The account that follows has taken on greater significance since December 7th when President Donald Trump announced that he will fulfill the 1995 recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, and take steps to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. International law is being thrown at President Trump and the State of Israel like murderous rocks in the hands of shababs. The peace process is a chorus line of porcelain dolls, too beautiful to touch, endangered by the heavy-handed president and the stubborn Jewish state. A pure white curtain is drawn over Middle East realities and the wailing of the professional mourners breaks the hearts of the world’s media. This brutal unilateral decision is tearing apart the pristine calm of the Middle East. And the 2-state solution in divine perfection floats down from the heavens, escorted by Palestinian angels. Everyone, or at least all the good souls in this wide world, knows the shape and the lines of this perfect state. It was almost ready to land. And now it’s all spoiled.
This is the assumption that underlies the weeping, wailing, and scolding. The righteous indignation. The peace process has been betrayed. The holier than thou international community had set forth the rules and the stepping stone and the destination. How dare this upstart president barge into the head of the line, pluck the gem of Jerusalem, and hand it to Israel?
Take the time to read this detailed account of a Colloquium held in Paris on November 27th. Palestinians and their supporters, speaking to an audience they assumed to be 100% sympathetic, made no secret of their intentions and ultimate objectives: to turn the Oslo process upside down. First, the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. Then, the negotiations. These were not marginal extremists. Elias Sanbar is the Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO. Hala Abu-Hasira is “first counselor” of the Palestinian mission to France. Invited to take part in a debate on a French TV station yesterday, she smugly declared that Jerusalem, according to international law, is acorpus separatum. That was in 1947!
Israel-Palestine: broken record
[My translation of the original article published in French [http://infoequitable.org/israel-palestine-la-rengaine/]
“Israël-Palestine: Que la France s’engage” [France should get involved], the Colloquium organized by l’iReMMO [Institut de recherche et d’études Méditerranée Moyen-Orient] was sold out more than a week in advance. No way to contact the organization by telephone or leave a message. Obviously a must-attend. The Colloquium was sponsored by a handful of more or less respectable media: rfi, France 24, MCD, France Médias Monde, La Croix, Moyen-Orient, Médiapart, and OXXI. In the hushed comfort of the elegant Salle Clémenceau, snuggled in the heart of the Palais de Luxembourg, home of the French Senate, a distinguished audience savored a series of speeches seasoned with one single flavored-criminal Israel. It was all so subdued. And yet they were assenting to the premises of a politicide that flows from familiar dark sources.
Huis clos of the doxa
Alternating Palestinian complaints with accusations against the Jewish State of Israel, the speakers assembled the instrument that would, first, deprive the disgraceful state of its sovereignty. Then, reduced to submission, Israel would disappear. It wasn’t stated brutally. It just took shape. In the absence of any geopolitical context, rational arguments, chronology, and the slightest notion of cause and effect, words turned into lethal weapons. Colonization, Occupation, transfer of populations, war crimes, Far Right government, annexation, serious infractions, home demolitions, humiliation, apartheid, collective punishment. Israel, criminal state, does not listen, does not obey, enriches itself with impunity on the backs of the Occupied. Israel must be punished. Must be given an ultimatum: respect international law or be thrown out of the concert of democratic nations.
There were plenty of outworn ideas and one, relatively new, that is making its way in the international arena: Given the failure of the Oslo Accords and blockage of the peace process, it’s time to reverse the order. Instead of settling one by one the burning issues-borders, land swaps, Jerusalem, refugees-and concluding with the creation of a Palestinian state, we must begin with recognition of a State of Palestine that will then participate on an equal footing with Israel in subsequent negotiations. Recognition of a Palestinian proto- state in various international instances confirms this strategy.
There, in the heart of the building that houses the French Senate, there, at a Colloquium sponsored by a handful of media, some of them state-owned, there with the usual pretexts of peace and human rights, the speeches rang out like Koranic imprecations … against the Jews.
