Politicide and the Failure of the Two-State Solution
Keynote Speech at al-Awda’s Fifth Convention, Anaheim, California, June 25-27, 2007
We are in a season of anniversaries, the 59th of al-Nkbah (1948) and the 40th of “al-Naksah” (1967.) Only the second one is commonly referred to as occupation, as if the first conquest is permanent and legitimate, despite the absence of a peace treaty. Nevertheless, for the victims of both conquests, the term occupation applies, and yet they are prolonged occupations far more related to geopolitics rather than to international law.
In reality, both of them constitute a form of political genocide (politicide) rather than occupation. The late Israeli sociologist, Baruch Kimmerling who authored a book with that title, defined politicide as a “process that has as its ultimate goal the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate national, social, or economic entity, which may also include partial or total ethnic cleansing. The late Tanya Reinhart said the following in this regard five years ago:
“After thirty-five years of occupation, it is completely clear that the only two choices the Israeli political system has generated for the Palestinians are Apartheid or ethnic cleansing (‘transfer.’) Apartheid is the ‘enlightened’ Labor party’s program (as in their Allon or Oslo plan), while the other pole is advocating slow suffocation of the Palestinians, until the eventual ‘transfer’ (mass expulsion) can be accomplished.”
Politicide, not occupation, is a process that covers a wide range of social, political, military and bureaucratic activities whose goal is to destroy the political and national existence of a whole community of people, and thus deny it the possibility of self-determination. This is what Israel has been doing since 1948destroying the very fabric of the Palestinian nation. It has intensified the destruction in 1967 and the process is ongoing.
Using this definition it will be possible to understand Israel’s intentions, plans and policies in a realistic contextaway from fantasy, wishful thinking and lies by those who call themselves moderates and fancy their role as a lobby trying to compete with AIPAC and other components of the pro-Israel lobby. There are no differences between the perspectives and intentions of the United States strategic establishment on the one hand, and those of the pro-Israel lobby and the Zionist movement on the other. No wonder, the so-called peace process, initiated and monopolized by Washington, has been a total failure for forty yearsan intentional failure because neither Washington nor Tel Aviv has ever had any intention to terminate the occupation.
We must ask: After four decades of diplomatic pretense, is it realistic to speak about “Occupation,” or would politicide take us closer to reality? The term “occupation” is a phenomenon of international law, whereby the occupant and the occupied are entitled to different rights designed to enable the former to conduct the occupation until it comes to an end when the circumstances which had led to it have ceased to exist. The Israeli occupation by its very lengthto say nothing of its land confiscation, settlement policy, and other methods of a permanent naturemakes it qualitatively different from other historical occupations.
There is a consensus in the Israeli body politic that self-determination in any area of pre-1948 Palestine is an exclusive Jewish right, which means that the two-state solution is not feasible and the politics of politicide have been directed toward ensuring that outcome. The great challenge facing the Palestinians is to understand the mechanics of politicide and how they have shaped the reality of the current Palestinian situation.
The occupation is a system, which enables Israel to control the Palestinians through three dimensions: force, time and space. It is a form of power that is all encompassing, overwhelming, as Professor Ady Ophir, of the Philosophy department at Tel Aviv University tells us. After Israel left Gaza in August 2005, it appeared to some that the occupation has ended at least in Gaza. Not so, Israel continued to control the sea, the skies, and the passageways into and out of Gaza. It continued to control the economy. It invaded the whole area and imposed a siege lasting until the present.
Throughout the past forty years, Israel manipulated the domestic law, and international law, making occupation seem normal. For example, the Israeli Supreme Court made the illegal, legal. Richard Falk, among others, demonstrates the ways that international law was made irrelevant by the “occupation.”
Other issues, such as the 6 million refugees, the Bedouins, Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens, the two million Palestinians in the West Bank and 1.5 million in Gaza were kept as separate entities and consigned to different forms of politicide. The national unity of the Palestinians has thus been thwarted by the “occupation” not only by military means but also by political, bureaucratic and demographic policies all of which are regulated by this occupation. That is why it is more accurate to describe it as politicide rather than classical occupation.
