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Ali Abunimah’s prophecy of Israel’s loss of legitimacy, 10 years after

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Ali Abunimah by Katie Miranda.

Ten years ago this week Ali Abunimah gave a landmark speech about Israel’s growing international delegitimization. at a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. A week later we published the text of the speech, but it seems in order to republish it today so as to credit Abunimah’s foresight, and offer a glimpse of what the next ten years will bring. 

Some statements by the writer and co-founder of Electronic Intifada were surely too sanguine/premature: about the crumbling of the Oslo regime or the Israeli introspection prompted by BDS. But many of Abunimah’s comments, made in the long shadow of the Gaza onslaught earlier that year, seem prophetic if we compare the landscape of 2009 to today, when progressives have largely unified in a critique of the idea of a Jewish state, and mainstream U.S. institutions are battling to suppress that understanding.

“I am convinced that the loss of legitimacy of the Zionist idea, of the idea of a special state for a special people, is irreversible, that that cannot be resurrected in the 21st century, a time when we at least preach if not practice universal rights and equality,” said Abunimah, , then 37 years old.  

He also said that apartheid South Africa was not defeated by internal resistance, but by the delegitimization of apartheid in the west; and he saw that process beginnning to undermine the acceptance of Israeli discrimination in 2009. Certainly that process has only continued, and today it is carried forward by a movement for equal rights. “Israel has a big bank account but there’s no income. I don’t see Israel being able to recruit a new generation to carry this message.” And Abunimah was right in saying that Israel was going to take on BDS because it was so threatening. “After trying to ignore the BDS movement for many years, it is starting to really get the notice of Israel.”

If you consider how far that equality movement has come since this speech, Abunimah’s speech portends many more changes to come in the next ten years. Here is that speech:  

I want to talk about a little bit of history, not too much, and then I want to talk about where I think BDS fits in to where we’re going in the struggle for justice, and why I think it’s going to work.

If you look at the history of Palestine over the past 62 years, ever since the destruction of much of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel on its ashes, I think it can be divided roughly into three phases of roughly 20 years. The first phase was from 1948 to 1967, that was the establishment of Israel, the ethnic cleansing of 90 percent of the population from inside the boundaries of what became Israel, the systematic destruction of 500 towns and villages, and the exile of the indigenous population of the country. And of course the remaining Palestinians inside Israel subjected to military rule and to continued ethnic cleansing and removal from their land.

The second phase, beginning in 1967 with Israel’s three-fold expansion, its conquest of Egypts’ Sinai peninsula, of southwest Syria, of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was really the heyday, the era of maximum Israeli confidence, and the moment in which Zionism as we know it today became rooted in the American Jewish community. Before 1967 American Jews had for the most part not been captured by this ideology of Zionism and the virulent and racist nationalism that accompanies it. For Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it was the beginning of long occupation and colonization that continues to this day. It was also, from Israel’s perspective, a period of what I call a luxury occupation. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were relatively quiescent, they were a source of cheap labor, Israelis allowed themselves to travel freely throughout the occupied territories, and it was bliss, it was a situation where Israelis said well, this is fine, we can stay like this as we build settlements, there’s no pressure on us to do anything, we don’t have to formally annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which would require us to give civil rights and voting rights to the Palestinians living there, so we just keep things as they are.

This period of luxury occupation ended in 1987 with the beginning of the first intifada, which I suspect is around the time many of you in this room were born, which makes me feel quite old. But it’s important to know this history. And what the first intifada showed was the impossibility of Israel maintaining this cost-free occupation, where it exploited Palestinian labor and land, denied any civil and political rights, and continued to advertise itself as this wonderful liberal democracy and a light unto the nations.

So began the beginning of the third 20-year period, and this is the period of the Oslo Accords, beginning sort of a long period of working up to those accords that were signed in 1993, and it was the period really of managed occupation, and the idea here was to coopt. At one point the Israeli leaders said it. Shimon Peres, who is now the president of Israel, recalled talking to Yitzhak Rabin who was the prime minister at the time, and saying, Why do we need Yassir Arafat, who was then the PLO leader of course, making trouble for us outside the country, let’s bring him here, we can watch him and we can keep him under control. So the idea was to coopt the Palestinian leadership and subcontract the management of the occupation to them, all the while creating the illusion of forward movement, of a so-called peace process which would culminate in an independent Palestinian state.

But actually as we knew and know now, that’s not what was happening. What was happening was the acceleration of occupation, the tripling of the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and the tightening of the control, the creation of a regime of colonial control, effectively apartheid, that is unique in history. We make many comparisons to apartheid in South Africa, but as many South Africans themselves have pointed out, There was never in South Africa a separate road system for blacks and whites. There is no occasion in which the white South African apartheid government used its warplanes to bomb the townships, to bomb Soweto. It never happened. Incidentally you should know, and this is part of the research that should be part of the BDS strategy, that most of the weapons that the South African government used to enforce apartheid were supplied by Israel in violation of an international arms embargo on South Africa. Even the water cannons that they used to suppress demonstrations were made in a kibbutz in northern Israel. And the warplanes and the gunboats of the South African navy were all supplied by Israel. Nevertheless, South Africa never used these weapons against its own people inside the country.

The situation over the past 20 years of managed occupation has come to an end. Many people don’t realize it, many people hope that it can be revived, but we are reaching the end of the third phase of a coopted collaborationist Palestinian leadership which is able to keep the Palestinian people quiet on behalf of Israel. And the edifice is now slowly crumbling. I can’t tell you how long that crumbling will take, I can’t tell you how it will end, but it’s something that can’t be put together and restored. The Palestinian leaders who signed the Oslo accords, and agreed to become the enforcers of the occupation for Israel while promising their people that it would end in a state have lost all credibility, they can no longer play the game. I think that this is a moment, really it’s not just a moment of truth for the Palestinians, but also for Israel, because the collapse of the Oslo regime, the collapse of the managed occupation lays bare the reality: that you have through historic Palestine, Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip taken together, you have a reality of a de facto binational state. You have a country of 11 million people where just over half of the population are Israeli Jews and where just under half are Palestinians, but the trend is clear, that Palestinians are becoming a majority once again.

