This excerpt is the Introduction to my third edition of Israeli and Palestinian voices: A Dialogue with both Sides.
Since my first visit to Israel-Palestine in March 2002, I have returned four times, including a visit to Gaza in November 2012. In those twelve years the more things have changed the more they have stayed the same. Realistic solutions were proposed. Regional players were offered concessions. A neutral party with international respect could have led the negotiations and brokered an agreement. Instead, the US acted as Israel’s lawyer demanding impossible concessions from one party and not the other.
Since Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew the 7,000 Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005, Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison for daring to vote in Hamas over a corrupt-riddled Farah in elections forced upon the Palestinian Authority in January 2006 by the United States. The Palestinian Authority was charged by Israel with crushing Palestinian resistance in order to make the occupied territories safe for continued Israeli occupation. Hamas’s success, therefore, was as much an expression of the determination of Palestinians to resist Israel’s efforts to force their surrender as it was a rejection of Fatah’s willingness to act as Israel’s agent. Hamas’ victory reduced the conflict to its most fundamental elements: there is occupation, and there is resistance. After its win, Hamas signaled that it wanted to continue its unilateral truce with Israel. Hamas clearly believed it could make such an offer from a position of strength and it was to its tactical advantage to leave uncertain when and how it might resume full-scale armed resistance. Israel and the US refused to accept the election.
After three major Israeli assaults against Gaza, the latest in July-august 2014, there is yet another war waiting to happen in Gaza. The last one changed nothing, nor did the two before. Hamas rockets are still being test-fired. The draft Security Council resolution at the UN, championed by Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, seeking a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank by 2017, amounts to nothing but an elaborate sideshow. The real matter of diplomatic urgency going into 2015, for the Palestinian people and the world, is the end of the lock-down in Gaza.
The supposed reconciliation between Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas has proven worthless. None of the causes of the conflict have been addressed. As Roger Cohen wrote in his December 2014 New York Time article Gaza is Nowhere: “Nobody wants to talk about Gaza because it reeks of failure—the failure of opportunities offered after the Israeli withdrawal in 2005; the failure of a 2006 election that ushered Hamas into power; the failure to achieve Palestinian unity, a prerequisite for successful peace talks; the failure to prevent repetitive wars; the failures that led to the sealing of the Rafah-Egyptian border and the utter failure to offer the most basic minimum of decency to the 1.8 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza.”
For all these misgivings, Ali Abunimah opines in his book The Battle for Justice in Palestine that the Palestinians are winning even though, in some ways, things have never looked worse. For all the undeniable truths about the current facts on the ground, it is not the Palestinians, as people seeking self-determination and liberation, who face constant doubt and anxiety about the legitimacy and longevity of their political project.
It is no secret that Israel, today, is mounting unprecedented resources to combat a global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. In just a few short years since this project was launched academic associations, trade unions, churches and pension funds are adopting policies to isolate Israeli institutions and foreign companies that are complicit in crimes against the Palestinian people. Judith Butler, the prominent American Jewish philosopher wrote: “Within the last two years I have seen how individuals and groups have emerged from their state of mute fear and anxiety into a tentative desire to talk. Rather than shutting down the dialogue, this campaign is generating more discussion, more action, new support, even among American and Israeli Jews.”
While there is no guarantee as to what will happen in the future, the legitimacy of Palestinian rights remains a priority in the developing phases of the Palestinians’ quest for empowerment, as long as it rests on nonviolent forms of mobilization, international law and their demands for basic human rights.
I am a firm believer in “people power.” We have the capacity to serve as the principal agents of change. This attitude goes against the grain of so-called “political realism” which is based on battlefield results. Richard Falk, who acted as Special Rapporteur in Occupied Palestine from March 2008 through March 2014, recently wrote that he was at a private dinner attended by dozens of diplomats. The French Ambassador said: “Forget about the Palestinian struggle. Israel has won. The Palestinians have been defeated. I may not like the result, but to think otherwise is to dream idly.” His comments echo the cynical view of history that ignores the power and the role of ordinary people and ignores the successful outcomes of the political struggles of the last seventy-five years.
The Palestinian struggle is all inclusive; it is nonviolent. It affirms rights under international law for both Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of equality, justice and respect for each other. The target in this struggle is not the State of Israel but the policies of occupation and repression.
this book is available for purchase here.