The one area in which Israel managed the occupation/politicide throughout these past decades, which I want to emphasize, is the mechanism of diplomacy. Other mechanisms such as bureaucracy, force, economics, would have to be dealt with separately, therefore the balance of this presentation will be devoted to the question of how American diplomacy in recent years enabled Israel to achieve the goals of politicide by creating the illusion of a two state solution when that option has never been seriously entertained whatsoever.
In fact, the real function of the “peace process,” has been to shelter Israel from the threat of peace. The peace process has enabled Israel to escape its obligations to the Palestinian people under international law. Instead, such obligations have been effectively replaced by Israeli decrees presented as American peace initiatives.
Not only has the United States succeeded in regularizing this 40-year occupation, but it also engaged in diplomatic outsourcing, thus consigning part of the diplomatic fašade to the European community, the Russian Republic, and the United Nationsand so a new term is added to the diplomatic vocabularythe quartet, which is Washington’s way to enlist others in support of the U.S./Israeli positions.
This new fašade is then given the name, the international community. Thus the Zionist movement’s designs are Americanized and later internationalized. The international community which declared the 1967 occupation illegal has now become an accomplice of Washington and Tel Aviv in supporting politicide.
All in all, ending the “occupation” will continue to be a formidable task due to the fact that combating politicide has produced an unequal conflict, in which the occupation has been sustained militarily, bureaucratically, propagandistically, politically, economically and diplomatically.
Do the Palestinians have options to deal with politicide? How did Washington manage to act as judge, jury and prosecutor in the service of politicide? And on top of that, how did it manage to enlist the international community? How did it manage to promote the Israeli agenda without being held to account?
During the past few decades, Israel and the United States have pursued policies, which dealt a crippling blow to the two-state solution, which would have created an independent Palestinian state and terminated the Israeli occupation. This derailment was accomplished through futile but focused diplomatic efforts invested by U.S. presidents from Nixon to Bush ll.
Forty years have elapsed since the 1967 occupation; fourteen years since Oslo; seven years since the Mitchell Report; seven years after Taba; six years since the Zinni mission; and four years after the Road Map, peace has remained hopelessly illusive, but nevertheless focused.
Placed in that context (supporting politicide while pretending to be peace maker) I shall demonstrate how America’s most recent diplomatic accolades have helped accomplish Israel’s strategic goals and those of the Zionist movement.
First, between the signing of Oslo in 1993 and the present, the U.S. and Israel managed to remove the Palestinians from the negotiating table. In 2004 (April 14) George W. Bush declaring settlements as “facts on the ground,” thus rendering his much touted vision of a sovereign, contiguous Palestinian state a mere rhetorical exercise.
Tonight, I will argue that the Oslo process sealed the fate of Palestinian statehood, and that the subsequent “war on terror” made it possible for Bush to grant Sharon a new Balfour declaration in April 2004. Ironically that might have left the vision of a single state for two equal communities as the only dignified solution.
Oslo and the demise of the two-state solution
The Oslo accords have dealt a crippling blow to the foundations of the global consensus. As an agreement to reach agreement, Oslo had in reality enabled Israel to conquer territory, to oppress, to displace and to dispossess, without being held accountable.
Even if these agreements were to succeed, the maximum gain for the Palestinians that seemed possible would have been a fractured collection of some 120 small Bantustans, non-contiguous enclaves, on about 40-50 percent of the West Bank (11 percent of pre-1948 Palestine.) Under optimal conditions, something called the state of Palestine might have emerged, but would have been only nominally independent. Genuine independence had already been ruled out by the agreement between Labor and Likud in January 1997, which insists on but a single sovereignty (Israeli) in the area between the River and the Sea.
Palestinians would be residents of enclaves “separated” from each other and from Israel, but functionally, part of a “greater Israel.” “Separation is the equivalent of Apartheid” in the language of the Afrikaan. Ehud Barak emphasized it and Sharon and Olmert implemented it with the so-called separation fence and unilateralist policies.
