Trending Topics:

What Comes Next: Struggle, or solutions?

Israel/Palestine
on 12 Comments

This post is part of “What Comes Next?: A forum on the end of the two-state paradigm.” This series was initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace as an investigation into the current state of thinking about one state and two state solutions, and the collection has been further expanded by Mondoweiss to mark 20 years since the Oslo process. The entire series can be found here.

The debate about one state or two states masks something basic: the diplomatic dance around the two-state solution has been one long performance, a means to manage the zero-sum conflict between Israeli settler-capitalism and the Palestinian right to self-determination.

Settler states are based on land. Their signal trait is to expand until such expansion is no longer politically possible. Such expansion is not generally ideologically driven. Land is a resource, and taking more of it is the easiest way to resolve internal social conflicts over distribution. The entire history of European settler colonialism has been linked to postponing and deflecting social conflict within European states.

whatcomesnextverticalIsrael is no exception to this general rule. The country was founded on a series of thefts assisted by British colonial violence, until such time as the Zionist institutions were strong enough to expand without the direct stewardship of a metropolitan sponsor. Those thefts expanded rapidly through the Nakba, then more gradually after the 1967 war.

In its wake, settlement expansion slowly inched up, then exploded during the Oslo period, as the internal-to-the-Green-Line welfare components of the Israeli state withered under Labor and Likud governments alike – of course, outside of the Green Line, the welfare state for Jews is alive and well.

Indeed, it is through the welfare of settlements and subsidized housing on stolen Palestinian land that the Israeli elite postpones demands for intra-Jewish redistribution.

Through this process, colonialism, social welfare, and militarism have melded into an overwhelming expansionist drive.

But also one which has encountered two remarkably resilient obstacles: Palestinian nationalism and broader Arab anti-colonialism.

When settler-colonialism must advance against and through such obstacles, the result is political friction – leading to a heat buildup which threatens the smooth functioning of the entire regional system if temperatures rise too high.

The so-called peace process has been about managing that friction, preventing it from damaging the larger machine of American power in the Middle East. Part of this has involved cutting off its fuel supply: Arab anti-Zionist sentiment. One mode of restricting the fuel supply has been demonizing the Palestinians, thereby reducing sympathy for them in such quarters. Another means to control the heat level has been to channel it into parts of the machine designed to absorb it.

The Muslim Brotherhood is one such component. The PA is another, and one with a strong interest in sustaining the peace process in perpetuity, an interest with roots in the Gulf money which turned the PLO into a rigid bureaucracy. The upshot of this process was that even anti-colonial nationalism became a commodity, on the market for the right price – in this case, monopolies on service provision in the West Bank and posts at the helm of Ramallah NGOs, turning resistance into quiescence and the cant of co-existence.

In describing such modes of gutting the resistance, collaboration is a misnomer, for it rests on the presumption that the interests of the Palestinian elite follow the flag and not the dollar.

The basic role of the United States has been to fuel the peace process, making sure that it can continue to cover up Israeli rejectionism, year-in and year-out.

From this perspective, the problem with the so-called international consensus two-state solution has not been that it accepts colonial facts on the ground. The problem is that it is a lie.

Thus the debate around it in Western circles is irrelevant, if not actively damaging. For it presumes, and thereby reinforces, the myth that either it or a one-state resolution are on the table.

They are not. What is on the table for the foreseeable future, especially in the absence of massive revolt in the region and especially amongst Palestinians, is sustained occupation, settlement expansion, and further Bantustanization – the grammar of brutality in which settler-colonialism expresses itself in historic Palestine.

The only thing that will put justice on the table is sustained action, above all in Palestine and the surrounding Arab world, secondarily against Israel’s main patrons: the US and European governments. As Bashir Abu Manneh writes, the key is “actively threatening U.S.-Israel domination” of the area.

A corollary is that points of reference need not be discussion about states or solutions, as any such solution or state will be the outcome of political processes internal to the Palestinian national body, regional mobilization, and our grassroots movements in the global North.

In other words, the reference should be the struggle itself, not solutionism. And that struggle will be regional.

