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What is normalization?

A recent post on +972 addressed the matter of Israeli-Palestinian “normalization.” The text sparked a debate and raised many questions about the definition, implications and ethics of the term and its associated activities. After monitoring the discussion for some time, we thought it would be useful to post the following text, which explains what anti-normalization is according to the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) campaign against normalization.  The article was initially published on October 31, 2011 by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott.

In the Palestinian and Arab struggle against Israeli colonization, occupation and apartheid, the “normalization” of Israel is a concept that has generated controversy because it is often misunderstood or because there are disagreements on its parameters.  This is despite the near consensus among Palestinians and people in the Arab region on rejecting the treatment of Israel as a “normal” state with which business as usual can be conducted. Here, we discuss the definition of normalization that the great majority of Palestinian civil society, as represented in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has adopted since November 2007, and elaborate on the nuances that it takes on in different contexts.

It is helpful to think of normalization as a “colonization of the mind,” whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor’s reality is the only “normal” reality that must be subscribed to, and that the oppression is a fact of life that must be coped with. Those who engage in normalization either ignore this oppression, or accept it as the status quo that can be lived with.  In an attempt to whitewash its violations of international law and human rights, Israel attempts to re-brand [1] itself, or present itself as normal — even “enlightened” — through an intricate array of relations and activities encompassing hi-tech, cultural, legal, LGBT and other realms.

A key principle that underlines the term normalization is that it is entirely based on political, rather than racial, considerations and is therefore in perfect harmony with the BDS movement’s rejection of all forms of racism and racial discrimination.  Countering normalization is a means to resist oppression, its mechanisms and structures.  As such, it is categorically unrelated to or conditioned upon the identity of the oppressor.

We break down normalization into three categories that correspond to differences pertaining to the varied contexts of Israel’s colonial oppression and apartheid.  It is important to consider these minimum definitions as the basis for solidarity and action.

1) Normalization in the context of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Arab world

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has defined normalization specifically in a Palestinian and Arab context “as the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people.” [2]  This is the definition endorsed by the BDS National Committee (BNC).

For Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, any project with Israelis that is not based on a resistance framework serves to normalize relations.  We define this resistance framework as one that is based on recognition of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people and on the commitment to resist, in diverse ways, all forms of oppression against Palestinians, including but not limited to, ending the occupation, establishing full and equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and promoting and advocating for the right of return for Palestinian refugees – this may aptly be called a posture of “co-resistance” [3].   Doing otherwise allows for everyday, ordinary relations to exist alongside and independent of the continuous crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.  This feeds complacency and gives the false and harmful impression of normalcy in a patently abnormal situation of colonial oppression.

Projects, initiatives and activities that do not begin from a position of shared principles to resist Israel’s oppression invariably allow for an approach to dealing with Israel as if its violations can be deferred, and as if coexistence (as opposed to “co-resistance”) can precede, or lead to, the end of oppression.  In the process, Palestinians, regardless of intentions, end up serving as a fig-leaf [4] for Israelis who are able to benefit from a “business-as-usual” environment, perhaps even allowing Israelis to feel their conscience is cleared for having engaged Palestinians they are usually accused of oppressing and discriminating against.

The peoples of the Arab world, with their diverse national, religious and cultural backgrounds and identities, whose future is more tangibly tied to the future of Palestinians than the larger international community, not least because of continued Israeli political, economic and military threats on their countries, and the still-prevalent and strong kinship with the Palestinians, face similar issues with regards to normalization.  So long as Israel’s oppression continues, any engagement with Israelis (individuals or institutions) that is not within the resistance framework outlined above, serves to underline the normality of Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid in the lives of people in the Arab world.  It is, therefore, imperative that people in the Arab world shun all relations with Israelis, unless based on co-resistance.  This is not a call to refrain from understanding Israelis, their society and polity.  It is a call to condition any such knowledge and any such contact on the principles of resistance until the time when comprehensive Palestinian and other Arab rights are met.

BDS activists may always go above and beyond our basic minimum requirements if they identify subcategories within those we have identified.  In Lebanon or Egypt, for instance, boycott campaigners may go beyond the PACBI/BNC definition of normalization given their position in the Arab world, whereas those in Jordan, say, may have different considerations.

2) Normalization in the context of the Palestinian citizens of Israel

Palestinian citizens of Israel – those Palestinians who remained steadfast on their land after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 despite repeated efforts to expel them and subject them to military law, institutionalized discrimination, or apartheid [4] – face an entirely different set of considerations.  They may be confronted with two forms of normalization.  The first, which we may call coercive everyday relations, are those relations that a colonized people, and those living under apartheid, are forced to take part in if they are to survive, conduct their everyday lives and make a living within the established oppressive structures.  For the Palestinian citizens of Israel, as taxpayers, such coercive everyday relations include daily employment in Israeli places of work and the use of public services and institutions such as schools, universities and hospitals.  Such coercive relations are not unique to Israel and were present in other colonial and apartheid contexts such as India and South Africa, respectively.  Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot be rationally asked to cut such ties, at least not yet.

The second form of normalization is that in which Palestinian citizens of Israel do not have to engage as a requirement of survival.  Such normalization might include participation in international forums as representatives of Israel (such as in the Eurovision song competition) or in Israeli events directed at an international audience.  The key to understanding this form of normalization is to consider that when Palestinians engage in such activities without placing them within the same resistance framework mentioned above, they contribute, even if inadvertently, to a deceptive appearance of tolerance, democracy, and normal life in Israel for an international audience who may not know better.  Israelis, and the Israeli establishment, may in turn use this against international BDS proponents and those struggling against Israeli injustices by accusing them of being “holier” than Palestinians.  In these instances, Palestinians promote relations with mainstream Israeli institutions beyond what constitutes the mere need for survival.  The absence of vigilance in this matter has the effect of telling the Palestinian public that they can live with and accept apartheid, should engage Israelis on their own terms, and forgo any act of resistance.  This is the type of normalization that many Palestinian citizens of Israel, along with PACBI, are increasingly coming to identify and confront.

