Sunday, September 29, 2013

Video: Omar Barghouti on “ethical decolonization” and moving beyond Zionist racism


Dear friends,

please find below Benjamin Doherty's last blog on Electronic Intifada which highlights an speech by Palestinian activist and political strategist, Omar Barghouti.  In the speech, Barghouti discussed the One State Solution (ie. one democratic secular state) and what he calls "ethnic decolonisation" and how Palestinian and Israelis can work together once justice has been achieved to build a state with full formal equality for all.

in solidarity, Kim


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Omar Barghouti on “ethical decolonization” and moving beyond Zionist racism

 

by Benjamin Doherty on Sun, 09/29/2013

video
Video by: : Omar Barghouti - Strategies for Change
To watch the original video, please click here.


Earlier this month, an American university professor wrote an editorial for the New York Times about the failure of the two-state solution in Palestine and the need to consider alternatives.

The editorial provoked various discussions in the media, but I was disappointed that every time someone has this epiphany, the ensuing discussion neglects the movement-building and dialogue that have been happening for many years among Palestinians, Israeli Jews and others who are committed to decolonization and equality in a democratic secular state.

“Ethical decolonization”

It was serendipitous that I found a video featuring a presentation by Omar Barghouti that dispenses with the “peace process” and “two states” completely and focuses on the ethics and mechanics of decolonization.

Barghouti refers to the work of the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire when explaining the moral responsibilities of the oppressed, and he proposes “indigenizing” the settler-colonial population through a process of “ethical decolonization.”

“Indigenizing” the settlers

The argument escapes the common traps about “Jewish self-determination” and the “Jewish state” by outlining a path where the settler-colonial population becomes entitled to determine the future of the state through joint struggle with the indigenous community and on condition that the settlers abandon their colonial privilege.
The excerpt below is edited slightly for readability:

Accepting modern day Jewish Israelis as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society — free from all colonial subjugation and discrimination, as called for in the democratic state model — is the most magnanimous, rational offer any oppressed indigenous population can present to its oppressors. So don’t ask for more.
Only by shedding their colonial privileges, dismantling the structures of oppression — the laws and the policies and so on — and accepting the restoration of the rights of indigenous people of the land — especially the right of Palestinian refugees to return and to receive reparations and the right of all Palestinians to unmitigated equality — only then can settlers be indigenized and integrated into the emerging nation and therefore become entitled to participate in determining the future of the common state.
I make a distinction between self-determination for Jewish settlers in Palestine, which I categorically oppose — never in history was a colonizing community ever allowed self-determination not in South Africa, not in Algeria, not in Ireland, not anywhere. Colonizers are not entitled to self-determination, by any definition of self-determination, but post-colonialism, post-oppression, after justice has happened, then we must envision integrating the former colonizers into a common nation that can determine its future. So they are part of the future determination of the state if they are indigenized.
The indigenous population on the other hand must be ready after justice has been reached and rights have been restored to forgive and accept the settlers as equal citizens enjoying normal lives, neither masters nor slaves.

Transformative Justice

Barghouti’s talk was part of a round table organized by Networkers South-North an “organization with a goal to generate, disseminate and mobilize critical knowledge in the field of human centered development engagement and values in international cooperation with a particular view for perspectives from the South.” The entire series of videos from the event is listed in sequence below.


Monday, September 23, 2013

The Olso Accords: The Farce of Oslo twenty years on

Dear friends, 
Please find below my latest article published in RedFlag on the farce of the Oslo Accords and the US backed "peace process".

in solidarity, Kim

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THE FARCE OF OLSO TWENTY YEARS ON


By Kim Bullimore: RedFlag: 22 September 2013



Photo: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres (L) shakes hands with Palestinian Liberation Organisation Chairman Yasser Arafat, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (C) US President Bill Clinton, 13 September, 1993


On 13 September 1993, a beaming US President Bill Clinton, flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, stepped onto the lawns of the White House.

The men were there to sign the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, also known as the Oslo Accords.

The Accords were heralded as laying the foundation for interim Palestinian self-rule in the Occupied Territories, which was supposedly a stepping stone to a Palestinian state.

It was rubbish. Arafat renounced the claim of the Palestinian people to 80 percent of historic Palestine and agreed to postpone negotiations regarding the final status of Jerusalem, the Occupied Territories, water, sovereignty, security, the illegal Israeli settlements and the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the last stage of the “peace process”.

No guarantee was given by Israel regarding the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and statehood. Israel did not renounce control over the Palestinian territories it had occupied in 1967, nor did it agree to withdraw troops or dismantle the colonies it had been building since the 1970s.

The Oslo Accords were in part an attempt by the Israeli and US ruling classes to defuse and undermine the Palestinian popular uprising (Intifada) that erupted in 1987.

The uprising had spread across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and was led by the United National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU), a popular democratic coalition of Palestinian factions, including Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian Communist Party and Islamic groups.

The UNLU called for the formation of popular committees in each village and town to oppose Israel’s occupation through a coordinated boycott of Israeli goods and refusal to pay Israeli taxes, a boycott of working in Zionist settlements and a general strike and closure of all businesses for designated periods both in the Occupied Territories and inside Israel.

