They Can’t Hide the Sun: An interview with Omar Barghouti

ActivismIsrael/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
on 31 Comments

Controversy continues to swirl around a planned forum scheduled to take place tonight at Brooklyn College to discuss the growing global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The man at the center of the storm is Omar Barghouti. In 2005, together with Palestinian unions and civil society groups, he helped to launch the call for an international BDS campaign to challenge Israel over its occupation of Palestine and its racism towards Palestinians.

Barghouti talked to Peter Rugh about the Brooklyn College controversy, the global BDS movement and the Arab Spring rebellions across the Arab world, among other topics. A segment of this interview aired on Free Speech Radio News and this post first appeared in socialistworker.org. This is part one of a two-part interview.

What is BDS, and why has it prompted several pro-Israel advocacy groups and ardent Zionist Alan Dershowitz to stir up this “controversy” about your appearance at Brooklyn College?

BDS is a global movement that was formed in support of the Palestinian civil society BDS call issued in 2005 by the vast majority of Palestinian political parties, trade unions, women’s groups, NGOs and so on.

The premise of the BDS movement is that given the international community’s complicity with Israel’s occupation and its denial of Palestinian rights, Palestinians cannot achieve our basic rights under international law without the mobilization of international civil society organizations. The basic tactic–which was also employed by the South African anti-apartheid movement–is to cut off links with Israel and institutions that maintain Israel’s occupation and apartheid.

The BDS call specifically works toward achieving three basic Palestinian rights: one, ending the occupation of the 1967 territories (including the illegal colonies, the illegal wall, and so on); two, ending the system of racial discrimination within Israel against its indigenous Palestinians, who are citizens of the state of Israel but without equal rights; and three, establishing the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled and ethnically cleansed from their homeland in 1948 and ever since. This right of return is guaranteed under international law.

So BDS is very much a rights-based movement that’s anchored in universal human rights and international law. And it calls for boycotting, divesting from, and eventually sanctions against the state of Israel–as was done against apartheid South Africa–in order to achieve those Palestinian rights. It’s the combination of internal popular resistance to Israel’s occupation and apartheid with the external pressure of boycotts and divestments that can bring about the change necessary to guarantee our rights.

I spoke to a woman from the Jewish Community Relations Council in New York, and she had some choice words for you. She described you as an anti-Semite who has called for the destruction of the state of Israel, and she said the “one-state solution” you and the BDS movement advocate is a call for the extermination of the Jewish state. Another of her criticisms is that BDS creates an atmosphere of hostility that is counterproductive to peace and harming Palestinian workers. How would you respond?

This claim is anti-Semitic. Why do I say that her claim that a call for boycotting Israel is anti-Semitic is itself anti-Semitic? Because she is equating a boycott of Israel with a boycott of the Jews–an attack on Israeli policy with an attack on the Jews. Equating “the Jews” with Israel–as if they were a monolithic sum of people, without diversity, without human differences–is an anti-Semitic statement. Saying that Israel speaks for all Jews, and that all Jews are represented by Israel and carry collective responsibility for Israel, is a very anti-Semitic statement.

There is no one who monopolizes the Jewish voice–in the United States or anywhere else. There are diverse Jewish groups. Some of our best partners who are leading BDS campaigns in this country are Jewish, like Jewish Voices for Peace, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and many other Jewish groups.

If you go to any random campus across the United States, and you look at the divestment campaigns waged on those campuses, you’ll find a disproportionately high number of Jewish activists. This is something we are very proud of–that many, especially younger, Jewish Americans are abandoning Zionism and are realizing what Israel is about.

It’s a colonial state, it’s an apartheid state, and they do not want such a state to speak in their name, to speak on their behalf. And they are increasingly joining the cause for justice and peace.

The second point is that BDS does not take a position on whether a one-state or a two-state solution should be pursued in Palestine. So she’s repeating a myth–it’s a fabrication. Our movement is totally neutral on the terms of a political settlement to the conflict.

But each one of us, as a human and as an activist, has a position on this, and I’m not ashamed of mine. For 30 years, I’ve advocated for the one-state solution in my personal capacity. I’ve researched and written about the one-democratic-state solution in historic Palestine. That means equality for everyone–irrespective of identity, ethnicity, religion or any other attribute. And what’s wrong with that? Why is one-person, one-vote good for every land in the world except Palestine? Why is it that democracy suddenly becomes a bad thing here?

Jewish Americans were at the forefront of the civil rights movement to overturn Jim Crow segregation in the American South. They stood alongside African Americans calling for equality for everyone, separation between religion and state, and equal rights for all humans. But in Israel, pro-Israel groups are defending an apartheid system.

This isn’t something only the BDS movement is saying. The famous Jewish American writer I.F. Stone, as far back as 1967, said that Zionism and Israel are creating a schizophrenia among Jewish communities. On the one hand, they are defending civil rights and equality in the countries where they live, and in Israel, they are defending a set of laws that is racist, that doesn’t allow mixed marriages, that frowns upon equality, that rejects equality in a categorical manner. This schizophrenia is more recognized by younger Jewish activists everywhere, especially in the United States.

