Israel freed Palestinians from occupation
ANT KATZ postulates on a thought he had: “The State of Israel, in 1967, was the first party ever to grant the people who self-identify as Palestinians a release from colonialism and occupation.”
Israel freed Palestinians from
Colonialism and Occupation
I had a thought yesterday: “The State of Israel, in 1967, was the first party ever to grant the people who self-identify as Palestinians a release from colonialism and occupation.”
The Israelis themselves had been able to cast off their two thousand-odd years of colonial occupation in 1948. But Palestinians remained “occupied” and “colonised” by Egypt and Jordan for a further twenty years. They had no self-government or independence until Israel defeated Egypt and Jordan – along with Syria – in 1967.
That was the year that triumphant Israelis, in the Six day War, pushed the armies of Egypt and Jordan out of the Palestinian Territories and handed the latter an opportunity to self-govern for the first time in their history.
History, however, has always been a matter of interpretation. Whose historical account would Palestinians agree with? History is a multi-layered parable written from a multitude of standpoints. Could I draft my hypothesis in such a way that everyone would agree with it? Conflation between Zionist views on the one hand and the factual journalistic viewpoint on the other. Could I find a middle road between the emotional and the practical?
Could I find commonality in the haze of different understandings of the same events?
What is history?
I understand that history has never been an exact science in the past – even though it will be in the future. Just as I understand that ten million Zionists probably have ten million personal definitions of exactly what Zionism really means.
As a journo I am moulded to believe that nothing is a fact unless irrefutable proof exists and there is only one truth on the table. One has to view history unemotionally, as if it was an issue between China and India over Tibet.
I view history as a hearsay account by wordsmiths from the retelling by those who were actually involved in the occurrence of events.
The re-tellers, themselves, can only offer events as they recall interpreting them as first-hand hearsay – not a credible scientific process at all.
For my thesis to pass muster with both Zionists and anti-Zionists, I would have to cut through the clutter of historical departure and find historical commonality. But common history simply doesn’t exist.
The saying ‘History is written by victors’ (which is questionably attributed to Winston Churchill as no record of where or when he may have said it exists) argues that the victors overwhelmingly influence historical accounts. If this were, in fact, the rule, there are certainly many exceptions that spring to mind.
I decided that, to prove my point that Palestinians had never been free before 1967, I would use Wikipedia as my reference. It is updated and peer-reviewed by everyone equally. It should take everyone’s interpretation of history into account.
I did learn two useful things about the term “Palestine.”
Firstly, I learned that while the conventional wisdom that the Middle East was first named Palestine by the Romans to eradicate the name Judea was close to the truth geographically – but a far cry from correct historically.
The second epiphany was that the word Palestine (Palestinian) seems to have been a mistranslation of the original term Philistine which was bounced up and down in transliteration at various times from hieroglyphs to Hebrew, Arabic, Greek and Roman – and each from the other.
The region has been controlled by numerous different peoples since the pre-historical reigns of the Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. Later, the Ancient Greeks ruled, followed by the Romans, Byzantines, the Sunni Arab Caliphates, the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, the Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mameluks, and the Ottomans.
While the boundaries of the region have changed throughout history, they were last defined in modern times by the Franco-British boundary agreement (1920) and the Transjordan memorandum of 16 September 1922, during the mandate period. That is commonly accepted history.
After that, interpretations differ.
Since 1922, the territorial borders have never been commonly redefined. Although the region today comprises the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories, history, rather than agreement, has shaped the de facto modern borders.
After WWII, the British and French wanted to be shot of the Middle East as soon as possible. The fledgling United Nations, in 1947, drew up a plan for the independence of the region and a “Partition Plan” – essentially a map which proposed the borders of two new states, Israel and Palestine, and for Jerusalem to be placed under international control.
The pre-Israeli Jews accepted the 1947 Partition Plan map as it offered them statehood and self-determination. Today, most Jews and all Israelis would be shocked to see what our forefathers were prepared to accept – but at that time in the history it was acceptable.
The pre-Palestinian Arabs rejected it out of hand.
On this basis the 1948 withdrawal of the Brits left no clear map in place – they pulled out of “Palestine” leaving the two new territories without defined borders.