In response to the Intifada, Israel placed the Occupied Territories under curfew and instituted a policy of mass arrests, accompanied by the beating and shooting of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and mass exile of Palestinians from the territories.

In both the occupied West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian refugee camps were put under siege in an attempt to force the more than 120,000 Palestinians workers who worked in Israel to return to work.

Unable to stop the Intifada by force, the Israeli ruling class reluctantly entered into “peace negotiations” with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

While Israel’s signing of the Oslo Accords has often been depicted as the Zionist state being committed to peace, the Accords in fact simply provided a more efficient way for Israel to achieve its long-held strategic goal of controlling the occupied West Bank and other Palestinian territories.

According to the Israeli academic Tanya Reinhart, Oslo was “in effect the realisation of Labour’s long standing Allon plan, by which Israel would keep about 40 percent of the West Bank’s land and in the rest, the Palestinians would be allowed to have a functioning autonomy”.

The Allon Plan left Jerusalem district, Hebron district and the Jordan Valley under Israeli control, with the remaining territory under Palestinian autonomous control. Oslo, far from being a stepping stone to a fully fledged Palestinian state, instead allowed Israel to enact a version of the Allon Plan, while stabilising and deepening its occupation of Palestinian territory.

During the 20 years of the Oslo Accords, Israel has doubled the number of settlers from 260,000 to more than 520,000 and expanded the area controlled by settlements to over 42 percent of Palestinian land.

In the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the White House lawn signing of the Declaration of Principles, Israel approved the construction of at least 3,600 more housing units in its illegal colonies in both the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.
During the 20 years of the “peace process”, Israel has also demolished approximately 15,000 Palestinian buildings, including homes, water systems and agricultural facilities.

A new policy brief released by Palestinian organisation Al Shabaka notes that in 2009-10, 50 percent of Palestinians were living in poverty.

The Oslo Accords have caused the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to become, as Palestinian scholar Edward Said predicted, Israel’s “enforcer”, helping to deepen the Zionist state’s economic and political control over Palestine.Yet while the US government, Israel and the leadership of the PA have continued to push forward a fake peace and flog the Oslo dead horse, Palestinians have continued their struggle for self-determination and national liberation. They deserve our solidarity.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

BDS, Lawfare & Free speech: Growing support for BDS campaigners

Dear friends,
please find below my short article published in RedFlag on the Zionist lawfare attacks on Stuart Rees and Jake Lynch for their principled stand in support of the Palestinian BDS campaign.  The article also includes a link to the public forum with Stuart Rees in Melbourne on October 3. 

in solidarity, Kim 

***

Growing support for BDS campaigners

Kim Bullimore |Red Flag 19-Sep-2013
Since its launch in 2005, the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has gone from strength to strength. There have also been increased attempts by opponents to undermine the right of pro-Palestine activists to free speech and freedom of assembly.

Utilising “lawfare” tactics, the Israeli government and its supporters have sought to exploit the legal system in order to censor, intimidate and silence critics of Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies, both inside Israel and internationally.

While previous lawfare attempts against BDS in France, England, Scotland, the USA and Australia have failed, currently in Australia two Sydney University academics – Professor Emeritus Stuart Rees and Professor Jake Lynch – are facing possible legal action for their principled stand in support of Palestinian human rights and the BDS campaign.

Both Rees and Lynch have been targeted by the Israeli group Shurat HaDin, which lodged a claim against them and the BDS campaign with the Australian Human Rights Commission (HRC) on 31 July. While Shurat HaDin has announced it has dropped its HRC complaint, its representative Andrew Hamilton told the Australian on 11 September that the organisation intends “to take the matter to the Federal Court”.

In response to Shurat HaDin’s attack on free speech and Palestine solidarity activism, almost 1,300 people have signed a pledge in support of BDS, stating that they would be willing to stand as co-defendants with Rees and Lynch in any legal action taken against them. On 28 August, students and staff at Sydney University also held a speakout in support of Lynch and Rees.

In Melbourne, the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and Students for Palestine will host Rees as a special guest speaker at a public forum on BDS, Lawfare and FreeSpeech at the Kaliede Theatre at RMIT on Thursday, 3 October, at 6.30pm.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

PUBLIC FORUM: WE WON'T BE SILENCED! PRO-PALESTINE ACTIVISTS SPEAKOUT – BDS, LAWFARE AND FREE SPEECH



PALESTINE PUBLIC FORUM: 
 
WE WON'T BE SILENCED!
PRO-PALESTINE ACTIVISTS SPEAKOUT – BDS, LAWFARE AND FREE SPEECH

6.30pm, Thurs 3 October 2013
Kaleide Theatre, RMIT
Building 8, 360 Swanston St, Melbourne City

Special Guest Speaker:
Professor Emeritus Stuart Rees,
Director, Sydney Peace Foundation at the University of Sydney

Other guest speakers:
Naomi Farmer - Max Brenner 19
Nada Breik- Palestinian activist, Students for Palestine


Plus: LAUNCH of new Students for Palestine Zine
Entry by donation
 
JOIN THE FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THIS EVENT click here


Organised by Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and Students for Palestine (Victoria)

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Since its launch by more than 170 Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has gone from strength to strength with trade unions, student & church groups, artists and others announcing their support for the campaign. Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, the Palestinian-initiated BDS campaign is conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression and calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law.