We can all describe in detail the suffering inflicted on Palestinians in Israel’s attempt to ethnically cleanse them, to reduce the population, to change the demographics of Jerusalem. Literally every day now houses are being demolished in occupied East Jerusalem and in Silwan. And every night the Nakba that began in 1948 continues to expand. Every night there are new families sleeping in tents by the rubble of their homes. The Nakba is continuing in 2009. Despite that, despite that, I would say the following: if the goal of the Zionist project was to take this country which had an indigenous people who were Arab, who were Palestinian, who were Muslim, who were Christian, and turn it into a country of European Jews, then this strategy has failed, because there are more Palestinians living on the national soil of Palestine than ever before, and there is no part of Palestine today where there are not Palestinians living. Whether it is in the Naqab, in Gaza, in Galilee, at the center of the country, throughout the West Bank, there are very few areas where there is not a Palestinian population. So this is the tremendous failure of the Zionist project, the failure to ethnically cleanse this country. And despite the suffering it inflicted and that it continues to inflict, that is something to celebrate, that the indigenous people are still there. That they still exist on their land.

But of course it leaves Israel in a dilemma, because how can you have a Jewish state when the majority population will soon not be Jewish? The ideal solution from Israel’s perspective was to conceal this reality with the endless peace process, with the managed subcontracted occupation. But this no longer is working. So we’ve reached a moment of truth. And I think it’s important to recognize that the way these things end– nobody can read the future– but again we heard this morning about the very important comparison with South Africa. It’s not an identical situation, there are many differences that are worth exploring and discussing, but in our recent history it’s the closest parallel to the situation we have now, of a settler colonial community ruling over an indigenous people by force and facing tremendous resistance and demands by the indigenous people for their rights. And when you go back to the years before the apartheid regime ended– it ended officially in 1994–there was tremendous internal resistance in South Africa, huge uprisings that were very similar to what came a few years later in the first Palestinian intifada, massive strikes, massive protests, and the response of the apartheid state was to use enormous violence to suppress the protests in the townships.

The point I want to make here is that all of this resistance never succeeded in really changing the balance of physical coercive power. The whites always effectively retained a monopoly on military and physical force, and the anti-apartheid movement never really changed that. They didn’t defeat the apartheid regime militarily. The balance of power never changed. What happened and what I think was crucial is that the apartheid regime, which had enjoyed considerable legitimacy among Europeans and Americans up until at least the 1950s, began to lose its legitimacy. Up to that point in Britain and in other parts of Europe, there was tremendous sympathy for what was called “the predicament” of whites in Africa, in the context of decolonization.

The loss of legitimacy in the practices of the apartheid regime is what changed, and when a system loses its legitimacy, all the weapons in the world cannot protect it. And that’s what we saw in South Africa. Once it got to the point that the regime could only remain in power through violence and repression, whites in South Africa lost the will to maintain it. Because they knew that the price was increasing international isolation and being seen as pariahs. And once they reached that point, then they were willing to start talking about democracy and equal rights.

You have to remember that the African National Congress put forward the Freedom Charter in 1955. It never changed. The message from the resistance in South Africa was consistent: Our demand is for freedom, for one person/one vote, for equality, for decolonization, it never changed. But as long as whites felt immune to the effects of apartheid, as long as they could get away with it, they had no incentive to read the Freedom Charter, and they could demonize Africans as much as they wanted and say these people are barbarians, and if we were to let them get their hands on the levers of power they would slaughter us in our beds, whites would be thrown into the sea. It was costless for them to say that. Once internal resistance and international solidarity in the form of boycott, divestment, and sanctions raised the cost of the status quo for the apartheid regime and those who benefited from it, then they said, OK, let’s talk, let’s hear what you have to say, what your vision is for the future of South Africa. So BDS created the conditions for dialogue and ultimately for the end to the conflict that were impossible as long as that balance of power was unchallenged.

I would argue that we are beginning to see, I don’t think it’s yet at full speed, but we’re beginning to see a similar loss of legitimacy for Zionism and for the practices that Israel has engaged in. And many Israelis worry about this very openly. I am convinced that the loss of legitimacy of the Zionist idea, of the idea of a special state for a special people, is irreversible, that that cannot be resurrected in the 21st century, a time when we at least preach if not practice universal rights and equality. Israel’s self-image as a liberal Jewish and democratic state is impossible to maintain against the reality of a militarized, ultranationalist, sectarian Jewish settler colony that has to carry out regular massacres of indigenous civilians in order to maintain its control. Zionism simply cannot bomb, kidnap, assassinate, expel, demolish, settle, and lie its way to legitimacy and acceptance, and 62 years of Palestinian steadfastness, sumud, resistance have proven that time and again.

As I’ve mentioned, it’s ever harder to disguise this loss of legitimacy when you have a Jewish minority ruling over a disenfranchised Palestinian majority. Recently you will have noticed the Israeli government’s new demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s quote unquote right to exist as a Jewish state as a condition for peace. Many people are outraged by that. I’m frankly quite comforted by it. [Laughter] I’ll tell you why. Because that demand is really an acknowledgment of failure. It’s an acknowledgement that without Palestinian consent, the Zionist project and the Jewish ethnocracy in Palestine cannot be maintained, and I think it has zero long term prospects.

And I think what is so significant about the moment we’re in is that the Israel lobby, the many pro-Israel groups in this country and around the world, recognize this moment, and if you look back to last spring, to May, a speech given by the executive director of AIPAC at its annual policy conference, AIPAC is of course the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, and this was just months after the massacres in Gaza, and Howard Kohr, the executive director, made really quite a remarkable and revealing speech in which he talks about the increasing discourse about the illegitimacy of what Israel is doing and how it’s constituted. He talks about what he calls the campaign of the delegitimization of Israel. I would say that Israel has delegitimized itself through its actions, but let’s stay with him for a minute.

The epicenter of this campaign may be in the Middle East, but the campaign doesn’t stop there. It echoes in the halls of the United Nations and the capitals of Europe. But the campaign doesn’t stop there. It is voiced without shame and without sanction in meetings of international organizations that claim peace and partnership as their mandate. But the campaign doesn’t stop there. It is coming home right here to the United States. We see it already on our college campuses, America’s elite institutions of higher learning, the places we’ve entrusted with the education of our children.

