Reflections on the anniversary of Blitzkrieged Gaza by Roy Ratcliffe

The public outrage at the savage Israeli invasion of Gaza which ended in January 2009, has had a considerable effect on the question of Palestinian solidarity over the last 12 months. Two distinct trends have emerged during the year, both of which are likely to bear on the question of solidarity, but from different and perhaps even occasionally opposed directions. First,  more people than ever before have become clear on the fact that Israel is indeed a rogue state. Palestine solidarity activity on the street creates more concerned interest and support. This means there is a growing reservoir of antipathy to Israel and Zionism, upon which Palestinian solidarity can be built; a fact which is to be welcomed. Second; the brutality of Zionism, as an expression of extreme Jewish nationalism, has also weakened the support movement for Israel.  More Jewish voices are being heard in opposition to Israeli and its  brutal occupation of Palestine, another positive development. However, both these constituencies I suggest have the potential to increase the quantity, but dilute the quality of struggle for Palestinian rights in the following way.

1. The small number of Jewish supporters of Israel who have now distanced themselves, from the exceptional atrocities of Gaza, and begun to speak out may not be fully supportive of Palestinian rights, including their right to return. For many their outrage may not be entirely against the whole Zionist colonial enterprise but just against the extremes to which it has again gravitated. Extremes, which it must be said, have now become more visible due to the internet and camera phones. This group too may wish to save Israel from itself (in articulating a form of ‘left Zionism), by advocating a ’peaceful accommodation’ with Palestinians, whilst supporting the exclusively Jewish nature of the Israeli state. In this way this group could swell the constituency which ultimately may attempt to marginalise and anathematise those wishing to confirm, the full Palestinian rights as declared by the United Nations and which constitute universal human rights.    

2. Some new layers to the broad Palestine Solidarity movement may agree with and press in the direction of what the American Administration’s past and present have desired. That is to say a ‘peaceful accommodation’ which does not include the right of return. In particular, people from Christian religious denominations who become involved may support such an accommodation from a desire not to take sides between Jews and Muslims and in order not to deal with other monotheistic inspired genocides. Their motivation to support Palestinians may be only to prevent future atrocities, a laudable and necessary, but far from sufficient part of a campaign for justice. Their support for and activity in the Solidarity Movement could increase the number of people who would wish at some - not to distant future - to overlook or disregard the principle of ‘right to return‘.
Pressures from these two groups will come to bear differently upon all of us involved in the broad Palestinian movement. The first in a more concentrated fashion, the second in perhaps a more amorphous way. They are both likely to present themselves initially as an increase in publicity material and argument focussed upon recent actions together with proposed solutions which will largely ignore the primary causes and the long historical record of punctuated Zionist genocide. The Goldstone Report, as welcome as it is, does exactly that and ignores the real source of Israeli aggression in Gaza. A source which lies in its Zionist roots, colonialist mission and the enormous financial and moral (actually immoral) support Israel receives from politicians and pro-Zionist people around the world. That such a tendency may already be emerging, in the form of the ‘thin-end-of-a-wedge‘, is suggested by articles reflecting (perhaps unconsciously), the above noted possibilities. They were published in the last two editions of Palestine News in the UK.

In the Summer 2009 edition of Palestine News two articles appeared, one by Jeff Halper and the other by  Avi Shlaim.  On reading them it became obvious that neither Israeli author seemed to agree with PSC principles Neither author mentioned the ‘right to return’ for Palestinians or the Palestinian ‘right of self-determination‘. Yet there was no editorial comment upon this. Taking the Jeff Halper article first, it seemed in fact to deny these fundamental Palestinian rights. The article contained the following passage;

“Well almost 30% of Israeli citizens are not Jews. We may very well have permanently incorporated another four million Palestinians - the residents of the Occupied territories - into our country…” (Palestine News. Summer 2009, page12. Emphasis added.)

In case this excerpt, with its lack of detail with regard to what is meant by ‘permanently incorporating four million Palestinians’, leaves an element of potential ambiguity, a later comment informed the reader that;

“I can both conceive of an Israel very different from the ‘Jewish State‘…” (ibid page 13.)

It would seem from these assertions that even a single unified state, under Mr Halper’s vision, would retain its original Zionist title of Israel. I can’t imagine the Palestinians voting for that, particularly in a state which was ‘very different’ than a Jewish State. This suggests, that Mr Halper’s conception of Israel containing four million Palestinians would imply they would not get the vote. Which of course, the present Palestinians trapped in Israel are also denied. Mr Halper’s article also seems to overlook the very real possibility that Palestinians may not want to be ‘’incorporated’ into such a collective perpetrator after the Blitzkrieg of Gaza and memories of the Nakba. Since Mr Halper’s article was openly aimed at Diaspora Jews, I just wonde who are the ‘our‘ he is addressing in the page 12 sentence? Although missing from this article, it is in the public domain that Mr Halper has previously suggested the Palestinians give up even more of their ‘1967 occupied’ land and arrangements be made for the permanent exclusion of refugees from their former, and more recently, occupied lands. For example in previously discussing the possibility of a minimal state of their own he suggested in such a case;

“..the Palestinians could be more forthcoming in terms of territorial compromise….Other essential responsibilities too large for a small state - refugees, economic development….could be dealt with on a regional basis..” (Jeff Halper ‘Obstacles to Peace’. page 68.)