1st round table: where things stand
[I arrive just as the moderator Dominique Vidal was winding up his introduction]: …800,000 Palestinians forced out [now reckoned at 6 million refugees to take back in], far right government, annexation of colonies, apartheid, abandon of the two-state solution…
Géraud de Pradelle (jurist, emeritus professor Université Paris X-Nanterre)
The jurist summarizes the terms of UNSC Resolution N°2334, copies of which were available at the entry to the auditorium. Israel does not respect the Resolution, does not respect the Geneva Convention, commits very serious infractions, war crimes. International law itself is endangered by this disrespect. The situation is perverse: the creation of a Palestinian state is left to the discretion of a State of Israel that exists… and in a very muscular way. France made a commitment by organizing a summit in January. Unfortunately there was no follow through. Unless it was the insult from Israel that announced, shortly afterward, housing construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Amira Hass (journalist, correspondent for Haaretz)
In the “Jenin massacre” style, with touches of Rafle du Vel d’hiv, Amira Hass delivers the dramatic scenario of a mass transfer of tens of thousands of Palestinians, our indigenous people, rounded up, bussed out, and dropped in Jordan and who knows where else. Five years ago she would not have publicly imagined such an ignominious plot. She thought Israel had made a compromise between the Israeli Jewish ancient urge to see the Palestinians disappear-almost fulfilled in 1948-but the Oslo Process allowed for this internal Israeli compromise: the concentration of Palestinians in overcrowded enclaves. There is even an Israeli scholar from Bar Ilan U., she says, without naming Mordechai Kedar, that is promoting this seven emirates solution. So it’s not just my imagination. Nazareth, a Palestinian town in Israel, is one of those congested enclaves. With Oslo, the world expected a solution, going back grosso modo to 1947. In fact, under the umbrella of Oslo, instead of a Palestinian space with specks of Israeli colonies that had to be removed, it’s specks of Palestine.
There have been too many expulsions. There’s a policy of transfer of Palestinians from Jerusalem. Palestinians were treated as newcomers to the country. More than 150,000 were expelled from the Golan Heights. Since 1991 Israel has made Gaza into an “open-space” prison. The loss of political and economic prospects is driving the young to emigrate. Israel used to be hypocritical about its intentions. Now it has no shame. The post-’67 post-’95 generations accept Jewish mastery, Jewish hegemony. They see Palestinians as attacking Israel, not resisting Occupation. The judiciary, never very brave but still a dike against extremism, is under attack, weakened, intimidated. There is much interest in the EU, but Europe is weary… Events in Europe, atrocities in the Middle East… interest has weakened.
Amira Hass says she attended, a month ago in Jerusalem, a Jordan is the Palestinian State Conference, organized, she does not say, by Ted Belman of the Israpundit site. Most of the speakers were Anglo-Saxon or settlers. One of the speakers, I forget his name [probably Yshai Fleisher] claimed to be a spokesman for the Jews of Hebron. Hah! The center of Hebron has been emptied of its old Palestinian families, merchants, women and children. The last speaker had a big pistol in his back. She concludes: to foil this plan you have to acknowledge that it is very real in Israeli politics.
Hagai el Ad (executive director of B’tselem)
After screening a brief video, “Same Old Routine,” El Ad speaks from the heart, connecting historical injustices of the past with our times: the humiliation of the Palestinian people, Occupation, one people ruling over another for 50 years, the inherent violence of this reality. Quoting Frederick Douglass, he hastens to add that the Palestinians are not slaves. But they are not free. Their chains are invisible. They are excluded from the political process. He cites Nelson Mandela. Apartheid. South Africa is not a perfect analogy, but, Israelis like myself are free, but there is a military dictatorship in the West Bank. Collective punishment, detention without trial, demolition of houses, all whitewashed by the military apparatus. Soldiers enter houses anywhere any time. Israel has made all of this legal. It goes back to 1970, ‘71, letting settlers vote, preventing Palestinians from legally building. This is violence. Global action against Occupation is non-violence. Europe bears responsibility for the context [= la Shoah] in which the State of Israel was established. The first step should be to implement UNSC Resolution 2334. Ultimately Israel must end the Occupation or no longer be treated as a democracy. This is the right side of history: Defending the Palestinians is defending the Israelis. They have been getting a green light from Washington to ignore Resolution 2334. The transfer of Palestinians is war crimes. “Are you seriously waiting for the US to end the Occupation?” [laughter] I am indebted to France for the creation of my state in 1947. But this has never been realized for the Palestinians. Many solutions are possible, but not another half century of Occupation. If no non-violent solution is found, violence of the past will be doubled. We must put an end to the crimes against God and Man which are the occupation. The international community must act. END THE OCCUPATION!