But the campaign doesn’t stop there. No longer is this campaign confined to the ravings of the political far left or far right, but increasingly it is entering the American mainstream: an ordinary political discourse on our T.V. and radio talk shows, in the pages of our major newspapers and in countless blogs, in town hall meetings, on campuses and city squares, in Los Angeles, in Fort Lauderdale, in Chicago–

He calls this and this I think is very crucial to understand the fear of the Israel lobby—“this is a conscious campaign to shift policy, to transform the way Israel is treated by its friends to a state that deserves not our support, but our contempt”—I’m skipping—“These voices are laying the predicate for abandonment, they’re making the case for Israel’s unworthiness to be allowed what is for any nation the first and foremost fundamental right, the right to self defense.”

Of course, that’s in the context of the massacres in Gaza that he supports. So he goes on in this light. And it’s quite interesting. There’s one thing that I thought was very funny. Not funny but striking. He says, “This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the world. A battle in which the defamation of Israel”– what I would call arguing for equal rights and justice and accountability—“is like the artillery before the main assault, the key element in the softening up of the target.”

This is so striking, three months after Gaza, he’s talking about us using artillery, we who are talking about the nonviolent BDS movement are the ones using artillery, and Israel, which rained white phosphorus and howitzer shells on residential neighborhoods and schools and mosques and ministry buildings and police stations across Gaza is the victim. It’s a very interesting reversal of language.

Finally, what’s the solution from the perspective of AIPAC? He says, “So this evening let me say to everyone in this room, We have a job to do, we have a story to tell, a story that’s often overlooked. And that is a remarkable story of the true Israel.”

I think we actually have exactly the same job! [Laughter]

“We must tell the story of Israel, who she is, what she does, and what she stands for in the world—“ Again we have the same mission. “And that truth will defeat the deformed vision of hate that seeks to separate Israel from her friends.” Yeah! [Laughter]

What is that message, and this is the crucial point: At the end of the period of managed occupation, when the apartheid and colonial reality of the Israeli system is laid bare, what is the message? What is the story they have to tell?

Here’s what it amounts to: “Israel, the only country in the middle east to host a gay pride parade. The Israel that draws energy from the sun, water from the air. The Israel that takes seriously the admonition to be a light unto the nations. The country that opened its doors to the Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s, Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s and 90s. To refugees from more than 100 countries.” Except Palestine! “People from different cultures and countries that have built new lives in Israel.”

What’s interesting about this is you’ve got a couple of themes here. The gay pride parade, they call that gaywashing. When you use the idea that Israel has a gay pride parade. So that makes it OK to attack schools with white phosphorus. That’s called gay washing. That Israel draws energy from the sun and water from the air. That’s called green washing.

That Israel takes seriously the admonition to be a light unto the nations, that it opens its doors to refugees, etc. Well you may have seen the headline in Haaretz two weeks ago, that Israel is considering setting up what it calls work camps in the Negev desert for refugees mostly from Africa who are awaiting ajudication of their asylum claims, and the deal according to Haaretz was that the refugees would be housed in this camp, they would be bused to places during the day where they would work, and they would then be returned to camps in the evening, and in exchange they would receive food. I think there’s a term for that. It’s called slavery. Because even slaves for the most part received room and board, just as a matter of keeping them alive. So the Israel that is open to refugees is an Israel that in 2009 is considering setting up slave labor camps.

The point that I want to make from this is that I don’t think there is a message. You cannot gay wash and greenwash and white wash your way out of this. You cannot say well, Israel makes wonderful pharmaceuticals so don’t worry about what’s happening in Gaza. It’s not going to work. It’s too late for that. And I think this message cannot be retooled. And I think we’re at a point where Israel is still incredibly powerful. But I think in a sense it is running on inertia, accumulated power, accumulated prestige. It’s like someone whose bank account is very full, but they’re spending it, and they have to spend it very quickly.

Now we in our movement have a very small bank account. Im not talking literally about money, I’m taking about political power and moral legitimacy and support and a just vision that includes everyone. We have a small bank account, but we have an income. We’re growing it. Israel has a big bank account but there’s no income. I don’t see Israel being able to recruit a new generation to carry this message. I think that the success of American Jews is that they’re fully integrated into this society, that young American Jews have imbibed the universal message of the civil rights movement, and they want nothing to do with this thing… Israel is like a lemon and these Israel lobby groups have to try to sell it as if it’s a Lexus, and nobody is buying this lemon anymore.

Now that may sound a little bit rosy and I don’t want to make you think this is is all very easy and inevitable. Because it isn’t. The other side of this, which is very, very important, is that there is a tremendous, tremendous struggle to be waged, which is why the work that you’re doing in this movement is so important. And a just outcome is not inevitable. Israel has tremendous power, it has the capacity to do tremendous violence. There are many people who think Gaza 2009 was just a foretaste of what’s to come, and the Israelis will go for broke, and they will try to do once again what they have failed to do for so long, which is to try cow and terrorize the Palestinians and other Arab peoples into submission.

So there are enormous dangers, it’s not inevitable. But what makes another attack on Gaza or on other parts of Palestine less likely every day is what we do. The more ruckus we raise, the more difficult we make it for Israeli war criminals to speak on our campuses, the more we raise awareness about the impact of Israeli occupation on Palestinians throughout the country, on the racism and second-class status of Palestinian citizens in Israel, the more people are aware through BDS activism, the harder it is for Israel to act freely. We have to provide the accountability with this movement that our governments have failed to provide, that the United Nations has failed to provide.

You will face many enemies. One of them is called J Street. [Applause] They took notice of you. I’m sure many of you have seen the press release which came out on Thursday, which says, “The upcoming conference at Hampshire College promotes the misguided BDS movement against Israel.” Here’s the good news. “This movement is spreading like wildfire–” [cheers] “–On campuses across the country, and we’re all going to get burned unless we speak out now.”

So they come up with this pathetic idea of, Invest two bucks, two dollars for two states. Is there any one in this room who will give me two dollars for two states? [Cry: “Never!”] I’m going to auction off the two-state solution. Two dollars? A dollar fifty? I see a dollar up there. But they say–this is serious, they say, “Join our Invest, don’t divest campaign” to raise money for two organizations. Lend for, a Palestinian micro finance organization set up by students like us. And the Center for Jewish Arab Economic Development, which promotes Jewish-Arab economic cooperation in Israel.