Barak was able to convince Clinton to skip Israel’s obligation to conduct a third redeployment and pushed for moving directly into the final status negotiations, which brings us to Camp David July 2000. Clinton and Barak forced the PA to accede to a premature (as Arafat insisted) trilateral summit presided over by Clinton himself. There were a number of problems with the way that summit was conducted:
First, UN Security Council Resolution 242, which stipulates the exchange of conquered land for peace, was simply ignored by the U.S. in the Camp David negotiations. Second, every proposal that was presented by the American mediators to the Palestinian side already had Israeli clearance. On practically every issueespecially on Jerusalem and the refugeesthe American team simply adopted and argued for the Israeli position.
This view is bluntly corroborated by Aaron David Miller, a senior negotiator on the Clinton team at Camp David and an Orthodox Jew. Miller publicly revealed that rather than serve as a true mediator in peace negotiations, successive U.S. administrations including Clinton’s have acted as “Israel’s attorney.” Writing on the Washington Post op-ed page in May 2005, Miller admitted that Clinton and his team followed Israel’s lead “without critically examining what that would mean for our own interests, for those on the Arab side and for the overall success of the negotiations.” The Clinton team’s practice of running everything past Israel first “stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required for serious peacemaking. Far too often...our departure point was not what was needed to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides but what would pass with only oneIsrael. The result was utter failure.”
Thirdly, in its “generous offer” with regard to land, borders and security, Israel effectively sought to consolidate and legitimize the gains it made in the 1967 war. This was a true example of committing politicide through diplomacy. However, the “greatest failure” of the Camp David summit was over the issue of the Palestinian refugees. With regard to the right of return, Israel offered to return only a few thousand refugees over a ten-year period in the context of a family reunification plan. In return, the Israelis demanded an “end of the conflict.” This of course would release them of any and all further claims. It is interesting that this Israeli policy towards the Palestinian refugees has remained unaltered from 1948 until 2007.
Back in June 1948, Israeli Foreign Minister, Moshe Sharett, told the Knesset that repatriation of the Palestinian refugees was rejected on the assumption that “a wave of returning refugees might explode the state from inside.”
He said:“They will not return. This is our policy, they shall not return.” Fifty-eight years later, this policy remains untouched. On 20 November 2006 the current Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, urged the world community, especially the Arab countries housing refugees, to annul the right of return. She issued her command in a lecture she was delivering at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Remarkably, she used the flawed logic that the right of return, which is enshrined in international law, is not mentioned in the Road Map, as if the dilapidated plan superseded international law.
Livni’s abrogation of international law had been tried earlier by Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. secretary of state, who issued an edict in 1993 directed to all UN member nations, asking them not to make reference to UN resolutions affirming the basic rights of the Palestinian people, chief among them was 194, which recognizes the right of the refugees to return and/or receive compensation. She described these resolutions as “irrelevant, contentious and obsolete.”
As for Jerusalem the PA was offered “custodial sovereignty” over the Holy Places, but sovereignty on the grounds of the Haram Al-Sharif was vested in Israel. The offer to return 94 percent of the OT was not only hype, but was also a falsification. Let us not forget that Israel defines Jerusalem as that area which has 28 Palestinian villages all of which were occupied in 1967 but do not enter the calculation of OT since they are regarded part of greater Jerusalem. This manipulation of figures and ratios is yet another example of bolstering politicide.
To the credit of the Palestinian Authority, it refused to accept the so-called “generous peace offer.” After all, it was not only far below the minimum aspirations and the internationally guaranteed rights of the Palestinian people, but it also contravened existing international law and United Nations resolutions. The occupation would have remained intact but reconfigured or repackaged.
Why has peace been such a threat to Israeli leaders? And what are the salient features of the post-Oslo periodthat of Sharon and Bush?
For Israel, the danger of a permanent peace emanates from a perceived “demographic threat.” Sometime between 2005 and 2010, Palestinian Arabs living under Israeli control will become a majority between the Jordan and the Mediterranean for the first time since 1948. At present, the number of Palestinians living between the River and the Sea under Israeli control is approximately 5.2 million, compared to 5.1 Israelis. Short of giving the Palestinians equal rights in one state, Israel is left with three options: acquiescing in the establishment of a separate sovereign Palestinian state, expelling much of the Palestinian population, or keeping them confined in apartheid-style cantons, which in essence is Sharon’s plan of 1981, and which was effectively chosen by Bush in his meeting with Sharon on April 14, 2004. At that meeting, he released Israel of its legal and moral obligations to the Palestinian people and to the requirements of international law. He said the settlement blocs were “facts on the ground.” Thus; the occupation is here to stay. Bush has, in effect, recognized a permanent Israeli occupation of the remaining 22 percent of what Israel did not conquer in 1948.