Finally, the idea that BDS is counterproductive and that it hurts Palestinian workers who work in Israeli settlements. Let me start off by saying that this is an exceptionally patronizing, very colonial argument. For someone to have the chutzpah to claim that she knows what is in the Palestinians’ best interests more than the Palestinians–that’s the epitome of hypocrisy and condescension.

The assumption is that we–just because we’re brown, just because we live the global South–somehow don’t have the faculty to reason, that we cannot speak about nor understand how to defend our own best interests, that we need somebody from above, from the North, a white person, to tell us how to think, how to formulate our will, and how to express it. This is extremely racist.

But putting aside her patronizing outlook for a moment, that Palestinian workers have to work in Israeli projects, including illegal settlements, is a testament to the occupation’s corruption and its strangulation of the Palestinian economy. Israel has systematically destroyed Palestinian agriculture and industry; it has systematically stolen the best, most fertile Palestinian land and water resources; and it has made the Palestinian economy completely dependent on the occupying power.

Those Palestinian farmers thrown off their lands when they were confiscated for Jewish-only settlements had no choice but to become workers. Given the total destruction of the Palestinian economy, the only option for many people is to work with Israeli projects. Is that ideal? Absolutely not.

Ending the occupation would allow the Palestinians to build our own economy and to have our own economic projects, where we wouldn’t need to be dependent on a colonial power to sustain our lives. We can build, we can plant, we can produce, we can be creative–if given the chance. And to get this chance, we need the help of every conscientious person around the world, including conscientious Jewish persons around the world, to help us end Israel’s occupation and apartheid, so that we can carry on with our sustainable development.

You’ve spoken at countless campuses across the U.S. and around the world. Have you encountered this kind of vitriol at your other events?

We so far have yet to experience any disruptions at our campus BDS events in the U.S. We hope Brooklyn College will be the first and last, but we’re not assured of that because of the rabid anti-Palestinian sentiments that have been stirred up. There has been extreme racism and violent language directed at the event.

Some of the most extreme people behind these statements are supporters of Meir Kahane and his Kach Party, which is officially considered a terrorist entity by the U.S. government. Kach was even barred by the government of Israel at one time from standing in Israeli elections.

The supporters of this fascist and fanatical party are the ringleaders of the circus targeting the Brooklyn College BDS event. They are trying their best to suppress academic freedom in the United States by saying, “We, the pro-Israel lobby, get to decide who is allowed to speak on campus and who is not allowed, what subjects are allowed and what subjects are not allowed to be discussed on campus.”

They’re destroying the notion of academic freedom by twisting it around to serve their hard-right, anti-liberation and anti-Palestinian agenda. To be honest, it’s been many years since I have faced such vile and violent racism as I have encountered around this Brooklyn College event. I’ve spoken on campuses large and small in the last couple years, and we’ve never had any disruptions.

We continue to hope there won’t be any disruption, but alas, we are very concerned for our safety. With such incitement to violence and such racial hatred as has been conveyed by figures such as Dershowitz and others, I fear for my safety, and I hope that Brooklyn College will take the necessary steps to prevent these rabid voices from attacking us and/or disrupting the event.

If they have arguments against BDS, let’s address them in a civil way. Let them come to the event, let them listen to Prof. Judith Butler and myself, and then present their points in a rational, cool-headed manner. Let’s have a proper debate about it. That’s how rational beings settle and discuss differences of opinion. This is how society progresses, by discussing differences.

The U.S. is directly, immediately and deeply responsible for maintaining Israel’s occupation and apartheid through the billions of dollars that it sends to Israel every year–at the expense of social justice, at the expense of health care, at the expense of education here in the U.S. Instead of spending in this country to improve education, employment opportunities, job training and environmental protections, the U.S. is sending billions and billions of dollars to Israel to buy weapons–to kill, to maim, to ethnically cleanse. This has to stop.

American citizens have an obligation, a duty and a right to question in order to stop this enormous flow of money as well as the complicity that goes with it. We also have a right to debate Israel in this country, and to stand up against Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid here in the U.S., especially in this country that is so complicit in Israel’s colonial project.

No one can stop this questioning from happening. They may succeed with their violence–and the impunity that they’ve enjoyed so far–in scuttling one or two events, or in throwing an academic out of a university, or in haunting a dissenter or a journalist who dares to question Israel. Yes, they’ve succeeded before, and they still continue to succeed in some cases.

But they cannot hide the sun with the palms of their hands. They cannot hide the sun with this violence and their violent language and their incitement to hatred. The movement is growing. BDS is growing. Israel’s accountability to human rights and international law is growing every single month, every single year, including in the United States.

Many Jewish students across the United States are abandoning Zionism, and if not yet joining the BDS movement, at least questioning Israel’s policies and questioning whether Israel indeed speaks on their behalf. The winds of change are blowing, and Alan Dershowitz and others cannot stop them.