It’s important to know that these sorts of joint projects, most likely, I haven’t looked at these specific ones, are projects that were designed to give the impression of equality and reciprocity and that don’t challenge the reality of injustice– they violate the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. It’s really important to understand that they will push these things on your campuses in order to divert your attention and make people push their energy in a direction where it will have no impact whatsoever, because these sorts of feel-good joint projects, which are designed to legitimize Israel by saying, Oh let’s just get along, have been tried for years and years and they’ve made no difference.

There is a great sense that after trying to ignore the BDS movement for many years, it is starting to really get the notice of Israel. There was an article in the Financial Times yesterday. The headline, “Israel shrugs off economic boycott activism.” There’s a lot of bravado. They’re saying, You know it really hasn’t made much impact, and we can weather it. But the fact is, it is in the Financial Times, they’re starting to take notice. Today there is an article on ynet… the most widely read website in Israel…The headline, my translation: “Boycotts against Israel, are they succeeding and hurting?” This is today… It is affecting them, they are noticing, and they’re starting to get worried about it. So if you ever think, if you’re ever told, oh, this will never work, just read the Israeli press.

It is starting to have the effect that we want, of forcing the Israelis to do what they don’t want to do, which is some introspection, some real rethinking of the situation and how to get out of it.

I want to close with some observations about what comes next. I think– I’ve argued, and I don’t think it’s a tough case to make in this room, that BDS is essential, BDS is a tool to level the playing field, to provide solidarity and strength to Palestinians who are resisting, and standing steadfast, wherever they are, whether in Palestine, in Israel, or in the refugee camps, here in the United States, everywhere where Palestinians are. It’s a way to say– you know, many people say the Palestinians are among the most lectured people on earth. They’re always told, if you’re the U.S. Secretary of State: Palestians must do more, and then there’s a whole list. And even friends of the Palestinans, say, you know, if only the Palestinians could be more like Gandhi. I hear that all the time. They never say to the Israelis, if only the Israelis could be more like Gandhi. Can you imagine the Israeli settlers behaving like Gandhi. There wouldn’t be any settlements, that’s for sure.

I think those words are very cheap. To tell people who are fighting for their very existence, not to resist, not to use violence, from the safety of Canada or the US, is a bit rich. [Applause] But that doesn’t mean that we should abandon a belief in nonviolence, or that we should advocate violence. I’m certainly not saying we should advocate violence. [Applause] I’m simply saying if you’re against violence, then provide an alternative, and the alternative is BDS. As Fayyad [Sbaihat] said this morning [on a panel]… Do you have any better ideas?

This is a proven strategy. This is a tactic that will work. As we saw in this morning’s session, It’s a noble and honorable strategy that worked in the civil rights movement. It worked in the case of South Africa… It worked in Northern Ireland, with the MacBride principles… to divest in companies that discriminated against native Irish Catholics in the north of Ireland…There are many examples of BDS and BDS-like strategies working. So the alternative is up to us to provide.

There is now this hot debate about a one-state solution or two-state solution. And many people have honest questions about it. You know where I stand. But that doesn’t mean you have to agree with me. But the BDS call, the call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel from Palestinian civil society, does not call for a one state solution or a two state solution. It names three kinds of Israeli injustice and oppression that have to be ended.

One, denial of Israel’s responsibility for the Nakba, and particularly the waves of ethnic cleansing and dispossession that created the Palestinian refugee problem, and therefore refusal to accept the inalienable rights of the refugees displaced, and stipulated and protected by international law. Secondly, military occupation and colonization of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza. And thirdly, the entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel that resembles the defunct apartheid system in South Africa.

It’s important that whether you think about one state or two state, that all these forms of oppression have to be ended. If tomorrow we woke up and saw that Israel had withdrawn from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, admittedly not very likely, that leaves two-thirds of the problem intact. The oppression of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the racist oppression of Palestinian refugees who are denied the right to return to their homeland for the sole reason that they’re from the wrong ethnic group, that’s simply unconscionable in the 21st century.

It’s important to keep our eye on all three aspects of the systematic injustice against Palestinians. And to recognize– we can discuss and debate and we can advocate what an outcome would look like. I think we need to have that discussion, and with the corercion of the BDS movement, to begin to have a vision, that can start to draw Israelis, once they recognize that the present system is untenable. And BDS creates the conditions for us to begin to have that discussion.

I want to end by saying something that really I believe very, very deeply when I look around this room. When I think of my parents and the parents of many other people in this room, many Palestinians in this room and beyond this room– my parents were from the generation that lived through the Nakba, that lost their homes and lost their country, and they were among the lucky ones. But those in Gaza, 80 percent of people in Gaza are refugees. In Lebanon, in Syria, in Jordan. All over the world, I believe that that generation, the first generation of the Nakba, who is now getting on in years, but hamdililah many of them are still young and in good health and may they live long lives, but that generation deserves to see justice in its lifetime. [Applause]

And when I look around this room, I am convinced with all my heart and all my mind, that this is the generation that is going to help them see that justice. Be patient and stay in it for the long haul, history is on our side, and we can win. Thank you.

Mondoweiss Editors

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25 Responses

  1. echinococcus on November 29, 2019, 5:13 pm

    “As I’ve mentioned, it’s ever harder to disguise this loss of legitimacy when you have a Jewish ruling over a disenfranchised Palestinian majority”

    And now that they tested the waters, the “Jewish minority” decided to hell with legitimacy — they discover now that they worried about loss of legitimacy and loss of Western approval when there was no real need for it. Not when Uncle Sam can crush the so–called West under his iron heel.

    That’s precisely why the story about *having to*, necessarily, give equal rights to the owners of the country when annexing is pure nonsense. There is no such need. The ongoing genocide will not attract any serious opposition.

  2. Misterioso on November 30, 2019, 10:27 am

    To be brief:
    The “special relationship” between the U.S., a declining power, and “Israel” is under increasing strain and will inevitably end. Indeed, “Israel’s” image is plummeting around the world. Hardly a surprise.

    There are just not enough Jewish babies being born between the River and the Sea. Also, as has been repeatedly reported, Jewish emigration is soaring and immigration is falling. Meanwhile, with one of the world’s highest fertiliy rates, the native Palestinian Arab population continues to grow. Nor should we forget that Zionism is losing favor among Jews around the world, especially youth.

    Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly in terms of 21st century geopolitics and international trade etc., it is estimated that in about 20-25 years their will be three billion Muslims worldwide, 600 million Arabs, including about 10-12 million Palestinians between the River and the Sea, 150 million Iranians and 150 million Turks – a massive and powerful market. The writing is on the wall. Sooner or later, all nations act in their own best interests and America will not be an exception.

    • Cabe on December 1, 2019, 12:54 pm

      The demographic question is really quite central, especially to the issue of one state versus two. That is, since Israel still holds the cards, the Israelis can either have a truly binational state where the Palestinians have at least half of the power, which would indeed be the end of Zionism, or they can get rid of the Palestinian majority by divesting themselves of the West Bank and Gaza, creating a separate Palestinian state there, while the remaining Palestinian minority in Green-Line Israel continues to militate for equality and full civil rights. That would at least leave a state which is three quarters Jewish. But, oh no, they had to go for the whole hog, just as nationalists always try to do, especially settler colonialist nationalists.
      So what do they see as their way out? No doubt they would like to expel all the Palestinians, even the Israeli citizen ones, as various Israeli public figures and others often threaten. They dream of some breakdown in world order, under the cover of which they could do that. But that would not be easy to do, even to physically move the Palestinians out, and the Palestinians won’t leave quietly or easily now. Even if that were to happen, they would only be unleashing a huge Palestinian population on the world that would make things worse for them, everywhere and immediately. Thus, that is no solution at all.
      As for moving the oft-repeated Israeli proposal to move all the Palestinians into Jordan, that is also stale (not to mention immoral), because Jordan is full. While Jordan on the map looks bigger, in reality the habitable area of Jordan is much smaller than that between the Jordan River and the sea where Israel is. As Jordan has nearly the same population, it is in effect more densely populated already despite being a less hospitable area. Who could have imagined that Amman, the capital of that mini-state, would become a major city with five and a half million people, nearly as many as the whole Jewish Israeli population, far exceeding any Israeli city in size? Who could have guessed that the small town of Irbid would now number two million inhabitants, which also surpasses all Israeli cities, unless one counts the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv along the coast? And Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel, and Jordan and its Palestinian population have been quiescent, so why would the Israelis want to wreck that? They would just make things worse for themselves, and accelerate the delegitimation that Abunimah is talking about.
      However, it might be true that the Israelis never miss a chance to harm their own cause.
      As for the Arab and Muslim population growth mentioned by the writer, that may not materialize so much. Turkish and Iranian population growth has leveled off, and each of them may never attain more than about 90 million each. While the Arab world may still grow some, particularly put-upon countries like Yemen, Sudan, Iraq, and Syria, the trend of the total fertility rate overall is downward, and there is likely to be some limit reached. The habitable part of Egypt, with 100 million people, is the most densely populated area in the world, and it seems unlikely to me that it could double again. And of course the Palestinian population is likely to continue to grow, albeit at a reduced rate, as fertility is falling everywhere.

  3. dsowd on November 30, 2019, 11:24 am

    Link (in first paragraph) seems to be broken. Already.

  4. Nathan on December 2, 2019, 1:32 pm

    It’s not prophecy; rather, Ali Abunimah is sharing with us his wishful thinking. He would like to believe that soon “we can win”, and therefore his interpretation of events is a function of that belief system. Ali Abunimah is convinced that in the 21st century, the idea of a special state for a special people will become illegitimate. It’s hard to imagine how one arrives at such a conclusion. There is a state for the Lithuanians, and a state for the Hungarians. There is a state for the Danes, and there is a state for the Slovaks. There is talk about a future state for the Scots and for the Catalonians – and the Palestinians have been demanding for years that there be a Palestinian state (and there is a representative of the State of Palestine in the UN)! A special state for a special people seems to be the way things are in the 21st century.

    Obviously, Ali Abunimah wants to say that it will become illegitimate for there to be a state for the Jews (he wasn’t talking about special states for special peoples in general). It’s really hard to explain to anti-Israel people that there’s an entire world out there that does not share their anti-Israel agenda. Here’s the simple truth: A state was founded for the Jews already a very long time ago, and that’s that. Once upon a time, there was a debate if a Jewish state should be founded, but the debate is over. In the anti-Israel crowd, the debate is still on, and apparently there is a self-deception that everyone is busy with the legitimacy of Israel.

    Another example of wishful thinking is the belief that the American Jews are abandoning the idea of a Jewish state. It’s actually a double wishful thinking. It’s as if an anti-Israel activist believes that (1) the Jews are forsaking Israel and (2) the state can’t exist without American Jewry. Let me try to be helpful and explain to anti-Israel people how non-anti-Israel (“regular”) people think. Regular Jewish people have solidarity with their fellow Jews. Moreover, regular Jewish people know that Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jews and that the birth of Israel is the fulfillment of their ancient dreams.

    It would be an extremely interesting article if someone at Mondoweiss would get a hold of some newspapers from the Arab world of the 1950’s and the 1960’s, and present a report of how the Arab world viewed Israel’s future in those decades. Actually, it would be a repeat of all this wishful thinking. Every problem or any crisis in Israeli society and politics was a “clear indication” that very soon it’s all over. Since the reality of Israel was just impossible to accept, the conclusion was that it will simply go away somehow.

    It would be a better use of energy thinking about how to solve the conflict rather than pretending that victory (“we can win”) is just around the propaganda corner.

    • eljay on December 2, 2019, 2:20 pm

      || Nathan: … There is a state for the Lithuanians, and a state for the Hungarians. There is a state for the Danes, and there is a state for the Slovaks. There is talk about a future state for the Scots and for the Catalonians – and the Palestinians have been demanding for years that there be a Palestinian state … ||

      And Jewish is the religion-based identity that a subset of the people living in every one of those states (as well as Israel) have chosen to embrace.

