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Julian Assange: Criminal or Benefactor?

14 Apr

Julian Assange: Criminal or Benefactor?

 

I suppose it is of interest that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have found something to agree about—the criminal indictment of Julian Assange.  Trump is acutely vulnerable to the exposure of truth and Clinton blames her electoral defeat in 2016 partly on what WikiLeaks disclosed about her improper use of a government computer to send private emails. Such are the perverse ways of the deeply unjust.

 

The liberal media is not happy with this indictment, although it also wants to distance itself from justifications for Assange’s claims of journalistic privilege, viewing him as a lone wolf with rogue traits. There are solemn assessments evaluating the narrowly framed government indictment charging cyber-crime, that is, publishing illicitly obtained classified documents from a digital source, apparently an apolitical everyday occurrence for government employees. What is apparently at legal issue is deciding whether or not Assange should be protected by reference to freedom of expression or prosecuted as a cyber-criminal without reference to his motivation.

 

A few commentators have noted that the main reason to go after Assange is to discourage whistleblowing of the sort most prominently associated with the disclosures of Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden. Here Assange is accused of conspiring with another heroic American whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, in obtaining the documents that featured 800 Guantanamo Bay ‘detainee assessment briefs’ and more than 400,000 cables and documents relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A particularly damaging document was a video showing deliberate bombing of civilians in Iraq by American pilots, clear evidence of a serious war crime.

 

WikiLeaks, co-founded by Julian Assange in 2006, has been dedicated all along to the ideal of transparency in state/society relations as promoted by civil society initiatives. As such, it can be viewed as a service institution of robust democracy, a needed contemporary check on gross misuses of governmental secrecy. We know from a reading of the Pentagon Papers that what made publication so provocative was the degree to which the truths about the Vietnam War were being hidden from the American people through the misuse of classification protocols. There was little in the original twelve volumes of the Pentagon Papers that the Vietnamese ‘enemy’ did not know already. The inflammatory message of the Papers was how and why the war in Vietnam was going badly while the government was disseminating to the world a rosy picture of how well things were proceeding, which had the political effect of extending an unlawful war by years at the cost of tens of thousands American and Vietnamese lives. I remember hearing George Ball speak off the record a few days after he resigned as LBJ’s Under Secretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs in the late 1960s about why he dissented from the Vietnam policies. He started his talk by saying “I only began to understand the Vietnam War when I stopped reading the cables from Saigon.” In other words, the patterns of deception were withinthe government as well as betweenthe government and the public.

 

We are up against a basic challenge posed by the digital age where the government operates as a citadel of surveillance, collecting meta-data on its own citizenry as well as on masses of foreigners, threatening dissent, privacy, and theessence of freedom itself. It was these concerns that led Snowden to do what he did a few years ago, and yet be pursued around the world as if a dangerous criminal, and not at first by the Trumpist right, but by the moderate center that was in political control of the government during the Obama presidency.

 

The republican idea of governance, that is, the founding principles of the American system of constitutional governance, relied on ‘checks and balances’ and ‘separation of powers’ to restrain excesses and abuses of power by the state. Such governance was reinforced by the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution that conferred an array of rights on the citizenry both as protection against an overreaching state and as protection against various manifestations of ‘the tyranny of the majority.’

 

The WikiLeaks role is especially important in the war/peace context as war-mongering governments tend to exaggerate, if not lie, to mobilize public support. This vital dimension of republicanism, designed to distinguish the American political undertaking from monarchies where war was often regarded as ‘the sport of kings,’ was entrusted to Congress, the legislative branch of government most directly connected with the people. The modern security state has moved away from restraints on war making as Congress has virtually abandoned its initially vital constitutional role of authorizing recourse to war. To revitalize this kind of republican democracy requires new instruments of transparency and validation of truth telling public servants. Otherwise, as in the Trump era, democratic constitutionalism can succumb to pre-fascist demagoguery.

 

A reinforcing observation in the American context arises from the corporatization of the media, as well as an appreciation of the unseemly recent closeness of the media to the intelligence and security governmental establishment. This has definitely weakened the independent and watchman role of journalism, especially TV, as part of the checks and balances framework in relation to the war/peace agenda, including the most trusted media outlets. Listeners of CNN, let alone FOX, know too well how debate on controversial foreign policy issues is almost exclusively entrusted to ex-generals,  admirals, CIA officials, and think tank hawks. It is rare to have the opportunity to hear the views of a civil society progressive or an articulate critic of global militarism, American style.

 

In contrast, WikiLeaks is independent of corporations, media, and governments, and has since its inception been devoted to the publication of materials incriminating governments and their private sector allies. We need to affirm WikiLeaks and whistleblowing as part of the legitimate architecture of constitutional democracy in the digital age. By criminalizing anti-war or human rights whistleblowing the political system is ratifying the suicide of substantive democracy.

 

Admittedly, this generalized endorsement of such transparency assumes that the government or the private sector have no legitimate secrets. I think there should be protection of legitimate state secrets wherein the criminality of unauthorized disclosures would require the government to sustain a burden of truth beyond a reasonable doubt that the material released was not in the public interest. This is bound to be a controversial line to draw conceptually and in practice. In quite different circumstances the release of the full Mueller Report tests whether transparency will lose out to those anti-democratic forces trying to hide, or at least obscure by redaction, the extent of wrongdoing by the Trump administration.

 

In the background should be the realization that whistleblowers rarely, if ever, act without a deeply felt sense that information crucial for the public to know about is being wrongfully withheld. Even without legal repercussions there are often high costs incurred by whistleblowers in relation to career and reputation. You are forever feared as the opposite of ‘a team player,’ so important for the morale and standard operating procedures of almost all bureaucracies, but especially those of government. I know this the personal experience of friends. Dan Ellsberg and Tony Russo, the Pentagon Papers whistleblowers were forever non-legally tainted by their brave acts of true patriotism. They realized at the time that they were taking big risks of prison and would in any event pay a high price though informal dynamics of exclusion, and yet acted out of their profound feelings of loyalty to America’s professed values. And it is true that Ellsberg, in particular, has been ‘compensated’ by being lionized in civil society as an offset to being permanently invalidated as a high-level civil servant.

 

What is mainly forgotten in relation to these whistleblowing incidents is the truly incriminating content of the disclosures. In each of these prominent instances the material released there was exposed criminal conduct by the government of a kind that threatens millions of lives and confirms the most shocking suspicions about government conduct in war zones or through malicious encroachments on public liberty.

 

It seems apt to recall President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 message on German war crimes directed at the German people in the midst of World War II: “Hitler is committing war crimes in the name of the German people. I ask every German and every man everywhere under German domination to show the world by his action that in his heart he does not share these insane criminal desires. Let him hide the victims, help them to get over their borders, and do what they can to save them from the Nazi hangman. I ask him also to keep watch and to record the evidence that will one day be used to convict the guilty.” (emphasis added) Is this not precisely what Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange have been doing?

 

As the U.S. Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg, Justice Robert H. Jackson, reminded the world in his opening statement at the trials, if prosecution,  conviction, and punishment of the defendants is “to serve a useful purpose” it must in the future condemn similar lawlessness by others “including those who sit in here in judgment.” In effect, if the rule of law is to govern human behavior with respect to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the sort of ‘victors’ justice’ applied to the German and Japanese losers must in the future be replaced by ‘justice,’ that is, the application of law to all who violate it. Of course, this Nuremberg Promise has been repaeatedly broken in spirit and substance, and most defiantly by the Trump/Bolton attacks on the very existence of the International Criminal Court.

 

The UN Membership unanimously affirmed that the Nuremberg Judgment was a desirable development of international law in General Assembly Resolution 95(I). In addition, the International Law Commission, the most authoritative body entrusted with the codification and development of international law formulated

The Nuremberg Principles in 1946 to formalize the impact of the trials on international criminal law. Of particular relevance is final Principle VII: “Complicity in the commission of a crime against the peace, a war

crime, or a crime against humanity..is a crime under international law.” Fairly read, this proposition would suggest that the U.S. Government moves to prosecute Assange are themselves crimes, while the acts of Assange are commendable efforts to prevent international crimes from continuing.

 

Such reasoning should also be relevant to the British judicial response to the formal American request for extradition. Of course, extradition should be denied because ‘political crimes’ are by treaty arrangement not extraditable, and if there ever was a political crime it is this apparently failed attempt by Assange to hack the password of a government computer so as to hide the identity of the whistleblower, Chelsea Manning.

 

In the context of antiwar activism during the Vietnam War I made the argument that there existed a ‘Nuremberg Obligation’ that had moral, if not legal authority. In effect, the Nuremberg Obligation in light of the material discussed above means that every person has the rightand is subject to the dutyto contribute to the exposure of violations of international criminal law in war/peace and human rights contexts. Additionally, this moral right/duty could be reasonably construed as a legal obligation.

 

Julian Assange should be judged against this background. This applies not only to the underlying criminal charge, but to withdrawal of asylum status by the government of Ecuador that led to Assange’s unseemly arrest London and to the judicial treatment of the extradition request by the British judiciary.

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Making Peace: Israel/Palestine

9 Apr

[Prefatory Note:  Interview with Samu Tamás Gergő, a Hungarian journalist, April 9, 2019, on conditions of peace for the Palestine/Israel, with some initial emphasis on my experience as UN Special Rapporteur addressing human rights in Occupied Palestine on behalf of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.]

 

 

 

– Mr. Falk, you were an UNHCR special rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967” for six years. How normal is that, a UN member, Israel worked against your appointment? What is the goal in this job? The UN needs “independent” experts or members from the “two sides” (pro-Palestine and pro-Israel)?

 

The Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council fall into two categories: most address thematic issues such as torture, religious freedom, and rights of indigenous peoples; a few deal with country scale problems, including Iran, North Korea, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. SRs are appointed after the President of the HRC approves consensus vote of the 49 member states for a three year term, generally renewable for another three years. The position is unpaid, and SRs are not international civil servants, which gives them independence and insulates their role from political pressures to some extent. They can be dismissed only if they exceed their mandate.

 

The idea of having SRs is to secure independent and trustworthy information pertaining to a particular concern, especially of controversial issues. Reports are prepared for submission to the HRC in Geneva and the Third Committee of the General Assembly each year. The expectation is for the SR to be objective, and present both sides of contested issues.

 

My role as SR for the Occupied Palestinian Territories was sharply contested from the outset. Israel objected to the very idea of having a SR for the OPT, and did their best to get someone appointed who would report the facts in a manner that was consistent with their propaganda. I found that Israel’s occupation was so clearly and flagrantly in violation of the rules and principles of the Fourth Geneva Convention governing Belligerent Occupation that my reports were consistently critical of Israel’s behavior, especially with respect to extension of settlements to the OPT, annexation of Jerusalem, imposition of collective punishment, and use of excessive force to maintain security.

 

By and large, Israel and its main allies did not challenge the substance of my reports, but directed their complaints at my alleged bias and lack of credibility. The effort was to wound the messenger and avoid the message.

 

– What are the specific consequences of such reports? In addition to forcing the violators of international treaties into self-restraint, is Israel in this case?

 

It is difficult to assess the precise effects of these SR reports. Israel rejects the validity of inquiries under UN auspices, claiming bias and sovereign authority. It also refuses, contrary to its obligations as a UN Member to cooperate with SRs and most UN activity that its administration of Jerusalem’s sacred sites. At the same time Israel is sensitive to the impact of such reports on world public opinion, and relies mainly on Zionist. Watchdog NGOs, UN Watch and NGO Monitor to push back by doing their best to discredit the reports most often by questioning the credentials of the author.