They are coming to understand this, and that’s why they are so fanatical and violent in their reactions. They’ve been absolutely hysterical, and this is a sign of weakness. If they felt strong and confident, they wouldn’t have to resort to such incitements to violence and racial hatred. They would come and face our argument with a counterargument, as any rational person would.

Can you describe how this apartheid system impacts the day-to-day lives of Palestinians living in Israel, in the West Bank and in Gaza?

First, let me explain why I use the term apartheid, because people are sometimes startled when supporters of Palestinian rights say that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Israel’s defenders and anti-Palestinian voices exclaim in anger, “How dare you say Israel is an apartheid state? Israel is so different than South Africa.”

But this is a misunderstanding of what apartheid is. Apartheid is not just a South African crime. It’s an international crime recognized and defined by international law, especially the 1973 UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Of course, South Africa was a very clear case of apartheid, but so were the Southern states in the United States before the civil rights movement. So what makes one racist system apartheid and another one not apartheid?

The difference is not that this is only a racist policy being adopted here or there, or racism existing here or there, it’s when this racism is institutionalized and legalized, when you have systematic oppression of one racial group against another group in a legalized manner. That’s when it becomes apartheid.

So just to give a concrete example: 93 percent of the land of Israel can only be used for the benefit of the Jewish population of Israel. Not for the inhabitants of the state of Israel, not for the citizens of the state of Israel in general. So any non-Jewish citizen of the state of Israel can’t benefit from 93 percent of the land. In comparison, in South Africa, it was 86 percent for the benefit of the whites and the rest for the indigenous population.

There are literally dozens of laws in Israel that discriminate between its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. In that sense, Israel is clearly guilty of the crime or apartheid, because that is what apartheid is. That’s how it’s defined in international law. You have laws that discriminate between Jew and non-Jew, giving a distinct set of privileges only to Jewish citizens.

Another very basic reality that Palestinians in Israel face is that Israel is the only country on earth that does not define itself as a state of its citizens. It’s a state of the “Jewish people.” What does that mean? It means that even if you have lived in Palestine for generations, even if you were there before it became Israel, you don’t receive the full set of rights if you are not Jewish. Israel does not belong to you; it belongs to the “Jewish nation.” In fact, the very concept of a “Jewish nation” is controversial, and Jewish communities around the world have debated and continue to vigorously debate it.

Imagine the equivalent here. Imagine if the U.S. declared itself a “Christian state”–a state of the Christian nation. Any Christian around the world would have full rights in the United States, but not its Jewish, Muslim or other non-Christian communities. Would anyone accept such inequality written into the laws themselves? Would anyone accept unequal treatment based on their identity? Why then is it acceptable that Israel has dozens of laws that discriminate against its non-Jewish citizens?

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza, such apartheid treatment is obviously much more pronounced than within Israel. At least Palestinian citizens of Israel can cast a vote. Yes, all parties have to take a loyalty oath to the state as “a Jewish and democratic state,” but this is, of course, an oxymoron: a state cannot be both a Jewish exclusivist supremacist state and democratic.

If we go to the West Bank and Gaza, we see that apartheid is concrete. Israel’s “separation wall”–Israel’s apartheid wall–lies predominantly within the Occupied Territories, and it has been ruled a violation of international law by the International Court of Justice.

You also have colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories that are for Jewish Israelis only. They are considered a war crime, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention. Transferring part of the occupying state’s population to occupied territory is considered a war crime, and that’s exactly what Israel has done. Since 1967 and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, it has transferred part of its population to the occupied territory in violation international law.

This means that those settlers have full citizenship privileges–they are part of the Israeli legal system, and they get to vote for the Israeli parliament–while Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are a totally different franchise. They are not part of the system, and they don’t enjoy any rights under Israeli military law. The settlers get their settler-only roads, which serve Jewish Israelis only, whereas the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza quite often are not allowed to use those roads.

After Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza in 2005, it doesn’t have any settlers there, but Gaza is still under occupation. Israel is in full control of passage into Gaza, whether by air, land or sea. Israel is in full control of the territory, which under international law makes it the occupying power. Israel surrounded the West Bank and Gaza with walls and fences and hundreds of military checkpoints, which prevent freedom of movement for the Palestinians. So the reality of apartheid is extremely pronounced there.

In what ways have the uprisings that began shaking the Middle East in 2011 changed the situation on the ground?

The Arab Spring has opened up a huge opportunity for building support for Palestinian rights in the Arab world. Across the Arab world, support for Palestinian rights has always been a de facto reality, a consensus. Every single citizen of every Arab state–with very few exceptions–supports Palestinian rights.

However, in countries run by dictators and non-democratic governments, this support has never led to any effective change. And a successful BDS campaign requires a certain minimum of democracy and of civil rights in order to succeed.

It’s not enough to have a million Moroccans demonstrating against Israel’s bombing of Gaza, as they did during Israel’s bombing of Gaza in late 2008-early 2009. We indeed had 1 million people in the streets of Rabat demonstrating for Palestinian rights. This was an extremely important display of solidarity.