      Jewish isn’t a region, a state or even a bureaucratic nationality.

      || … regular Jewish people know that Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jews … ||

      Except that it isn’t. Neither the State of Israel nor the geographic region of Palestine is the ancient / historic / eternal / lost / one true homeland of every person in the world – every citizen of every homeland throughout the world – who has chosen to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish.

      || … It would be a better use of energy thinking about how to solve the conflict rather than pretending that victory (“we can win”) is just around the propaganda corner. ||

      It would be a better use of energy for Zionist and the “moral beacon” and “light unto the nations” State of Israel to stop pretending that they want to resolve the conflict and to start taking just and moral steps to resolve it, including:
      – ending the on-going occupation and colonization of territory outside of Israel’s / Partition borders;
      – reforming Israel from a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” primarily of and for Jewish Israelis and non-Israeli Jews into the secular and democratic Israeli state of and for all of its Israeli citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally;
      – honouring its obligations under international law; and
      – accepting responsibility and accountability for its past and on-going (war) crimes.

      • Rosetta on December 3, 2019, 5:21 pm

        More to the point, if Jews had a right to a homeland and self-determination then so would every religion. And if they did, Jews would have a right to a bit of Iraq where their religion began and it would be Christians who had a right to some of Palestine where their religion began. However, religions do not get land rights.

        Religions do not make a race, an ethnicity or people beyond religious metaphor.

    • bcg on December 2, 2019, 3:05 pm

      @Nathan: Why doesn’t Israel recognize the “right to existence” of a Palestinian state?

      • Rosetta on December 3, 2019, 5:19 pm

        Because the goal of Zionist Israel is to remove all non-Jews, in this case, Palestinians, so that all of Palestine can become Israel and with luck, one more step toward Eretz Israel. Zionist Israel does not want Palestine to exist in any way, shape or form which is why it denies that it has existed in the past, when patently it has.

        Indeed, the ancient Egyptians some 5,000 years ago mentioned Palestine and Palestinians and being invaded by Palestinians. They did that some 3,000 years before mentioning a tribe called Judea moving into Palestine or Canaan as the Bible calls it, and setting up camp.

        Jews have always been colonists in Palestine.

    • oldgeezer on December 2, 2019, 8:08 pm


      There is no legitimate dispute. There are oppressed people being denied their basic rights and the criminal behaviour of the Israeli state. The solution is the application and adherence to international law.

      I know you feel that some novel solution the brings it to an end is a better pursuit but you only feel that way because you want a solution which benefits Israel and allows them to keep the fruits of their criminality.

      Surprisingly no moral person, and certainly no law abiding person, would agree with you.

      Clearly I cant see a war situation happening due to Israel having nukes but sanctions can bring about the changes needed or at the very least ensure that Israel doesnt enjoy it’s ill gotten gains which it has murdered 10s of thousands to steal. Even if nukes were not involved I personally wouldn’t support a war regardless.

      It may be a long term game but so be it. Until the Palestinians decide for themselves they want something different then the only moral stance is to stand with them.

      It will get nasty though and Israel supporters are seeing to that now. Trampling on our rights and freedoms will have a blowback effect. But then Zionists are counting on Jewish people outside of Israel to take the brunt of that together with many of them being forced to join the rogue outlaw apartheid state. No big deal as it’s not like Zionists ever cared about Jewish people when they were under threat before. Really a bad little death cult that Zionists have going on.

      • Rosetta on December 3, 2019, 2:33 am

        The other factor which has played a part is technology. In this day and age when Israel bombs the men, women and children imprisoned in Gaza, the world at large sees much of the carnage.

        Social media allows the reality of Israel’s brutal occupation and colonisation of Palestine to be spread instantly around the world, including the US, which has perhaps been the most brainwashed in regard to the Zionist State.

        There is nothing Israel can do in this age to justify itself. It was always immoral and probably illegal, although its borders have never been tested in a court of law, but the UN had no right to partition a sovereign country, Palestine, against the wishes of the people living there, in the name of followers of one religion.

        Israel was founded on religious bigotry which is why Palestinian Jews were offered immediate citizenship, some Christians and Muslims were later offered citizenship, which turned out to be second-class, and the majority of Palestinians, because they are non-Jews, have been offered nothing except subjugation and dispossession.

        The only reason Israel has not done what every other nation founded in historically recent times through colonisation has done, is create one state with equal rights for all where the land is shared by the colonised and the coloniser alike is because Israel demands a Jewish majority.

        There is no way the US, Canada or Australia, three relatively recent nations founded through colonisation would have been allowed to do to their indigenous peoples what Israel does to the Palestinians.

        Ignorance has allowed the Zionist State of Israel to get away with murder for seven decades. But no more.

      • MHughes976 on December 3, 2019, 12:57 pm

        I’m not at all sure of ‘no more’, Rosetta. Religious teachings and other fanatical ideologies can survive an awful lot of what might seem very like discredit or refutation.

      • echinococcus on December 3, 2019, 6:09 pm

        “Religious teachings and other fanatical ideologies can survive an awful lot of what might seem very like discredit or refutation”

        To discharge the religiously-minded people of some of the responsibility, allow me to add something about the belief that belief has anything to do with logic and is amenable to factual discussion. Believing that any logical or factual argument has any effect on the believer is also the result of fanatical ideologies (all of which should properly subsumed under the heading of religious superstition.) For a random example, refer to, I don’t know… what about Zionism.

      • MHughes976 on December 4, 2019, 4:44 pm

        Good example, echino! Why didn’t I think of it?

    • echinococcus on December 3, 2019, 12:52 am

      There is a state for the Lithuanians, including Jewish Lithuanians, and a state for the Hungarians, including Hungarians who happen to be Jewish or even imagine themselves to be Jewish. There is a state for the Danes, which is the homeland of all Danish Jews, and there is a state for the Slovaks that includes all Jewish Slovaks among its citizens, without discrimination. There is talk about a future state for the Scots and for the Catalonians, of course comprising the full contingent of Jewish Scots and Catalans, the latter including by law any people certified as being of Sefardí origin, even if with no religion, who would choose Catalonia as a place to settle – and the Palestinians have been demanding for years that there be a Palestinian state, including all certified offspring of Palestinian Jews, ie those who were Palestinian subjects of the Ottomans as of 1897 or even at a later date if so desired by the generality of the Palestinian people.

      Nothing exceptional in all that, “Nathan”, and thank your Propaganda Ministry for reminding us of this basic fact. One wonders why you forget to mention that a certain proportion of people of said nationality and homelands are Jewish (and a much, much larger proportion it is, if you count them according to your stone-age tribal definition!)

