Apartheid and the Palestinian National Struggle

28 Apr

Apartheid and the Palestinian National Struggle


Preliminary Observations


In this period when the centenary of the genocidal victimization of the Armenian people in 1915 is being so widely observed and discussed, it seems especially appropriate to call attention to the comparable victimization of the Palestinian people. This second story of prolonged collective victimization also received its jump start almost a century ago with the issuance by the British Foreign Office of the Balfour Declaration supporting the Zionist movement project of establishing a Jewish national home in historic Palestine. The most striking difference between these two experiences of severe historical wrongs is that the Armenian people are seeking acknowledgement and apology for what was done to their ancestors a century ago, and possibly seeking reparations, while the Palestinian people may sometime in the future have the opportunity to seek similar redress for the past but now their urgent focus is upon liberation from present daily structures of acute oppression. This Palestinian situation is tragic, in part, because there is no clear path to liberation, and the devastation of oppressive circumstances have gone on decade after decade with no end in view.


The political puzzle of the Israel/Palestine conflict continues to frustrate American policymakers despite their lengthy diplomatic engagement in the search for a peaceful future that satisfies both peoples. There are significant changes, of course, that have occurred as time unwinds. Perhaps, the most crucial change has involved the gradual extension of Israeli control over virtually the whole of historic Palestine with American acquiescence. This coincides with a growing and more vivid awareness around the world of how much suffering and humiliation the Palestinian people have endured over the course of the last century, and the degree to which this frozen situation can be blamed on the unlimited willingness of the United States to deploy its geopolitical muscle on Israel’s behalf.


My approach to the Palestinian struggle reflects four points of departure: first, regarding the long suffering of the Palestinian people as having become the primary international moral challenge of our time, which does not deny that there are other equally serious moral challenges, but none is so implicated in wider global patterns of past injustice or as salient in the political consciousness of the peoples of the world; secondly, believing that international law and morality should be allowed to provide essential guidance in determining the contours of a just and sustainable peace between these two long embattled peoples; thirdly, emphasizing the decisive liberating role of nonviolent civil society militancy in finding a solution for the conflict, achieving liberation from below by the mobilization of people, not the action governments as offering the most promising present scenario for ending the Palestinian ordeal; and fourthly, approaching the struggle for Palestine as matter of human wellbeing without privileging a particular ethnicity, nationality, and religion, that is, from a sense of shared humanity rather than from adversary perspectives of Jewish and Palestinian exclusivity.  


The Palestinian struggle is about far more than the ‘end to occupation,’ although the concreteness of the Israeli occupation of Palestine lends itself to visualization, as would Israeli withdrawal, and this partly explains why so many liberal activists equate peace with ending the occupation. Yet conceiving the conflict in this territorial manner is profoundly misleading. It ignores the depth and complexity of what is at stake for both Jews and Palestinians, but especially for Palestinians. I consider the Palestinian national struggle within its broader scope and less distinct parameters as a persisting struggle to achieve the right of self-determination. Self-determination is the solemn promise of common Article 1 in the two international human rights covenants made to all peoples in the world, in effect, a legal, moral, cultural, and frequently a political entitlement to determine collective destiny so long as the equal right of other peoples is not encroached upon. These 1966 covenants set forth the content of international human rights law in their most authoritative treaty form. The extended inability to realize this right is the core tragedy of the Palestinian people, informing the hardships and humiliations of daily life.


In some respects, even describing the Palestinian goal in the language of self-determination is too restrictive, and by itself, not very clarifying. Ultimately the preconditions and contours of a just and sustainable peace is what should concern us most. It is an outcome that controversially also addresses the overlapping and conflicting right of self-determination enjoyed by those of Jewish identity who are now long enough resident in Israel to possess their own legitimate basis for claiming self-determination. The key strategy of accommodation is to find the best formula for reconciling these basic competing claims of self-determination, and to reject as unacceptable contentions of their fundamental incompatibility or their resolution by force of arms. It is important at this stage to recognize that Israeli unilateralism and Zionist maximalism are making it increasingly difficult for the affected parties to find such a formula, much less give it life.


When considering the content of this underlying right of self-determination additional substantive concerns are disclosed, above all the fate of the several million Palestinian refugees many living for more than 50 years in miserable refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. If Palestinian goals or the requirements of peace are confined to the territorial language of ending the occupation, the plight of Palestinian refugees tends to be left in limbo or at best consigned to the periphery of peacemaking that implicitly denies any right of repatriation and leaves the refugee communities without adequate representation.


There are other challenges facing peacemakers, as well. Edward Said, and other sensitive commentators on the interminable Palestinian ordeal have repeatedly observed that one catastrophic dispossession, that of the Palestinians in 1948, in no way justifies seeking a second dispossession, this time of Jews. In effect, the illegitimacies of the past that have victimized the Palestinians and produced the present intolerable state of affairs, must be put to one side in peacemaking contexts, and the future framed by reference to how Palestinians and Jews can best live together when account is taken of all the circumstances of past and present, including the allocation of rights by the application of international law. This injunction of mutuality should not be interpreted as a readiness to forget the past, or to minimize its relevance. Rather it is an insistence that replicating past wrongs by superimposing on all of historic Palestine a new power structure that excludes or subjugates Jews is not ethically acceptable or politically feasible as goals of conceiving Palestinian empowerment. Said did insist, however, that grave past injustices endured by the Palestinians, especially the massive dispossessions of 1948 and again in 1967, must be confronted and acknowledged by Israel before any sustainable progress toward peace and reconciliation is possible. Similarly, there is no way of reconciling the contending claims of self-determination if Zionism clings to its demand of ‘a Jewish state’ and an exclusive unlimited right of return for Jews only.


The contention that Israel has become an apartheid state is highly relevant to grasping the fate endured by the Palestinian people over the course of the last hundred years. Most poignantly, if the quest for Palestinian self-determination continues to fail, the outcome of the unresolved struggle will almost certainly result in the further entrenchment of existing systematic structures of ethnic discrimination. Such structures possess the key elements of the international crime of apartheid. If this is so, it means that the very arrangement relied upon to sustain public order in Palestine and Israel is itself an ongoing international crime of utmost gravity. Apartheid is designated as a crime against humanity in the Rome Statute of 2002, the treaty that regulates the operations of the International Criminal Court.


In other words, the present and the future of the Israel/Palestine relationship cannot be understood in neutral, symmetrical, and static terms of both sides more or less equally thwarting the path leading to conflict resolution and enduring the same consequences if that path remains blocked. Unfortunately, this has long been the official American rebuke to both parties. John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, and President Barack Obama, never tire of telling Israel and Palestine that each must make ‘painful concessions’ if the deadlock is to be broken and peace to be attained. Such language conveys a fundamentally distorted image of the present reality because it refuses to take account of the essential and vital difference between the situation of the oppressor and the oppressed, a difference that becomes unmistakable if you experience directly the many dimensions of everyday inequality between the two peoples. [this point is often made by Edward Said. See for instance his last interview: “My Right of Return,” (with Ari Shavit), in Gauri Viswanathan, ed., Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said (Pantheon, 2001, 443-458, esp. 445-449.]


The imagery of deadlock and equal responsibility for the unsatisfactory present reality also falsely implies a static situation that would seem detrimental to both sides. This is a false image because with the passage of time Palestine loses, and Israel gains. This is so territorially, but also to live as the oppressor is consistent in most respects with living well, while living under conditions of oppression or as refugees in to varying degrees living badly. Of course, power shifts are common, and roles can be reversed, although this does not seem likely anytime soon.


The existing Israel and Palestine interplay is constantly evolving. This understanding leads me to have a quite different overview of the present situation that I will express in a deliberately provocative way–either the future will witness a further entrenching of the Israeli apartheid state or Israel will abandon and dismantle current apartheid structures and accept a Palestinian call for peace in accord with international human rights law, and more generally, agree on steps that need to be taken to realize the Palestinian right of self-determination. As previously stated such a Palestinian realization of self-determination must not be exercised at the expense of a complementary Jewish right of self-determination. This is not meant as an indirect endorsement of Zionist goals as articulated by currently dominant Israeli forces. It is obviously difficult to adjudicate between these overlapping claims of self-determination, and doing so most likely requires help from genuinely detached third parties. Putting this more concretely, a spiritual homeland for the Jewish people in ancient Palestine would could be maintained, but not the current Jewish state with its preferential ethnically framed nationality laws, making Israel what the Jewish leader Henry Siegman perceptively identifies as an ‘ethnocracy’ rather than a ‘democracy.’


Let me acknowledge, without delving into the matter, that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the formal representatives of the Palestinian people in international venues, has been partly responsible for the confusion about these fundamental points by seeming to go along with both a territorial definition of the conflict and a solution based on the Oslo process despite it being tainted by the United States acting in the role of intermediary. The PA posits its primary goal to be the establishment of some kind of Palestinian state on the currently occupied territory of the West Bank, and indeed claims that such a state already exists, a position affirmed by the General Assembly in a resolution adopted on November 29, 2012. This also allows Israel and the United States to continue treating ‘the peace process’ as necessitating direct negotiations between the parties despite Israel’s multiple efforts to de facto annex portions of the West Bank at Palestine’s expense ever since the early 1990s. By now it should be evident that these direct negotiations have given the Palestinians zero benefits for the last 20+ years while bestowing on Israel a golden opportunity to pursue its expansionist agenda in violation of international law. The fact that Israel continues to lend rhetorical support to such a peace process sustains for many the illusion that its government favors a genuine effort to solve the conflict through diplomatic compromise. Washington does its part, going sheepishly along not only because it habitually defers to Israel, but because playing this particular diplomatic game enables the United States to continue portraying itself as patron of a process dedicated to producing peace.




Understanding Israel’s Recourse to Apartheid


At a conference at the National Press Club on April 10, 2015 in Washington devoted to assessing and depicting the Israel Lobby as it operates in the United States, the influential Haaretz columnist, Gideon Levy, painted a picture of the current Palestinian ordeal concisely with a few verbal brush strokes. He emphatically told the audience what every follower of this ‘peace process’ should have understood long ago: “The two state solution is dead!” What does that mean? According to Levy, neither Israeli motivation nor any practical possibility of moving toward Palestinian self-determination is present, even in that constricted and inadequate sense of territorial empowerment with respect to currently occupied Palestine. Israel’s main policies have long been subversive of the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestine, the major presupposition of the ‘two state solution.’ The centerpiece of this subversion is, of course, the settlement phenomenon—the establishment and continuous expansion of 121 settlements authorized by Israel (along with 102 so-called ‘settlement outposts’ that are formally unauthorized but are nevertheless officially supported and subsidized) that now provide unlawful homes for between 700,000-750,000 Israeli settlers. This massive encroachment on any future independent Palestine has been abetted by the multi-billion dollar construction of a network of settler only roads, and by building a separation barrier of several hundred miles many segments of which cut deep into occupied Palestinian territory. This notorious wall was authoritatively declared illegal by 14 of 15 judges of the International Court of Justice back in an advisory opinion issued in 2004, endorsed by the General Assembly, and summarily rejected by Israel.