 

The reports on Occupied Palestine did have two broad effects. First, their assessments influence the way issues bearing on Palestinian rights and Israeli wrongs are discussed at the UN, by some important governments, by NGOs, and especially by non-Western media. I remember meeting with the Foreign Minister of Brazil who told me that his ministry relied on these SR reports to obtain their understanding of developments in the OPT.   Over the years the role of SRs has gained in stature as their reporting provides generally reliable information, and their independence, including of the UN bureaucracy has. created credibility and some respect for willing to accept such a position that entails much work, no pay, and can be met with defamatory responses.

 

The. second impact of the reports is to confer legitimacy on pro-Palestinian nonviolent initiatives in civil society throughout the world. The most meaningful such initiative is the BDS Campaign (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions). There are other initiatives that involve cutting off institutional cooperation between academic institutions in Israel and other foreign countries, such as study abroad programs. Israel is aware that such global solidarity efforts were a principal cause of the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Israel seems to regard this legitimacy war conducted against their policies and practices as now posing a larger threat than armed resistance by the Palestinians.

 

In particular, Israel has been affected by the increasing acceptance of the view that its form of control of the Palestinian people as a whole constitutes apartheid, which according to the Rome Statute governing the International Criminal Court is one type of Crime Against Humanity, as specified in Article 7. The assessment of Israel as an apartheid state was the principal conclusion of a UN report in 2017 of which I. was the co-author prepared at the request of. the UN under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA).

 

Overall, I think we can conclude that these reports are important although they fail to modify Israeli behavior to alter their policies and practices to bring them into conformity with international law. Their importance is informational and with potential impacts on international public opinion, which often translates into soft power, and this has been more important in the end in shaping the political outcome of many conflicts since World War II than has hard power.

 

– What about the imprisoned Palestinians? Are interrogations and other prison conditions in compliance with the international law and Israeli law?

 

Israeli practices with respect to imprisonment has come under constant criticism, especially with respect to the treatment of children, reliance on administrative detention, torture, and unsanitary conditions. Particular attention has been to the Israeli practice of nighttime arrests, taking children from their homes in the presence of their parents, often with accompanying violence that has terrifying effects that are. long-lasting. Children are giving heavy prison terms for minor acts of symbolic resistance to prolonged Israeli occupation, including the throwing of stones at distant soldiers that have been rarely if ever been injured as a result. There are reliable studies of Palestinian children in Gaza that reveal severe demoralization even to the extent of losing a will to life itself. Suicide rates among adolescents and young adults have been rising.

 

Another violation of international standards is to take those arrested to prisons outside occupied Palestine located within Israel. This deprives prisoners of family visits, and isolates prisoners in a cruel manner over prolonged periods of time.

 

There have been frequent long hunger strikes in Israeli prisons protesting conditions. Israel, contrary to international medical ethics, has tried to force feed fasting individuals to avoid their dying in such a way, thereby creating adverse publicity.

 

There are several published collections of prison writings that convey the abuse of human rights associated with the manner in which Palestinians are treated by Israeli administering authorities.

 

– You told me earlier, “extension of settlements to the OPT, annexation of Jerusalem, imposition of collective punishment, and use of excessive force to maintain security” are the main violations of the Geneva Conventions. What is your opinion about the new situation with Jerusalem?

 

I assume that here you are referring to the 2017 initiative by the Trump White House to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Such a move defies a deeply held longtime international consensus. The UN position is that Jerusalem has. been ‘occupied territory’ according to international law since the 1967 War and it is hence unlawful to alter its status in any way that interferes with its societal character and status. The proposed embassy move was condemned as null and void, with a demand to rescind the decision, by a one-sided UN General Assembly vote. (see GA Res. 11935, 128-9-35 absentions, 21 December 2017). The future of Jerusalem is a matter that according to this global consensus can only be settled by negotiated agreement between the two parties for which there is no present prospect. The United States defied the General Assembly and officially moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on 14 May 2018. From an international law and diplomacy points of view, the status of Jerusalem remains unresolved.

 

Israel defied this consensus immediately after the 1967 War by unilaterally annexing Jerusalem, enlarging its territory by incorporated large additional amounts of Palestinian occupied land, and declaring that an undivided Jerusalem would be the eternal capital of Israel. This annexation of Jerusalem was condemned by the UN Security Council in Resolution 478 (by vote of 14-0, with USA abstaining, 20 August 1980). As with the embassy move, this Israeli initiative was a violation of the law governing belligerent occupation, as set forth in the 4thGeneva Convention, including especially the unconditional prohibition on states acquiring territory by force of arms. As such, the annexation lacks any legal significance, but it does create a political set of conditions that are difficult to reverse, and become more so, given the long passage of time.

 

Thinking ahead to the future, there will be no genuine peace until the claims of the Palestinians with respect to Jerusalem, which also reflect the wider claims and concerns of especially Islam, but also Christianity, are given formal recognition. The future of Jerusalem is a test case of whether the Palestinian right of self-determination will be someday realized, or will be forever frustrated by Israeli expansionism reinforced by the geopolitical support it receives from the United States, which has been carried to new heights under the Trump presidency in ways that have brought strong denunciations from governments traditionally supportive of Israel and allied with the United States.

 

– As far as I know, you have Jewish ancestry. Does this mean you ethnically Jewish and/or religiously? Nonetheless, you were called “antisemitic”, because you criticized Israel. In is your opinion is the Jewish community in the US mostly Zionist, or is there a relatively strong part of the Jewish community that recognizes the right of Palestine to have an independent, internationally recognized,  and sovereign state?

 

To respond to the personal part of your question first, yes I am Jewish genetically, but neither culturally nor religiously. By this I mean I was brought up in New York City in a secular and assimilationist atmosphere where what was important was to be ‘American’ and ‘human’ rather than to emphasize ethnicity or religious identity. My parents were extreme versions of secularism, and this prompted a reaction that may explain my strong lifelong interest in comparative religion. In my own identity, I consider my species identity as ‘human’ to be primary, and other signifiers,  including nationality, to be secondary.

 

The reason I have been called anti-Semitic by militant Zionist NGOs and their followers is because I support the national struggle of the Palestinian people for their rights, and I have in the context of UN activity described Israel as ‘an apartheid state.’ This description of Israel is based on the academic study of Israeli policies and practices toward the Palestinian people as a whole, and not only those living under occupation, in relation to the crime of apartheid as defined in international criminal law. It is unfortunate, and harmful to Jews, for Zionists to extend the meaning of anti-Semitism from hatred of Jews to criticism of Israel. In my view only when Israel dismantles its apartheid structures of control over Palestinians will sustainable peace be attainable for both Jews and Arabs.

 

Turning to the part of the question concerning the outlook of Jews in America, according to polls more than 85% of Jews do consider themselves to be Zionists in the minimal sense of supporting the existence of Israel as a. Jewish state. But a growing minority of Jews is critical of the Likud/Netanyahu leadership of Israel, and an even larger number would favor a balanced approach by the US Government to the relationship between Israel and Palestine. This latter Jewish viewpoint is usually identified with what is called ‘liberal Zionism’ that tends to favor a two-state solution. In American domestic politics the split is obvious in Washington lobbying groups. AIPAC is unconditionally pro-Israeli, and with rare exceptions refrains from criticism of Israeli wrongdoing, adopting a punitive approach to those who like myself are critical of Israel.  J-Street is a smaller lobbying organization representative of liberal Zionism that is critical of some Israeli policies while being avowedly pro-Israeli, while lending support to the. two-state solution.

 

My own position is critical at this stage of all forms of Zionism. I believe the original failure of the Zionist project was to impose a Jewish state on a non-Jewish society. It is important to remember that at the time of the Balfour Declaration (1917) pledging British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine the Jewish population was less than 8%, and even in 1947 when the UN General Assembly recommended partition, the Jewish population was about 30%. What this means is that from the very beginning the inalienable right of self-determination of the resident Arab population was being ignored and an essentially settler colonial arrangement was being promoted and later imposed by force.

 

I agree that as of now, however dubious the earlier history, the Jewish population must be accommodated in any future peace agreement, but I am very doubtful that this could or should be done within a framework of two separate sovereign states. Israel by its deliberate actions over many years has made this outcome a practical impossibility. The encroachment of more than 600,000 Jewish settlers onto occupied Palestine cannot be reversed by nonviolent means. In this regard, the only sustainable peace would be a single democratic secular state with the protection of human rights for all. Ethnic or religious states are by definition suppressive of minority rights, and thus inconsistent with the modern commitment to human rights as originally set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

Such a one-state solution is not endorsed by liberal Zionism as it would mean the abandonment of the core idea of ‘a Jewish state’ as a sanctuary of the Jewish people. It is my view that Jews and others would be better off in a secular environment dedicated to the implementation of human rights for all. True an ethnic state may impose a protective regime for the favored ethnicity but it is likely to arouse enmity among other ethnicities, and over time likely to generate external pressures. The underlying challenge for all communities is to live together humanely on the basis of equality.

 

What is your opinion, could be peace and two separated but cooperative states in the territory of Palestine/Israel in the near future?

 

Earlier, I was of the view that it is up to the parties to decide how to reconcile their overlapping claims to self-determination in Palestine. I thought that the Palestinians had suffered for too long from external. political actors seeking to shape the future of Palestine. The Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the UN partition resolution of 1947 were both interferences by international actors as to how the conflict over Palestine should be resolved. It was time, I felt, to let the two peoples to work out their own solution. In retrospect, there were problems with my position: First, it was not clear that the Palestinian people were being legitimately and adequately represented within international venues, especially after the death of Yasir Arafat. This raised the question, still not answerable, of who could speak authoritatively on behalf of the Palestinian people. Secondly, the disparity in power, accentuated by the U.S. role as a partisan third party intermediary, presiding over the diplomatic framework, made it unlikely that a sustainable peace could be negotiated by relying upon such a flawed process.

 

In recent years, I have shifted my view to a one democratic state position. Israel through a variety of actions, including expanding the settlements, building the wall, establishing security zones has made it a practical impossibility to establish an independent, equal, sovereign state of Palestine. Furthermore, Israel’s leadership and public opinion feel triumphant, especially with Trump in the White House, and no longer feel the need for a political compromise, and seem to be moving step by step toward imposing their own apartheid version of a one-state solution on the Palestinian people.

 

It is true that the UN and the international community continue to affirm the two-state solution as the only viable outcome if peace is the goal. Why, when it is so obviously a dead-end? To abandon the two-state approach would acknowledge the failure of UN and international diplomacy. Additionally, the durability of two-state thinking results from the influence of Zionism on the international approach to peace. A democratic and secular one-state would necessitate giving up the goal of a Jewish state, requiring a retreat to the original Balfour pledge of a Jewish homeland, and involve a major Zionist downsizing.  Such a retreat is a necessity, in my view, if there is ever to be a political arrangement for Palestine based on the essential equality of the two peoples and creating the conditions for a sustainable peace.

 

The reason for a mood of despair is obvious. What is desirable seems politically unattainable, while what is attainable seems unacceptable. Under these conditions false consciousness is bound to flourish. To overcome this mood of despair, we should not look to the UN or the United States. Our best hope for a just peace for both peoples is a heightening of pressure from civil society to such a level as to prompt Israeli leaders and the Israeli public, as well as diaspora Jewry to. recalculate their own interests so as to incorporate the realization of basic Palestinian rights.

