THE ISRAEL LOBBY AND AMERICAN POLICY
Dale Sprusansky: Our final keynote is a man who is well known to all of you, Ilan Pappé. As Hanan Ashrawi mentioned earlier today, in an age of alternative facts, I think we can all agree on the importance of being able to discern truth from fiction. While alternative facts may be a new term in American politics, the idea behind it is far from original. As we all know, for decades colonial powers have developed and propagated false narratives to legitimize the subjugation of indigenous peoples.
Like colonists before them, Israel has relied on alt history, a false or distorted account of history to justify its policy toward the Palestinians. If the so-called conflict is ever going to be resolved, the events that led to the creation of Israel—namely the Nakba—must be reckoned with. This reality, that an honest understanding of the past is necessary to pave a better tomorrow, is the reason we invited historian Ilan Pappé to today’s conference.
Ilan Pappé has written prolifically and with honesty and courage on the history of Israel and the events that facilitated its creation. His 2006 book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, with its painfully honest title, created controversy, but it’s nonetheless a seminal book on this issue. Professor Pappé chose the title knowing that it would be provocative, but that it was also true to the research presented in his book. As I told him at dinner last night, one can say that, in choosing the title, Professor Pappé was being more timeless than timely.
I’m sure as the West slowly comes to better grips with the reckoning of the history of Israel, future generations will find the title of his book progressively less controversial - at least I hope. Ethnic Cleaning, of course, is just one of many books Professor Pappé has written. He has an upcoming book entitled Ten Myths about Israel, which will be released shortly and will surely be a valuable resource to those looking for a critical and honest assessment of pro-Israel narratives.
Professor Pappé is currently a professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK. He was born in Haifa. Prior to coming to the UK, he was a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. His keynote today will focus on how an honest assessment of history is necessary in order to resolve the seemingly intractable conflict. Professor Pappé.
Ilan Pappé: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. [STANDING OVATION] Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m really honored to be here, and thank you for the warm and empowering reception. I told my dear friend, Clayton [Swisher], that we have traveled farther than anyone else. For me it’s midnight, for him it’s 2:00 in the morning. Yet, we were put at the end of the conference. And we wondered what was the hidden agenda. Either they thought we can wake you up after a very long and exhaustive day. Or they thought that you are sleepy anyway, so you won’t notice the provocations that both of us are going to present to you. So we’ll see which one of the two narratives is valid.
Bill Quandt, in a series of articles in the Journal of Palestine Studies, very cleverly charted what makes an American president’s legacy about Israel and Palestine valid. He pointed to three major factors that inform such a legacy. One is the personality of the president. The second one are the lobbies. By the lobbies, he meant both the AIPAC and the Christian Zionist lobbies. The third group, he called them the professionals—the people who work in the State Department, in the National Security Council, in the intelligence community, and were there not necessarily just because of their political affiliation to the presidency, but also because—at least allegedly—of their professionalism.
He concluded, and I think he is right, that the president’s personality, although it is very important—and I don’t have to tell you this today, he wrote it before he thought that personality could be that important in a president [LAUGHTER]—but he concluded that the personality of the president did not have a huge impact on American policy toward the Palestine question. It did have some impact, but not a fundamental impact.
He did agree with everyone who spoke before me that the Israeli lobby had a huge impact on American policy toward Israel and Palestine, but also tended to grant or credit the professionals with an equal impact on American policy toward the Israel-Palestine question.
I would like really to focus on that third group, because everyone else was talking about the lobby and I don’t need to repeat the wise words that were already said. In fact, what I’m going to argue today, this afternoon, is that as much as the lobbies are important in affecting and influencing American policy, there is a basic and fundamental misunderstanding of what the conflict in Palestine is all about, including among those American diplomats, pundits, politicians who see themselves champions of Palestinian rights.