Shawan Jabarim (general director of Al-Haq )
Crowned with the authority of his white hair, Jabarim tells it like it is. I live under Occupation all my life. Some of you maybe visited Palestine. Go and see things on the ground. The UN Special Reporter has determined the illegality of this Occupation. It’s apartheid, it’s colonialism. Two different nationalities are living in the same land. For one of these populations, roads are prohibited. It was planned in ’67 how to force Palestinians out of their country. These realities are documented. 75% of Palestinians are under 29 years old. They see this oppression every day. How do they react to this Occupation that controls every aspect of our lives? Settlers are confiscating the land, producing, selling their produce. It’s the richest Occupation in history! They are taking everything, enjoying everything, taking 8 billion dollars a year from us. They don’t take any account of Occupied people. We say to Europeans, keep your money, we can manage without it. Keep your money, put pressure on Israel to let us enjoy our natural resources so we can build our society, we will have no unemployment, no young people coming to Europe. If you are friends of Israel you have to tell them this is wrong this is right. If not, you might face 800,000 immigrants on your doorstep.
Israel, he snarls, criminal Israel lives in a culture of impunity. The settlements are illegal. The transfer of civilians is a war crime. When you open your markets to produce of the territories, you reward crime. That produce should be banned. We have to bring liberty and justice to the victims, and punish the criminals. The High Court allows home demolitions. This is against international law, it’s a war crime. And now the US will close PA office in Washington. One of the conditions, PLO is not to go after criminals at the ICC. If you don’t want me to use international law, what do you want me to do? I am for peace, peace settlement based on international law. Punish the criminals. Recognize the Palestinian state. Show your support for self-determination. The future is for Justice. Don’t let history repeat itself. Anyone that criticizes Israel is harassed. “We will never give up,” he declares triumphantly!!! [triumphant applause]
[See NGO Monitor report on Al Haq: https://www.ngo-monitor.org/ngos/al_haq/]
During the 15-minute break a woman turns to me and asks if Amira Hass had mentioned the rôle of journalists. “I didn’t take earphones,” she explains, “and I wasn’t able to follow the English.” No, as a matter of fact, she didn’t. I summarize the Haaretz correspondent’s contribution. Madame thinks the media are… “They never reported the details of Resolution 2334.” She can’t bring herself to say exactly what she means. I nudge: More on the side of …? She doesn’t dare. But she gives an example: “On the screen, it was a commemoration… “I think she’s talking about the vote in favor of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. “At the bottom of the screen, it was just mentioned in small print that the Israelis had closed three Palestinian schools in the West Bank.” Ah, I reply, that must be the UNWRA schools that were used as military bases. She thinks both subjects should have been given equal importance. She doesn’t dare say the Jews control the media.
2nd round table: What do the actors want?
Elias Sanbar (writer, Palestine’s ambassador to UNESCO):
What do the Palestinians want? We’ve known for 26 years. But, stuck in an impasse, we ask what we can possibly obtain. The regional environment is explosive. Countries are disappearing. Arab countries- and this is new- are tired of the Palestinian cause, they have other priorities. Now, a dangerous though well-intentioned idea is going around: Israel is ravaging the whole land, but is unintentionally creating the binational state we thought we would never have. The Palestinians will resist, there will be massacres and blood baths. Did a repetition of 1947 seem impossible? Look what’s happening in Syria. The international community does nothing to stop it. I am in favor of a democratic state, that is, a binational state, but the two-state solution can be used as a first stage. The problem is, it’s being used today by those who want to destroy all hopes for a Palestinian state. There is such an intricate mix… land swaps will be impossible. You can’t find out where a colony begins or ends.