But did that translate into effective campaigns against Caterpillar, against Veolia, against international companies that are violating Palestinian rights in their complicity with the Israeli occupation? No, it did not. And it couldn’t in a country that lacks basic democracy.

With the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, we are seeing the dawn of freedom and the beginning of democratization, and we’re not saying that it’s a mature democracy yet. But despite the turbulence, despite the struggles that people have to go through to really build their democracies, this has already created a huge opening for Palestine solidarity efforts to become effective and sustainable campaigns that can lead to concrete results by holding corporations and institutions accountable to basic principles of human rights.

It hasn’t been even two years since the beginning of the Arab Spring, so it is too early to expect big results. Revolutions take a long time to get past internal conflict and build a stable democracy. It will take some time until Egyptians, Tunisians and others sort out their internal strife and build their own systems on the foundation of social justice, freedom and rights for all citizens–and until they are able to address their obligation to stand with the Palestinians.

When we talk about Arab solidarity, solidarity is not even the most accurate term, because it’s a family. That’s how Palestinians feel–we’re part of this family of Arab nations and Arab states. It’s not like asking a neighbor for help. It’s asking your father and mother and sister and daughter for help.

That’s how we feel when we ask Egyptians to support our rights. We’re not asking our neighbor for help, we’re asking our brother for help. But the brother is in a lot of trouble at this point and is still trying to get his or her house in order so we need to wait patiently until they can stand on their feet. Then we’re sure to have massive support.

31 Responses

  1. yrn
    February 7, 2013, 2:39 pm

    There are literally dozens of laws in Israel that discriminate between its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. …….

    Typical Barghouti…….. what an Intellectual….. claims with NO evidence, if there a dozens……. well bring only ONE.
    As a PHD. Student In “TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY” , well the so called, Prominent activist movement calling for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel …….. – but that did not stop Omar Barghouti to register to his apartheid oy vey Tel Aviv University to obtain a doctorate in philosophy…….
    Omar says “My studies at Tel Aviv University are a personal matter, “.

    What a Joke.

    • Kris
      February 7, 2013, 5:47 pm

      On your computer screen, there is a space where you can type in what you want to know–for example, “Israeli laws discriminate between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens.” Then you push the “return” button, and suddenly you are presented with many, many links where you can find the information you seek.

      Here are two links for you: link to nytimes.com
      link to fightracism.org

      Who cares where Barghouti studied? I’m glad he got to pursue his education, unlike all the Palestinian students in Gaza whose lives have been deliberately ruined by Israel’s refusal to let them take up their scholarships in universities abroad. Israel’s casual cruelty is horrifying and disgusting.

      Access to excellent education has meant everything to my children. I look at them, and I think of all the young Palestinians whose dreams Israel has deliberately destroyed.

      • yrn
        February 8, 2013, 3:37 am

        Kris

        Great to have those links that shows Nothing.
        Sure those who live in the occupied territories, don’t have the same rights….. as they are not Israeli Citizens. the other has nothing to do with discrimination laws on the contrary its mentions that “Israel has passed legislation to assist in the eradication of racism, ”

        I love the most the long comment with “Special Military Order”……..
        let me remind you all, Israeli is still in a hostile war situation with the Palestinians and Arab neighbor countries……
        Not as some would like to show as Klaus Bloemker that compare the Situation in Israel to CANADA.

        Omar Barghouti is a joke in Israel, as those you can buy in a penny……
        he wants to boycott the institution that gives him education….
        At the end Omar Barghouti will get the Israeli prize for hypocrisy, as how many places would accept someone who only says the worse words he can use and with all of that, accepts him as a member.

        Show me more places like that.

      • yrn
        February 8, 2013, 4:23 am

        “unlike all the Palestinian students in Gaza whose lives have been deliberately ruined by Israel’s refusal to let them take up their scholarships in universities abroad.”

        Kris, Gaza has a border with its brother Arabs, they can go and study in Egypt , so were is your problem, since when is Israel part of the Hamas elected government education department.

        Were dose Israel “deliberately” stop them from studying in Egypt, its a border between Egypt and Gaza, if Egypt wanted especially now with the new democratic elected Morsei, they could give them all the benefit and help they can get to study, but that’s not the situation, and YOU and all the other’s here want say a word about it, as how will you criticize Israel.

    • Bumblebye
      February 7, 2013, 5:47 pm

      Here ya go, yrn, there’s a whole bunch of such laws here:
      link to itisapartheid.com

    • Citizen
      February 7, 2013, 6:04 pm

      @ yrn

      The Many discriminatory laws in Israel have been enumerated and discussed fairly often on this blog–I guess you don’t know that or you wouldn’t speak so foolishly. For starters, here you go: link to old-adalah.org

    • Hostage
      February 7, 2013, 6:50 pm

      if there a dozens……. well bring only ONE.

