The Palestinian National Movement Advances

19 Dec

             The advocacy of a Legitimacy War approach to the Palestinian National Movement for self-determination and a just peace is basically committed to Hegelian categories of conflict, shifting its energies away from Marxist forms of encounter based on material assessments of the balance of forces. Put less obscurely, the Palestinian shift toward Legitimacy Wars is a recognition that in this kind of conflict the decisive battles are generally not won by the side with the superior weaponry and technology but rather by the side that prevails in the realm of ideas and symbols of just cause, especially those bearing on nationalist claims of rights based on international law and universal standards of morality. Since the outcome of the colonial wars, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the failure of Western interventions, the tide of history is flowing favorably for indigenous forces able to win control over these normative heights. This does not imply a renunciation of violence or a guaranty of victory, but it does signify a massive shift in the balance of forces in favor of the side that most successfully uses soft power instruments in conflict situations.


            Such a Hegelian view of historical process intends only to claim an altered emphasis, and does not imply a disregard of material circumstances. When Marx was active, his insights into the political economy of the day were brilliantly conceived, calling attention to the revolutionary vulnerabilities of industrial capitalism to a mobilized working class. Both Hegel and Marx, responsive to the alleged truth claims of science, purported to have discovered the laws governing change in the human condition, but only truly identified at most what were historical dispositions, and their claims of ‘determinism’ exaggerated what we are able to discern in the present about what will happen in the future. In the context of the Palestinian Legitimacy War there is only a sense that victory is likely to produce positive political results, but not a guaranty. The political outcome depends on many unknowable features of context, especially how the side losing a Legitimacy War responds.


            The battlefields of a Legitimacy War are mainly symbolic and non-territorial. Their relation of forces cannot be measured, but should not be understood only as a battle of ideas. It is rather the conversion of ideas into people power in various forms along with a downplaying of relative technological proficiency. In relation to the Palestinian struggle such soft power militancy is exhibited by such developments as the growth of the BDS Campaign, the decision by the Swarthmore Chapter of Hillel to defy institutional guidelines of its central body by allowing a forum to speakers critical of Israel, the decision of prominent Dutch companies to cut commercial ties with Israeli settlements because such relationships are understood to be problematic under international law, the decisions by the Association of Asian-American Studies and the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions. In effect, a cascade of societal expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian quest for fundamental rights.           


           This surge of support for peace with justice has evoked a variety of dysfunctional Israeli responses, including vituperative dismissals and a variety of efforts to change the subject. Nothing is more suggestive of Israel’s loss of composure in this new atmosphere than the decision of its leaders, Netanyahu and Peres, to boycott the funeral of the globally sanctified figure of Nelson Mandela, presumably in retaliation for his frequent statements of support for the Palestinian struggle, and maybe for fear that Israel’s long record of collaboration with apartheid South Africa might finally be scrutinized in a transparent manner if they had showed up. Yet the symbolic impact of this deliberate disaffiliation from such a universal show of reverence for this beloved man has been lodged in the moral consciousness of humanity.


            Israel’s more calculated responses to these various developments in the Legitimacy War are revealing. For instance, a Foreign Ministry representative, Yigal Palmor, complains that the ASA endorsement of the boycott of Israel’s academic institutions is part of a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state of Israel and that it is morally misdirected as it fails to target states with the world’s most horrendous human rights records. The first response is significantly deceptive: the ASA boycott, and indeed all related initiatives, have been directed at Israel’s policies, and do not question the legitimacy of the Israeli state, although elsewhere there are serious questions raised about the insistence by Israeli leaders that others acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. Such a demand is oblivious to the human rights of the Palestinian minority that consists of more than 1.6 million persons who have been living in a societal environment that includes numerous discriminatory laws regulating their behavior.


            As for the contention that there is no idea of boycotting other states with horrendous human rights records, such an argument incorporates two kinds of misleading contentions—first, it deftly avoids the substantive accusations as to whether Israel’s treatment of Palestinians within the academic environment is as prejudicial as claimed by boycott advocates and whether the closeness of Israeli academicians and institutions to the military and political activities of the state is not sufficient grounds for singling out Israel. Add to this the failure of Israeli apologists to address the central ASA contention that singling out Israel is justified because of the existence of ‘significant’ American links to Israeli policies long violating fundamental Palestinian rights and contributing to violations of international law.


            Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, weighed in with a familiar riposte, ‘why Israel?’ Dermer advanced the familiar claim that Israel is the only democracy in the region: why should the ASA “as its first boycott choose to boycott Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, in which academics are free to say what they want, write what they want and research what they want.” (NYT, Dec. 17, 2013) Such an argument is questionable and unconvincing for many reasons, including the increasingly dubious claim of Israel to deserve the mantle of democracy considering its own chosen identity as an ‘ethnocracy’ (to borrow the label recently affixed by the respected Jewish leader, Henry Seigman’s). Also, acknowledging the existence of scholarly freedoms in Israel is besides the point. It does not even attempt to respond to the ASA main contention of prejudicial treatment of Palestinians in its educational system and the degree of collaboration of Israeli academic institutions with the state in relation to unlawful occupation policies and activities and the formulation of military strategy.


            Harsh Israeli critique is combined with a dismissive attitude, claiming that the ASA boycott resolution, and indeed the wider BDS campaign, has had and will have no practical impact on Israel’s economic wellbeing and political stability, and that the resolution has no binding effect on even the members of the American Studies Association. What is at stake in such a debate is the meaning of ‘practical.’ Similar arguments were made in the context of the comparable campaign against apartheid South Africa and against those of us who favored boycott and sanctions in response to the barbarous policies of Pinochet’s Chile. In relation to both South Africa and Chile, the argument was also made that such acts of hostility only hurt the most vulnerable people in the targeted society rather than weaken its regime, although in both instances the most credible representatives of the people were unreservedly supporting maximum pressures deriving from external initiative of this character.


            I remember being told in the late 1970s in a private meeting of a small group with the then president of the World Bank. Robert McNamara, that loans to the Pinochet regime were justifiable as denying funds to Chile would adversely affect the poor without harming the government. McNamara was claiming to be deeply opposed to the behavior of the Pinochet policies, and upholding the continuity of the World Bank relationship to Chile solely on humanitarian grounds. This interpretation by McNamara did not seem credible at the time. It was directly contrary to what we were being told by several leading diplomats and economists who were prominent in the Allende government, and led us to arrange this private meeting with the objective of persuading the World Bank to suspend financial assistance to Chile given the horrendous behavior of the Pinochet government.


            The larger point here is not about the material impacts of such moves of disaffiliation and disapproval. We had no illusions that if the World Bank withheld a loan from Chile it would precipitate the collapse of the Pinochet regime. What we did believe, however, that such a step would strengthen the perception of delegitimacy, possibly influencing American foreign policy and certainly encouraging to the mounting opposition in Chile, but mainly important as a symbolic move. In a similar vein, we can reflect on why it is proper to celebrate the endorsement of this ASA resolution goes back to the essentially Hegelian nature of a Legitimacy War. A symbolic victory is not merely symbolic, although symbols should not be underestimated. The ASA outcome is part of a campaign to construct a new subjectivity surrounding the Israel/Palestine conflict. It is the sort of act that lends credibility to claims that a momentum is transforming the climate of opinion surrounding a conflict situation. Such a momentum is capable of breaking down a structure of oppression at any moment. Unlike a hard power encounter between arrayed military forces, the course of a Legitimacy War cannot be assessed in advance, partly because the defeats endured by the established order are intangible, will be denied up until an abrupt change of course. As Thoreau observed long ago, “It is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  Hard power realists who rule over the peoples of the world, imperiling our destiny, tend to be dangerously shortsighted when it comes to seeing the course and effects of Legitimacy Wars.


            Such a concealment of elite reassessment in South Africa seems relevant to notice. The transformative reassessment was kept secret until revealed in the startling announcement to the South African public of Nelson Mandela’s totally unexpected release from his Robben Island prison cell. It was a stunning reversal of strategy by the South African leadership. It seems appropriate in this context to recall Gandhi’s familiar comment about the cycle of struggle: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

             Of course, this is not a time for optimism about reaching a just end to the long Palestinian quest for realization of their fundamental rights. It is a time when genuine hope becomes plausible thanks to Palestinian successes in waging a multi-front Legitimacy War. The eventual political outcome remains obscure, and depends heavily on whether and how interests are reassessed in Washington and Tel Aviv. Such a process of reassessment is certain to be shrouded in secrecy until it is crosses a threshold of decision, and only then will it be revealed. This will occasion many expert explanations of why it had to happen! Pundits are far more convincing when operating in a retrospective mode than when attempting to predict or prescribe.

