After 44 years of occupation: where is the Israeli Peace Camp?

June 4, 2011
Israel's peace plan. By Carlos Latuff

On a section of the apartheid wall in Occupied Palestine someone spray-painted a quote from Edward Said that says: "Since when does a militarily occupied people have the responsibility for a peace movement?"

It is worth considering the wisdom of this statement.

This month marks the 44th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinians are coming face to face with their worst nightmare: there may never be a Palestinian state. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his May address to the US Congress, told the world Israel does not believe that it is occupying Palestinian land and there would never be a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. 

His speech received 29 standing ovations from the US Congress and overwhelming approval from the public and the political establishment in Israel.

See also:
Israel: Nationalist hate parade commemorates 1967 'reunification'
Palestine supporters target Seacret

Palestinian activists and solidarity groups knew this was coming and understood Netanyahu’s speech as confirmation of the two-state solution’s demise. For years, Palestinians have warned that Israel was moving forward with the apartheid model put into place by the mastermind strategist, former Israeli PM and war criminal Ariel Sharon.

Sharon, who was  found by the Israeli Kahan Commission Inquiry “to bear personal responsibility” for allowing the massacres of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon 1982, began the project of building the notorious apartheid wall in the West Bank in 2002.

The route of the wall gave Palestinians a hint of what was to come ― a system of apartheid.   In  2004, Sharon began plans to disengage Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Both the wall and the disengagement plan aimed at creating the demographic balance needed for Israel to realize its dream of annexing Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Former Palestinian independent MP Hanan Ashrawi told AFP news in 2004: “Sharon's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is a smokescreen, because he is consolidating settlement activity in the West Bank and completely modifying the demographic and cultural make-up of Jerusalem.

“The Gaza Strip was a demographic and security burden for Israel. By withdrawing from it unilaterally, Sharon is turning it into a large prison.”

Today, we clearly see the outcome of Sharon plan. Netanyahu can reap the benefit of ridding Israel of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip while confining the Palestinians in the West Bank into Bantustans surrounded by walls, checkpoints, Jewish-only roads and security zones, which altogether annex more than 50% of the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s offer to the Palestinians, which includes land swaps in a demilitarized state, means Palestinians will only have fragmented bits of land divided up by the Israeli matrix system of apartheid.

It is astounding to see that, while all of this is happening, there still is no serious reaction from Israelis to protest their government’s blatant disregard for a peaceful resolution based on international humanitarian law, with two states living side by side.

Then again, there was never mass protests inside Israel during Gaza’s Cast Lead, when Israel bombarded 1.5 million trapped people for three weeks.

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy argued in a Haaretz article in March last year that the real problem is “rooted in the left's impossible adherence to Zionism in its historical sense”. 

There is no realisation among Israelis that there “cannot be a democratic and Jewish state in one breath, one has to first define what comes before what ― there cannot be a left wing committed to the old-fashioned Zionism that built the state but has run its course.

“This illusory left wing never managed to ultimately understand the Palestinian problem ― which was created in 1948, not 1967 ― never understanding that it can't be solved while ignoring the injustice caused from the beginning.

“A left wing unwilling to dare to deal with 1948 is not a genuine left wing”.

Levy’s words ring true this year especially as the Israeli government issued a law banning the commemoration of Nakba (“the Catastrophe”, as Palestinians call the ethnic cleansing that came with Israel's founding in 1948) while also erasing the 1967 green line.

The weak and marginalised so-called Israeli Peace Camp, rather than challenging the policies of oppression, is still looking for Palestinians to help them make the peace by way of dialogue initiatives and peaceful protests.

With the exception of very few, they reject the Palestinian call for boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and claim that they reject it because it advocates for one state.

But BDS doesn’t advocate for one or two states, it only calls for Palestinian rights. If the so called peace camp invested a fraction of the time they do fighting BDS doing what they are supposed to do, challenging the one state reality that Netanyahu has imposed, maybe a two state solution would still be within reach.

Rather than criticise the Palestinian non-violent resistance model that the BDS is part of, the Israeli peace camp needs to be considering the very policies that Palestinians are resisting.

They need to understand that they are part of, or enablers of an establishment that denies Palestinians their basic rights and freedoms, and as such, they are not in a position to be dictating to the Palestinians their methods of struggle. 

They need to be more concerned with changing the  status quo  in Israel by raising awareness about the atrocities that are being committed in their name.

The primary responsibility of Palestinians today is to form a strong non-violent unified resistance movement that can truly challenge Israel’s oppressive policies and ultimately bring down its system of apartheid.  This movement can only be strengthened by the presence of strong global solidarity through the BDS model.

Those left-wing Israelis who claim BDS is counterproductive are simply prolonging the occupation because they have no real alternative to ending it. 