Although Levy didn’t explain exactly what he meant by using the word ‘dead,’ it can be interpreted in two distinct ways: first, as Benjamin Netanyahu himself proclaimed in the recent Israeli electoral campaign, as long as he and the Likud Party control the government, Israel will never allow the formation of a Palestinian state in historic Palestine. This also seems to express the real views of a majority of Israeli citizens, and thus the utterance of views to the contrary by Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders for international consumption should be disregarded as a cynical move to placate public opinion; and secondly, even if the words were to be treated as sincere, the settlements, roads, and wall make a viable sovereign Palestinian state incapable of establishment even if Israel some day possesses the political will to bring it into being.


The two-state solution has long been what the NY Times columnist Paul Krugman calls a ‘Zombie Idea’, that is, a discredited idea that continues to be accepted as the way to solve a problem because it upholds the self-interest of some powerful political actors, thereby diverting attention from alternative solutions that could be burdensome for those who benefit from freezing the status quo; it is a zombie, as in being a ghost, which lives on beyond its natural death causing torment to those it haunts. In ghostly respect the two sate solution continues to be treated as the only solution for the convenience of the parties, including the United States, Europe, and the UN, despite their private awareness of its irrelevance. During my period as UN Special Rapporteur I was often privy to corridor conversations that acknowledged the absence of any hope for a two state solution, but in public it was business as usual with these same individuals expressing their fervent hopes that talks would soon resume and finally find common ground.



In the contrasting theater of ‘reality politics’ the prospects are for further Israeli unilateralism. This impression has been reinforced by the selection by the Knesset two years ago of Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin as President of Israel. Rivlin is a rightest Likud figure long known for his unapologetic embrace of a one state solution that envisions the Israeli incorporation of the whole of occupied Palestine. Netanyahu, a wily politician, differs from Rivlin in fundamental respects, and despite both men belonging to the same political party, they disagree on key issues and are personal antagonists: Netanyahu has previously given lip service internationally to a diplomatic process built around bilateral negotiations, as well as expressing his provisional support on behalf of Israel to a two-state solution; somewhat surprisingly Rivlin, unlike Netanyahu, strongly opposes an apartheid approach to internal Israeli security. In its place, Rivlin offers the Palestinians a Faustian Bargain, if Palestinians agree to live in an orderly manner while foregoing self-determination they deserve to be treated as fully equal citizens within a Jewish state comprising Greater Israel, including a guaranty of unrestricted political participation that might even include a Palestinian victory someday in national elections. [elaborated in by David Remnick, “The One-State Reality,” The New Yorker, Nov. 17, 2014.] To obtain this equality of treatment, the Palestinians would be expected to accept this consummation of the Zionist Project in a form that was originally proposed by Ze’ev Jabotinsky the Zionist visionary who inspired the founding of the Likud Party!


It should be obvious that the Palestinians will never agree to such an outcome of their national struggle, which would amount to the acceptance of a humiliating political surrender. In the unlikely event that the Ramallah leadership of the PA ever dared to accept such a deal, perhaps disguised in its presentation by granting Palestinians some community and local rights of self-government, the Palestinian people are almost certain to reject it. Such an arrangement would not bring peace, but at most it would be seen as nothing other than one more ceasefire to be broken by a further cycle of renewed resistance.


In effect, combining the physical encroachment on any Palestinian expectations of a viable sovereign state of their own with the rightward drift of internal Israeli politics, makes the apartheid solution a near certainty whether in the form of a perpetuation of the present condition of irresolution or by adopting a version of the Israeli one-state outcome within which discriminatory structures will have to be maintained to uphold public order. In light of such futures, robust Palestinian resistance can be anticipated, and for Israel to contain and suppress it will require police and paramilitary structures of control at least as strong as has has long been operative in the West Bank, and in different modalities in Gaza, ever since occupation commenced in 1967.


Again referring to Levy’s Washington talk, he regards the cumulative impact of the occupation as having produced the “systematic dehumanization of the Palestinians.” Collective dehumanization is an almost sure sign of the presence of apartheid when those experiencing abuse are ethnically and territorially distinct, and have a sufficient demographic weight as to consider themselves as ‘a people’ rather than a victimized minority.

My own experience with Palestinians has certainly confirmed this dynamic of dehumanization, but it has also been coupled with shining instances of Palestinian humanization despite everything as well as with Israeli dehumanization associated with forcing its will by brute force on a totally vulnerable people being denied their most elemental rights.


At this point, a glance at history helps us appreciate the perversity of this emergence of apartheid in Palestine. It needs to be remembered that the Zionist project received its first decisive international endorsement in a strictly colonialist form, by way of an assurance in 1917 given by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Alfred Balfour, to Lord Rothschild, the head of the Zionist Movement in Britain, that the British government would “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” At this initial stage, a Jewish state, as distinct from a national home, was neither endorsed in the text nor envisioned as an overt goal, although Zionist leaders seemed to have had this in mind from the beginnings of the movement in the late 19th century. Even the limited idea of a Jewish homeland was qualified by the clause “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”


The Balfour promise of a Jewish national home was intended to be fused with the British plan to govern the whole of Palestine primarily in pursuit of its strategic goals of safeguarding trade routes to India, and especially the Suez Canal. Britain resorted to its habitual colonial tactic of ‘divide and rule’ with respect to its administration of relations between Jews and Arabs. But as the peace diplomacy unfolded after World War I, the British were forced by the United States to roll back their overt colonial ambitions, and operate within the mandate system that entailed an international commitment to grant Palestine eventual national independence as a single independent state but also contained the Balfour promise of a Jewish national home. In actual fact, the British governed Palestine as a de facto colony during the mandatory period from 1920-1948, but their divide and rule approach backfired as the Jewish presence disproportionately increased and as Zionist statist ambitions became evident they began colliding with British policy. In the end Zionist extremists resorted to systematic terrorism with the goal of inducing the British to abandon Palestine. Palestine became ungovernable, and the British shifted from their divide and rule tactics to the advocacy of a partition plan that would divide Palestine into two national entities, one for Palestinians, the other for Jews.


After World War II, when Britain could no longer handle the burdens of administering Palestine, the UN was given the job of addressing these conflicting claims, and in GA Resolution 181 influenced by the British approach, a partition plan for Palestine was approved over the objection of Arab countries. In the UN plan, 55% of historic Palestine was awarded to the Jewish claimants, and the remaining 45% to the Palestinians. Jerusalem was given to neither side nor split, but was designated as a corpus separatum to be administered as an international enclave by the UN with the Trusteeship Council given the assignment.


There was no attempt by the UN to implement, or even consider, self-determination by consulting the will of the resident population in Palestine, which was then overwhelmingly opposed to partition. Partition was a paternalistic initiative of the international community that in effect ratified the settler colonialist approach of the Zionist movement as initially facilitated by Britain and later greatly strengthened due to developments in Europe, especially Germany. Not surprisingly partition was at the time rejected by the Palestinian majority population and accepted by the Zionists, resulting in the 1948 War, decisively won by the Jewish side. This battlefield outcome shrank the Palestinian remnant from 55% to 22% of the land, and also de-internationalized the city of Jerusalem, putting West Jerusalem under the control of Israel and East Jerusalem under the administrative authority of Jordan ; in the course of the 1948 war, there occurred the forcible dispossession of an estimated 750,000 Palestinians accompanied by the destruction and depopulation of as many as 531 Palestinian villages. The Palestinians recall and observe these events as the nakba, or catastrophe, a narration of national tragedy that combines the politics of dispossession with the tactics of massive ethnic cleansing.


Subsequent consequences, associated with refugee camps in neighboring countries, the 1967 War that resulted in Israel’s occupation of the rest of Palestine, and intensifying hostility toward Gaza, especially after 2006, are viewed by Palestinians as a continuation of the nakba, conceived now more adequately as a process through time rather than as a circumscribed event.


If we consider the sweep of developments over the course of the century a pattern emerges that continues into the present. Put simply: ever since the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the Palestinians have survived within a steadily diminished horizon of expectations, while the Zionist Movement was continuously widening its horizons. The unfolding of this dual process can be crudely expressed by reference to three periods: the first, lasting from 1917 to 1947, the mandate period during which the demographic balance of Palestine started shifting due to Jewish immigration, a dynamic accelerated by the emergence of Nazism that also increased international attention to and support for a Jewish homeland, and later, Israeli statehood; secondly, from 1948 to 1967 during a state-building period in Israel, with the West Bank and East Jerusalem administered as occupied territory in the aftermath of the 1948 War by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt; thirdly, from 1967 to the present when these Palestinian territories (as well as the Syrian Golan Heights) were shifted from Arab occupation to Israeli occupation, during which de facto annexation of portions of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights took place. Gaza was first occupied and settled, with Israel ‘disengaging’ in 2005, but continuing to exert effective control over Gaza through its total regulation of borders, air space, and shoreline.


The UN is typically criticized for devoting too much attention to Palestinian grievances while overlooking other issues where the humanitarian urgency is as great or greater. This criticism that is frequently invoked by political leaders in Israel and the U.S. completely overlooks the degree to which the UN, and the League before it, have a special responsibility for the failure to resolve the conflict over Palestine. No where else in the world can such a humanitarian fiasco be laid so directly at the feet of the UN making it seem more appropriate to blame the Organization for doing too little or doing what it did ineptly, rather than blaming it for being obsessively focused on Israel’s wrongdoing with respect to Palestine and Palestinians.





The Politics and Ethics of Naming


Calling the Israeli domination of Palestinians within the various governmental zones of Israeli domination apartheid is one facet of the wider controversy. For ardent defenders of Israel the mere allegation of apartheid is inflammatory and viewed as so totally inaccurate as to suggest that anyone calling Israel an apartheid state is an anti-Semite. Israel defends its policies toward Palestinians in Israel and under occupation by invoking the democratic character of Israel in which Palestinians vote, form political parties, and enjoy membership in the Knesset. For Palestinians who live outside of Israel under occupation in the West Bank or Gaza, Israel justifies its policies by security considerations. And for the Palestinian refugees, Israel shifts blame to the Arab countries in which they are resident.


