FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ali Abunimah, The Battle for Justice in Palestine
The Battle for Justice in Palestine verges on being a scholarly work. The term “verges” here is not to diminish the book in any way. Few scholarly books aim to tell a story or create a narrative as this book does. The solid research in it is easy to detect throughout. There are 44 pages of end-notes and there is a 13-page index. Here is the author’s own description of the work, given on April 30th at the conclusion of a presentation at Vassar:
[In t]his book, I really wanted it to offer hope. Yes it offers analysis and some of it is hard and sobering analysis. But if we break out of the very narrow limits of what we’re allowed to think by the gatekeepers in the liberal thinktanks and elite media– I don’t include the rightwing thinktanks– there is scope for really exciting action.
In the context of Palestine, I talk in the book about the transformations that are taking place right now in South Africa and Northern Ireland. I don’t present them as utopian or trouble free or not problematic. I think we have to grapple with these things as they are.
But the notion that whites in South Africa or Protestants in Northern Ireland can agree to give up power even if they resisted every step of the way and still resist it, but that Israeli Jews are somehow incapable of coming to the same conclusions– that really strikes me as bigotry. What I argue in the book is that Israeli Jews as a settler colonial community are just like every other settler colonial community. When they understand the system is untenable, that the resistance can never be suppressed, that the outrage around the world is not just growing but being being mobilized into more and more effective forms of action, I believe they will come to the conclusion that they have to change course and embrace a future in which equality and restitution are the way forward.
And the importance of the boycott and divestment and sanctions movement [BDS] is that it hastens this day. Because nothing– nothing will prolong the suffering of Palestinians like inaction, like saying ‘let’s just have dialogue without action.’ [Applause.] ‘Let’s send John Kerry back for another round of negotiations.’ ‘Let’s support the peace process.’ These slogans should be buried. No matter where they come from. Whether it’s Martin Indyk, or Barack Obama, or anti-Palestinian organizations like AIPAC and J Street. [Applause]
Palestinians are calling for action. And it’s very logical, it’s very simple When someone feels unassailable, when their power is so great, they don’t have to listen to those who are demanding their rights. The principle of BDS is very simple, you put pressure on the strong, you exact a price for the status quo, and you do it ethically, and then you bring them to real negotiations. Thank you.
Ali Abunimah opens The Battle for Justice in Palestine with this statement:
The Palestinians are winning. That might seem like hubris or even insensitivity. After all, in so many ways things have never looked worse. As I write these words, 1.7 million people in the Gaza Strip face their darkest days. After years of Israeli siege and war, electricity is out for most people for up to eighteen hours a day. With no pumps to take it away, sewage floods the streets. The water supply is undrinkable and there’s no escape as Israel and its ally, the Egyptian military regime, keep Gaza’s borders under near-permanent closure.
A short distance away in the occupied West Bank, things are hardly better, as Israel—ruled by a triumphant and seemingly unassailable far right—relentlessly presses ahead with violent colonization aimed at “Judaizing” what remains of Palestinian land. In the past two decades, Israeli military occupation has been complemented by something even more insidious: the Palestinian Authority’s collaborationist neoliberal regime, which robs its people of economic self-sufficiency and control even before “statehood” is achieved.
Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens in present-day Israel face escalating incitement from Israeli leaders who consider them an unwanted fifth column in a “Jewish state.” For Palestinian refugees who have languished in exile since 1948, life has rarely been more desperate. Among the millions displaced in Syria’s horrifying civil war are more than two hundred thousand Palestinians, half of the Palestinian refugee population living in that country. In Egypt, the revolutionary expressions of support for Palestinian rights that threatened to up-end the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty after the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak have been drowned out by the coup regime and private media’s scapegoating Palestinians. Once again, Palestinians, prevented from returning to their homeland, are at the mercy of violent geopolitics over which they exercise no control. Burdened with at-best-ineffectual leaders lacking in vision, the Palestinians seem to many to be adrift.
Yet for all these undeniable truths, it is not the Palestinians, as a people seeking self-determination and liberation, who face constant doubt and anxiety about the legitimacy and longevity of their political project. “Israel’s current state of relative security and prosperity does not change the fact that today’s status quo will not be tomorrow’s or the future’s,” US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned. His solution to Israel’s existential crisis remains as unimaginative and unlikely as that of his predecessors: the so-called two-state solution whose desired outcome is “an in- dependent, viable Palestinian state, and . . . recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.”
Those who believe that this vision can ever be fulfilled are a dwindling band— nor can such a formula ever lead to peace or justice. The mantra-like repetition of “solutions” like Kerry’s has too often replaced thinking about and challenging dominant definitions of the “problem” in Palestine and how it can be resolved. If we were to invest our hopes or any more effort in pursuing this dead end, then the future of the Palestinians would indeed be as bleak as the present circumstances so many are living. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told that “the only solution is two states” and without that nothing will ever change.
Yet our obsession with states and borders has often obscured just how much everything is changing. [emphases added]
In a review of the book, author and former Middle East analyst for the Congressional research Service, Josh Ruebner observed:
“When a system loses its legitimacy,” as did the apartheid regime of South Africa, argues Abunimah, “all the weapons in the world cannot protect it [and] we’re beginning to see a similar loss of legitimacy for Zionism.” Indeed, in his book, Abunimah provides copious evidence of how Israel and its supporters are no longer able to defend their cause on its merits. With the discourse ceded and the reality of Israel’s apartheid regime and oppression of the Palestinians laid bare, Israel and its lobby are reduced to the untenable position of losing institutional support if democratic processes are allowed to unfold unhindered, or suppressing debate and subverting democratic processes itself to maintain the illusion of continued support for Israel.
Nowhere is this Zionist conundrum playing itself out more dramatically than on college campuses today, as Students for Justice in Palestine and similar organizations have succeeded in defining Palestine as one of, if not the most, burning issues on campus this decade through sophisticated, coalition-building campaigns of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Abunimah documents in his book the fearsome intimidation, the McCarthyite blackballing, and even the attempted criminalization of freedom of expression that the Israel lobby is pushing in a frantic, rearguard action to stanch the debate. Because, as Abuminah argues, “no matter how much Zionist groups belittle this or that student-council divestment resolution as merely a nonbinding or insignificant recommendation, the intensity of Zionist and Israeli efforts belies an understanding that the BDS movement and the struggle for Palestinian rights more broadly have the potential to score much bigger victories in the years to come.”
I’ve been predicting since late 2013 that 2014 would turn out to be a watershed year for the advancement of Palestinian rights, and for a deeper understanding of the reality of the inevitability of the single-state solution to the Palestine-Israel dilemma. This book, more than any other yet published, puts a humane and achievable face on that goal.
Please join me in welcoming Ali Abunimah to Firedoglake’s Sunday Book Salon.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]