      I’ve posted a list of some of the laws and military orders that discriminate against so-called Israeli Arabs or Palestinians before. Here it is again:
      “Equality” is not entrenched as a fundamental human right in any Basic Law. Discrimination is permitted without limitation against persons on the basis of “Nationality” (in lieu of race, citizenship, or religion). See Articles 8 & 10 of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992) as amended (1994) for complete details. The discriminatory statutes include, but are not limited to the following: Law of Return (1950); Nationality Law (1952); Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (2003) Temporary Order 5763 (2003) extended to present; Absentee Property Law (1950); Status Law of Israel (1952); Basic Law: Israel Lands (1960); Land Acquisition Law (1953) as amended (2010); Planning and Construction Law (1965); Law on Agricultural Settlement (1967); Israel Lands Authority Law (2009).

      In the Occupied Territories military orders have been used to establish an administrative regime. In the 2004 Wall case the International Court of Justice determined that the regime was illegal. Some of the relevant orders are:
      *Orders Nº 29 (1967) and Nº 378 (1970) establish procedures to detain and prosecute Palestinians;
      *Military Orders Nº 561 (1974), Nº 783 (1979), Nº 892 (1980), and Nº 981 (1982) establish an entirely separate legal system for Israeli settlers;
      *Military Orders Nº 107 (1967), Nº 50 (1967), Nº 101 (1967), and Amendment Orders Nº 1079 and 1423 impose a system of military censorship, and set severe limits on freedom of speech and public assemblies by Palestinians;
      *Military Orders Nº 58 (1967), Order Nº 59 (1967), Nº 291 (1968), Nº 1060 (1983) grant Israeli Military Authorities custody, control, and dispute resolution authority concerning state and private property, land, and water; and the right to confiscate private property without compensation.
      *Special Military Order Nº 224 (1967) restores the mandate era “Emergency Regulations” (1945); Military Order Nº 92 (1967) concerns provision and control of water; Military Order Nº 5 concerns closure of the West Bank; Military Order Nº 537 (1974) concerning powers of the Area Commander to set municipal boundaries; direct municipal services and planning; and the power to dismiss democratically-elected officials; Military Order Nº 297 establishes a pass system that restricts freedom of movement.

    • Shingo
      February 8, 2013, 6:02 am

      As a PHD. Student In “TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY” , well the so called, Prominent activist movement calling for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel …….. – but that did not stop Omar Barghouti to register to his apartheid oy vey Tel Aviv University to obtain a doctorate in philosophy…….

      But it did stop him being able to return to Jerusalem. Oops.

      I guess the joke is you.

      Oh, and if you need to read up on the dozens of laws in Israel that discriminate between its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, there are at last 30.
      link to israellawresourcecenter.org

    • Misterioso
      February 10, 2013, 5:01 pm

      The U.S. State Department’s report on International Religious Freedom: “Arabs in Israel…are subject to various forms of discrimination [and the government] does not provide Israeli Arabs…with the same quality of education, housing, employment opportunities as Jews.”

      The Independent, Dec. 27/2011
      “…EU broadside over plight of Israel’s Arabs”
      Excerpt: “The confidential 27-page draft prepared by European diplomats…[shows] that Israeli Arabs suffer ‘economic disparities…unequal access to land and housing…discriminatory draft legislation and a political climate in which discriminatory rhetoric and practice go unsanctioned.’“

      Baruch Kimmerling, George S. Wise Professor of Sociology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem: The laws of Israel have become the laws of a master people and the morality that of lords of the land.” (“Politicide: The real legacy of Ariel Sharon”)

      Ronnie Kasrils, a key player in the struggle against apartheid, minister for intelligence in the current South African government and a devout Jew: “The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the ‘Jewish state’, and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence, their similarity to the black South Africans [under apartheid].” (The Guardian, 25 May 2005)

      Adi Ophir, philosophy professor at Tel Aviv University: “…the adoption of the political forms of an ethnocentric and racist nation-state in general, are turning Israel into the most dangerous place in the world for the humanity and morality of the Jewish community, for the continuity of Jewish cultures and perhaps for Jewish existence itself.” (1998 issue of the Israeli journal “Theory and Criticism”).

      Ilan Pappe, professor of political science at Haifa University: “[Israel's] political system [is] exclusionary, a pro forma democracy – going through the motions of democratic rule but essentially being akin to apartheid or Herenvolk (‘master race’) democracy.”

      BTW, Israel is the only country in the world that differentiates between citizenship and nationality, i.e., an “Israeli” nationality does not exist. Identity cards designate Israel’s citizens as Jews and non-Jews.

      On a related matter, I recommend you view this short video: link to youtube.com

      For the record, Israel’s Jewish citizens of Ethiopian ancestry also suffer from discrimination:
      link to haaretz.com

      “Israel admits Ethiopian women were given birth control shots” Ha,aretz, January 27/13.
      Excerpt: “A government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera.“

      “The women’s testimony could help explain the almost 50-percent decline over the past 10 years in the birth rate of Israel’s Ethiopian community.”

      link to middleeastmonitor.com
      “Even in death, Ethiopian Jews face racism from other Jews” Middle East Monitor, December 28/2010.

