Every year, around Nakba Day, I take stock of political developments over the past year. This year, I cannot help but notice significant strides on both progressive and regressive fronts. Some of the news is totally welcome, proof that all our efforts, our organizing, our activism, have not been in vain. Thus, for example: “Most contentious Eurovision ever.” “First ever bill on Palestinian human rights introduced to Congress.” “First Muslim Women Elected to Congress.” “Historic First: Palestinian American Rashida Tlaib Elected to Congress.” “Most American Jews are alienated from Israel.” “For the First Time, Democrats are about as pro-Palestine as they are pro-Israel.” While the news headlines can’t possibly tell the whole story, and about the years of behind-the-scenes toil that led to these “firsts” and “mosts,” they are nevertheless indicative of the fact that we are indeed at a turning point, with events developing at a more rapid pace than we have been used to.
However, seemingly on par with all these progressive accomplishments, is the accelerated rate of devastation both Israel and the US are engaging in. The Trump administration’s move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, and its statement that the occupied Syrian Golan Heights should be recognized as part of Israel, are more illustration, should we need any, that this president totally disrespects international law. Jared Kushner’s “deal of the century,” based on what has been leaked, would annex 62% of the West Bank into Israel, granting it approximately 88% of historic Palestine, and reducing the so-called “New Palestine” to reservations with even less sovereignty than they now have. And even then, the status of Jerusalem would still not be finalized! Meanwhile, Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in that tormented city escalates. One of today’s unwelcome headlines reads, for example: “Israeli home demolitions skyrocket in Jerusalem.”
Countering this nightmare scenario, however, we can notice that BDS is finally mainstreamed, no longer some obscure codeword only seasoned organizers understand, but a strategy many pro-justice individuals are spontaneously embracing. And anti-BDS laws have been successfully challenged every time an official tried to implement them, as we saw most recently in Texas, where a speech pathologist won a lawsuit against her school district over the non-renewal of her contract for refusing to sign an anti-BDS clause.
Just as BDS is gaining ground, so is the word “apartheid.” Once taboo when discussing Israeli policies, it is now commonplace: Representative Betty McCollum said it twice, in a keynote speech at the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights in Minneapolis, and Bernie Sanders did not distance himself from it when Shaun King brought it up at Sander’s presidential campaign launch rally, in Brooklyn, NY.
This, then, seems to have become the “new normal.” There is a significant lag between our grassroots organizing, and its eventual climb to the national political level. But once we impact the political discourse, the much-needed and long overdue change happens at a relatively rapid pace. This summer, only months into her first year on the Hill, Rashida Tlaib will be leading a congressional delegation to occupied Palestine. Ilhan Omar’s fierce outspokenness, and her determination not to be cowered by ungrounded accusations of antisemitism that have silenced less courageous politicians, have resulted in a House Bill denouncing Islamophobia as well as anti-Semitism—the first House bill to mention Islamophobia, which has been rampant for decades in this country. Both Tlaib and Omar, by the way, began their careers as local grassroots organizers, not administrators or business tycoons.
Another very positive development over the past year are the strong coalitions that have formed around different causes, from the environment to law enforcement violence and refugee rights, in organizing against state-sanctioned violence. This coming together is testimony to an organic understanding that justice is indivisible, and that Palestine is a progressive issue.
Possibly the most important political development of the past year, however, seems to be the growing recognition, across the political spectrum, from the fascist right to the centrists and liberals, of the total demise of the two-state solution. (That recognition is long-standing among progressives).
Benjamin Netanyahu declared in 2015 that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch, and has accelerated Palestinian home demolitions as well as illegal Israeli settlement construction–slated to be annexed by Israel according to Kushner’s “Deal of the Century, ” which merely codifies the non-viability of a Palestinian state. It is imperative, then, that we push our politicians towards a recognition of the consequences of the “facts on the ground” that Israel has created, while they diligently mouthed their supposed commitment to two states. It is the reality they must contend with, after seven decades of attempting to divide an indivisible land.
No plan, no process, no accord and no deal can change the fact that the land from the river to the sea can only accommodate one country. That country can have an apartheid regime, or justice for all. There is no third option. As Marc Lamont-Hill put it: “We ain’t got to walk around struttin’ talking about two state solutions… What about a world where everyone has freedom, justice, equality, safety and self determination? One person one vote. Gettin’ rid of the settler colonial project altogether.”
Finally, this Nakba Day 2019 coincides with an opportune political moment: As the US gears up for the 2020 presidential election, Palestine is once again one of the critical issues voters will be watching, as they decide which candidate to support. And the presidential candidates know it.
This year, to honor all that has been lost, and ensure we can move forward, we must pressure our politicians to address the Nakba from the river to the sea. Let us then seize the moment to demand that our progressive politicians abandon their mindless platitudes about the two-state delusion, and ask them to choose instead: justice, or apartheid.