Archive | September 13th, 2011

Palestinian civil society welcomes Agrexco liquidation, calls for celebration of this BDS victory


From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article was published by BDS Movement on 12 September 2011.  

“Palestinian civil society welcomes Agrexco liquidation, calls for celebration of this BDS victory”

– Supporters of Palestinian rights claim victory as target Agrexco ordered into liquidation
– Court papers warn that company is Israeli symbol whose downfall will have ‘wider implications’
– Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on the movement internationally to celebrate this victory and to intensify BDS campaigns

Campaigners for Palestinian rights are celebrating after the primary Israeli agricultural produce export company Agrexco, which has been a key target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in support of Palestinian rights, has been ordered into liquidation after being unable to pay its creditors.

Agrexco is a partially state-owned Israeli exporter responsible for the export of a large proportion of fresh Israeli produce, including 60-70% of the agricultural produce grown in Israel’s illegal settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  In a translation of the court documents on the liquidation process that the BNC obtained, it is clearly stated that Agrexco acted as an arm of the Israeli state, effectively providing state subsidies to the agricultural sector. The documents indicate criticism of the government for allowing the company to default on its debts and also warn that Agrexco is a primary Israeli symbol and that its downfall is likely to have great implications.

“We congratulate and warmly salute our European partners for their dedicated and determined campaign against Agrexco. This ruling follows the news that Veolia, a French multinational that has lost billions of euros worth of municipality contracts over its provision of infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements, is facing a financial meltdown. Clearly, the BDS movement is coming of age and is raising the cost of corporate complicity with Israeli war crimes.  Strategic BDS campaigns are proving, through every day successes, that BDS is the most effective form of solidarity needed to challenge Israel’s system of colonialism, occupation and apartheid” said Jamal Juma’, coordinator of Stop the Wall Campaign and member of BNC secretariat.

Adel Abu Ni’meh, director of the Palestinian Farmers Union,  a member organisation of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, welcomed the news but warned that “Agrexco assets are still being sold. We are following this closely and call on all international companies to withdraw their offers. Those companies that purchase Agrexco assets and brand names or seek to replace the company as the primary Israeli agricultural exporter will be similarly targeted by the BDS movement”.

Agrexco has been targeted with popular boycotts, blockades, demonstrations and direct action throughout Europe. In France, a broad civil society coalition containing dozens of organisations took legal action against the company and fiercely opposed the construction of a terminal at Sete that has laid unused since its construction. In Italy and the UK, campaigners took direct action and pressured supermarkets to drop the Agrexco brand.  In July, a new coalition of organisations from over 13 European countries vowed to “put an end to Agrexco’s presence in Europe”. The coalition is expected to examine developments and may initiate new campaigns in response to the outcome of the liquidation.

As respected Israeli economist Shir Hever has stated, the European-wide campaign against the company was among the factors that led to the company’s downfall.  “The company has been found to produce misleading reports, and did not warn its investors of the possible impact of the BDS campaign to boycott the company products. Many farmers have left the company, opting to work with competing ones which have not yet been at the focus of the BDS campaign, and as a result Agrexco entered a liquidity crisis. Several companies have considered bidding to buy Agrexco, but have withdrawn their bids after a brief research, which has no doubt uncovered the company’s prominence in the BDS campaign, among other things,” he explained.

The campaign against Agrexco was initiated in response to the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for boycotts, divestment initiatives and sanctions on Israel and its supporters until the state complies with international law by ending its occupation and dismantling its apartheid Wall, ensuring equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and implementing the right of refugees to return to their homes as stipulated under UN resolution 194.

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Going to the United Nations, Sanctions, and the Tick-Tock of the Palestinian Spring


From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article by Raja Khalidi was published byJadaliyya on 12 September 2011.