      Excerpt: “An Israeli newspaper has claimed that the racism prevalent between Israeli Jews extends to Ethiopian Jews even after their death. According to Maariv, graves in a Jewish cemetery are separated according to the colour of the corpses; a fence has been built between the graves of Ethiopian Jews and the others in the graveyard.”

  2. Sycamores
    February 7, 2013, 5:06 pm

    Bravo to Omar Barghouti and Peter Rugh, great interview.

  3. yonah fredman
    February 7, 2013, 5:18 pm

    In answer to Barghouti’s challenge: Does he think that Morsi, the democratically elected leader of Egypt, is a good example of what will result from Palestinian democracy? If so, why is he a good sign? If Palestinians will elect a better leader than Morsi, why would that be? Are they better or smarter than Egyptians? More secular than Egyptians? Richer than Egyptians? Why should we not expect similar results if democracy comes to Palestine.

    If he thinks Morsi’s a good leader, does he at least concede that others might disagree?

    Democracy is a great means, but if the end is Morsi, can one wonder why the democratic challenge of Barghouti will be scoffed at?

    I don’t personally challenge Barghouti to a debate, but I posit two people whom he should debate: both supporters of the two state solution: Shlomo Sand and Larry Derfner. Realism usually is posed as a power equation. Israel is more powerful therefore Israel’s position will dominate any conversation where “realism” is heavily weighted. But if Barghouti has nothing to answer Shlomo Sand and Larry Derfner’s brand of realism, then what are we dealing with here? A cause that can’t answer the basic needs of communication with the other side.

    • Hostage
      February 7, 2013, 6:57 pm

      In answer to Barghouti’s challenge: Does he think that Morsi, the democratically elected leader of Egypt, is a good example of what will result from Palestinian democracy?

      The Palestinians have already had democratically elected Presidents. Why would they need advice from Israelis or Egyptians? What’s your next dumb question?

    • agatharchides
      February 7, 2013, 9:56 pm

      Of all the examples you could have picked, you went with Morsi? He has done what exactly, pushed through a controversial constitution and overseen some scuffles with protestors? But that’s beside the point. If you really believe in democracy regardless of race, creed or national origin then you can’t really say you don’t think Arabs are worthy of it because they elected a leader you don’t like.

      In any case, Israel has elected convicted terrorists like Begin and mass murders like Ariel Sharon, who has a lot more to answer for than Muhammed Morsi by any reasonable standard. Maybe Jews and Palestinians should be both stripped of the vote and the whole thing ruled by a committee of Japanese or something. Might save a lot of trouble.

      • yonah fredman
        February 7, 2013, 10:27 pm

        So far we have two people that think that Morsi is the best thing since sliced bread. If you really think Morsi is a poster boy for the great possibilities that democracy will bring the future one state of Israel/Palestine I suggest you keep right on with this line of thought.

        Personally I think that Morsi is a disaster so far. I think 2 years is too early to determine the efficacy of Egyptian democracy. When Phil Weiss said that the 17 days in Tahrir Square will shine as a beacon for the new day of freedom, I said, forget 17 days, how about 17 years. So in fact it is too early to judge how well democracy will play out in Egypt. This is a valid response.

        Those who think Morsi is good news are clearly biased. Egyptian civil society leaders have asked for the world to stand up against Morsi and the response of Mondoweiss readers is F U to Egypt civil society.

        My response was geared towards the possibility of seeing a bright future in Israel Palestine, what business people call Win-Win. But you people are quite satisfied to see a bleak future for Palestine. You have in mind Lose-Lose. Great.

      • Hostage
        February 7, 2013, 10:37 pm

        So far we have two people that think that Morsi is the best thing since sliced bread.

        Now we can add the ability to read and count to the tools you still need to acquire. I’d didn’t say anything about Morsi. I said the Palestinians had already elected Presidents of their own and don’t need any advice from Egyptians (or your false analogies for that matter).

      • justicewillprevail
        February 8, 2013, 5:00 am

        y fred: nice bit of utterly irrelevant posturing and feeble attempt to put words in people’s mouths. Try and stay on topic, instead of diverting into your agenda.

      • seafoid
        February 8, 2013, 5:21 am

        Self determination means what it says on the tin.

      • agatharchides
        February 8, 2013, 9:10 am

        You are arguing against a straw man to make an irrelevant point. Nobody actually praised Morsi, so your attack on him is not attacking the arguments anyone made. My argument was that as democratically elected failures go, one could come up with much better examples. I also pointed out that other countries, particularly Israel, have elected some very dubious characters so your argument, taken to its logical conclusion, is really an argument against democracy at all.

    • eljay
      February 7, 2013, 10:50 pm

      >> Does he think that Morsi, the democratically elected leader of Egypt, is a good example of what will result from Palestinian democracy? If so, why is he a good sign? If Palestinians will elect a better leader than Morsi, why would that be? Are they better or smarter than Egyptians? More secular than Egyptians? Richer than Egyptians? Why should we not expect similar results if democracy comes to Palestine.

