ODVV interview: Allying with Israel provides...
President Trump has severed all the US funding to UNRWA, the main UN program for Palestinian refugees, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and announced the closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, D.C. All of these moves are seen as steps to unilaterally incapacitate one of the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and undermine the peace negotiations between the two sides.
A noted university professor in the United States says allying with Israel provides Donald Trump with economic power and that's why he continues to support Israel in different forms, despite not being ideologically motivated against Palestinians. "Donald Trump is a self-interested man, who will support whichever regimes through whom his brand Trump can thrive," said Prof. Fawzia Afzal-Khan in an interview with ODVV. "While he himself is not ideologically motivated against Palestinians in my opinion, he is not interested in their plight or in issues of justice; economic power is what he wishes to secure and allying with Israel provides him that," she said.
Prof. Fawzia Afzal-Khan is a Visiting Professor of the Arts at New York University in Abu Dhabi in the academic year 2018-19 and former director of Women and Gender Studies Program at Montclair State University. Afzal-Khan serves on the editorial board of "Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies" and is a frequent contributor to Counterpunch and Express Tribune. In 2008, she received the "Excellence in Public Life Award" from the American Muslim Alliance.
In an interview with Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Prof. Afzal-Khan discussed her views about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the role of international organizations in finding a solution to the crisis and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The following is the text of the interview.
Q: The administration of Donald Trump has taken some radical steps which apparently make the resolution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict more difficult and unlikely, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem or cutting off all the US funds and donations to UNRWA. What is behind Trump's decisions and how can they affect or complicate the situation?
A: Jared Kushner and his father have ties to the Israeli government and as we know, this includes his and his father’s support of the IDF. Jared is a close adviser to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a self-interested man, who will support whichever regimes through whom his brand Trump can thrive – and so while he himself is not ideologically motivated against Palestinians in my opinion, he is not interested in their plight or in issues of justice; economic power is what he wishes to secure and allying with Israel provides him that. Of course, those who are ideologically motivated such as the Zionist lobby and right-wing Christians who are Trump’s base whose influence is very strong in the US across the political spectrum, are making good use of this amoral president to further their own ends of removing all obstacles to the complete hegemony of Israel. However, some unintended consequences of this extreme and bold shift rightward might be the emboldening of resistance against such nakedly unjust policies and result in ever more radical push back, including strengthening the hand of Islamist forces. A good thing is that weak and comprador leadership like that of Mahmoud Abbas will and has lost ground which could make room for something better or more consequential from the Palestinian side. And perhaps the best and most ironic result would be the end to discussions of a two state solution in favour of one state for all.
Q: Given the strategic partnership between Israel and the United States and while the United States has vetoed almost all the UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, do you think this body has the power and authority to take an effective and viable decision for the Israeli-Palestinian crisis?
A: The UN has lost much credibility vis-à-vis providing any kind of justice for Palestinians and Kashmiris over the past 70 years of murderous state terrorism against both peoples, by the Israeli and Indian states respectively. In the wake of US pulling out its financial support for UNRWA and its long history of lack of support for UN Security Council resolutions on Palestine, the only hope for this world body to prove effective in helping resolve these grave injustices now is for the rest of the world nations represented at the UN to isolate the US and Israel, and make a common front against their unilateral agendas and actions. Until and unless the rest of the world joins together in a unified move to impose sanctions against these two powers, the UN will remain ineffective in solving this issue.
Q: Do you agree that one of the reasons for the prolongation of Israeli-Palestinian crisis and the inability of the international community to find a realistic response to it is the lack of solidarity and consensus among the Muslim nations that have not been able to use their resources to help the Palestinian people?
A: Yes. Even today, we see that the Saudis are working with Israel in many areas and Israel is recognized by most countries of the world including Muslim nations. Even if lip service is given to the rights of Palestinians, the reality is one of cooperation with Israel. And thanks to destabilisation of countries in the Middle East due to interference of Israel, USA and USSR and the divisive factions, namely Shia and Sunni, within the Muslim world, the Palestinians continue to occupy a "problem" status in the region by countries and peoples who ought to band together to resolve the injustice; instead, they are helping to prolong it.
Q: What do you think about the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which is aimed at putting economic and financial pressure on Israel? The European governments don't have any inclination to subscribe to this movement but many influential figures and institutions have joined it. That said, do you think the BDS movement will be successful in its goals, which is changing the behavior and policies of Israel?
A: I think BDS is already having an effect in calling attention to the unjust state policies of Israel which is why academics and students who don’t pose any real threat to the state of Israel are nonetheless treated like major enemies, detained at Israeli borders if they wish to enter, named on Zionist watch lists in academia in the US and so on. If more and more universities and other companies investing in Israeli companies and goods and services can be encouraged to join BDS, surely this will become a worldwide economic movement which like the anti-apartheid movement against South African businesses that helped topple that racist regime, will result in the same in the Israeli case.
In my own case, teaching in a US university for over three decades, I’ve observed a shift in the discourse and perception of Israeli state policies from either ignorance or fear of criticising the same to many more folks especially students becoming more and more aware of the injustices being perpetrated against Palestinians and the complete disregard of their human rights by Israeli government.
While faculty such as myself have suffered certain consequences ranging from denial of tenure, such as the case of Norman Finkelstein, to Israeli-backed student agitations against anti-Zionist tenured faculty like Joseph Massad, to delay in promotions and social media trolling by right-wing folks looking for opportunities to create problems for tenured progressive anti-Zionist faculty of colour as in my own case, the pro-Israeli narrative has most definitely been punctured. With the rise of critical Jewish voices in the USA such as the left such as J Street and the critical stance against birth-right tours as exemplified by #Ifnotnow in recent years, there is evidence of a hopeful change in the court of public opinion especially amongst young Jewish Americans. The coming together of progressives across the Jewish-Muslim-Christian divide is now essential.
By: Kourosh Ziabari