 

  

 

 

Challenging Pitzer/Haifa Study Abroad Program: Can Civil Society Act?

22 Mar

[Prefatory Note: The post is an open letter to the President of Pitzer College urging support for reconsideration of his veto of a resolution urging the college to suspend its study abroad program with the University of Haifa until Israel ends its discriminatory policies in the educational sphere that affect Palestinians and anyone exercising rights of free expression in a manner that Israel disapproves, and more. specifically the BDS Campaign. With the UN unable to bring peace, the long failed effort at. American-led diplomacy, and now Trump in the White House it.  is time for civil society to speak and to act.]

 

 

March 19, 2019

 

Open Letter to the President of Pitzer College, Melvin L. Oliver:

 

I write in response to your reported decision to overrule the vote of the Pitzer Student/Faculty/Staff Council urging the suspension of the Study Abroad program of Pitzer with the University of Haifa until Israeli discrimination on the basis of race and legally protected political speech with respect to entry and issuance of visas ceases. Through your statements supporting the rejection of this vote by this representative campus body, you are using your executive position to make your judgment prevail over the decision of the democratic procedures in place to reflect the collective judgment of the Pitzer College community. I find this troubling for both procedural and substantive reasons, and from what I have heard, demoralizing and disillusioning for many persons on and off the campus. 

 

Your statements rely on two broad arguments. First, that the business of Pitzer College is to promote education, not social justice, and that some students might be deprived of valuable educational opportunities. And secondly, that Israel’s alleged wrongdoing is certainly not worse than that of several other countries, and singling out Israel is thus applying double standards and is unfair and hence “political.” These objections raise important issues, but they do not, in my judgment, outweigh the case for supporting the resolution mandating the suspension of this Study Abroad Program until the conditions in the resolution are met.

 

I have had occasion to consider these arguments and to study comparable issues over the course of six years (2008–2014) in my role as UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Occupied Palestine. It was clear that the UN–and indirectly, the United States had a special responsibility with respect to both the State of Israel and the Palestinian people that goes back to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 that is different and. more pronounced than that toward other victimized peoples around the world. Furthermore, as a result of a collaborative report of which I was one of the two authors, written as an independent academic study under contract with the UN Economic and Social Council for West Asia, it was concluded that the victimization of the Palestinian people as a whole was dependent on Israeli apartheid state structures associated with upholding a state that by its own Basic Law limits the right of self-determination exclusivelyto the Jewish people. On the basis of my experience at the United Nations, it is overwhelmingly clear that Israel discriminates against Palestinians with respect to entry into its educational institutions and also withholds visas and rights of entry to those from the United States and elsewhere who have exercised their human right of free expression in ways that Israel deems critical of its policies, with a particular animus exhibited against those who support the BDS Campaign.

 

In so many respects, a preoccupation with Israel’s conduct is appropriate within an American setting.

 

The United States has presided over a failed peace process for more than twenty years. Against this background, it is obvious that Palestinian basic rights have not been achieved either by the UN, by traditional diplomacy, or by international mediation, and there is no prospect of this changing in the near future. The hope for a sustainable peace for both peoples is the continuation of Palestinian resistance and nonviolent transnational solidarity initiatives of civil society. The BDS Campaign has this objective, as had the analogous movement directed at apartheid South Africa, which finally brought a change of governing policy and sustained racial peace under circumstances in which it was deemed by many outside observers as impossible. This attempt at signaling to Israel and to the world that a study abroad program is unacceptable so long as it operates in accordance with discriminatory standards is part of this struggle for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. Pitzer College should be proud of its stand, and it should certainly not be blocked by an administrative fiat.   

 

As someone who has been active as a faculty member for more than 50 years, I would take issue with your distinction between the promotion of social justice and the pursuit of educational goals. It is my experience, reinforced by feedback from many students, that the most valuable educational and learning experience during their time at college was their moral engagement with social issues confronting society at the time. College education at its best should involve moral empowerment by way of commitments on issues that challenge conscience. In this controversy about acceptable standards of a study abroad program, the link between social justice and education is organic. As well, taking a stand on a question of this sort relates to the sort of civic education that helps orient younger people to be active in their participation as citizens of a vibrant democracy, and deserves to be considered as part of the educational mission, and not outside of it.

 

It is my understanding that this is the first instance in the history of Pitzer College in which the president has vetoed a resolution. I would urge you to respect a community consensus on this matter of such deep political conviction and moral commitment. It is certainly the case that reasonable people can weigh the issues at stake in opposite ways, and so the ultimate question at issue is whose voice should prevail. By rejecting the voice of the college community, you are creating tensions that will not subside. If you chose to defer, while setting forth your reasons for disagreement, your actions would create the kind of broader understanding of those invaluable aspects of education that occur outside the classroom in the course of a benevolent college experience.

 

Finally, I should express my own personal interest in having Pitzer do the right thing in this challenging situation. My son, Dimitri, graduated from Pitzer about 25 years ago, having had a wonderful college experience that I and his mother greatly appreciated. I also had the honor of being a speaker at the installation of the preceding president of Pitzer College, which gave me an occasion to renew my affection for the place.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

Richard Falk

Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University

Distinguished Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies, UCSB     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                               

On the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

10 Dec

On the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

[Prefatory Note: Responses to questions relating to the Universal Declaration of Human Right addressed to me by the journalist Rodrigo Craveiro on behalf of the Brazilian newspaper, Correio Braziliense. I am posting slightly modified responses today, December 10, the 70thanniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly. This Declaration was a notable step in the direction of asserting that persons by virtue of their humanness are entitled to protection in the exercise of a broad spectrum of rights, and hence, that sovereignty is subject to certain constraining limitations. Much progress has been made since 1948, although we live in a period of mounting pressure on human rights deriving from a surge of right-wing populism combined with the effects of an insufficiently regulated capitalism. We also live at a time of expanding ecological consciousness, which includes a more serious concern about animal rights. Perhaps, the time has come to propose and draft a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Animals.]

 

1– How do you see the meaning and the importance of  Universal Declaration of Human Rights? What are the main parts of the Declaration in your point of view?

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was a historic document as it represented the first time that an authoritative and comprehensive conception of internationalhuman rights was formulated and agreed upon by the leading governments of the world. It was also significant that rights were formulated as inhering in being ‘human’ rather than as a matter that was to be determined in accord with national or civilizational norms. Even so this historic text was set forth in a declaratory form that meant that it was not obligatory, and the implementation of human rights standards remained essentially voluntary. While affirming human rights, governments were not ready to make legal commitments that could weaken their sovereign rights to have the final say in state/society relations.

 

However, the UDHR had more political traction than anticipated in 1948. Opposition groups in East Europe found it useful as a way to assert the legitimacy of posing demands to their governments. NGOs formed in the West, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, did their best to persuade governments throughout the world to live up to human rights standards partly by relying on the authority of the USHR. Furthermore, the UN anti-apartheid campaign was based on a human rights rationale, and proved eventually effective in inducing the South African leadership to change course and dismantle their racist regime. These developments established the political relevance of human rights as something more than a pious declaration of good intentions.

 

Furthermore, the Western democracies found the UDHR a useful propaganda instrument in their ideological rivalry with the Soviet bloc countries. This gave human rights a prominent role in the foreign policy of the Western democracies. At the same time it weakened the authority of human rights to the extent that it became an attack weapon rather than a source of self-criticism and self-correction.

 

The UDHR is partly notable for its inclusion of economic, social, and cultural rights alongside civil and political rights. Article 25 contains a revolutionary norm to the effect that everyone is entitled to a standard of living that meets basic material needs. Article 28 even promisesas a human right, an international order capable of providing satisfaction of the various distinct human rights as coherently set forth in the UDHR.

 

It is important to appreciate that governments did set about the task of translating the UDHR into a treaty form through negotiations that lasted almost two decades, and featured the split between the capitalist countries of the West and the socialist countries of the East. The resulting compromise was a rather awkward split of the unity of rights as set forth in the UDHR into two treaty instrument reflecting this Cold War ideological division: Covenant of Civil and Political Rights reflective of the values of liberal individualist societies and the Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressive of the collective identities fostered by socialism.

 

It is notable that in the UN Conference on Human Rights and Development held in Vienna in 1975 the indivisibilityof human rights was reaffirmed, reflecting a revival of the unified approach of the UDHR and a rejection of the fracturing of the two categories of human rights into parallel covenants. In this respect, although the UNDH was only a declaration it may be more expressive of the true nature of human rights than are the 1966 treaty instrument, the Covenants being a product of the temporary Cold War atmosphere, but also, of the incompatibility of the protection of economic and social rights with the logic and operation of the neoliberal economic order that emerged on a global scale after the Cold War.

 

2– Do you believe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being fully accomplished by all nations which signed it? Is it actually a very important guideline for all nations?

 

I think it is helpful here to distinguish between governments and societies. Social forces in society found the UDHR incredibly helpful in assessing whether their own government was living up to proper standards in state/society relations as measured by law and morality. It has also proved to be a useful yardstick within the UN System to determine whether states are in compliance with fundamental human rights.

 

In the present period when many important countries are governed by elected autocrats, there has been a notable decline in the observance of the standards embodied in the UDHR. There is no doubt that the status of human rights of a political character is dependent upon the quality of democratic governance. If democracy declines, so does the observance of human rights, and vice versa. We are presently living through a period of decline, especially with respect to civil and political rights, less so in relation to economic and social rights, but not much less so as capitalism is in a predatory stage due to the absence of normative and ideological challenges since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the adoption of a market approach to political economy by China.

 

3– What are the main violations of Universal Declaration of Human Rights you could point as most serious ones? Why?

 

It is not possible to give a complete answer as different countries and civilizations are inclined to violate different categories of human rights. It is possible to offer some generalizations, but these need to be adjusted to various national conditions.

 

Countries committed to market driven forms of economic practice tend to be weak when it comes to the observance of economic and social rights. For instance, some of the richest countries in the global North have huge pockets of extreme poverty. Neoliberal globalization has accentuated various forms of inequality that have led to widespread violations of economic and social rights.

 

Islamic countries do not adhere to those aspects of human rights that mandate equal treatment of women in all sphere of public and family life. Such discrimination may be also present in the treatment of sexual identities that deviate from the mainstream dualist norm such as are associated with the identities of persons of gay, lesbian, and trans persuasion.

 

Countries governed in an autocratic manner tend to encroach upon freedom of expression and suppress journalistic and media dissent, as well as interfere with dissenting views in universities, labor unions, political parties. There are currently campaigns in various Western countries to treat criticism of Israel as a form of hate speech that has been labeled as ‘the New Anti-Semitism’ causing punitive reactions to opinions that should be protected by canons of freedom of expression in a manner consistent with the guidelines of the UDHR, as well as the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 

4– Do you think the Declaration is quite obsolete due to the fact it didn´t predict digital privacy challenges, artificial intelligence and climate changing? In spite of that, is the text still a very important tool?

 

I do not think the Declaration is obsolete or even anachronistic, although it needs to be updated in various ways to take account of the distinct human rights challenges posed by the realities of the digital age. My responses to earlier questions suggest the important relevance of the UDHR to contemporary non-digital conditions of life throughout the world.

 

I would suggest the preparation of a new consensus international legal instrument with the title Declaration of Human Rights Pertaining to the Challenges of the Digital Age. This Declaration could address issues of privacy, surveillance, robotics, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering. It might prove difficult, if not impossible, to find sufficient common ground among leading governments and other stakeholders to reach a consensus. Even so, the fact that a negotiating process leads to a declaration rather than an enforceable treaty might facilitate reaching a framework agreement on fundamental principles, which later could be formalized in an obligatory form and given greater specificity.