Indeed, Bush did what has become accepted practice over the past few decades. Israel provides the framework, just as it did in 1978 (Camp David) and in 1993 (Oslo) and in 2000 (Camp David) while the U.S. signs off on the plan. Sharon has sold Bush a recycled version of his1981 plan to keep at least 50 percent of the West Bank, relegating the Palestinians to three fragmented entities (Jenin and Nablus in the north, Ramallah in the center, and Hebron/Bethlehem in the south.)
In conceding final status issues, such as boundaries, refugees, settlements, Jerusalem, Bush seemed either unaware of or oblivious to what his predecessors had offered on the table of negotiations at Camp David I, Camp David II, Taba, or the Clinton January 7, 2001 speech in New York. Instead of adhering to previous American plans (which are essentially Israeli in any case) the peace maker/honest broker has become a messenger on top of having been a bankroller, arms supplier, and diplomatic backer.
America’s pretense for the role of honest broker is finished. It was conclusively finished in January 2006, and the reason was Hamas’s electoral victory. The U.S. and Israel are determined to undo that victory, first by the embargo and attempts at starvation and now by abducting the top Hamas leadership and smashing its infrastructure while attempting to drive a wedge between the movement and that segment of the Palestinian population who gave Hamas their votes.
The crux of the U.S.-Israeli strategy is based on the faulty assumption that Hamas is part of the Middle East components of the bad guys engaged in global terror. So as long as Hamas is engaged in resistance, the diplomatic and economic embargos will continue and U.S. military aid will be extended to anti-Hamas Palestinian factions exactly as the U.S. sponsored the Contras in Central America during the 80s. In fact, America’s principal architect of the Contra project is presently the point man in the Bush II foreign policy in the Middle East. And what he is doing in Palestine today is the most recent example of supporting politicide.
Abbas, Olmert and Bush have colluded to bar Hamas from assuming actual power, thus causing a bloody war among certain sub-factions of Fatah and Hamas. Despite the formation of a government of national unity in the Mecca agreement, neither the United States, nor Israel is now willing to revive a peace process and pursue negotiations in good faith. The U.S. and Israel have effectively declared the so-called peace process as something that belongs to a by-gone era. The Palestinians should have called the process by its real namea fraud. They should say no to a two-state solution designed to create Bantustans. They should say no loud and clear.
At the end of March when 21 Arab heads of state convened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to re-launch their peace proposal which had already been ratified in Beirut in 2002, Condoleezza Rice asked them to “reach out” to Israel, but Israel wanted their peace offer amended, particularly on withdrawal, on Jerusalem, and the refugees. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Told the Jerusalem Post on March 30, 2007 that the return of any Palestinian refugee was “out of the question.”
“I’ll never accept a solution that is based on their return to Israelany number.”
It was hardly a revival of a peace process. Neither Israel nor the U.S. has presented a peace proposal. The only proposal on the table was the retread of the 21 Arab states.
And because diplomatic failure has been imbedded in the peace process, we began to witness the beginning of a new discourse about a single state based on the equal protection of the law. Some of the adherents on both sides include Ilan Pappe, the Late Edward Said, Knesset member Azmi Bishara, Professor Nadim Rouhana, and me, among many others.
Any honorable alternative to the now defunct Oslo, the Road Map, and Sharon’s so-called Disengagement Plan must guarantee the removal of incapacities inflicted on Palestinians in the three spheres (those living in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, those inside Israel, and those in the far-flung Diaspora.) That would require a determined systematic and protracted struggle, combining the three segments of the Palestinian people, jointly with Israeli Jews who wish to be neither master of another people, nor privileged in an apartheid system, or colonial settlers denying the existence of the indigenous natives of the land, or wishing their disappearance.
This kind of struggle may sound unrealistic, and the goal idealistic or utopian, but it certainly has more prospects for success than the whole range of the “peace process,” which has already been rendered to the dustbin of history. The single state will not happen in the short term, but it is the only dignified alternative to apartheid.