Israeli peace activists do not need to dictate to the Palestinians how to run their resistance; they have their own work to do.

If they are truly worried about a one state solution, they need to organise and take to the streets to protest Netanyahu’s fatal blow to the two-state solution and to force their government to change its course.

After 44 years of occupation, what are they still waiting for?

[Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Australian writer and activist with Australians for Palestine.]


"After 44 years of occupation, what are they still waiting for?" The biggest obstacle to peace from the Israeli perspective is recognition of Israel's right to exist peacefully. Neither the PA nor Hamas have ever offered this and there is no talk of human rights for non-Arab Israelis. The BDS claims to be about human rights but in its detail it is little more than a ploy to force Israel to cave in to its demands rather than seek a negotiated peace. What's more some of those demands aren't as innocuous as they may seem to those unfamiliar with the history of the conflict. The most contentious BDS demand is the "right" of return for Palestinian Arab refugees from 1948. In the 63 years since, the numbers of "refugees" have swollen from 700,000 to nearly 5 million, roughly equivalent to the entire Jewish population of Israel. Very few of these people have ever lived in what is now Israel, the vast majority are several generations from the original refugees. The Jewish population of Israel are themselves largely refugees, or the descendents of refugees, from Arab lands (many fled in the opposite direction during 1948 and other episodes), Europe, Africa and other parts of the world. So what should become of them? Can they demand their right of return to their ancestral "homelands"? Its not possible, and no such "human right" is recognized anywhere else in the world. It should be obvious that any peaceful solution has to be based on the acknowledgement that Jews are there to stay. Unfortunately the clock can't be wound back on history, or perhaps we would wind it back a little more and avoid the holocaust and other ugly episodes that culminated in this situation. After 44 years the aggression needs to stop, so that we can move forward through negotiations.
You have got to be kidding. Since when has Israel ever been "peaceful"? It was created by bands of terrorists fighting both the British and the Palestinians. When the UN partitioned Palestine, giving the Israelis the better part of the territory, it was not meant tto be a signal for Israeli destruction of Palestinian villages and lives. Israel has been waging war on the Palestinians since 1948 and will never stop unless the world tells them to. And there should be severe consequences for the Israelis unless they vacate the illigally occupied lands and make restitution for the destruction and theft they have committed over the years.
The history of Israel has been one of unprovoked attack by Arab forces from all the surrounding nations simultaneously, and on several occasions. It was the IDF's defeat of these that led to the "occupation" but seriously, their aim was (and still is) to drive all the Jews into the sea, how would you have reacted? A complete contrast to the invasion of Australia where there was very little resistance put up by the peaceful native inhabitants, but that didn't stop you white colonialists shackling them together and marching them into the bush to massacre them (a great shame that the likes of Amnesty International and John Pilger weren't around for this). Nor does it make you more inclined to help the still suffering survivors of your genocide. You are much more interested in taking aim at a target overseas that you know absolutely nothing about, because you enjoy the feelings of self-righteousness. To paraphrase yourself: "And there should be severe consequences for the Australians unless they vacate the illigally occupied lands and make restitution for the destruction and theft they have committed over the years."
This load of falsehoods just shows how pathetic people become when they start defending human rights violations. Firstly, there's a bunch of lies about how Arab forces always attack Israel. What crap. Secondly there's the familiar crap about our own backyard first. All of the aborigines I remember hearing speak about Israel are completely in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Green left has always supported the aboriginal struggle just the same way it's always supported the Palestinian struggle. It doesn't matter if other countries are more or less human rights abusers than Israel; either way it cannot justify the crimes against humanity being perptrated by the IDF.
Hamas doesn't recognise the STATE OF ISRAEL to exist. The Palestinian Authority aka Fatah have gone to great lengths to recognise Israels existence. That however doesn't stop construction of settlements on Palestinian land, whether in Gaza or the West Bank. The fact that Jews occupy Palestine is not the problem. Its the fact that they want to live in an apartheid state (albeit democratic). The war in 1968 was actually a direct result of JEWISH Israel denying Palestinian refugees a right to return. Jews in contemporary Israel do not seek normalisation of their relations with their Arab neighbours. They seek full control of the occupied territories and an exclusive Jewish state. So why lie? Actually, Jews throughout Europe were entitled to and claimed reparations. Returned to their property and normalised their citizenship. So really .. Why lie?
If you looked at this website beyond one article you'd see that this publication is sharply critical of Australia's colonial past and the governments ongoing depirivation and genocide of Aboriginal people. The left in Australia is very supportive of land rights and compensation for Aboriginal people. There was a lot of Aboriginal resistance against white colonialism actually, both violent and non-violent, and it continues today. The reason you are ignorant of this is because the only history you seem to have read was written by the colonialists, both in Australia and Israel.

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