The level of—I wouldn’t call it ignorance, because these are very educated well-read people, so ignorance would not be a fair concept here—the level of blindness, or the level of ignorance in the sense of ignoring certain chapters rather than not being able to understand reality, this level is so high that it really makes it impossible, even when you have a period in which the lobbies are not strong or even when you have a president who is more pro-Palestinian than anyone before him. The level, the depths, of that ignorance is so significant that it would not allow the two other factors, even if they are diminished or weakened, to influence fundamentally the American policy and, in association, the reality on the ground.
Now, what is missing? And this is what I would like to point out. What is missing is an understanding of the nature of Zionism, the nature of the Zionist project in Palestine—not as a nostalgic journey into the past, but as a current analysis. The late and amazing scholar of settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe, said famously that settler colonialism is not an event. It’s a structure. Zionism is not an event. It’s a structure, and it’s a settler colonialist structure. It was a settler colonialist structure in 1882, and it is a settler colonialist structure in 2017.
You don’t appease a settler colonialist project by dividing Palestine into two states. That will never appease the settler colonialist project. The only way to challenge a settler colonialist project is to decolonize the settler colonialist project. This challenge has not been digested by American policymakers, including those who regard themselves as open-minded, balanced—if you want—objective above the situation.
I don’t blame them, because to talk about decolonization in the 21st century is abnormal. Colonialism, in our mind, belongs to the 19th century. Decolonization belongs to the first half of the 20th century. But in the 21st century, if we will not resell or return to these fundamental concepts of colonialism and decolonization, we will not move forward toward a solution in Israel and Palestine.
I will give you examples of how the narrative, the discourse, the conceptual framework of settler colonialism can lead us to a different view on the reality today, not just about the reality in the past. I will begin with something that, even here, I think, is sometimes accepted maybe not intentionally, maybe unconsciously, but is part of the American heritage of dealing with conflicts such as Israel and Palestine. This is the idea that in Palestine you have a conflict between two national movements, and then everything else comes out of this analysis. If these are two national movements, we have to satisfy both of them. We have to divide the land between both of them. They share responsibility for the conflict equally. We should find a way of satisfying their aspiration equally.
Now, it doesn’t matter, of course, that when you translate this paradigm of parity to a percentage of territory or demography, of course it was never suggested by any mediator—whether they were Americans or non-Americans—that the land would be divided 50/50. That was never in the cards. But even the idea of 22 and 78, or the 55 and 45 of 1947, was based on this false analysis that what you have in Palestine is a genuine struggle between two national movements.
Zionism is not a national movement. It’s a settler colonialist movement. The Palestinians, before they become a nation, they are first and foremost the native indigenous people of Palestine [APPLAUSE] who sometimes chose nationalism as the best vehicle to defend their native indigenous rights, and probably would have to find a different vehicle in the 21st century to protect their rights—much more an agenda of human rights and civil rights than national rights. Because the national rights have been understood in the world as a wish to have a small bantustan next to Israel, and this is not going to work.
Another point which is important when you use the settler colonial perspective on the situation in Israel and Palestine. A basic American assumption—and not just an American assumption, a United Nations assumption, in fact an international assumption—is that the conflict in many ways began in 1967. Not because people don’t know what happened before 1967, but because in 1948 the international community through the United Nations legitimized the idea of a Jewish state over 78 percent of Palestine. So even Palestine’s friends advised the Palestinians not to bring the future of the 78 percent of Palestine, namely Israel, into the negotiation. The best, they were told, you can hope for is to have a state over 22 percent of Palestine.
Now this idea that because the United Nations legitimized a state—which is, of course, an important fact which we should never ignore—but this idea of course brings us to a narrative of why there is a conflict which has little relevance or connection to the reality on the ground. The conflict did not start in 1967. The reason that there is still a conflict today is not because of the events of 1967. In fact, our historical research these days shows something many of us who lived in Israel knew anyway, but it was always good to corroborate this by new documentations and archives: that Israel planned the occupation of the West Bank long before 1967.