This was immediately followed by all of ‘Arabdom’ invading the newly-independent territory in the hope that they would make short work of the now-independent Jews and create their own map – with no Israel appearing on it at all.
Of course this was not to be. After Arabdom cried Uncle, Israel and her neighbours – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – signed the 1949 Armistice Agreements and agreed to a <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Line_(Israel)“_blank”>GREEN LINE</a> (so called because of the green ink used by the negotiators to draw it on the map) demarcating what would become commonly but incorrectly called “the 1948 borders.”
At that time this should have been common history as the five bordering sovereign states all signed the armistice. Egypt chose to retain occupation and control of the Gaza strip and Jordan of what is today called the “West Bank.”
The “West” Bank
The name West Bank, of course, speaks to the history of the place. From the Jordanian point of view it was the west bank of the Jordan River – extending west up to Israel. To Israel, it is the east bank of the river, or just the Jordan River. Unless one has both banks, one has no need to separate them by name. South Africa, for example, has both the north and south banks of the Vaal River – whereas the Free State province only has one Vaal River, as does Gauteng, with no need to define north or south.
Today, the Green Line border is commonly referred to as the “pre-1967 borders” – as evidenced by Israel, Palestine, the US and the United Nations in texts and resolutions.
And so it was that the modern, current, present-day existing Green Line border between Israel and Palestine came into being in 1949. Did it cover less territory than was indicated on the 1947 Partition Plan? You bet it did! But Arabdom united in rejecting the 1947 map and accepted the 1949 Green Line version.
Today history is journo science
‘History is Written by Victors’ – while this sounds like something Churchill might have said, no competent, authoritative quotations source unequivocally attributes this quote to him.
But history is often told from the standpoint of those who were oppressed by and/or the victims of the exploits of the victors. “History is written by victors” may in itself be an example of history written by the losers – as the victors would be unlikely to make such an admission!
In fact many historical events have questionable outcomes. Take the Vietnam War, for example, while it could be debatable that the US lost the war, they certainly didn’t win it. Yet the overwhelming majority of historical documentation for the war comes from the US.
Back to my hypothesis: “Did the State of Israel give Palestinians their first release from colonial occupation in 1967?” Written historical evidence is simply a monolithic interpretation of events. It is often rewritten many times over many years – and often hundreds or even thousands of years after the events occurred – by individual historians who are often acting under instruction of the powers that be.
More recent history is, of course, less easy to distort. The growth in media and communications also ensures that most of the history we are making right now is being recorded first-hand by journalists who, in effect, have become the history-recorders of our age.
So, today, history has become a scientifically provable account of events. And, as media and communications technology has been evolving over the past sixty five years, the definition of the term history has evolved too.
Would Israel and her neighbours be able to agree on a common interpretation of the events of the late Forties? Maybe, or maybe not. But, come 2080, there is little doubt that the events of 2015 will have been recorded for posterity as scientifically provable fact by today’s historians – the media.
The old definitions of History…
“History is only the register of crimes and misfortunes,” wrote prolific Frenchman Voltaire – the nom de plume of Frenchman François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778). He was a philosopher and historian famed for his wit and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state. Voltaire regularly defined history as it was in his day.
“History is nothing but a pack of tricks we play on the dead,” he wrote to his friend Pierre Robert Le Cornier de Cideville in a 1757 letter.
“The first foundations of all history are the recitals of the fathers to the children, transmitted afterward from one generation to another; at their origin they are at the very most probable, when they do not shock common sense, and they lose one degree of probability in each generation.” That, too, is how Voltaire saw history. How different it is today.
Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said: “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
The American editorialist, journalist, writer and satirist Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (Gwinnett?!?) wrote in his 1911 satirical reference book ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’ that history is: “An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools. Of Roman history, great Niebuhr’s shown ’tis nine-tenths lying. Faith, I wish ’twere known, ere we accept great Niebuhr as a guide, wherein he blundered and how much he lied.”
Wikipedia on the history of Palestine…
If we can believe that, as an open source peer-reviewed encyclopaedia, <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_name_%22Palestine%22“_blank”>WIKIPEDIA</a> offers the closest to an all-encompassing definitive history, here is what it has to say on Palestine:
The term Peleset (transliterated from hieroglyphs as P-r-s-t) is found in numerous Egyptian documents referring to a neighbouring people or land starting from c.1150 BCE during the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt. The first mention is thought to be in texts of the temple at Medinet Habu which record a people called the Peleset among the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III’s reign, and subsequently on Padiiset’s Statue.