14 Responses to “The Palestinian National Movement Advances”

  1. Gene Schulman December 19, 2013 at 5:01 am #

    Thank you again, Richard, for your your continued analyses of these issues concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict. This one on the ASA boycott has not only reason, but great subtlety. Indeed, I feel that Israel is losing legitimacy, but it will not be complete so long as it has the support of US policies in the region. Until the US sees the light and begins to put pressure on Israel to recognize its errors, as happened with South Africa, I am afraid, legitimacy or not, Israel will continue to oppress Palestine. The US itself is losing its legitimacy.

  2. Francis Oeser December 19, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    A thoughtful, shrewd piece which clears thought but leaves anger and distress untouched.
    The RSA parallel is useful: in that ‘the enemy’ was vastly better armed than the people. But, as we’ve seen in Vietnam (have you read John Pilger’s “Heroes” ?) and as Ghandi (and you) says, superiority of weapons does not determine the victor of wars. It’s the aftermath that bothers me – money/power/lies embedded in the Palestinian conflict threaten the future. NOT a good start to nationhood (either Jewish or Palestinian). But I have to say, agreeing with you, that I see no alternative whether a weeping sore has been made in the M.E or whether the sides can forgive and find peace.
    I’d not thought through Israel’s absence from the Mandela funeral; perhaps it represents the withdrawl I’d anticipated ‘at the end of the conflict’ – withdrawl so obvious I am perplexed it is taking so much time. Israel continually demonstrates it doesn’t belong to the community of nations. Sadly, a relevent statement of the private place Jews have adopted in European history.
    Thank you for your wisdom.

  3. Georgianne Matthews December 19, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Dear, dear Richard Falk:

    You have a magnificent brain containing so many pertinent memories such as the statement you wrote at the end of The Palestinian National Movement Advances. “It seems appropriate in this context to recall Gandhi’s familiar comment about the cycle of struggle: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

    I admire your honest and continual suppport of the Palestinians.  You are a wonderful thinker and special man.  

    Misery does not last forever, I hope like the Big Sur fire is closer to being contained, I pray all your efforts for the Palestinians with bring comfort for the Palestinians and also the folks in Syria and every spot on earth where so many suffer.

    Thank you for sending me your Global Justice in the 21st Century.

    With my respect and love, Georgianne 

  4. Jeremy R. Hammond December 19, 2013 at 10:32 am #


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  5. Sergey December 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    What an excellent assessment of yet another, albeit symbolic, victory of the BDS campaign and a larger movement for justice in Palestine. Your quotation of Gandhi’s speech cannot be more perceptive and encouraging.

    “Hasta la victoria, siempre” – Che Guevara

    • walker b percy December 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      I agree, Richard, that we are slowly winning, and those who stridently defend outrageous Zionist behavior look more craven with each passing day. I just listened to a press conference by Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the Dept. of State. One of the journalists asked about your recent statements about the genocidal character of Israeli treatment of Palestinian refugees. The wild emotion in the voice of the reporter was apparent as she childishly insisted that the US Gov’t. intervene at the UN, to demand your dismissal from your position there. This must be the penultimate stage in the Gandhian four-step process: they tried ignoring and laughing at you, now they are fighting, and shortly we will all be able to declare victory, as everyone shrugs off fear of retaliation against anyone who dares to tell the truth about this sad, sad state of affairs. I also agree that this fourth step may occur suddenly. I only hope that Israel can be forcibly disarmed before they act our their adolescent Samson strategies, unleashing all manner of new (old) horrors.
      With great admiration and gratitude,

      • Kata Fisher December 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

        I only got this link…Do you have video-link?

        Jen Paski is a lay-people (outside her ability of a sound thinking and judgment when comes to issues concerning Holy Land). There is slight difference in that. She needs to be educated, she lacks that, as well.

        She has a job that she probably does not really like a whole lot, and she has no job-skills, anyway. I would believe that she needs to be replaced with someone that has a sound judgment and job skills for that job (in the area of that type of appointed).

        Would you not agree – just by reading things that she said about Professor Falk and his undertaking, in general? She and that woman are “lay-people to lay people talk.” (Call it coffee chattering, in a way).

        How can she determine if something will –or will not be done.
        Jen Paski , who has said that “We note that his term as Special Reporter ends in March 2014, and he cannot be reappointed to the role after that time.”

        Why not? State department said that? (She represents that branch?).
        We say whatever! I am not moved to curse anyone; the curses can be in delay…I do not know, I have no power of timing for anything.