3) Normalization in the International Context

In the international arena, normalization does not operate all that differently and follows the same logic.  While the BDS movement targets complicit Israeli institutions, in the case of normalization there are other nuances to consider.  Generally, international supporters of BDS are asked to refrain from participating in any event that morally or politically equates the oppressor and oppressed, and presents the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis as symmetrical [5]. Such an event should be boycotted because it normalizes Israel’s colonial domination over Palestinians and ignores the power structures and relations embedded in the oppression.


In all these contexts, “dialogue” and engagement are often presented as alternatives to boycott. Dialogue, if it occurs outside the resistance framework that we have outlined, becomes dialogue for the sake of dialogue, which is a form of normalization that hinders the struggle to end injustice.  Dialogue, “healing,” and “reconciliation” processes that do not aim to end oppression, regardless of the intentions behind them, serve to privilege oppressive co-existence at the cost of co-resistance, for they presume the possibility of coexistence before the realization of justice. The example of South Africa elucidates this point perfectly, where reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness came after the end of apartheid, not before, regardless of the legitimate questions raised regarding the still existing conditions of what some have called “economic apartheid.”

Two Examples of Normalization Efforts: OneVoice and IPCRI

While many, if not most, normalization projects are sponsored and funded by international organizations and governments, many of these projects are operated by Palestinian and Israeli partners, often with generous international funding.  The political, often Israel-centered, framing of the “partnership” is one of the most problematic aspects of these joint projects and institutions. PACBI’s analysis of OneVoice [6], a joint Palestinian-Israeli youth-oriented organization with chapters in North America and extensions in Europe, exposed OneVoice as one more project that brings Palestinians and Israelis together, not to jointly struggle against Israel’s colonial and apartheid policies, but rather to provide a limited program of action under the slogan of an end to the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, while cementing Israeli apartheid and ignoring the rights of Palestinian refugees, who compose the majority of the Palestinian people. PACBI concluded that, in essence, OneVoice and similar programs serve to normalize oppression and injustice. The fact that OneVoice treats the “nationalisms” and “patriotisms” of the two “sides” as if on par with one another and equally valid is a telling indicator.  It is worth noting that virtually the entire political spectrum of Palestinian youth and student organizations and unions in the occupied Palestinian territory have unambiguously condemned normalization projects, such as OneVoice. [7]

A similar organization, though with a different target audience, is the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), which describes itself as “the only joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think-tank in the world dedicated to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of ‘two states for two peoples’.  IPCRI “recognizes the rights of the Jewish people and the Palestinian people to fulfill their national interests within the framework of achieving national self-determination within their own states and by establishing peaceful relations between two democratic states living side-by-side.” [8]  It thus advocates an apartheid state in Israel that disenfranchises the indigenous Palestinian citizens and ignores the UN-sanctioned right of return of the Palestinian refugees.

Like OneVoice, IPCRI adopts the ubiquitous “conflict paradigm” while ignoring the domination and oppression that characterize the relationship of the Israeli state with the Palestinian people. IPCRI conveniently neglects a discussion of the roots of this “conflict,” what it is about, and which “side” is paying the price.  Like OneVoice, it glosses over the historic record and the establishment of a settler-colonial regime in Palestine following the expulsion of most of the indigenous people of the land.  The defining moment in the history of “the conflict” is therefore not acknowledged.  The history of continued Israeli colonial expansion and the dispossession and forcible displacement of Palestinians is conveniently ignored, as well.  Through IPCRI’s omissions, the organization denies the resistance framework we have outlined above and brings Palestinians and Israelis into a relation privileging co-existence over co-resistance.  Palestinians are asked to adopt an Israeli vision of a peaceful resolution and not one that recognizes their comprehensive rights, as defined by the UN.

Another disturbing, but again entirely predictable, aspect of the work of IPCRI is the active involvement in its projects of Israeli personalities and personnel implicated in Israeli violations of the Palestinian people’s rights and grave breaches of international law.  IPCRI’s Strategic Thinking and Analysis Team (STAT), includes, in addition to Palestinian officials, former Israeli diplomats, former Israeli army brigadier generals, Mossad personnel and senior staff of the Israeli National Security Council, many of them reasonably suspected of committing war crimes. [9]

It is no surprise, therefore, that the desire to end the “conflict,” and the desire to realize “a lasting peace,” both of which are slogans of these and similar normalization efforts, has nothing to do with obtaining justice for Palestinians.  In fact, the term “justice” has no place on the agenda of most of these organizations; neither can one find clear reference to international law as the ultimate arbiter, leaving Palestinians at the mercy of the far more powerful Israeli state.

An Israeli writer’s description of the so-called Peres Center for Peace, a leading normalization and colonial institution, may also well describe the underlying agenda of IPCRI and almost all normalization organizations:

In the activity of the Peres Center for Peace there is no evident effort being made to change the political and socioeconomic status quo in the occupied territories, but just the opposite: Efforts are being made to train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews. With patronizing colonialism, the center presents an olive grower who is discovering the advantages of cooperative marketing; a pediatrician who is receiving professional training in Israeli hospitals; and a Palestinian importer who is learning the secrets of transporting merchandise via Israeli ports, which are famous for their efficiency; and of course soccer competitions and joint orchestras of Israelis and Palestinians, which paint a false picture of coexistence. [10]

The normalization of Israel – normalizing the abnormal – is a malicious and subversive process that works to cover up injustice and colonize the most intimate parts of the oppressed: their mind.  To engage in or with organizations that serve this purpose is, therefore, one of the prime targets of boycott, and an act that BDS supporters must confront together.



