Thursday, December 8, 2005


Mazin Qumsiyeh - Changes in Israel-Palestine: Letter to Activists

Rapid changes are taking place on the ground in Israel/Palestine and abroad for which many people in the media, in activist circles, in political circles are yet to catch up let alone develop coherent strategies by which to deal, for example:

1) Primaries for Fatah in the West Bank and Gaza that swept away many of the old guard in favor of younger Fatah activists and of people in Israeli jails(i.e., Marwan Barghouthi)

2) Break-up of the Likud Party with Sharon setting up a new party to pursue his agenda

3) The change within the Labor Party in Israel that brought Peretz to power (for the first time a leading party not led by an Ashkenazi/European Jew). This was coupled by the marginalization of Shimon Peres, the father of Israel's weapons of mass destruction (including chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons).

4) The dramatic and continuing building of the apartheid walls and fences
around Palestinian towns and cities impacting everything from poverty to
education (,

5) The intensification of the program to reduce the Palestinian Christian and Muslim population of East Jerusalem coupled with building in East Jerusalem including in the illegal settlements/colonies such as Maale Adumim.

6) Mainstreaming of Hamas political wing by its participation (and some success) in Palestinian elections in the occupied areas of the West Bank and Gaza.

7) Intel announced it will put 1 million in Gaza and 3,500 million ($3.5 billion) in Israel on land that belongs to the refugees in Gaza. The announcement of the Gaza donation was made in early November,
three weeks before Intel made its announcement today of building a new plant in in Kiryat Gat (previously Iraq Al-Manshiya) on Palestinian lands expropriated illegally by Israel. The $3.5 billion investment was delayed for four years. For background, see my article about their investment published in 2001 and titled "Is Intel Supporting an Apartheid Regime?"

8) The July 9, 2005 Palestinian civil society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights

9) The growth of an international movement that is analogous to the movement to end apartheid in South Africa that calls for divestment, boycotts, and sanctions against Israel (and now bolstered by the civil society call above).

10) There is a beginning of an awakening within the US (even among elites) that unquestioned support for Israel has gutted our constitutional rights and is not good for US national interest and that those who support Israel in the US go too far sometimes jeopardizing even elite US interests (hence arrests recently and FBI probes into leaking of confidential information to individuals with AIPAC, new trends in both right wing and left wing politics etc).

One could list more evolving challenges/opportunities in the case ofIsrael/Palestine and also many more on the issues of Iraq and Afghanistan (where resistance to US policies is growing both on the ground and around the world). There are limited writings circulated on the internet about these changes and what they mean and how we should relate to them.

These writings and discussions have yet to find their way to the mainstream news media let alone the average American or Israeli conscience. We can certainly take these issues and rethink our strategies to effect more rapid evolution to reach desired goals of peace with justice. We have the intellectual and organizational building blocks in the form of activists that are needed, and the time is ripe. Of course people involved directly in each of these issues are acting in their own sphere of interest. However, in conversations with hundreds of activists and political leaders over the past few months, a vast majority recognize that we may lose the forest by focusing on individual trees and, more importantly, that we may focus on our own little tree and not try to understand the interplay of forces in our joint environment. (Sorry for my biology background shaping my metaphors).

The delicately connected and yet always evolving political landscape/ecosystem includes us citizens and we can shape its future.The US mainstream media (NY Times, Wash Post, CNN, Fox, etc) remains preoccupied not with the cost of the occupation to its primary victims (theIraqi people) but with the political machinations around the Iraq fiasco. Perhaps one of many reasons both neocon Zionists and liberal Zionists supported the war on Iraq was creating distraction from the real reason for instability and violence in the Middle East that is spilling to other countries.

It is now empirically well established that the Israeli lobby worked within the Democratic Party, within the Republican Party, and within the media (through some sympathetic columnists and editors) to drum up support for the war and marginalize people like Senator Byrd, and Representatives Paul Findley, Cynthia McKinney, and Dennis Kucinich. As the neocons articulated in their "memos" and "research documents" going back to the early to mid 1990s, a toppling of the regime of Saddam Hussain is good for "allies" like Israel and for domination of strategic assets (see ).

But let us go back to how the key changes above (and more) must be fully analyzed together and understood especially by those who truly seek peace with justice. Here I am not talking about those who claim to seek peace (with or without their definition of justice) while they mean pacification. Real peace activists support (without using qualifiers) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) including all native peoples' rights. UDHR contradics Israeli laws that deny Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes and lands while stating that any Jew (including converts) is an "Israeli national" (part of the "people of Israel") and has a "right" to automatic citizenship in Israel including settling on Palestinian land. What do those who want Israel to evolve plan to do to integrate the changes taking place? Take the Israeli artists' declaration which states: "If the state of Israel aspires to perceive itself as a democracy, it should abandon once and for all, any legal and ideological foundation of religious, ethnic, and demographic discrimination. The state of Israel should strive to become the state of all its citizens. We call for the annulment of all laws that make Israel an apartheid state, including the Jewish law of return in its present form (artists' Declaration 2002).”

The question to all of us is how are we positioning our activism to accomplish this and to bring peace with justice in light of the changing landscape and the important and rapidly evolving circumstances listed above (and more that I missed or ones to come).

Will insular groups who believe in the purity of their message keep doing what they are doing and hope for the best? Or will we put our heads together, ratchet up our activism, and coordinate our activism in ways that develop effective (i.e. result driven) strategies and appropriate tactics to implement these strategies (from capacity building to media work to lobbying etc). The next six months are critical as the ten examples listed above and others unfold and their impact is felt more. Are we up to the challenges of the moment to build an effective 21st century anti-apartheid, anti-neo-colonial movement and to shape our own future as a human family?

If you want to work together on these issues, feel free to contact me. Other resources are posted here:

edited by Nancy Harb Almendras for Tlaxcala network of translators for linguistic diversity.


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