      • Kata Fisher December 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

        I was in spiritual exercises and I started hearing in Spirit:

        I hear, “Curse the Head of US State Department and his entire in blood and not in blood family, and all that he touches, and all his undertaking in the Name of God of David and in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth shall be accursed.”
        I hear, “He has no spiritual authority over David, and my House.”
        I hear, “Speak condemnation and death over the entire US Satiate Department in the Name of God of David and in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
        I hear, “Cut them all from the Grace, into utter condemnation they shall be by my Name.”
        I hear, “Mulling of wicked Israelites I hate.”
        I hear, “They are blind and wicked—they are in same work of wicked of England, and when will they stop.” US has no spiritual authority over Israel, David and UN does!”
        My stomach is turning…
        THEY (US ) are doing what England has done in the pass…will they STOP? THEY MUST STOP, and allow UN to deal with Israel and Palestine. Please cut off US influence in relationship what is to be done in Israel –they cannot be NEUTRAL. Entire State Department is under curse of destruction, by the Name of God of David and by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

      • Kata Fisher December 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

        Also, US Jews have moved approximately 15.000 Bosnian Jews into the Holy Land (they just evacuated them due to recent Bosnian war). That is NOT A VALID/NOT LEGITIMATE thing to do—not a valid call TO ALLMOST ALL JEWS FROM BOSNIA to go back to the Holy Land and settle there.
        Did God call someone to do that? Lay people do all kind of stupid things toward another. We say that.

        They should have treated all Jews, as all other population…assist them, but that would be it. They can’t just move refuges to the Holy Land because they are Jews in a land —Jews have to be called back to the Holy Land, or be directed by Spirit themselves to be back. They robed us from people, and interfeard with God’s will for those people.

        They interfered by their free will, and did illegitimate move of the population to Holy Land.
        Now ISRAEL – they have illegitimately a population in Holy Land that is staying there, should not be there. It is NOT CALLED BACK, and it is NOT VALID in the Holy Land ( not all 15.000) but they shall stay there because over the years (20-or so) they have integrated/and have BECOME VALID! They have overpopulation in ISRAEL, illegitimately building? Why? US JEWS overpopulated Holy Land with their senseless will, a evil will.
        I will write about this situation:
        I may write about this in another point in time, if God’s will– I will go about that. I am just brain-storming ion it…and I just learned about that few days ago, and understoood.

  6. Minimal consistency December 30, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Falk’s article does not even come close to addressing the problem of double-standards and hypocrisy in the BDS movement. Let us take China, for example. In China, there is not even the most minimal level of academic freedom. It also should go without saying that, in China generally, there is not even the most minimal level of political freedom or civil liberties. China occupies Tibet, moves in countless settlers, and seeks to destroy the Tibetan people. China has capital punishment at unimaginable rates. And torture. And denial of every basic human right. Moreover, the US is thoroughly complicit in China’s crimes: as everyone should know, the US relies on China to support its national debt – China is thus a cornerstone of the US economy. Now, where is the movement to boycott China, to refuse to sell US bonds to China, to refuse academic and cultural cooperation? Right – there is no such movement. None. Zero. Why? Neither Falk nor any other BDS supporter has even the beginnings of an argument on this.

    • Gene Schulman December 31, 2013 at 12:54 am #

      Minimal consistency seems to be mixing apples and oranges. There is nothing wrong with criticizing China’s oppression of Tibet, but what does that have to do with BDS movement in Israel/Palestine? Richard Falk’s mandate happens to be as special rapporteur to the UN for Palestinian human rights, not human rights in Tibet. Why criticize him and others for not pushing BDS in China? Besides, the two situations are not comparable.

      • Kata Fisher January 6, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

        Dear Gene,

        “Minimal Consistency” has valid spiritual gifts. He is angry, and he has questions: Why, Why, Why?

        I have had brain-storming about that which he wrote, and then what Albert wrote elsewhere:

        ” Where before there was a struggle between capitalism and communism, after the fall of the Soviet Union, China adopted a form of capitalism, that seems eons ahead of the American version. China embraced state capitalism, which is for the benefit of the people, whereas the US tries to cling to its casino capitalism, which caters to the most basic instinct of the human animal. The one works for the ninety nine percent and the other for the one percent. Only extreme cruelty and total disregard for human rights can maintain this atrocious imbalance. Maybe we should redefine slavery, because it is worse now, than it has ever been in history.”

        “Minimal Consistency” has valid concern from another perspective, and he prophesies. I am not sure who he is, but I am feeling Spirit-filled presence in that writing of his.

        I think that which “Minimal Consistency” wrote and what Albert wrote is sincere, meaning, there is serious reflection about that.
        Mapping out spirits is difficult, but Albert really seems to be able to demonstrate that from another perspective, in fact.

