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Anti-normalisation: unhelpful to Palestinians

The policy of anti-normalisation amounts to pretending that Israel does not exist while Palestinians suffer daily from its discriminatory policies and wars. It does absolutely nothing to help the Palestinian struggle for liberation. It should be challenged head-on

By Moustafa Youssef

On 17 August, in response to a comment by +972 contributing editor Joseph Dana, I tweeted that an Egyptian revolutionary committee should address the J14 protesters. The Israeli protesters were obviously influenced by the Egyptian intifada – as were many people in the Arab world and indeed the entire world; so I thought it would be a good idea to address the J14 protesters about Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians. But my proposal was impossible to put into practice given the adamant position the Arab world has against normalisation with Israel  – as expressed in the following statement by the Egyptian Independent Union Federation:

5. The independent unions completely reject any form of normal relations with the Zionist enemy, as they reject all forms of co-operation with any person or organisation who is involved in normalisation or is calling for normalisation. …

Outreach to Israeli Palestinians and Palestinians living in the West Bank, or to any Israeli institution or individual that might be amongst those that are actively challenging Israel’s racist policies, is rejected. As stated further in article 5, the main reason the union opposed the government-backed Egyptian Trade Union Federation, which was dissolved after the fall of Mubarak’s government,  was due to “its participation in a visit to occupied Jerusalem.” In other words, solidarity with Palestinians means keeping them in a state of total isolation from their Arab brothers and sisters.

This championing of irrational parochialism, this pretending that Israel does not exist while Palestinians suffer daily from its discriminatory policies and wars, does absolutely nothing to help their struggle for liberation. It should be challenged head-on.

Anti-normalisation is in effect a policy of irresponsibility regarding the harsh reality imposed on the Palestinians by Israel’s military occupation. It is a means of avoiding Israeli society completely, as well as the Palestinians under Israel’s control. Instead, Arabs offer the Palestinians charity and rhetorical support for their resistance, while at home we treat the Palestinians with the same inverted logic applied by Israel: we refuse to normalise them. Many Palestinians in Arab states have for decades been living in refugee camps, just like the Palestinian refugees who live in UNRWA camps in Gaza and the West Bank.

If only Arabs could swallow their pride for a minute and think about the positive impression they could create by visiting Palestine. Artists, writers and musicians could boost morale and culture; professionals could help build institutions; professors could lecture at universities; ordinary people could experience what it means to be Palestinian by passing through checkpoints, watching houses demolished, land stolen and trees uprooted, and joining the weekly protests held in places like Bilin. Are international solidarity activists normalising with Israel when they demonstrate in Bil’in anymore than Arabs would if they attended? Is there any act of solidarity more important than being physically present? A typical response from an Arab whose country has signed a peace treaty with Israel, and who therefore can visit the occupied territories but refuses is, “I’ll visit it once it is liberated.” It seems like a defiant response, but in fact it absolves one of having to physically and spiritually help the Palestinians in their struggle.

Anti-normalisation is just rhetoric. And it is unprincipled. When a Gaza football (soccer) tournament  brought Egyptian, Tunisian, Jordanian and Palestinian kids together to help in “breaking the siege on Gaza,” the Egyptian Minister of Youth praised “the responsive attitude of the officials in Egypt and their keenness to support the young Palestinian people and to open up areas of cooperation and communication.” But when Egypt’s Olympic football team was invited by the Palestinian Football Federation to play in East Jerusalem there was a storm of protest: The visiting Egyptians would have to pass through Israeli border control and have Israeli visas stamped in their passports. For the protesters, the stamp signified a defeat: They saw it as recognition of Israel and acceptance of the occupation. But why is visiting the besieged Gaza Strip acceptable? Because you can ignore the reality of the Israeli occupation when there are no Jews around. Are the Palestinians in the West Bank not worthy of our cooperation and communication? Does the nature of Israel’s occupation dictate how we will treat one Palestinian locale over another?

Anti-normalisation is also a strategy of ignorance. Take the refusal of Alaa AlAswany, the prominent Egyptian novelist, who sued an Israeli publishing company for translating into Hebrew his international best selling novel, The Yacoubian Building, without his permission. Although he accused the company of plagiarism, he says his “position regarding normalization with Israel has not changed. I reject it completely.” Edward Said countered this position eloquently,

“Take the recent campaign against the translation of Arabic books into Hebrew. One would have thought that the more Arabic literature is available in Israel, the better able Israelis are to understand us as a people, and to stop treating us as animals or less-than-human. Instead we have the sorry spectacle of serious Arab writers actually denouncing their colleagues for “allowing” themselves to “normalise” with Israel, which is the idiotic phrase used as an accusation for collaborating with the enemy. Isn’t it the case, as Julien Benda was the first to say, that intellectuals are supposed to go against collective passions instead of trading in them demagogically? How on earth is a Hebrew translation an act of collaboration? Getting into a foreign language is always a victory for the writer. Always and in each case. Isn’t it a far more intelligent and useful thing than the craven “normalisation” of the various countries that have trade and diplomatic relationships with the enemy even as Palestinians are being killed like so many flies by the Israeli army and air force? Aren’t Hebrew translations of Arabic literature a way of entering Israeli life culturally, making a positive effect in it, changing people’s mind from bloody passion to reasonable understanding of Israel’s Arab Others, especially when it is Israeli publishers who have gone and published the translations as a sign of cultural protest against Israel’s barbarous Arab policy?”