      Dunno what Palestinian democracy will look like, but despite all those smarter, more secular and richer Jews / Zionists / Israelis, supremacist “Jewish State” democracy looks pretty dismal. I know, I know: It’s better than Saudi Arabia and Mali.

      Should they ever be free of the crushing crimes and injustices being committed against them by the supremacist “Jewish State” democracy, I really hope Palestinians do a better job of developing a truly secular, democratic and egalitarian state than the Israelis have done. It will be a pity if the best the Palestinians can say is “Hey, at least we’re not as bad as Israel and Saudi Arabia!”

    • Avi_G.
      February 8, 2013, 6:01 am

      yonah fredman says:
      February 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      In answer to Barghouti’s challenge: Does he think that Morsi, the democratically elected leader of Egypt, is a good example of what will result from Palestinian democracy?

      This belies the bigotry that is inherent to Israel’s defenders, those who view Arabs as a monolith. Thus, if Egyptians had Morsi in power — nevermind the specific circumstances that led to Morsi becoming president — then somehow the Palestinians are going to produce the same exact results by virtue of merely being Arabs.

      It reminds me of the bigoted argument presented by a Jewish American professor with whom I had a chat once.

      He described himself as a ‘liberal’. And when I told him about Palestinian Christians leaving Bethlehem in great numbers, he pointed to the attacks on Iraqi Christians carried out by some Moslems in Iraq in the post-2003 American invasion. And according to him, the Israeli occupation had absolutely nothing to do with those Christians leaving their homeland in great numbers. But the truth is inconvenient as a famous 60 Minutes report proved as it interviewed Palestinian Christians living under occupation.

    • Misterioso
      February 10, 2013, 5:14 pm

      Although two states may yet precede it, one state is inevitable between the River and the Sea. Why? Because in the long run both peoples will realize that it will best serve their common interests. Zionism is moribund.

  4. yourstruly
    February 7, 2013, 6:29 pm

    the meaning of one equals one?

    always siding with the oppressed?

    never siding with the oppressor?

    even when the oppressor happens to be a co-religionist?

    especially then?

    the statement israel is jewish & democratic?

    an oxymoron?

    equating BDS with antisemitism?

    itself antisemitic?

    the claim the israel speaks for all jews?

    ditto?

    justice for palestine?

    imminent?

  5. Hostage
    February 7, 2013, 6:40 pm

    It’s a colonial state, it’s an apartheid state, and they do not want such a state to speak in their name, to speak on their behalf.

    It isn’t merely that I don’t want them speaking on my behalf. Colonialism and apartheid, like forcible transfers and deportations of Palestinians are crimes against humanity. They are all prohibited under international law according to a variety of sources, including the Rome Statute. So I really don’t want a criminal regime or state to defend the merits of its wrongdoing on its own behalf either. Many civilized systems of government have stopped debating or discussing these crimes and have deliberately criminalized engaging in apologetics on their behalf. That’s viewed as a denomination of “hate speech” or incitement. We’ve also adopted safeguards against any group of individuals profiting from their own wrongful acts. More importantly, no criminal state, regime, or society should be able to demand that their victims recognize their right to go on existing in a condition of unadulterated and unapologetic criminality.

    The second point is that BDS does not take a position on whether a one-state or a two-state solution should be pursued in Palestine. . . . I’ve advocated for the one-state solution in my personal capacity.

    That’s fair enough, but you can’t get “there” from “here” in one concurrent process, i.e. you can’t invite the Israeli Jews to come share your space, while you demand that they end the occupation and “get the f*ck out of Dodge City” in accordance with the applicable international laws.

    It can only lead to confusion if you pursue an end to “the occupation” and the development of the Palestinian economy in the territories, while simultaneously arguing that there’s really only one state involved there anymore and that its too late to untangle the two people’s governments or infrastructure systems from one another. A state really can’t “occupy” itself under international law. In addition, there’s really no need to “end the occupation” before addressing the system of apartheid that confronts the Palestinian citizens and refugees of Israel. One of the major problems created by apartheid and US segregation was the concept of separate development and the creation and funding of separate racial sectors of society and the economy. So we’re still talking about two international territorial entities today. They are both confronted by the differing legal consequences of the same illegal acts. Its arguable whether its helpful from the standpoint of the solidarity movement to admit that or not. I share the opinion that the eventual establishment of one democratic state is the only logical or desirable solution.

  6. Antidote
    February 7, 2013, 6:40 pm

    “If he thinks Morsi’s a good leader, does he at least concede that others might disagree?”

    If you think Bush or Obama, or Netanyahu, are good leaders, do you at least concede that others might disagree?

    Why not just abolish democracy? That would solve the problem of people electing the wrong leaders

  7. Nevada Ned
    February 7, 2013, 7:14 pm

    If it is up to the Israeli Jews alone, neither the one-state solution nor the two-state solution will happen. Either solution would have to be forced on Israel.
    That was true in South Africa. And in Mississippi and Alabama also.