The Assyrians called the same region Palashtu or Pilistu, beginning with Adad-nirari III in the Nimrud Slab in c.800 BCE through to emperor Sargon II in his Annals approximately a century later. Neither Egyptian nor Assyrian sources provided clear regional boundaries for the term.
The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BC Ancient Greece. Herodotus wrote of a ‘district of Syria, called Palaistinê’ in The Histories, the first historical work clearly defining the region, which included the Judean Mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley.
Approximately a century later, Aristotle used a similar definition in Meteorology, writing “Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salt that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them,” understood by scholars to be a reference to the Dead Sea.
Later writers such as Polemon and Pausanias also used the term to refer to the same region. This usage was followed by Roman writers such as Ovid, Tibullus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom, Statius, Plutarch as well as Roman Judean writers Philo of Alexandria and Josephus.
Other writers, such as Strabo, a prominent Roman-era geographer (although he wrote in Greek), referred to the region as Coele-Syria (“all Syria”) around 10-20 CE. The term was first used to denote an official province in c.135 CE, when the Roman authorities, following the suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, combined Iudaea Province with Galilee and other surrounding cities such as Ashkelon to form “Syria Palaestina.” There is circumstantial evidence linking Hadrian with the name change, although the precise date is not certain, and the assertion of some scholars that the name change was intended “to complete the dissociation with Judaea” is disputed.
Biblical scholars often trace the Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəlésheth), from the Semitic root p-l-sh (Hebrew: פלש) which means to divide, go through, to roll in, cover or invade, with a possible sense in this name as “migrant” or “invader” is usually transliterated as Palestine in English and equated to Philistia, which is used in the Bible more than 250 times.
Other scholars mention a theory “proposed by Jacobsohn and supported by others, is that the name derives from the attested Illyrian locality Palaeste, whose inhabitants would have been called Palaestīnī according to normal grammatical practice.” The Greek word Palaistínē (i.e., Παλαιστίνη) is generally accepted to be a translation of the Semitic name for Philistia; however another term – Land of Philistieim (Γη των Φυλιστιειμ, transliteration from Hebrew) – was used in the Septuagint, the second century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to refer to Philistia. In the Torah/Pentateuch the term Philistia is used 10 times and its boundaries are undefined. The later Historical books include most of the biblical references, almost 200 of which are in the Book of Judges and the Books of Samuel, where the term is used to denote the southern coastal region to the west of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.
During the Byzantine period, the entire region (Syria Palestine, Samaria, and the Galilee) was named Palaestina, subdivided into provinces Palaestina I and Palaestina II. The Byzantines also renamed an area of land including the Negev, Sinai, and the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula as Palaestina Salutaris, sometimes called Palaestina III.
The Arabic word for Palestine is فلسطين (commonly transcribed in English as Filistin, Filastin, or Falastin). Moshe Sharon writes that when the Arabs took over Greater Syria in the 7th century, place names that were in use by the Byzantine administration before them, generally continued to be used. Hence, he traces the emergence of the Arabic form Filastin to this adoption, with Arabic inflection, of Roman and Hebrew (Semitic) names. Jacob Lassner and Selwyn Ilan Troen offer a different view, writing that Jund Filastin, the full name for the administrative province under the rule of the Arab caliphates, was traced by Muslim geographers back to the Philistines of the Bible.
The use of the name “Palestine” in English became more common after the European renaissance. It was officially revived by the British after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and applied to the territory that was placed under the Palestine Mandate.
Israel not target of Obama’s UN ire, Trump is!
Why is Bibi acting so mad about the US not using its veto?
Au Contrère: A blog by ANT KATZ
Do Bibi Netanyahu and his government get that the US allowing the UN anti-Israel Resolution to pass this week was not targeted at the Jewish state?
Because this fact is quite transparent and Israel’s PM is certainly no fool. So what is Netanyahu playing at?
