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Palestinian citizens of Israel are key to resisting the occupation

If Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, those who have grown up in Israeli society and lived alongside Jewish Israelis, were to truly organize and leverage their unique position, it would be impossible to break without ripping off the mask of apartheid.

By Rida Abu Rass

Israeli riot police wait for demonstrators marching to protest home demolitions, Ar'ara, January 21, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills)

Israeli riot police cut off a march by Palestinian citizens of Israel protesting home demolitions, Ar’ara, January 21, 2017. (Keren Manor/Activestills)

Over the years, both the Israeli and Palestinian Left have learned to lower their expectations — to live on crumbs of hope. So who is left to lead peace negotiations? Trump? We’ll see what he has to offer, and probably be disappointed. In Israel there is not a single leader capable or ready to lead a real, broad political movement to end the occupation — setting aside for a second that there is no majority of Jewish Israelis lining up to join such a movement. In Ramallah we have one of the least popular leaders in the history of the Palestinian struggle. So who will save us?

Palestinians in the occupied territories have grown tired of organized resistance. Two intifadas were enough. True, Palestinian resistance is still alive to a certain extent in Bil’in, Ni’lin, in the South Hebron Hills, and elsewhere, but in order to bring about real political change, more organized and far broader resistance would be needed. In a sense, Israeli deterrence has worked, and you won’t find too many people who dare resist the Israeli army these days. Not even armed resistance is a prospect these days. Salvation will not come from the occupied territories.

So that’s it? Should we pack our stuff and find a foreigner to marry? Not quite yet. There is one last source of hope: young Palestinians — citizens of Israel.

Palestinian citizens haven’t yet truly flexed their muscles. Not with all their might, and the key to ending the occupation is in our hands. Whereas Palestinians in the West Bank see Jewish Israelis at checkpoints, we learn, work and shop with them. We have had the privilege of developing an intimate working relationship with Israeli society. Furthermore, we have all been sentenced to live with the rising tide of racism in Israel, whether in civilian clothes or in uniform. Palestinians in Israel are motivated and eager to make real changes. We have a large stake in Israeli society, albeit oftentimes an unwelcome one, and are familiar with the Jewish population.

Marwan Barghouti has been calling for wide, popular and nonviolent resistance to the occupation for years. We should support him. He has been openly calling for a change of tactics, to start a civil rights campaign against Israeli oppression between the Jordan River and the sea, similar to the civil rights campaigns in South Africa and the United States. Palestinian citizens of Israel would have a central role to play in such a campaign. Palestinians in the occupied territories do not have the tools to truly disrupt daily life in Israel, as an effective nonviolent campaign for civil liberties would require. We do. If it is large enough, Israel would not be able to disrupt such a movement without ripping the mask off the true face of apartheid once and for all.

Young Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are especially ready for such a movement. The new Palestinian generation has a larger stake in Israeli society: unlike our parents’ generation, many of us live in Jewish neighborhoods, work in the heart of the Israeli economy, and are much more exposed to the rest of Israel.

Granted, making significant gains will not be easy without the support of the Israeli Left. Alongside us, however, they will be able to build a democratic majority in Israel. With us, there is a broad consensus for ending the occupation, for creating a Palestinian state, for a sustainable solution. Together, we can lay a path toward partnership, toward an environment conducive to negotiating as equals, toward open borders and mutual recognition of ownership over this piece of land.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship must organize. We must make our voices louder among our representatives in the Knesset. We must utilize existing civil society organizations, and create new forums for internal coordination and communication. The rest of the Israeli Left must also stand up. This could be our last chance to make an organic, internal, mutual move toward ending this conflict once and for all.

Rida Abu Rass is a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Jaffa currently completing a graduate degree at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Paranam Kid

      Interesting, but what type of organisation & actions do you have in mind specifically, bearing in mind that israel cracks down on anything that smacks of criticism, never mind resistance. And are you sure Palestinian Israelis are really interested? You, or anyone else who accepts the challenge, will have to come up with something realistic & workable to galvanise those young Palestinian Israelis.

      Reply to Comment
    2. JeffB

      @Rida

      I think that’s a great idea. Start working openly with Jewish Israelis on a political program that is acceptable and can potentially become the platform for a coalition. Take advantage of the fact you are part of a democracy. Absolutely, model a civil rights campaign on the USA and South Africa. In your own communities end support for housing discrimination and separate education systems. Demand your right to participate fully in Israeli society, in all aspects including service in the IDF.