One crucial locus of that struggle is the BDS campaign, with its baseline demands of equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, the end of the occupation, and the Right of Return.

Additionally, there are constant and ongoing efforts by Palestinians in exile to strengthen their community formations. Insofar as it is appropriate and it is requested, those efforts deserve our support. And if those formations put forth an anti-colonial or anti-capitalist politics going beyond rights to a wider vision of social justice, activists should support them.

Supporting such work also means defending the exiled from the repression the US government doles out so generously to Palestinians who remain active in the struggle, like Rasmea Odeh and Hatem Abudayyeh.

At home, our task is simple and Olympian. We have to break the Special Relationship – the keystone of imperial strategy in the region. Along the way, to build up the strength to win that victory, we must amass smaller ones: university divestments, removal of cooperation between American and Israeli institutions, and especially cutting though the sub-links which bind the US and Israel as partners in repression – Urban Shield, for example, or US co-production of drone technology.

These are also opportunities for joint work between solidarity campaigners and other resistance to the policies of the US state. In fact, they are more than opportunities. They are responsibilities. The temptation to shear Palestine work from other anti-racist struggles must be resisted at all costs. All contributions are important, but when campaigners weave together struggles at the grassroots, all of our struggles become stronger. The alliance between Students for Justice in Palestine and Movímíento Estudíantíl Chicano de Aztlán, built from the ground up by organizers in New Mexico, is one such example among many.

Work at home must join in active support and solidarity with grassroots initiatives within Palestine-Israel. That may include supporting, in partial ways, economic struggles within Israel. If so, movements involved in such work ought to be held accountable on the colonial question. The way to do so is engagement, not to demand that imperfect struggles simply go home.

In turn, by building unity through the process of struggle itself, we will be ready to provide the necessary support when, or if, the next intifada occurs. For if that happens, it is likely to be in the context of a broader regional challenge to American-Israeli power, the response to which will be incredible violence – an attempt to turn resistance into rubble.

If we want to prevent that from happening, our main tasks are at home.

In this tableau a discussion of one or two states matters not at all.

Jewbonics
About Max Ajl

Max Ajl is an activist with the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network and an editor at Jadaliyya and Viewpoint. Follow him on Twitter: @maxajl.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

12 Responses

  1. Hostage
    Hostage
    November 8, 2013, 1:12 pm

    until such time as the Zionist institutions were strong enough to expand without the direct stewardship of a metropolitan sponsor

    Nice narrative (otherwise), but there was finally a war against the British when the 1939 White Paper declared the Jewish national home a consummated deal on <7 percent of the territory and the Land Transfer Ordinance of 1940 banned any further land sales to Jews in 66 percent of the country between the Jordan and the Sea.

  2. Blaine Coleman
    Blaine Coleman
    November 8, 2013, 2:26 pm

    Every time I see the phrase “the next intifada”, I remember the constant Israeli massacres of helpless Palestinians. That is what “intifada” looks like.

    It would be so much safer, and so devastatingly effective, to simply walk in front of journalists where they sit– at student government meetings, at city council meetings– and demand a resolution favoring a total boycott of all products from Israel, to the maximum extent allowed by law.

    Nice loud Boycott-Israel resolutions: they are needed now. They are simple and safe. You can’t get arrested by asking for one. Much better than watching the campuses stay silent for another semester. Much better than another 11 years of “strategizing” behind closed doors and imagining that an intifada is coming.

    There is no such thing as an “intifada” when you are helpless in front of a gigantic nuclearized military power. Israel will shoot every Palestinian who looks at them cross-eyed, like in the previous intifadas. It would be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel for the IDF.

    So hit “Israel” with loud, legal boycott resolutions; that will involve a whole world full of campuses, and it will keep you alive long enough to gather more support.

  3. ritzl
    ritzl
    November 8, 2013, 2:36 pm

    In eschewing one state Mr. Ajl defines it, or at least its characteristics:

    They [both two-state and one-state solutions] are not [on the table]. What is on the table for the foreseeable future, especially in the absence of massive revolt in the region and especially amongst Palestinians, is sustained occupation, settlement expansion, and further Bantustanization – the grammar of brutality in which settler-colonialism expresses itself in historic Palestine.

