Youth Speak out on alternatives to the occupation

Palestine Update 256

Youth Speak out on alternatives to the occupation

Things are somewhat bleak for the Palestinians these days. With an American administration gone awry, Israel has lost self-control and is only going to more extremes than it already has. A second election is now going to find political adversaries gain vantage positions in the race for political supremacy. The two best options available are to the ruling party. Netanyahu will either start another war in Gaza towards which he constructs helpful pretexts for such a war. Or, he will show himself to be a muscle man who can annex parts of the West Bank. It would fit in with his design to create a Greater Israel. The movement for a Greater Israel gains more currency than any time before.  The ideology of Greater Israel came up in July 1967, a month after Israel captured the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War. It called on the Israeli government to keep the captured areas and to settle them with Jewish populations. Its founders were a mixture of Labor Zionists, Revisionists, writers and poets. Netanyahu desperately needs to win the elections slated for September 2019. It may be his only chance to save himself the disgrace of being discarded by a judicial process.

The alternative to a peace process that has collapsed has to be something robust and realistic. At the same time it should not stop at something easy and simplistic. Oslo was that and worse. An unprepared PLO was represented by people whose political acumen was not suited to tough and refined political dialogue. Such people were there for the PLO to draw from. But Arafat was insecure and unwilling to risk the unknown and, hence, lost the plot.

Will the Palestinian liberation movement ever respond proactively and prompt Israel and the international community to make hard choices? With 600,000 Israeli settlers occupying West Bank and East Jerusalem, the scope of a two-state solution crumbles. Under the Oslo accords made 25 years ago, Palestinians in the West Bank live under a system that was supposed to last just five years as the first step towards a self-governing country alongside Israel. Israel destroyed the peace process and took over through an extensive network of roads, military bases, settlements and quarries. Meanwhile, the PA fumbled and messed up by falling into the colonial trap – coordinating closely with Israeli security forces. They are now referred to as a “subcontractor for the occupation.”

The next stage in the political project that Palestine needs is one where justice is non-negotiable, and patience is the key. What is realistic? The failed two-state solution formula – It has proven unfeasible thus far. Or, a one-state solution which seems may be the inevitable outcome. It may well be the option that Israel has cornered itself into which will be its own undoing. For most Israelis, the notion of a one state solution is a chilling prospect. Palestinians would add up to more or less half or more of the population. That would mean Israel could cease to be a majority-Jewish country. This is the Zionist nightmare, but it is the scare they have brought on themselves.

Ranjan Solomon

The future of Palestine: Youth views on the two-state paradigm

A quarter of a century on from the Oslo Peace Accords, young Palestinian writers share their views on the future of the two-state solution

The continued viability of the two-state paradigm has never been as uncertain as it is today. The arrival of a US administration that has displayed an unprecedented alignment with the Greater Israel ideology of Israeli right-wingers is undoubtedly one of the biggest factors. But long before Donald Trump’s election, the two-state paradigm was already under tremendous stress. This was due in no small part to an almost perpetually stalled Middle East Peace Process, and concerted efforts by Israeli governments to undermine the prospects of Palestinian statehood, even as they consolidated Israel’s hold over East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The inability of the European Union to match its fervently held two-state policy with consequential action is, of course, another significant factor.

Whether the vision of a two-state solution lives or dies is still uncertain, although current trends are unfavourable to its long-term feasibility. What seems more certain at present, though, is that the actions of the United States and Israel are entrenching a one-state reality of unequal rights for Palestinians. How the Palestinian liberation movement responds to these challenges will be decisive. While a significant change in strategy from senior Palestinian leaders appears some way off, youth activists in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, and the diaspora are already articulating a new discourse.

This selection of short essays by young Palestinian thinkers provides a partial snapshot of this conversation about the continued usefulness of the two-state paradigm, and about what to demand of Europe at this critical juncture.

These opinions do not, of course, represent all Palestinian viewpoints, and there are certainly missing voices, including those of Islamists and refugees in neighbouring countries. The short pieces are nonetheless reflective of how many young Palestinians see the current situation. They provide an indication of the future direction of the Palestinian national movement. As such, they should be taken seriously by policymakers.