In fact, from a Zionist perspective, it made no sense whether you were on the left in the Zionist movement or the right of the Zionist movement. It made no sense whatsoever to allow the Transjordanians, namely the Jordanians, to annex the West Bank while the Zionist movement had the military power to take it over. The reason they allowed the Jordanians to annex the West Bank was because they wanted to neutralize the Arab Legion in the ’48 war so that the most efficient Arab army would not be part of the all-Arab coalition. They were supposed to save Palestine from the Zionist conquest.
But in any case, many among the Israeli generals and politicians regretted their decision and from 1948 onwards created a lobby that pushed the Israeli government to seek the opportunity to occupy the West Bank. In fact since 1963—and a book of mine on this will come out in the summer called The Biggest Prison on Earth—since 1963 the Israelis systemically and methodically prepared for the occupation of the West Bank. And Gamal Abdel Nasser provided them the opportunity that they were looking for in June 1967.
The Israelis were very well prepared for taking over the West Bank. They already had the military rule imposed on the Palestinian citizens in Israel. All they had to do was transmit this military rule from Israel itself and impose it on another group of Palestinians. But maybe even more important, if you understand Zionism as settler colonialism and Israel as a settler colonial state, you understand that any depiction of the Israeli society as being torn between two camps—a liberal camp that wants to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and believes in a two-state solution, and an intransigent, inflexible camp, a war camp that does not want to give up the territories—this depiction is true only as far as the general public is concerned, but is not relevant to the DNA of the Israeli political, military and strategic elite. They are united, and they were united since 1967, in their determination to do all they can to keep the West Bank as part of Israel and find ways of not incorporating the population that lives there. And they had a similar strategy toward the Gaza Strip as well.
The peace process was not born in Washington. It was born in Tel Aviv as a means of creating this charade of an internal Israeli debate that brings hope for anyone who believes that these two national movements could be coached through the intervention of a mature mediator into a reasonable peace treaty; one that you can easily find in a textbook in the political science departments in American universities which is drawn from the world of business where, as Madeleine Albright used to put it, everything visible can be divisible. So you divide land, demography. She warned us when she was the secretary of state that everything which is invisible is indivisible; namely, don’t talk about justice, morality, the refugee problem, the nature of Zionism and the nature of the state of Israel because there is nothing we, who learned this in the departments of business and political science, can offer in front of such realities.
What can be done in order to move forward the discussion so as to address the mismatch between the discourse that we have been using for years about the conflict, its origins, its nature, the reasons for its continuation? How do we move from this mismatch to a conversation, at least a conversation that is far more relevant to the reality on the ground?
In every passing day with these unilateral Israeli policies on the ground, you don’t even need to talk to people about settler colonialism because the one Israeli state is already there. The one apartheid state of Israel came into being around 2001, but maybe we haven’t noticed that. But it’s there. It is there and it’s going to be more and more legalized as an apartheid state with every passing day. If we will continue to talk about a two-state solution, if we will continue to talk on the basis of the assumptions of the previous peace process, there is nothing we could do to change that reality, in which six million Palestinians would continue to live under an oppressive regime in various forms.
So what can we do? One thing I think, and I know it’s difficult for some people, is to realize that the two-state solution is dead. [APPLAUSE] Many of us still sleep with the two-state solution, but you are sleeping with a corpse. Many of us still dine with the two-state solution, but you are sleeping with a dead body. It’s time to go to the morgue together and watch together the corpse of the two-state solution. Hopefully we will all be invited to the funeral so that we can get over it and move on. [APPLAUSE]
Secondly, and not less importantly, we should understand that decolonization is not a process that can be forced from the outside. What you can force from the outside is the end of occupation, the end of oppression, the end of the atrocities that are done in the name of apartheid. But you cannot force reconciliation between the settlers and the natives from the outside. But as long as you are not sending the message—as we did send the message to apartheid South Africa that the end of apartheid is a precondition for a process of reconciliation, whereas, in Palestine we always said reconciliation first, and then the end of apartheid—as long as we don’t send this message either as a civil society or as a political and intellectual elite, we will continue to have this mismatch between the way we talk about the reality and the way the reality unfolds on the ground.
