Sunday’s Inside Story on Al Jazeera highlighted several positive trends related to the struggle for equal rights in Palestine/Israel. Mordechai Kedar of Bar Ilan University, Ian Black of the Guardian newspaper, and Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada convened to discuss the European Union’s (EU) evolving role in Palestine/Israel in light of a recent EU report on Jerusalem. Three developments struck me as I watched the program: 1) The EU is discussing banning Israeli nationals from 27 European countries, 2) the Palestinians were being represented by a strong, authoritative voice possessed of an independent historical narrative, 3) Mr. Abunimah employed a new empiricism in describing the conflict; his speech lacked euphemistic turns of phrase.
Before I get into a discussion of any of the above, I want to respond to some of Mr. Kedar’s points on Palestine/Israel. He implied repeatedly that his was the mainstream Israeli view, and I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The election Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, the Gaza Massacre, and the ongoing Israeli siege of the Gaza ghetto permit me to do so.
The EU report on Jerusalem raised the idea of de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Mr. Kedar insisted that by doing so, the EU is determining the outcome of future negotiations with some representative of the Palestinians. Therefore, there will be nothing to negotiate about, and consequently, negotiations will not take place. Well, sort of. The Europeans are concerned that there will be nothing to negotiate about if Israeli colonists succeed in the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem. His argument flips reality on its head – final status issues are primarily being influenced by Israeli actions with the help of the American government. The government of Barack Obama provides fungible resources to the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which in turn provides material and logistical support for its colonies and their activities. Ironically, many of these colonists come from America. As an opponent of partition in Palestine/Israel, I am not concerned about any ‘final status’ issues. In my view, the point is a moot one, there will never be ‘final status’ negotiations because there will never be a Palestinian state. But, Mr. Kedar’s argument is instructive for its hasbaric qualities. It’s not exactly a denial of reality; it’s more like reality’s deformed image in a circus funhouse mirror. Reality is confused and distorted.
My second point is brief. Mr. Kedar claimed that Jerusalem has been the “capital of the Jews” for three thousand years. I have no interest in engaging Mr. Kedar on the merits of his claim, except to say that it is not exclusive on its face. Jerusalem can be the capital of the Jews and the capital of everyone in Israel/Palestine. Washington D.C. is the capital of Jewish Americans; it’s also the capital of black Americans. I don’t have to dispute his Jewish claim to reconcile it with justice.
Mr. Kedar repeatedly referred to Mr. Abunimah as a Bedouin. The argument Mr. Kedar was clumsily trying to make is that Palestinians are a nomadic people who “occupied this country” in the not-so-distant-past. It’s true that some Palestinians are Bedouins; my father is one, and his father farmed his land in Beer Al Sabaa’ – Be’er Sheeva in Hebrew – until he was forced off by Zionists in 1948. But Bedouins comprise a small portion of Palestinian society. Despite that, Mr. Kedar’s point is worth indulging. He argues implicitly that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is permissible because “you the Bedouins are new in this country. You don’t belong in this country this is why this country rejected you.” Again, I’m not interested in disputing Mr. Kedar’s historical claim; the moral point is much more interesting. I will risk alienating the reader with a Nazi analogy. Imagine: “You the Jews are new in this country. You don’t belong in this country this is why this country rejected you.” History’s cruel irony is truly something to behold.
Finally, Mr. Kedar reminded us that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew. I laughed a little when he first mentioned it; to me, Jesus Christ was always a Palestinian.
It’s time to return to my initial discussion of the positive developments around the Palestine/Israel discussion. The Inside Story program began with a brief review of the EU report on Jerusalem and measures the supranational body should take to implement long-standing policy in Jerusalem. While most of the points were commonsense and uninspiring, I was surprised to learn that the EU is discussing barring violent settler Zionists from the each of the twenty-seven countries in the bloc.
This is a new front in the battle to end Zionist apartheid in Palestine/Israel. The implications of the measure, if adopted, are profound. Anti-Zionist lawyers already confront Zionists in European courts on a variety of issues, most notably war crimes and the apartheid wall in the West Bank. Now the EU may be creating opportunities to petition the entire bloc against issuing visas to individual violent Zionist colonists. The definition of ‘violence’ opens up exciting new vistas. I can plausibly argue that by purchasing a house in a racially pure, illegally constituted community in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, a Zionist is engaging in violence. Imagine a scenario where American Zionists eager to promote Zionist colonization of the West Bank by donating to settler organizations are barred from entering the EU. I am getting ahead of myself, but this seems like a good, nonviolent way of augmenting the BDS efforts already underway.
The second positive development I’d like to highlight is the increased visibility of truly independent Palestinian voices. Ali Abunimah provides the best example of this phenomenon. He performs his advocacy work independently of the United States Department of State. The sooner the Abbasnik’s disappear from the airwaves, the better. The viewer gains nothing from hearing Saeb Erekat’s repetitious and unimaginative views on the ‘two-state solution’ which persist, year-after-year, as if encased in formaldehyde. Mr. Abunimah forcefully promotes the one-state view – which I subscribe to – with an eloquent recital of the facts on the ground.
My final point is related to my last one. Mr. Abunimah spoke using clear, vivid language during the program. It is time for anti-Zionists to embrace a descriptive precision when discussing the Palestine/Israel issue. What is happening in Jerusalem today is “ethnic cleansing” not “changing the demographics.” The phrase “changing the demographics” is factually correct, but serves to elide reality. Euphemisms retard the pursuit of justice. The language that serves to obscure is language that permits the oppressor to persist in his lie. “Zionism is Jewish supremacy” is the antidote to “Zionism is Jewish self-determination.” The battle over narrative is important because language conveys values, determinations of right and wrong. Widespread recognition that Zionist Israel is Racist Israel will come through a more empirical descriptive approach to the conflict.
Ahmed Moor is a 25-year-old Palestinian-American from the Rafah refugee camp. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Beirut.