 

 

‘The Arab International Forum for Justice for Palestine’ (Beirut, 29 July 2018)

1 Aug

‘The Arab International Forum for Justice for Palestine’ (Beirut, 29 July 2018)

 

[Prefatory Note:I was invited to attend and speak at this Forum to be held for one day in Beirut on July 29, 2018. My initial impression after experiencing a 90 minute airport line for those carrying foreign passports to gain entry to Lebanon was that the conference was incredibly disorganized. There was no program available to the participants even after the Opening Ceremony began in a packed hotel auditorium with a crowded and passionate gathering of persons dedicated to justice for Palestine, hailing from many countries, from as far away as Mumbai and San Francisco, including diplomats, religious personalities dressed in traditional garb, and those who had kept faith over the years with the Palestinian struggle. Not surprisingly, the Irish participants stirred the crowd with their fiery eloquence, and shared experience of a somewhat similar prolonged struggle. The Forum was a microcosm of what Palestinian inclusiveness looks like. I was not really surprised that Ramsey Clark was the beloved Honorary Chair of the Conference, and learned that only a recently broken hip kept him away.

 

There were many moments of personal satisfaction during my longone day visit (that seemed like three), including a warm coffee chat with Rabi’ Bashour, recalling our ESCWA experiences, and discovering that his venerable father, Maan, was the heart and soul of the Forum, both as moderator of the event and throughout the entire process from its origins. The guiding idea of the Forum is to establish a platform that is wide enough to accommodate all tendencies in the Palestinian national movement provided there is evidence of dedication to justice for the Palestinian people. This meant Fatah and Hamas in the same room, religious figures and firmly secular persons, representatives of trade unions, student organizations, prisoner and detainee family members, women’s group, members of parties from the far left and the center (I didn’t sense any right wing participation). It was the central task of the Forum to keep this symbolic expression of Palestinian unity in robust good spirits, and only secondarily, to address matters of substance. The unspoken dream of the occasion was that the success of the Forum would lead the political leaders of the now deeply divided Palestinian movement to put aside their differences and achieve sustainable unity to pursue together the far greater convergence of goals at the core of their struggle.

 

There was a call from the podium at the outset for ‘practical proposals’ rather than just ‘speeches,’ but rhetorical style is almost impossible to discipline, and so there were an assortment of speeches mainly validated by frequent emotional flourishes throughout their delivery, yet in fairness there were several promising concrete suggestions for action initiatives.

 

I came to appreciate greatly the anarchistic style of hospitality, above all by Nabil Hallak, the guiding spirit with no observable capacity for conventional organization beyond a restless vitality that made us all feel welcome, appreciated, and well cared for. Once I relaxed about the chaotic logistics enough to go with the flow I enjoyed being in such a setting, and everything important worked out somehow. It turns out Nabil has a most gracious wife, has fought in Palestinian resistance, and as a result possesses a body that was pierced by nine Israeli bullets; nevertheless, Nabil is modest about his past, projects a joy-for-life espritand has an obvious intense dedication to the Forum as an ongoing political project. He is close to Tima Issa, a TV producer in Beirut with whom I had done a program a year ago, who extended the initial invitation and made the social dimension of my brief visit both enjoyable and memorable.]

  1. There was bright sunshine throughout the entire Forum thanks to the announcement that Ahed Tamimi and her mother were released on that very day, and boldly reaffirmed their abiding commitment to resistance. This teenage Palestinian icon from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh had completed an eight month jail term for slapping an IDF soldier after her cousin had been shot in the face. Instead of exhibiting empathy for Ahed Tamimi, Israel exhibited its vindictive approach to the Palestinian reality by jailing such a sensitive young woman rather than acting in a civilized manner by exhibiting sympathy for the normalcy of her reactions, indeed their dignity, to being a witness of such brutality by an agent of the Israeli state.

 

 

The Tamimi family were prominent resisters before ‘the slap heard  around the world.’ It was evident by the frequent reference to Ahed by speakers at the Forum that her show of defiance and youthful exuberance was worth a thousand missiles, expressing not only sumud, but also the conviction that nonviolent resistance can become transformative if adapted to the realities of an oppressive situation. Of course, not a word in theNY Timesabout Ahed’s release, while papers in Lebanon wrote complementary feature stories with sympathetic pictures of this heroine, and in every Turkish paper I saw her release was a front page story. Ahed seems comfortable with the prominence of her role despite being so young. As far as the eye can see, Ahed seems completely unintimidated by the immediate shadows cast by the harshness of Israel’s response to this totally innocent gesture of resistance.

While celebrating Ahed’s release, we should also pause to remember Razan Al-Najjar, the heroic 21-year old medic tending the wounded at the Gaza Great March of Return fatally shot on June 1st by an IDF sniper in cold blood while well apart from the demonstrators, away from the fence, dressed in easily identifiable white medical clothing, working in the vicinity of Khan Yunis.

We should also salute Dareen Tatour, fine young Palestinian poet, author of the poem ‘Resist My People, Resist Them,’ sentenced to five months in prison just now for the sin of writing defiant poetry, having only recently been released from years of house arrest, denied access to the internet, and even to her own village community.

 

 

  1. There was one feature of the Forum that made me increasingly uncomfortable as I listened to speaker after speaker pour cold water on Trump’s promise, or was it a threat, to end the conflict with ‘the deal of the century.’ When it came my turn to speak I started by admitting that I was astonished that so much attention was given to this catchy phrase used by Trump. According so much attention gave the still undisclosed U.S. proposal a political weight it didn’t deserve, and could put the Palestinians in an unnecessarily awkward, defensive, and combative position. I pointed out that Trump’s erratic approach to the world since he became president had weakened greatly the U.S. global leadership role, and that his extreme partisanship with respect to the Palestinian struggle had reduced to zero American credibility as an impartial or constructive arbiter in relation to the future of the two peoples. U.S. credibility as a peacemaker had long ago been convincingly challenged, for instance, in the devastating book by Rashid Khalidi, Brokers of Deceit, and even more comprehensively by Jeremy Hammond in his important book, `Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict (2016). It seemed to me that the words ‘the deal of the century’ had entranced and bewitched this Palestinian audience, leading to a fear that Trump had put them on a road leading to a political dead end for the Palestinian aspirations, crushing their struggle by being tricked into such a spiderweb of bombastic irrelevance.

 

What the U.S. seems ready to offer, what Israeli leaders have been talking about more and more openly, is that if the Palestinians abandon their rights along with their dreams, ‘peace’ becomes possible. This includes abandoning political goals associated with the right of self-determination. If the Palestinians are so foolish as to do this, then they can become hapless beneficiaries of ‘an economic peace’ courtesy of Israel’s generosity and charitable nature. The deal of the century reduced to substance is little other than ‘geopolitical bribery,’ exchanging some dollars for inalienable rights. In such a bargain the devil is NOT in the details, but is the essence of what is being proposed. Of course, there are almost certain also to be humiliating details involving various aspects of permanent submission by the Palestinians: acceptance of uncontested Israeli control of Jerusalem, a complete denial of any right of Palestinian refugees or exiles to return, and a series of master/servant economic arrangements. My pitch at the Forum was to put ‘the deal of the century’ in its proper perspective by ignoring it, or if it must be mentioned, then reframe all references to the deal that is less a deal that an attempted diktatby identifying it as an attempt to commit ‘the crime of the century!’

 

  1. I highlighted the second observation in my presentation by quoting the opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I felt this kind of interface well depicted the current situation of the Palestinians. It was the worst of times because the alignments in the Arab world together with the geopolitical forces seemed to favor the Zionist Project to an unprecedented degree. The major Arab governments were moving toward postures of ‘normalization’ with Israel without any longer insisting on the precondition of reaching a sustainable peace with the Palestinians. This regional setback weakened Palestine diplomatically, and materially. At the same time the Trump presidency has made no secret of its endorsement of maximal Zionist goals, agreeing to whatever Israel (and Saudi Arabia) wanted. Above all this involved ramping up a confrontation with Iran. Europe was unhappy with these developments, but has so far lacked the energy, incentive, and leadership to play a more balanced role so as to keep alive its supposed commitment to keep burning the barely flickering flame of ‘a two-state solution.’ In other words, from the international community of states, the best that can be hoped for at this stage, is a renewed show of support for the two-state mantra, itself moribund.

 

In sum, if Palestinian prospects are interpreted through the prism of standard international relations, the outlook is dismal, and not by chance this is the line being pursued by the Middle East Forum, an ultra-Zionist NGO. Its chosen mechanism is a rather diabolical scheme labeled ‘the victory caucus,’ which is actively recruiting, with a disturbing degree of success, members of the U.S. Congress and the Knesset. It wants the world to understand that since international diplomacy is dead and with Trump in the White House the occasion offers Israel the opportunity of adopting more muscular tactics to make the Palestinians understand that their game of resistance is over, that to avoid collective suicide there is no alternative left to the Palestine other than political surrender. And if the Palestinians are wise enough to accept this line of thinking, then they could become beneficiary of some variant of economic peace as a sign of Israeli gratitude.

 

Fortunately, this is not the true or real, much less the whole, story. Several recent developments have created new and promising opportunities for the Palestinian national movement to move its own agenda forward. These developments involve a welcome shift of the center of gravity of the Palestinian movement from reliance on inter-governmental initiatives, including those pursued at the UN, to a phase of struggle that combines new modes of Palestinian resistance with a rapidly expanding global solidarity movement. This solidarity movement is receiving a great boost in credibility as a result of the militant support that BDS campaign is receiving in South Africa. In effect, on the basis of their experience of racism, South Africa is delivering this urgent message to the world: we alone know the full horror of an apartheid regime, and what Palestinians are daily experiencing is a form of apartheid that is even worse to what we endured, and finally overcame by a struggle that combined the brave resistance of our people with solidarity of the world; although the circumstances are far different, apartheid in Israel can be overcome by a similar shift in the balance of forces due to an intensifying popular struggle neutralizing the repressive capabilities of military and police domination.

 

I mentioned two developments of particular importance in the emergence of this altered scenario of struggle. First, the Israeli nation-state law of the Jewish people that by its bluntness in asserting the exclusivity of Jewish rights in Israel, including that of self-determination, amounted to a formal adoption of an apartheid ideology by Israel in all but name. In effect, this development vindicated the conclusions of the ESCWA report on Israeli apartheid prepared by Virginia Tilley and myself that was condemned so fiercely by the Israeli ambassador, and even more so by Nikki Haley, the American ambassador at the UN, when it was released in March 2017. As the discourse at the Forum and the mainstream media now illustrate, it is no longer controversial to attribute apartheid to the particular Israeli mode of dominance imposed on Palestinians. What makes the nation-state law so politically helpful in this respect is that the relation of the Israeli state to its Palestinian minority was, although discriminatory, far more benign than their behavior toward refugees or Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza. Thus to acknowledge apartheid as the modus operandiin Israel itself is like a signed voluntary confession as to the character of overall domination.

 

Such an interpretation of the nation-state law is important for mobilizing popular support for more militant forms of solidarity with respect to the Palestinian people. Apartheid is an international crime, one type of crime against humanity that is set forth in Article 7 of the Statute governing the operations of the International Criminal Court, and deprives Israel of the propaganda value of claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East.