I think this clearer division of labor between the outside and the inside from the perspective of decolonization—not from the perspective of a peace process, from the perspective of decolonization—it has to be urgently adopted by anyone of us who is either a student of the conflict or is involved in it or is interested in it or wants to show solidarity with its victims. Because if we in the universities, in the press, in the political arena, if we will not use the right dictionary and the right language to describe what goes on on the ground, then we will continue to provide an umbrella of immunity to the settler colonial state of Israel to try and complete what it started in 1948—namely, to have as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible.
Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. I was born in Israel in 1954. I’m a product of the Israeli education system. Probably not a very good product of the Israeli educational system [LAUGHTER], quite a flawed product of that system. But there is sometimes someone who was part of that system, who was indoctrinated in this system, when you hear the discourse abroad about the possibilities that are open in the Jewish society for change, when you hear that there is a two-state solution around the corner somewhere in the globe, you find it very frustrating, because in your daily experience you know how far away from the reality is this conversation.
Now, analyzing correctly does not mean that it will be an easy ride forward. I’m finishing. Analyzing or having the right analysis doesn’t mean that the prognosis would be easy. I’m not going to say here that the move into decolonization, into probably the path on a one-state solution—with various models that are possible—is an easy journey. It is as difficult as any journey we have to take as a human society when we face an indoctrinated racist society that has to be deprogrammed. It has to be decolonized in the mind before we can decolonize it on the ground.
The only thing I’m saying is that for 50 years now we didn’t even try to do that because we claimed that the only urgent need we had was to convince the Israeli society to give up the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and then we can lead to the path toward reconciliation and peace. Well, this was a waste of time. This was a waste of energy. Fifty years are a lot of time in a peace process that was based on the wrong assumptions and had reaped the bitter fruits that anyone with his eyes in his head could have seen were the only possible consequence of such a misconception and misunderstanding of what the conflict is about.
Finally, I would say this. Nothing of what I said can materialize without, of course, a new unification of the Palestinian political scene. We need a different Palestinian thinking. We need a united authentic representation of the Palestinian people, which we don’t have today, that should give us the lead. We will have to get rid eventually of the existing political structures in Palestine in order to be able to lead us, settlers and natives together, into a future that has normal life in it, as you and other people in the world enjoy. Thank you.
Questions & Answers
Dale Sprusansky: Thank you very much. Most of the questions here revolve around one point here, and that’s what exactly a one-state solution would look like. So one person asked, what happens to the Palestinians? Another asked, how do Israelis, settlers, Palestinians and refugees coexist? What happens in that first day, week, year, or decade?
Ilan Pappé: Right. Well, building a different political structure from the one you have is a long journey. Any attempt to answer all these questions would be wrong, because first of all, as I said, you have to remove the one conversation that does not allow you to invest the same energy as you have invested in the last 50 years in the wrong solution. So I would say two points about this.
One is, as I think there is already a one-state solution, we don’t need to build a one-state solution. What we need is to change the regime of that one state. We need to make it a democracy, because now it is not a democracy. Now, you build it by a slow movement from below and not by big revolutions, as the Arab world has learned unfortunately and painfully in the last six or seven years.
It is time, I think, for academics, pundits, and people who have the time and the energy to try and begin to build models of a joined curriculum, a joined judicial system, a joined political solutio for questions of symbolism such as names, the identity of the state and so on. I don’t think it’s time for a political movement to do it as yet. It’s too premature. I’m just saying we have to start this conversation.