  8. ritzl
    February 7, 2013, 11:07 pm

    The reverse antisemitism argument is potent.

    • seafoid
      February 8, 2013, 5:24 am

      Barghouti is really in the groove these days. The Palestinians have spokespeople now that can wipe the floor with hasbara . Ma sha Allah.

  9. Walid
    February 8, 2013, 3:37 am

    “But did that translate into effective campaigns against Caterpillar, against Veolia, against international companies that are violating Palestinian rights in their complicity with the Israeli occupation? No, it did not. And it couldn’t in a country that lacks basic democracy.” (Omar Barghouti)

    I don’t think democracy has anything to do with it, Lebanon the most democratic of Arab countries has Veolia transport services and a water management office operating there and it doesn’t appear to be disturbing anyone. Same for L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Starbucks and others that are well received. Apart from the democracy angle discussed here, Veolia has been and continues operating in almost every Arab country. Omar should be also speaking to Arabs.

    Elsewhere, another small victory for BDS:

    Hyundai ends relationship with home demolition equipment firm

    Posted on January 31, 2013 by Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea

    Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea (PPS) welcomes Hyundai’s ending its ties with AEG. In the last ten years we’ve seen Hyundai excavators imported by AEG used to destroy Palestinians homes.

    PPS recently sent a letter to Hyundai Heavy Industries to enquire about their relationship with Israeli company Automotive Equipment Group (AEG) concerning the Robex 320 LC-7A excavator deal. Hyundai replied that they had “stopped the deal with AEG and already sent an official notification letter early in January 2013.”

    link to bdsmovement.net

  10. Walid
    February 8, 2013, 6:27 am

    “The Arab Spring has opened up a huge opportunity for building support for Palestinian rights in the Arab world. Across the Arab world, support for Palestinian rights has always been a de facto reality, a consensus. Every single citizen of every Arab state–with very few exceptions–supports Palestinian rights.” (Omar Barghouti)

    Although probably right that every single Arab supports Palestinian rights, Omar has a wrong sense of what the “spring” was really about and that it would be an eventual help in the Palestinian cause, so he shouldn’t hold his breath. In actuality, it was the fundamentalists’ spring because it brought them out of the shadows and put power in their hands and saying that we are seeing the dawn of freedom and the beginning of democratization is wishful thinking. Things have gone from bad to worse from these springs in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria and none of these countries are heading towards anything close to a democracy.

    BTW, the term “Spring” about a socio-political change was written about by a Lebanese 88 years ago. It was in his essay from which JFK plagiarized his famous “ask not” quote as well as his “New Frontier” schtick.

  11. Ruth Tenne
    February 11, 2013, 8:57 am

    As a veteran and active member of the Palestine Solidarity Movement , BDS and Boycott Israeli goods (BIG), I have to disagree with Omar Barghouti’s somewhat defeatist argument that offers , in my view, inacceptable excuses for the lack of active support for Palestine solidarity movement among Arab (and Muslim) countries. Barghouti argues that “It hasn’t been even two years since the beginning of the Arab Spring, so it is too early to expect big results. Revolutions take a long time to get past internal conflict and build a stable democracy. It will take some time until Egyptians, Tunisians and others sort out their internal strife and build their own systems on the foundation of social justice, freedom and rights for all citizens–and until they are able to address their obligation to stand with the Palestinians….That’s how we feel when we ask Egyptians to support our rights. We’re not asking our neighbor for help, we’re asking our brother for help. But the brother is in a lot of trouble at this point and is still trying to get his or her house in order so we need to wait patiently until they can stand on their feet. Then we’re sure to have massive support”

    However, I feel very strongly that If the BDS is to achieve its long-term aims it has to move on from its limited campaign among Western states and embrace the Arab and Muslim word . Moreover, the Palestinian nation has to establish unity Government which would be based on a drafted democratic constitution/bill of rights and include representatives of both Hamas and Fatah – under the legally recognised umbrella of PLO. The ascendance of Palestine to a sovereign state recognised officially by UN link to reuters.com a progressive step which would enable the pledging Palestinian state (based on the West Bank and Gaza) to pursue Israel through international courts and international bodies associated to UN as well as through the EU and its member states – with which Israel has a very close links through trade of agricultural produce , goods, arms, and aid and research programme. Palestine’s Arab neighbours and the gulfstates should also join actively the BDS campaign and terminate any trade links with companies which profit from the occupation – details of which could be find in my article: The Palestine Solidarity Movement -the Way Ahead link to english.pnn.ps. Egypt , in particular, should take steps to open its borders to free movement of goods, people and labour which would weaken Israel’s strangulating siege of Gaza, and help review the ,so-far unchallengeable ,”pace treaties” which Egypt and Jordan have signed with Israel .

    It is my belief that the Palestine Solidarity Movement has to move on from a debate (and limited action ) on BDS to a focused and co-ordinated multi-level strategy which would embrace action on both BDS and the political front encompassing Western states as well as the Arab and Muslim world.

    Ruth Tenne

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