“Going to the United Nations, Sanctions, and the Tick-Tock of the Palestinian Spring”

By Raja Khalidi

Now it is official: if the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) pursues recognition of the Palestinian people’s claim to statehood in the United Nations this month, financial sanctions will follow. Such a response can be expected not only from Israel, which channels around one billion dollars of Palestinian public revenue to the Palestinian Authority (PA) per annum, but also from major donors whose collective aid has averaged around 1.5 billion dollars in recent years.

Unfortunately, we have been here before and the history of a century of settler colonialism tells us that the economic damage such a move will inflict is considerable. The resilience of a battered people, dispersed between occupation and exile, will be again put to the test as a risky diplomatic strategy unfolds amidst considerable international controversy and internal dissent and skepticism.

Proponents, mainly PLO officials and some scholars, argue that recognition of statehood at the UN is a natural, inevitable outcome of a struggle to end occupation and exercise self-determination; there is no turning back now, indeed no alternative. Detractors include pro-Israeli voices that are hostile to Palestinian rights in any form; for them, the only effective response is one that squeezes the Palestinians, especially financially.

Meanwhile a wide swath of Palestinian activists considers the statehood initiative problematic from legal and representational angles, because of its primary focus on statehood rather than the panoply of denied Palestinian rights. For them the bid for state-recognition is better abandoned or possibly reformulated, as it might lead to either an even more complex situation or hollow diplomatic victory.

Two major encounters are on the horizon. The first, and of greater significance, is how the PLO will address concerns expressed within a national movement fractured along factional, geographic and, increasingly, generational lines. In the second, the PLO and its allies at the UN are confronted with efforts to derail or defuse this initiative. Paradoxically, both of these dynamics are pushing the PLO in the same direction, strengthening its resolve to pursue its strategy come what may. Battle lines are already being drawn, and it is difficult for advocates of any position to escape being perceived as serving one or the other agenda.

If the Palestinians succeed in closing ranks behind the statehood strategy, something that is not apparently imminent, there are ready alternatives to violent resistance. New strategies should aim to strengthen Palestinian economic steadfastness (sumud) and development in a context of national reconciliation, confronting occupation and establishing Palestinian sovereignty, incrementally if need be.


If financial sanctions do take hold, this would not be the first time that the reigning powers have deployed them in the century-old struggle over territory and resources between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist (then Israeli) Jews. An eye to history is essential for understanding this conflict’s dynamics as they unfold today. From the British Mandatory authorities’ response to the earliest Palestinian anti-colonial uprising in the 1930s, to military rule over Palestinian Arab minority citizens in Israel from 1948-1966, to annexation of eastern Jerusalem in 1967, to the civil administration of the Israeli military government in the occupied territory, each era had its instruments and purposes.

Nor would it be the first time that finance has impinged on PLO strategies. Beginning with the aftermath of the 1982 Lebanon War, a battered, exiled and isolated PLO had to operate on a tight budget and struggle to maintain its relevance. After 1988, during the first Palestinian intifada, economic sanctions were deployed by Israel throughout the occupied territory to counter popular protests and the PLO’s resurgence. Following the first Gulf War, Arab aid was halted for many years, adding pressure on a reluctant PLO to acquiesce to the terms of the Oslo Accords.

Needless to say, for any national liberation movement, especially one with a major part of its constituency in exile, the support of allied states significantly affects its room for maneuver. This has not been any less the case for the PLO. And when, after the establishment of the PA in 1994, the primary source of funding shifted from external to local revenues largely under Israeli control, this dynamic became even more critical.

Soon after the second intifada erupted in September 2000, Israel withheld import taxes it collected on behalf of the PA, helping to promote a ‘reformed’ PLO which foreswore armed resistance by 2005 and returned to negotiations soon after. And then again, in the wake of the 2006 PA legislative elections, Israeli revenue clearance to the PA was halted, along with direct donor aid. It was only with the Fatah-Hamas schism between the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2007 that Israeli clearance of revenues was resumed and aid channeled to support the PA budget through consolidated accounts in Ramallah under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

By 2010, the PA payroll had become aid and clearance dependent to an extent that interruption of these flows implies a collapse of the PA similar to that experienced in 2002-2004. It is ironic that the fate of the PA, the principal institutional manifestation within Palestine of the PLO is today dependent on uninterrupted flow of ‘conditional aid’ for its very existence.

