what the Palestinians want….what is bad for Israel. They are not going to sign a compromise peace agreement withe Israel involving what the Arab world (not just the Palestinians) consider to be treasonous compromises in order to “help Israel”. A compromise peace would be viewed as strengthening Israel so is unacceptable.
      Now, many will claim that the Palestinians, as individuals would supposedly benefit by having a small, independent state on the West Bank and Gaza (not sure this would really be the case…the Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Yemeni people are not really benefiting from their independent states but let’s assume the Palestinians would benefit) but, as I pointed out, the Palestinian leadership is leading a “revolution” and the interests of the people as individuals has to take a back seat. This is why the Palestinians leadership, both HAMAS and FATAH view the continuation of the status quo as preferable to a compromise peace. Both the Palestinian leadership and the rest of the Arab world really have little interest in the welfare of the Palestinians as individuals, rather viewing them as cannon fodder for “the Revolution”. In particular, we can see that HAMAS really has no interest in the welfare of the Gaza population by rather keeping them in a state of permanent mobilization for the struggle against Israel.
      Therefore, pleas we keeping hearing for Israel to make concessions in order to achieve a non-achievable compromise peace, like the writers here advocate, is simply promoting a fallacy.

      Reply to Comment
      • RSS

        So you think Palestinians are willing to sacrifice themselves as a collective entity in order to just “not enforce the israeli state”? Not only that is counter-intuitive, but i think also very far from what actually Palestinians would think. I think you don´t have a clue of the variety of opinions that palestinians might have, I suggest you talk to those people a little bit more, they will not bite you. You will discover they are great people capable of constructive things and have an enormous desire from the freedom they are denied by the State of Israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          If you carefully read what I wrote, I said pretty much the same thing you did. I pointed out that individual Palestinians might very well support a compromise peace if this indeed would improve their lives. However, public opinion in the Palestinian areas, like in all the rest of the Arab countries plays little or no role in governmental decisions. For instance, I believe most Palestinians in Gaza would WELCOME removal of HAMAS regime but they have no say in the regime that controls them. I would go so far as to say that most Gazans would welcome the IDF as liberators for a few days if it entered Gaza and removed the HAMAS regime. The HAMAS regime views the Gaza population as cannon fodder and keeps them in a state of permanent mobilization for war with Israel and doesn’t care how much suffering it causes its population.
          Dictatorial regimes don’t care about public opinion in forming policy In 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, most Germans were quite apprehensive about the coming of war. Same in 1941 when Germany invaded Russia, however, the Nazi regime didn’t care what the population thought, it simply mobilized them successfully war. Same with the bloody stalemate in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s that lead to something like one million dead on both sides…I am sure most people would have welcomed an early end to the war since the front didn’t move much anyway. Once again, the rulers of both sides didn’t care.
          The Palestinian leadership is under pressure from the larger Arab and Muslim world to maintain the conflict with Israel. Even the countries that have peace agreements with Israel, i.e. Egypt and Jordan face the fact that peace with Israel is very unpopular with their populations (that doesn’t necessarily mean these people want to go to war with Israel, but they do oppose normalization with Israel and they do view the Palestinians as the cannon fodder in confronting Israel for them, as proxies). Any Palestinian government that would consider a compromise peace with Israel and there are enough radicals among the Palestinians to make life very unpleasant and even very short for any leader who would make what are perceived as treasonous concessions to Israel, regardless of what any majority opinion might think. Do you think the majority of Palestinians like the fact that both the West Bank and Gaza regimes refuse to hold elections and allow the people to express their views on what short of government they have, or do they accept the current undemocratic regimes that control them.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​@Ike: What are you talking about? Abu Mazen would love to make peace with Israel and Hamas has said it will abide by an accord. Of course the populace do not like their dictatorial leadership. But these are two subjects. You’re picking and choosing whatever thing fits you’re astonishing thesis–that the Palestinians would really love to acquiesce to Israel’s land grab and theft (86.4% of Ma’aleh Adumim is private Palestinian land!) and olive grove torchings if only their leaders would let them–but the parts of your thesis don’t bear the slightest scrutiny.

            You guys, when you want to, cite polls you say show how widespread is militancy among the population, then say it’s just the leadership and a few militants who are holding them back from accepting Israeli bantustans. You say the Arab world does not care one way or the other about the Palestinians having a state then say the Arab world won’t let the Palestinians sign a two state accord–that’s a good one–except for a little thing called the API you mihgt get away with it. You say that peace with Israel is unpopular with Egyptian and Jordanian Arabs but not Palestinian Arabs (but insist Palestinian Arabs are just Jordanian Arabs anyway). It does not add up. It’s contrived to the max.

            You are fond of calling others “Orwellian” but I think you are the most Orwellian of all, with your suggestions that what the Palestinians really want is submission to Israel if only their leaders would let them. In Orwell’s “1984” the Ministry of Truth is emblazoned with three slogans: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” .

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Abu Mazen is refusing even to negotiate with Israel. For years he has said ‘NO’ to negotiations. But he would like to make peace?

            Pull the other leg, Benny.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      This article by Halperin is a well articulated summary of the situation and debunking of so much right wing claptrap.

      Ike, “the Palestinians would supposedly benefit by having a small, independent state on the West Bank and Gaza (not sure this would really be the case” reeks of self-serving contempt and willful obliviousness to the cruelty and injustice of the occupation. You had better worry about your own side as well getting along with each other when they don’t have the Palestinians anymore on which to divert their bottled up animuses and resentments.

      Reply to Comment

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