As the accusation of Israeli apartheid has become more and more mainstream pro-Israeli responses have become harsher. Even revered and eminent figures such as Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu after expressing their opinion as to the actual and potential apartheid character of Israel have been defamed. Despite this effort to intimidate the use of the terminology of apartheid to describe not only the occupation of the West Bank but also the discriminatory regimes operative in Israel itself and East Jerusalem, as well as the oppressive securitization of Gaza, is increasing. Apartheid as the descriptive label of Israeli policy toward the Palestinian people has been gaining acceptability throughout the world, including within the UN. It has also captured the imagination of many campus groups in the West that organize Palestinian solidarity efforts and justify the BDS campaign under the banner of ‘Israel Apartheid Week,’ believing that the idea of apartheid now better expresses the essential character of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people than any other descriptive language. In retaliation, Israel and its NGO global network of support are seeking to criminalize civil society initiatives that flow from the apartheid analysis.


It is important to distinguish the political use of the terminology of apartheid in expressive and impressionistic modes from its legal usage in international law, although the two types of usage overlap. The legal conception of apartheid has evolved via the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid adopted in 1973. This treaty criminalized apartheid and made clear that the essence of the crime involved maintaining systematic regimes of extreme discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and although derived from the South African experience the crime was not limited to that particular type of discriminatory separation. The Rome Statute of 2002 that underpins the operations of the International Criminal Court categorizes the crime of apartheid within its broader classification of crimes against humanity in Article 7(1)(j). Article 7 provides a clear definition of apartheid as an: “..institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination of one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of managing that regime.” It is understood that ‘race’ is used here in a broad sense to encompass diverse ‘ethnicities’ or ‘religions.’


The political use of apartheid in relation to Israel does not attempt to pass legal judgment. It is rather an assessment based on the systematic character of structures of domination and discrimination that cannot be convincingly rationalized as either non-discriminatory or by reference to the reasonable requirements of Israeli security. In the background of the apartheid debate is the overarching idea of international humanitarian law as mainly set forth in the Fourth Geneva Convention to the effect that an occupying power has as its primary obligation the protection of civilians living in a society under occupation, subject only to the right of the occupier to adopt measures necessary to uphold security. The apartheid perception with respect to Palestinians is diverse and fragmented. This corresponds to the sub-regimes of control that Israel has established to deal with different segments of the Palestinian resident population.


The most clearly delineated apartheid structures are maintained in the West Bank where there is a pervasive subjugation of the Palestinian population by a regime of rightlessness as administered by Israeli military authorities, and to some extent since 1993 delegated to the Palestinian Authority. This regime gives rise to contrasts between the Palestinian experiences of everyday abuse and uplifting Israeli experiences of the rule of law and the stable life circumstances enjoyed by unlawful settlers. This bright line of discrimination is reinforced by the checkpoints, house demolitions, settler only roads, an intrusive separation wall, settler violence, and epitomized by the grossly unequal allocation of Palestinian water resources.


The 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza, especially since the Israeli ‘disengagement’ of 2005 followed by the Hamas electoral victory in 2006, have been subjected to the most severe sub-regime of discriminatory domination. The Gazan civilian population has been locked within the borders of Gaza and subject to periodic military attacks, chillingly described in Israel as ‘mowing the lawn.’ Jerusalem and pre-1967 Israel are administered by the government of Israel, and here discriminatory laws are based on nationality and administrative rulings limiting Palestinian rights and stability of residence, denying family unification, restricting employment and education opportunities, and imposing the domination of a Jewish state, creating a situation of pervasive human insecurity for the Palestinian minority. There are also about 1.6 million Palestinians living behind the Green Line within Israel’s 1967 borders as Israeli citizens, while being denied real equality due to this wide variety of nationality laws that blatantly privilege Jewish nationality.


In its totality, the Israeli apartheid system can be compared to the colonial governance approach of the British. The British derived security by ‘divide and rule’ tactics while the Israel approach can be summarized as ‘divide, dominate, and discriminate.’ In the first case, we have the traditional format of a colonial power, while in the second, the most obvious label is that of ‘settler colonialism,’ yet it must be particularized in relation to Palestine to be fully understood.




The Palestinian National Movement


The Palestinian struggle has gone through a series of overlapping stages during the course of almost a century. There was an early period of a building internal resistance by the native population to continuing Jewish immigration during the mandate period coupled with growing Zionist influence and militancy in Palestine. The British colonialist approach tended to support this buildup of the Jewish presence in Palestine, initially feeling more kinship with Jews as mainly fellow Europeans. This widening cleavage eventually led the British and then the UN to seek stability and conflict resolution via partition, dividing the two peoples territorially, with the hope of creating separate polities. The British reached the conclusion, which was endorsed by the UN, that Jews and Palestinians would never peacefully live together, and that separation was the only viable approach. This idea of partition, eventually accepted as a goal by many world leaders, including those representing the Palestinian people, has since the 1990s morphed into ‘the two state solution.’ Among its original flaws, aside from the arrogance of imposing a solution from without and above, was the dispersion of the native Palestinian population throughout all of Palestine, whereas the Jewish population was confined to certain portions of the country. This meant that even with dispossession many Palestinians would find themselves captive in the incipient Jewish state, and consigned to the status of a subjugated minority in what had been their homeland for countless generations.


The failure of partition led to a phase of Arab belligerency in relation to the Palestinian struggle. In wars waged in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973, it was the goal of neighboring Arab countries to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem by joint military action. These efforts were unsuccessful, resulting in a series of Israeli military victories, coupled with territorial expansion, and belligerent occupation.


The failure of such liberation from without was followed by a period of resistance from within, the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under the leadership of Yasir Arafat. This rise of national resistance activity was especially pronounced in the years following the 1967 War, a period of nationalist resurgence by the Palestinian people. It was in this period that Palestinian armed resistance activity began being portrayed in the West as ‘terrorism’ and its suppression by Israel was welcomed, especially in reaction to internationalizing the Palestinian struggle through the staging of shocking violent incidents at the Munich Olympics, hijacking, exploding planes, attacking airports and passenger ships.


Armed struggle by Palestinians also was discredited and defeated by Israel’ effective counter-terrorist tactics and by its ability to tilt in its favor the media treatment of the conflict. In a spontaneous show of civil society activism, the Intifada of 1987 created a new previously unexpected challenge to Israeli dominance. In a show of populist unity and courage, ‘the war of the stones’ was defiantly waged by the Palestinian people. It communicated to the world the dramatic refusal of the Palestinian people to allow the occupation to be normalized. The inequalities in weaponry and suffering between the two sides began to shift the balance in the war of ideas and images, especially giving enhanced credibility to Palestinian narratives of victimization.


In response, the conflict once again became internationalized. The United States playing a leading role, culminating in the formulation of the Oslo Framework of Principles solemnized by Itzaak Rabin and Yasir Arafat with a historic handshake on the White House Lawn in 1993. Oslo diplomacy reflected the power disparity that exists between Israel and Palestine, and the naively bewildering trust of the Palestinian leadership in the good offices of the U.S. Government to deliver a decent agreement. It should not have been surprising that the diplomacy over these many years was of a one-sided variety that relied on fruitless periodic negotiations between the parties, with the United States serving as intermediary and wrongly assigning blame for failures to find an agreed solution to the inflexibility of the Palestinians.


The unwillingness of Israel even to stop settlement expansion during the negotiating sessions both exhibited the one-sidedness of the process and the underlying absence of political will in Israel to reach a fair settlement. Of course, there is an element of subjectivity with respect to the content of ‘fair,’ but international law could have offered guidelines had it been allowed to be relevant. And what is objectively clear was translating Israel’s unlawful ‘facts on the ground’ into new negotiating positions that continuously diminished Palestinian prospects. In retrospect, the Oslo diplomacy was based on the relative bargaining power of the two sides, combined with the intensity of their respective political will. It was also shaped by the American deference to Israel’s policy priorities, above all, its refusal to give ground on the right of return of dispossessed Palestinian refugees or to accept shared governmental authority in Jerusalem.


The intifada was the basis for what later became the legitimacy war strategy of struggle. The energy of Palestinian resistance shifted from top down to bottom-up, that is, to the agency of civil society. The formal authority or top-down Palestinian leadership is being bypassed. There is a rejection under existing conditions of both armed struggle and inter-governmental diplomacy, including via the UN. Major mobilization efforts are directed at delegitimizing Israeli policies and practices, as well as stimulating militant forms of nonviolent coercive support for Palestinian empowerment and liberation. This Palestinian version of a legitimacy war has been deeply influenced by the successful anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa, and has centered its actions in relation to a comparable BDS Campaign that responded to an appeal from a coalition of Palestinians NGOs in 2004, and has been gaining global momentum, including within the United States, especially, in the aftermath of the massive military onslaughts carried out against Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014.


Many sympathetic commentators believe that the Palestinians are winning this Legitimacy War, including the important Palestinian founder of the Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah. It is also the thesis of my book Palestine: The Legitimacy of Hope. I take note of the international experience since the end of World War II in which the side that prevailed in a Legitimacy War generally controlled the political outcome of conflicts, despite being militarily inferior. Recourse to a Legitimacy War strategy usually reflects two kinds of developments: a societal sense of moral outrage that combines with the refusal of governments and international institutions to promote a just solution.


This unfolding of the legitimacy discourse has definitely moved in a direction favorable to Palestinian hopes. In the years following World War II, Israel was seen as the David battling the Arab Goliath, with Israel scoring unexpected military victory after military victory against hostile larger neighbors accused of seeking to throw the Jewish people into the sea. The Palestinians were portrayed as ‘rejectionists’ that defied the UN’s plan widely deemed at the time in the West to be a reasonable compromise. This negative image of Palestinian political behavior was further strengthened by the portrayal of Palestinian resistance as ‘terrorism.’ This violence was widely perceived as unacceptably threatening the Jewish people, and reminded the world of the Holocaust and the fate of Jews during the Nazi period. Such a link between Jewish victimization in the Holocaust and the Palestinian/Arab struggle was strongly promoted through intense Israeli propaganda efforts. (hasbara)


This image, which remains strong in the West, and certainly is powerful in the United States where Israel is viewed not only as the most admirable and dynamic country in the region, but also as the most important strategic partner Washington possesses and a recipient of intense support in Christian evangelical circles. This strategic bonding was greatly facilitated by Israel’s military prowess as revealed in its victorious wars, especially the 1967 War, and given additional reinforcement through its long experience of counter-terrorism that was treated as a major Israeli contribution to American security policies in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.