 

The second development that creates opportunities for advancing the Palestinian struggle is the exposure of the violent nature of Israel’s control mechanisms by its reliance on grossly excessive force in calculated response to the Great March of Return. These demonstrations at and around the Gaza fence are demands to implement the most fundamental of Palestinian rights as set forth by international law. Killing unarmed demonstrators with live ammunition exposes to the world the violent nature of Israel’s structures of domination. This use of lethal force at the Gaza border recalls vividly the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, which many commentators identified as the point of no return for South African apartheid, revealing the true racist nature of its governing process to the world.  The Gaza massacre is actually far worse than Sharpeville, as the wilfull killing has now been repeated on a series of occasions. Further, the deliberate targeting of unarmed Palestinians has been documented, including the shooting of health workers attending those wounded in temporary facilities set up at a considerable distance from the Israeli border.

 

It is the extreme character of these two developments that provides this golden opportunity to civil society activists and their organizations to mobilize wider and deeper support for the Palestinian struggle. The BDS Campaign, already in its 13thyear, becomes more central in this effort to isolate Israel internationally and emphasize the criminal illegitimacy of Israeli apartheid. It is appropriate to mention that South Africa sought to demonize opposition to its racist policies by dubbing activists as ‘terrorists’ or ‘Communists.’ Israel uses a similar rhetorical tactic by branding its critics and activists as ‘anti-Semites.’ Although Israeli apartheid is different in many aspects from South African apartheid with regard to both internal and international contexts, both instances of apartheid involve structures of subjugation based on race with the overriding purpose of maintaining domination of one race, and the victimization of the other. South African apartheid proved vulnerable to resistance and solidarity initiatives. It is my belief that the opportunity now exists, more so than ever before, to establish a comparable vulnerability with respect to Israeli apartheid.

 

It should be appreciated that the great unlearned lesson of the last half century is that military superiority has lost much of its historical agency. The colonial wars were won by the weaker side militarily. The Vietnam War was lost by the United States despite its overwhelming military superiority. The side that control the heights of legal, moral, and political opinion most usually controls the political outcome. The Palestinians have been winning the legitimacy war to achieve such control, and so now is the time for soft power militancy to finish the job.

 

  1. Despite the implicit acknowledgement of apartheid by the adoption of the nation-state law as Basic Law of Israel, that is, as not subject to change except by enactment of another law with Basic Law status, it seem helpful to reassert the relevance of the ESCWA Report. That study, arousing great controversy at the time of release, is no longer as relevant or as needed for purpose of debating whether or not Israel is an apartheid state. Even before the Basic Law innovation, the evidence of Israeli practices shows, as the Report argues, that Israel is an apartheid state. The Report remains relevant, however, to obtain a better understanding of the distinctive and comprehensive nature of Israeli apartheid.

 

For one thing, the Report examines the allegation of apartheid from the perspective of international law as it is set forth in various authoritative places, especially the 1973 ‘International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the International Crime of Apartheid.’ Secondly, it argues on the basis of evidence that Israeli apartheid extends to the Palestinian people as a whole, not just to those living under the dual legal systems of the West Bank or as the discriminated minority in Israel. The apartheid regime developed by Israel applies also to the refugees confined to camps in neighboring countries and to those Palestinians living in Jerusalem, which is governed as if it is already wholly incorporated into the state of Israel. We reaffirm the central conclusion of the Report that the only valid path to a sustainable peace for both peoples requires the priorrejection of the ideologyand the dismantling of the structuresof apartheid. Any other purported peace process will produce, at most, a new ceasefire, most likely, with a very short life expectancy.  A secondary conclusion is that as a matter of law, all governments and international institutions, as well as corporations and banks, have a responsibility to do their utmost to suppress the crime of apartheid as being perpetrated by the leadership of the state of Israel. It also would follow that lending assistance to Israel either materially or diplomatically is now unlawful, aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise.

 

Conclusion: The time is ripe for civil society to represent the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Israeli apartheid regime. This struggle is just and the means being pursued are legitimate. Resistance and solidarity are the vital instruments by which to challenge apartheid, and its geopolitical support structure. This was the path that led to the collapse of South African apartheid, and a similar path is now available for the Palestinian struggle.

GAZA: Ordeal & Destiny

30 Jun

[Prefatory Note: I post below two items pertaining to Gaza—my short poem, and a collection of responses to the question “What is the Future of Gaza” by a clever online publication, called ‘One Question,’ which true to its name poses a single question to a number of people presumed to have something to say in response, is the creation of Cihan Aksan and Jon Bailes. I only learned about this format because I am among the respondents represented below.  My current concern is that while the world of states, and even the UN, has virtually abandoned the people trapped in Gaza, we who support their empowerment and liberation, must not lose faith in their future, nor weaken our emotions of empathy so long as their ordeal persists.]

 

*******************************************************************************

 

Great March of Return and the Unspeakable

 

This wordless borderland

Where love and atrocity meet

 

Where free fire zones

Fill pools with blood

 

Overflowing hatred

Climb forlorn fences

 

Call forth silences

Of heart and mind

 

Words of rage

Rightless rights

 

March and return

Return and march

 

Tears are not enough

Nor outrage nor silence

 

When tending the wounded

Become a capital crime

 

It’s time to say

This world is doomed

 

 

27 June 2018

Yalikavak, Turkey

 

 

 

One Question

Gaza

28th June 2018 Cihan Aksan And Jon Bailes <stateofnatureblog.com/one-question-future-gaza>

 

One Question is a monthly series in which we ask leading thinkers to give a brief answer to a single question. This month, we ask:What is the future of Gaza?

With responses from: Ramzy BaroudRichard FalkSara Roy; Abdalhadi Alijla; Norman Finkelstein; Toufic Haddad; Atef Alshaer; Helga Tawil-Souri; Hagar Kotef; Joel Beinin; Magid Shihade; Ran Greenstein; Richard Hardigan; Salman Abu Sitta.

 

 

Ramzy Baroud

 Journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story(Pluto, 2018). He has a PhD in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

 

The ongoing siege on the Gaza Strip was interrupted by three major Israeli wars: in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014, with a total death toll that exceeded 5,000. Tens of thousands were wounded and maimed, and hundreds more were killed in the in-between, so-called ‘lull’ years. Coupled with a hermetic blockade, Gaza cannot rebuild most of its destroyed infrastructure, leading the United Nations to conclude that the tiny but overcrowded enclave will become ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. In many ways, however, and tragically so, it already is.

 

The future of Gaza will follow the same path of horrific wars and a suffocating siege if no new positive factors are injected into this dismal equation. Without a regional and international push to force Israel to loosen its grip, or to find alternative routes to assist the isolated Strip, misery will continue, even beyond 2020. ‘Uninhabitable’ or not, Israel has no plans to allow Gaza’s 2-million inhabitants, mostly refugees from historic Palestine, today’s Israel, to lead normal lives.

 

It is important to note that Israel is not solely responsible for Gaza’s current fate; Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are also culpable, each with its own agenda. Egypt, which shares the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, wants to ensure that Hamas, which it perceives as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, is isolated and weakened. The PA, which is controlled by the largest Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) faction, Fatah, is also hell-bent on defeating Hamas. Fatah lost a parliamentary election to Hamas in 2006, and does not wish to repeat that perceived folly by allowing another democratic election to take place.

 

Thus, the Palestinian political rift is important for all parties involved: Israel needs to demonise Hamas and, by extension, all of Gaza; Egypt wants to marginalise any strong Islamic political tide, and the PA in the West Bank wants to keep its rivals at bay. Despite Hamas’ regional politicking, it has so far failed to break away from its isolation. Gaza is, therefore, not a victim of Israel alone. True, the latter owns the largest shares in Gaza’s desolation, but other Arab and Palestinian parties are greatly invested and equally keen on keeping the hapless Strip on its knees.

 

If the status quo persists, a backlash is on the way, not just in terms of another deadly Israeli war to ‘downgrade’ the defenses of Palestinian resistance, but also in terms of social and political upheaval in Gaza and the West Bank. The large protests against the PA in Ramallah in recent days were violently suppressedby PA police and thugs, but West Bankers are growing angry over the subjugation of their Gaza brethren. Meanwhile, the mass ralliesat the Gaza-Israel fence are an indication that Gazans are seeking alternative methods to fight back, even at the price of a high death and injury toll, as has been and continues to be the case

 

.

Richard Falk

 

Professor Emeritus in International Law, Princeton University; between 2008-2014 he served as Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council; his most recent books are Power Shift: On the New Global Order(University of Chicago, 2016) and Revisiting the Vietnam War(University of Cambridge, 2017).

 

It is important to understand some essential features of the distinctive place of Gaza in the wider context of the Palestinian struggle for elemental rights. Perhaps most fundamentally, unlike the West Bank and Jerusalem, Gaza is not considered part of the ‘promised land’ that forms the substance of the Zionist Project to form a Jewish State that corresponds with its understanding of the scope of biblical entitlement.

 

At the same time, Gaza has a long history of centrality in the Palestinian national experience that stretches back before the time of Mohammed, and thus the inclusion of Gaza in Palestine’s vision of self-determination is vital. This collides with Israel’s desire to maintain a Jewish majority state, which would make it desirable for Gaza to be absorbed or at least administered separately by either Jordan or Egypt.

Gaza, more than the West Bank, has also been the center of Palestinian resistance, being the site where the First Intifada was launched in 1987 and where Hamas came to govern after it prevailed in internationally supervised elections of 2006 and in a struggle for governing authority the following year.

 

The intense hostility between Hamas and the PLO has fractured Palestinian political unity, weakening Palestinian diplomatic leverage, and making it more plausible for Israel to claim it has no Palestinian ‘partner’ in the search for a peaceful solution.

Such a background helps us understand why Gaza has experienced massively destructive attacks by Israel in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014, as well as the recent border massacre in response to the Great Return March that is the latest example of Israeli reliance on excessive violence and cruel tactics to crush Palestinian resistance.

 

Gaza also partakes of the wider fate of the Palestinian people, which in the time of Netanyahu and Trump seems extremely unfavorable, with respect to relief from the ordeal of a suffocating blockade that has lasted more than a decade and control policies designed to achieve de-development of the Gazan economy. In this regard, the safest prediction is a continuation of the cycle of repression and resistance with no change of basic circumstances. Even the Israeli expansionists do not seek to absorb Gaza, although its offshore deposits of natural gas might create a future temptation.

 

The longer vision of a Gazan future is clouded at present. Ideally, Gaza would participate in a single secular state embracing the whole of historic Palestine. Increasingly, the impracticality of the two-state solution has focused Gazan hopes either on a long-term ceasefire or a genuine peace process that establishes a single democratic state.

 

 

Sara Roy

 

Senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, specialising in the Palestinian economy, Palestinian Islamism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She is also co-chair of the Middle East Seminar, jointly sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and co-chair of the Middle East Forum at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Her books include: The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development (Institute for Palestine Studies, 1995, 2001, third edition 2016 with a new introduction and afterword and Arabic edition forthcoming in 2018); Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Pluto Press, 2007); and Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: Engaging the Islamist Social Sector (Princeton University Press, 2011, 2014 with a new afterword).

 

The question itself reflects the problem. It speaks to Gaza as separate and apart – severed from Israel, the West Bank, and the world. In this regard, Israel has been stunningly successful; it has not only removed and contained Gaza geographically, economically and legally; it has convinced us to understand and accept Gaza as something distinct and awful, unenduring, and therefore undeserving of a normal, worthwhile existence.