With the growth in support internationally for the Palestinian BDS campaign, there has also been an increased attempts by opponents of this non-violent campaign to undermine the right of pro-Palestine activists to free speech and freedom of assembly.

Utilising “lawfare” tactics, the Israeli government and its supporters have sought to exploit the legal system in order to censor, intimidate and silence critics of Israel's occupation and apartheid policies both inside Israel and internationally. While previous lawfare attempts to criminalise BDS and pro-Palestine activism in France, England, Scotland, the USA and Australia have failed, currently in Australia and France pro-Palestine activists are facing the possibility of criminal charges for standing up for Palestinian human rights.

JOIN US FOR A SPECIAL PUBLIC FORUM:

 
Special guest speaker, Professor Emermitus Stuart Rees, who along with Professor Jake Lynch from the Sydney Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies are facing possible legal action for their principled stand in support of Palestinian human rights and the BDS campaign. Both Professor Rees and Professor Lynch have been targeted by the Israeli group, Shurat HaDin who have lodged a claim against them and the BDS campaign with the Australian Human Rights Commission. Professor Rees will discuss the current lawfare attacks on himself and the BDS campaign.

Also speaking at this forum will be Naomi Farmer, one of the 19 non-violent pro-Palestine activists arrested in July 2011 during a peaceful BDS picket outside of a Max Brenner Chocolate Bar in the Queen Victoria Building in Melbourne. One year after her arrest Naomi, along with the other arrested activists in a legal victory for pro-Palestine activism, were acquitted of the substantive charges brought against them. Naomi will speak about the Max Brenner 19 case and the importance of standing up for our right to free speech and freedom of assembly.

Joining the panel will also be Nada Breik, a Palestinian activist with Students for Palestine who will discuss the current lawfare attempts taking place inside Israel.

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Keep in touch with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and Students for Palestine:
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid:
Website: click here
Facebook: click here

Students for Palestine (Victoria):click here

Monday, September 16, 2013

Twenty years since the Oslo Accords: The Oslo Illusion

Dear friends, 
please find below an excellent article by Palestinian-Australian academic and activist, Adam Hanieh on the twentieth anniversary of the Oslo Accord, its impact and how it has facilitated the normalisation of Israel's occupation and apartheid policies against the Palestinian people.

In solidarity, Kim 


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The Oslo Illusion
By Adam Hanieh
Jacobin Magazine, September 2013

Adam Hanieh is a lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and the author of Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East forthcoming from Haymarket Press.

Schell

The Oslo Accords weren't a failure for Israel - they served as a fig leaf to consolidate and deepen its control over Palestinian life.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government. Officially known as the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, the Oslo Accords were firmly ensconced in the framework of the two-state solution, heralding “an end to decades of confrontation and conflict,” the recognition of “mutual legitimate and political rights,” and the aim of achieving “peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and … a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.”

Its supporters claimed that under Oslo, Israel would gradually relinquish control over territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the newly established Palestinian Authority (PA) eventually forming an independent state there. The negotiations process, and subsequent agreements between the PLO and Israel, instead paved the way for the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, which now rules over an estimated 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, has become the key architect of Palestinian political strategy. Its institutions draw international legitimacy from Oslo, and its avowed goal of “building an independent Palestinian state” remains grounded in the same framework. The incessant calls for a return to negotiations — made by US and European leaders on an almost daily basis — harken back to the principles laid down in September 1993.

Two decades on, it is now common to hear Oslo described as a “failure” due to the ongoing reality of Israeli occupation. The problem with this assessment is that it confuses the stated goals of Oslo with its real aims. From the perspective of the Israeli government, the aim of Oslo was not to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or to address the substantive issues of Palestinian dispossession, but something much more functional. By creating the perception that negotiations would lead to some kind of “peace,” Israel was able to portray its intentions as those of a partner rather than an enemy of Palestinian sovereignty.

Based on this perception, the Israeli government used Oslo as a fig leaf to cover its consolidated and deepened control over Palestinian life, employing the same strategic mechanisms wielded since the onset of the occupation in 1967. Settlement construction, restrictions on Palestinian movement, the incarceration of thousands, and command over borders and economic life: all came together to form a complex system of control. A Palestinian face may preside over the day-to-day administration of Palestinian affairs, but ultimate power remains in the hands of Israel. This structure has reached its apex in the Gaza Strip — where over 1.7 million people are penned into a tiny enclave with entry and exit of goods and people largely determined by Israeli dictat.

Oslo also had a pernicious political effect. By reducing the Palestinian struggle to the process of bartering over slivers of land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Oslo ideologically disarmed the not-insignificant parts of the Palestinian political movement that advocated continued resistance to Israeli colonialism and sought the genuine fulfillment of Palestinian aspirations. The most important of these aspirations was the demand that Palestinian refugees have the right to return to the homes and lands from which they had been expelled in 1947 and 1948. Oslo made talk of these goals seem fanciful and unrealistic, normalizing a delusive pragmatism rather than tackling the foundational roots of Palestinian exile. Outside of Palestine, Oslo fatally undermined the widespread solidarity and sympathy with the Palestinian struggle built during the years of the first Intifada, replacing an orientation toward grassroots collective support with a faith in negotiations steered by Western governments. It would take over a decade for solidarity movements to rebuild themselves.