    • RoHa on December 3, 2019, 1:03 am

      “A special state for a special people seems to be the way things are in the 21st century.”

      And how is “a people” defined? In many cases, the people of the state are defined geographically and bureaucratically. The state of Denmark is for people born and brought up in Denmark, and holding Danish citizenship. Those are the Danes.

      And the 21st Century has a fair number of states which chug along fairly well in spite of having an ethnically mixed population . Prime examples are India, Malaysia, China, Brazil and Canada, the USA and Australia, and even New Zealand, if it really exists.

      Not to say all is sweetness and light in those states, but they exist.

      “Once upon a time, there was a debate if a Jewish state should be founded, but the debate is over. In the anti-Israel crowd, the debate is still on,”

      In the anti-Israel crowd, the debate is over, and the result is agreement that the Jewish state should not have been founded.

      Since it was founded, the debate now is whether the Jewish state should be maintained.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on December 3, 2019, 10:52 am

      “There is a state for the Lithuanians, and a state for the Hungarians. There is a state for the Danes, and there is a state for the Slovaks”

      Really very bad comparison. All of the states you mention are states for their CITIZENS – of all ethnicities and religions (if any). It may not be perfectly applied in some or all of them, but that at least is the principle. Israel, by contrast, is not the state of its citizens, nor does it claim to be. It is the state of one religious group only. Members of that group, even if they were born and raised on the other side of the world, have automatic rights there, while people who are not members of that group but who can trace their ancestry in the land back hundreds of years, are not accorded those rights. So your comparison fails at the first hurdle.

      “Moreover, regular Jewish people know that Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jews and that the birth of Israel is the fulfillment of their ancient dreams.”

      Yeah, who cares that Israel has been a catastrophe for millions of people, so long as folks in New York get to enjoy “the fulfillment of their ancient dreams”? At a safe distance, of course. Very few of them would actually want to go and live in the dump.

    • Talkback on December 3, 2019, 11:28 am

      Nathan: “There is a state for the Lithuanians, and a state for the Hungarians. There is a state for the Danes, and there is a state for the Slovaks. There is talk about a future state for the Scots and for the Catalonians – and the Palestinians have been demanding for years that there be a Palestinian state (and there is a representative of the State of Palestine in the UN)! A special state for a special people seems to be the way things are in the 21st century”.”

      It’s not a surprise that you are listing existing or potential constititutive people representing all the citizen of the state on the one hand, but want to make a case for a “special state for a special people” on the other which is neither a state for all of its citizens nor are its self declared nation a constitutive people, but the result of blatant and violently enforced settler colonialism, including the expulsion of the majority of its rightfull citizens. That’s Jewish Zionist supremacy and exceptionalism in a nutshell. Full bore Apartheid.

      Thank you Nathan for making it painfully clear.

      • MHughes976 on December 3, 2019, 12:53 pm

        The people who are special in each of the normal states mentioned are those who are legitimate residents by birth or immigration without any major discrimination on grounds of religion or remote ancestry. If only…But Lithuania, Belgium, Hungary etc. do not think of following special rules set by an interpretation of the Bible.

  5. Rosetta on December 3, 2019, 2:02 am

    The reality for Israel is that times change and that means what was once accepted will no longer be tolerated.

    There was a time when women were denied equal rights; indeed when most were denied a vote; when it was acceptable to use children from the age of five as factory workers; when colonisation was considered to be both necessary, and as a part of human evolution it was, for a long time, and acceptable and when slavery was accepted, as it had been for thousands of years.

    But times changed and all of these wrongs had to be righted. In 1947 it was possible for the UN and many in the world to sanction a European colony in Palestine in the name of followers of Judaism. That would not be tolerated today. The mere concept that a state could be set up for followers of one religion, thereby disenfranchising and subjugating all others, is anathema in a modern democratic world.

    In short, Israel as a concept is an idea whose time has run out. For all the talk of peace this issue has only ever been about justice and in a just, civilized and modern world, Israel’s occupation and colonisation and denial of human and civil rights cannot and will not be tolerated.

  6. Rosetta on December 4, 2019, 1:32 am


    you appear to miss the point but of course you must.

    Lithuania and Hungary are nations. Judaism is a religion. Judaism is not a nation. If you convert to Judaism you do not change race or nationality and ditto if you drop the religion or convert to another. The fact that as religious metaphor Judaism calls itself a nation is about as relevant as Indian Jains believing their religion is millions of years old.

    The Palestinians had their country stolen by European colonists. Sure, plenty of people have endured that but, name one other nation claiming to be a Western democracy which today, denies human and civil rights and full equality to the people of the land it colonised? There are none, bar Israel.

    And no, a State was not founded for Jews thousands of years ago because the concept of State did not exist. Even Germany and Italy were not states until the 19th century despite being countries for centuries. The concept of nation-state is modern and it applies to countries and NOT to religions.

    If Judaism was entitled to a State then all religion would be so entitled.

    As it is, around 20% of Israeli citizens, albeit second-class are not Jews and many of the rest are not really Jews either. I know the Zionists like to believe you can be a secular/atheist Jew but such a concept is ridiculous and has no place in any religion.

    You are not a Jew because you had one Jewish grandparent and yet many Israelis landed immediate citizenship in Israel on such a concept of Jewishness. While non-Jews, holding keys to homes where their family lived for a thousand years have no such rights.

    People are not anti-Israel per se: I think most people accept that Israel exists despite being founded on an egregious wrong of colonisation. The clock mostly cannot be turned back. However, modern values and standards can be applied and that means Israel must create one state with equal rights for all where the colonisers and the colonised Palestinians share the land as citizens.

    You said: Moreover, regular Jewish people know that Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jews and that the birth of Israel is the fulfillment of their ancient dreams.

    No, Palestine is not the ancient homeland of Jews in any real sense. The Jews, like many tribes, wandered into Palestine and set up camp a few thousand years ago. Most then wandered out. If religions had landrights then Jews would have rights to a bit of Iraq where their religion began and it would be Christians who had rights to a bit of Palestine.

    More to the point, most of the world does not give a toss what Jewish religious books have to say. This is why we have principles of rule of law, justice, human rights – because they apply to everyone equally regardless of religion.