 

Gaza’s temporality has always defined Israel’s approach to the territory because Israel has never really known what to do with Gaza. Gaza has always been unruly, guilty of what for Israel is indefensible and unforgiveable: defiance. This accounts in part for Israel’s brutal treatment of the territory including a blockade now in its 12thyear, which has destroyed the local economy. Gaza was – and remains – the center of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and the injustice that sustains it.

 

The recent protests along the fence isolating Gaza from Israel, which at times exceeded 30,000 people, were a nightmare for Israel, a harbinger of things to come. No doubt one issue plaguing the Israeli government right now is how better to control Gaza.

 

This question, I am told, is at the heart of the American peace plan (especially since the West Bank has effectively succumbed to Israeli rule). Controlling Gaza in the future, however, will be no different from the past.  Gaza will continue to be treated as a humanitarian problem requiring nothing more than subsistence relief. Defining the parameters of Israel’s policy toward the territory, an Israeli defense official was clear and succinct: ‘No development, no prosperity, no humanitarian crisis.’

 

Gaza’s future must be informed by its past; yet, its lived reality has no connection to a past or a future. The majority of Gazans have no memory of Gaza before the destruction. History – both recent and far – is not so much absent as it is vacant, and without that history to navigate a way forward, there are no prospects worth thinking about or expectations worth having. People are so consumed by the present that mundane needs have become aspirational. The future is beyond conceptualisation.

 

If Gaza has a future outside incarceration, it lies in ending its liminality and present state of exception. It lies in admittance and inclusion. And it lies in returning to Gazans what they want most – a predictable, unexceptional life.

 

 

Abdalhadi Alijla

 

Palestinian-Swedish researcher and writer. Since April 2018, he has been an Associate Fellow at the Post-Conflict Research Center in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a member of the elected Executive Committee of the Global Young Academy for 2018-2019, Director of Institute for Middle East Studies, Canada (IMESC), and Regional Manager of the Varieties of Democracy Institute (Gothenburg University) for Gulf countries. His work has appeared in OpenDemocracy, Huffpost,Qantara, Your Middle East, Jaddaliyaand other media outlets.

 

Gaza has two futures: the future that the Palestinians living in Gaza are looking for, a Gaza open to the world with no fear, and the future that seems to be their destiny, which is the current reality of a life filled with misery. When I left Gaza more than a decade ago, I knew that I was leaving a place which seemed like another planet behind me, where the unemployment rate was high, Palestinian internal division was deepening, and the Israeli siege had only just started. Today, the situation in Gaza is catastrophic, literally.

 

The Palestinians of Gaza are paying the price for Israel’s occupation, and the detrimental policies of both Hamas and Fatah. The recent incidents in Ramallah and the Gaza strip, where Hamas and Abbas’s forces broke up protests taking place in opposition to the sanctions against Gaza by the PA, has proven that both political entities are acting as de-facto, Israel-delegated authoritarian forces.

 

The Palestinians of Gaza look for a bright future where they can move freely, study and have access to health care without being dehumanised. The future Gazans want is the future where ICT incubators flourish, and industries that have been destroyed by Israel, such as textiles, will return. The future of Gaza should be without the occupation, the siege, and political division.

 

The other future, which I see as the most probable, is the continuation of the suffering and dehumanisation of the Palestinians of Gaza by settler colonial Israel, as well as the negligence of the Palestinian leadership with respect to the demands of their citizens for unification and elections. This future is the one that nobody wants except the Israeli occupation. It is the future characterised by high rates of suicide, a slaughter every four years, and miserable economic and societal conditions.

 

 

Norman Finkelstein

 

Received his PhD from the Princeton University Politics Department. He has written many books, including The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering(Verso, 2000), and most recently, Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom(University of California, 2018).

T

he modern history of Gaza begins in 1948 with the massive influx of expellees from the newborn state of Israel. In 1967, Gaza came under a brutal Israeli occupation. Israel alleges that it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but the consensus among legal specialists – including top Israeli authority Yoram Dinstein – is that Israel remains the occupying power. In 2006, after Hamas won ‘completely honest and fair elections’ (Jimmy Carter), Israel imposed a medieval-like blockade on Gaza. In the meantime, Israel has visited not fewer than eight ‘operations’ on Gaza since 2004. After the last massacre, Operation Protective Edge (2014), President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, went to Gaza and observed, ‘I’ve never seen such massive destruction ever before.’

 

UN agencies have now pronounced Gaza ‘unlivable.’ ’I see this extraordinarily inhuman and unjust process of strangling gradually two million civilians that really pose a threat to nobody,’ UN humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, Robert Piper, observed last year. Echoing him, UN Human Rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, recently deplored the fact that Gazans have been ‘caged in a toxic slum from birth to death.’

 

On March 30, the people of Gaza initiated weekly mass demonstrations to break the illegal siege. Human rights groups report that the marches have been overwhelmingly peaceful. But more than 110 Gazans have been killed and more than 3,700 injured (many permanently) with live ammunition by Israeli snipers. ‘Israeli forces’ repeated use of lethal force in the Gaza Strip since March 30, 2018, against Palestinian demonstrators who posed no imminent threat to life,’ Human Rights Watch concluded in a major investigation, ‘may amount to war crimes.’

What is the future of Gaza?

Sara Roy of Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies has observed that ‘innocent human beings, most of them young, are slowly being poisoned by the water they drink, and likely by the soil in which they plant.’ Experts say that before long Gaza will be overrun by typhoid and cholera epidemics. It is impossible to predict the future except to say, if the international community doesn’t act, Gaza won’t have one.

 

A 2015 UN report by New York State judge Mary McGowan Davis called on Israel to lift the blockade ‘immediately and unconditionally,’ while the European Parliament in 2018 called for an ‘immediate and unconditional end to the blockade.’ If Israel isn’t compelled to end the illegal and inhuman siege, the judgment of History will not be kind. Will it one day be asked, why was the world silent when Gaza was crucified?

 

 

Toufic Haddad

 

Completed his PhD in Development Studies at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London in 2015, and has recently engaged in postdoctoral research for the Arab Council for Social Sciences, exploring the political economy of siege and resilience in the Gaza Strip. Author of Palestine Ltd.: Neoliberalism and National Liberation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory(I.B. Taurus, 2016).

The future or Gaza needs little prognostication: what after all could be the future of a territory of 360 km2crammed with two million people, two thirds of whom are refugees; whose water is entirely poisoned; whose civilian infrastructure has effectively collapsed; where food dependency exceeds 80 percent, and unemployment is the highest in the world? In 2017, the UN advanced its own 2012 prediction that the territory would become ‘unlivable’ by 2020, declaring the territory had already passed this dubious threshold.

 

Gaza has long been a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ well documented by the not-so-small cottage industry of local and international organisations designated to confer such designations.

 

And here lies part of the problem: the perpetually deteriorating humanitarian and developmental conditions that have come to define the ‘Gaza ghetto’ continually frame their subject matter as an object of international humanitarian appeal, or as a festering security dilemma.

 

It is this dual approach that bears much of the blame for Gaza’s tortured predicament, because the ‘problem of Gaza’ is ultimately a political problem. And it has been the deliberate attempt on behalf of these actors to avoid or suppress the political nature of Gaza that has led to its persistent worsening situation.

What after all is ‘the Gaza Strip’? The territory has no natural precedent, and can only be understood as a rump territory created in the wake of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine’s southern and coastal plains during the creation of the state of Israel.

 

Gaza’s concentration of historical and political injustices is too long to document in 400 words. The resulting ‘open air prison’ the territory has become is a scourge on the conscious of humanity.

 

Absented in the statistics documenting Gaza’s travails is the untold story of how this ugly brother of the West Bank consistently generated the Palestinian movement’s political vanguard, organising for refugee return, statehood and national liberation. While today this movement is led by Islamo-nationalists (Hamas), years ago this mantle fell to communists, Nasserists, Left nationalists (PFLP), and secular nationalists (Fateh).

 

The myth that this predicament can continue ad infinitum, solved through ‘technological fixes’, aid and yet more sophisticated military means – from drones and remote controlled machine guns, to underground walls, is precisely that – a myth.

 

Eventually Palestinians and their allies will develop means to more effectively counter their predicament, be this violently or nonviolently.

 

The question then becomes how much blood is to be shed before then, and perhaps more importantly, what history will write about those who perpetuated this bloodshed, by design or by default.

 

Atef Alshaer

 

Lecturer in Arabic Studies at the University of Westminster. He has written several research papers and monographs, including Poetry and Politics in the Modern Arab World(Hurst, 2016); Language and National Identity in Palestine: Representations of Power and Resistance in Gaza(IB Taurus, 2018); the co-authored The Hezbollah Phenomenon: Politics and Communication, with Dina Matar and Lina Khatib (Hurst, 2014); and an edited volume, Love and Poetry in the Middle East(Hurst, 2018).

 

Known as the biggest open air prison, Gaza’s future lies in it being totally liberated. Besieged and battered by three devastating wars and constant attacks by Israel, ruled by Hamas without any regimes nearby to cooperate with its partisan rule, Gaza is left to fend for itself in the face of a world that seems content to look at it as an abyss, the ultimate brainchild of Israel and its ideology of racist Zionism, with its irrational and irresponsible American patronage.

 

Much has been written about Gaza, but little has been done to alleviate its suffering, that of two million people trapped for more than a decade in 365 square kilometres. It is crowded as well as poverty-stricken, and lacking in opportunities for its vibrant and often educated youth. It is depleted of humane prospects for the future, yet Gazans continue to resist and innovate in their resistance; and the latest manifestation of this is the Great March for Return, held to commemorate the 70thanniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, the dispossession from historic Palestine.

 

The past of Gaza has been tragedy and resistance and so is its present and so will be its future. The only meaningful future for Gaza is for it to be reunited with historic Palestine within a one democratic state solution, where every citizen from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea has equal political and human rights. Short of that, Gaza will remain deadlocked between uncaring Egypt on the one hand and deadly Israel on the other. Alas, it will continue to be without an open border to connect it to the outside world, and without viable infrastructure reinforced with fair political solutions that address the root cause of its wretched state. This is anchored in the liberation of the whole of Palestine from the Israeli occupation and its entrenched mind-set of apartheid.

I

t is utterly sad that Gaza lacks a future that befits its extraordinarily warm and movingly steadfast people, notwithstanding the pain. Gaza was once part of the fabric of the Mediterranean world. Wrenched from its natural bosom, Gaza will most unfortunately remain a suffering shadow of its former prosperous self.

 

Helga Tawil-Souri

 

Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University where she is also the Director of the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies. She co-edited Gaza as Metaphorwith Dina Matar (Hurst, 2016), and teaches and writes on technology, media, territory and politics in the Middle East, with a focus on Palestine-Israel.

 

That the question of a future of Gaza separate from Palestine makes sense already foretells a destination. Gaza has been severed: from Palestine, and from the world; while that world either supports Israel’s leading role in Gaza’s undoing, or, at best, throws up its arms in despair or in disregard, and lets Gaza sink into an abyss.

 

There is no doubt – looking at the past five, then, twenty, fifty, seventy years – that Gaza gets progressively worse. Based on that calculation, the future is grim: dispossession, destitution, misery, abjection; more of the past seven decades, for a growing population whose age is younger, who has never known anything outside of the man-made disaster called Gaza.

 

In the immediate future, Israel is hell-bent on making Gazans disappear… How, I’m not sure. The coming years and decades are too painful for me to ponder.