Yasmeen Al Khodary, writer and researcher, London/Gaza

The question of whether we should move away from the two-state paradigm or not is an obsolete one. It is hard to imagine that people still believe that this is a possibility – we are in 2019, not 1995, and so much has changed for the worse. What would a two-state solution even look like?

The people whose daily lives are actually affected by this proposition – the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank – have much more urgent concerns, like surviving. The devastating consequences of Israel’s ongoing occupation have gradually transformed the Palestinians into divided populations without any basic rights or support, faced with an array of different daily challenges: siege, military onslaughts, settlements, segregated roads, curfews, imprisonment, to name a few. Ask any Palestinian suffocating in Gaza as a result of Israel’s ongoing 12-year blockade what they think of the two-state solution. You will probably not get an answer. People are tired of talking, and are tired of repeating the same basic demand: end the occupation. This is the only paradigm that we need to adopt right now.

Yasmeen Al-Khoudary is an independent London-based researcher and writer who specialises in Palestinian archaeology and cultural heritage with a focus on Gaza. Previously, she co-founded Diwan Ghazza and has published extensively in the Guardian, CNN, Al Jazeera English, among others. She tweets @yelkhoudary

Zaha Hassan, human rights lawyer and visiting fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC

The past 25 years of the Oslo peace process have left Palestinians in a political and legal black hole. In the current reality, Palestinians have been boxed out of both the possibility of self-determination within their own sovereign state, and of equality of citizenship in the state of Israel. Binyamin Netanyahu refers to this as a Palestinian “state minus”.

But, for now, the choice between a single binational state or two states is a false one. Both solutions are equally remote and unobtainable at present and will be for the foreseeable future. The more urgent discussion is how to characterise the nature of the conflict today and what the international community, particularly Europe, should do to respond to it.

Palestinians have been facing settler-colonial displacement for over seven decades. To name the conflict in such terms does not mean that the international legal framework delineating Israel’s obligations as an occupying power since June 1967 becomes inapplicable or inoperable. International humanitarian law is not abandoned by demanding compliance with international human rights norms. Both legal frameworks are mutually reinforcing and provide guidance to third states on how to characterise, and respond to, Israeli actions against Palestinians.

Europe has been a trailblazer in the past, recognising the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Palestinian self-determination. Given the European Union’s commitment to the rule of law and human rights, Europe, in coordination with the United Nations, is best positioned to act as a bulwark for the protection of Palestinian rights and to lead the discussion on what is required for a durable political solution that addresses both the individual and collective claims of Palestinians. But first the EU and its member states must recognise the reality as it exists on the ground today. Namely, that Israel has now imposed upon Palestinians a one-state reality of unequal rights perpetual occupation, and conflict.

Zaha Hassan is a human rights lawyer and visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Previously, she was the coordinator and senior legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team during Palestine’s bid for UN membership, and member of the Palestinian delegation to Quartet-sponsored exploratory talks between 2011 and 2012. She tweets @zahahassan

Yara Hawari, policy fellow, Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, Ramallah

Many European Union states worry that Israel’s formal annexation of the West Bank is imminent, placing the final nail in the coffin of both the Oslo peace process and the two-state solution. While this worry undoubtedly includes concern for Palestinian rights, it fails to recognise that the Oslo discourse and the two-state paradigm has provided, over the past 26 years, complicit cover for the entrenchment of an apartheid regime from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea amounting to absolute Israeli control over Palestinian life.

Israel consistently blames the Palestinians for not being committed to peace, but it continues to colonise their lands and simultaneously ghettoise them into ever-shrinking ‘Bantustans’. The Palestinian leadership, while it is necessary to recognise its democratic and revolutionary failings, is also held hostage by the discourse of the Oslo peace process. As a result, Palestinians, along with their rights and aspirations for political sovereignty, have never been more vulnerable.

What is required is humility and honesty from EU states and a recognition that something into which they have put so much time, money, and effort has not had the desired outcome or tangible achievements.