Concluding Comments


The basic drift of my argument is as follows:

            –UN authority was not able to obtain a solution;

            –armed struggle and international statecraft were tried, but both failed to resolve the conflict or improve the Palestinian position;

            –what this leaves is either Israeli unilateralism, carrying out the Zionist endgame of incorporating the whole of Jerusalem and the West Bank into Israel, and claiming to be the state of the entire Jewish people, or a Legitimacy War victory by the Palestinian people that induces a cycle of ‘new diplomacy’ on a level playing field;

            –in the interim, any further attempts to revive the Oslo diplomacy, even enjoying should they enjoy the cynical of the Netanyahu government should be resisted as a dead end that is more harmful to the Palestinian struggle than is facing the realities of Israeli expansionism.


Given this understanding of the conflict, and considering the extraordinary record of military assistance given to Israel by the United States government, the American people have an increasingly dishonorable connection to the conflict. The American indulgence of Israeli exceptionalism includes issuing a free pass to Israel when it secretly became a nuclear weapons state. American citizens have a special responsibility for the long ordeal of the Palestinian people. The Jewish philosopher, Abraham Heschel observed “[f]ew are guilty, but all are responsible.” The Legitimacy War scenario gives each of us ample opportunities to exercise our individual responsibility. We owe the Palestinian people and ourselves nothing less.


51 Responses to “Apartheid and the Palestinian National Struggle”

  1. Glenn Morris April 28, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    Hello, Jenny, Here is another post from my friend and colleague, Richard Falk. It will probably upset you, too. I do hope that you are still planning to attend class this evening to discuss the Timor Leste case. Glenn

  2. ray032 April 29, 2015 at 6:18 am #

    Richard, thank you for this article, organized and incisive, as is your admirable writing style.

    As I read it, it expounds even further, with your thoughtful Professorial expertise, sentiments similar to my brutally frank comment devoid of Diplomatic niceties in The Jerusalem Post Sunday with the header, ‘Netanyahu briefed on efforts to help Nepal after quake: This is the real face of Israel’

    What self patronizing Propaganda! There is no doubt this is the Face Israel wants the world to see, but despite all Israeli denials, propaganda and spin, notwithstanding this magnanimous gesture to a people far away, the world is waking up to see how two faced Israel has become internally.

    The still images and video of this natural disaster are horrendous in the scope of death and destruction. The Truth and reality I have seen observing from CanaDa, the images and video of Death and Destruction are not much different than the Death and Destruction the world saw as Israel bombarded the civilian population in the sealed shut Gaza Ghetto last summer.

    I have been reading reports of Operation Brother’s Keeper part 2, as Israel is even now waging war on Hamas members in the Israeli-PLO territories. This is deliberately designed to provoke Hamas in Gaza to start firing rockets in response and retaliation so they could be accused of breaking the Truce that ended.

    Israel has reneged on fulfilling their part of the Truce, which was to ease up on the brutal economic war Israel has waged on Gaza for the last 7 years. Last Summer, the world saw Israel destroy mostly the remaining small businesses in Gaza and mostly homes of the ordinary Civilians of Gaza. Israel showed the world it can out terrorize the terrorists and impose the Final Final Solution to the Palestinian problem if it can provoke more rockets from Gaza by maintaining the blockade, while simultaneously waging war on Hamas Members within Israeli reach in PLO territory.

    After the 1967 Six Day War, Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban said, “Wars are not always begun by shots. They are often begun by action and the action which really created the state of war in an acute sense was the imposition of the blockade. To try to murder somebody by strangulation is just as much attempted murder as if you tried to murder him by a shot, and therefore the act of strangulation was the first violent, physical act which had its part in the sequence.”

    It is necessary for the Israeli Military-Industrial complex to keep the people of Gaza lean and mean. Israelis do not see Palestinians as being fully human so they cannot imagine Palestinians feeling like Abba Eban describes how Israelis felt when they were victim to a short, partial, porous economic blockade of the Straight of Tiran before Israel started the military hostilities, firing the 1st shot starting the 1967 war.

    All the comments in reply accused me of being a Jew hater and liar, and despite Israeli lip service support for Charlie Hebdo,, my comment was deleted.

    • rehmat1 April 30, 2015 at 8:38 am #

      Ray032 – you should be proud to be called “Jew hater” – because anyone who dares to tell the truth, is called “Jew hater” or “Holocaust denier”, like Gilad Atzmon, Roger Tucker and myself.

      Here is the “Face of Israel”, Netanyahu never want the world to see.

      Nepal and Israel’s ‘surrogate baby industry’


  3. Jerry "Peacemaker" April 29, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    The 700,000 to 750,000 unlawful Israeli settlers can remain, live as normal, civilized, peace-loving people do around the world with full human rights, in homes and apartment complexes whose taxes are paid – to the government of the newly established nation of Palestine. Comes a time… People of the world unite as one honorable human family and banish to historical memory brutal, anachronistic apartheid in Israel – and on this Earth – forever.

  4. rehmat1 April 30, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    I’m sure, Dr. Falk knows that calling the Zionist entity an “apartheid state” makes him a “self-hating Jew”.

    Israeli Gandhi, Uri Avnery, who claims that Dr. Ahmadinejad was a Mossad agent – in an article (October 2013) claimed that “Israel is not a apartheid state like former South Africa.”

    My American friend, Roger Tucker, a writer and blogger, has the following to say about some of pro-apartheid personalities:

    “Mr. Avnery, this heroic figure, this lion of a man, is what I call a “closet,” or “crypto” Zionist. So are Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Carter, but we’ll get to them later. The bottom line of Zionism is the requirement that there be a “Jewish State.” Given that this State actually came into existence in the 20th Century, a stepchild of the Western Enlightenment (and bastard child of the UN, which thereby lost its legitimacy according to its own founding principles – sacrificing the natural sovereignty, not to mention basic human and civil rights, of indigenous peoples on the altar of a state and population superimposed by dubious ‘international legal’ fiat. Israel had, perforce, to masquerade as a “democracy,” but if you’re as fond of oxymorons as I am, the notion of a “Jewish Democracy” must give you pause.”


  5. Laurie Knightly May 1, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    By isolating atrocities like Gaza, the Wall, house demolitions, land seizure, settlements, etc there is an implication that these are issues within the otherwise acceptable and legal land dispossession of the indigenous population of Palestine. It is the UK, US, UN, and USSR et al that validated the terrorist acts which created a Jewish State within ‘Eretz Israel’. It would behoove the 13 states that voted against SC Resolution 181 which created a Jewish State, the 10 abstaining states, plus testimony of jurists then and now bring the case before the International Court of Justice. The UN resolution was ultra vires and not binding – even if it were, Israel did not meet the conditions of either the 1947 Partition or UN membership. If a case might be considered for a designated Jewish territory, certainly none is possible for land seizures in 1948, 1949, 1967 nor individual Palestinian ownership within Israel’s undeclared borders. It is a group of nations and the UN that created this injustice and it is the enabling nations that should be held responsible for the atrocious outcome – plus the ripple effect created throughout the world.

  6. dikf May 2, 2015 at 12:46 am #

    Reblogged this on dikflantz76+… and commented:
    I think this is a marvelous article, I’ve shared it, & excerpts from it, on Facebook, & intend to continue to refer to it in future posts both there & here.

  7. Beau Oolayforos May 2, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    My own pet scheme is of a colloquium of distinguished persons to discuss the future of Israel/Palestine. It would be limited, exclusively, to approximately equal numbers of native speakers of either Hebrew or Arabic. This group would evolve over time into a Constitutional Convention, and later, a Parliament. Formal discussions and debate would carefully exclude outside languages, just as the nascent polity would carefully separate church and state.

    • Richard Falk May 2, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

      Who would select? How would such a body or its members acquire legitimacy as representatives of
      the two peoples? And it is my impression that the Israeli public and leadership is at this
      point disinterested in any kind of fair compromise. The Palestinians have offered lots of concessions,
      and Israeli leaders have ignored or merely asked for more. The idea of limiting discourse in the
      native languages is interesting and potentially valuable, but I am not sure the process you envisage
      could evolve in the way that you envision even if it did get started.

      • Laurie Knightly May 2, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

        There are many impressive Palestinian and Israeli Peace Groups in existence. Also an organization like B’Tselem interacts with Palestinian groups/individuals and lobbies the Knesset. Israel will always find a reason to reject a proposal in order to stall for time. They build more settlements, destroy wells, buildings, agriculture, etc etc and gradually it becomes too late. That’s the plan. Every type of debate, tribunal, conference, proposal, resolution, commission etc has been tried over these many years to no avail. Israel either rejects the conditions or makes changes so that it’s too ridiculous for the Palestinians and they object. Seeking the goodwill of an occupying power is futile. The solution is no mystery.

      • Beau Oolayforos May 5, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

        I’m not sure how any revolutionary government, or its representatives ever acquire legitimacy, and of course no one can predict the future. It seems that the indispensable ingredient in all of this is a change in the US political climate. As long as Israel enjoys the military and diplomatic carte blanche, her belligerency and arrogance will only grow.

      • Richard Falk May 7, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

        I agree completely! Even if Israeli belligerency and arrogance stays at present levels it is intolerable,
        and only reinforce the cruel status quo.

  8. Laurie Knightly May 2, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    Lobby is inappropriate re B’Tselem and Knesset – should be provides information

  9. Aaron Remer May 2, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

    There are no such thing as Palestinians. A complete invention of Richard Falk.
    Please stop making up all these lies about a “country/nation” that never existed.
    Start spending more time about the need to support Israel and all her issues!!

    Am Yisrael Hai!!

    • ceylan May 3, 2015 at 3:06 am #

      You know, in the wild animals only kill as much as they can consume, they never stock; you are not even worth being called an animal: They are much superior and regal! You should be ashamed to be a human being, never mind be a Jew!

      • Richard Falk May 3, 2015 at 7:53 am #

        Dear Ceylan: At first, I thought this message was meant for me, and I was puzzled, but
        on second reading I feel reassured. Looking forward to seeing you soon, with love..

      • ceylan May 3, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

        Dearest Richard,

        I am terribly sorry for the misunderstanding!

        To a creature who is in total denial, who has no sense of responsibility, (as in your quote from “the Jewish philosopher, Abraham Heschel” who “observed ‘[f]ew are guilty, but all are responsible'”) or, have no self respect hence to others, last but not least have no dignity, I did not think it was worth addressing the message.

        I believe “responsibility” and self/respect comes along with dignity.

        Thank you for yet another thought provoking, challenging essay for all of us who have the capacity to think, capable of having responsibility and conscience as human beings for humanity.

        May your compassion be enduring to enlighten those who are fortunate to be touched by it.

        Indeed, I am looking forward to seeing you soon too!