From this perspective, the real economic miracle of the post-2005 Palestinian regime is not the middle-class urban boom epitomized by Ramallah, much less the institutional achievements of the PA program of the past two years. Rather, what is impressive is that the Palestinian people, at least half of whom live in poverty, continue to resist settlement, occupation, fragmentation and deprivation. The resilience and ingenuity of this core human resource and social capital spread throughout Palestine and beyond should be the lynchpin of a new Palestinian strategy to confront economic and financial sanctions under all and any conditions.


Since the collapse of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations last year, pundits, politicians and the Palestinian public have been debating with increasing intensity the pros and cons of ‘going to the United Nations’ this September. Confusion remains rife as to the exact strategy and purpose of such an initiative, or what shape going to the UN will take after 23 September when PLO Chairman Abbas is due to address the General Assembly). A range of options has been suggested, based on different assumptions as to exactly where in the UN the PLO is going (Security Council and/or General Assembly) – and with what outcomes in mind (full member or observer State).

But process can easily trump everything in the UN. Small words here and there, choosing this or that rule of procedure, and making this or that alliance, counts for everything in such a diplomatic push fraught with risks. By simply depositing an application for admission as the 194th State Member, the PLO will have ‘gone to the UN’ and could conceivably leave it pending. An alternative route could go further, namely requesting the General Assembly to “recognize” the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders and accord it the status of Observer State (instead of the PLO’s status since 1974 as Observer National Liberation Movement). However, following the law of unintended consequences, drawn out negotiations coupled with the looming threat of sanctions, could produce a resolution with new language. This would have to be reconciled with the historic consensus positions set forth in key UN resolutions since 1947, which constitute the legal framework for any resolution of the Question of Palestine, an item on its agenda for sixty-five years.

Regardless of the procedural and legal pitfalls, for those states opposed to this initiative, the Palestinians are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The Palestinian national liberation movement has tried everything: a failed armed struggle for forty-five years; two popular uprisings ignited by deprived youth; two decades of fruitless bilateral negotiations; and, in the PA, a proto-state – a security and service-delivery apparatus devoid of sovereign powers and split between two (already separated) regions.

Now, friends and foes alike are telling the PLO that recourse to the legal framework of the UN, the international custodian of the Palestine Question, may have dire economic and political consequences. And if the PLO does not go to the UN, then it will be held accountable one way or the other. The vocal Palestinian “patriotic” public opinion concerned about the initiative, either in principle or in its formulation, should not be underestimated.

The PLO is facing diplomatic pressure because this initiative is perceived as an attempt to re-define an otherwise moribund bilateral ‘peace process’ within a broader multilateral setting. But General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194, and Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002) are not just historical footnotes to today’s conflicts. The UN has been the indispensable venue for setting the basic parameters of a just (and therefore durable) resolution to the Question of Palestine. And Palestine is ingrained in the UN agenda not out of inertia but rather owing to its inherent staying power as a festering heritage of twentieth century colonialism. So bringing it back to the UN could indeed be an important first step in applying the lessons learned from 20 years of failed diplomacy.

Efforts can be expected to try to neutralize this initiative, through creative language and generic formulations of goals, desired actions and outcomes. Other potential traps could be endorsement of yet another interim period, the most recent version of which was the PA Homestretch to Freedom of 2009-2011. In such an eventuality, major economic consequences and a popular backlash against the status quo are well within the realm of the possible, given the history of failed Palestinian expectations.

From the PLO’s vantage point, retreat is not an option. And while vibrant internal debate is a healthy sign of a pluralist political culture, it has yet to influence existing plans. For better or worse, a Palestinian initiative is imminent, and millions of Palestinians and others will be watching closely to see how it unfolds.

