Aletho News


The Palestinians are winning the legitimacy war: will it matter?

Richard Falk | 5 April 2010

Ever since the Balfour Declaration in 1917 gave the formal approval of the British government to the establishment of “a Jewish homeland”, profound issues of legitimacy were present in the conflict recently known as the Israel-Palestine conflict.

This original colonialist endorsement of the Zionist project has produced a steady erosion of the position of the Palestinian people on historic Palestine, which dramatically worsened over the course of the past 43 years of occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. It has worsened due to an oppressive military occupation by Israel that involves fundamental denials of rights and pervasive violations of international humanitarian law, and because Israel has been allowed to establish “facts on the ground”, which are more properly viewed as violations of Palestinian rights, especially the establishment of extensive settlements and a separation wall constructed on occupied Palestinian territories in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These developments have been flagrantly unlawful, and made the whole treatment of the Palestinian people illegitimate, as well as the occasion of continuous intense and pervasive suffering.

For decades, Palestinian political forces have exercised their right of resistance in various ways, including the extraordinary non-violent Intifada of 1987, but also engaging in armed resistance in defence of their territory. The Palestinians definitely enjoy a right of resistance, although subject to the limits of international humanitarian law, which rules out deliberate targeting of civilians and non-military targets. Such tactics of resistance challenge Israel at its point of maximum comparative advantage due both to its total military dominance, achieved in part by large subsidies from the United States, and to its ruthless disregard for civilian innocence.

In recent years, especially beginning with the brutal experience of the Lebanon war of 2006 and even more dramatically in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008-09 (27 December 2008-18 January 2009), there has been a notable change of emphasis in Palestinian strategy. The new strategy has been to initiate what might be described as a second war, “a legitimacy war” that is essentially based on the reliance on a variety of non-violent tactics of resistance. Armed resistance has not been renounced by the Palestinians, but it has been displaced by this emphasis on non-violent tactics.

The essence of this legitimacy war is to cast doubt on several dimensions of Israeli legitimacy: its status as a moral and law abiding actor, as an occupying power in relation to the Palestinian people, and with respect to its willingness to respect the United Nations and abide by international law. Those that wage such a legitimacy war seek to seize the high moral ground in relation to the underlying conflict, and on this basis, gain support for a variety of coercive, but non-violent initiatives designed to put pressure on Israel, on governments throughout the world and on the United Nations to deny normal participatory rights to Israel as a member of international society.

These tactics also aim to mobilize global civil society to exhibit solidarity with the Palestinian struggle to achieve legitimate rights, taking the principal form of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS) that operates throughout the entire world, which serves as a symbolic battlefield.

But there are other forms of action as well, including the Free Gaza Movement and Viva Palestina that aim specifically at symbolically breaking the blockade of food, medecine and fuel imposed in mid-2007, a form of collective punishment that has caused great suffering for the entire 1.5 million population of the Gaza Strip, damaging the physical and mental health of all those living under occupation.

Although the UN has been a failure so far as offering protection (beyond its essential role in providing humanitarian relief in Gaza) to the Palestinians under occupations or even in relation to the implementation of Palestinian rights under international law, it is a vital site of struggle in the legitimacy war. The whole storm unleashed by the Goldstone report involves challenging the UN to impose accountability on the Israeli political and military leadership for their alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity associated with the Gaza attacks at the end of 2008. Even if the United States shields Israelis from accountability pursuant to the procedures of the UN, including the International Criminal Court, the confirmation by the Goldstone report of allegations of criminality is a major victory for the Palestinians in the legitimacy war, and lends credibility to calls for non-violent initiatives throughout the world.

The Goldstone Report also endorses “universal jurisdiction” as a means to gain accountability, encouraging national criminal courts of any country to make use of their legal authority to hold Israeli political and military leaders criminally responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Tzipi Livni, the current Kadima opposition leader in Israel, who had been foreign minister during the Gaza attacks, cancelled a visit to Britain after she received word that a warrant for her arrest upon arrival had been issued. Even if Israeli impunity is not overcome, the authoritativeness of the Goldstone report lends weight to calls around the world to disrupt normal relations with Israel by boycotting cultural and academic activities, by disrupting trade relations through divestment moves or through refusals to load and unload ships and planes carrying cargo to or from Israel, and by pressuring governments to impose economic sanctions.