        Yours respectfully,


      • Richard Falk May 4, 2015 at 7:27 am #

        Thanks, Ceylan, and I share your feelings. With love, richard

    • Laurie Knightly May 3, 2015 at 8:36 am #

      Aaron: As a person fond of facts, you need to check the definition of country/nation – a valid/legal description of Palestine for a very long time. Palestine was listed in 1920 by League of Nations as having ‘reached a stage of development at which existence as independent nation could be provisionally recognized.’ Also described in textbooks of international law. The term ‘Arab’ was a necessary designation in the region to differentiate between the indigenous people and the Jewish minority living in Palestine – the latter eventually owning 6% of the land.

      Also, Celan – wild animals do kill each other for sport, dominance, territory and to impress the females. They also store food – and fight over it. Like humans.

    • ray032 May 3, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

      Foreign Office

      November 2nd, 1917

      Dear Lord Rothschild,

      I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

      “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

      I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

      Yours sincerely,
      Arthur James Balfour

      Aaron, are you re-writing History and repudiating the Balfour Declaration that recognizes the non-Jewish communities in PALESTINE, making them Palestinianians!

  10. Ben May 3, 2015 at 5:19 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    I fully agree that “what this leaves is either Israeli unilateralism, carrying out the Zionist endgame of incorporating the whole of Jerusalem and the West Bank into Israel, and claiming to be the state of the entire Jewish people, or a Legitimacy War victory by the Palestinian people that induces a cycle of ‘new diplomacy’ on a level playing field.”

    By way of trying to aid the latter cause I have just completed a book covering the entire history of the conflict. It is written allegorically in the hope that it can reach a far wider audience than a traditional history can do.

    I’d be very interested to know your thoughts on the book. Additionally I would like to seek your permission to use a quote from you on the first page:

    “The political outcome of prior anti-colonial struggles has been controlled by the side that wins the legitimacy war for control of the commanding heights of international law and morality. This symbolic terrain is so important as it strengthens the resilience of those seeking liberation to bear the burdens of struggle and it deepens the global solidarity movement that provides vital support.”

    If you would consider doing either or both of these things, I’d be very happy to receive an email from you.


    • Richard Falk May 3, 2015 at 7:56 am #

      Ben: I am all in favor of allegory as a means to engage a wider audience, and I would be interested
      in reading what you have written, although I cannot promise a quick reading because of other pressures, deadlines, and so on.

      And, of course, you have my permission to use the quote that you inquire about. I can be reached at

      • Ben May 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

        Hi Richard,

        Thank you so much for letting me use your quote. Thanks even more for agreeing to take a look at my book. I understand that you are a very busy person, so please don’t feel under any pressure to read it quickly. Unfortunately however you didn’t supply an email to send the book to. I’m presuming you have my email as I had to log into this website.


      • Ben May 5, 2015 at 4:43 am #

        Hi Richard,

        You didn’t seem to see this or there was an error:

        May 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm #
        Hi Richard,

        Thank you so much for letting me use your quote. Thanks even more for agreeing to take a look at my book. I understand that you are a very busy person, so please don’t feel under any pressure to read it quickly. Unfortunately however you didn’t supply an email to send the book to. I’m presuming you have my email as I had to log into this website.


  11. Laurie Knightly May 3, 2015 at 9:44 am #

    Richard: I have a Holy Bible translated to English by His Majesty’s Special Command from the original tongues and published in 1804. In Genesis, it states that the isles of the Gentiles were divided in their lands, everyone after his tongue, after their families, in their ‘nations’. The designation ‘country’ is in there as well. Did you invent/define the terms nation and country, that early? According to Aaron Remer, you have/had this power.

    Oxford English: nation – a community of people of mainly common descent, history, language,etc forming a state or inhabiting a territory.

    Myanmar is still Burma and Canaan is Palestine.

  12. Rabbi Ira Youdovin May 3, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Because this post presents s a more complete account of Prof. Falk’s views on Israel-Palestine than those previously appearing in this space, I’m interrupting my permanent vacation from the “Comments” section to respond in what I hope will accepted as a reasoned, unabusive dissent.

    Prof. Falk begins by reiterating his advocacy of Palestinian rights to sovereignty over all of historic Palestine, but then introduces what appears to be a significant new element. He cites the late Palestinian-American academician and Palestinians activist Edward Said who held that

    “the illegitimacies of the past that have victimized the Palestinians and produced the present intolerable state of affairs, must be put to one side in peacemaking contexts, and the future framed by reference to how Palestinians and Jews can best live together when account is taken of all the circumstances of past and present, including the allocation of rights by the application of international law. This injunction of mutuality should not be interpreted as a readiness to forget the past, or to minimize its relevance. Rather it is an insistence that replicating past wrongs by superimposing on all of historic Palestine a new power structure that excludes or subjugates Jews is not ethically acceptable or politically feasible as goals of conceiving Palestinian empowerment.” (italics mine)

    Concern for the rights and welfare of Jews is new territory for Prof. Falk, at least on this blog, one that could be an important step toward peace. The process of resolving conflicts begins with both sides asserting their positions, often in extremist versions, but also acknowledging at least a measure of validity in the other’s.

    Regrettably—and, I fear, ominously—Prof. Falk is silent on the question of how this approach be applied to Israel-Palestine. This is odd. Frequently in the recent past, Prof. Falk has advocated for “a bi-national state governed by international law.” I don’t know why this notion is omitted from the current lengthy and more comprehensive post. But as there’s no evidence that he’s abandoned it, indeed, he strongly advocates a one state solution, the proposal warrants examination.

    Prof. Falk asserts that bi-nationalism represents new and challenging thinking. But in fact, the concept has been around since the inception of the British Mandate nearly nine decades ago. And in each of those decades, it has failed to achieve traction on either side of the conflict. After their long and parallel struggles for independence, neither Israelis nor Palestinians are the least bit interested in a power-sharing arrangement that denies both of them statehood. As a matter of common sense, it’s unreasonable to expect that two peoples whose mutual loathing and distrust precludes agreement on terms for divorce will somehow resolve their dispute by getting married. Recent history is littered with catastrophic examples of what happens when two peoples who share nothing but mutual hostility and geographical proximity are mashed-up together under one flag. The Middle East doesn’t need another Syria. The world doesn’t need another Yugoslavia.

    Considering his intelligence and experience, it’s difficult to believe that Prof. Falk embraces the “…and they lived happily ever after” ending to the one-state fairy tale. It’s even more difficult not to believe that the ending he seeks is quite different than the one that’s apparent. His benign-sounding “governed by international law” is certainly code for implementing all UN resolutions since 1948 that call for a return of all Palestinian refugees. The resulting floodtide would turn the Jewish population into a minority, thus defeating the very purpose of Zionism, and endangering their lives and safety. The painful truth is that Prof. Falk’s proposal violates Prof. Saiud’s strictures for protecting Jewish life and treasure.

    Prof. Falk’s prescription for Israeli Jews: “a spiritual homeland for the Jewish people in ancient Palestine would could be maintained, but not the current Jewish state….” What is a “spiritual homeland?”

    Lest there be any misunderstanding, I strongly support the Palestinian People in their quest for a better future, including independent statehood. Indeed, my purpose in writing this critique is to suggest that seeking a one-state solution undermines the Palestinians’ cause by committing them to eliminating Israel, a member state of the United Nations, as a pre-condition for their national liberation. This puts them at loggerheads not only with Israel, the United States and the Jewish People, but also with the United Nations, the Arab League and most of the civilized world. It’s a battle they’re not likely to win. Those who advise them to try are giving bad advice.

    Granted, there are times when an individual or people must stand alone. The longest section of his post— a version of Israeli-Palestinian history written as a Palestinian narrative, which Prof. Falk describes as “constructive imbalance”—endeavors to demonstrate that Israeli policy and bad behavior has made a two-state solution impossible, thus making a one-state solution the only feasible alternative. His approach is inductive rather than deductive. Instead of examining evidence from a more-or-less objective perspective and then drawing conclusions, he begins with conclusions, drawn along ideological and perhaps psychological lines, and then shapes the evidence to support his case.

    I won’t spend time addressing each of the post’s errors of fact and judgment. There are more than a few If anyone is interested in specifics, please post your question and I’ll try to answer it. However, I will address a few items to illustrate how bad advice, supported by bad information, can lead the Palestinians down pathways that are deleterious to them, while blinding their eyes to opportunities for a better future.

    For example, Prof. Falk states that the aim of Zionism is establishing Israeli sovereignty over all of historic Palestine. Were this true, Palestinians and their supporters would have no alternative but to stand and fight. But it it’s not! Zionism is a big tent covering a diversity of political, social, religious, cultural and religious perspectives. Over the years, some individuals and groups have advocated a maximal approach. But it has never been Zionist movement policy, de jure or de facto. And its two most notorious exponents, Z’ev Jabotinsky (1920’s-30’s) and Meir Kahane, (1970’s) were expelled from the World Zionist Organization. In the recent national elections, no party advocated total annexation, and the two parties that were most closely identified with the settlers lost votes.

    Opinion polls repeatedly show that a substantial majority of Israelis dislike the settlements, and condemn the behavior of some settlers toward their Palestinian neighbors. Many Israelis detest the Occupation, fear that it erodes the state’s democratic character and that if it’s not terminated, Israel could become permanent enforcer of an apartheid regime on the West Bank and Gaza. (n.b. I concur in this judgment.)

    An obvious question: if an Israeli majority feels this way, why do the settlements remain and expand? Assuredly, some of the blame lies in a weakness of vision and character among key Israeli political leaders. But some lies with the Palestinians. Conspicuously absent from Prof. Falk’s post is an honest analysis of Palestinian policy and behavior. Palestinians are portrayed as an oppressed, peace-loving but helpless monolith whose repeated peace proposals are systematically rejected by Israel. This simply is not accurate.

    Some Palestinians accept Israel as an inevitable, if not legitimate, presence, and are prepared to negotiate peace in the context of a two-state solution. Represented by Fatah, these are the folks who brought the Palestinians’ case for statehood to the United Nations with stunning, ground breaking success. Prof. Falk condemns them as “collaborationalists”. Hamas, which fought a bloody civil war against them some years ago, rejects accommodation with Israel and has affirmations of genocide and ethnic cleansing enshrined in its charter. Prof. Falk is a strong supporter and apologist for Hamas, claiming that the offending statements are only “vague aspirations” and, in fact, no longer relevant. Yet they remain in place. The most logical explanation is that the assurances Prof. Falk received from confidential sources may be invalid

    To repeat, I find the Occupation to be reprehensible. It is ugly, oppressive and imposes blatant human rights violations. Israel, should, and sometimes does, loosen its hold. For example, Al-Monitor, a new and highly regarded Washington-based news website (with an Arab tilt), recently reported a substantial easing of restriction in the Gaza port, especially for building materials for reconstructing war-damaged buildings.