(…)

“There is simply no rational justification from an intellectual point of view of having a policy of ignorance, or using ignorance as a weapon in a struggle. Ignorance is ignorance, no more and no less. Always and in every case.”

A sustainable peace will not come about militarily. Nor will it be in the form of some divine intervention. And although the onus is on Israel, not the Arabs, to do what is just, to recognize the dispossession of the Palestinians and acknowledge their equal right to the land, the Arabs can certainly play an important part in calming Israelis and alluding to the prospect of a just peace by engaging with them. Liberation based on boycott alone will not suffice. We need to reassure the Jews, just as the ANC and Nelson Mandela reassured the whites of South Africa, that the land is for both peoples to share, and the victorious will not rule over the defeated. Mutual trust must be developed; without it there will not be a sustainable peace.

Bassel, a Palestinian living in the West Bank, responded defensively to my tweet. “I think we don’t need to address nobody…we need to fight for our freedom,” he wrote.

My position was, and remains, that engaging with Israeli society, and especially with those who stand for civil and universal human rights, is necessary, regardless of how unpopular their positions may be in Israel. Bassel was pessimistic about the prospects for dialogue and real change being effected by the J14 social justice movement.

“Do you really think the Arabs should wait till the Zionists come around? Or convince them? Do you really think they don’t know? You’ve obviously never been here, if you really think they don’t know what’s going on. They know very well.”

But the Arabs have been doing nothing but wait for the Zionists to come around. Consider what could happen if a truly democratic government came to power in Egypt. We might eventually terminate our gas sales to Israel, end our siege on Gaza, continue to condemn the apartheid system and the settlements, or even end all diplomatic ties with Israel – but nothing substantial beyond that. What’s missing is an Arab initiative.

Comments on my cousin’s Facebook status gave a sample of what some Arabs believe; and they help to explain their lack of initiative. My cousin wrote that it was stupid of Gamal Abdel Nasser to have expelled the Jews from Egypt. He argues, I think correctly, that if they had not been expelled, a Jewish community in Egypt would today be a direct contradiction to the Zionist claim that only a homeland for Jews can protect them from endemic global antisemitism. The evidence to disprove that claim would have been right next door, in Egypt, where an old, established Jewish community had for centuries coexisted peacefully with non-Jews. Several people made comments to the effect that it was good the Jews had left. Well, they left and many of them emigrated to Israel – thus contributing to the number of Jews living on stolen Palestinian land.

In Egypt there is an inability to differentiate between antisemitism, or Jew hatred, and anti-Zionism, which is a rejection of the colonial project in Palestine. We should oppose those who equate Jews with Israeli policy, just as we should oppose those who accuse anti-Zionists of being anti-Semites.

Furthermore, anti-normalisation is different from  BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions). BDS is a request made by Palestinian civil society to boycott institutions that are complicit in Israeli policy and/or profit from the occupation and the wars. Anti-normalisation is the refusal to try to win over Jewish hearts and minds. It is a rejection of the notion that the future state in historic Palestine will permit Jews and Arabs to coexist in peace.

Moustafa Youssef, 23, is an Egyptian born and raised in Kuwait. He is a chemical engineering graduate of Dalhousie University who now spends most of his time on the oil rigs of Western Canada. He blogs at Arabic for Read.

More on this topic recommended by the author:

Defiance, Dignity, and the Rule of Dogma, Edward Said

Inside the other Wilaya, Edward Said

Excerpts from Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward Said

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    1. Teresa

      I certain ways I agree with the article, but in a way I don’t.
      Yes, in the end there has to be some cooperation between Israeli’s and Palestinians. But out of my experiences as somebody living in a Palestinian village inside Israel, I understand the anti-normalization point of view. i will try to explain. I am somebody who worked for years with Palestinian Ngo’s, and sincethe mid nineties the magic word was co-existence. palestinians and Israelies engaged in all kind of projects together. There was plenty of funding available for these projects. 10 palestinian and 10 jewish women talking together. SUmmer camps for Jewish and Palestinian kids, co-existence schools, Arab and jewish teacher. 2 historical narratives etc. And so much money has been spend to these projects. But in the end I see it all as pure nonsens. the co-existence schools were schools were the richer Palestinian children went, and most, if not all of them, were in Jewish neighborhoods, not in the impoverished Arab neighborhoods, and if, I don’t think that Jewish parents were ready to send their children to an Arab neighborhood. ‘To dangerous”. The co-existence workshops were all about nonsens things, the Jewish women didn’t ant to talk about “politics”, confiscation of land, etc. it was preferable by donors,it was their agenda. i worked and work with many Palestinian Ngo’s from the west bank, but also some of inside Israel Those from inside are organizations like committee against torture, committee against house demolitions. And we had meetings were all of them were. Once a director of one of the organizations asked to the Palestinians Ngo’s if they were willing to work with him as he being a Jew. The answer was that everybody who worked with them for the same goal, namely an end to occupation, was welcome, but as equal partners, not because he was a Jew. I think that this co-existence or normalization gives the left Israeli’s a kind of comfortable feeling, but they forget that they are the oppressor, if they are with or against the occupation, there is no equality, as in apartheid South Africa whites and blacks worked together towards the end of the apartheid, there is a different, and as long as in the Israeli-Palestinian case, the Israeli’s are not aware of this difference, it is not okay. many Israeli’s who are on the ‘good side” are here because they want to make Israel ‘more democratic”, or to give Israel a better image. Pure nonsense, something evil like a state who still keep 4 million people in prison can’t have a good image. Yes, in a way there has to be some cooperation but it has to be obvious that there is no equality and that the principles of working together are for one party completely different then from the other party.Normalization/anti-normalization is a very sensitive issue, and we have to be very clear in which cases we can do something together and when not. And why we like to work together.

      Reply to Comment
    2. James

      “In Egypt there is an inability to differentiate between antisemitism, or Jew hatred, and anti-Zionism”

      This is certainly true from my experience visiting Egypt and wandering around a book store. First item I see – Mein Kampf, next to it – Protocols of the elders of zion. Simply Pathetic. It would be like walking into a Tel Aviv bookstore and finding Anders Breivik’s manifesto on the best sellers counter. What message does it send to the average Israeli when you proudly display Mein Kampf? It sends a message that Jews are not wanted, rather than to be lived amongst. It’s quite hypocritical for the BDS crowd to place the onus on Israel when they themselves refuse to treat Israelis as equal.

      Reply to Comment
    3. James

      @Teresa
      “the co-existence schools were schools were the richer Palestinian children went, and most, if not all of them, were in Jewish neighborhoods, not in the impoverished Arab neighborhoods, and if, I don’t think that Jewish parents were ready to send their children to an Arab neighborhood. ‘To dangerous”.

      But how is this any different to Norway or Sweden where ethnic ghettos have created schools in Oslo and Malmo where ethnic Swedes and Norwegians school kids are in the minority with their numbers shrinking year after year. These parents don’t send their children to the school in the dodgy part of Malmo because it’s also too dangerous. The school in the nice suburb of Stockholm on the other hand will be 100% ethnic Swedes. Israel is certainly not unique with reagrds to a segregated school system

      Reply to Comment
    4. ‎”There was two kind of slaves. There was the house negro and the field negro. The house negro, they lived in the house, with master. They dressed pretty good. They ate good, cause they ate his food, what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near their master, and they loved their master…. That’s how you can tell a house negro”

      “If the master got sick, the house negro would say ‘What’s the matter, boss, we sick? We sick!’ He identified himself with his master… And if you came to the house negro and said “Let’s run away, Let’s escape, Let’s separate” the house negro would look at you and say “Man, you crazy. What you mean separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?” There was that house negro” Malcolm-X
      http://bit.ly/nQBCr9

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Israel

      Interesting perspective. I was very glad he mentioned Nasser’s expulsion of the Jews in 1956, a glaring reproof to those who are always claiming “Arab/Muslims hold Jews and Judaism in high esteem, their only problem is with Zionism”. Nasser was a “progressive” who read Marx and was a socialist, yet this did not prevent him from acting like a rabid, antisemitic nationalist.
      The question is why? Moustafa himself points out that in Egypt people can’t seem to differentiate between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Until this question in answered honestly forthrightly by Egyptians and other Arabs, there is no chance for peace.
      There is another factor that Moustafa needs to confront. Normalization means open contact with Israelis, and by this I mean ALL Israelis, including the political Right, the Orthodox religious AND the Jews living in the settlements. For “normalizers” to play up to the Israeli Left but to ignore the rest, which are the majority, would be seen merely as political opportunism and an attempt to divide Israeli society. Normalizers would have to understand that just as Arabs live on both sides of the pre-67 Green Line, Jews do also, and for there to be ANY chance of peace, Jews will have to continue to do so, regardless of whatever political arrangements can be made in working out a peace agreement, if that is ever possible. To simply babble on about “colonialism” is not helpful because it ignores the fact that Jews have lived in the country continuously for 4000 years, and Jews lived in what is called the West Bank before 1948, including Hevron, Shechem (Nablus), east Jerusalem and many other places that they have returned to since 1967. The sooner the Arabs come to terms with this, the sooner peace can come, and a failure to recognize these facts will prevent peace from coming.

      Reply to Comment
    6. rafiq

      as long as we israelis occupy Palestine , what can be “normal” ???