        The imposed SLAVERY IS ALWAYS in the nature, the same kind of essence, with different/contemporary manifestation, and it becomes more and more vicious. (It is of evil spirit realm and it does not change as the frozen state of rebellion is not changed).

        Meaning, it is always one and exactly the same spirit with another face (communism-capitalism/capitalism-communism = whatever strips of people from their right to rise above oppression in society to freedom of free will and prosperity…in a way).

        It seems that people of China made alliance with an evil spirit realm. Also, it is mind-boggling that Tibet monks are prosecuted by some wild inclinations that are coming up in people of China.

        I would say that those who have spiritual authority over people of China, and with support of world community would be able to limit, and also restrict exploitation of Chinese people/workers, as well as spiritual prosecution of the Tibet. There is similar situation in India (and many other places) where people are slaves of those who do not insure and pay them fair wages. American companies, as well as all other in same practices are banking by abuse of people (capitalism/communism).

        The Laws have to be updated in accordance to the needs visible, and in order to keep up to illegitimate practices.

        Also, I do have concern and I would closely watch boycott of” Israeli products” by Israeli people to Israeli and non-Israeli population. This undertaking may go too far, and annul labor and service of the people! (I just see it in that way).

        To activist it would be valid to Boycott and excommunicate Israeli government officials that are not resanable. I would say”Give them no labor and service”! (But that is just my personal view on that).

        Now, about China: Boycotting “US products”/companies in China against illegal (slavery) practices would be OK, and impossible: (vicious oppressor/thinker unreasonable …ancient Greco- Roman mocker…now policies/practices, but now in satanic seal/spirit). What is done in China is also done here in US: people are underplayed for their labor/in need for aid with their wages. For example: here in US people that would make in third world country would also make here after unreasonable expenses socially imposed/unreasonable wage socially imposed. US worker/youth with reasonable education is underpaid in wages and benefits. However, all do well…disciples established thrift-shops (lol, did you hear the song “thrift-shop” I gues it is a hit of 2013)…beside that, the food pantry is available, as well at many locations.

        For example, at Church I attend I saw that they have food and items pile as soon as you walk in (front doors) – just right of the praying chapel that is going on 24/7. Lately, Fr. Bill (who is under enormous spiritual and natural attack over the time) has started to get wishes from congregation that I happened to hear about trough his letter he sent out for the end of the year end and holydays: “when will we get tuition free school?” and he is saying, “are we serious about getting a tuition free school?”– this was funny to me, and this is why:

        One time, I wanted to do a project for a class, and I wanted to do research on diocese early child education…they misunderstood me. And perhaps, I said hurtful things that would be true, as I wrote by Spirit alone by myself, individually, and they ignored me at diocese. I do not know, I feel that entire diocese leadership is fake, and not in Spirit of God (in exceptions to few faithful priests). It is almost funny, as I cannot even see myself doing any Church work—the conflict spiritual is extremely high, and it is in same nature as US nuns had with Church autocracy in US.

        By the way, US nuns have established some lasting things.
        When comes to the slavery in US, the Faith communities can fix that, but the problem is that Religious are not faithful valid, for they are very fake and not effective in society. You will see that only few of Faithfull have established things that are and remain valid here in the land, and that is what is sustaining this entire land during spiritual excommunication, if not entire world, in fact.

        Further, in China, as I understood they have a good program for children, it seems that China is doing acceptable work in that area; however, there are limitations in specific regions and they would have to expand in fairness to all citizens/regions. In US there is steep abuse of social-separatism, which has its roots in racial-separatism and religious injustice that has its roots in abuses of the scripture and misapplication of that.

        While this is in general perception of issues at hand, specifics are observable really tiny details in different settings to those who have more facts on that.

        Also, that diamond that was stolen from India and is sitting on the English crown as a gift gave power to legal rights of destruction over the land/the ruling head (I just thought I mention that, as that diamond has to be given back to India in order for Church to annul generational curses and legal rights of demons that came through the robbers of India).

        As Church Charismatic, I really do not care when we see spiritually excommunicated in their doom, as we rely on Righteous God and His Times who is faithful to Himself and does not lie (we all humans are capable of lies and inaccuracy, even I; that is, the Church Charismatic under Spirit of God, so we are careful about that, and are accountable to acknowledge that – we test and reprove all arguments, even those who come from us, as we hate to see other stumble by our spiritual imperfection, still in perfect humanity.

        Bye Gene,



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