17 February 2020   Leave a comment

Paul Pillar has written an essay on the perils of the Trump Administration’s plan for a settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As I have written before, the plan really does not offer a basis for a lasting settlement to the dispute–it rather poses new problems for both the Israelis and Palestinians. Pillar writes:

“But dreams can only support a position so far, especially when a dream runs up against the full ugliness of formal subjugation of one nation by another nation. Palestinian nationalism will not go away. It will not be bought off with enticements in glossy brochures about economic development. Support for it will not be abandoned by other Arabs—as demonstrated by the firm position on the subject that Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has repeatedly expressed. Regardless of what is done in future years by whatever passes for the Palestinian leadership, terrorists and other extremists will continue to exploit for their own purposes an unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

“Another element of Israeli strategy—also underlying the Kushner plan—is still intact, which is to use the inevitable Palestinian rejection of the plan as an opportunity to add to the mythology about the Palestinians, and not Israel, supposedly always being responsible for missing opportunities for peace.  Many who are not familiar with the long and tragic history of this conflict will continue to believe the mythology.  Those who are familiar with that history know that it is a myth.  (To cite just one chapter in that history, when the two sides, nineteen years ago, were last close to reaching a comprehensive peace agreement, it was the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who walked away from the negotiating table, never to return.)

“Whatever the remaining power of the mythology, by making the apparent death of the two-state solution more visible, the Kushner plan will encourage people, both inside and outside Palestine, to think and act less in terms of two states and more in terms of advocating for the rights of Palestinian Arabs within a binational state. That shift will make it harder than ever to avoid comparisons between the Israeli version of apartheid and the earlier South African one, and to the sorts of international pressures that helped to end the latter injustice.”

Israelis and many others find the comparison to Apartheid to be very offensive, but the Kushner plan, with its emphasis on a fragmented Palestinian entity whose existence only comes into play if and only if the Israelis decide that the Palestinians have “earned” a state, makes the comparison inevitable. Seraj Assi writes for The Foreign Policy Journal:

“The irony is that the idea of evoking the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians was not invented by Israel’s enemies, let alone Arabs and Palestinians, but by Israel itself. For decades, Israeli officials have employed the Hebrew term Hafrada (“Separation” or “Segregation”) to describe Israel’s governing policy in the West Bank and Gaza, and its attempts to separate the Palestinian population from both the Israeli population and the Jewish settlers population in the occupied Palestinian territories. The so-called Israeli West Bank Barrier, known in Hebrew as “Gader Ha-Hafrada” (“Separation Fence”), was built on this Hafrada vision.

“But the magic has apparently turned over the magician: By citing the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s official policy towards Palestinians, Israel’s critics are simply using Israel’s own terminology against it. They have at their disposal a long series of official declarations, platforms and plans predicated on Israel’s commitment to the principle of Hafrada.”

In 1976, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution entitled “International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the
Crime of Apartheid
” and one of the conditions of Apartheid is described in these terms:

“(c) Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;

“d) Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;”

The separations between Israelis and Palestinians is certainly not based upon racial distinctions and in this respect using the term apartheid is not justified. But the political, economic, social, and legal distinctions are clear in the Kushner program. By giving Israel the right to determine whether the Palestinians have “satisfied” the interests of Israel and thereby have earned the right to a state, the plan clearly places the Palestinians in a position of subjugation. Hafrada means “separation”; Apartheid means “apartness”. I am not sure how to differentiate the two concepts.

Posted February 17, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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