      Reply to Comment
    7. Miki

      Moustafa, your article clearly reveals that you do not understand politically what either the term “normalisation” or “anti-normalisation” mean.

      Firstly, the call for anti-normalisation with Zionist and Israeli colonial settler policies has been part of the Palestinian national movement since the time of the British Mandate. The 1936 revolt in Palestine was launched with a 6 month strike which sought to undermine the normalisation of Zionist colonisation by the British. This anti-normalisation position has remained at the forefront of the Palestinian national movement since this time.

      Your claim that the Palestnian BDS campaign is different from anti-normalisation call is astoundingly ignorant and flat out wrong. BDS is squarely situationed within the political scope of anti-normalisation campaigning.

      Unfortunately, it seems that it is you who don’t actually understand politically what anti-normalisation actually means, if you are claiming that BDS is not located within the anti-normalisation campaigning and that anti-normalisation is ignorant, rhetoric and unprincipled.

      Anti-normalisation is not about “the refusal to try to win over Jewish hearts and minds”, as you claim. Anti-normalisation does not refuse to try and win over Jewish hearts and mind, but it does puts the rights of the oppressed before the rights of the oppressor.

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    8. Miki, what does anti-normalisation mean?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Normalization? Well, what I’d like is to talk about normalization but also, and far, far more important, to talk (in all the nations of the world, all the nations that signed the Geneva Conventions) about BDS at the national level in order to CREATE NORMALIZATION, that is, TO COMPEL ISRAELI COMPLIANCE with international law.

      This is a sort of normalization in reverse, not refusing to talk to Israel, but talking loud and clear.

      “We are prepared to allow you back into the fold of law-abiding nations. Here’s what you’ve got to do. Remove the settlers. Dismantle the settlements and the wall. End the siege on Gaza. Get busy with it. We’d really like to trade with you, exchange ambassadors with you, have commercial airflights between our countries, etc., but not until you shape up. UNSC-465 (1980) anc ICJ-July-9-2004 set forth the law. get with it.”

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    10. annie

      lisa, as i understand it anti normalization is simply the process of not participating in normalizing zionism/an apartheid system.

      in an ideal zionist/aparthied world everyday people would go on with their lives doing business with isreal and visiting israel while colonization and oppression takes place. there would be little signs of ‘hope’ appearing here and there to point towards ‘normal relations’ ie some token schools and community interactions that demonstrate there are open ‘normal’ people on both sides and these signs of ‘hope’ would be upfront and visible while the vast majority of activity taking place remains the continued colonization of palestine.

      anti normalization means not taking part in activities or business that can be used as a cover, a shroud, that hides the very real apartheid system thereby exposing the raw face, the face of reality.

      i think the author either doesn’t understand the meaning of anti normalization or else doesn’t understand the depth of the problem.

      Reply to Comment
    11. eitan hajbi

      good article

      Reply to Comment
    12. Annie, thanks. I wanted Miki to tell me how she defines ‘anti-normalization.’ As we know, the term is nebulous. And I don’t mean anti-normalization in theory. I mean, in practice.

      Does it mean that Jordanian and Egyptian teenage soccer players should boycott a game with their Palestinian peers in East Jerusalem, for example?

      Does it mean that an Egyptian academic should refuse an opportunity teach at Bir Zeit University because s/he would have to go through Israeli border control in order to get there?

      Does anti-normalization mean that Egyptian and Jordanian anti-occupation activists will boycott a conference on grassroots anti-occupation activism in Bil’in because Israeli anti-occupation activists are present, or because the activists would have to pass through Israeli border controls in order to arrive in Bil’in?

      These are some of the questions that I would like to see addressed by people who disagree with Moustafa’s position on normalization.

      Reply to Comment
    13. There is an irony in the second BDS demand.

      It states that Palestinians deserve realized, consistently applied equal rights within Israel.

      It is a description of “normalization”, full and equal participation.

      In contrast the BDS movement itself opposes normalization until ALL of the BDS demands are met.

      I’ve never understood how intimate boycott results in liberation. It seems to result in a combination of confusion and rage.

      It sadly reveals a bias of the Palestinian solidarity community which is more anti-Israel or anti-Zionist than supportive of the restoration of rights to equality (not that it existed before, but that equality is the permanent natural law, gravity).

      Otherwise the Palestinian solidarity community would recognize the tent city demonstrations, making color-blind common cause among Sephardi, Ashkenazi and Arab Israeli around substantive issues. (Also, not that it realized that, but that that is the common reason, the gravity that all sincere humane discussion includes).

      So, how could BDS realize reform of Israeli laws, and health for Arab Israelis, if they condemn their own goal?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Miki

      Hi Lisa,
      earlier this year, The Alternative Information Centre published a good article which encompasses what normalisation is.

      You can access it here:
      http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/news/3278-levelling-the-scales-by-force-thoughts-on-normalisation-in-the-palestinian-israeli-conflict

      Rifat Odeh Kassis, the author of the article, cites the definition of “normalisation” adopted at the first national BDS conference in Palestine in 2007.