There are more and more movements from below that define themselves as a one-state movement. We talked about the BDS a lot today. But there’s also an ODS, the One Democratic State movement from below. Now this group of people—whether they are activists, whether they come from different walks of life—begin to give answers to the questions that you are asking. But I think more than anything else—I’m always surprised when I’m sort of re-listening to John Kerry’s last speech. If you remember, in a very dramatic voice he explained to us that without a two-state solution, the only possible scenario is an apartheid Israel. I wanted to say, hello, John. How are you? I’m looking up [LAUGHTER]. The one-state apartheid is already there, so your warning is not about the future. You’re actually describing the present.
Secondly, couldn’t you find one moment in your speech, maybe two sentences in your speech, to say that actually having a democratic state for Jews and Palestinians between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean is not a doomsday scenario? Couldn’t you just say, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have settlers and natives living as equal citizens in the same state? Why do you have to describe this as a doomsday scenario? The only people in the world who would describe this as a doomsday scenario are Zionists. Because they think that when the Jews are not the majority, the only possible thing Palestinians can do is to kill them.
Well, I lived in Haifa all my life. I lived in the Galilee. I was in political outfits and academic outfits where the Jews were the minority and nothing bad happened to us. The idea that Palestine cannot be a political outfit if the Palestinians are the majority and the Jews are the minority is a racist idea that should be challenged strongly. [APPLAUSE]
Dale Sprusansky: A question about the role of the Palestinian Authority in an official rather than a de facto one state. How would the Palestinian Authority go about disbanding? What would that look like?
Ilan Pappé: I think, anyway, Israel is going to eventually disband the PA, so it’s not my agenda. Exactly? I’m not a prophet, I don’t know exactly how it will unfold. But I have no doubt that the way Israeli politics is going, and the way American politics is going, and the decreasing level of interest in the international community about Israel and Palestine—given all of these factors, I have very little doubt that there will be a moment where the reality that already unfolded—namely that Israel controls the West Bank and in many ways controls the Gaza Strip, despite what the Hamas may feel—that this de facto reality would be declared as a de jure deep reality.
There’s one interesting and significant development in the West Bank that people have not noticed. In the last few months Israel has removed half of the checkpoints in the West Bank. When I noticed that, I said, is it because an American president is coming? Because the last time they did it was before Obama’s visit. Then they returned the checkpoints two days after he left. No. They have removed most of the checkpoints from Area C because they regard Area C, which is 55 percent of the West Bank, as part of Israel, and they don’t want Israelis to move around a state which has checkpoints. It doesn’t look nice. It doesn’t feel nice. So the checkpoints are only in Area A and B and between Area A and B and C.
Now the next step is to do the same for Area B. Maybe Area A would remain, Greater Ramallah, as a Palestinian enclave. I doubt whether at that moment in time there would be enough Palestinians to say this is what we were fighting for, a nation state in Area A. I’m very blunt with you because I think I don’t want to spend another wasteful year of talking the wrong language about a reality that I know very well and this language has nothing to do with that reality.
So it’s not a matter of saying the PA should go or shouldn’t go. The PA belongs to a narrative and a story that has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, and that story is going to change. In fact, it’s already changing. It’s just a matter of when people are willing to use the right words to describe a reality that they don’t like, for various reasons, to acknowledge.
Dale Sprusansky: A couple of questions about BDS. One person asked if BDS is the only way to achieve decolonization and what are the possible outcomes of the movement.
Ilan Pappé: Well, I think one thing we shouldn’t do is confuse BDS with a vision. We need the Palestinians to redefine what the liberation of Palestine means in the 21st century. We cannot rely on nostalgic ideas of the 1960s. Neither do I think the political Islamic movements have a vision that is going to work. So we need a redefinition of the Palestinian liberation project. Sometimes people I think confuse the means, which is the BDS, with the need to rethink the vision—the project of liberation.
However, as I said before, the outside world cannot be indifferent to the suffering of the people just because we are in this limbo between a project, the two-state solution, that is irrelevant and is not going to work and—as I said—is in the morgue for a few years but we haven’t noticed. And a new project we will take quite a while to build, because we need the unification of the Palestinian side, we need more authentic representation. We need a lot of things to happen for us to be on the road toward this new vision.
