Jeff Halper, Founder of ICAHD
Although we are all understandably focused on the coronavirus crisis, the world goes on, and so does the Zionist colonization of Palestine. There were some brief hopes that the virus might aid in bringing some peace to the region. After all, oil prices have fallen making it hard for Saudi Arabia to throw its oppressive weight around; Iran has been hard-hit by the virus, the drop in oil prices and US sanctions, perhaps causing it to pull back a bit from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other places; and Israel is cooperating with the PA in controlling the corona spread (fairly successfully so far, although we have to see what happens in Gaza).
But it is naïve to expect any real change from coming out of this crisis except more misery. As the Israeli public hunkers down, its army pushes ahead with repression in the Occupied Territory: demolitions, including make-shift clinics as well as homes, an increase in settler attacks on Palestinians under the protective gaze of the army, and continued preparation on the ground for annexation. In fact, the crisis has provided a convenient cover for establishing new facts on the ground” as we look towards life – and a renewed colonial push – to reaffirm themselves after the corona leaves us or gives us a summer break.
The corona has also provided convenient political coverage for policies and actions that would otherwise be unacceptable (and not only P/I, I suspect). Netanyahu continues to chip away at our civil liberties, now using Shin Beit technology to trace by their cell phones the movements not only of Palestinians but of Israeli citizens who are suspected of having the virus. He got his “Justice” Minister to close the courts a day before his trial for corruption began, and he tried even to close down the parliament – successfully, until his major rival, General Benny Gantz, finally capitulated and went into an “emergency” coalition with him, leaving Netanyahu in full control of the government once more. Gantz and the remnants of his party might have a mild moderating effect on Netanyahu and the Likud – he is just as right-wing as Netanyahu, but less interested in annexation than in “security” issues – but basically 93 out of 120 members of parliament belong firmly to the right: all except the 15 members of the Joint Arab List and, if we’re charitable, the two members of Meretz.
All this goes to show what the ANC learned long ago in its struggle against apartheid: sometimes the settler population is so strong that it cannot be defeated locally, either by armed resistance or at the ballot box, nor are the governments of the world willing to intervene without being pushed by their own constituencies. What is needed (as I repeat ad nauseum) is a political end-game and an effective strategy of mobilizing the international community. As in South Africa, the end-game is clear: we are engaged in an anti-colonial struggle (and not just a limited campaign to “end the occupation” over 22% of Palestine) whose only possible and just outcome is the establishment of a single democratic state between the River and the Sea. And without such an end-game we have no hope of mobilizing the world’s public to support our struggle. True, they may support it in particular ways – BDS activities, lobbying days, campaigns, public meetings. But until the Palestinians, with their critical Israeli allies (like ICAHD), formulate an end-game, they cannot bring the focus and leadership to the struggle that is necessary for overcoming Zionist settler colonialism. Palestine will not be liberated by UK activists. But if we, the stakeholders, Palestinians in the lead supported by their Israeli comrades, develop a strategy to achieve a single state and on that basis mobilize all of you in a concerted campaign with concrete tasks and goals, you will play key roles, indispensable roles, in the liberation of Palestine, just as you did in South Africa. Let’s link our activism to politics: BDS 4 DS – Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions for a Democratic State.
In the meantime, I’ve used my time in lock-down to finish a book on the one-state solution. It’s called tentatively “Zionism, Settler Colonialism and Decolonization: A Primer” – which is far too academic, I know. I’m open to shorter, sexier titles. I’ve tried in this book to ‘think through” the whole process of decolonization until the rise of a post-colonial society and state (and perhaps region), so that we begin at least to think about process (what does decolonization actually entail?), vision (how would a single democracy look?), goals and tasks (towards an effective strategy). I hope it will be readable and accessible to the general public, though I fear my writing is still somewhat academic. (My friend Uri Davis criticizes my “verbiage.” This long newsletter message probably proves him right.)
Stay healthy for the fight, all of you,