[1] http://www.forward.com/articles/2070/

[2] Translated from Arabic: http://www.pacbi.org/atemplate.php?id=100

[3] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1673

[4] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1645

[5] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108

[6] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1436

[7] http://pacbi.org/atemplate.php?id=163 (Arabic)

[8] http://www.ipcri.org/IPCRI/About_Us.html

[9] http://www.ipcri.org/IPCRI/R-Projects.html

[10] Meron Benvenisti, A monument to a lost time and lost hopes, Haaretz, 30 October 2008.http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/a-monument-to-a-lost-time-and-lost-hopes-1.256342

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    1. Richard Witty

      The same standard is applied by likud and the now republican scramble to be more zionist than zionists, that any normalization with Hamas, or even by too damn many with Abbas or Fayyad, is a complicity with evil, with racism.

      In the name of fighting “colonization of the mind”, the anti-normalization movement cements it, in prohibiting the incremental and then substantive transition to peer status and psychology as peer.

      I recently saw the film “Lemon Tree”, recommended by kosher Palestinian solidarity activists at Mondoweiss. It was stirring, stimulating fundamental questions.

      The lead actress, Hiam Abbass, in the comments associated with the DVD special features, praised many in the Israeli film industry with which she works for breaking through racial divides through art (in which the institutional relations are a tiny portion of the experience, present but insignificant).

      I’m sure that she took heat for that statement and for her participation. In a dissenting film, directed by an Israeli with a multi-cultural cast and crew.

      Was that normalization or post-Zionist real life?

      Even if only for a drop, even if “controlled” by Israeli producer and director, even if distributed in Israel by Israeli distribution company repatriating profits in the hands of Israeli investors (of the distribution company).

      IPCRI as a complicit organization? “I shall not hate” as a complicit statement, if presented in Amherst, MA?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Sinjim

      Thank you for putting this up. It’s necessary to point out that this isn’t about individuals. This is about initiatives, organizations, and institutions. Allies in solidarity of Palestinian human rights mustn’t lend legitimacy to the Israeli occupation regime if they can avoid it, and they mustn’t let themselves be used for these propaganda purposes. That’s the essence of anti-normalization and why it will continue to be the defining pillar of all Palestinian activism.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Laila

      You see my phrases in use and language I use doesn’t come from no where, my language which some considered crucial only represents the majority Palestinians!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rika Chaval

      Thanks for posting this.
      I hadn’t been in any doubt so far that BDS is doing its very best in order to perpetuate the conflict for ever and ever.

      Make no mistake, those who support BDS don’t want a palestinian independent state next to – and in peaceful terms with – Israel.

      They are prepared to use Palestinians as fodder to their agenda up to the last drop of blood.

      Simple, if you want a solution to the conflict, don’t waste your time with BDS-people.

      Reply to Comment
    5. @Laila, Did you take a poll and figure out that this is the language all Palestinians support?

      Reply to Comment
    6. commentator

      @Laila: I’m sympathetic to many of the points you make, but feel very uncomfortable with your claim to speak on behalf of all (or even most) Palestinians. At least in the Jerusalem-area, I’ve met quite a few people who do indeed oppose normalization. But I’ve also met many who espouse ideas that resonant with Aziz Abu Sarah has written. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard, which was echoed in his article, involved the sense that anti-normalization activists were potentially “bullying” people into giving up personal or professional relations with Israelis who in practice oppose the occupation and support a one-state solution. You’re right to point out that the PACBI definition would not implicate such individuals, but from what I’ve seen and been told, it’s not like everyone’s sitting around reading the PACBI website while trying to figure out what anti-normalization means to them. I think this was the point that Aziz Abu Sarah was trying to make, in part, and I don’t think it’s just him who happens to think this way. So please, let’s stop pretending like there’s a unified, monolithic, homogenous Palestinian public that all holds the same standard-bearer opinions!

      Reply to Comment
    7. @commentator
      I totally agree with you. Those “activists” in Jerusalem are not calling BDS to check if a person or a group fits their definition.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Shlomo Yosef

      This debate drives me nuts but I understand the passions on both sides. The point that needs to be made again and again however is that though the impulse behind anti-normalization is completely justified, it will ultimately hurt those looking for a just solution, let me explain why.
      Normlization according to PACBI is de facto working in tandem with any group who does not share the same aims and goals of those of PACBI, namely the right of return amongst other things. Now the vast vast vast majority of Israelis do not support this and believe that it is a plot to destroy their state and their very lives.

      For the hundreds of Palestinians that I have spoken to, though this is a sacred right they also do not believe that it will be exercised by the 5.4 million people holding UNRWA cards. This is an important message but one that will never hit the ears of Israelis.

      Israel is not a static entity either in its settlement building or its support for a two state solution. The current government is working over time to wean the population off the two state solution and paint all Palestinians, well all arabs for that matter as people who are genocidial maniacs with no rational behind them.

      Due to the fact that no arab state has normal relations with Israel (Jordan and Egypt and frozen peaces) the only image that Israel sees of the Arab world is that which is projected of it in arab media. Every time that there is an antisemitic or generally demonizing image of Israel in the arab press it further goes to show that arabs all want to kill jews and those who wanted a two state solution in israel are naive and just don’t get it.

      Now to those who are against normalization they believe that through international pressure they can get what they want. However if Israeli’s think that their very lives are at risk over a right of return they will never allow their government, who controls the army, who controls the borders to allow any refugee to cross them. No matter what pressure is exerted internationally if it is seen as an existential threat – and it is seen that way – nothing will work.

      Now even if you want a one state solution and think that the right of return will come from that, think again. Without the ability to speak to main land israelis, who will not be participating in co-resistance, they can just offer those living in WB citizenship and absorb them into the 60 year old state institutions. Even with demographics the Knesset will pass I am sure a law requiring 2/3rd to change the immigration law and then in the one state paradigm the refugees are still locked out.