What can we do? Create facts on the ground. Irreversible. Like the admission of Palestine as a member in standing of UNESCO. We have to destroy the idea of territories. It’s one territory with one people! The inscription of world heritage sites is primordial. It’s the recognition of our sovereignty wherever a site is inscribed. Bethlehem! We are sovereign there. Hebron! Despite the violent reaction to the inscription of Hebron, we won. What can France do? You say you are for peace? Well, it is impossible today because it is an affair between a recognized agent and another, not recognized. You must first recognize Palestine. If not, Israel is going to profit from its benefits to the end of time. Israel’s problem is that it doesn’t listen.
Ayman Odeh (member of the Knesset)
The deputy speaks Arabic, with an interpreter. The other non-Francophones spoke English. There are two currents in Israel, he says: one that acts to develop colonization, racism-it’s the current of Benjamin Netanyahu-and the other seeks to create a genuine democracy. That’s us. The only possible solution is a Palestinian state side by side with the state of Israel. As for the parameters, Abbas and Olmert managed pretty much to define the status of Jerusalem. But it wasn’t applied. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed since then. Résistance is resisting on one’s native land. On two fronts: the struggle of the Palestinian people and influencing Israeli public opinion. For example, the first Intifada. As an Arab citizen of the State of Israel I have every interest in a peaceful solution. We are 20% of the population. Netanyahu raised the ceiling for parties to enter the Knesset, thinking he could keep us out; we created a unified list, and we are 13 deputies. The problem is not just with the Right; the Left is bogged down in its contradictions. How shameful! This party that came to power, thanks in part to our votes, can’t manage to bring an end to Netanyahu’s power. And the new leader of Labor declares that there is no partner for peace and Israel should support the colonies.
Hala Abu-Hasira (First counselor, Mission of Palestine to France)
What do the Palestinians want? Freedom. Simply to be free. The Israelis do not want Palestinian sovereignty, they don’t want the return of refugees, not even in a Palestinian state. The negotiations were interrupted because Israel refused to liberate the fourth group of prisoners. Trump says he’s going to make the compromise of the century? No! We, the Palestinians, have made the compromise of the century. Obama, like Trump, sided with Israel; they allowed the colonization to spread and develop. The American Congress has 27 laws in reserve to punish the Palestinians. To punish us for our non-violence, for turning to the ICC pleading for Israel to be punished for the colonization, for war crimes. The United States is disqualified for the rôle of mediator. We are engaged in the process of reconciliation [Hamas-AP]. The Palestinian street wants it. We don’t see any other prospects but colonization, home demolitions, collective punishment. The situation in Gaza is serious: no running water, hardly any electricity, unemployment; 80% of the population lives on international aid. There’s a change in leadership of Hamas, under pressure from Egypt, deprived of support from Qatar and Syria. With the reopening of the crossings, under PA control, we hope to create decent living conditions. France has done a lot: the Summit in January 2017, the vote in favor of Palestine’s membership in UNESCO. More can be done to put pressure on Israel: for example, labeling products from the colonies. The majority of Palestinians back the two-state solution. To do it, it is imperative to recognize Palestine before starting negotiations. Today Israel has no more pretexts, the international community has no more pretexts. We have to solve this problem that has been going on for 70 years! [= since 1947]
All of the other speakers were introduced with their titles and positions; Dany Shek has only his name to identify him. But he starts out, anyway, casting stones at his friends, “many of whom advised me not to participate.” [malicious laughter] He continues, speaking frankly but friendly, breaking the airtight unanimity of the morning. If the intention is to evaluate where we stand, says the former Israeli ambassador to France, it doesn’t make sense to invite Ayman Odeh, Amira Hass, Hagai el Ad…for whom I have the greatest respect. They represent 1 or 2 % of the population. It’s as if we don’t dare to confront the contradictions. Gathering together every year to repeat our convictions… is it useful? If the speakers don’t see any real difference between Right and Left, between Oslo and the population transfer plan …what’s the use? Shek focusses on realities: there will be no forceful intervention by the international community. Don’t hold your breath. [in English in the text] Nothing could push me to defend Benyamin Netanyahu, but the current government was elected. I am opposed to the colonization, I am for the two state solution. I look for the breach. The international community must overcome the lack of willingness of the protagonists on both sides. The solution cannot be imposed. The people are ahead of their governments. Both parties made serious mistakes all through the conflict. I am active in the Israel Peace Initiative. We seek an agreement in a regional context. I am not a fan of Trump but his administration is the only one that has taken an initiative in this direction. France should support him, not oppose him.