      According to this definition, “normalisation means to participate in any project or initiative or activity, local or international, specifically designed for gathering (either directly or indirectly) Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis, whether individuals or institutions; that does not explicitly aim to expose and resist the occupation and all the forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people”.

      This definition, pretty much coincides with what has always been my understanding of what “normalisation” was in regard to the Palestinian context, although like Kassis I also think normalisation encompasses the attempt to imply “equity between Israeli and the Palestinians in the responsibility for the conflict, or claim that peace is achieved through dialogue and understanding .. without achieving justice”.

      The Palestinian NGO Network has points out that “normalisation” has enabled Israel deepen and entrench its occupation and control of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

      As I noted before, anti-normalisation campaigning is not about “the refusal to try and win over Jewish hearts and minds”. However, it does very clearly position the rights of the oppressed before the rights of the oppressor, as the above definitions clearly outline.

      In citing the ANC and Nelson Mandela, Moustafa gives the impression in reassuring the whites of South Africa that the they were willing to share land that Mandela and the ANC waterdown their demands and their struggle. This, however, was not the case.

      Unfortunately, Moustafa’s arguments remind me very much of the arguments made by “soft” or “left” Zionists, who tell Palestinians and anyone else who will listen that the only way to achieve “peace” is for the oppressed Palestinians to pander to the insecurities of Israeli Zionists and do everything in their power to ensure the oppressor feels psychologically safe and that this needs to be achieved first in order to bring about “peace”. The problem with this of course is that it panders to the Zionist victim narrative and it turns the oppressor into the victim and completely ignores the fact they are oppressing another people. And while everyone is running around trying to make the oppressor feel psychologically safe, the oppressed, in this case, the Palestinians, must continue to live under occupation, repression and apartheid.

      Very few people, including the majority of Palestinians, would be against engaging with Israeli society. However, this engagement should not be one of normalisation, which completely ignores the fact that Palestinians are oppressed, occupied and living under apartheid.

      In recent interview (in July), Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the Palestinian BDS campaign pointed out that any challenge to the oppressors power is always frightening to the oppressor.

      Barghouti points out that any “resistance to oppression always alienates the oppressors. It’s a rule in any resistance to colonial oppression throughout history. And the colonial community is never fond of it of this resistance. They would like us to be complacent slaves, who just take injustice as fate and just live with it and move on. Well we won’t move on, we will continue resisting and it will continue to bother them because it promises to deprive them of their colonial privilege. And no one is happy to give up simply their colonial privilege … it has to be pulled out from the colonial masters, that you can no longer be our colonial masters. We want to live in full equality and to have full rights”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sycWqJXNniY&feature=player_embedded#!

      In relation to normalisation, Kassis goes onto to outline what this mean in practical terms. I won’t outline them here, but people can check out the article to find out more. Or they can have a look at the BDS booklet published by Maan Development Agency: http://www.bdsmovement.net/2009/maan-development-center-launches-booklet-on-palestinian-bds-campaign-574

      The Maan Development Centre booklet cites an excellent example of anti-normalisation campaigning. In 2007, an organisation called One Voice announced it would hold two big concerts in Tel Aviv and Jericho, supposedly as a way to promote peace and co-existence. However, One Voice’s platform promoted normalisation, as it failed to even acknowledge that Israel was actively engaged in the occupation and repression of the Palestinian people. Nowhere on its website or in its documents did it acknowledge the existence of the apartheid wall, Israel’s violation of international law, the illegal settlements etc etc.

      In response, Palestinian and international activists in the Occupied West Bank formed a group called “Another Voice” and actively sought to highlight the fact that One Voice was engaged in normalisation, while also organising an alternative concert which did not engage in normalisation. I was actually in Palestine at the time as an international volunteer and took part in the anti-normalisation campaign in Ramallah.

      The campaign was highlight successful in raising not only awareness about the attempt to normalise Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people, it also resulted the One Voice concerts being cancelled, because the Palestinians performers (such as the hip hop group, DAM) who had originally agreed pulled out and instead performed at the alternative conference.

      Normalisation, in my opinion, actively works to entrench the discrimination and dispossession of the Palestinian people and it ensure that colonial domination of the Palestinians continue and peace with never be achieved because normalisation is about ensuring justice is not achieved and without justice you can never have real peace.

      I actually think Kassis article addresses, much better than I ever could, exactly what is wrong with Moustafa Youssef’s article, so I would recommend that it be read in full.

      Finally, on the issue of BDS and whether or not it is outside of anti-normalisation campaigning, as Moustafa claims – as I pointed out in my previous post he is flat out wrong on this. As I have noted above, the Palestinian BDS campaign at its first national BDS conference in 2007, actively sought to define what “normalisaton” and “anti-normalisation” is. In addition, the Palestinian BDS National Committee on the global BDS website which they run, specifically state that part of their mandate and role is to: “serve as the national reference point for anti-normalisation campaigns in Palestine” http://www.bdsmovement.net/bnc

      Reply to Comment
    15. Thanks, Miki. I’m pretty familiar with the BDS position.