For all intents and purposes, the Question of Palestine is going back to the UN this September. And when the financial heat is likely turned up, the Palestinian economic situation basically goes south. Hence, my concern as a development economist is to examine what I can claim, with some confidence, to know something about.


Little of the flood of political, legal and media analysis of this story has touched on what might happen – including economically – after the dust of the diplomatic battle has settled. What impact might the face-off of the coming months and its diplomatic fallout have on the livelihoods of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip? Will life just go on under the economic union between six million Israeli Jews and five million Palestinian Arabs, living under the same fiscal, monetary, trade and security regime (geared to the interests of the Israeli Jewish economy) since 1967? And how might this affect the fate of over one million Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and millions of Palestine refugees?

For most donors, the PLO initiative might not warrant reconsideration of their 1.5 billion dollar annual aid commitments, which comprises around a fifth of Palestinian national income. But for Israel, which clears to the PA, or captures through external trade flows, an even greater proportion of Palestinian public revenue, the Palestinian economy has always been a captive market. For the PLO and PA, which has no contingencies or savings for a rainy day to deal with what might happen after September, any reduction in budget support is a matter of immediate and vital concern. Its 170,000 public sector employees constitute a major source of grievance if the government can no longer honor its obligations. The fractured Palestinian economy is vulnerable to yet another shock to its enfeebled structure, which renders its viability a moot point. This is despite a much-vaunted recent recovery that included “Building the Institutions of the State” and a decade of Washington Consensus-style reform and ‘good governance’.

One way or the other after September, the Palestinian economy will pay a price.

Whatever the outcome, insistence on recognition of the Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza implies, for the PLO, living up to that claim through starting to act as a sovereign entity where possible. This is not only a matter of protocol and diplomatic relations, but equally should be manifested in a major shift on the ground, differentially in the West Bank than in Gaza Strip. In 1988 we witnessed the PLO’s Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine, and in 2011 we might yet see belated international recognition. Yet after all that has been learned (or not), might the current juncture provide a chance to actually begin establishing that state in 2012?

In Gaza for example, the occupying power’s control over economic policy (fiscal, trade, industrial, investment, banking) is already less than in the West Bank, a crack in the matrix of economic control that implies a policy space begging to be expanded. And if an overdue Palestinian reconciliation enabled a return of the PLO to Gaza, enormous economic implications would ensue from re-establishing the Palestinian financial center of gravity in Gaza where it was based from 1994-2001. Though this would call for new Palestinian power-sharing arrangements, there should be no doubt that the Palestinian economy will pay dearly without national unity and sustained efforts to combat geographic fragmentation. The risk of ending up with little more than Bantustans, ruled through differential levels of occupation and local authorities, cannot be overemphasized in considering any statehood strategy. The economic dimensions of such an outcome would be no less devastating than the process in South Africa where settler colonialism morphed into apartheid.

In response to expected sanctions, the putative state of Palestine, headquartered perhaps in the beachhead afforded by Gaza, would need to plan for alternative arrangements for public finances and external trade. It would have to move away from the failed neoliberal prescriptions of recent PA economic policy. The Gaza Strip has a potentially open border with Egypt, and since 2007 Israel has effectively abandoned application of the customs union which remains in effect in the West Bank. In Gaza at least, the direct financial lever of Israeli control of tax revenues need no longer be a sword held over the Palestinian public purse.

Even with continued Israeli control of the Palestinian coast and airspace, Gaza’s trade with the rest of the world could be re-routed to transit through Egypt and Jordan. Arab financial aid for reconstruction and development could also flow freely and employ a capable but forcibly idled workforce. New proactive monetary arrangements could be considered consistent with a national development vision. Aid could be focused on the most pressing social welfare, infrastructure and productive sector rehabilitation needs.

A resurgent Gaza, cushioned by some degree of economic predictability in the West Bank, could serve as the nucleus of a developmental state of Palestine, economically integrated with its Arab hinterland and enjoying a tentative degree of real sovereignty. While a state of Palestine might be able to carve out some independent security, political and economic policy space in the Gaza Strip, the fate of the occupied West Bank cannot be dealt with in isolation, as colonial policy might have it.