The historic inspiration for this legitimacy war is the anti-apartheid campaign waged with such success against the racist regime in South Africa. Undoubtedly, the Palestinian political motivation to focus their energies on waging a legitimacy war came from a variety of sources: disillusionment with efforts by the UN and the United States to find a just solution for the conflict; realization that armed resistance could not produce a Palestinian victory and played into the hands of Israeli diversionary tactics by making “terrorism” the issue; recognizing that the events in Lebanon and Gaza generated throughout the world widespread anger against Israel and sympathy for the Palestinians, which is gradually weakening earlier European and North American deference to Israel due to Jewish victimization in the Holocaust; and a growing sense that the worldwide Palestinian diaspora communities and their allies could be enlisted to join in the struggle if its essential nature was that of a legitimacy war.

Israeli official and unofficial support groups have recently recognized the threat posed to their expansionist settler colonial grand strategy by this recourse by Palestinians to a legitimacy war. Israeli think tanks have described “the global justice movement” associated with these tactics as a greater threat to Israel than Palestinian violence, and have even castigated reliance on international law as a dangerous form of “lawfare”. The Israeli government and Zionist organizations around the world have joined in the battle through a massive investment in public relations activities that include propaganda efforts to discredit what is sometimes called “the Durban approach”. As with other Israeli tactics, in their defensive approach to the legitimacy war, there is an absence of self-criticism involving an assessment of Palestinian substantive claims under international law. For Israel a legitimacy war is a public relations issue pure and simple, a matter of discrediting the adversary and proclaiming national innocence and virtue. Despite its huge advantage in resources devoted to this campaign, Israel is definitely losing the legitimacy war.

Even if the Palestinians win the legitimacy war there is no guarantee that this victory will produce the desired political results. It requires Palestinian patience, resolve, leadership and vision, as well as sufficient pressure to force a change of heart in Israel, and probably in Washington as well. In this instance, it would seem to require an Israeli willingness to abandon the core Zionist project to establish a Jewish state, and that does not appear likely from the vantage point of the present. But always the goals of a legitimacy war appear to be beyond reach until mysteriously attained by the abrupt and totally unexpected surrender by the losing side.

Until it collapses the losing side pretends to be unmovable and invincible, a claim that is usually reinforced by police and military dominance. This is what happened in the Soviet Union and South Africa, earlier to French colonial rule in Indochina and Algeria, and to the United States in Vietnam.

It is up to all of us dedicated to peace and justice to do all we can to help the Palestinians prevail in the legitimacy war and bring their long ordeal to an end.

Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and author of Crimes of War: Iraq and The Costs of War: International Law, the UN and World Order after Iraq”. He is also current UN Rapporteur for Palestine.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 1 Comment

Israeli occupation troops round up 1,400 Palestinians in 3 months

Palestine Information Center – 04/04/2010

GAZA — The higher national committee in support of prisoners on Sunday said that the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) had detained more than 1,400 Palestinians in the first quarter of 2010 including 90 from the Gaza Strip.

Riyadh Al-Ashkar, the head of the committee’s information office, said in a press release that the number of detainees from Jerusalem and the West Bank was on the rise, noting that 400 citizens were rounded up in Jerusalem alone.

Ashkar said that 18 fishermen were among the 90 detainees from Gaza Strip along with many other workers who were detained while collecting scrap near the northern crossing.

He said that there are seven women among the detainees, three of whom were released while four others are still detained including Muntaha Al-Tawil the wife of El-Bireh mayor who was held in administrative detention for three months.

He added that 225 of the detainees were children less than 18 years old, noting that the IOF soldiers were increasingly detaining children less than 12 years old and mentioned a number of cases where 9 year olds were detained.