      That sort of movement would end the occupation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Paranam Kid

        An ethnocratic state, which is what israel is, is not a democracy by definition. Besides, what you are proposing is the usual long-winded way, and is just another way of making the Palestinians lose time & get nowhere fast, which has been israel’s policy since its creation in order to prevent Palestinians getting their own state or reaching equal rights within israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Panam Kid

          The original democracy Athens was “ethnocratic”. “Resident aliens” couldn’t vote in Athens.

          Reply to Comment
          • Paranam Kid

            The world has moved from Ancient Atehns. The problem with you guys is that you always try to justify israel’s racism by coming up with totally irrelevant comparisons.
            What is important is the world as it is now, and right now israel is a neofascist apartheid, genocidal country lacking any legitimacy.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Panam Kid

            You made a claim about the definition of the word. Ranting doesn’t help advance your claim.

            Reply to Comment
          • Paranam Kid

            @JeffB
            Right, and your answer was totally irrelevant because Ancient Athens does not exist anymore, and whatever system was in place at the time has no bearing on today’s israel, nor does it justify israel’s racism.
            NEvertheless, I understand your deflection to Ancient Athens: you have no better justification of israel’s racist. Similarly, whatever is stated in the bible by no means justifies israel’s claims today, apart from the fact that israel’s bible is just relevant for the Jews, not for the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, …..

            So ranting on about ancient times does not contribute to the discussion.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Paranam Kid

            Athens may not exist anymore but Athens defined the term. The argument was over the definition. As for ranting, I’m not ranting. I’m trying to keep you on point. Your interlude about the bible and racism and… all being distractions. If you have a good quality definition for democracy that agrees with your claim show it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Paranam Kid

            @JeffB
            Athens indeed defined “democracy”, I fully agree with that. Even if so-called resident aliens could not vote, there is nothing racist about that: resident aliens cannot vote in any of our modern day democracies.

            And whatever the situation in Ancient Athens, that is totally extraneous to what is discussed here & certainly does not justify israel’s racism. israel is an ethnocracy in the modern sense of the term, in exactly the same sense that Nazi Germany was. And the Palestinians living in israel are no more resident aliens than the German Jews were in Nazi Germany. Like the Jews in Nazi Germany, the Palestinians are citizens & nationals of the country they live in, i.e. israel, although as citizens they are less equal than israel’s Jewish citizens. In addition, israel has been classified as an Apartheid state by the UN, which further underlines the impossibility of being a democracy.

            israel is merely a travesty of a democracy, a fake democracy.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Panam Kid

            — In addition, israel has been classified as an Apartheid state by the UN,

            No it hasn’t. Two authors wrote a report for a UN committee that was rejected by the UN. Not remotely the same thing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Paranam Kid

            The report was shelved for political reasons only: blatant blackmail by israel (supported by its lapdog the US). The contents of the report was not contested, not 1 single issue in the report was disproved by israel, israel did not even bother to discuss it with the authors, 2 prominent experts on the subject of Apartheid. So, the contents of the report still stands: israel is a vulgar apartheid state. The apartheid nature is even enshrined in its ID/passport system in which a distinction is made between Jews & non-Jews, just like in Nazi Germany.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Panam Kid

            –The report was shelved for political reasons only:

            Your original claim was ” israel has been classified as an Apartheid state by the UN”. That claim is false regardless of the reason the report was shelved.

            –The contents of the report was not contested,

            Of course it was. Ambassador Danon accused the report of using a false analogy. Ambassador Haley said the contents were false. Sec Guterres did not believe the conclusions were warranted based on the evidence. How is that not contesting the contents?

            — not 1 single issue in the report was disproved by israel

            The issues have been disproven numerous times.

            — israel did not even bother to discuss it with the authors,

            The Israeli ambassador had conversations with Falk in years past. As for the rest, your direction is backwards. The authors didn’t discuss it with Israel.

            — The apartheid nature is even enshrined in its ID/passport system in which a distinction is made between Jews & non-Jews, just like in Nazi Germany.

            Or Soviet Russia, where it is common to list ethnic nationality Odd you would pick the more offensive of the two analogies. That sort of bias is precisely why the report was act.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        “Why does Israel hold the contemporary world record of belligerent occupation…? How is Israel able to keep control and tighten its hold on the Occupied Palestinian Territories…despite the noxious character of the occupation…?…My proposition is that the occupation is dragged out by the Israeli desire to continue its state building by colonizing and subsequently annexing parts of the OPT. The dynamic of this process is made manifest by Israel’s preference for colonization over of peacemaking, and even security, at each point when the possibility of the diplomatic resolution of either the Israeli-Arab or Israeli-Palestinian conflict has arisen.” – page 84, “A Half Century of Occupation” by Gershon Shafir.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          It is not occupation. Judea and Samaria are Eretz Israel according to most of our rabbis. Are they wrong, Bruce?