      What I’d really like to know is how far the anti-normalization position should extend. In many cases, it seems to punish Palestinians rather than Israelis. See, for example, my questions in my previous comment.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Sam Smith

      Contrary to what Bassel claims, most Israelis do *not* know what goes on in the territories, because the Israeli govt. doesn’t want them to know (certainly the current one) and the media for the most part plays along. Palestinian protests, arrests, etc. are simply not reported in the Israeli press. Israeli Jews most definitely don’t know what day-to-day life is like for Palestinians.
      It wouldn’t hurt to try and expose Israelis to the Palestinian “reality” directly through interaction, bypassing the media and perhaps avoiding specific political solutions. This would therefore not be part of the “peace process” industry, nor would the concept of justice be abandoned.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Miki

      Hi Lisa,
      I did not see Annie’s comment or your response until after I posted my recent post in response to your initial question. I am happy to address the questions you have raised (and I will) but before I do that I do want to make a couple of other points in relation to Moustafa’s article because I think the confusion in Moustafa’s article as to what normalisation and anti-normalisation is and isn’t has resulted a heap of strawmen/women being created which he then subsequently seeks to knock down.

      Moustafa’s confusion about normalisation/anti-normalisation is most evident when he argues that anti-normalisation campaigning would prevent people, either Palestinian or supporters of Palestinians from engaging with people who are, as he writes, “actively challenging Israel’s racist policies”.

      In his article, Moustafa specifically cites the recent statement issued by the Egyptian Independent Union Federation, a statement which rejects all forms of normalization. Moustafa goes onto castigate the EIUF for pulling out of a visit to occupied Jerusalem. Moustafa conveniently, however, only selectively quotes the EIUF statement (in particular, he only partially quotes point 5 of the statement).

      I did a quick google search for the statement and contrary to Moustafa’s claim the main reason that the EIFU opposed the government-backed Egyptian Trade Union Federation, which dissolved after the fall of Mubarak’s government, was NOT due solely to “its participation in a visit to occupied Jerusalem”.

      Instead, according to the EIFU statement the principle reasons for their rejection of the old trade union was because of “its subservience to the state and the National Democratic Party, and its participation in a visit to occupied Jerusalem and its failure to take any position opposing the policy of normalisation, such as the QIZ [Qualified Industrial Zones] Agreement and the gas supply agreement and other policies which the Egyptian Trade Union Federation by its silence supported while the Egyptian workers’ movement rejected them and was resisting them” (see: http://www.arabawy.org/2011/07/07/egyworkers-statement-egyptian-trade-unionists-declaration-of-independence-bds/ ).

      Moustafa’s selective quoting of the reasons in full for the EIFU’s opposition to the old Trade Union, allows him to create a straw argument that supposedly the EIFU were engaged in the “championing” of “irrational parochialism”, when this is clearly not what they were doing at all. I am at a loss as to why he felt the need to do this.

      “Anti-normalisation” is not about “avoiding Israeli society completely, as well as the Palestinians under Israel’s control”, as he claims. Instead, it is about not engaging in activities or programs which hide the fact that Israel is engaged in occupation and the violation of international law and which do not seek to expose and resist Israel’s occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people.

      So to specifically address your questions, no, anti-normalisation does not mean that Jordanian and/or Egyptian teenage soccer players are automatically required to boycott any game with their Palestinian peers in East Jerusalem. Whether or not they would be required to boycott the game would depend on who was organizing the game.

      For example, if it was a game being organized by an Israeli state institution or the Peres Peace Centre, then yes, this would be normalization and they should not participate (The Peres Peace Centre is a key pro-normalisation organization, similar in many ways to the One Voice group I mentioned in my previous post).

      However, if the game was being organized by a Palestinian soccer club or Palestinian institution, which does not have a pro-normalisation program (most don’t but a few do) then of course they should participate.

      Unfortunately, it seems that the fact there was a storm around Egyptians playing in EJ because they would have to get an Israeli stamp, also reveals that not just Moustafa is confused about what normalisation is, obviously many other Egyptians are as well.

      Anti-normalisation also would not mean that Egyptian or Jordanian anti-occupation activists would have to boycott a grassroots anti-occupation conference in Bilin, because Israeli anti-occupation activists are present or because they have to go through Israeli border control. Nor would it mean that an Egyptian academic would be expected to refuse teaching at Bir Zeit simply because they need to go through Israeli border control to get there.

      As mentioned early, anti-normalisation campaigning distinguishes between engagement with activities which normalise Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies and those which do not.

      This comment was edited in accordance with the recently passed anti-boycott law. According to this law, an Israeli media outlet cannot give the appearance of calling for a boycott of Israeli or settlement-produced products; nor, according to the law, can +972 Magazine provide a platform for commenters who espouse boycott (BDS). Since +972’s writers are Israeli citizens, they must comply with the law.