So my thoughts move along the measure of centuries instead. I think of the Maya (or the Mycenaeans): disappeared civilisations about whom we rely mostly on archaeologists to reconstruct an understanding, while we treat their ruins as playgrounds on which to take holidays along pretty seasides. Gaza might become a tourist destination with beautiful beaches in three or four-hundred years. But unlike with the fate of the Maya, or the Mycenaeans, our task today is to document – so that centuries from now, Gaza’s fate is not sealed as yet another disappeared culture.

 

There should be records, notes, reports; recipes, stories, biographies, pictures. Accounts and illustrations about life with constant military machines flying overhead and life forcefully severed from outside contact except virtually. Recordings, compilations, archives of sub-local dialects, idioms, performances, prayers, songs, architectural details, engravings, memories (of those who remember ten, twenty, seventy years ago). Details of weddings and burials and surgeries performed in the dark and the din of generators; figures, measurements and reports of babies orphaned, footsteps taken, high school graduation ceremonies held, regardless of physical and psychological scars wreaked.

 

Centuries from now, the disappearance of Gaza will be a permanent stain on humanity’s conscience, a moment of failure when society allowed a mighty victim to do away with a group of individuals because of the circumstances they were born in. There will be records that this disappearance wasn’t a miracle, a freak series of natural causes (as what presumably befell the Maya), or an inexplicable migration of millions of people. No, in Gaza, it was a protracted, painful, relentless sociocide, and the world clapped along or shed a tear, but not more. And we would have the records.

 

 

Hagar Kotef

 

Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and Comparative Politics at SOAS, University of London. Her book Movement and the Ordering of Freedom (Duke University Press, 2015) examines the roles of mobility and immobility in the history of political thought and the structuring of political spaces.

 

’m writing these words as the future of Gaza seems to oscillate, once again, between a bright (?) economic future promised by the new American peace-enterprise, and yet another round of the ongoing ‘cycles of fighting’, as they are officially termed. In recent days, we have seen increasing attacks on ‘Hamas’ infrastructures’ (which in Gaza often means simply ‘infrastructure’), retaliations on Hamas’ part, and an inflated rhetoric that we know too well from previous rounds. (Is there a future for a place that seems to be situated within a cyclical temporality?)

 

Trying to predict the future would therefore be foolish, but I am also not sure I want to use this question as an opportunity to imagine. As a Jewish Israeli, this is not my imagination to unfold, not my space to occupy.

 

The point of departure should therefore be the imagination of people in Gaza, and the recent demonstrations at Israel’s buffer zone provide an opportunity to listen. Those demonstrations entailed a demand for a future: a demand to be set free of the siege that has lasted (depending how and what one counts) at least 11 years, but also, through the name ‘the Great March of Return’, a demand to change the terms through which this freedom is understood.

It is not just a demand for basic human conditions: electricity for more than four hours a day, drinking water (96% of the water in Gaza is not drinkable), the right to fish, to work, to reconstruct demolished homes, the right to move, to see family members, to receive education, medical treatment; it is also a demand for a political language, a space, where the people of Gaza have a place not just as humanitarian subjects but as political actors. This demand, I believe, calls us to question initiatives such as the new American enterprise, but also to reflect on the terms of the question itself. As a question about the future of Gaza it undermines, I believe, precisely this latter – political – call for a future.

 

The future of Gaza should be integral to the future of Palestine, and any effort to separate the two questions already surrenders itself to the terms Israel has worked so hard to construct. Since 1967, and increasingly after the disengagement of 2005, and then the rise of Hamas and the division of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2007, Israel has been doing everything within its capacity – politically and militarily – to separate the future of Gaza from the future of the West Bank.

 

The recent attacks of the PA on demonstrators supporting Gaza show that the PA itself has accepted this division (if only as a tool to re-gain control over Gaza). The American enterprise seems to already take the isolation of Gaza almost for granted. When we ask about the future of Gazawe have already given up the question of the future of Palestine or have excluded Gazans from this question. We need to ask a different question then, or ask the question differently.

 

Joel Beinin

 

Donald J McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University. From 2006 to 2008 he served as Director of Middle East Studies and Professor of History at the American University in Cairo. In 2002 he served as president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America. He has written or edited eleven books, most recently, Workers and Thieves: Labor Movements and Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2016).

 

The Palestinian Great March of Return exposed both the diplomatic impasse over Israel/Palestine and the emergence of a new political alignment in the Middle East. The campaign, which began on March 30, was initiated by politically unaligned young men and women of the Gaza Strip as a protest against their miserable futures. They did so independently of both Hamas and Fatah, which have become increasingly corrupt while failing to improve their lives or to advance Palestinian political and human rights. Demonstrators demanded that the decade-long siege by Israel and Egypt be lifted and called for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes – highlighting the origins of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, rather than its post-1967 consequences.

 

On May 14, as President Donald Trump’s coterie of hardline Zionist funders and supporters, represented by Sheldon Adelson and anti-Semitic evangelical Protestant preachers John Hagee and Robert Jeffress, celebrated the inauguration of the future US Embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli forces shot dead over 60 Palestinians and injured over 2000. Beyond verbal denunciations, the only practical response by any Arab state was Egypt opening its border with the Gaza Strip for the month of Ramadan, allowing a limited number of Palestinians to exit. The reason for the measured response of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt is that they have been forging an alliance with Israel directed against Iran.

While several secret meetings between Israelis and Emiratishave been reported, Saudi Arabia is reluctant to openly acknowledge its alignment with Israel. Israel is pursuing a more public relationship. Before Saudi Arabia and Russia kicked off in the opening game of World Cup 2018, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s official Arabic Twitter account wished Saudi Arabia ‘best of luck!

 

By withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, President Trump signalled willingness to follow Israel’s lead in pursuing realignment of the Middle East around an anti-Iranian front. Palestinians may become collateral damage of this agenda, first and foremost the 1.9 million residents of the Gaza Strip, which may become ‘unliveable’ by 2020 according to a UN report. However, the Saudis and Emiratis, who have recently bailed out Egypt to the tune of $8 billion, could easily become the lead funders for the rehabilitation of Gaza if they became convinced that their anti-Iranian project requires it.

 

Magid Shihade

 

Assistant professor of International Studies at Birzeit University. His book, Not Just a Soccer Game: Colonialism and Conflict among Palestinians in Israelwas published in 2011 by Syracuse University Press. His recent articles include: ‘Global Israel: Settler Colonialism, Ruptures and Connection’, Borderlands, 2015, and ‘Education and Decolonization: On Not Reading Ibn Khaldun in Palestine’, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society, 2017.

 

In thinking about the future of Gaza, one has to consider the history of modern Palestine, and the founding of the Israeli settler colonial state in 1948, which has led to a process of elimination of the native Palestinian society, through displacement, separation, maiming, encampment, caging and killing.

 

The Israeli state is a racialised and racist state which affects not only the native Palestinians but also Jews of non-western origin, and migrants from Africa and Asia. Since its founding it has been engaged in violence against the native Palestinian population, and peoples in neighbouring states. It has also been engaged in wars, arms exports and support for criminal regimes, creating havoc around the world. Like all settler colonial states, its impact can be seen locally, but more than other cases it has been a global issue from the start.

 

Thus, while the Israeli state must be seen as a European settler colony (like the US and others), its specific features must be considered. Its uniqueness lies in its claims to represent world Jewry – implicating Jews wherever they live, forcing them to take a stand either as supporters of Zionism, or as detractors of a racist ideology and state – as well as in its self-image as the West’s front against Asia and Africa. But it is also unique because it has created millions of Palestinian refugees since 1948, who live in many countries and have gained the support of the local populations. And, by being part of the western global exportation of arms and violence, it has created mass opposition around the world.

 

In short, the Israeli state and its policies towards Gaza and Palestine must be seen in their global context, and in their connection to the rise and dominance of racist western capitalist, colonial, and imperialist policies. They are part of a larger structure that has been at war against the most vulnerable at home and abroad, those who are considered ‘Other’ or disposable, and against nature and its limited resources.

 

So, the future of Gaza-Palestine is part of the future of the world. It is the future of surviving the current conditions, created by the many who have been negatively affected by them, and needs a global framework. In thinking about the possibility of a better future, one is reminded of the concept of asabiyya(social solidarity) defined by the 14-15th century scholar Ibn Khaldun. In his analysis of how societies manage to survive, Ibn Khaldun argued that some form of common feeling is needed among the members of a group. And this cooperation between people is not just an ethical issue, but a practical one.

 

Taking that concept to a global scale, one can imagine the majority of people having in common a respect for human lives, human dignity, equality, fair pay for labour, quality of life, the right to mobility, and a world where natural resources and the environment are respected, without which we cannot survive. For Gaza-Palestine to have a better future, we are responsible for working to create a different and a better world for much of its population.

 

Ran Greenstein

 

Associate professor of sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Among his publications are Zionism and its Discontents: A Century of Radical Dissent in Israel/Palestine(Pluto, 2014), and Identity, Nationalism, and Race: Anti-colonial Resistance in South Africa and Israel/Palestine(forthcoming).

 

For the last 70 years Gaza has been stranded between Israel and Egypt in a state of limbo. Not wanted but not given up; dominated but not subordinated; always controlled from the outside but left to its own devices from the inside; separated from the rest of Palestine but linked to it; incorporated into the system of domination but not integrated socially and politically.

 

Does its future have to look the same as its past and present?

 

To avoid that, it needs to reverse course, to become re-integrated with the rest of Palestine, to overcome the image of the bogeyman it has acquired in Israeli eyes.

 

Why has Gaza been such a problem for its neighbours? It epitomises the Palestinian situation; most of its population are refugees who regard pre-1948 Palestine as their true home after generations of life in exile. Yet, unlike other refugees, its people live within the boundaries of historical Palestine, a few miles away from their ancestral land. For three decades they could hop on a taxi and in an hour find themselves in Ashkelon or Jaffa, able to see the sights and work but not spend the night there, let alone return on a permanent basis. For the last two decades even this symbolic relief has been blocked, increasing the sense of isolation and desperation.

What can be done to change the future? First, Gaza must cease being a bone of contention between rival forces. The PA must stop punishing its people for making the ‘wrong’ electoral choice; Hamas must stop using it as an alternative political centre. Both sacrifice the interests of the people for the sake of power. This is replicated on the broader scene, with regional forces using diplomacy and money to play one faction against another. Internal Palestinian unity is essential for a move forward.

 

Reaching out to Israeli constituencies is another necessary step. Gaza’s only viable future is with the rest of Palestine and that means Israelis are essential to the picture. They must be seen as part of the solution not only part of the problem. A strategy that gathers progressive forces on a platform of individual and collective equality, redress and justice for all, is needed. Only through political dialogues among all population segments can a common solution be developed, aided by global solidarity that is guided by local actors.

 

Richard Hardigan

 

University professor based in California. He is author of The Other Side of the Wall(Cune, 2018). His website is richardhardigan.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @RichardHardigan.

 

The quality of life in the Gaza Strip is appalling. According to a 2017 studyby the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, the unemployment rate hovers at 44% (61.9% for those under the age of 29). 80% of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid, while 60% suffer from food insecurity. 96.2% of the Strip’s water is contaminated and undrinkable. Electricity is cut for all but a few hours every day. Raw sewage is pumped into the sea. And the situation is only worsening. A reportissued by the United Nations in 2015 predicted that the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has calledthe situation in Gaza ‘one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that [he has] seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations.’