          Reply to Comment
          • Paranam Kid

            Judea & Samaria no lonegr exist as geographical names, the place is called the West Bank. And yes, your rabbis are wrong, they are just uttering the standard Hasbara drivel, which is no more than neofascist-inspired racism.

            Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            For the Jewish People, the Judea and Samaria are a reality.The name “West Bank” has been invented a few years ago. You seem to ignore everything about the Jewish history. For the most part of the Jewish people your opinions are not only ridiculous but hurtful.

            Reply to Comment
          • Paranam Kid

            @Itshak Gordin Halevy

            I am aware of the biblical context of the names, but you guys don’t seem to realise, or refuse to accept when it does not suit your Hasbara narrative, that the world has evolved from biblical times.
            Judea & Samaria are not officially recognised geographical names except by israel; West Bank is the modern name until israel gives up those Stolen Palestinian Territories.
            As for being hurtful, please spare us your victim-playing whine, you guys have inflicted pain on the Palestinians for the past 70 years, and that pain is not far removed from what your (grand)parents suffered at the hands of the Nazis, or the blacks in the US.

            It is long overdue you guys look at yourselves in the mirror & start becoming human, instead of ever more fascist.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Mark

      Is there an Israeli left left?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mark

      “The new Palestinian generation has a larger stake in Israeli society: unlike our parents’ generation, many of us live in Jewish neighborhoods, work in the heart of the Israeli economy, and are much more exposed to the rest of Israel.”

      Top class apartheid.

      Reply to Comment
      • JeffB

        @Mark

        How is that apartheid? That sounds like the exact opposite.

        Reply to Comment
    5. robert litman

      Ms Rass it is so great that you are taking advantage of equal opportunity, democratic political avenues available in the free sociaet that is present day Israel. If the tables were turned, no Jewish minority could do so this in any other Arab country and in fact, one just needs to look at the history and present day treatment of minorities and minority rights in Arab countries and Iran to see that this is true.(see Coptic Christians in Egypt or hangings of those who merely use the telephone to call Israel in Iran)

      But here is another novel suggestion: Why not make make peace with Israel? Why dont the palestinians and the Arab world accept 2-State solutions, with compromises on territoy and borders (land swaps for the territory taken up by established settlements) and compromises regarding the return of over 6 million dscendants of refugees to Israel proper, soluions which have been offerred, starting wtih Oslo and Camp David, three separate times to the Palestinian leadership? This would save an awful lot of time, hardship, struggle, and pain for everyone, and more importantly would allow people to move on with their lives.

      Also, if you want to be politically active — how about establishing democratic values in the Arab world, like the ones you benefit from in Israel? Look at how, becuase of the avaricious needs of a despotic dictator in Syria, over half a million of brothers and sisters in Syria have been killed, 4.5 million made into actual refugees, and recently innocent children have been gassed. To me, this kind of barbarity, injustice, and rank genocide is the type of problem which needs to be confronted by Arabs, Jews, citizens of the world everywhere — not so much the Israeli Palestinian conflict, which could be solved quickly, immediately, if only true peace loving people would compromise and seek peace.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ​”…with compromises on territory and borders (land swaps for the territory taken up by established settlements) and compromises regarding the return of over 6 million descendants of refugees to Israel proper, solutions which have been offered, starting with Oslo and Camp David, three separate times to the Palestinian leadership? ”

        This does not represent what was truly offered or what actually took place between the parties. You are basing things on propaganda that quite effectively created a fictional narrative about “we gave them everything” that the Israeli masses imbibed and think “everybody knows.”
        The first two times you refer to simply do not add up to true solutions based on genuine offers. Barak’s offer was never minimally acceptable and Barak knew it. Barak’s true goal at the time was posturing to the right wing to win an election, one he lost anyway to Sharon. Read Gershon Baskin on this:
        ‘”Israel has offered the Palestinians everything but they have turned down every offer and walked away.” Those making this statement go on to say that at Camp David prime minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat the whole shop, but Arafat was not interested in making peace. Arafat refused to give up the right of return and was not interested in a Palestinian state. The truth is that at Camp David Barak offered Arafat 89 percent of the West Bank with full Israeli control of Palestine’s external borders – the Palestinians called it a sovereign cage. Barak’s proposal included two east-west corridors under full Israeli control, cutting the West Bank into three cantons. Barak did not offer the Palestinians a capital in east Jerusalem, but in Abu Dis, which is outside of Jerusalem, and perhaps some control of the outlying Palestinian neighborhoods. Israel would continue to control all of the main Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the Old City. Barak demanded a place for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, which is what led directly to the failure of Camp David. On the issue of refugees, a total of six hours of talks took place in two weeks, during which time Arafat said that there had to be a solution for the refugees and that he could not give up the right of return on behalf of the refugees. This was the essence of Barak’s “take it or leave it proposal.” There isn’t a Palestinian alive who could accept it.’
        http://m.jpost.com/Opinion/Encountering-Peace-Debunking-myths-428662#article=6017N0MyRjhGNzJBQzhDRDlGODRGNDZCMDE1OEVBQzY2RTQ=

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ‘Years later Barak’s top advisors would come to lament the role they played in creating that spin. As Peter Beinart notes in his book, The Crisis of Zionism, Barak aide Tal Ziberstein admitted that the “no-partner” campaign was one of the things he regretted most. Eldad Yaniv, Barak’s former campaign adviser and well known politico who has worked closely with politicians of all stripes added: “Ten years later, there are still people who say, ‘We gave them everything at Camp David and got nothing.’ That is a flagrant lie… I was one of the people behind this false and miserable spin.”‘
        http://972mag.com/the-life-and-death-of-the-israeli-peace-camp/116979

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        ​Seth Ackerman explains further the process of disinformation and myth creating you are participating in and he debunks that. The occupation has always depended upon mountains of disinformation:
        The Myth of the Generous Offer
        Distorting the Camp David negotiations
        By Seth Ackerman
        http://fair.org/extra/the-myth-of-the-generous-offer/

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          Ben, you can go on and on and on about this, but had Arafat accepted it, there would be the dreamed of “Palestinian state” and they would have been in a position to demand more. In any event Olmert sweetened the deal and even offered to give up all the Jewish holy places in Jerusalem, but they still rejected it.
          This, of course, ignores the much bigger independent Palestinian states that were offered in 1937 and 1947 which were also rejected.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “there would be the dreamed of “Palestinian state” and they would have been in a position to demand more”

            This is just not true.

            Reply to Comment
        • robert

          This is all BS and you and the other commenters above know it, trying to excuse Arafats refusal of a peace offer or even to sit at the table Read books by Dennis Ross, Aaron David Miller That is all you need to know They were there, others werent
          Palestinian blew it three times, and went to war/intifada three times. Palestinian leaders and Palestinians themselves (see numerous Shikaki polls) dont want peace, dont want to compromise, and want the rest of the world to reject Israel like they do. Palestinian leaders who do advocate peace are afraid of being killed. Hamas does not want peace. You should all admit it, instead of focusing on what has done, could do, or should do because really, when it comes down to it, Palestinians dont want Israel to exist

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Show me one point in Baskin’s or Avishai’s narrative where they are engaging in “BS.” Show me. Spell it out. Go ahead.

            “when it comes down to it, Palestinians dont want Israel to exist”

            When it comes down to what? I am sure there are SOME Palestinians who don’t want Israel to exist. And I am equally sure there are SOME Israelis who don’t want Palestine to exist–their comments are sprayed all over these pages. In fact, probably most Palestinian Arabs and most Israeli Jews wish the other side did not exist. That is not the point, Robert. What people wish for and what they get and have to accept are two different things. The point is not to make it so unacceptable to either side that they will fight to the death. As Patrick Henry said, ”give me liberty or give me death.” Israeli Jews, in their unceasing, brainwashed victim role playing shot through at the very same time with a comfortable overlord mentality, are intent on exacting an unacceptable price from Palestinian Arabs. And they will sow what they reap.

            Reply to Comment
    6. i_like_ike52

      I don’t know what the writer is talking about, as if the Arab community “hasn’t flexed its muscles”. Their elected representatives in the Knesset curse Israel and threaten the Jewish population every day, yet so many people seem to be mystified as to why Israeli Jews don’t like them and are not willing to bend to their demands.

      Yes, there is Odeh who alternates between the “good cop” and “bad cop” paradigms, one day saying he admires Martin Luther King and Gandhi, and the next take making inflammatory statements. He seems to think he can keep everyone happy that way. Then, of course, there was teh Arab List’s refusal to condemn Assad’s use of chemical warfare against the Palestinian’s brother Arabs/Muslims of Syria. So don’t wonder why the Israeli Arab community has so little credibility with Israeli Jews.

      Reply to Comment
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