But we don’t have the luxury of remaining idle and indifferent while the clock of destruction, which is faster than the clock of reconstruction, is working. Therefore, the BDS is so important because the BDS is there to say, yes, there is a void of leadership. Yes, there is a chaotic moment in history where there is no peace process and there’s no alternative to that peace process. But that doesn’t mean that we, as the international community, have nothing to do and can do nothing in order to stop the suffering of the people on the ground.
The greatest thing about the BDS was that it introduced to us again the two groups that the Oslo process brutally excluded from the future of Palestine—the Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian minority in Israel. [APPLAUSE] And we should be thankful to the BDS for reminding us that the people of the West Bank and the people of the Gaza Strip are only half of the Palestinian people and that these two territories are only 22 percent of Palestine. You don’t cure an illness by dealing with the hand if the whole body is ill.
Dale Sprusansky: Earlier today, in his keynote, [Prof. John] Mearsheimer suggested that the idea of an expulsion is unlikely. But lots of people here seem to be worried about it, because I’m getting lots of questions about this. So one person asked, what exactly is stopping another mass expulsion? One person says, Netanyahu realizes the two-state solution is dead, but doesn’t want one state with Palestinians, so what’s stopping him from trying that again as in ’48?
Ilan Pappé: I think that John was right in the sense that it’s difficult to envisage an ethnic cleansing on the scale that Israel committed in 1948—expelling half of Palestine’s population, demolishing half of Palestine’s villages, and destroying almost all the Palestinian towns apart from Nazareth.
Yes, I agree this is difficult. But I think what is important to understand is that ethnic cleansing is a paradigm as much as settler colonialism is. The Israelis perfected the notion of ethnic cleansing and adapted it to the 21st century much better than any other political movement that I know in history. For instance, they found out that actually you can achieve the same goal of having a space without the people in it by not allowing people to leave the place in which they live. You don’t have to expel people from villages. You can enclave them. You can siege them in villages and you get the same result; namely you don’t have demographically to include the enclaved, imprisoned, incarcerated people in your demographic balance, which is the most important thing for a settler colonial state.
Even liberal people around the world somehow agree that Israel has the right to talk in these racist terms, as if this is acceptable. So you don’t need massive expulsion in order to annex Area C, for instance. And they’re already doing it. I don’t know how many of you have been to ’Anata, how many of you have been to the Shuafat refugee camp, how many of you have been to Tulkarm—a whole town that is surrounded by a fence with one gate to the town in the hands of the Israeli soldiers. It’s a big jail, and the only reason people are incarcerated in this jail is because they are Palestinians‑for no other crime.
Now this is the model Israelis of the left like, because they are against expulsion. They’re against expulsion. They say expulsion is the Israeli right-wing notion. Our notion is separation or, as they call it in Hebrew, hafrada, which means in English “apartheid.” Hafrada—segregation, more literally. We really believe that it’s much better for the Palestinians to be incarcerated, enclaved in homogenic Palestinian areas. They don’t even need Green Lines, the Palestinians, because they’re not the Western modernized society. We can keep it forever like this because we have hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are part of the police state—this is not an occupation—that manages the colonization of Palestine whether it is in the Naqab, in the Galilee, in the Gaza Strip, or in the West Bank.
There’s no need for mass expulsion. You have built an amazingly big apparatus that so many Israelis are involved in that you have the manpower to police daily the control over six million Palestinians within the one state that you have created 15, 16 years ago, and still even sell this to the world as a democracy that unfortunately had to occupy a certain area, but of course is just looking for the right Palestinian partner to get it back to them. We are still hearing this bullshit today, unbelievably. [APPLAUSE] Thank you.
Dale Sprusansky: A question about terminology here. One person says, why didn’t you choose to label the Palestinians’ suffering as genocide instead of ethnic cleansing? This person contends that Palestine is a classic example of the U.N.’s definition of genocide.