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    18. Miki, thanks for your answer. In this article, Moustafa is specifically calling for Arabs to engage with Palestinians in Palestine.

      He also specifically mentions an occasion on which the Egyptian Olympic team refused to play in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem because they would have to receive an Israeli stamp on their passports.

      I don’t see anything in this article that could be interpreted as advocating whitewashing the occupation.

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    19. Palestinian

      What is normalization?

      Sam Smith , do we have to pretend that Israeli Jews are that naive ? Who is committing the crimes and terrorism against the Palestinians ? IDF + settlers , they dont import the soldiers from Honolulu, the soldiers are the people in uniforms .Who elected the current government ?Who elected the Kenesset ? The government represents the people.People refuse to know whats happening few kilometers away bcz they already know whats been happening there for decades, the vast majority are satisfied with the situation.

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    20. “Who is committing the crimes and terrorism against the Palestinians ?”

      I think Mustafa is saying at least partially, in answer to that question, that Palestinian solidarity is hindering Palestinian Israeli development.

      It is an irony of the “which side are you on?” division approach.

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    21. Palestinian

      Do you really believe in any PI development ?
      I wasnt commenting on what Mustafa said , I was saying (in regard to what Sam wrote) that there is no difference btw the Israelis and their gov as some people prefer to present,its like its not the fault of the people but their extremist gov! no I dont believe thats the case.

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    22. Thanks to all of your compliments and thoughtful comments. I must apologize to all my readers, and to the Egyptian Independant Union Federation in particular for misquoting their reasons for their opposition to the dissolved Egyptian Trade Union Federation. The visit by the Egyptian Trade Union Federation to occupied Jerusalem was only one of the “principal reasons” the EIUF was opposed to it. Nevertheless it is a reason independant of the other two that Miki noted.

      The Arab position on antinormalization is not necessarily the view of the BDS campaign, which was only articulated in 2007, and I tried to allude to the difference between both positios in the end of my article. The fact that most Egyptians resist visiting the West Bank and protest the translation of their works into Hebrew shows that the ignorant and irresponsible view on antinormalization is more common amongst them than the one defined by the BDS campaign, and that’s to the core of my intention of writing this article, and championed irrational parochialism certainly has something to do with it.

      I was not using the term antinormalization as defined by the BDS campaign, but from my experience and from the examples I gave on how Egyptians (and Arabs in general) have used it to refrain from visiting the West Bank or having anything to do with Palestinians or Jews in Israel-Palestine.

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    23. Miki

      Hi Lisa, I agree with you that Moustaf has specifically called for Arabs to engage with Palestinians in Paelstine. And I would agree with this call.

      I would agree wth you that he is not advocating whitewashing of Israelis occupation, but I never said he was. What I said was that his agruments reminds me of the arguments/actions put forward by many soft /left zionists.

      Most (but not all)soft/left Zionist I have ever met has always acknowledged the horrors of Israel’s occupation, but they then attempt to “normalise” the relationship between the Israeli occupier/oppressed and the occupied/oppressed in relation, ignoring the fact that this normalisation will only entrench the oppression further. This is unfortunately, what Moustafa is doing.

      The big problem I have with Moustafa’s article, as I have already, is that he actually does not understand what normalisation or anti-normalisation is.

      The fact that the Egyptian Olympic team refused toplay in Israeli occupied-East Jerusalem because they would have to receive an Israeli stamp on their passports, simply reveals as I have pointed out that it is not just Moustafa who is confused about what normalisation and anti-normalisation activity is.

      And just because the Egyptian Olympic team is also confused, doesn’t make Moustafa’s arguments correct, because his arguments are based on his failure to actually grasp what is meant by normalisation and anti-normalisation in the Palestinian context.

      As mentioned, I also have a big problem with the fact that in order to support his arugment against anti-normalisation he engages in selective quoting of the EIUF document in order to create a straw person, relation to the issue of anti-normalisation, so he can then knock it down.

      AS I pointed out his selective quoting of the EIUF documents completely distorts why the union broke with the old union and why they are supporting anti-normalisation.

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    24. Miki

      My apologies for the many spelling and grammar mistakes in my last post!! I am running out the door and forgot to proof read it before posting!

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    25. Miki

      Hi Moustafa,
      I just noticed your post now. I just wanted to quickly comment on the issue of the Arab position on anti-normalisation and the view of the BDS campaign, but I don’t have time at the moment. I will try and come back a little later and add a comment then (as I can agree with some of what you have written but there are also things I disagree with).

      Thanks anyway for providing us with a very thought provoking topic!

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    26. Miki

      Hi Moustafa,
      Having read you comment above, I would argue the main problem with your essay, which is about solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, is that you fail to realise and acknowledge that the terms “normalisation” and ‘anti-normalisation” have a very specific meaning within the Palestinian context, which is related to the history of the Palestinian national struggle.