 

The crisis in Gaza is entirely man-made. It is a result of the Israeli blockade of the enclave, which began in 2007 after Hamas’ election victory that followed Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005. Israel insists the purpose of its blockade is to diminish Hamas’ capacity to maintain or increase its weapons arsenal, but a quick scan of the items it bans – which includes such goods as chocolate and potato chips – reveals the mendacity of its claim. In fact, a US diplomatic cable quotedIsraeli officials as saying they wanted to ‘keep Gaza’s economy on the brink of collapse.’

 

Since the imposition of the blockade Israel has also engaged in three major assaults on Gaza, the consequences of which were devastating. Thousands of Palestinians – most of them non-combatants – died; tens of thousands of homes were destroyed or badly damaged; schools, hospitals, factories, farms, mosques, and infrastructure such as power and water plants were hit.

 

Israel’s policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip is to raise the level of suffering of the civilian population to such an extent that it will have no choice but to overthrow the Hamas government. But this is a serious miscalculation. Over the last decade Israel’s harsh measures have given Hamas the opportunity to cement its stranglehold on power. Only by easing its restrictions on the embattled enclave and allowing for its reconstruction can it hope to create an environment in which an extreme political movement such as Hamas cannot thrive. If Israel continues on its current path, the civilian population will eventually reach its breaking point. And when it does, the Gaza Strip is going to explode in a paroxysm of violence, the consequences of which will be devastating not only for the Palestinians, but for Israel, as well.

Salman Abu Sitta

 

A writer and activist on Palestinian refugees and the Right of Return. He has authored over 300 papers and articles and five books including the encyclopaedic Atlas of Palestine 1948and the expanded Atlas of Palestine 1917- 1966published in 2010. He is founder and president of the Palestine Land Society, UK, for the purpose of documenting the land and people of Palestine. The society website has a wealth of information at www.plands.org.

 

Gaza is the symbol of Palestine. Gaza is the part of Palestine which never willingly raised a flag other than that of Palestine. Gaza represents the conscience of the Palestinian people, which can express itself freely (most of the time), unlike in other regions in Palestine, under Israeli rule.

 

Gaza is not only the symbol but the centre of resistance to the occupation of a homeland.  In Gaza, the first commando operations to liberate occupied Palestine started in 1950. In Gaza, demonstrations against settling Palestinians in Sinai in 1954 and 1955 were met with killings and jail sentences. The cry of the people in the streets was ‘we want to return home, not further exile.’

 

In Gaza, the first popular movements to liberate occupied Palestine started just after al-Nakba. Fatah, Arab Nationalists, Muslim Brothers and Communists each vied to find the best strategy to liberate Palestine throughout most of the 1950s.

In Gaza, the first democratically elected Palestine Legislative Council was formed in 1961. From Gaza, the first Palestinian delegation travelled to New York in 1962 to address the UN on behalf of the Palestinian people. All previous representations at the UN had been made by Arab League members.

 

Why is Gaza Strip the most crowded place on Earth?

During the British Mandate on Palestine (1920- 1948), Britain, in contravention of its obligations to bring independence to Palestine, allowed European Jewish settlers to come to Palestine. During this period, the settlers, with British collusion, managed to control only 6% of Palestine. Armed and trained by the British, these Zionist settlers (later called Israelis) depopulated 675 Palestinian towns and villages and occupied by military force 80% of Palestine in 1948/49, after the unceremonious British departure.

Nowhere are the effects more striking than in southern Palestine. The southern half (50%) of Palestine was totally ethnically cleansed by the Israelis and the inhabitants of 247 villages have been pushed into 1.3% of the territory. That is the Gaza Strip. They now live in 8 refugee camps at a density of 7000 people/km2.

 

They literally see their land and homes across the barbed wire. Their land is still empty; the settlers’ density is only 7 people/km2.

The longest standing resolution in UN history since 1948, UNGA resolution 194, calls for the return of the refugees to their homes.

 

Three generations of refugees, as the youngest eloquently demonstrated in April and May 2018, insist on their Right of Return. There can never be any peace in the region without the right of 7 million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, now occupied by 2% of Israelis.

 

The future of the whole region resides in Palestine. And the future of Palestine resides in Gaza. And the future of Gaza is in the Right of Return. And that calls for justice, well over due.

                 

 

 

22 Jun

The U.S. Withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council

 

Explicitly focusing on alleged anti-Israel bias the U.S. withdrew from further participation in the UN Human Rights Council. The only internationally credible basis for criticizing the HRC is its regrettable tendency to put some countries with the worst human rights records in leading roles, creating genuine issues of credibility and hypocrisy. Of course, such a criticism would never be made by the U.S. as it could only embarrass Washington to admit that many of its closest allies in the Middle East, and elsewhere have lamentable human rights records, and, if fairly judged, the U.S. has itself reversed roles since the year 2000, itself slipping into the category of the most serious human rights offenders. In this regard, its ‘withdrawal’ can be viewed as a self-imposed ‘suspension’ for falling short when it comes to the promotion and protection of human rights.

 

Undoubtedly, the U.S. was frustrated by its efforts to ‘reform’ the HRC according to its views  of the UN agency should function, and blamed its traditional adversaries, Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, along with Egypt, with blocking its initiative. It also must not have welcome the HRC High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, for describing the separation of children from their immigrant parents at the Mexican border as an ‘unconsciounable’ policy.

 

In evaluating this latest sign of American retreat from its prior role as global leader, there are several considerations that help us understand such a move that situates the United States in the same strange rejectionist corner it now shares with North Korea and Eritrea:

 

            –the fact that the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC occurred immediately after the Israeli border massacre, insulated from Security Council censure and investigation by a U.S. veto, is certainly part of political foreground. This consideration was undoubtedly reinforced by the HRC approval of a fact-finding investigation of Israel’s behavior over prior weeks in responding to the Great Return March border demonstrations met with widespread lethal sniper violence;

 

            –in evaluating the UN connection to Palestine it needs to be recalled that the organized international community has a distinctive responsibility for Palestine that can be traced all the way back to the peace diplomacy after World War I when Britain was given the role of Mandatory, which according to the League of Nations Covenant should be carried out as a ‘sacred trust of civilization.’ This special relationship was extended and deepened when Britain gave up this role after World War II, transferring responsibility for the future of Palestine to the UN. This newly established world organization was given the task of finding a sustainable solution in the face of sharply contested claims between the majority Palestinian population and the Jewish, mainly settler population.

 

This UN role was started beneath and deeply influenced by the long shadow of grief and guilt cast by the Holocaust. The UN, borrowing from the British colonial playbook, proposed a division of Palestine between Jewish and Palestinian political communities, which eventuated in the UN partition plan contained in General Assembly Resolution 181. This plan was developed and adopted without the participation of the majority resident population, 70% non-Jewish at the time, and was opposed by the independent countries in the Arab world. Such a plan seemed oblivious to the evolving anti-colonial mood of the time, failing to take any account of the guiding normative principle of self-determination. The Partition War that followed in 1947 did produce a de factor partition of Palestine more favorable to the Zionist Project than what was proposed, and rejected, in 181. One feature of the original plan was to internationalize the governance of the city of Jerusalem with both peoples given an equal status.

 

This proposed treatment of Jerusalem was never endorsed by Israel, and was formally, if indirectly, repudiated after the 1967 War when Israel declared (in violation of international law) that Jerusalem was the eternal capital of the Jewish people never to be divided or internationalized, and Israel has so administered Jerusalem with this intent operationalized in defiance of the UN. What this sketch of the UN connection with Palestine clearly shows is that from the very beginning of Israeli state-building, the role of the international community was direct and the discharge of its responsibilities was not satisfactory in that it proved incapable of protecting Palestinian moral, legal, and political rights. As a result, the majority of Palestinian people have been effectively excluded from their own country and as a people exist in a fragmented ethnic reality. This series of events constitutes one of the worst geopolitical crimes of the past century. Rather than do too much by way of criticizing the behavior of Israel, the UN has done far too little, not because of a failure of will, but as an expression of the behavioral primacy of geopolitics and naked militarism;

 

            –the revealing stress of Ambassador Haley’s explanation of the U.S. withdrawal from the HRC gives almost total attention to quantitative factors such as the ‘disproportionate’ number of resolutions compared with those given to other human rights offenders, making no attempt whatsoever to refute the substantiveallegations of Israeli wrongdoing. This is not surprising as any attempt to justify Israeli policies and practices toward the Palestinian people would only expose the severity of Israel’s criminality and the acuteness of Palestinian victimization. The U.S. has also long struggled to be rid of so-called Item 7 of the Human Rights Council devoted to human rights violations of Israel associated with the occupation of Palestinian territories, which overlooks the prior main point that the UN is derelict in its failure to produce a just peace for the peoples inhabiting Mandate Palestine.

 

            –withdrawing from international institutional arrangements, especially those positively associated with peace, human rights, and environmental protection has become the hallmark of what be identified as the negative internationalismof the Trump presidency. The most egregious instances, prior to this move with regard to the HRC, involved the repudiation of the Nuclear Program Agreement with Iran (also known as the JCPOA or P5 +1 Agreement) and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Unlike these other instances of negative internationalism this departure from the HRC is likely to hurt the U.S. more than the HRC, reinforcing its myopic willingness to do whatever it takes to please Netanyahu and the lead American Zionist donor to the Trump campaign, Sheldon Adelson. Only the provocative announcement of the planned unilateral move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem last December was as explicitly responsive to Israel’s policy agenda as is this rejection of the HRC, both initiatives stand out as being contrary to a fair rendering of American national interests, and hence a show of deference to Israel’s preferences. Despite this unabashed one-sidedness the Trump presidency still puts itself forward as a peacemaker, and promised to produce ‘the deal of the century’ at the proper moment, even enjoying the backing of Saudi Arabia, which seems to be telling the Palestinians to take what is offered or shut up forever. Knowing the weakness and shallow ambitions of the Palestinian Authority, there is no telling what further catastrophe, this one of a diplomatic character, may further darken the Palestinian future. A diplomatic nakbamight be the worst disaster of all for the Palestinian people and their century-long struggle for elemental rights.

 

 It should also be observed that the U.S. human rights record has been in steady decline, whether the focus is placed on the morally catastrophic present policies of separating families at the Mexican border or on the failure to achieve acceptable progress at home in the area of economic and social rights despite American affluence (as documented in the recent report of Philip Alston, UNHRC Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty) or in the various violations of human rights committed in the course of the War on Terror, including operation of black sites in foreign countries to carry on torture of terror suspects, or denials of the tenets of international humanitarian law (Geneva Conventions) in the administration of Guantanamo and other prison facilities;

 

            –it is also worth noting that Israel’s defiance of internatonal law and international institutions is pervasive, flagrant, and directly related to maintaining an oppressive regime of occupation that is complemented by apartheid structures victimizing Palestinian refugees, residents of Jerusalem, the Palestinian minority in Israel, and imprisoned population of Gaza. Israel refused the authority of the International Court of Justice with respect to the ‘separation wall’ that back in 2004 declared by a near unanimous vote of 14-1 (U.S. as the lone dissent) that building the wall on occupied Palestinian territory was unlawful, that the wall should be dismantled, and Palestinians compensated for harm endured. There are many other instances concerning such issues as settlements, collective punishment, excessive force, prison conditions, and a variety of abuse of children.

 

In conclusion, by purporting to punish the Human Rights Council, the Trump presidency, representing the U.S. Government, is much more punishing itself, as well as the peoples of the world. We all benefit from a robust and legitimated institutional framework for the promotion and protection of vital human rights. The claim of an anti-Israeli bias in the HRC, or UN, is bogus, the daily violation of the most basis rights of the Palestinian people is a tragic reality. This is all we need to know.