As it weakened the Palestinian movement, Oslo helped to strengthen Israel’s regional position. The illusory perception that Oslo would lead toward peace permitted Arab governments, led by Jordan and Egypt, to embrace economic and political ties with Israel under American and European auspices. Israel was thus able to free itself from Arab boycotts, estimated to have cost it a cumulative $40 billion from 1948 to 1994. Even more significantly, once Israel was brought in from the cold, international firms could invest in the Israeli economy without fear of attracting secondary boycotts from Arab trading partners. In all these ways, Oslo presented itself as the ideal tool to fortify Israel’s control over Palestinians and simultaneously strengthen its position within the broader Middle East. There was no contradiction between support for the “peace process” and deepening colonization — the former consistently worked to enable the latter.

It is worth remembering that amid the clamor of international cheerleading for Oslo — capped by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded jointly to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1994 — a handful of perceptive voices forecast the situation we face today. Noteworthy among them was Edward Said, who wrote powerfully against Oslo, commenting that its signing displayed “the degrading spectacle of Yasser Arafat thanking everyone for the suspension of most of his people’s rights, and the fatuous solemnity of Bill Clinton’s performance, like a twentieth-century Roman emperor shepherding two vassal kings through rituals of reconciliation and obeisance.” Describing the agreement as “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles,” Said noted that the PLO would become “Israel’s enforcer,” helping Israel to deepen its economic and political domination of Palestinian areas and consolidating a “state of permanent dependency.” While analyses like Said’s are important to recall simply for their remarkable prescience and as a counterpoint to the constant mythologizing of the historical record, they are particularly significant today as virtually all world leaders continue to swear allegiance to a chimerical “peace process.”

One question that often goes unaddressed in analyses of Oslo and the two-state strategy is why the Palestinian leadership headquartered in the West Bank has been so willingly complicit with this disastrous project. Too often, the explanation is essentially tautological — something akin to “the Palestinian leadership has made bad decisions because they are poor leaders.” The finger is often pointed at corruption, or at the difficulties of the international context that limit available political options.

What is missing from this type of explanation is a blunt fact: some Palestinians have a great stake in seeing the continuation of the status quo. Over the last two decades, the evolution of Israeli rule has produced profound changes in the nature of Palestinian society. These changes have been concentrated in the West Bank, cultivating a social base that supports the political trajectory of the Palestinian leadership in its eagerness to relinquish Palestinian rights in return for being incorporated into the structures of Israeli settler-colonialism. It is this process of socioeconomic transformation that explains the Palestinian leadership’s submission to Oslo, and it points to the need for a radical break from the two-state strategy.

The Social Base of Oslo and the Two-State Strategy

The unfolding of the Oslo process was ultimately shaped by the structures of occupation laid down by Israel in the preceding decades. During this period, the Israeli government launched a systematic campaign to confiscate Palestinian land and construct settlements in the areas from which Palestinians had been driven out during the 1967 war. The logic of this settlement construction was embodied in two major strategic plans, the Allon Plan (1967) and the Sharon Plan (1981). Both these plans envisaged Israeli settlements placed between major Palestinian population centers and on top of water aquifers and fertile agricultural land. An Israeli-only road network would eventually connect these settlements to each other and also to Israeli cities outside of the West Bank. In this way, Israel could seize land and resources, divide Palestinian areas from each other, and avoid direct responsibility for the Palestinian population as much as possible. The asymmetry of Israeli and Palestinian control over land, resources, and economy meant that the contours of Palestinian state-formation were completely dependent on Israeli design.

Combined with military-enforced restrictions on the movement of Palestinian farmers and their access to water and other resources, the massive waves of land confiscation and settlement-building during the first two decades of the occupation transformed Palestinian landownership and modes of social reproduction. From 1967 to 1974, the amount of cultivated Palestinian land in the West Bank fell by about one third. The expropriation of land in the Jordan Valley by Israeli settlers meant that 87% of all irrigated land in the West Bank was removed from Palestinian hands. Military orders forbade the drilling of new wells for agricultural purposes and restricted overall water use by Palestinians, while Israeli settlers were encouraged to use as much water as needed.

With this deliberate destruction of the agricultural sector, poorer Palestinians — particularly youth — were displaced from rural areas and gravitated toward work in the construction and agriculture sectors inside Israel. In 1970, the agricultural sector included over 40% of the Palestinian labor force working in the West Bank. By 1987, this figure was down to only 26%. Palestinian agriculture’s share of GDP fell from 35% to 16% between 1970 and 1991.