    What is “sustained” occupation anyway? What does that mean and/or signify? Perhaps a dart can be thrown to decide when “sustained” officially (within the context of this series) becomes assimilated (i.e. one state). It’s been “sustained” for almost 50 years now.

    Israel will not release the WB and Ajl’s paragraph reasonably describes the early political turmoil (with the implied Palestinian response) likely soon to occur in the de facto and current status quo, one state. But none of this discussion is about “if” or “can” something become the reality, if only something happens that causes something else to happen. It is about what IS. Now. The situation is ugly and it’s going to get uglier. Maybe something can be done to mitigate that ugliness, but the one-state deal is done and Israel did it, unilaterally.

    Why can’t Mr. Ajl take the next descriptive step? Sincere question.

    • Sibiriak
      Sibiriak
      November 9, 2013, 8:42 pm

      ritzl:

      the one-state deal is done and Israel did it, unilaterally.

      I would phrase it differently: a bantustan-state deal is done and Israel did it, with international acquiescence or support.

      De jure, and in global governmental and popular opinion, Palestine and Israel exist as separate states; de facto, Palestine exists as an archipelago of shrunken, non-contiguous, walled-off, separated, Israeli occupied, surrounded and controlled enclaves There is no “one state” reality, de facto or de jure.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        November 10, 2013, 12:53 pm

        @Sibiriak I totally agree on the de jure part.

        But it seems like Ajl uses the phrasing “sustained (46 years and counting, and, per Ajl, for ‘the foreseeable future’) occupation” deliberately to both perfectly describe the one-state de facto reality and simultaneously avoid calling it one state. That says to me that he’s holding out for something to happen to change the de facto one-state reality. So I disagree on the “de facto” part.

        [Blurt Alert]: He says what he’s holding out for, or more subtextually, on to, in the para I cited, where he says “absence of a massive revolt” by Palestinians nothing will change on the “sustained occupation for the foreseeable future” front. What bugs me about that is, for whatever reason he can’t seem to make the smallest rhetorical gesture to call it one state, while calling, however tangentially, for Palestinians to rise up to change his described one-state reality. It’s hard to discern any difference between “sustained occupation………” and a one-state reality. Maybe there is one.

        His is a major critical voice inside the Jewish community/conversation on this. He could use the “one state” rhetorical threshold to heighten the sense within that community that Israel’s (and the broader Jewish community’s) worst nightmare is happening, perchance to move some opinion toward more assertive action within the Jewish community toward two-states (which appears to be what he is holding out hope for). Instead, he lays it on the Palestinians to risk everything to preserve his preferred option (my take/assumption on his preference). It strikes me as a “save us from ourselves” refrain that is cropping up more and more among Jewish liberal/anti-/post-zionists. It’s risk-averse behavior, and bordering on an admission of defeat, imo.

        FTR, this behavior isn’t limited to Jewish, or *zionist, or this issue. Obama’s public governing strategy on pretty much everything is clearly “Save me from my political self.” and/or “Make me do what’s right. [It’s your fault if you don’t.]” It’s a broader phenom, given huge money/power imbalances against doing what’s right in general political struggles. It’s not my intention to single out Ajl on this. That para just illustrated a lot of larger issues.

  4. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw
    November 8, 2013, 4:40 pm

    The Palestinian leadership [such as it is] achieved recognition at the UNGA and membership of a UN Agency [UNESCO] these were significant political gains, Abbas needs to capitalize on them by securing membership in the other 63 UN Agencies, an article in the Guardian ” American influence in culture, science and education around the world took a high-profile blow on Friday after the US automatically lost voting rights at Unesco after missing a crucial deadline to repay its debt to the world’s cultural agency”. And ..”We won’t be able to have the same clout,” said Phyllis Magrab, the Washington-based US national commissioner for Unesco. “In effect, we [now won’t] have a full tool box. We’re missing our hammer.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/08/us-unesco-voting-funds-palestine-decision This is the way to go, give Israel/US both barrels, the International community will blame the US for wrecking the International system by their refusal to fund the Agencies.