It would be wholly consistent with the principle of going to the UN that the administration of Palestinian public finances, security and other services currently delivered by the PA in the West Bank territory still controlled by Israel, be assumed by an international trusteeship, in close consultation with the PLO, until it was freed of occupation. In such an eventuality, the Protocol on Economic Relations in place since 1994 could be administered by the international trustees along with Technical Departments run by current PA staff. The same local authorities and bureaucracy could provide social services and public utilities.

This would constitute a transformed landscape. It is wishful thinking perhaps. Yet this vision allows for peaceful progress towards achieving Palestinian rights while minimizing reversal of Palestinian institutional and diplomatic achievements of the past decades.


As elsewhere in the region, Palestinian youth are losing trust in the PLO and its ageing leaders. The recent rumblings of a Palestinian social movement indicate that many have also lost respect for the judgment and wisdom of governing elites. Combined with the tensions arising from the growing nonviolent popular struggle against prolonged Israeli occupation, and its latest stage of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions, this makes for a potent brew indeed.

A reformed and accountable PLO, freed of the burden of directly administering the occupied West Bank, would have to be prepared for long-term, peaceful, mass mobilization. It should be inspired by a new model of growth with equity emanating from Gaza and echoing the changes ongoing in the region. Building a Palestinian developmental state calls for more than technical solutions and indeed foresees a societal transformation no less significant than that of the Arab Spring.

If the state-recognition bid at the UN is considered to be such a threat to the “peace process,” then it is time for the international community to offer something new instead of donor-driven economic prosperity within West Bank bubbles. This will require an end to diehard habits of blindly supporting occupation while simultaneously throwing aid at the Palestinians to keep them quiescent – economic peace indeed! Regrettably, the most enduring accomplishment of the peace process launched twenty years ago in Madrid has been expanded Israeli settlement and prolonged occupation. Those opposed to peaceful diplomatic and legal initiatives should offer a meaningful and effective vision for Palestinian freedom and sovereignty that delivers an end to occupation and not yet another road map to nowhere.

Assuming this sea change does not occur, the Palestinian people should be prepared to respond proactively to sanctions through a sustained campaign to achieve self-determination. Its contentious legal and political implications aside, the state-recognition bid at its core is a cry for help from a people who have for too long been wandering through a Kafkaesque landscape of broken promises, fragmented leadership, and seemingly eternal statelessness. The Palestinian national movement has tried everything, and yet has not been able to fulfill its promise of liberating the land and the people, neither for Palestinians living as “citizens” without citizenship under Israeli rule nor for those refugees awaiting return from their diasporas.

So let the process of national liberation resume, and may a thousand Palestinian flowers bloom, maybe even into a Palestinian Spring.

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At the UN, the funeral of the two-state solution


From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article by Ilan Pappe was published byElectronic Intifada on 12 September 2011.

“At the UN, the funeral of the two-state solution”

By Ilan Pappe

We are all going to be invited to the funeral of the two-state solution if and when the UN General Assembly announces the acceptance of Palestine as a member state.

The support of the vast majority of the organization’s members would complete a cycle that began in 1967 and which granted the ill-advised two-state solution the backing of every powerful and less powerful actor on the international and regional stages.

Even inside Israel, the support engulfed eventually the right as well as the left and center of Zionist politics. And yet despite the previous and future support, everybody inside and outside Palestine seems to concede that the occupation will continue and that even in the best of all scenarios, there will be a greater and racist Israel next to a fragmented and useless bantustan.

The charade will end in September or October — when the Palestinian Authority plans to submit its request for UN membership as a full member — in one of two ways.

It could be either painful and violent, if Israel continues to enjoy international immunity and is allowed to finalize by sheer brutal force its mapping of post-Oslo Palestine. Or it could end in a revolutionary and much more peaceful way with the gradual replacement of the old fabrications with solid new truths about peace and reconciliation for Palestine. Or perhaps the first scenario is an unfortunate precondition for the second. Time will tell.