Under the framework established by the Oslo Accords, Israel seamlessly incorporated these changes to the West Bank into a comprehensive system of control. Palestinian land was gradually transformed into a patchwork of isolated enclaves, with the three main clusters in the north, center, and south of the West Bank divided from one another by settlement blocs. The Palestinian Authority was granted limited autonomy in the areas where most Palestinians lived (the so-called Areas A and B), but travel between these areas could be shut down at any time by the Israeli military. All movement to and from Areas A and B, as well as the determination of residency rights in these areas, was under Israeli authority. Israel also controlled the vast majority of water aquifers, all underground resources, and all airspace in the West Bank. Palestinians thus relied on Israeli discretion for their water and energy supplies.

Israel’s complete control over all external borders, codified in the 1994 Paris Protocol on Economic Relations between the PA and Israel, meant that it was impossible for the Palestinian economy to develop meaningful trade relations with a third country. The Paris Protocol gave Israel the final say on what the PA was allowed to import and export. The West Bank and Gaza Strip thus became highly dependent on imported goods, with total imports ranging between 70% and 80% of GDP. By 2005, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimated that 74% of all imports to the West Bank and Gaza Strip originated in Israel while 88% of all exports from those areas were destined for Israel.

With no real economic base, the PA was completely reliant on external capital flows of aid and loans, which were again under Israeli control. Between 1995 and 2000, 60% of the total PA revenue came from indirect taxes collected by the Israeli government on goods imported from abroad and destined for the occupied territories. These taxes were collected by the Israeli government and then transferred to the PA each month according to a process outlined in the Paris Protocol. The other main source of PA income came from aid and foreign disbursements by the United States, Europe, and Arab governments. Indeed, figures for aid measured as a percentage of Gross National Income indicated that the West Bank and Gaza Strip were among the most aid-dependent of all regions in the world.

Changing Labor Structure

This system of control engendered two major changes in the socioeconomic structure of Palestinian society. The first of these related to the nature of Palestinian labor, which increasingly became a tap that could be turned on or off according to the economic and political situation and the needs of Israeli capital. Beginning in 1993, Israel consciously moved to substitute the Palestinian labor force that commuted daily from the West Bank with foreign workers from Asia and Eastern Europe. This substitution was partly enabled by the declining importance of construction and agriculture as Israel’s economy shifted away from those sectors toward high-tech industries and exports of finance capital in the 1990s.
Between 1992 and 1996, Palestinian employment in Israel declined from 116,000 workers (33% of the Palestinian labor force) to 28,100 (6% of the Palestinian labor force). Earnings from work in Israel collapsed from 25% of Palestinian GNP in 1992 to 6% in 1996. Between 1997 and 1999, an upturn in the Israeli economy saw the absolute numbers of Palestinian workers increase to approximately pre-1993 levels, but the proportion of the Palestinian labor force working inside Israel was nonetheless almost half of what it had been a decade earlier.

Instead of working inside Israel, Palestinians became increasingly dependent on public-sector employment within the PA or on transfer payments made by the PA to families of prisoners, martyrs, or the needy. Public-sector employment made up nearly a quarter of total employment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by 2000, a level that had almost doubled since 1996. More than half of the PA’s expenditures went to wages for these public-sector workers. The private sector also provided substantial employment, particularly in the area of services. These were overwhelmingly dominated by small family-owned businesses — over 90% of Palestinian private-sector businesses employ fewer than ten people — as a result of decades of Israeli de-development policies.

Capital and the Palestinian Authority

Alongside the increasing dependence of Palestinian families on either employment or payments from the Palestinian Authority, the second major feature of the socioeconomic transformation of the West Bank was related to the nature of the Palestinian capitalist class. In a situation of weak local production and extremely high dependence on imports and flows of foreign capital, the economic power of the Palestinian capitalist class in the West Bank did not stem from local industry, but rather proximity to the PA as the main conduit of external capital inflows. Through the Oslo years, this class came together through the fusion of three distinct social groups: “returnee” capitalists, mostly from a Palestinian bourgeoisie that had emerged in the Gulf Arab states and held strong ties to the nascent Palestinian Authority; families and individuals who had historically dominated Palestinian society, often large landowners from the pre-1967 period, particularly in the Northern areas of the West Bank; and those who had managed to accumulate wealth through their position as interlocutors within the occupation since 1967.

While the memberships of these three groups overlapped considerably, the first was particularly significant to the nature of state and class formation in the West Bank. Gulf-based financial flows had long played a major role in tempering the radical edge of Palestinian nationalism; but their conjoining with the Oslo state-building process radically deepened the tendencies of statization and bureaucratization within the Palestinian national project itself.

This new three-sided configuration of the capitalist class tended to draw its wealth from a privileged relationship with the Palestinian Authority, which assisted its growth by granting monopolies for goods like cement, petroleum, flour, steel, and cigarettes; issuing exclusive import permits and customs exemptions; giving sole rights to distribute goods in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and distributing government-owned land below its value. In addition to these state-assisted forms of accumulation, much of the investment that came into the West Bank from foreign donors through the Oslo years — infrastructure construction, new building projects, agricultural and tourist developments — were also typically connected to this new capitalist class in some way.

