Archive | January, 2022

Dangerous Gaps: Knowledge, Action, and Justice

16 Jan

[Prefatory Note: The following essay was published on the website of This View of Life (TVOL) <thisviewoflife.com>, which brings to bear the views of science and evolutionary biology on a series of global challenges increasingly overwhelming the capabilities of civilizational modernity. A series of related articles can be found on the TVOL website. My essay was published there on January 13, 2022.]

Dangerous Gaps: Knowledge, Action, and Justice

Knowledge without Action

Modernity prides itself on its core achievement—basing political order and economic progress on the tools of reason and a trust in science-based knowledge. Yet when it comes to grappling with the large problems of our time it is obvious that there exist wide and dangerous gaps between what we know and what we do, both individually and collectively. Organized governance structures have only selectively integrated the Enlightenment ethos into their formation and implementation of policy, and this explains part of the path of the pathos of Modernity, which despite the technological wonders it has wrought has led to the first bio-ethical-ecological crisis in all of planetary history. To address responsibly such a crisis in relation to climate change or other problems of global scope requires an adequate diagnosis together with new strategies for bringing our knowledge and collective wisdom to bear. Additionally, there exists a discrediting, and likely paralyzing, normative gap between what we do and should be doing in relation to the ethical and political dimensions of climate change.

The severe threats to present and even more to future human generations and habitat wellbeing have long been convincingly confirmed by a consensus among climate experts. [see Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization, Columbia University Press, 2014; Climate Change 2021, 6th Assessment Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2021, and earlier assessment reports ] Civil society activists, most charismatically a young Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, have been sounding the alarm, raising public awareness and anger throughout the world as much as the unprecedented frequency of extreme weather events. Thunberg, speaking to an audience composed of UN diplomatic representatives of member governments gave the issue an embittered inter-generational twist: “You will die of old age. I will die from climate change.”

Not only do we know and increasingly experience the multiple harms due to global warming, but we also have increasingly dire and reliable warnings that unless the underlying situation is corrected within a narrow temporal window of diminishing opportunity, the effects of climate change will cause a series of worsening events and impacts. These include extreme weather causing flooding, drought, heatwaves, and super-storms; sea levels rising; destruction of river systems and lakes; glacial melting and polar warming; unmanageable migratory flows; polarized citizenries leading to extremist politics, demagogic styles of political leadership, and deteriorating quality of democratic governance. We have possessed this knowledge for several decades, and most governmental responses remain deeply disappointing and what is worse, objectively menacing.

Helen Camakaris in a brilliantly perceptive article writes: “The existential risks we now face are largely the consequence of neoliberal capitalism and partisan politics, super-charging growth, greed, and short-term self-interest.”[See Camakaris, “Evolutionary Mismatch, Partisan Politics, and Climate Change: A Tragedy in Three Acts,” In This View of Life, March 9, 2021.] She sensibly concludes that the time has come to rethink the fundamentals of democracy and the economy, and act “to quiet the partisan rage that is currently tearing the US apart.” It is my view that this partisan rage together with the greed-fueled preoccupation with maximizing the efficiencies of capital at the expense of human wellbeing and habitat sustainability is additional to the causal explanation Camakaris provides, a product of historical circumstances and the form of world order that has been evolving since the middle of the 17th Century when it began to take shape in Europe.

Historical Circumstances

Two elements of the historical circumstances bear heavily on why the present context fails to take rational account of the scientific consensus and its evidence-based warnings about the future when it comes to climate change. The first of these circumstances relate to the outcome of the Cold War, which induced a triumphal mood in the West about the superiority of what was touted at the time as ‘market-based constitutionalism’ that resulted in privileging capital flows at the expense of people, giving rise to ‘economic globalization’ as guided by neoliberal ideology. As long as the Soviet Union was associated with a socialist alternative on national stages, the political class in the West, including its economic elites, felt obliged to supply a measure of social protection to their citizenry and to place some limits on the accumulation of wealth by the ultra-rich. With the Soviet collapse, countervailing ideological forces no longer existed to exert a restraining impact on economic and social policies, and the result was to appraise economic wellbeing by aggregate GDP statistics and corporate profitability. In other words, humanity and natural habitat are paying this enduring price for a distorted and shortsighted response by the political classes in the West, led by the United States, to the Soviet collapse and the related discrediting of socialism as an alternative.

The second historical circumstance of particular relevance to the difficulties associated with mobilizing a political consensus on climate change at a global level that adequately complements the scientific or expert consensus relates to the post-colonial character of intergovernmental relations at the UN and elsewhere. Newly independent countries in Asia and Africa either refused to be distracted in their efforts to give the highest policy priorities to rapid economic and social development or challenged whether their relationship to industrialization deserved to be burdened by constraints designed to keep global warming within tolerable limits. Indeed, the buildup of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere was predominantly brought about by industrialization in the West, yet the countries suffering most from climate change are in Africa and the Middle East, including the destruction of the agricultural foundation of their economic viability, prompting millions of climate refugees to flee their countries, and seek entry elsewhere to improve their livelihood prospects. The countries in the West assume scant responsibility, and when they do, it is not because of an acknowledgment of these causal connections of their behavior with migration flows, but as a hypocritical and purely discretionary humanitarian gesture displaying their high moral standards. Yet analyzing and negotiating safe limits on carbon emissions has largely ignored the underlying injustices arising from the historical antecedents of colonial governance, an aspect of which was keeping colonized peoples backward so that they retain their predominant role in the colonial era–providing raw materials and agricultural goods sought by the factories and lifestyles of the West. [See Deepak Nayyar, Resurgent Asia: Diversity in Development, Oxford University Press, 2019 on the de-development of Asia during the period of European colonialization.]

Dysfunctional Structures, Norms, and Ideologies

The failures of rational response to climate change also reflect the impacts of the deeply engrained and legitimated fragmentation of world order. There are many references to the efforts of ‘the global community’ to act and perform cooperatively, but behavioral patterns do not vindicate such rhetoric of solidarity. International institutions are overwhelmingly controlled by governments of sovereign states, whose representatives are beholden to national interests rather than either human or global interests. It could not be otherwise given the ideology of nationalism, ‘political realism,’ and geopolitical ambition that orients behavior toward the wellbeing of individual sovereign states, in other words maximizing what is good for the part rather than the whole.

Now it may be that the process of evolution, which has demonstrated that natural selection privileges cooperation, is in the early stages of manifesting an evolutionary jump ahead by the human species. It is possible that global cooperative potential is on the verge of breakthroughs, which if they occur, will only be adequately explained retrospectively being hidden from view until after their unexpected occurrence. As matters now stand there are not sufficient shared values at the global level to constitute community, and the cooperative alignments that are most robust in terms of commitment and funding take the form of alliances confronting adversary states.

This pattern was recently exemplified by the kind of vaccine diplomacy that illustrated the primary international realities of geopolitics and statism, the secondary reality of multi-state antagonistic clusters, and the tertiary reality of special interest private sector actors, especially the large vaccine manufacturers. Some civil society transnational actors are oriented toward holistic perspectives but exert almost no influence in settings where important global challenges are addressed, as for example, climate change, COVID pandemic, regulation of markets, migrant rights, and nuclear weapons.

Evolutionary Relevance

At first glance, the timelines of both biological and cultural evolution seem much too long to be relevant to unraveling the prospect for a timely, effective, and just response to the multiple challenges posed by climate change. And yet we cannot be certain that there has not been in progress over the course of antecedent decades and centuries natural selection events that incline toward the emergence of species identity along with an appreciation of the mutual benefits of collective cooperation at a global scale. In effect, humanity in various contexts seems increasingly aware that the tepid response to climate change, and perhaps other apocalyptic menaces to the future of humanity, are indeed dire news, having produced the first bio-ethical-ecological crisis in human history.

It is possible that the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, although falling short of what the scientific consensus prescribed with respect to reductions of carbon emissions necessary for assurances that a safe ceiling for global warming will be achieved, was a partial breakthrough with respect to collective action with response to climate change at a global level. It seemed a dramatic recognition by 196 governments of sovereign entities that collective action in the form of global cooperation was indispensable in view of the dangers confronting humanity, and to be achieved needed to take account of diverse capabilities, vulnerabilities, and experience of these state actors. Such an event constituted a global moment of universal recognition, although limited by the voluntary nature of participation and subject to withdrawal, could be understood as a manifestation of an emergent evolutionary trend. The withdrawal of the United States from the Agreement by the Trump Presidency in 2018 followed by the promise of a return to full participation in 2021 by the Biden Presidency can be interpreted in contradictory ways or as the ebb and flow of the underlying evolutionary reality. It may be best understood as revealing the opaqueness of evolution. In this instance, in relation to the fragility and weakness of moves toward global cooperative problem-solving or as signifying the need to modify behavior within the prevailing fragmented world order.

Because inter-governmental behavior continues to be driven by short-termism as well as nationalism, sovereign rights, and geopolitical ambition, it would seem that transnational civil society activism is faced with an evolutionary responsibility and opportunity to act more forcibly in support of a transition from statism to regionalism/globalism, with a corresponding appreciation at the state level that deference to international law and other mechanisms to contain militarism and capitalism serve a drastically revised view of ‘political realism’ and ‘geopolitical ambition.’ [See Ahmet Davutoglu, Systemic Earthquake and the Struggle for World Order, Cambridge University Press, 2021; Robert C. Johansen, Where the Evidence Leads: A Realistic Strategy for Peace and Human Security, Oxford University Press, 2021; Richard Falk, Power Shift: On the New Global Order, Zed Books, 2016; also, Jeremy Brecher, Common Preservation in a Time of Mutual Destruction, PM Press, 2020; Brecher, Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual, PM Press, 2017.]

If there is to be a positive outcome to the bio-ethical-ecological crisis it will necessarily be more comprehensive than bridging the current gap between knowledge and action as reflected in the polarized politics within sovereign states that misdirects the popular imagination toward subsidiary concerns of national egoism, obscuring the unprecedented challenge to human wellbeing, and species survival. Also, of crucial importance is the parallel normative gap between neoliberal capital-driven ethics and eco-humanistic ethics expressive of an inclusive practice of justice responsive both to human rights and the rights of nature. [See Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth (2010) setting forth widely accepted normative frameworks.] If bold action is taken to bridge these gaps, we can begin to be somewhat hopeful about the prospects for overcoming the current ‘evolutionary mismatch,’ but not until then.

Richard Falk

Richard Falk

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, Chair of Global Law, Faculty of Law, at Queen Mary University London,  Research Associate the Orfalea Center of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Fellow of the Tellus Institute. Falk is currently acting as interim Director of the Centre of Climate Crime and Justice at Queen Mary. He directs the project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy at UCSB and formerly served as director the North American group in the World Order Models Project. Between 2008 and 2014, Falk served as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine. His book, (Re)Imagining Humane Global Governance (2014), proposes a value-oriented assessment of world order and future trends. His most recent books are Power Shift (2016); Revisiting the Vietnam War (2017); On Nuclear Weapons: Denuclearization, Demilitarization and Disarmament (2019); and On Public Imagination: A Political & Ethical Imperative, ed. with Victor Faessel & Michael Curtin (2019). He is the author or coauthor of other books, including Religion and Humane Global Governance (2001), Explorations at the Edge of Time (1993), Revolutionaries and Functionaries (1988), The Promise of World Order (1988), Indefensible Weapons (1983), A Study of Future Worlds (1975), and This Endangered Planet (1972). His memoir, Public Intellectual: The Life of a Citizen Pilgrim was published March 2021. He has been nominated annually for the Nobel Peace Prize since 2021.

Glimpsing the Light

10 Jan

My last blog [“January 6: A Year Later”] could be read as an anguished first draft for the obituary of democracy in the United States, and it without question looks at the national future through a glass darkly. I received some feedback that complained about the tone, the darkness of the forebodings, and the foreclosure of liberating surprises. Although my Enlightenment mind fails to find good reasons to paint the U.S. national and indeed the human future in brighter colors, my undernourished spiritual side has not given up, discovering feelings of hopefulness from radical uncertainty, grace, and ‘the politics of impossibility.’ 

I am not pretending that the impossible can happen, but only that what now seems impossible becomes possible with the passage of time and the creative impact of hidden forces of justice and change. From this vantage point I have grounds for hope, and if hope exists, then there exist a moral and spiritual imperative to engaged in struggles for a better national future for which outcomes are inherently unforeseeable, although if we are blessed and receptive, emancipatory glimpses can be foretasted and cherished. 

I find myself engaged in struggles to save American procedural (or electoral) democracy from the ravages that would be wrought by the onset of fascism. Beyond this rescue operation from the mobilized, violently disposed militant Trump base in full control of the Republican Party lies the more ambitious agenda to restore and extend the New Deal by creating social protection for everyone residing within American borders in relation to health, work, housing, education, food, clean air and water, natural habitat. A visionary commitment to the creation of a polity that combines substantiveand procedural democracy, and beyond that participates in a parallel movement for global democracy, a matter of planetary urgency. 

On the agenda of global democracy: giving priority to ecological responsibility, mobilizing against nuclearism and militarism, against racism, against predatory capitalism, and on behalf of a stronger United Nations, rights of self-determination for currently oppressed nations, on behalf of global problem-solving, against geopolitical impunity, for humane governance at all levels of social organization, on identity befitting citizen pilgrims seeking to construct a global community of shared values and visions, for human security, for love, wisdom, beauty,  compassion, and explorations of cosmic consciousness.

I add this picture capturing the reality of light in a dark sky as well representing this metaphysical moment in the evolution of the human species. It is a photo taken by my dear friend and collaborator, an exemplary citizen pilgrim, Hans von Sponeck on his daily morning meditative walk in the countryside of southern Germany. 

January 6th: A Year Later

6 Jan

In retrospect, the attempted insurrection at the Capitol was about a great deal more than an angry expression of disappointment by the populist side of gun culture America. The coup attempt of January 6th failed, yet it succeeded in undermining the unwritten, yet vital, social contract that brought high levels of stability to United States since the republic was established in 1789. The contract had featured a long succession of peaceful transfers of power after national elections. In effect, the U.S. more than almost anywhere earned high praise for its sustained establishment of procedural democracy, further enhanced by a two-party system that put aside differences during times of national emergency proclaiming bipartisanship a political virtue if national security was at risk.

This stability was unquestionably a great achievement for an ethnically and religiously diverse country with a large population, but this American record should be celebrated cautiously, with humility, and massive qualifications that must never be ignored. This U.S. rise to great power status rested on genocidally driven ethnic cleansing of native Americans combined with economic prosperity for a land-based settler colonial white elite that owed its high standard of living to the racist and exploitative benefits of slavery. Even after the American Civil War and the end of slavery, racism remained, was cruel in its dehumanizing effects on perpetrators as well as victims, and extended to the entire country. That the United States could constantly invoke its own exceptionalism and convince most of the world that it was ‘the city on the hill,’ ‘the new Jerusalem,’ and ‘a light unto the nations’ remains without doubt a masterful triumph of public relations and state propaganda, a precursor of the capitalist empires built by Madison Avenue advertising ingenuity. But truth it is not, and never was!

What was true, which was a truthful exception to the big early lies, was the widespread adherence to the electoral process by which political leadership was determined, and legitimized. Procedural democracy at its core remains about the sanctity of elections as credible expressions of citizen consent. Even though there is no text it was this core provision of the social contract that was dangerously weakened by the January 6th assault on the Capitol, and even more than the assault itself, by the instigating and cheerleading role played by Trump and his immediate entourage. Even more telling is the commitment a year later by one of the two major political parties to a manifest falsehood of the greatest political consequence. The Republican Party overwhelmingly supports the central lie that the 2020 election was stolen, and this Trump deserves to be president. We can safely assume that most of the Republican leadership knows that it is endorsing a falsehood, but does so nevertheless for cynical reasons associated with calculations about their own political futures.

In the recent past this national ethos that expected politicians, whatever their ideology, to be good losers was strong enough in 1960 to lead Richard Nixon, not noted for his high morals, to forego any effort to overturn the official results despite strong indications that the votes recorded in Illinois were fraudulently manipulated to hand John F. Kennedy a victory he may not deserved if the votes had been fairly counted. Similarly, in 2000 Al Gore handed the presidency to George W. Bush despite some chicanery in Florida that invalidated a large number of Gore votes and may well have handed the White House over to the Republicans even though they ‘lost’ the elections. The point is not to revisit such controversies, but to show how previously strong was this sense that even when electoral outcomes that possibly had decisive, rough edges the official outcome should be respected for the sake of maintaining  confidence among the citizenry in the trustworthiness of the process. In mounting this ‘Stop the Steal’ campaign Trump repudiated this tradition in a context that lacked even a credible basis for questioning the propriety of the electoral process.

Such behavior prefigures downfall in a political system that stakes its legitimacy on the periodic opportunity of its political parties to nominate candidates, adopt platforms, and compete for the support of the citizenry. Such a procedural democracy does not pretend to rest its legitimacy on justice, yet early on the Constitution was amended to confer civil and political rights on its citizenry with the central abuse of power by the government. Yet to this day America never purported to become a substantive democracy that extends effective social protection or universal human rights to all of its citizens in the manner of many European countries that have upheld a quite different social democratic contract with their citizens . In that sense, the most basic freedom of all for American  citizens, although not inscribed in parchment or openly proclaimed, has been preserving the right of every citizen to fail, a right substantially upheld through times of prosperity and hardship, reflecting the boom and bust bedrock cycles of capitalist theory and practice. The mixture of a cult of individualism together with minimally regulated capitalism is as much a part of constitutional order as are elections and the rule of law, but rarely avowed.

Under the economic weight and political challenges of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the New Deal fashioned by FDR and the Democrats served to rescue capitalism, a recovery process further helped by the onset of World War II. This was something so-called principled conservatives never liked, considering it an encroachment on individualism, which included the sanctified right to fail, and the willingness of those who fail to accept the often cruel consequences resulting in homelessness and denials of health care. A sophisticated interpretation of January 6th would be to regard it as a long deferred payback by Republicans for the alleged abandonment by Democrats of this right to fail, including attendant flirtations with the New Deal safety net of social protection, demonized by the Republicans at the time and ever since as ‘crypto-socialism,’ if not outright socialism. Already in the 1980s Ronald Reagan built the ideological foundations upon which the House of Trump was erected, including dislike of the left, including liberals with particular hostility to organized labor, reproductive rights for woman, permissiveness toward racism, racially tainted toughness on crime, and initiatives that gave the 50 states much more of a governance role in the country at the expense of the central governance structures that operated out of Washington. 

What is almost as worrisome are that the defenders of the old order, mainly the Democrats and the Democratic establishment, are sleepwalking while political subversion on a large scale occurs. Democrats are disunited, lack coherent ideas, and mostly without passion, except at the progressive edges represented by Black Lives Matter and Alexandria Ortega-Cortez and the squad. Remember that AOC, despite being the clearest voice of national conscience was only allowed 30 seconds to speak at the Democratic Party nominating convention in 2019. Also, when it comes to truthfulness, the Democrats also have dirty hands. How many among their leadership condemn the apartheid nature of the Israel state despite the preponderance of the evidence, confirmed by mainstream human rights organizations (Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem)? Or propose sanctioning Saudi Arabia in response to the brutal murder of an internationally respected journalist, Jamal Khasoggi, in the Saudi Consulate in 2018, a state crime carried out on orders of the government? And despite school shootings and an epidemic of urban gun violence how many Democrats are willing to advocate the repeal of the Second Amendment or take the political risk of voting against a bloated military budget at a time of growing domestic economic misery? Bringing Joe Biden to the White House in 2021 was a metaphoric display of a moribund opposition that didn’t seem to grasp the central reality that the country was facing a growing crisis of toxic polarization. Biden obviously didn’t understand that his repeated early calls for national unity were not only ineffectual, but called attention to how out of touch he was with political tides sweeping across the country, which were yearning for confrontation, not societal harmony. As Noam Chomsky has been warning us what happened lasst January is still happening. In other words, the coup was not only an event, but that a process that is continuing to haunt our future, gains momentum, and engages willing architects draw up plans for achieving its dark goals.

Such a situation is dire, not only at home but globally. The needed focus on climate change, COVID, refugees and migrants, nuclearism and militarism, international law and the UN, peacemaking in the Middle East is missing, and other concerns is absent.

In other words, January 6th not only broke the social contract between state and society, but also exposed the ineptitude and decay of two-party democracy. Such an exposure should not be limited to the U.S. as parallel descents into political infernos are evident in such varied national contexts as Brazil, India, Myanmar, Philippines, Hungary, Russia. There seems to be a structural flight from humane patterns of governance due almost everywhere, at least partly due to the effects of neoliberal globalization intensifying inequalities and deepens alienation.

What must be evident is that without a surge of revolutionary energies responsive to national, sub-national, regional, and global challenges, the human future is unfolding beneath darkening clouds. Smoothing the rough edges of this American political crisis may buy some needed time to reinvent humane politics in the 21st century at the onset of this first bio-political-ecological-ethical-spiritual crisis ever to confront the human species, and then the hard work of inventing and deploying a transformative politics begins.     

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR PALESTINE IN 2022

2 Jan

[Prefatory Note: A shorter version of this essay was published on the Middle East Eye website on 31 Dec 2021, as one of six pieces in a section called “Middle East Debate” with thetitle “More Traditional Diplomacy, but no stability.” This is a title conferred that I would not have chosen, and so here where I have autonomy, I use a title that I think is more descriptive.]

What’s Ahead for Palestine in 2022

Even before COVID people everywhere were living at a time of great complexity, uncertainty, and confusion. The future is always opaque when it comes to predictions other than near-term projections of current trends, which often turn out to miss occurrences that shatter mainstream expectations. For the Middle East, even modest predictions are often upset by a sudden swerve of events, and in relation to the Israel/Palestine struggle even more so. Putting aside this disclaimer, there are some expectations about 2022 that are worth expressing and sharing.

To begin with, we will witness a growing awareness that traditional diplomacy will not bring stability, much less peace with justice to this struggle that has gone on for more than a century. 2022 is likely going to experience an overdue funeral that finally pronounces the death of Oslo Diplomacy along with its reliance on direct negotiations between the two sides and supposed to end with the establishment of a sovereign Palestine. Throughout the process the U.S. was cast in the role of neutral intermediary, sometimes half ironically identified as ‘honest broker.’ This might have seemed plausible enough in Netflix TV series, but in the real world Oslo from the outset set a trap for the Palestinians, served as an expansionist opportunity for the Israelis, and continued to allow Washington to persist in its theater role of projecting a false sense of good will to all, a peacemaker rather than a geopolitical manager.  

It has by now dawned on everyone with even half open eyes that the political leaders of Israel don’t want a political compromise of the sort embedded in the Oslo process even, as was assume, its contours would lean heavily in Israel’s favor. Israeli has long shrugged off international pressures to comply with international law or to pretend support for a peace process guided from Washington. It is evident that Israel has for some years felt confident enough to stop pretending that it supports a diplomatically arranged solution. No foreseeable surge of Palestinian armed resistance is perceived as posing much of a threat, especially as neighboring Arab regimes have become distracted or detached from the conflict, with some governments displaying a willingness to accept normal diplomatic relations and join openly with Israel in confronting Iran.

This image of dead-end diplomacy when it comes to Palestine is reinforced by the U.S. posture post-Trump. On the one side, the Biden presidency has signaled that it will not challenge Trump’s signature moves, including relocating the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, confirming Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, endorsing the ‘Normalization Accords’ and even actively promoting their expansion, capped by reassurances to Israel that it will collaborate regionally, especially when it comes to Iran. At the same time, Biden seeks to appear moderate in tone, which explains Washington’s renewal of public avowal of support for a two-state solution and the issuance of mild rebukes when Israel uses excessive violence against Palestinian civilians or moves to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank. I would suppose that even Biden realizes that the two-state solution has long been a Zombie fix that allows Israel to let the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians continue indefinitely while verbally holding onto a commitment that includes acknowledging a Palestinian right of self-determination. In this sense, the best guess is that when it comes to substance Biden will go along with Trump’s, while adopting a public stance that is less shrilly partisan than was his predecessor in the White House. As matters now stand the Biden presidency is weak, unable to push forward its domestic agenda, which has disappointed the American public, tanking Biden’s approval ratings. Under these circumstances, the last thing Biden wants in 2022 is even the mildest break with Israel of the sort that occurred toward the end of the Obama presidency. The fear of Israeli wrath knows no bounds when it comes to mainstream American politicians.

At the international level, it seems likely that no meaningful additional pressure will be placed on Israel to seek a sustainable peace or even to uphold its obligations under international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The UN Human Rights Council will continue to issue reports critical of Israel’s behavior and Israel will continue to disregard the basic human rights of Palestinians living under occupation, and suffer no adverse consequences for doing so, and yet hysterically complain about Israel-bashing at the UN. The General Assembly will pass more resolutions in 2022 condemning Israel’s policies, and calling for censure and possibly an arms embargo, but nothing will happen except that UN will stand further accused, with implications that Jews are once again the victims of anti-Semitism. The only internationalist hope is that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will proceed next year with its investigations of Israeli flagrant violations of international criminal law since 2014, but this is a slender reed. The ICC has a new UK prosecutor who is thought to be receptive to US/Israeli opposition with going forward, and may prove susceptible to strong back channel geopolitical efforts to induce the ICC to drop the case. He has certainly taken his time to announce plans to carry forward the investigatory process. In my view there is less than a 50/50 chance that even should investigation be resumed, it will be allowed to reach the indictment stage despite overwhelming evidence of Israeli criminality. However, if the ICC jumps ship altogether, it will likely provoke widespread outrage, encouraging Palestinian resistance and global solidarity.

In my view, the most notable developments in 2022 will flow from the impacts of disillusionment with any hope that constructive action can follow from the peace diplomacy of the past or new UN pressures. Palestinian resistance will continue to send signals to the world that the struggle goes on no matter how hard Israel works to convince the public opinion that it has prevailed in the struggle, and that the best that the Palestinians can hope for are economic benefits to be bestowed following a Palestinian political surrender in the form of an acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state along with a pledge not to oppose Zionist Ambitions to conquer what remains of the ‘promised land.’ In other words, the year ahead will likely announce to the world that Israel is opting for a one-state unilateral solution based on Jewish supremacy along with a Palestinian refusal to swallow such toxic Kool Aid.

Given this line of thinking, the most encouraging development for the Palestinians in the year ahead is in the symbolic domain of politics, what I have previously called the Legitimacy War dimensions of political conflict. It is here the Palestinians are winning even in America, especially among younger Jews, along with some signs that the bipartisan consensus in the U.S. Congress is splintering, at least at the edges.

We all need to keep reminding ourselves of four salient features of the present context: (1) the Palestinians are fighting an anti-colonial war against an apartheid government in Israel; (2) the major anti-colonial wars have been won, not by the stronger side militarily, but by the winner of the Legitimacy War as the U.S. discovered in Vietnam, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan; (3) as Israel is a settler colonial state with racist overtones, such struggles should be understood as the most vicious and pronounced and more difficult to bring to an end that ordinary anti-colonial wars; (4) the Palestinians will be increasing seen by the informed global public and media as winning the Legitimacy War; this impression will  be supported by continued fact-finding at the UN and possibly by further engagement on the part of the ICC.

2022 will in all likelihood not bear witness to any transformative event bearing on Palestinian prospects for achieving their basic rights, but the anticipated shift from investing false hopes in inter-governmental diplomacy to civil society activism will become better understood, giving rise to patterns of stronger non-violent solidarity efforts. The analogies to apartheid South Africa is becoming more widely appreciated. This makes South Africa’s alignment with the Palestinian struggle by its support of BDS, advocacy of an arms embargo, and other initiatives has great symbolic significance during the year ahead in relation to the all-important Legitimacy War. Israel’s attempt of a few months ago to destroy the vitality and funding base of Palestinian civil society by branding six leading human rights NGOs as ‘terrorist’ entities should be seen as not only a severe violation of its obligations as Occupying Power under the Geneva Conventions, but more significantly as a desperate sign of weakness in the ongoing Legitimacy War.

Private Prescriptions for a Better Life in 2022

1 Jan

[Prefatory Note: a thoughtful Indian friend in Paris sent this listas her prescription for a better life in 2022. I adopted her list and added to it. I invite readers of this blog to propose their own additions and subtractions.]

2022

More sleep

More music

More tea

More books

More creating

More long walks

More Laughter

More Dreaming

More Love                  

RAF Additions

+more peace

+more justice

+ more tennis

+more poems

+more chess