Of course he is angry about the UN Resolution. So are all people who love Israel. The Obama administration may well have drafted and promoted the Resolution on Israel. But not because Obama, America or the present administration are anti-Israel.
There is only one logical purpose in what is being viewed as a sea of anti-Israel madness in the White House and State Department… and that is that they fear Donald Trump and his incoming Administration and State Department may tip the very, very delicate scale of seemingly pragmatic even-handedness that exists between the US and the Arab world.
In a blog I posted last week, US unlikely to open Embassy in Jerusalem, I wrote why I did not think the US’s Embassy would move to Jerusalem – as much, I added, that I would sincerely like to see the move.
This issue has been on the table since it was unequivocally decided by US lawmakers in 1995 to shift the embassy and acknowledge Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. Congress sent to then-President Bill Clinton to action the move. Neither Clinton, nor the successive eight-year-long governments of George Bush (the Younger – and stupider); nor that of Barak Obama, had made any moves in that direction.
Trump and his team are taking no advice on this issue from State or the White House. So scared is the Obama administration of Trump’s rhetoric (the dangers it could impose on the ground), that it has seen fit to send him a stern warning of just how seriously they believe he could be blundering into this eons-old balancing act without understanding the consequences.
Trump, therefore, was the target of the US administration’s actions.
Israel was simply the instrument they chose to get the message across to him.
Why does Obama want Trump to slow down and assess the motivations of Presidents going back over 20 years? Here are some of the reasons that have been mooted by Obama’s predecessors:
- It would send out a message that could jeopardise the security of both the US and Israel. And, what’s more, it would kibosh any future role that America could play as an ‘honest broker’ in any mid-East peace talks as it will have already taken what is probably the world’s hottest political potato (the future of Jerusalem) and placed it squarely on the table as a fait accompli – a done deal – leaving scant space for a ‘no pre-condition’ meeting;
- It is essential that the US ensure it remains on very good terms with Saudi-aligned states in the neighbourhood – and especially so with Israel’s friendly neighbours Egypt and Jordan. The beat of the Trump drum could see these countries having to leave America/Israel’s sphere of influence under renewed pressure from fellow-Muslim states and become client-states of Russia which is working hard on becoming a bigger role-player in the region, (or even China, Iran, North Korea…);
- Israel gets the most advanced American armaments, while Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States get second-tier weapon systems. This may change if any US President risks being accused of bias in this regard and result in Israel not getting them, or a business-friendly Trump selling the best to everyone;
- Worldwide anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitism would gain another stick to beat Israel with, just as they did after the rocket-firing provocation that led to the outbreak of the 2013 Gaza incursion. That event was so masterfully exploited globally by BDS-acolytes that I have little doubt Hamas knew its provocation would lead to hundreds of Arab deaths. The sick interpretation of Islam by militants denies any value to life lost (actually, it rewards it) in its propaganda war against Israel and the West;
These and similar reasons, quoted by successive Presidents to explain the dangers of implementing Congress’s 1995 decision to relocate the Embassy, are what has forced the current administration to do something it would otherwise have been loath to do.
By not exercising its veto on the settlements issue, the incumbent administration was firing a shot across Trump’s bough – albeit using Israel as their weapon.
There can be no doubt that Obama & Co. realised fully the potential risk of negative implications that Israel and the world would face as a result of the Resolution being passed.
That they did it anyway, is indicative of the enormity of the risk they feel of allowing Trump, with all good intent but bad understanding of the situation, to continue down the path of over-placating Israel while creating a more dangerous future.
As I wrote last week, I would love to see all Embassies move to Jerusalem. Heck, I would also like to see the annexation (Golanisation) of the West Bank everyone is suddenly talking about.
But does the short-term gain of such moves create a greater long-term risk to Israel? If so, I urge Israelis and Zionists, to think whether it is the actions of Obama’s outgoing administration sending a message to Trump, or the latter’s reckless and uninformed statements, that is placing them at more risk.
US unlikely to open Embassy in Jerusalem
Ant Katz writes that he sees little likelihood of an Embassy move, even though he would like to see it
The US Congress mandated the moving of its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem many years ago, but the nation’s security services have warned that such a move could endanger US facilities and personnel in the wider region. Here’s why even Trump will likely backtrack…
Donald Trump campaigned on the promise to move the embassy and last week, the Trump Transition Team made the announcement on their website: US Ambassador to ‘work from Jerusalem’ which both Trump and his ambassador-to-be David Friedman consider the country’s capital.