In the context of the PA’s fully subordinated position, the ability to accumulate was always tied to Israeli consent and thus came with a political price — one designed to buy compliance with ongoing colonization and enforced surrender. It also meant that the key components of the Palestinian elite — the wealthiest businessmen, the PA’s state bureaucracy and the remnants of the PLO itself — came to share a common interest in Israel’s political project. The rampant spread of patronage and corruption were the logical byproducts of this system, as individual survival depended on personal relationships with the Palestinian Authority. The systemic corruption of the PA that Israel and Western governments regularly decried throughout the 1990s and 2000s, was, in other words, a necessary and inevitable consequence of the very system that these powers had themselves established.

The Neoliberal Turn

These two major features of the Palestinian class structure — a labor force dependent on employment by the Palestinian Authority, and a capitalist class imbricated with Israeli rule through the institutions of the PA itself — continued to characterize Palestinian society in the West Bank through the first decade of the 2000s. The division of the West Bank and Gaza Strip between Fatah and Hamas in 2007 strengthened this structure, with the West Bank subject to ever more complex movement restrictions and economic control. Simultaneously, Gaza developed in a different trajectory, with Hamas rule reliant on profits drawn from the tunnel trade and aid from states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In recent years, however, there has been an important shift in the economic trajectory of the Palestinian Authority, encapsulated in a harsh neoliberal program premised on public-sector austerity and a development model aimed at further integrating Palestinian and Israeli capital in export-oriented industrial zones. This economic strategy only acts to further tie the interests of Palestinian capital with those of Israel, building culpability for Israeli colonialism into the very structures of the Palestinian economy. It has produced increasing poverty levels and a growing polarization of wealth. In the West Bank, real per-capita GDP increased from just over $1,400 in 2007 to around $1,900 in 2010, the fastest growth in a decade. At the same time, the unemployment rate remained essentially constant at around 20%, among the highest in the world. One of the consequences was a profound level of poverty: around 20% of Palestinians in the West Bank were living on less than $1.67 a day for a family of five in 2009 and 2010. Despite these poverty levels, the consumption of the richest 10% increased to 22.5% of the total in 2010.

In these circumstances, growth has been based on prodigious increases in debt-based spending on services and real estate. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the hotel and restaurant sector grew by 46% in 2010 while construction increased by 36%. At the same time, manufacturing decreased by 6%. The massive levels of consumer-based debt levels are indicated in figures from the Palestinian Monetary Authority, which show that the amount of bank credit almost doubled between 2008 and 2010. Much of this involved consumer-based spending on residential real estate, automobile purchases, or credit cards; the amount of credit extended for these three sectors increased by a remarkable 245% between 2008 and 2011. These forms of individual consumer and household debt potentially carry deep implications for how people view their capacities for social struggle and their relation to society. Increasingly caught in a web of financial relationships, individuals seek to satisfy their needs through the market, usually by borrowing money, rather than through collective struggle for social rights. The growth of these financial and debt-based relations thus individualizes Palestinian society. It has had a conservatizing influence over the latter half of the 2000s, with much of the population concerned with “stability” and the ability to pay off debt rather than the possibility of popular resistance.

Beyond the Impasse?

The current cul-de-sac of Palestinian political strategy is inseparable from the question of class. The two-state strategy embodied in Oslo has produced a social class that draws significant benefits from its position atop the negotiation process and its linkages with the structures of occupation. This is the ultimate reason for the PA’s supine political stance, and it means that a central aspect of rebuilding Palestinian resistance must necessarily confront the position of these elites. Over the last few years, there have been some encouraging signs on this front, with the emergence of protest movements that have taken up the deteriorating economic conditions in the West Bank and explicitly targeted the PA’s role in contributing to them. But as long as the major Palestinian political parties continue to subordinate questions of class to the supposed need for national unity, it will be difficult for these movements to find deeper traction.

Moreover, the history of the last two decades shows that the “hawks and doves” model of Israeli politics, so popular in the perfunctory coverage of the corporate media and wholeheartedly shared by the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, is decidedly false. Force has been the essential midwife of “peace negotiations.” Indeed, the expansion of settlements, restrictions on movement, and the permanence of military power have made possible the codification of Israeli control through the Oslo Accords. This is not to deny that substantive differences exist between various political forces within Israel; but rather to argue that these differences exist along a continuum rather than in sharp disjuncture. Violence and negotiations are complementary and mutually reinforcing aspects of a common political project, shared by all mainstream parties, and both act in tandem to deepen Israeli control over Palestinian life. The last two decades have powerfully confirmed this fact.

The reality of Israeli control today is the outcome of a single process that has necessarily combined violence and the illusion of negotiations as a peaceful alternative. The counterposing of right-wing extremists with a so-called Israeli peace camp acts to obfuscate the centrality of force and colonial control embodied in the political program of the latter.

The reason for this is the shared assumption of the Zionist left and right wings that Palestinian rights can be reduced to the question of a state in some part of historic Palestine. The reality is that the overriding project of the last sixty-three years of colonization in Palestine has been the attempt by successive Israeli governments to divide and fracture the Palestinian people, attempting to destroy a cohesive national identity by separating them from one another. This process is clearly illustrated by the different categories of Palestinians: refugees, who remain scattered in camps across the region; those who remained on their land in 1948 and later became citizens of the Israeli state; those living in the isolated cantons of the West Bank; and now those separated by the fragmenting of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. All of these groups of people constitute the Palestinian nation, but the denial of their unity has been the overriding logic of colonization since before 1948. Both the Zionist left and right agree with this logic, and have acted in unison to narrow the Palestinian “question” to isolated fragments of the nation as a whole. This logic is also one wholeheartedly accepted by the Palestinian Authority and is embodied in its vision of a “two-state solution.”