Rather than focus on negotiations within the context of a political framework that is no longer viable, the EU should now focus on securing the internationally recognised rights of the Palestinian people wherever they may be, including by ensuring the full implementation of international humanitarian law. Through its diplomatic and trade relations with Israel, EU states can hold Israel to account for its violations and create a more level playing field.

Simultaneously, by dropping its dogged weddedness to an exclusive political solution based on two states, the EU can help create opportunities and spaces for Palestinians to think outside of the partition framework that has crippled them for so long.

Yara Hawari is Palestine policy fellow at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. Hawari taught various undergraduate courses at the University of Exeter and continues to work as a freelance journalist, publishing for various media outlets, including Al Jazeera English, Middle East Eye, and the Independent. She tweets @yarahawari

Amjad Iraqi, writer, +972 Magazine, Haifa

A basic rule of policymaking is that if a plan does not produce a desired outcome, it should be revised. Unfortunately, European states dismiss this logic when it comes to the Oslo-configured Middle East Peace Process.

For years Europe has believed that the occupation is as unsustainable and undesirable to Israelis as it is to Palestinians. But that assumption has proved fatally false. Under the current conditions, Israelis can reside in homes across ‘Judea and Samaria’, enjoy the territory’s natural resources, and feel safer knowing that their ‘enemies’ in Gaza are under the army’s watchful eye. Much of Israel’s political spectrum no longer sees indefinite occupation as an interim arrangement, but as a durable solution to the Palestinian ‘problem’.

Europe’s failure to understand this calculation has left its policy ten steps behind the facts on the ground. Though the Green Line still appears as a dotted demarcation on Google Maps, it no longer exists in reality, and certainly not in the mind of the occupying power. Even as the Israeli government makes its goals unambiguous – including advancing annexation bills and the Jewish Nation State Law – European officials remain in denial over Israel’s intentions, offering concerns but imposing no costs for its deliberate erasure of the two-state solution.

The current paradigm is therefore not just defunct but detrimental. Europe must now catch up to what Palestinians have known for decades: we live in a one-state reality, governed by a complex but single regime of apartheid. Until Europe wields ‘sticks’ against that system, Israel will have every reason to believe this reality should endure.

Amjad Iraqi is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, currently based in Haifa. He is an advocacy coordinator at the legal centre Adalah, a contributing editor at +972 Magazine, and a policy analyst at Al-Shabaka. He tweets @aj_iraqi

Inès Abdel Razek, independent consultant, former adviser, Palestinian Prime Minister’s Office, Ramallah

We need to move away from the failures of the US-led Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) and the two-state solution – both of which have become interconnected exercises of political rhetoric regardless of facts on the ground. This is notably because Israel never recognised the two-state internationally agreed parameters, but even more so given the Trump administration’s moves to end Palestinian self-determination and right of return, and its unfiltered siding with the Israeli narrative.

A new political paradigm must be fleshed out. It will have to be based on international law and a people-centred approach that provides for equal rights and self-determination for both the Palestinians and Israelis. Regardless of whether this is ultimately achieved through one state or two, a new paradigm must first challenge the existing one-state reality of unending settler-colonialism, and oppose any ethnic discrimination. Peace cannot precede freedom.

At the same time, it must ensure that the demise of the traditional Oslo-configured MEPP parameters does not leave room for ambiguous interpretation and that the Israeli government does not exploit it to reinforce the current one-state apartheid reality.

The Palestinian national movement must embrace such a paradigm shift. This will entail a change in the tactics used since Oslo, making strategic use of their internationally recognised rights of return and self-determination, without the trappings of sovereignty. Diplomatically, multilateral efforts must facilitate such framing, with key geopolitical actors in the Global South and Europe taking centre-stage and replacing the counterproductive US-dominated agenda.

Inès Abdel Razek is a consultant on diplomacy and international cooperation in Palestine and the Mediterranean region. She is currently working with the Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy on international advocacy. She tweets @InesAbdelrazek

Further reading:
Rethinking Oslo: How Europe can promote peace in Israel-Palestine, Omar Dajani & Hugh Lovatt, July 2017
Israel’s unlawfully prolonged occupation: consequences under an integrated legal framework, Valentina Azarova, June 2017