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      November 8, 2013, 5:45 pm

      The UN Secretary General, who would be legally obliged to accept Palestine as a full member of other specialized agencies or accept deposited treaty instruments, publicly asked Palestine not to join any more agencies or take any more unilateral actions immediately after the UNESCO vote and the US and Israeli decisions on defunding. He was correct, it would simply be counter-productive. The Palestinians have nothing more to gain by simply joining UN agencies as opposed to UN treaty bodies or the ICC. You don’t make political allies by destroying the UN.

      Abbas would also need a lot of capital just to join more UN agencies. Unlike UN non-member observer states to the General Assembly, the members of UN agencies are required to pay dues – something Abbas would be very hard pressed to do right at the moment.

      • HarryLaw
        HarryLaw
        November 8, 2013, 6:10 pm

        Hostage @ “You don’t make political allies by destroying the UN”. The question is who would be perceived as destroying the UN system, the majority of the states at the UN recognize Palestine as a legitimate state with the right to apply for membership of all the agencies, granted it may not be financially possible or politically wise to join all of them, but it should not be forgotten it is the Palestinians who are being destroyed and on a daily basis. If the US can intimidate Abbas and the rest of the UN by stopping their contributions to other agencies [they are in effect cutting their own noses to spite their face, as the UNESCO vote on Friday proved] then shame on Abbas and those other states, leaders who will not fight for and demand those rights will not get them, nor would they deserve them.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        November 9, 2013, 10:52 am

        Hostage @ “You don’t make political allies by destroying the UN”. The question is who would be perceived as destroying the UN system, the majority of the states at the UN recognize Palestine as a legitimate state with the right to apply for membership of all the agencies

        As a procedural matter Palestine would be responsible. The Secretary General asked the delegation to stop taking any further actions after the UNESCO vote, because they were simply non-constructive at that time. That doesn’t mean he’s just sitting on his hands in the meantime. Statehood isn’t the only criteria for membership in the UN and other treaty organizations.

        Back in 1989, the co-sponsors of Palestine’s application for full membership in UNESCO listed 92 states that had already formally recognized the State of Palestine. That was the overwhelming majority of UN member states at that time. See Annex II of UN Doc. 131 EX/43, 12 May 1989 link to unispal.un.org

        Nonetheless, the UNESCO Executive Board caved-in to US political objections and never placed that application on the agenda for a vote by the full membership until 2011. Even then, the ICC Prosecutor said it was still up to the Secretary General or ICC Assembly of State Parties to decide whether or not the State of Palestine could also join the Court (although the Rome Statute is completely silent on the subject of the participation of the Assembly of State Parties in reviewing or approving accessions to the Rome Statute).

        Ominously, a number of ICC state parties opined that the ICC wouldn’t necessarily be bound by the political decisions on statehood made by the UN General Assembly or the Secretary General anyway, and that an article 12(3) declaration from a UN observer state could still be declined on other legitimate jurisdictional grounds. So Palestine is not going to get anything done in the ICC, until there is an international consensus that it has exhausted every other possible avenue to obtain a remedy or solution.

        There were similar procedural actions taken by the General Assembly 6th (Legal) Committee which continued to tie the Secretary General’s hands in fulfilling his responsibilities as the UN and ICC treaty depositary, even after the UNESCO vote had seemingly cleared-up any such legal questions. In effect the UNESCO vote was moot within the UN organization and the Secretary was still required to obtain an answer on the status of Palestine from the General Assembly, based upon an earlier decision made by the 6th Committee. See for example the comments of myself, Dapo Akande,, and Yousef Zeidan, Legal Adviser of the State of Palestine to the United Nations in the comments to Dapo Akande’s, Palestine as a UN Observer State: Does this Make Palestine a State? http://www.ejiltalk.org/palestine-as-a-un-observer-state-does-this-make-palestine-a-state/