Oslo may be dead, but its putrid corpse is not one that any Palestinian should hope to resuscitate. What is needed is a new political orientation that rejects the fracturing of Palestinian identity into scattered geographical zones. It is encouraging to see the mounting chorus of calls for a reorientation of Palestinian strategy, based on a single state in all of historic Palestine. Such an outcome will not be achieved solely through Palestinian efforts. It requires a broader challenge to Israel’s privileged relationship with the US and its position as a key pillar of US power in the Middle East. But a one-state strategy presents a vision for Palestine that confirms the essential unity of all sectors of the Palestinian people regardless of geography. 
 
It also provides a path to reach out to the Israeli people that reject Zionism and colonialism through the hope of a future society that does not discriminate on the basis of national identity, and in which all may live regardless of religion or ethnicity. It is this vision that provides a route to achieving both peace and justice.

Monday, September 2, 2013

BDS and the Murdoch Press: The Australian's false attribution of quotes and construction of fictional activists.

Dear friends,  
this weekend in Australia, we saw once again the spectacle of several Rupert Murdoch owned newspapers engaged in yellow journalism. For those who are not aware of the term “yellow journalism”, it originated in the late nineteenth century in relation to newspapers which downplayed genuine news in favour of sensationalism, biased reporting and popularism. It was marked by a reliance on bold type, eye-catching and/or misleading headlines, exaggeration, scandal-mongering and sensationalism.  Other hallmarks of yellow journalism include the use of fake interviews and an over abundance of (often colour) photos and illustrations in place of actual text. In other words, it is "reportage" which is unprofessional and unworthy of the designation "journalism".

In Sydney, we had the spectacle once again of the Daily Telegraph - in this case the Sunday Telegraph - running a full front page election cover touting for the Liberal Party. Laughable, the Sunday Telegraph's editorial had the audacity to declare "as always, the Sunday Telegraph will be here as a critical voice for our readers. We are not, and have never been, cheerleaders for any one side of politics".  

At the same time that the Sunday Telegraph ran their cover and editorial, Murdoch's Australian flagship paper, The Australian continued its yellow journalism in relation to the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign by running an article on 31 August, which falsely attributed a quote to Palestine solidarity activist, Damian Ridgwell.

Ridgwell on his Facebook noted:

In their ever raging war on BDS and Palestine supporters, the Australian not only cheer on fining protesters, but also just resort to making shit up. As they have attributed a quote to me that is totally fictional... can you guess which one?
The article in question was written by Christian Kerr, a former Liberal Party staffer and advisor to the Howard government. Kerr's article focused on the Liberal dominated Parramatta City Council denying the use of public space in the Church St Mall for a pro-Palestine, pro-BDS rally in mid August 2013. In addition to denying the right to use the public space, the Council also threatened activists with heavy fines if the rally went ahead. The denial was despite the fact that hundreds of public rallies and speakouts have taken place in the Church St Mall over the years with little problem and despite the fact that the pro-Palestine rally has received police approval.

 Poster for Parramatta Rally

The Palestine Action Group (PAG), who organised the rally, refused to have their free speech and the right to freedom of assembly curtailed and went ahead with the non-violent rally. PAG now face fines of $2200 for exercising their right to non-violent free speech in Parramatta. For PAG's statement/media release on the attempt to politically censor and ban the rally, click here.

The quote attributed by Kerr in his 31 August 2013 article to Ridgwell was the same exact quote attributed by Kerr to another Palestine solidarity activist, Patrick Harrison, in an earlier article in The Australian on 2 May 2013. In the earlier 2 May article, Kerr quoted Harrison as saying “there isn't really any connection” between Max Brenner in Australia and Israel. However, Kerr decontextualised the quote in order to imply that the BDS protests against Brenner were not legitimate. In the video embedded alongside Kerr's article, Harrison noted that the Max Brenner shops in Australia were franchises and as such were not directly connected “financially” to Israel.

The Palestine Action Group noted in a statement in response to Kerr's 2 May beat-up that:

Palestine solidarity activists are bemused that the Australian has given front page coverage to this “scoop”. The Youtube of the rally in question, which took place on September 21, 2012, has also just been released. The “exclusive” report quoting Patrick Harrison, a spokesperson from the Palestine Action Group, is taken from in a sarcastic Youtube made byJeremy Moses from Varietygarage.com.

The article tries to make out that Mr Harrison is undermining his own cause by “acknowledging” that boycotting the Max Brenner outlet in Parramatta will have no financial impact on its parent company in Israel. It also alleges that Max Brenner International “has absolutely no holding” in Max Brenner Australia.