He outlines three basic errors: Israel insists on strictly bilateral talks; the United States is the only outside force permitted; nothing is concluded until everything is concluded. We must question these assumptions, open other channels of negotiation, relieve the fears of both Israelis and Palestinians. I believe that the Jewish people have the right to a state and that the Palestinians have a right to self-determination. Things are very bad in my country but we should look for a ray of sunshine. We shouldn’t get together every year for a Colloquium of lamentations.
Earlier in the program, a moderator mentioned that Sternhell had survived an attack committed by a right-wing extremist, but the distinguished historian and specialist of the Far Right, like Shek, is presented without titles, without honors. He digs right in! Without getting lost in laborious refutations, he announces in an unwavering voice that a two-state solution that would end the conflict is possible… but only if Israelis and Palestinians accept the irreversibility of the situation created in 1948. Now, neither the Israeli Right nor the Palestinians accept it. Asking what the Israelis want is like asking what the French want. Sternhell runs down the scale of political positions from the Front National to the Insoumis and all points between those two extremes. Israel is a democracy. You have to win elections. We don’t have a Constitution. We have something like the British system. Our founders would never have imagined people like those who are in power today. They are not gentlemen.
The green line of 1949 has become the de facto frontier. Palestine never had defined borders. For the first time, Jews are recognized as citizens of our state. We want to remain citizens of our state and we want the Arabs to have equality.
For the Palestinians, renouncing the right of return means the end of the demand to undo 1948. That’s the real stumbling block. Arafat should have gone to a refugee camp and he should have told them: it’s over, you’re never going back. Keep your keys, keep your dreams, you’re not going to return. As for the colonies, the question is not are they legal; they are not legitimate. It was necessary to take the land in 1949, no people anywhere had as great a need for a roof over their heads. It was legitimate. We won. The colonies are not legitimate. But it is impossible to end 100% of the colonization. The major part, yes. Israel has to be convinced that it has a partner that accepts 1948. All the rest, the great powers, forget about all that. They’re not interested, the only ones interested in the Palestinians are the Israelis and the only possibility is to accept 1948.
[December 8th: Christiane Amanpour replays her interview with Yasser Arafat in the summer of 2000, shortly after the failed Camp David negotiations. She asks him if he would be willing to share Jerusalem with the Israelis His answer was “No, absolutely not.”]
Re-entry into the real world
By the time the second round-table ends, it’s already 2 PM. Time for the lunch break. Questions to speakers of the second round-table are postponed until the end of the afternoon session. I escape. I am curious to know if demi-dissidents Dany Shek and Zeev Sternhell stimulated debate, but I can’t consecrate any more time to the litany criminal- state -punish-Israel. Dany Shek had remarked,”I don’t think anyone in this room defends the colonization.” By leaving, I probably confirmed his supposition. [update: in fact, someone I know attended the afternoon session. No debate. Same tune, same self-righteous consensus.]
Evening newscast i24 news:
The guttural voice of Hamas tears apart the illusion of reconciliation…or confirms it for the worst: Disarmament? Out of the question! On the contrary, our weapons will be transferred to the West Bank and used to attack Israel and end the Occupation. [30 November: reconciliation is postponed] Reunion in Riyadh of 40 Muslim states united against terrorism, including Pakistan, where the killer that committed the massacre at the Chabad house in Mumbai has just been released from prison.
Will France get involved? I asked the question in 2000:
Where will the tifosi of October 2000 be when the Palestinians are defeated?
Because it can’t be denied that they have more than once lost by armed struggle what they could have obtained through negotiation. Instead of awarding the Palestinians unlimited privileges as the supposedly most oppressed of all the oppressed peoples in the world, wouldn’t it be more intelligent to imagine-along with them-different solutions to the conflict? Solutions that don’t depend on the destruction of the State of Israel or worldwide war against the Jews.
Nidra Poller, Troubled Dawn of the 21st Century, authorship intl, Paris, 2017.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in Family Security Matters. Under Creative Commons License: Attribution