Despite much speculation to the contrary, Trump’s team now seem to be back-tracking and all that exists in the public domain is that Ambassador Friedman will “work from” Jerusalem. Many pundits see this as an intention to relocate the embassy – but (as much as I would like to see such an action take place) – I think the risks will outweigh the benefits and the associated risk may be more than it is worth.
Yesterday the Palestinian Authority added its voice, with Mahmoud Abbas threatening certain sanctions on Israel if the move goes ahead… really!
I somehow think pragmatism will prevail and the term “work from Jerusalem…” will become the real state of play.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 is a public law of the US passed by the 104th Congress in 1995 under the Presidency of Bill Clinton.
It was passed for the purposes of initiating and funding the relocation of the Embassy of the US in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no later than 1999, and attempted to withhold 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the State Department specifically for “Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad” as allocated in fiscal year 1999 until the new US Embassy in Jerusalem had officially opened.
The act also called for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city and for it to be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel. Israel’s declared capital is Jerusalem, but this is not internationally recognised, pending final status talks on the world’s most complicated political situation.
Successive Presidential administrations have, however, withheld recognition of the city as Israel’s capital – despite the Law having been adopted by the Senate (93–5), and the House (374–37). Since passage, therefore, the law has never been implemented. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have viewed it as a Congressional infringement on the executive branch’s constitutional authority over foreign policy and have consistently claimed the presidential waiver on national security interests.
So, President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign trail claims of wanting to “move the Embassy to Jerusalem” has become David Friedman’s statement of hoping he will work from the city.
Although Trump’s transition team continues to affirm the intention to move the embassy, it is a toothless statement as they offer no timeline. And, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, in a forceful speech at Tuesday night’s Chanukah party at the Washington embassy, encouraged Trump to make good on the pledge (even saying it was long past due) – the likelihood is that when Friedman takes office it will be a case of his “working” from Jerusalem – without moving the Embassy. In any case, it would take years to acquire a site in overpacked Jerusalem and design and build a new Embassy.
Dermer enumerated some of the positives for the move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which were subsequently outlined in a Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday.
There is already US Consulate in Jerusalem, likely where Friedman will work from.
JTA’s Ron Kampeas broke it down further today, writing:
Here’s what the “for” argument looks like:
- The Jewish connection to Jerusalem is ancient.
- No other country is denied representation in its capital.
- Done correctly (i.e., with lots of pre-move assuaging of nerves in Arab and Muslim lands allied with the West, and with a site in western Jerusalem), it should go smoothly, especially because relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours are closer than ever due to shared interests in crushing the Islamic State and stopping Iran.
Here’s a summary of the “against” case:
- The Palestinians have a claim to the city and moving the embassy before a final-status agreement pre-empts their claim.
- The city is a tinderbox and any disturbance of its status quo will lead to violence.
- Israel’s allies in the Arab and Muslim world (both unofficial and official) may reluctantly go along, but its enemies – particularly Iran, which annually commemorates the “loss” of Jerusalem, and the Islamic State — will seize the opportunity and stoke violence.
- And those Arab allies? Even the dictators have to answer to their constituencies, who would likely be violently against. This could endanger whatever nascent comprehensive peace is in the works.
Other writers such as Eli Lake at Bloomberg gets at some of the ‘against’ arguments, particularly regarding tentatively improving relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
But, beyond the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ there is also the UNPREDICTABLE. That, readers, is what concerns me – in the eventuality of their transpiring…
Back to a paraphrasing of Ron Kampeas’ assessment on some things we can’t know about the move until it actually happens:
In the early 1980s, then-PM Menachem Begin used incentives to get journalists to move from Tel Aviv to the press centre in Jerusalem, Beit Agron, because he wanted them to recognise the city as Israel’s capital.
Plenty of news agencies did, with an unexpected result: Whereas the journalists occasionally visited with Palestinians while based in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem they got to know Palestinian leaders well and media understanding of the Palestinian story deepened — not necessarily to Israel’s benefit, says Kampeas.