      If in the One State the resistance continues you now just have a civil war replay of 1947-1949 with a greater power imbalance.

      So with all this now out on the table – I get why the vast majority of activists in Palestine and their supporters would only want to speak to and work with those who agree with what they assert are their fundamental non negotiable rights. But the reality is that the right that most have been commenting on has been the right of return and this is the very right that without substantial public engagement with normal israelis will not be enacted under a one state or a two state solution.

      You are fully within your rights to say no to those groups who try and do this sort of public diplomacy, but at least they are aiming at something worth aiming at rather then a strategy that may be self satisfying and justified but ultimately totally ineffective

      Reply to Comment
    9. sh

      Several things puzzle me – well, preoccupy me too – but most of all I wonder who is haram and who is halal. What about Rashid Khalidi? Granted he said this at least a decade ago, but:
      “”If negotiations are to be resumed”, Khalidi said, “six prerequisites must be met, the first of which is the acceptance of U.N. Resolutions 181, 194 and 242.
      The second is full, unconditional recognition of both peoples’ rights to sovereignty. While the Palestinians have recognized Israel, he pointed out, Tel Aviv has not reciprocated.”
      “The third prerequisite,” Khalidi said, “is Israel’s acceptance of the pre-1967 Green Line.”
      This is two-state talk, right?
      “If we proceed that far,” he continued, “the fourth prerequisite is a reversal of settlements, which have led to the settlers-only bypass roads, apartheid, racist zoning and violence.”
      “Fifth is to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of both states. ”
      Again, two-state talk.
      “Sixth, according to Khalidi, is the right of return, compensation and acknowledgment by Israel of its responsibility to refugees it drove from Palestine. “It is outrageous that Israel ignores U.N. Resolution 194 and says the 300,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon cannot return,” he asserted, “while any Jew in the world can go to Israel.””
      Right of return, compensation and acknowledgment of Israel’s responsibility. That’s sounding more nuanced than a flat 100% return of all refugees.
      ““Oslo failed because it deferred every important issue,” Khalidi maintained. “I would argue that if these measures are not accepted, this conflict could be endless, producing nothing but a wasteland.””
      I hear it said elsewhere on +972 that the concept of opposing normalization has existed since Israel was founded. Its meaning seems to have changed over time if so. If people like Khalidi are now haram too, how can it be claimed that most Palestinians support anti-normalization as defined in this article?
      I got Khalidi’s six prerequisites from this link: http://www.wrmea.com/archives/july01/0107064.html

      Reply to Comment
    10. Matan Lurey

      Good points by SH above. It’s also important to say Edward Said was an open critic of ‘anti-Normalization’, as are the academics Chomsky and Finklestein.

      A new topic in the ‘pro-Israel’ world is the idea of a broad tent – I’m afraid that PACBI and their supports are taking the pro-Palestinian tent down and replacing it with a small umbrella.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Sinjim

      SH, where in PACBI’s words do you see opposition to two states? The three enumerated requirements are the end of the occupation, equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the full right of return. Nothing about the number of states.
      In addition, Khalidi states that Res. 194 must be accepted. That’s the resolution that deals with Palestinian refugee rights, and it doesn’t go against PACBI’s definitions.
      So no, Khalidi’s opinions from 2001 do not make him treif (See? I can use foreign words, too) because he supports a two-state solution.
      Yalla, what’s the next objection?

      Reply to Comment
    12. Several days ago, on Lisa Goldman’s blog, +972 very ostentatiously boasted of the dangers of posting calls for boyotting Israel on your website. Now you post an entire PACBI manifesto. What gives? Crying wolf?


      Reply to Comment
    13. Laila

      @ Aziz Abu Sarah
      No I have not taken a poll, but I am on the ground and I know what people think of Normalization, I know how small that number in support of normalization is. And I said it clear, I support the definition of Normalization according to the BDS terms, not because according to my own thinking I see it 100% but it’s only fair, and yes the BDS represents the majority of those involved in politics in away or another, at least I can garantee you that the majority of activists in the West Bank are 100% on my side.

      Plus I never generalized and said the same terms that go to people in the West Bank should be the same as the ones in Jerusalem on 48, it’s a big difference and this posts explains it all i guess!

      Reply to Comment
    14. sh

      @Sinjim – “Yalla, what’s the next objection?”
      Puzzlement and preoccupation are not objection. I know Saïd and Khalidi from their words and their deeds. I always felt there was a bridge to stand on there. When I read the manifesto you subscribe to I did not detect that bridge through the fog. In my stupidity, helped perhaps by seeing IPCRI picked out as one of the satans and reading some of the comments here of others who promote this manifesto, I assumed two states was among the no-nos. Khalidi also talks about right of return, you’re saying two-states is halal, so what makes him anti-anti-normalization (now there’s a foreign word for you!) ?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Ethan

      Laila – If you are engaging with Israeli’s on a site like such as 972, don’t you see that as a violation of your own definition of normalization?

      Reply to Comment
    16. Laila

      Who said I am engaging with anyone!?? I am not one of their bloggers!! I am just shocked from Aziz’s piece,, completly didnt expect such a post from him and the worse part is that it’s on an Israeli site,,,


      Reply to Comment
    17. Matan Lurey

      ” the worse part is that it’s on an Israeli site”

      There you have it ladies and gentlemen, even 972Mag is now anti-Palestinian because the bloggers, the most fearsome critics of the occupation, gaza war, apartheid-like policies etc are still Israeli. Thank you Laila.