Whilst recognising Mr Halper’s efforts at exposing and confronting his right-wing Zionist opponents, this should not blind us to recognising that his suggestion of dealing with Palestinian refugees and economic development “on a regional basis” is also certainly not supporting their right of return or their right of self-determination. The other article in Palestine News, by Avi Shlaim, referred to the Zionist narrative of events, but then proceeded to suggest that;

“Yet this one-sided narrative went largely unchallenged outside the Arab world until 1988 when the 40th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel was accompanied by the publication of four books.” (Palestine News. Summer 2009, page 14.)

Now of course, the four books  by Israeli academics he refers too, were welcome additions to contradicting the many Zionist myths, but to imply that all the previous challenges to that narrative from within Europe in the forty or so years from 1947 to 1988 (Hirst, Arakie, Kaufman, Bagot, Jeffries, Taylor, pro-Palestinian activists in Parliament and out, etc., etc.) and elsewhere were not significant compared to the four Israeli New Historians of 1988, suggests not a little Avi Shlaim chutzpah.  But the even more worrying bit of this article, appearing in Palestine News, was the following statement;

“To say this is not to deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel within its pre-1967 borders; it is only to insist that Israel played a major part in turning over half the Arab population of Palestine into refugees.” (Palestine News Summer 2009, page 15.)

Now unless I am very mistaken, among people who do really think about it, the only people who think that the State of Israel was legitimate from 1948 to 1967 are committed Israelis and Zionists (Christian and Jewish). How many Palestinians would agree with this assertion of Zionist legitimacy prior to 1967? Yet again no editorial comment was made in the official magazine of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign - which is supposed to be representing Palestinian views. The fact that there are also a large number of United Nations reports and resolutions which prior to 1967, called into question the legitimacy of the Nakba and other oppressive events as they unfolded in the nineteen years leading up to 1967, was ignored by the Israeli author and on this assertion, the editor felt no need to comment or correct this blatant misrepresentation.

I actually wrote to the editor suggesting that if the magazine appeared - in this way - to condone or collude with the assertion that the pre-1967 Israel state is legitimate, we would be explicitly and implicitly legitimating the colonising genocidal actions which were perpetrated (1948 -1967) in order to establish and expand this colonialist enterprise. I also wrote that; ‘If I were a Palestinian sat reading these articles outside my demolished home in the West Bank or while having a rest from tunnelling for milk and flour in Gaza,  I think I would be at best disappointed and at worst seriously worried about what kind of ideas were being advocated to the UK public in a magazine ostensibly fighting for my rights‘. The PSC principles do after all contain the following; ‘campaigning for the ’Palestinian right to self-determination and the right of return of Palestinian refugees‘.  The editors reply to me was in the form of a gentle rebuff, with no offer of informing the readers of my criticism or of seriously considering such alternative views in future.   

In the following issue of Palestine News (Autumn 2009) an article appeared under the title ‘Just Peace for Palestine‘ which was a call for ‘faith communities‘ to speak out for a ‘courageous settlement’ which would ‘honour’ both peoples and protect the collective rights of both Jews and Palestinians. No mention was made in the article of the one-sided dishonouring which the Jewish Zionists have perpetrated continually upon the Palestinians since pre-1948. Nor did the ‘just peace’ envisaged mention a right of return and equality for all citizens, just ‘basic rights‘ for Palestinians - whatever that abstract formulation is supposed to mean. This omission was made all the more glaring when a ‘’strap-line’ was proudly announced further on in the article which read;

“A just peace for Palestine means peace and security for Israelis” (Palestine News Autumn 09. Page 6.).

Peace and security for Israel!  On what basis, a Palestinian supporting reader might ask? On the basis of overlooking past and genocidal village clearances, stolen land and the refusal of the ‘right of return‘? On the basis of ignoring past and recent outrageous war crimes? Again the real substantial basis for any justice and peace in Palestine was either naively overlooked or incompetently swept under a carpet of ‘basic rights‘. This particular article also appeared without any editorial comment and was included in the very next issue after a complaint from a member pointing out the implications of such neglect. Of course being an unpaid editor of a magazine is a difficult and demanding job, I know, I have been one myself in the not too distant past, but it should be part of that job to ensure the principles upon which the organisation is founded should be strongly and consistently reflected within it. Where articles do not do this, an editorial comment should be essential to redress such a glaring omission. The situation which has now emerged, suggests that already some peoples views are presently considered more important than others by the editor.

It seems that alternative views to ‘Peace Now’ type views are to be largely ignored or alternatively nonchalantly dismissed. So I now wonder if there is any point in writing yet again to the editor of Palestine News? Hence this circularised reflection to various supporters of Palestinian rights. But I also wonder how much more the above sort of selective representation of views on ‘justice and peace in Palestine’ will happen, if, or rather when, the pressure for dilution of the principles from ‘full’ to ‘basic’ for Palestinians is further increased by any new forces that may become involved with Palestinian Solidarity?  Yet, ironically it is just as important now, as it was before, that people still campaign on the firm humanist principles of what is right, rather than what  politicians and others class as ‘realistic’ - a euphemism for bending to the wishes of those with power. The final decision should be that of the Palestinians themselves, without further persuading (or forcing) them to submit to even more ‘compromises’ in the face of Zionist oppression and aggression. Meanwhile, in my opinion, all those who really support Palestinian human rights should support their full rights and continue to explain (and write) this position consistently, frequently and emphatically.

 R. Ratcliffe (January 2010.)