Barghouti to U.S. Jews: I know you don’t like the word apartheid, but what do you call a system that gives a settler 50 times more water than a Palestinian?

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Mustafa Barghouti
Mustafa Barghouti

On March 26, at the J Street conference in Washington, D.C., Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti described apartheid in Palestine to a largely-Jewish audience. As he spoke, you could have heard a pin drop in a room jammed with 500 people hearing about the one-state option. His comments have resonated in the weeks since. It is a marvel, and a tragedy, that this description of Palestinian conditions has not been published in America. Here is a substantial portion of his remarks. Halfway down is his description of apartheid and segregation. At the end is his explanation of why nonviolent resistance and international solidarity are the Palestinians’ only weapon today.

Let me remind you that back in the 40s, the Palestinians wanted a one-state solution. It was under lots of Israeli pressure and international pressure that the Palestinian national movement decided in 1988 to accept a compromise, and that compromise was, two state solution. When we agreed on that, we accepted to have a state in 22 percent of the land of historic Palestine instead of 44 percent which we should have had according to the Partition plan of 47. So this was a very painful compromise.

During the last 30 years maybe, or 25 years, what we’ve witnessed is a process where Israeli governments have been … compromising the compromise. And that’s why we find ourselves in a very difficult position today. To many Palestinians, after signing the Oslo agreement, today they feel that they have discovered that they were living in an act of deceit. That the two states option was not really meant to produce a two states option but to produce a system of segregation and apartheid.

The main factor that is destroying the two states option has always been there, which was the continuation of settlement activity. If Palestinians have made a mistake, their biggest mistake was to agree to sign an agreement in Oslo without insisting first on freezing all settlement activity. This was a mistake and should not have been done. [Applause.]

Today to ask Palestinians to go back to the table of negotiations again while settlements continue to happen is like asking two people to sit down around a table, negotiate over a piece of cheese, and one side is stuck behind bars and walls, that is the Palestinian side, and the other side is eating the cheese. At the end of the day there will be nothing left to negotiate about, that is the reality.

In one way or another, their Israeli government, their United States government, their majority of people in this game– are putting in the hands of the settlements the right to decide the future. That is the problem. With the continuation of settlements, the whole solution of two states becomes impossible.

What we are witnessing today is a creation, or a consolidation to be precise, of a system of segregation and Bantustans. The proposals to Palestinians to stick together in what is called an interim solution in less than 37 percent of the West Bank in the form of separate ghettos from each other– and having that as a solution.

Some people might not like the word apartheid, when we say that we live in a system of apartheid and segregation, and I understand why you wouldn’t like it. Because there is nothing to be proud about having a system of apartheid and segregation in the 21st century. But as Menachem [Klein] said, we actually live in that system. It’s one regime.

What is apartheid? Apartheid is a system where you have two laws, two different laws, for two people living in the same area. If you don’t like the word apartheid, give me an alternative to a situation where a Palestinian citizen is allowed to use no more than 50 cubic meters of water per capital year, while an Israeli illegal settler from the West Bank is allowed to use 2400. How would you classify a situation where the Israeli gdp per capita is about $30,000 while a Palestinian’s gdp per capita is less than $1400?

Yet we are obliged to pay the same prices for products as Israelis do. More than that: We are obliged to pay double the price for electricity and water that Israelis do though they make 30 times more than we do.

Segregation of roads is another issue. This is the last place on earth, actually the first place on earth where people have been segregated with roads. I’m talking about roads in the West Bank, major roads are exclusive to Israeli settlers or army or Israeli citizens.

I cannot describe to you to the level of violation of human rights.. we’ve left to see Israeli army using dogs against our nonviolent settlers in the most vicious way. Which reminds us of what happened during the Segregation system here in the United States.

So the problem is very clear. Of course it is either two states or one state. But the reality is, What we are witnessing today with the passage of time is that people will be [left] with one or two alternatives. Either it’s a segregation apartheid system, or one democratic state system,. This is the choice we will all face unless some kind of a miracle happens and I don’t know what that miracle is.

The two state solution will not happen because the balance of power is so skewed in the interest of one side. That’s why were opting today for nonviolent resistance and opting for a strong international solidarity movement, because we want to change the balance of power.

When do we decide that the two state solution is over? What is the time point at which we both decide that it is over and say, two state solution cannot work anymore? I don’t know. Maybe we’ve crossed the line already. Maybe we’re about to cross it.

But the fact that you’re having this discussion at this conference this day in DC is an indicator that we have either crossed the line or are about to cross it.

Second, There is no way you can have a Jewish democratic state and keep occupation and oppression of another people. [applause] It’s impossible. We cannot have this operation. Not only because from a moral point of view it is inconsistent with your history and Jewish tradition, but because we as Palestinians, as people, will never accept to remain slaves of occupation. That has to be understood.

…If the two state option is dead, please understand me, this time it will not be Palestinian responsibility. As many of you would say, the Palestinians were responsible in 1947 for not having the two state option. This time it is an Israeli responsibility and no one can avoid that.

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