Ashkar said that many prisoners were suffering as a result of deliberate medical neglect on the part of the Israeli prisons authority (IPA) and as a result of the escalating attacks on their wards and the humiliating strip searches that even expanded to include relatives visiting them.

He said that the IPA was threatening 15 prisoners with deportation and has turned 9 captives into open-ended detention after considering them “unlawful combatants”.

The committee appealed to the international organizations to pressure Israel into halting the rabid campaign against prisoners and to apply the fourth Geneva Convention in this issue.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Israeli occupation troops round up 1,400 Palestinians in 3 months

Tibi: Barak responsible for Palestinian death at checkpoint

Ma’an/Agencies – 04/04/2010

Bethlehem – Palestinian Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi said Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak bears responsibility for the death of a diabetic at a West Bank checkpoint, Israeli media reported.

“Ehud Barak is personally responsible for his cruel death. The orders at roadblocks require the humiliation and oppression of a civil population, and the person who issued the order is responsible for the death of a Palestinian-French civilian,” said Tibi according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth.

Mohammad Damen Abed Al-Karim E’lieyat, 62, from the village of Dir Abu Da’eef in Jenin, was en route to the Jordan Valley but was barred from transit for several hours at the Al-Hamra checkpoint in Tubas. E’lieyat, diabetic with high blood pressure, died of a severe heart attack shortly after being allowed to cross.

E’lieyat made several attempts to cross but was turned back by Israeli authorities who said that he was unable to pass because he held French citizenship.

An Israeli military spokesman told Ma’an that a complaint was filed with the Jericho DCO following the death.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment

“You’re Such a Good Guy, Mr. President”

What About the War, Mr. Moore?

By CHARLES DAVIS | April 2, 2010

Dennis Kucinich, while denouncing the president’s decision to send another 33,000 troops to Afghanistan and questioning the constitutionality of the conflict, confessed to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that though the surge would undoubtedly be a waste of lives and resources, “You know what? To me this isn’t even about the personality of the president, whom I admire.” Speaking later to Esquire on why he was voting for a healthcare bill he had ripped to shreds on policy grounds just days before, Kucinich cited a “a higher responsibility” to “my president and his presidency.” The Ohio congressman went on to say that a victory on healthcare was essential so that the power of the president would not be “weakened,” arguing that with passage the “president will have a stronger hand in domestic and international affairs, and that will be good for the country.” Nowhere in his 2,300-word remarks on the need to boost the president’s popularity did he mention any of the ongoing wars and military occupations for which his friend Obama is responsible.

At the signing of the bill, he not just figuratively but, with a smile on his face, literally embraced the president.

Michael Moore, meanwhile, in a letter to Obama on the eve of his decision to expand the Afghan war declared that with that one move he would “destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics.” But at the same time, and after the president had already expanded the war soon after taking office by nearly 20,000 troops, Moore implored Obama to “listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking,” adding: “We the people still love you.”

After the decision to expand the war, which brings weekly tales of the atrocities that always accompany military occupations and counter-insurgency operations, there probably are a few more Obamaphiles turned disillusioned cynics — but Moore isn’t one of them. “You’re such a good guy, Mr. President,” he writes in a more recent correspondence.

The tradeoff seems to be this: in exchange for a president that can speak in complete sentences and not embarrass Americans in front of Western European audiences, and who is willing to throw a few more crumbs to the middle and lower classes, liberals will accept a little murder abroad. Oh, there might be an open letter or two, but few are willing to call the current occupant of the White House what he is — a war criminal with a million dollar smile — instead going to great lengths to defend this administration, working earnestly to support Obama’s agenda even when it’s entirely at odds with their own stated views.

This isn’t something new, by the way. When the U.S. military was killing Vietnamese by the tens of thousands in the 1960s, many rank-and-file Democrats and the whole of the liberal establishment were willing to put up with a little senseless murder abroad in exchange for Lyndon Johnson’s promise of a “Great Society” at home. Even after pressure from the antiwar movement forced LBJ to give up his reelection bid, the Democratic nominee in 1968 nonetheless was Hubert Humphrey, a bland pro-war liberal. And given the orgiastic glee with which today’s liberals and progressives greeted the passing of a healthcare bill whose proponents are lukewarm about, can you imagine how much murder they’d put up with in return for something like Medicare?