      • HarryLaw
        HarryLaw
        November 9, 2013, 4:02 pm

        Hostage @ ICC, Thank you for those links, I read them all, together with the position paper submitted by Al Haq and PCHR to the Prosecutor at the ICC recently, as I understand it she “may” initiate an investigation on evidence from a non state party under Rome statute 12 [3] as in the Cote D’lvoire case, on that basis the prosecutor OCampo could have started an investigation but did not because he was not convinced Palestine was a state even with the UNESCO vote, the new Prosecutor may still investigate under 12 [3] but now with the knowledge that the UNGA and UNESCO both recognize Palestine as a state, she may also act on a referral from a non Governmental organization [like Al Haq] and although Abbas has not signed up to the ICC yet it is to be hoped that she will act now on the basis of 12[3] and/or the Al Haq submission , although as you say the ICC is a court of last resort, this I assume means after the 9 months talks between Israel and the Palestinians have broken down. Also in your reply you say “Ominously, a number of ICC state parties opined that the ICC wouldn’t necessarily be bound by the political decisions on statehood made by the UN General Assembly or the Secretary General anyway, and that an article 12(3) declaration from a UN observer state could still be declined on other legitimate jurisdictional grounds. So Palestine is not going to get anything done in the ICC, until there is an international consensus that it has exhausted every other possible avenue to obtain a remedy or solution”.
        I take “a number of ICC states” to mean the usual suspects, although they would not be anywhere near a majority of the states parties to the ICC?? when they say they would not be bound by a political decision by the UNGA, what do they mean by that? Isn’t a UNGA decision legal? It will be very interesting to see what other legitimate jurisdictional grounds exist or can be invented. Thanks again.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        November 9, 2013, 5:33 pm

        when they say they would not be bound by a political decision by the UNGA, what do they mean by that? Isn’t a UNGA decision legal?

        No. When Israel applied for UN membership, Judge Jessup noted for the record that the UN already had several other members which did not satisfy the classical textbook criteria, and that a “state” for the purposes of the UN Charter was not necessarily a state for any other legal purposes.

        There is no universally binding definition of the term “state”. The UN Organizing Conference in San Francisco chose not to include one in the Charter. The UN Diplomatic Conference on the ICC at Rome didn’t adopt one either. In James Crawford’s “Creation of States in International Law he notes:

        Although the United Kingdom and Indian Governments thought a definition of the term “State” a prerequisite for the proposed “Draft Declaration on the Rights and Duties of States,” the International Law Commission (ILC) concluded:

        that no useful purpose would be served by an effort to define the term ‘State… In the Commissions draft, the term… is used in the sense commonly accepted in international practice. Nor did the Commission think that it was called upon to set forth… the qualifications to be possessed by a community in order that it may become a State.

        on that basis the prosecutor OCampo could have started an investigation but did not because he was not convinced Palestine was a state even with the UNESCO vote

        Flip the question around and ask if he has the necessary standing to challenge Palestine’s status under the terms of the Statute? The Arab League of States submitted an exhibit to the Prosecutor on the status of Palestine. It contained an annex with a long list of multilateral treaties with the State of Palestine, including several on diplomatic immunity and extradition, that pre-date the existence of the ICC.

        Ask yourself if the Prosecutor would be required to respect those treaties on immunity and extradition between the third party State of Palestine and the ICC members – who are also members of the Arab League or OIC – in accordance with the explicit terms of Article 98 of the Rome Statute, in the case where the Security Council refers the same Situation in Palestine to the ICC?

        If those member states can make binding determinations about third-party states in accordance with Article 98, where does the Statute say that it’s the Prosecutor’s job to challenge the status of that same third-party state when it makes an Article 12(3) declaration as a non-member state?

        I’ve always found it ironic that the Prosecutor claimed that he wasn’t empowered by the Statute to make determinations regarding statehood, when in fact Article 98 says the Court is required to respect the determinations of individual member States on that particular subject. Any third-party state for the purposes of Article 98 must obviously be considered a non-member state for the purposes of Article 12, unless the same deliberately undefined term “state” has two different meanings within the very same jurisdictional context and constitutional document.

  5. ivri
    ivri
    November 9, 2013, 3:23 pm

    A regional struggle? For the Middle-East in its present condition? Good luck

Leave a Reply