The Americans maintain a consulate in eastern Jerusalem. Some Israeli officials and pro-Israel groups complain that its staff has ‘gone native,’ – and reflects the opinions of the Arab population. The Tel Aviv staff, by contrast, is ensconced in the most western corner of Israel and has a positive outlook on Israel. “What happens to that attitude once they move 40 miles up the hill to Jerusalem?” asks Kampeas.
WHO DROPS BY? AND WHAT ABOUT THE CONSULATE?
Israel frowns on diplomats taking meetings with Palestinian officials in Jerusalem as it signals recognition of Palestinian claims to the city. “Does that policy stick if the embassy moves there?” is another question on Ron Kampeas’ lips.
Would Palestinian officials even agree to enter as they would no doubt not recognise it?
What happens to the consulate in eastern Jerusalem that deals with Arab issues? Its continued presence would undercut Israeli claims to the entire city. Does Israel’s government agitate for its removal? And, if Palestinian representatives do meet their US contacts, where is that done?
JERUSALEM IS PROTEST-CENTRAL
Jerusalem residents with grievances such as the charedim, Arabs, nearby settlers and their supporters — hold their demonstrations in Jerusalem. A US embassy would be a fat, juicy place for them to hold such protests.
WHAT HAPPENS IF…
“Try building anything new in Jerusalem and you’re bound to hit some pottery shards, possibly even bones,” Kampeas points out. If it is a significant find, a construction site could attract a stop order from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
THE RESIDENCE AND THE SCHOOLS
The US ambassador has a spacious home in Herzliya, a place amenable to festivities and bashes – and near some of the best schools in the country. Space is hard to come by in Jerusalem. Especially if Americans decide (to assuage Arab anger) to build both embassy and a residence in the city’s west.
“And the schools! For ambassadors with school-age kids, what a hornet’s nest,” says JTA. That sounds right- any choice could offend someone. Going ‘international’ risks accusations of exposing the kids to anti-Israel views. Going for Israel’s schooling system and take your pick of whom to offend — the religious, the Charedim, the national religious groups, etc.
There are so many other unpredictables – this is, of course, the world’s most politically contentious city. A city where anything can happen. They call it: The Jerusalem Syndrome.
“One more thing,” Kampeas points out, “the city is susceptible to earthquakes. Considering everything else, that’s almost an afterthought,” he chirps.
Jeenah: Under BDS, Palestine solidarity irrelevant
The BDS strategy is problematic and unprincipled says Jeenah. Read why…
Minhaj Jeenah is chairman of the Muslim Youth
Movement’s Western Cape region, which is in turn a member of the National Coalition for
Palestine – which he admits is a BDS-SA-inspired coalition and which he believes is failing in its work.
While not as quick to specifically name BDS-SA as the
culprit in his piece “Why the Palestine solidarity movement in
South Africa has to evolve – or become irrelevant” as was Prof Steven Friedman, Jeenah makes no bones about who he holds accountable for the shambles
that the SA anti-Israel lobby finds itself in.
To be clear, Jeenah is no friend of Israel, he is simply
saying that the anti-Israel lobbyists in SA are doing a hopeless job, losing
ground and risk becoming irrelevant. Click here to read this piece in its
original form TheDailyVox.co.za or see below.
Little wonder after Prof FRIEDMAN:
BDS-SA INCOMPETENCE PROMOTING ZIONISM and this piece from Jeenah, that BDS-SA’s
response today which can be read here: VERBATIM
FROM THE HOUSE OF HORRORS was so vitriolic.
While BDS’ profanities and theologies were certainly not
called for, they are most telling of where the organisation, which has received
several black eyes during this week’s Israel Apartheid Week event, finds
I am publishing Minhaj Jeenah’s critique verbatim.
Why the Palestine solidarity movement in South Africa has to
evolve – or become irrelevant
Why the Palestine solidarity movement in South Africa has to evolve – or become irrelevant
The Palestinian struggle has captured the imagination of black South Africans since the 1970s, but of late the movement has been gripped by a dangerous form of populism. It’s time for the movement to undertake a critical shift in approach towards one that is principled and immersed in the programmes of the decolonisation movement in South Africa, argues MINHAJ JEENAH.