Of course, this probably isn’t the trade-off the president’s liberal supporters imagine they’re making, and I don’t doubt that people like Moore and Kucinich are sincere in their opposition to the Afghan war, if misguided in how to end it. But their view of the president as a man, or rather what they imagine him to be, colors — distorts — their views of his policies, resulting in some embarrassing attempts to excuse Obama, The Man We Thought We Voted For, for the policies enacted by Obama, The Man You Actually Got. Sadly, all too many liberals and progressives remain captivated by the former Obama ™, the persona they’ve been marketed these last couple years: the philosopher-king.

While Obama might seem like a nice, smart guy who tucks his kids in and gives them a kiss on the forehead good night, remember that because of his decisions there are Pakistani and Afghan fathers who will never get to do the same. And remember too that Obama chose to escalate the war on terror within mere days of taking office, signing off on a drone strike in Pakistan that killed 18 people before even moving his orthopedic chair into the Oval Office. As documented by the New America Foundation, Obama has continued the bombing ever, dramatically increasing the use of drones in Pakistan — a country, mind you, with which the U.S. is not officially at war — killing more than 500 people since taking office, likely many more, a third of them civilians. Weeks later Obama sent another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, bringing his escalation of that war since taking office to roughly 50,000 troops and at least that many private contractors.

Getting on my soapbox: Once you come to grasp the basic moral truth that murder does not become acceptable simply because a majority of registered voters lucky enough to be born in the world’s most powerful country sanction it, nor is one’s complicity in it lessened by the fact that some 18 year old kid pulls the trigger for you — that politician’s deserve to be held to the same standard of accountability to which you’d hold a casual acquaintance — then it becomes a lot harder to maintain the fiction that Obama is not stained with blood shed by his wars. But then I haven’t been reading Daily Kos lately.

Charles Davis is a journalist based in Washington, DC. More of his work may be found on his Web site.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on “You’re Such a Good Guy, Mr. President”

Activists support rehabilitation of historic natural springs destroyed by settlers

International Solidarity Movement | 02 April 2010

Repairing the historic natural springs in Wadi Qana

Repairing the historic natural springs in Wadi Qana

A group of internationals, including two ISM activists, joined supporters from Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank in assisting the villagers of Qarawat Bani Hassan repair and rehabilitate the historic natural springs which lie in the nearby Wadi Qana. The springs which issue at the base of the wadi feed into a series of reservoirs cut into the stone, said to date from Roman times. From time immemorial they have been the source of water for those villagers without their own wells. Today the springs and their surroundings, a location of outstanding natural beauty, are the most important cultural heritage for the village.

Situated between Ramallah and Nablus, Qarawat Bani Hassan has the misfortune to be surrounded by a number of settler colonies, including Nofim, Yaqir, Revava and Kiryat Netafim. Settlers routinely trespass onto village lands and two weeks previously, in an act of deplorable vandalism, emptied sacks of cement and steel mesh into one of the Roman-era tanks. This followed upon the previous dynamiting of a nearby cave which, too, contained a natural spring and pool.

On this Friday the villagers and their supporters labored under a hot sun to clean out the reservoirs, build dry stone walls nearby and bring the site back to its original condition. They were interrupted twice by groups of settlers attempting to access the area. A confrontation was avoided only when the villagers returned to their work and ignored the presence of the intruders who, after a short time, returned to their colony on the overlooking hilltop. The presence of international and other observers armed with cameras undoubtedly deterred the settlers, on this occasion, from any further acts of vandalism.

Qarawat Bani Hassan is a village of approximately 4,000 Palestinians, located in the Salfit District. The village owns 9,684 dunams of land (approximately 2,421 acres) which includes the Ein Enwetef natural springs that serve the locality as a primary source of water for agricultural and herding purposes. Eighty-nine percent of this land is in Area C, under total Israeli control.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment