ODVV interview: The world owes a moral debt to...
Palestinians across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip marked the 71st “Nakba Day” on Wednesday, May 15, in massive demonstrations that turned violent with the Israeli soldiers resorting to force to disperse protesters. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 47 Palestinians were wounded during the protests. Nakba Day, or the “Day of the Catastrophe”, is commemorated annually on May 15, marking the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 that laid the groundwork for the displacement of thousands of Palestinians and the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has just entered its eighth decade. It’s estimated that during the 1948 Palestine war, known to Israelis as the War of Independence and Nakba in the Arab world, some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled and hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were either depopulated or destroyed.
As described by many scholars and researchers, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the world’s most controversial conflict and the last colonial war of the modern times. Seven decades of occupation, dispossession, annexation and colonization has left the people of Palestine totally unprotected and vulnerable and continued efforts by international organizations and sovereign nations to settle the conflict have unanimously ended in vain. Prior to the recent legislative elections in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that he will annex large areas of the West Bank if he wins the vote. Now, as he works on forming a coalition government, hopes for the achievement of a two-state solution and the establishment of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians appear to be paler than ever.
According to a Congressional report, the United States gave Israel $3.1 billion for the fiscal year 2018 in direct bilateral military aid. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign military aid. This is while the Trump administration cut off all the US funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in August 2018, practically depriving five million Palestinians who rely on the agency’s schools, healthcare and social services of its essential assistance and donations.
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence has talked to the prominent American historian and author Noel Ignatiev about the recent Israeli elections and its implications for the Palestinian people, the US government’s proposed peace plan for the Middle East and the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The following is the text of the interview.
Q: How do you think the victory of the right-wing Likud Party in the recent legislative elections in Israel will affect the likelihood of the establishment of a viable peace between the Israelis and Palestinians? Will Benjamin Netanyahu accept the existence of an independent Palestinian state?
A: In my view the best result of the victory of Likud may be to compel people to abandon the unrealistic and reactionary dream of a separate Palestinian state existing alongside Israel, and return to the goal of a single democratic secular state, which was the traditional goal of all Palestinian organizations before they give in to pressure from the US. History has a way of producing results contrary to what the rulers intended: consider the outcomes of the First and Second World Wars.
Q: Some tentative details about the US government’s peace plan for the Middle East, which is referred to as the “deal of the century”, have recently become known. What is your opinion about the features of this deal? Given all the concessions it has to make; will Palestine ever accept the terms of the plan?
A: The Palestinians are the American Indians of the Middle East. The “deal of the century” promises them the same result as befell the American Indians. I have been repeatedly struck by the heroism and steadfastness of the Palestinian people, who, with some exceptions, have refused to bend to overwhelming pressure. When the present nightmare is ended, the world will owe a moral debt to them.
Q: Some Palestinian commentators believe the United Nations has been unable to play a constructive role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly when it comes to supporting the Palestinian refugees living in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Do you agree that the United Nations’ efforts to protect and support the Palestinians have been ineffective?
A: The United Nations has always been a robbers’ club, and I expect it to act no differently than it has in the past. Fidel Castro understood that in 1962, when he refused to allow it to inspect Cuban territory, which is one reason why Cuba has been able to maintain its relative independence – in spite of later bending to Soviet domination. The only way Palestine will be free is through a Pan-Arab liberation army supported by Palestinians, and some Jews, from within the Zionist state – similar to the way slavery was overthrown in the US. Of course that cannot happen so long as the Arab countries are ruled by puppets of global capital; as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine maintained, the road to Jerusalem lies through revolution in the Arab capitals.
Q: The Israeli government officials and right-wing media propagate this narrative that Israel doesn’t have a reliable “partner for peace” and Palestinians prefer to fight the Israelis violently instead of achieving a sustainable peace with them. This is their reasoning for claiming that the two-state solution is not an appropriate response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What’s your take on that?
A: I expected at one time that the US and other world powers would force Israel to the bargaining table, and impose some kind of a rotten deal on the Palestinians, since it was an embarrassment and inconvenience to them. However, since Trump’s election, that possibility has receded. Whereas, following the overturning of segregation in the US and apartheid in South Africa and the signing of the Easter Accords in Ireland, Israel represented the last example of old-style racial oppression, it now appears to represent a shining example of new-style rule based on a constructed “racial” consensus – as shown by its popularity with the new rulers of Brazil and Hungary.
Q: Israel has been the subject of several UN Security Council, UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council resolutions, in which its policies and actions have been condemned. Why doesn’t Israel pay attention to the demands of the international community with regards to its conduct of the Palestinian people and revise its policies concerning occupation?
A: It makes no difference how many times Israel is condemned by overwhelming margins: as the South African delegate in the time of apartheid said to the US ambassador, there is only one vote that counts – yours.
Q: Why do you think the Trump administration made a decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Will this decision further complicate the Israeli-Palestinian question?
A: I think Trump was playing to the rightwing Christian Evangelists, who look forward to the gathering of the world’s Jews in Israel as the prelude to the End Times, the Final Judgment. I also think that, as many US Jews have expressed their displeasure with Israeli policies, Netanyahu has moved to develop a base of support of Christian Evangelists, who have no liberal reservations.
Q: It seems that Israeli parties including the conservative rightists and the more progressive centrists don’t consider peace with Palestine a priority anymore. Is it realistic to expect the two countries to meet at the negotiating table and work towards a viable solution, or will the Palestinians have to abandon their dream for an independent government and country?
A: Why should Israeli authorities place value on reaching an agreement with the Palestinians? What have they got to gain from it? The so-called Palestinian Authority has neither authority nor power to force them, and acts as their paid hirelings to suppress the Palestinian people.
By: Kourosh Ziabari
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ODVV.