The Palestinian struggle for self-determination is a righteous struggle which is necessarily linked to the Black condition. Its resistance in all its forms, violent or otherwise, is a legitimate resistance.
Let’s be clear to set the terms of our engagement through this post: I’m not interested in compromising on or discussing these actualities.
Post-1994 saw certain significant changes to Palestine solidarity work, most notably during the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000 when it was addressed more strongly as an issue of national liberation, and South African civil society was lobbied.
After the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel in 2005 and the launch of Israeli Apartheid Week, campus-based Palestine solidarity activism was strengthened and focused. Since then, the global BDS campaign helped define and intensify Palestine solidarity in South Africa – through campus-based structures, civil society, BDS South Africa, Muslim and Christian groups, anti-Zionist Jewish groups and unions.
There were also numerous efforts to form broad coalitions to coordinate solidarity work. The most recent such effort was the National Coalition for Palestine, formed during the 2014 massacre in Gaza, and now dominated by the NGO BDS South Africa.
Towards a critical shift
In the recent past Palestine solidarity work has been gripped by a dangerous form of populism.
After the massive solidarity march in Cape Town in 2014, Palestine solidarity activism has been characterised by the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. As part of a broader consumer boycott, this campaign aims to pressure Woolworths to remove Israeli products from its shelves. In what was, arguably, a bad tactical move Woolworths was targeted for a consumer boycott because the campaign was deemed “winnable” – for a number of reasons. There have been a few voices of dissent against the campaign, within the movement and externally, challenging the moral and tactical value of the boycott.
The “winnable” strategy, which is an approach that has dominated the BDS campaign in South Africa, is problematic and unprincipled – it reduces struggle to a list of feel-good victories rather than moving towards substantive change. Alas, almost two years later, the campaign has seemingly lost steam.
Nevertheless, #BoycottWoolworths succeeded in mobilising some (especially young) activists and now needs to be re-strategised into a new, more rigorous strategy. The campaign should build on its success and now cast the intense focus directly on Israeli products, not particular stores. #BoycottWoolworths must now become #BoycottIsrael.
There has also been dangerous courting with the ANC, with some solidarity groups becoming apologists for the ruling party and feting it in rallies as if it’s the vanguard of Palestine solidarity. Although the party has stated its commitment to the BDS campaign, its role has been contradictory, with its government often working contrary to these commitments.
It’s deeply concerning and offensive that apparent support for the Palestinian course is often used (particularly before elections) as an ANC buffer to pacify people sympathetic to the course at the expense of interrogation of problematic policy (and, yes, to get votes).
This inability to properly politicise Palestinian solidarity and approach it with principle rather than just tactic has also seen many ad-hoc airy-fairy events that result in minimal understanding of the complexities of Palestinian activism. Admittedly, there have been more substantive campaigns, such as the current campaign to arrest Shimon Peres, but these have not led to large-scale mobilisation.
There is, now, a need for the Palestine solidarity movement in South Africa to undertake a critical shift in approach.
The South African movement for solidarity with the Palestinian people needs a process of difficult reflection. It must divorce itself from reductionist praxis and undertake serious mass engagement with the political complexities of the Palestinian struggle and internationalism.
The movement must be claimed as a radical collective movement that is intersectional and decentralised. It must direct both our revolutionary anger and our love for freedom, justice and equality through principled, uncompromising and intelligible strategies.
It is, therefore, also clear that solidarity for the Palestinian struggle must be immersed in the programmes of the decolonisation movement in South Africa. The movement will be compromised if it regards its victimhood to the exclusion of other colonial sufferings.
Key to these solidarity strategies is a more strengthened commitment to force unconscious capital, government and academic institutions to submit to the call from Palestinian comrades to isolate Israel. Consistency in praxis, also, includes uprooting and discomforting Zionist sentiment, in order to de-normalise and remove racist ideology from our spaces.
Israel must fall.
Minhaj Jeenah is the Chairperson of the Muslim Youth Movement Western Cape region, which is a member of the National Coalition for Palestine. Follow him on Twitter @minhajjeenah
This is part of a special series called Apartheid 2.0, which The Daily Vox is running this month in partnership with AlJazeera’s Palestine Remix.
Featured image by Ihsaan Haffejee
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