    You said: It would be an extremely interesting article if someone at Mondoweiss would get a hold of some newspapers from the Arab world of the 1950’s and the 1960’s, and present a report of how the Arab world viewed Israel’s future in those decades.

    And that would be surprising how? The Palestinians resisted the European invaders as the French resisted German invaders and the Chinese resisted Japanese invaders. And they called on their allies in the Arab world, just as France called on its allies in the European and then Western world.

    Israel does not have to go away but it must join the democratic Western world. It cannot keep millions of people under military occupation and deny them human and civil rights in the name of religion. Neither can it kill or drive out all those millions. Israel must do what every other coloniser has had to do, create one state with equal rights for all.

    Sure, it won’t be a Jewish State, a religious theocracy but it will be a democracy and both Israelis and Palestinians deserve that.

    • Nathan on December 5, 2019, 6:09 am

      Rosetta – You’re absolutely right that “Judaism is not a nation”. Indeed, Judaism is a religion. However, you tell us that the Jews are a tribe that wandered into Palestine thousands of years ago. Obviously, you meant to belittle the Jewish narrative, and so you didn’t mention such a trivial issue such as the establishment of a kingdom by that tribe that merely wandered in and out. However, just paying attention to the very little that you are willing to grant the Jews (an ancient tribe), one can’t help but notice that you have accepted as true that the Jews are an ethnicity, a group identity based on a perceived common descent. So, although you have written quite a long comment trying to claim that the definition of the Jews is only in the realm of religion, your mentioning of a tribe was an admittance that you too know that the identity of the Jews is a peoplehood identity.

      Since you tell us that “most of the world doesn’t give a toss what Jewish religious books have to say” (about the ancient Jewish homeland), I understand that it is significant to you what most of the world thinks. If so, allow me to remind you that the UN General Assembly passed a resolution on 29 Nov. 1947 calling for the founding of a JEWISH state and an ARAB state in Palestine. Notice that “Jewish” is parallel to “Arab” (the UN decision did not say Moslem or Christian). Obviously, the Arabs are an ethnic group, and so we understand that “most of the world” (the General Assembly of 1947) defines the Jews as an ethnic group as well.

      So, indeed, Judaism is a religion. It is the religion that is the creation of the Judeans (the Jews). The Jews define themselves as a distinct people (nation, ethnicity), and even others define the Jews as such. It’s so common among the anti-Israel crowd to pretend that the way that they see things is the only way that things can be seen. However, identity is an abstract concept. It’s in the realm of thought, and no one has a monopoly on thought. There are millions of Jews who perceive themselves as a nation with roots in ancient Judah, and they wish to express that common identity through the establishment of a Jewish state. Your agreement or the agreement of the world is not a necessary component in the realization of such aspirations; however it’s nice to hear from you that you too define the Jews as a people (a tribe). And it’s nice to remember that even “most of the world” accepted the idea of Jewish statehood as the legitimate expression of that peoplehood identity.

      • Mooser on December 5, 2019, 7:23 pm

        And just in case anybody has any doubts, every other Jewish person on earth thinks about themselves exactly, exactly, as “Nathan” says they do. Or says he thinks about himself.
        I mean, what choice do they have?

      • Talkback on December 6, 2019, 5:39 am

        Nathan: “one can’t help but notice that you have accepted as true that the Jews are an ethnicity, a group identity based on a perceived common descent.”

        Which totally ignores the facts that 1.) Jews started as a spiritual movement not an ethnicity 2.) Judaism has been spiritually corrupted so much for a long time that descendency and not spiritual ideals have become the base of this identity. 3.) that every first Jew in a “lineage” is a convert, 3. ) (theoretically) anyone can become Jewish by conversion and 5.) it is completely irrelevant and doesn’t lead to any national rights.

        Nathan: ““most of the world” (the General Assembly of 1947) defines the Jews as an ethnic group as well.”

        First of all we are only talking about 33 countries, most of them with colonial history plus the states that were financially forced by the US to vote positively to achieve the necessary votes. (The voting had to be postponed several times to make sure the result has the right outcome.) Secondly the fact that one side was called “Jewish” and the other one “Arab” doesn’t mean that “Jewish” is an ethnicity. There is simply no other way to refer to Jews than by writing “Jewish”. Duh.

        Btw. if “Judeans” is the source for the word “Jews” it seems strange that the word Israel is used and territorial claims are made that go beyond ancient Judea. Why didn’t the UN refere to Judeans and not even to “Israelites”? Ah, that would be terms that refer to the people of a territory, the only legitimate souvereign. For example “Palestinians” of 1948.

        Nathan: “Your agreement or the agreement of the world is not a necessary component in the realization of such aspirations …”

        Again, if you think that Israel could have done and could do without the “agreement of the world” you neither know anything about international law nor about the fate of unrecognized states. And you most certainly are self deluded enough to think that Israel could live and defend itself on its own while it even fails to overcome a single HIsbollah brigade and has to resort to war crimes like carpet bombing and doctrines (Dahiya) that are based on this state terrorism.

        But here is a proposition! Why doesn’t Israel leave the United Nations? It’s not a peace loving country anyway. That was actually the opinion of what you would call “most of the world” until Zionists used the US to bully other countries again. But the Jewish aspiratiosn could have always done without the US, too, right? And of course without the former mandatory Great Britain, too. That’s how strong Jewish aspirations can be on their own. ROFL.

        I’m only surprised that Hertzl thought that the antisemites of this world would be the Zionist best allies. See the Haavaara agreement.

  7. Talkback on December 6, 2019, 5:56 am

    There is a single indicator that proves how Israel has lost its legitimacy. Hasbarah has collapsed and is only focussing on smearing, silencing and criminalizing opposition to Israel or its existence. After deligitimizing the Nonjews of Palestine it has started to deligitimize the whole world and undermining the constitution and fundemantal rights of other countries and their people. The Zionist disenfranchising of Nonjews is not stopping, but expanding beyond Palestine.

    Well, if that doesn’t increase negative feelings towards Jews I don’t know what could. I seriously believe that it is going to be the United States which is going to be the first Western state in which antisemitism will rise to a dangerous level. And when that happens Israel is done one way or the other.

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