A substitute dictionary for Zionism

In ancient times, the dead were buried with their beloved artifacts and belongings. This coming funeral will probably follow a similar ritual. The most important item to go six feet under is the dictionary of illusion and deception and its famous entries such as “the peace process,” “the only democracy in the Middle East,” “a peace-loving nation,” “parity and reciprocity” and a “humane solution to the refugee problem.”

The substitute dictionary has been in the making for many years describing Zionism as colonialism, Israel as an apartheid state and the Nakba as ethnic cleansing. It will be much easier to put it into common use after September.

The maps of the dead solution will also be lying next to the body. The cartography that diminished Palestine into one tenth of its historical self, and which was presented as a map of peace, will hopefully be gone forever.

There is no need to prepare an alternative map. Since 1967, the geography of the conflict has never changed in reality, while it kept constantly transforming in the discourse of liberal Zionist politicians, journalists and academics, who still enjoy today a widespread international backing.

Palestine was always the land between the river and the sea. It still is. Its changing fortunes are characterized not by geography but by demography. The settler movement that came there in the late 19th century now accounts for half of the population and controls the other half through a matrix of racist ideologies and apartheid policies.

Peace is not a demographic change, nor a redrawing of maps: it is the elimination of these ideologies and policies. Who knows — it may be easier now than ever before to do this.

Exposing Israel’s protest movement

The funeral will expose the fallacy of the present Israeli mass protest movement, while at the same time highlight its positive potential. For seven weeks, mostly middle class Israeli Jews have protested in huge numbers against their government’s social and economic policies.

In order to keep the protest as large a movement as possible, its leaders and coordinators do not dare to mention occupation, colonization or apartheid. The sources of evil for everything, they claim, are the brutal capitalist policies of the government.

On a certain level they have a point. These policies disabled the master race of Israel from fully and equally enjoying the fruits of Palestine’s colonization and dispossession. But a fairer division of the spoils will not ensure normal life for either Jews or Palestinians; only the end to looting and pillage will.

And yet they also showed skepticism and distrust in what their media and politicians tell them about the socio-economic reality; it may open the way for a better understanding of the lies they were fed about the “conflict” and their “national security” over so many years.

The funeral should energize us all to follow the same distribution of labor as before. Palestinians urgently need to solve the issue of representation. The progressive Jewish forces in the world have to be more intensively recruited to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and other solidarity campaigns.

Intifada at the proms

The recent disruption of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performance at the prestigious BBC Proms in London shocked the gentle Israelis more than any genocidal event in their own history.

But more than anything else, as reported by senior Israeli journalists who were there, they were flabbergasted by the presence of so many Jews among the protesters. These very journalists kept depicting in the past the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and BDS activists as terrorist groups and extremists of the worst kind. They believed their own reports. To its credit, the mini-intifada at the Royal Albert Hall at least confused them.

Putting one state into political action

In Palestine itself the time has come to move the discourse of one state into political action and maybe adopt the new dictionary. The dispossession is everywhere and therefore the repossession and reconciliation have to occur everywhere.

If the relationship between Jews and Palestinians is to be reformulated on a just and democratic basis, one can accept neither the old buried map of the two-state solution nor its logic of partition. This also means that the sacred distinction made between Jewish settlements near Haifa and those near Nablus should be put in the grave as well.

The distinction should be made between those Jews who are willing to discuss a reformulation of the relationship, change of regime and equal status and those who are not, regardless of where they live now. There are surprising phenomena in this respect if one studies well the human and political fabric of 2011 historic Palestine, ruled as it is by the Israeli regime: the willingness for a dialogue is sometimes more evident beyond the 1967 line rather than inside it.

The dialogue from within for a change of regime, the question of representation and the BDS movement are all part and parcel of the same effort to bring justice and peace to Palestine. What we will bury — hopefully — in September was one of the major obstacles in the way to realizing this vision.

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