      Not sure what hope there is for the future if 972 isn’t pro-Palestinian enough for Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Lucy

      No Matan. Jeez people here are finding so many concepts and ideas very hard to understand. THE PROBLEM with it being on 972 is BECAUSE this is a PALESTINIAN issue, Aziz said he believed the issue of anti normalisation needed reflection by Palestinians. SO WHY is it then on an ISRAELI site, and in ENGLISH, not arabic. This really begs us to question what his motives and aims were by writing this article because if they were as he stated I really do not understand why it is on this site. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH 972 NOT BEING PRO-PALESTINIAN ENOUGH.

      Get it?

      Reply to Comment
    19. Aziz Abu Sarah

      The BDS definition above puts Jerusalem with the West Bank and not with the Palestinians citizens of Israel. Did you see that? What does that practically mean?

      My question to you and @Sinjim and @Lucy @Linah which all of you ignored is how do you enforce this definition and how do you deal with those who disagree with you?

      Is it like at the Ambassador hotel where physically some “anti normalization” activits prevented the gathering, stormed the place, confiscated things, made threats?

      Obviously there will be disagreement between Palestinians on strategy an. But what worries me is when people take this definition and appoint themselves as “police officers” to enforce an idea or a strategy they support.

      Reply to Comment
    20. sh

      @Lucy – “SO WHY is it then on an ISRAELI site, and in ENGLISH, ”
      That’s an odd question. Because it’s important for all partners to know about the discussion too? It reveals some of the elements in play they might know less about that influence events in which they think they should take part – not least the one at the Ambassador Hotel?

      Reply to Comment
    21. Sinjim

      @SH: It’s actually not a weird question at all. Aziz claims to want Palestinians to debate this subject, but he wrote about it in English on an Israeli website with a very small Palestinian audience. Lucy’s saying if you want Palestinians to discuss this, why not post it in the language that Palestinians speak on websites that Palestinians visit.
      If he wants to publicize anti-normalization by mischaracterizing it as he did so that he can earn some praise from Israelis, he’s more than welcome to do so. However, he hasn’t done anything to start a discussion among Palestinians. He’s just opened the door for us to be insulted by people like Matan Lurey and others.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Sinjim

      @Aziz: Wait, so now anti-normalization activists prevented it physically from happening by confiscating items and blocking the participants? You said that it was canceled ahead of time because the hotel manager refused to host it. Which is it, Aziz?
      As for PACBI’s definition of anti-normalization and how it relates to East Jerusalem, they are clearly talking about political “projects, initiatives and activities.” Of course, all Palestinians under occupation, even the ones who live outside of East Jerusalem and the annexed surrounding lands, interact with Israelis in their everyday lives, whether it’s soldiers or settlers or through having to pay their taxes to Israel. Unless you define an invitation to dinner as a project or initiative, no one is saying that all contact with Israelis is wrong. PACBI is telling Palestinians to avoid political cooperation outside the resistance framework.
      As for how to enforce it, I think that’s the wrong question to ask. Palestinian activists shouldn’t be enforcing anything. If there are some who have vandalized property or threatened others, that’s obviously wrong. However, the goal should be convincing as many Palestinians as possible to adopt this strategy. They’ve been drawing attention to the organizations that accept racist money or employ former members of Israeli institutions of oppression who were involved in violence and other crimes against Palestinians. They also need to be explaining what does and what doesn’t count as normalization to the members of the movement.
      This is a political movement, Aziz. Like any political movement, it will have its opponents. If you believe that there is nothing wrong with accepting money from institutions of the Israeli government like the KKL or participating in projects with Israelis or Palestinians who are implicated in crimes against Palestinians, that’s your prerogative. Other Palestinians obviously believe differently and have a right to organize and work for their own vision.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Joel

      @Lucy: As an answer to your question about why it is useful that this discussion is not only in Arabic, please note Shlomo’s excellent post and particularly this part:

      “However if Israeli’s think that their very lives are at risk over a right of return they will never allow their government, who controls the army, who controls the borders to allow any refugee to cross them. No matter what pressure is exerted internationally if it is seen as an existential threat – and it is seen that way – nothing will work.”

      As long as Israelis and anyone who care for Israelis think, weather right or wrong, that the BDS movement is an existential threat to Israel, they will continue to oppose it by any means necessary. So, by having this discussion about the what BDS and the following anti-normalization policy really means in English is a chance to clarify for everyone what this movement and its supporters really want. It is a chance to increase its support base, by showing that the BDS movement does recognize both Palestinian and Israeli individual and collective rights.

      I, for example, could support BDS towards settlements only, but I don’t want get into that mess because, it remains unclear to me if the rest of the BDS movement allows for a continuous Israeli existence according to any of the many peace initiatives (Geneva Initiative, Belin – Abu Mazen agreement) that make a honest effort too meet both Israeli and Palestinian hopes and fears. That’s why it is important for me to know what Palestinians mean when they talk about BDS and what differences in opinion there is.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Aziz Abu Sarah

      YOU SAID:

      “@Aziz: Wait, so now anti-normalization activists prevented it physically from happening by confiscating items and blocking the participants? You said that it was canceled ahead of time because the hotel manager refused to host it. Which is it, Aziz?”

      There was another event at the Ambassador hotel. I talked about it in my article and linked to it. They did use violence. Actually one of the commentators did say that she was proud of it which is sad considering that used violence.

      I agree with you that this is a political movement and I would stand for your right to speak freely in Palestine and to be harassad by anyone even when I disagree with you. Because this is the Palestine I want to have, not one that everyone in it agrees with my views.

      I have never taken money from the Israeli government for my peace work or any work for that matter. So just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean it is because I am choosing money over patriotism.

      I find it interesting that you think it is okay for Laila to try to convince a soldier that is wrong for him to be in the West Bank while in a protest dressed in his army uniform. BUT find it wrong for me to talk to Israelis through an NGO about similar things in a class room. Do you think how you end up judging the activities according to your own agenda?

      YOU SAID
      ‘As for PACBI’s definition of anti-normalization and how it relates to East Jerusalem, they are clearly talking about political “projects, initiatives and activities.” Of course, all Palestinians under occupation, even the ones who live outside of East Jerusalem and the annexed surrounding lands, interact with Israelis in their everyday lives, whether it’s soldiers or settlers or through having to pay their taxes to Israel. Unless you define an invitation to dinner as a project or initiative, no one is saying that all contact with Israelis is wrong. PACBI is telling Palestinians to avoid political cooperation outside the resistance framework.”

      Common, lets be real. Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Israel receive social security payments from the Israeli government. That is not mandatory but even Hamas supporters take it happily. Is that normalization?

      Why is that different? Is voting in the municipal elections in Jerusalem a normalization act (despite the fact that it could sink Barkat who is destroying east Jerusalem) but taking money from the government for child support is not?

      the definition above doesn’t address these issues because it cannot and because it falls short of figuring out how to deal with these dilemmas. I posed this question in my article and I can bet you that most of the people that prevented these “normalization” meetings from happening do receive social security payments from Israel which in my opinion makes them hypocrites.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Sinjim

      Where did I say that I oppose you speaking to Israelis in a class room, ya Aziz? Nowhere because I’m not opposed to this at all. I’ve maintained throughout this debate that contact and cooperation with Israelis is something to be desired, not avoided. However, not all contact and cooperation is good or desirable. I also think it’s important which organizations or initiatives one works with and what one says to Israelis.
      If, for example, a Palestinian goes around telling Israelis that he believes Palestinians should accept Israel as a Jewish state, that is normalization and other Palestinians should marginalize this person politically. If a Palestinian cooperates with former or current members of the Mossad, the Israeli occupation army, and other institutions of occupation, who are guilty of crimes against Palestinians and who have not been brought to account, that is also normalization that dishonors the victims of their crimes.
      You keep making vague references to events at the Ambassador Hotel and do not elaborate what the events were about and why Palestinians would be opposed. You simply paint those Palestinians as cartoon-like villains. Well, I did some googling, and according to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center (link) it’s for something called the Israel Palestine Conference, which was holding some farcical “election” of representatives to a “third government” independent of Israel and an imaginary Palestinian state, ignoring that Palestinians live under occupation, dispossession, and exile. As far as I could determine, anti-normalization activists demonstrated outside the entrance of the hotel. The extent of the so-called violence is that some went in and took some booklets and signs. I don’t think that’s appropriate, but I certainly agree that pretending the occupation doesn’t exist at a political gathering between Palestinians and Israelis is normalization.
      As for receiving child benefits, firstly, I would say you are trying to conflate the situation between Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians of Jerusalem. The PACBI definition distinguishes between them. I would say that you’re right that PACBI needs to come up with a definition for what normalization means for the besieged Palestinians of Jerusalem, who are in a dire situation of their own separate in some ways from the Palestinians in the West Bank. I don’t know enough about child support issues, but I do know that the vast majority of Palestinians in Jerusalem oppose voting in the West Jerusalem municipal elections because it would strengthen Israel’s occupation regime. In any case, this current shortcoming regarding Jerusalem Palestinians does not mean that the overall strategy of anti-normalization is wrong.
      How can you say that political cooperation and collaboration with people who oppose ending the occupation, oppose equality for Palestinians in Israel, and/or oppose the right of return for the refugees is a good thing? How can you say that working with former officials of the state of Israel who’ve gotten away with crimes against Palestinians is a good thing? I mean, who among your Israeli fans would accept working with a member of Hamas who has committed acts of violence against noncombatants and who has never faced consequences for them?
      Why is it that we Palestinians must continue to give away more and more of our rights under the guise of “compromise” while Israel takes more and more and never raise an objection against it? All you’ve done is knock down the most powerful avenue of direct action resistance without providing a single concrete, detailed alternative to achieve our people’s full rights. Meanwhile your allies have done nothing but insult courageous activists like Linah Al-Saafin and Maath Musleh.
      I would also like to say that yesterday marked the 3rd anniversary of the massacre of Gaza. The only writer on this website who mentioned it was Dimi Reider, bless his soul, and even then, it wasn’t a commemoration. Neither you nor Omar, the other Arab writer here, uttered one word in remembrance of the victims on this website. You have a large audience of Israeli and other Jews, and instead of humanizing us to them, you are devoting your energy to attacking Palestinian activists and distorting their politics. And yes, you’ve gotten some applause from people who call us psychos and haters and cowards. It is because of stuff like this that I distrust your political instincts, Aziz.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Sinjim

      And to all you people arguing for normalization, here’s the best example of it via Didi Remez (link). Some Palestinians participated at a “conference” aimed at so called solutions to the conflict in the illegal settlement of Ariel, in which representatives of the Israeli government were given the platform to deny that there is an occupation.
      I encourage everyone to watch the video where speakers blame Arab and Muslim extremism as the cause of the conflict, ignoring the institutionalized control and racism of the Israeli state. The Arab speaker makes a fool of himself practically begging the Israeli settlers to give him even a modicum of respect.
      Answer me honestly, Aziz. Do you support entering settlements under these circumstances, where other speakers will be allowed to deny the occupation and the injustices perpetrated against our people?

      Reply to Comment
    27. sh

      The Ariel event was a clear-cut example that even anti-normalization dunces like me figured out when it was announced, but from some of the other posts I’ve read here, it sounded like there was a darker side to the debate than that.

      Yesterday there was a news item about Irishmen who fought on the side of the British in WWII, and their subsequent demonization. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16287211
      Something about it made me think of this passionate discussion. But I’m very grateful to Aziz and to +972 for bringing the subject to readers’ attention.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Miki

      SIMJIN thanks so much for the link to the video about the pro-normalisation conference held in the Israeli colony of Ariel.

      As I pointed out previously in the comments in Aziz’s article, when he opposed the cancellation of the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation conference in EJ that the barest research into the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation and Kamal Nawash from the Free Muslim Coalition reveal their pro-normalisation agenda. For example, a quick look at the website of this group reveals the absence of the word “occupation” or any sort of acknowledgement that Israel is carrying out an occupation of the Palestian people. The so-called Israeli-Palestinian Confederation despite its name is predominately made up of non-Palestinian -out of the 14 people listed on their site, there are quite a few Zionists but only two Palestinian members listed.

      A number of people involved in the group publicly identify with th “Free Muslim Coalition”, which was established by Nawash, who is a former Repuplican party candidate. This Coalition has organise “anti-terror” rallies which have been backed by Zionists and Islamophobes.

      Even Hussien Ibish from the conservative American Task Force on Palestine has pointed out the dodgyness of this group writing: “We are looking at everything from clothes shops in Arizona, Moonies, right-wing Zionists, and Christian fundamentalists, to Iranian monarchists, Iraqi supporters of the occupation, Darfurian exiles and Lebanese Phalangists”. http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2005/05/15/kamal-nawash-republican-campaign-rally/

      By failing to even acknowledge the fact that Israel is carrying out an occupation, the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation and the Free Muslim group actively normalise Israel’s colonial practices and gives, as you point out, the impression that somehow the conflict is a symmeterical one being carried out by two equal nations on a level playing field, instead of a assymetrical conflict between the colonial-settler occupier (ie. Israel) and a colonised occupied people (ie. the Palestinians).

      Reply to Comment
    29. Miki

      @Aziz, as I pointed out in my first post on your article, your arguments about East Jerusalem is not only hypocritical but also astoundingly non-sensical. Several people who have commented on your article, including myself, Linah, Sinjim and Laila have all pointed out that you are basically igoring the fact that Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are all living under Israeli occupation so have little choice in relation to having to access Israeli services and benefits.

      I asked you specifically to address our comments about this and you have so far chosen not to do so, instead of conveniently continuing hold up your straw arguments.

      As I pointed out, since 1967, Israeli governments have repeatedly sought to repress Palestinian national identity, institutions and services in Occupied East Jerusalem. As a result, Palestinians living in Occupied EJ have little choice but to pay Israeli taxes and/or access Israeli services, institutes and such because Israel has repressed and suppressed the building of Palestinian national institutions and services in East Jerusalem. BUT you fail to even acknowledge this fact in anyway, instead you have continued to hold up a straw argument which ignores completely this political reality. The same goes for Palestinian citizens of Israel, they have no choice but to access Israeli services because Israel prevents them from accessing Palestinain institutions and actively represses such Palestinian national institutions.

      This is not unique to Palestine, the same happened in South Africa during the apartheid regime. For example, in South Africa under the apartheid regime, as well as under the imperialist regimes in India and Egypt, the oppressed were often forced to use the services of the opppressor because these were the only services available to them.

      For example, Nelson Mandela studied law at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, one of the most notorious apartheid institutes. Similarly, leaders of the anti-colonial resistance movement in India and Egypt, among many other countries, received their education at British universities at the height of the colonial era. Are you saying Mandela and leaders of the anticolonial resistance in India and Egypt were hypocrites because they had little choice but access services and institutions of the oppressor because these were the only institutions available to them?

      The fact that you can’t see the difference or refuse to acknowledge this political reality is astounding and morally bankrupt to say the least.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Aziz Abu Sarah


      Don’t use Mandela as an example because your attitude and agenda has nothing to do with him. As someone who knows the Mandela family and have met several of them on different occasions, I can tell you that he is a supporter of my work. But again, I am sure you think that know better than him.

      Remember what he said about learning about your enemy: “Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport.” . Oops that would be normalization, wouldn’t it?

      But mostly I believe it is his attitude that made him the great man he is. He said,
      “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
      Think about that!

      @sinjim. I am not answering your questions anymore. You keep ignoring my answers and my questions to you. Every time I answer your question you ignore it.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Sinjim

      Um, I’m ignoring your questions? That’s why I took the time to write a long comment to you and acknowledge that some of your criticism has validity? OK, whatever, Aziz.
      Just to correct one more of your distortions, PACBI’s definition explicitly says that knowing your enemy is not normalization, specifically in the penultimate paragraph in section 1. And your response to Miki is a non sequitur. Whether or not you know the Mandela family has no bearing on the trueness of his point.
      @Miki: Thank you for elucidating the challenges and restrictions that Palestinians in Jerusalem face.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Richard Witty

      Who is an enemy?

      It is what you meant.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Henry Weinstein

      After “What is normal about normalization?”, after “What is normalisation?”, I suggest another discussion:
      What is more normalizing than the anti-normalization will to impose one’s anti-normalization normative statements before the discussion?
      For non-Activist readers: What is more normalizing than the will to impose one’s normative statements before the discussion?
      I’m not joking, fasten your seat belt.
      I get it: because the conflict is asymetrical, anti-normalizers want to anti-normalize the discussion.
      But then how to talk with people who want to anti-normalize the discussion, that is to say how to talk with people who don’t want to talk but anti-talk with you?
      More generally
      How to talk with One-Siders – Ultra-Zionists & Ultra-Activists -, we Two-Siders?
      I mean how to deal with self-centered people from both sides who are incapable of seeing the world – for them, the world is their Zionism & Activism – from another perspective than their own black and white views?
      We might need a great Psychiatrist, instead of Gandhi & Mandela.
      It’s appalingly obvious on the “What is normal about normalization?”‘s thread and on this thread too, One-Siders just want to debate, to impose their norms & commandments, not to discuss, to interact with the other side – the Bad Side.
      Same Inquisition, same methods of intimidation, same torture-tests than Ultra-Hasbarahtists.
      Same accusations, veiled threats too.
      But what’s worth to transform a discussion into a confrontation?
      I get it: because the conflict is asymetrical, the discussion cannot be symetrical, that is to say two-sided, that is to say a discussion.
      And you know what, it’s Fascism whatever one-sided affiliation.
      And yes the conflict is asymetrical, yes Palestians are under existential threat: so which One-Siders & Anti-Normalizers are more stupid & vain than the others?

      Reply to Comment
    34. Miki

      @Aziz, why are you deliberately filibusting and avoiding answering the questions that are being asked of you? Whether or not I know Mandala personally or not is totally irrelevant to the point I am making.

      Do you regard Mandela as a hypocrite because he had no choice but to gain his education at well-known Sth African university which helped perpetuate the Apartheid regime?

      If your answer is no, then it is you who is being a hypocrite. If your answer is that Mandela is not a hypocrite for getting his education in such a manner, then your argument that Palestinians who oppose normalisation but also access (because they have no choice) Israeli services in Occupied East Jerusalem is invalid and hypocrtical. My point still stands and you have failed yet again to address the points/question I and others have made about Occupied East Jerusalem.

      Mandela did indeed say “know your enemy – and learn his favourite sport” but you clearly do not understand what he meant by this (or the other quote you have cited). He meant that you should know your enemy in order to learn his weaknesses and strengths, not so you could normalise their oppression of the oppressed.

      Mandela was opposed to normalisation as long as the apartheid regime stayed in place. It was only after apartheid fell that Mandela and the ANC then sought to reconcile through justice (via the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, which applied the principle of restorive justice – publicly prosecuting those who engaged on both sides in human rights abuses etc). The essence of the Truth and Reconcilition Commissions is what is captured in Mandela’s quote: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”. He was not justifying normalisation as you are trying to do. Instead he was saying that one should not let resentment eat you up. The point was to have closure and move forward, but ONLY after apartheid fell, not before.

      During the Apartheid era, Mandela and the ANC actively opposed normalisation, calling for a boycott of South Africa, including a sporting boycott. As you are no doubt aware, the Palestinian BDS campaign is squarely based on the South African BDS campaign called for by Mandela and the ANC.

      I find it quite sad that you are trying to distort Mandela’s legacy in order to justify your own pro-normalisation agenda. What you are doing and what Mandela did are two completely different things and I find it astounding that you are even attempting to paint what you are doing as being anything like what Mandela did and advocated.

      Reply to Comment
    35. sh

      @Miki – “Mandela was opposed to normalisation as long as the apartheid regime stayed in place.”
      Unless he wrote that to someone in a letter from prison during the quarter-century-+ time he spent there, how do we know that? The boycott only started when he’d been incarcerated for about 17 years and he still had many years to go.
      “but ONLY after apartheid fell, not before.”
      he was released and helped negotiate its end. Is that when he said it?
      I don’t remember issues of what I suppose equalled anti-normalisation (they called it collaboration) until apartheid was on the wane. It resulted in vindictive aberrations like necklacings which only served to discredit a struggle already almost won.
      “your own pro-normalisation agenda”
      Pro-normalisation is an oxymoron and I don’t see that Aziz said he was pro anything except struggling in his way for justice to prevail here. A great orchestra includes a broad range of instruments as well as a good conductor. And if the conductor is in jail, as Mandela was, a great orchestra can creditably play the score without a conductor.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Lightbringer


      Basically there is 4 large and somewhat vaguely defined groups of people

      #1 – Arabs who does not want to see any alive Israeli on the eastern coast of Mediterranean

      #2 – Arabs who wouldn’t mind to live peacefully alongside Israelis

      #3 – Israelis who wouldn’t mind to live peacefully alongside Arabs

      #4 – Israelis who doest not want to have any Arabs whatsoever within the boundaries of Israel

      As long as the majority of Arabs in the world comprise #1 – there is no chance for peace.

      All I know as an average Israeli – once we open borders and let Arabs come and work – there will imminently be a terrorist attack and someone will die.

      So until #1 drops their bloodthirsty intentions there will be no any progress towards peace, which basically means that there won’t ever be peace here.

      Well, bring ’em on.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Lightbringer

      Oh, I’ve almost forgot.

      Interesting, how many of you “peace activists” know what is the meaning of word Taqiyya (تقي)?

      In a nutshell it means that no Muslim could be ever trusted because Quran directly tells so.

      You wanna make peace with the people whose religion makes them lie to anyone infidel?

      There is only one way of dealing with Muslims, and it’s not peace talks.

      Reply to Comment
    38. sh

      Hope you’re a light-absorber too.
      1) You spelled Taqiyya wrong in Arabic
      2) You forgot to explain that it means several things, only one of which is to dissimulate in dangerous circumstances. Jews happen to have done that too over their history, sometimes together with Muslims (see Spanish Inquisition).
      3) Your statements about Muslims are uninformed, racist and off-topic. Hope +972 noted that.
      4) Back to the topic, here’s an example of gross abnormalization for you to ponder: http://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/2010070915338.pdf
      5) And a video to watch: http://www.zochrot.org/en/video/testimony-amnon-neumann-palmach-soldier

      Reply to Comment
    39. Mohammad

      Most of what is being said here is ridicules. Here are links of coverage to the conference at Ariel. We organized this and Kamal Nawash actually asks for full right of return and full equality for Palestinians. What do you as ask for. The people in the forum are a joke. I will follow Kamal Nawash because he has vision and you have Humus










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    40. Amir

      This debate is just so so so so incredibly sad.

      Reply to Comment
    41. Just what exactly seriously moved you to create “What is normalization?
      | +972 Magazine” cleanformac ? I actuallyhonestly enjoyed the post!
      Thanks a lot ,Mollie

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