    Of course, ameliorative measures like this, while welcome in the short term, are inadequate over the longer haul. The Palestinians need land on which to build a Palestinian state. Finding adequate land at this point will create political and emotional turmoil in Israel, but it’s a bullet Israelis must bite as the only alternative to imposing permanent apartheid and/or facing on-going, and frequently violent, unrest among the Palestinians. So land will be found. Some settlers will have to re-locate, as they did when Israel removed every soldier and settler from Gaza. But ceding land to the Palestinians creates the potential danger of bringing Hamas artillery and rockets closer to Israel’s heartland. No sane leader of any state will cede that without a commitment from the recipient that it will not use the land as a platform for attack (as happened in Gaza after the Israelis departed.)

    Thus far, Hamas has refused to make that commitment, and that refusal has compromised the strength of Fatah’s commitment to peaceful co-existence. A statement early in Prof. Falk’s post illustrates this. He writes that “…the Palestinian people may sometime in the future have the opportunity to seek similar redress for the past but now their urgent focus is upon liberation from present daily structures of acute oppression.” In other words, what the Palestinians receive now can and will be used as a platform for seeking Israel’s elimination sometime in the future. No sane leader will agree to that.

    Prof. Falk uses one further weapon in his relentless campaign to demonize Israel: calling it dirty names. He condemns Israel as an apartheid state. As I noted earlier, Israel’s current Occupation of the West Bank imposes apartheid, and should Israel establish permanent unilateral control of this area, it will be an apartheid regime. But to accuse Israel of being an apartheid state only a few weeks after its Palestinian citizens, exercising the same franchise enjoyed by all Israelis, elected made a Palestinian party the third largest in the Knesset is a stretch, even for Prof. Falk. But no matter, Prof. Falk has devised a new definition of apartheid so that he can make a damning allegation without worrying that it doesn’t fit what the dictionary and most people understand as apartheid.

    “The political use of apartheid in relation to Israel does not attempt to pass legal judgment. It is rather an assessment based on the systematic character of structures of domination and discrimination that cannot be convincingly rationalized as either non-discriminatory or by reference to the reasonable requirements of Israeli security.”

    This definition is so vague and subjective that it would enable someone to call his neighbor’s tabby cat and man eating tiger in order to frighten authorities into driving it out of the neighborhood.

    Israel and the Jewish People will survive Richard Falk’s harsh criticism. But the prognosis for Palestinian survival is not so clear-cut. The Middle East at present, and for the conceivable future, is a very dangerous kaleidoscope of shifting allegiances. I find in Prof. Falk’s strategy little concern for potential consequences of the post Arab Spring environment for Hamas, Fatah and Palestinians in refugee camps. I don’t mean that he doesn’t care about them. He does. But his one-dimensional focus on Israel-Palestine as a kind of a morality play (good vs. evil) apparently precludes full consideration of the larger context in which it’s being fought. Meanwhile, traditional sources of support such as Syria and Iran, are moving away. And Hamas, with a largely Sunni membership and funding from Iran makes the Palestinians a tempting target for both ISIS and Shiite extremists, while there are reports of Al Queda arriving on the scene.

    In conclusion, Prof. Falk writes that this is a time for taking a fresh look at Israel-Palestine. He means shifting focus from redressing the Palestinians’ 1967 grievances to their 1948 grievances…or perhaps to the British Mandate (1922) or Balfour Declaration (1917).

    I, too, propose a new way of thinking, Instead of looking to redress the past, we should be focusing on building a better future for the Palestinians as swiftly and securely as possible. Instead of reinforcing animosity toward Jews and Israel, why not encourage Palestinians to test Israel’s stated commitment to a two-state solution with return of territory that equals the amount taken in 1967, do-able plans for building a Palestinian state available for repatriating refugees, plans for those refugees who choose not to return, financial assistance to both returning refugees and those who choose to live elsewhere, and negotiated resolution to other issues such as Jerusalem, the Holy Basin and water resources.

    Prof. Falk’s proposal condemns the Palestinians to years of uncertainty while awaiting the fate of lawsuits, boycott campaigns, etc. There is assuredly a better way for them to proceed.

    I propose that folks who care about the Palestinian future urge Palestinians to abandon rejectionism, violence and lawfare, as we in Israel’s multi-national peace camp urge our Israeli brothers and sisters to reject extremism. We urge our Palestinian cousins to find common ground on which Fatah and Hamas can unite in a common front, and test Israel’s stated commitment to peace by coming forward with a program of their own design which includes a commitment to negotiate an end to conflict. Concluding a priori that Israel will not negotiate in good faith guarantees failure. But with people suffering and dying, and the danger of being overridden by bestiality threatening at the gates, it’s worth a try.

    Isn’t it?!

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Richard Falk May 4, 2015 at 7:38 am #

      Dear Rabbi Youdovin:

      Thanks for this careful and detailed message. I will study it carefully before attempting to respond. I am also under
      some pressure due to unmet deadlines, travels, etc..

      I do see some old problems with your continued adherence to the two-state solution:
      –from what Netanyahu said in the recent campaign, and as reinforced by informed Israeli opinions, about his real views (e.g. Uri Avnery)
      why should one lead the Palestinians any further down the path of the Oslo process? Also, Netanyahu’s new governing coalition gives added
      influence, as I understand it, to pro-settlement parties, and not the slightest indication of any abandonment of settlement expansion;
      –Israel’s current president favors an Israeli one-state solution, and was selected with this knowledge by the Knesset;
      –is there truly any way to make a land swap that is equivalent? has anyone worked out such a plan that does involve giving inferior land
      or further fragmenting the Palestinian reality?

  13. zak May 4, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    It’s troubling, professor, that you confuse the US-led “peace process” (which has been an attempt to maximize Israeli annexation and control, supported at least tacitly by the US) with the “two-state solution” (which requires the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on the whole of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and a just resolution of the refugee issue, a framework that has never been adopted or accepted by the US-led “peace process” – even the historic close call at Taba was only possible because of massive concessions by Palestinians on settlements and refugees – but that is supported by the entire world), and on this basis, support the conclusion that the two-state solution is “dead”.

    It’s also troubling that you spoke a lot about Palestinian self-determination, and acknowledged that the principle itself can be vague and confusing when it comes to attempts at physical manifestation, but that you never described how the international community – the same community that presents a near-unanimous consensus on resolving the conflict based on the framework of two states I described above – decided to define Palestinian self-determination, decades ago. That is, a Palestinian state on the whole of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

    It’s random, but just last week I made similar comments at Electronic Intifada, and Abunimah responded in what I thought may be the start of a discussion. I was wrong, he was simply interested in reiterating his long-standing view that a Palestinian state as legally defined and required, does not fulfill his definition of “self-determination” – which must include the ability of Palestinians to exercise national self-determination within the legal borders of Israel. Like it or not, the UN Charter does not clarify the principle of self-determination directly, but contains a framework where the sovereignty of memeber states is literally sacrosanct, almost immune to violation except under the most extreme circumstances, when a consensus among the the P5 states at the UNSC can be demonstrated, and action which violates such sovereignty is approved. No such approval has ever been granted to allow Palestinian self-determination to be exercised within Israel itself.

    The closest we have to a legal framework on this issue is that the adoption of the UNSC of this issue automatically turns it into an international matter, where UNSC orders reign supreme (as described by the UN Charter). Numerous UNSC orders have confirmed that Israel must fully withdraw, the ICJ has ruled that indeed the OPT is Palestinian territory, not Israeli, and the UNGA has maintained its position for about 40 years that this territory is reserved for Palestinian self-determination – defined as a viable state.

    This is why the refugee issue is so sensitive, because it presents the problem of a legal demand – the right of return within Israel – and an unimpeachable right – Israeli sovereignty within its legal borders. Israel, like any other UN member state, has the right to control its immigration policies and shape them according to its perceived national character. It may be barbaric and inhumane, but Spain has such a right and exercises this right as it limits foreign immigration today, a current example being the refugees fleeing North Africa. This does not lead anyone to demand a violation of Spanish sovereignty under the guise of universal rights, and to do so with Israel seems exceptional and unwarranted. In any case, this is why the right of return is based on a combination of return and/or compensation.

    It’s just not serious to think that shifting the focus of the Palestinian struggle (which since the early 70s has been agreed by Palestinian leadership to be the establishment of a viable state in the OPT) to universal rights will have any traction in international political or legal bodies. It’s rightly described as a backdoor way of violating Israeli sovereignty. Israel could put enough money on the table, prevent a single refugee from returning, and fulfill completely its requirements under the law regarding the right of return. To push aside focus on the occupation, and concentrate on Palestinian rights within all of historic Palestine, throws away whatever legal assets the Palestinian struggle has, and confines you to an upward battle which no country in the world officially supports and no international legal body supports. It puts the conflict into the same framework that countless domestic populations around the world find themselves in – a struggle for domestic rights. In other words, the uniqueness, clarity, and legality of the Israel-Palestine conflict becomes lost.

    As I told Abunimah, if this is the course you wish to support, that’s up to you, but the real life consequences of that support should be reflected on. As you struggle to change global opinion, and the international consensus, 2, 3 decades may pass. In that time, Israel will carry on with the status quo and continue annexing land, stealing resources, and attacking Palestinians. I can’t support such a project, especially not when there is a legal solution on the table, the two-state solution, which could end the conflict tomorrow – it simply requires the removal of a single, overshadowing obstacle, US rejection of the international consensus, the two-state solution.

    But my point in making these comments was to say that you don’t make these distinctions. You confuse the US “peace process” with the two-state solution and then proceed to have a detailed discussion on this false premise. I decided to leave qualification for the end, so I will say now that I have presented some claims about the law, and given your background and expertise, maybe I’m incorrect. If there is any clarification needed in terms of what I said about the law, please explain because maybe that’s what leads me and you to different conclusions.

    I also noticed that you mentioned the ’67 and ’73 wars as attempts by the Arab states to “liberate” Palestine and Jerusalem, but surely you know the record. You must know that the Israel attacks in ’67 were carried out to achieve a superior Israeli military position and annex further territory, and that Egypt’s goals in ’73 were to reteieve the Sinai – Palestine was non-existent in Sadat’s demands, which led to the war, and ultimately ended up being the framework of the Camp David agreement in ’78. I’m confused about how you included these wars when mentioning Arab support for Palestine (Jordan even had an agreement with Israel in ’67 about annexing Palestinian territory).

    • Richard Falk May 4, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

      Zak: A very illuminating and valuable comment that makes me feel that I need to revise my post in two major respects:
      –to explore the important distinction between the U.S. version of the two-state solution and international consensus on a
      two-state solution; my impression is that the European and other deferred to the Oslo framework, including the American version
      of the two-state outcome. What evidence is there of this second version?

      –I think you are very correct to fault my presentation of the 1967 and 1973 wars, which were only indirectly related to seeking
      realization of Palestinian self-determination and a restored Palestinian homeland.

      I thank you very much for composing such a thoughtful response to my essay.

      • zak May 8, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

        Thank you for your reply professor, and thank you for your clarification. If I understand correctly, you see that Europe – be it represented by the EU or by the lead of the major european powers – has adopted the Oslo, or US-led “peace process” framework as the two-state solution, and if this is correct, where does the version of the two-state solution I describe come into play, carry any weight, or have any relevance?

        Well, if we are to look at authoritative international opinion, the first place to check is the UNGA. The UNGA has been voting on a resolution titled the “peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” for more than 40 years, and the voting record is clear. It’s always the entire world voting in favour of this resolution, with the US and Israel in almost complete isolation, voting “no”.

        There have been, here and there, some abstentions by major european states like Germany or the UK over the years, but consistently, even they vote “yes”. In recent years, some pacific islands that nobody’s ever heard of, and sometimes Australia and (to my eternal shame) Canada join the rejectionist camp.

        If we look at the text of this resolution, we see why the US votes “no” every year, yet goes around peddling its “peace process” – they are fundamentally opposed. The UNGA version refers explicitly to the framework I mentioned. This is all based on resolutions and voting records I could access online, on the UN site, and if I’m misreading them or confusing drafts with adopted resolutions, please do point this out.

        The first resolution I can find is from December 1974, where the basic framework is introduced. The language of this annual resolution, up until 1979 usually speaks of solving the conflict through recognizing and realizing “inalienable” Palestinian rights, like self-determination, the right of return and establishing “sovereignty”, all while referring to principles in the UN Charter.

        By 1980, the resolution now contains specific language referring to UNSC 242, in addition to the above mentioned principles, establishing a “state”, and calling for a full Israeli withdrawal, and clarifying the status of Jerusalem. These issues cover what used to be called the “final status” issues – borders, settlements (covered by the withdrawal order in UNSC 242), refugees and settlements.

        So a quick look at the Oslo, or “peace process” tells us right away what it’s purpose is. The “final status” issues were left out of Oslo, they were described as too complicated to deal with right away, too controversial. But that’s the point, isn’t it? There’s no question at all on these issues. According to the UNSC (and Geneva Conventions and ICJ), Israel must withdraw fully, the issues of borders, settlements and East Jerusalem are covered under that withdrawal. International humanitarian law covers the refugees.

        The US “peace process” is designed to supersede, ignore and erase these “final status” issues, or frame their final outcome in favour of Israeli demands. For example, permanent IDF presence in the Jordan Valley, annexation of settlements, or settlement blocs and resources, a demilitarized Palestinian state, Israeli control over airspace, borders, etc., all elements present in various incarnations of the “peace process”.

        Now, if we look at the voting record on this resolution, that is consistently passed at the UNGA every year, the international position – including that of the european states – is crystal clear. The entire world – except Israel, the US, a handful of pacific islands, and sometimes Australia and/or Canada – votes “yes” to this framework of the UNGA resolution. That is, a full Israeli withdrawal, establishment of a viable Palestinian state in the OPT, and a “just resolution” to the refugee question (the “just resolution” language appears in later years as well).

        To connect this to my earlier point, it’s crucial to differentiate between the US-led “peace process” and the actual two-state solution supported by the entire world because the former – as you and many others have pointed out – has tried to erase the latter. If the question is, where is the support for the actual two-state solution, the answer is at the UNGA, demonstrated every year by an overwhelming, and consistent, vote.

  14. Laurie Knightly May 4, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    The reason that Prof Falk states that the aim of Zionism was to establish sovereignty over all of Palestine was because that was/is the aim of Zionism. In 1919, the World Zionist Organization at the Paris Peace Conference submitted a map of their proposed land acquisition which included all of ancient Palestine plus the Golan Heights. In 1948, the Declaration of Independence of Israel expresses further references to an Eretz Israel. This so called ‘Eretz Israel’ includes land in all of the surrounding Arab countries. If that plan has been officially rejected in favor of some other definite/valid boundaries, its whereabouts are unknown and would be most welcome. Perhaps the rabbi can locate such an instrument .

    When Egypt and Jordan occupied Palestinian territory, it was in way comparable to that of Israel. In written documents, both countries safeguarded all rights and sovereignty of the Palestinians. The Palestinians, furthermore, have not relinquished their land claims so the passage of time does not validate Israel’s occupation according to Hague Regulations. This is not to suggest that Israel or the US has any regard for international law or even common basic decency in this matter. The hundreds of UN Resolutions calling on Israel to rectify the situation outlines the disregard for Palestinian rights/claims. The veto power in the Security Council quickly silences any legal claims.

    Also in Zak’s comments, above, there is an analogy to refugees from N Africa fleeing to Spain. If the refugees had land claims in Spain, one might make a comparison – otherwise it isn’t relevant. Agreed, however, is that law itself has had no success in this matter and there is little hope that it would do more than drag on while Israel continues to steal, destroy, and plunder with impunity. Israel should be given a year to comply with the 1947 Partition Plan and failure to do so would remove them from the community of nations in any and all forms. This plan is a very generous land theft that was given a legitimacy beyond the approval of persons who believe in justice. Israel was not built as a refuge for holocaust survivors – it was a haven for opportunists. Genuine survivors should have been welcomed in any nation of their choice. The number of such persons is reported to be less than 200,000 and Israel usually not their preferred destination.

    • Richard Falk May 4, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

      Important and well spoken comment! Thanks, Laurie.


    • Rabbi Ira Youdovin May 5, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      Laurie Knightly:

      I’m pleased to provide the information you requested:

      The Zionist Organization’s submission to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference was not a statement of Zionist aspirations. Rather, it responded to a request for proposals regarding a Mandate for Palestine that was being considered, and was ultimately granted to Great Britain. Regarding sovereignty it said:

      “The sovereign possession of Palestine shall he vested in the League of Nations and the Government entrusted to Great Britain as Mandatory of the League.”

      A few years later, Britain chopped off a sizable chunk of mandated Palestine east of the Jordan River to create what was initially called Trans-Jordan, and later, simply Jordan

      You are correct that the phrase eretz Yisrael (biblical Israel) appears in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, but not without the word “in” preceding it…

      ”We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael, to be known as the State of Israel.”

      Rabbi Ira Youdovin

      • Richard Falk May 7, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

        Rabbi Youdovin:

        Recounting the historical narrative cannot rescue the foundations of Israel from their deep embeddedness
        in British colonial ambition with which the League partially acceded to in the form of mandate (which is
        not the administrative arrangement that Britain was seeking via Sykes-Picot, but a diluted version due to
        U.S. anti-colonial pressures). Both Israelis and Palestinians are best off with Edward Said’s approach is
        to remember and acknowledge, but move on to find a formula for the joint realization of the rights of self-
        determination for both peoples, which presupposes above all equality of rights and respect for the guidelines
        of international law. So far, the so-called ‘two-state diplomacy’ generated by the Oslo Framework has done
        neither, with the complicity of the US Government as the most non-neutral intermediary in the history of

  15. Laurie Knightly May 6, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    Rabbi: It does not seem possible that one would not regard the Zionist proposal as a document of aspirations. Having monitored federal grants for many years, I saw none that would not be described as such by the applicants. Simha Flapan calls the Map of 1919 to the Paris Peace Conference a ‘Zionist vision based on a desire to gather Jews from different countries…….’ Vision? Desire? Aspiration? If not that, what was it? Not a territorial national patrimony to which the Zionists aspired? Rational minds would consider it as such. Transjordan has a separate history in the British Mandate. The fact that it’s 80% desert made it easy to offer Abdullah as appeasement – one which pleased neither Jews nor Arabs.

    Also, my request was for an Israeli document that clearly defines its borders. The term ‘Eretz’ is quite revealing as to ‘aspirations’ which are not only consistent since 1919 but not limited to a system of justice exclusive of divine decree. Refer me to a delineated national home accepted de jure in perpetuity by Israel. What Israel actually continues to inflict on the Palestinians is consistent with the well documented plans inherent within the unbending aspirations of Zionism.

    • Rabbi Ira Youdovin May 6, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

      Laurie Knightly:

      Like so many others on this blog, your “reasoning” is deductive. That is, you begin with allegations of Israeli evil and distort data to them.

      What I wrote, in response to an inquiry to me in your post, that the Zionists’ proposal to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference was not a map for Zionism’s aspirations in the British Mandate, but a proposal to the League of Nations for what the Mandate would look like in the former Ottoman Empire. Projecting current debates back to a century earlier might make for engaging reading. But it’s bad history.

      It’s a fair guess that some, perhaps many, Zionists at the time hoped that Balfour’s deliberately ambiguous pledge to create a Jewish Homeland in Palestine meant all of Palestine. But confusing individuals’ hopes with national policy also makes for bad, albeit self-serving history. The Zionists’ aspirations at Paris were to do what they could to help Britain get a large slice of the pie. But those were Arab aspirations, as well. When that hope failed to materialize, the Zionists accepted the UN Partition proposal and set out to build a state. The armies of five Arab states attacked with the intention of driving the Jews into the sea. Who’s try to impose its unbending aspirations on whom?

      You demand an official Israeli document that defines its borders. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that the terms of the Israeli-Arab armistice agreement in the Summer of 1948 called for negotiations to determine permanent borders. That limbo still holds. If Israeli defines its borders unilaterally, the Arabs (together with Prof. Falk) will condemn it as an act of Israeli uinilateralism. But the Palestinians aren’t willing to draw maps other than one that omits Israel. To my knowledge, the only map drawn by a part to the conflict to express its collective view is the Hamas National Charter’s unambiguous statement that a non-Muslim state has no legitimate place in the Middle East.

      Finally, your citing Simha Flapan repeats another bad habit among posters on this blog: citing a single source, usually a Jew hostile to Israel, as being the only reliable source. Flapan was a left-wing Israeli historian, one of a small group often called the “new historians”—like Benny Morris and Tom Segev— whose self-appointed mission was to discredit the Israeli narrative’s claims to unalloyed Israeli virtue. In fact, they did an important job in making fellow citizens conscious of their misdeeds. But they weren’t always right, especially when zealots quote them out of context for political purposes. Of course, the Zionists wanted room for Jewish refugees. That was the primary purpose of Zionism.

      But excuse me, you’ve already stated your opinion on that issue (in your previous post)

      “Israel was not built as a refuge for holocaust survivors – it was a haven for opportunists. Genuine survivors should have been welcomed in any nation of their choice. “

      Laurie Knightly, I’ve responded to your questions but am afraid that we’re getting nowhere.

      Rabbi Ira Youdovin

      • Gene Schulman May 7, 2015 at 11:23 am #

        I wanted to stay out of this one because, as Ira states, it goes nowhere. And it never will as long we keep referring to the Balfour Declaration. Allow me, though, to define that Declaration with a quote from Gilad Atzmon’s new book* which I am currently reviewing: “B: Balfour Declaration – a sophisticated British plot designed to drag the USA into World War I”.

        I think Laurie and Richard would probably agree with this. I certainly do.

        Greetings to all, intermittently, from Djerba.

      • Richard Falk May 7, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

        It is a new angle for me. There seemed to be enough other suspect reasons for the issuance
        of the Balfour Declaration, including Balfour’s version of ‘Christian Zionism.’ Of course, Gilad
        does not write in thin air, and there must be something behind his contention..

      • Gene Schulman May 7, 2015 at 11:28 am #

        * The Definitive Israeli Lexicon, A to Zion

        May 28, 2015

      • Richard Falk May 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

        Rabbi Youdovin:

        There is no point attributing views to me on such speculative questions. If Israel were to propose borders for itself
        that were responsive to the spirit of SC Resolution 242 or even better, 181, I would view it as a step toward a just and
        sustainable peace. Given the current Israeli leadership any kind of unilateral step made by Israel would almost certainly be a means of furthering maximal
        Zionist goals, and include the legalization of the unlawful and continuously expanding settlement archipelago.

      • Laurie Knightly May 7, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

        Re to Gene’s comments on Balfour Declaration, it was a bid for Rothschild’s wealth and US contacts. The UK was losing the war and desperate for military and financial support. Also, Chaim Weizmann was a brilliant chemist and invented a synthetic acetone used in explosives that was very advantageous to the Brits and they were grateful. No doubt that they wanted to bring US into the war. Supposedly, they planned to make right their ‘conflicting’ promises after it was over. Interestingly, it was Sir Edwin Montagu, the only Jew in the cabinet, who opposed the declaration in general but was responsible for the provision in it protecting the rights of the non-Jews. The UK assumed that this promise to the Jews would help win the war and keep Palestine under British influence in perpetuity. There are some very dismissive documents from UK leaders regarding the plight of the Palestinians at that time. They were of very little concern.

  16. Ben May 6, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    Hi Richard,

    At risk of being a nuisance I think you missed this:


    May 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm #
    Hi Richard,

    Thank you so much for letting me use your quote. Thanks even more for agreeing to take a look at my book. I understand that you are a very busy person, so please don’t feel under any pressure to read it quickly. Unfortunately however you didn’t supply an email to send the book to (it seems your sentence was cut off midway through).


  17. Ben May 7, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    “So far, the so-called ‘two-state diplomacy’ generated by the Oslo Framework has done
    neither, with the complicity of the US Government as the most non-neutral intermediary in the history of diplomacy!”

    I was quite surprised to read in chapter 13 of Benny Morris’ “Righteous Victims” that “it [the US] was generally held (albeit grudgingly by many Arabs and Israeli’s) to be a relatively objective broker.”

    Until I read that I had thought his book to be a fairly even handed description of the entire conflict and had used it as the primary source of historical information for my own book. I’d be interested to know what Richard and the other commenters here think of Morris’ work.

  18. Rabbi Ira Youdovin May 7, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    Prof Falk:

    With all due respect, you appear to contradict yourself. You write in your comment:

    “If Israel were to propose borders for itself that were responsive to the spirit of SC Resolution 242 or even better, 181, I would view it as a step toward a just and sustainable peace.”

    As you assuredly know, SCR 242 and 181 are the bedrock of a two-state solution, which is a concept you repeatedly reject. For example, you castigated the Presbyterian Church’s pro- BDS resolution for including what you ridicule as “Zombie Ideas”, such as “language affirming Israel’s right to exist.”

    Moreover, your call for a “single bi-national state governed by international law” is an unambiguous rejection of UNSCR 181, which segments the former British Mandate into “Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.” And your easy obliteration of Israel’s independence violates UNSCR242’s call for “respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area.”

    If, indeed, Israel’s right to exist is a “Zombie concept”—which you define, quoting Paul Krugman, as an idea, thoroughly discredited by evidence and the realities of the situation, but somehow still affirmed because it serves useful political purposes; and Israeli-Palestinian peace can be achieved only by dissolving Israel into a one-state mash-up, how can Israel’s drawing borders of any dimension be construed as “as step toward a just and sustainable peace?”

    You frequently accuse your critics of quoting you out of context and distorting your views. Although I’ve quoted verbatim from the UN texts and your blog posts, I ask for any clarifications you might have if I’ve distorted your views.

    Thank you,

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Richard Falk May 8, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

      Rabbi Youdovin:

      I am not sure why you are so intent in proving me wrong or stupid rather than concentrating on the substantive issues.

      There is no contradiction. I was trying to make the double point: first, that Israel could, if it so wished, have often over the years signaled
      its intention to find a solution by way of the two-state solution. Secondly, that its failure to do so served to render ‘the peace process’
      advantageous Israel’s settlement expansion process, which made the viability of a Palestinian state less and less plausible, and disadvantageous
      to the Palestinians, and that it was weakness or confusion on their part that has led them to play this Israel/U.S. game.

      I have written that from the perspective of human rights and democracy the idea of an ethnic state makes no sense. The Jewish leader, Henry Seigman,
      calls Israel an ethnocracy, not a democracy, for this reason. Therefore, it has seemed to me that the only way for the two peoples to live in peace
      and equality was to form a single secular state. It could remain a Jewish homeland, but with equal rights of return. This seems to me the best outcome,
      but I have no authority other than to speak as interested bystander. It is also the solution favored by Edward Said.

      The two state solution as Zombie Idea is based on the lack of progress or commitment on the part of Israel & the U.S., yet there continued insistence that
      this is the only path to peace. In a sense, Netanyahu performed a service during the campaign by expressing his true commitment to avoiding the establishment of
      an Israeli state.

      Incidentally, I do not question Israel’s right to exist, but I do believe that its present mode of existence and its ideological claims associated with Zionism are problematic from legal and moral points of view.

      To argue with me as you seem to wish to do is fine, but to suppose that my views are mired in contradiction and incoherence is merely to engage in a kind of
      polite slander. You clearly dislike my approach to Israel & Palestine, but to try to show that I am confused or in bad faith seems to be an evasion. You can
      do better!

      richard falk

  19. Laurie Knightly May 7, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

    SC Res 181 in 1947 and SC 242 in 1967 refer to the original partition by the UN. If Israel withdrew all land claims to any area outside the designated boundaries of 1947, it would indicate some integrity in resolving the injustice inflicted on Palestine. The idea, however, was/is to make that an impossibility. What is being suggested now as the only feasibility is a Jewish State with an ethnic subordinate population which we are not to label apartheid – a complaint perhaps justified as it’s considered worse than apartheid by leaders in S Africa. Israel has never had a right to exist.The territory has a de facto existence. Even the Judaic God got fed up with the situation and banished them from the area. Some theologians have studied the writings – like the Naturei Karta.

    Now that Netanjahu has appointed Ayelet Shaked as Justice Minister, maybe her aspiration to destroy all the Palestinians including its elderly and its women, its villages, its property and infrastructure will clarify some of the confusion.

    The Zionist Aspirations in Palestine, written in 1920 and published in the Atlantic Monthly is available online. It was written by Anstruther MacKay, a military governor in part of Palestine during World War 1. In the opening paragraph, he states that ‘…in all ages, aspirations must be made to fit in with hard facts.’ The facts have only worsened for the indigenous population since that time.

  20. Gene Schulman May 8, 2015 at 12:12 am #

    Posted from Laurie via Gene:

    Statement by PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Saeb Erekat on the Formation of the new Israeli Government
    With the dust beginning to settle on the new Israeli coalition government, the face of a new form of racist, discriminatory Israel has been revealed. Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently leading the charge to bury the two state solution and impose a perpetual Apartheid regime, Neftali Bennet a new minister boasting the murder of Palestinians, and the new Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, openly calling on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

    Congratulations Israel, your new government has ensured that peace is not on their agenda. This new right-wing, extremist government is not a partner for peace when the leaders call for the annexation of Palestinian land, forcible transfer of the Palestinian population, and the genocide against our people. The time is well overdue for the International community to face the reality and hold Israel accountable for the crimes and violations made against our people.

    We call on the international community to safeguard the two-State solution by stop treating Israel as a state above the law, support Palestinian rights and diplomatic initiatives including the UN Security Council, to ensure the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied State of Palestine, to support our efforts in the International Criminal Court and to recognize the State of Palestine.

  21. Laurie Knightly May 9, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    The role of architecture in the Israeli occupation of Palestine

    The architect Eyal Weizman has outlined a very revealing account of the central role of architecture in the dispossession of Palestine’s indigenous population.

    “Architecture and the built environment is a kind of slow violence. The occupation is an environment that was conceived to strangulate Palestinian communities, villages and towns, to create an environment that would be unliveable for people to live there,” says Weizman.” He explains how everything, from walls and roads, terraces and sewage, to settlements and surveillance are designed as a type of modern urban warfare. His latest project, Forensic Architecture, is a way of providing evidence to be used against the state for the investigation of war crimes using this strategy.

    The work of Eyal Weizman is an important addition to the mounds of validating evidence regarding this heinous tragedy and will be available both currently and to history in his film The Architecture of Violence.

    • Gene Schulman May 9, 2015 at 10:10 am #

      Thanks for pointing this out, Laurie. It is an excellent contribution to the understanding of “the uses and abuses of architecture.”

      Laurie Knightly
      May 9, 2015 at 8:45 am #
      The role of architecture in the Israeli occupation of Palestine

      The architect Eyal Weizman has outlined a very revealing account of the central role of architecture in the dispossession of Palestine’s indigenous population.

      “Architecture and the built environment is a kind of slow violence. The occupation is an environment that was conceived to strangulate Palestinian communities, villages and towns, to create an environment that would be unliveable for people to live there,” says Weizman.” He explains how everything, from walls and roads, terraces and sewage, to settlements and surveillance are designed as a type of modern urban warfare. His latest project, Forensic Architecture, is a way of providing evidence to be used against the state for the investigation of war crimes using this strategy.

      The work of Eyal Weizman is an important addition to the mounds of validating evidence regarding this heinous tragedy and will be available both currently and to history in his film The Architecture of Violence.



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