      Anyone, who is familiar with the history of the Palestinian national movement and national struggle will be very familiar with the concept of “anti-normalisation”, its definition and how it has been enacted in practice and the fact that it has been a core political position held by the Palestinian national movement for more than 75 years.

      Instead, it seems to me have tried to impose your OWN definition, which is at odds with the traditional and commonly accepted definitions within the context of the Palestinian national struggle. This is why I have argued that you have been confused by what anti-normalisation and normalisation means within the Palestinian context.

      I think my critique in relation to this is valid, because I think it acceptable to believe that when a writer publishes an essay about normalisation and the Palestinian struggle, unless he/she specifically stated otherwise, they are in fact using these terms as traditionally defined within the context of the Palestinian national struggle.

      In relation to BDS, it needs to be pointed out that the BDS campaign’s definition of normalisation is NOT a new definition dreamt up out of nowhere in 2007.

      It is merely a formalisation of a concept and definition of normalisation and anti-normalisation which has been part of the Palestinian national movement for more than 75 years.

      Now, that is not to say that your definition of normalisation/anti-normalisation in relation to the Arab context outside of Palestine may not be valid. And that this definition may not have merits.

      However, the problem is that you use YOUR definition, which is at odds with the commonly accepted Palestinian definition of these terms, to criticise Egyptian solidarity actions with Palestine, such as the actions by the EIUF.

      The problem here is that when the EIUF uses the terms, they are using the term in the traditional sense, not in the sense of your definition of the term.

      Where I do agree with you, is that some Egyptians, including obviously the Egyptian Olympic team, are ignorant about what “normalisation” and “anti-normalisation” means in practice .

      I could also agree with you that one of the reasons behind this may indeed be “irrational parochialism” as you have argued.

      However, I personally think the main reason is not necessarily this, but instead it is that they do not actually understand what these terms actually mean in relation to the Palestinian struggle and what that this mean in relation to practical solidarity.

      Unfortunately, I think what is a very interesting essay is marred by your failure to realise and acknowledge that there is a traditional meaning for these terms within the Palestinian struggle.

      It is also marred, unfortunately, by a lack of understanding that BDS, is at its political core, and anti-colonial anti-normalisation campaign and that their concept of “anti-normalisation” is not something that was newly dreamt up in 2007 but simply formalises the historical and traditional meaning of the terms.

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    27. directrob

      Sometimes after, checking the facts, it is hard to take an article seriously. Alaa al-Aswany has every right to refuse translation of its work, no reason needed. As copyright holder it is up to him and him only. The case in question was rather blatant.
      .
      The publisher is question was the IPCRI (Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information).
      .
      Gershon Baskin (in haaretz):
      “This man apparently rejects the fact that his country has been at peace with Israel for 30 years,” Baskin said. “With all due respect to his copyright privileges, we decided it was important for people here to read this book. Let’s give the Israeli Jewish public an opportunity to understand Arab society better.”
      .
      see aso:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/nov/09/the-yacoubian-building-in-hebrew
      .
      Being against normalization is for Baskin (IPCRI) according to the Guardian “cultural terrorism”.

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    28. Sam Smith

      @Palestinian: The people who come into contact with Palestinians nowadays (settlers & soldiers in the territories) are a small percentage of Israelis. The rest get their information from the media, and the media to a large degree “manufactures consent”, as Chomsky would put it, on behalf of the government. The fact that you can’t find the stories on this site in any of the mainstream Israeli press is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

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    29. Borg

      Moustafa, you have been banned for further commenting on 972 magazine. One of the criterion of 972 magazine is that the presence of Jews in Palestine is abnormal and thus normaliziation is haram. You are not allowed to express an opinion that is more moderate than the Jewish moderators of this forum

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      • Borg, your comment is extremely unhelpful.

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    30. Just a couple points. Many Arabs living in places that have normal relations with Israel are not allowed in. This is especially true of Jordan, but also to a large extent in Egypt. Most of the Egyptian population could not afford to come here. The rest of the Arabs cannot come here to Palestine. So although I agree on a few points, there is an obvious set back here.
      In terms of giving support to the tent protest, I agree with the Arabs and Palestinians. The tent protests are NOT dealing with the occupation or with Palestinians in general. So why should Palestinians and Arabs in general give this movement any credit. Israelis can say they were inspired by Egypt, but until they face what the Egyptians faced and still fight on, they are liars. THey gave up when 8 Israelis were killed in a non-related incident in Eilat. Egyptians lost hundreds, over a thousand lives, standing shoulder to shoulder against the regime. Not the same, if you want more, I wrote this about it…
      http://notesfromamedinah.com/2011/08/08/dear-israeli-tent-movement-you-are-not-tahrir-square/

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    31. mischi

      great article, great analysis. I would love to see this article generate some productive commentary and debate. It raises some really fundamental questions that I myself have been wondering for a while. THanks, really.

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    32. anon

      Loved the nuanced approach to a tough subject. Also, this article should be highlighted, front-page, and above-the-fold (not buried in the links on the front-page). Good job!

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