Ilan Pappé: Because I think there is a difference between genocide and ethnic cleansing. I did use the term genocide for Gaza. I called it incremental genocide. This was reiterated by the United Nations report last year that talked about the de-development of Gaza in 2020, which means the Gaza Strip is under such circumstances that massive death of people and young people is inevitable. So it becomes an incremental genocide. But for me, genocide is also a term that talks about intention and ideology and racism.
Now there is a kind of in between, but that’s a bit too scholarly and I don’t like to use it in the world of activism. But I’ll do this. There is something in between the term of genocide and ethnic cleansing that, again, if I’ll refer to Patrick Wolfe, who I mentioned before. For those of you who haven’t read his work, I really recommend this. He has an amazing article called “The Logic of the Annihilation [sic] of the Native.” As I said, it’s 2:00 in the morning for me, so maybe it’s not annihilation. Where is Andrew? Andrew, are you there?
Andrew: The elimination.
Ilan Pappé: The elimination. I knew it was wrong. Thank you. He’s my student, so he knows he has to be awake and answer these questions even at midnight if I ask him.
So the title is “The Logic of the Elimination of the Native.” He refers to all the settler colonial societies including in this country, in the south of America, in Australia, in New Zealand and so on, in which he explains quite simply and very convincingly that the people who escaped or fled from Europe in the last three or four centuries because of all kinds of persecutions and looked for a new homeland encountered native populations that they believed they had to eliminate for the success of building this new homeland. Here it resulted in genocide. The same happened north of the border and south of the border. Also in Australia it ended in genocide.
In South Africa, in Palestine, in Algeria, the methods of eliminating the native as an obstacle for creating the new homeland was not genocidal but it was bad enough. It was bad enough. So, yes, you can talk about the elimination of the Palestinians as a natural consequence of the logic of Zionism of all its shades and colors. However, elimination in the 21st century with international focus on human rights and civil rights, with the internal wish of the Israelis to be part of the democratic world and maybe even genuine Israeli impulses of democracy, elimination becomes something far more complex than what I associate with genocide.
In fact, we saw the need for an accurate conversation when the terrible events unfolded in Syria in 2011. We, as activists on behalf of Palestine in the West, struggled to keep Palestine as an issue. When people said to us how can you compare what happens to the Palestinians with what happens in Iraq and what happens in Syria? We were trying to say, yes, but you know, we are talking about the same brutality, the same inhumanity, but we are talking about a span of 100 years. Not four or five years. This incremental inhumanity happens every day. And when it happens on a daily basis, it’s not very dramatic. It doesn’t catch the media’s attention, and you can put it aside compared to the huge massacres and horrible things that are happening in Syria and Iraq.
This is where the idea of settler colonialism as a structure is so important. This is why it’s not necessary to talk about genocide as much as it is necessary to say that the DNA of the settler colonial state of Israel is to continue the project, as I put it in simple terms, of having as much of Palestine with as few Palestinians in it.
Now they have the whole of Palestine. In the last 50 years they don’t have a geographical ambition anymore. Israelis of all kinds do not want to occupy Lebanon, Jordan or Egypt. They are satisfied with the borders that they have today. They have a demographic issue, not a geographical issue. And when they deal with the demographic issue, they have found a formula that one could say is working, unfortunately. That formula says you can police six million Palestinians and still the world will believe you that this is a temporary oppression, and still the world will believe you that you will stop this oppression once peace will arrive. You still can convince the world that you are the only democracy in the Middle East and the oppression of six million people is not a relevant item when you analyze the country as a democratic state.
This is the importance of analyzing what’s happening in Israel as settler colonialism that can sometimes resort to genocide, sometimes resorts to ethnic cleansing, and quite often resorts to a charade of peace that provides it a shield of immunity from any genuine rebuke and condemnation in the global community. [APPLAUSE]
Thank you. Thank
you very much.