But just because the parent company doesn’t hold shares in the Australian Max Brenner doesn’t mean that the franchisee is not connected to the parent company. Often the franchise company takes a cut and charges the franchise holder fees for the name and sometimes the equipment and supplies.
You can read the full PAG statement here, as well as my earlier blog comments on Kerr's 2 May article and the distortions contained within the article.
 
Damian Ridgwell noted in relation to Kerr's latest anti-BDS article that: "I've written to them [the newspaper], it would be a change to have some truth in The Australian".  The Australian has since deleted Ridgwell's name but have now attributed the decontextualised quote to a fictional person called Patrick Hamilton (Please see screenshots below of the original Kerr article from 2 May, as well as his current August 31 article and its updated version).

The new version of the article with the name Patrick Hamilton contains the following editors note at the end of the article:

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story attributed the quote "there isn't really any connection" between the chain of chocolate shops in this country and Israel to Damian Ridgwell. The comment was made by Patrick Hamilton.
As already mentioned, there is no such person as Patrick Hamilton (within the context of Kerr's earlier article), a fact Kerr should be aware of given he wrote the 2 May 2013 article which attributed the quote to Patrick Harrison.  As of 3 September - three days after the publication of the article and the removal of Ridgwell's name - the fictional name of Patrick Hamilton remains in Kerr's article and has not been corrected.

The mis-attribution of the original decontextualised quote, twice, along with the failure to fact check the name and the reliance on satirical videos as apparent credible sources of information in the original 2 May article by Kerr, shows the shoddy lack of concern for any resemblance of accuracy or research or honest reporting on BDS by The Australian.  In addition, it reveals the shoddy nature of Kerr's reporting and The Australian's yellow journalism.

As I demonstrated in my Overland article, A Case Study in Obsession, the yellow journalism of The Australian and its obsession with BDS has been evident for sometime.  In May 2013 The Australian ran 26 items on BDS in that month alone. The vast majority of these items were overwhelmingly negative, condemning the Palestinian BDS campaign and Palestine supporters as anti-Semitic and running an intolerant hate campaign. In contrast, during this same period, the Fairfax newspapers had run a total of two different news articles on BDS between them. 



Professor Jake Lynch

It should be noted that earlier in the week prior to publishing the article about the Parramatta City Council fines, The Australian, also ran several negative articles on BDS in relation to a speakout on Sydney Uni in defence of BDS and the Sydney Uni academics, Jake Lynch and Stuart Rees. Lynch and Rees have been targeted by the Zionist organisation, Shurat HaDin which have filed a complaint against at the Australian Human Rights Commission, claiming that BDS breaches the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act. However, BDS does not in anyway breach the act as it does not target any individual or even organisation or business based on race, colour, national or ethnic origin.  Instead, as Jake Lynch noted in an interview he did with the Jerusalem Post on 27 August, the reason he and Rees are being targeted is because BDS works.  Lynch told the Jerusalem Post that "supporters of the military-security lobby in Israel are stepping up their attacks on BDS because it is beginning to take effect".

Shurat HaDin similarly threatened legal action last year against World Vision Australia and AusAid (the Australian Government Overseas Aid Program) claiming they were providing financial aid to Gaza based terrorist group via the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC).After suspending their aid program and investigating the allegation, both World Vision and AusAid announced that the accusations were not credible and resumed funding. For a more detailed response by World Vision Australia to Shurat HaDin's allegations and Shurat HaDin's continued claims, please click here and here.

Shurat HaDin is one of the many Zionist groups engaged in what is known as "Lawfare", as well as hasbara (propaganda), attempts to silence BDS and intimidate pro-Palestine and BDS supporters. "Lawfare" is a portmanteau of the words "law" and "warfare" and is used to try and legally damage an opponent.  Lawfare proponents regularly utilises what are known as "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation" or SLAPP suits in order to try and censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also be used in order intimidate others from participating in the debate.

Such suits by Zionists groups against Pro-Palestine solidarity activists have so far had little success with courts and government departments in Australia, France, Scotland, England, the USA and elsewhere dismissing legal cases and claims, either acquitting pro-Palestine activists or dismissing the Zionist claims.

The Australian's yellow journalism and obsession with BDS is unlikely to end any time soon. And neither will the Lawfare attempts (either in Australia or internationally) in order to try either criminalise support for BDS and/or intimidate pro-Palestine activists from speaking out publicly in support of the campaign and the struggle of the Palestinian people. All such attempts must be strongly rejected, whether such attempts are done by newspapers, politicians or hasbara groups. As human rights activists, who support the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice, self-determination and human rights, we must never allow the media or threats of Lawfare to convince us that it is wrong to fight against power and to stand up for the rights of the oppressed. Instead, we must redouble our efforts and speak up even louder in support of not only the Palestinian people and their struggle but also in support of the struggles of all the oppressed people of the world.

in solidarity, Kim


****
SCREEN SHOTS:

The original version of Kerr's article falsely attributing, in the third paragraph, a quote to PAG activist, Damian Ridgwell. 



Update of Kerr's article on 1 September 2013, attributing the quote in the third paragraph to the fictional person, Patrick Hamilton. 

Christian Kerr's 2 May article with his "scoop" with the decontextualised quotes from Patrick Harrison