Archive | April 6th, 2017

Putin rebukes Netanyahu over ‘groundless’ accusations on suspected chemical incident in Syria

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Image result for ISRAELI Chemical Weapons IN GAZA CARTOON

Russian President Vladimir Putin told  Naziyahu in a telephone conversation that it was unacceptable to make “groundless” accusations concerning the alleged chemical weapons incident that took place in Syria earlier this week.

During the phone call initiated by the the Nazi regime side on Thursday, Putin and Naziyahu stressed the importance of boosting international efforts to tackle terrorism, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Both sides “expressed readiness to expand [cooperation] in the interest of assuring stability and security in the Middle East and, first of all, in Syria,”  it said.

In particular, Putin “pointed out that it was unacceptable to make groundless accusations against anyone without conducting a detailed and unbiased investigation.”

At least 70 people, including 11 children, were reportedly killed in a suspected chemical incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Iblib province, Syria, on Tuesday. The US and its allies have put the blame on the Syrian government.

Earlier on Thursday, Nazi Avigdor Lieberman told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that he was sure Syrian government forces were behind the “chemical weapons attack” in Idlib.

“The two murderous chemical weapons attacks on civilians in the Idlib region in Syria and on the local hospital were carried out by direct and premeditated order of Syrian President Bashar Assad, with Syrian planes. I say this with 100 percent certainty,” Lieberman said.

Nazi defence minister criticised the ‘international community’ for having “zero” reaction to the incident, stressing that “the world needs to take responsibility and, instead of just talking, needs to do something.”

When asked if Russia was somehow involved in the chemical weapons attack, Nazi Liberman replied “we don’t know.”

The Russian Defence Ministry said the Syrian military carried out airstrikes in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, hitting production facilities where terrorists stored chemicals, which were previously used in Iraq and the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has dismissed any accusations that the Syrian Army deployed chemical weapons in Idlib.

It’s impossible that the army – which has been making significant gains in almost all theaters of the Syrian war – would use banned chemical weapons against its “own people” and even terrorists, the minister said.

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ISIS using weapons made in I$raHell

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Questions about who is behind the Islamic State keep arising.

Iraqi volunteer forces, known as Hashid Shaabi, discovered Israeli-made weapons at Islamic State (ISIL) positions in the Iraqi province of Anbar on Thursday, according to Al-Mayadeen television, Fars News Agency reported.

Last month, it was reported that Iraqi counter-terrorism forces arrested four foreign military advisors from the United States and Israel, who were allegedly aiding ISIL.

Furthermore, in February, Wahhab al-Tayee, a senior Iraqi legislator, said the Israeli military was training ISIL in the Sinai Peninsula for terrorist operations in Egypt.

Israeli weapons ISIS

Israeli made guns seized from an ISIS base in Iraq

Iran’s senior advisor to the Supreme Leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, said that ISIL was created by the West and Israel to follow their interests in the Middle East:

“ISIL has actually been created by the western colonial powers and the Zionists, because whatever this terrorist group does runs counter to Islam and the rules of all Islamic sects.”

US historian Webster Tarpley also shared the similar idea, stating that the United States created ISIL to use the jihadists as its secret army to destabilize the Middle East.

This line of thinking might be a little too provocative and extreme, but a thought has to be raised nonetheless. If the United States was behind the creation of al-Qaeda after the US involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s, some argue that there might be a link between the White House and ISIL jihadists, terrorizing a large part of the Middle East.

Israeli rockets ISIS

‘Israeli’ made rockets used by ISIS

SEE ALSO: This is how the United States created ISIS

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, SyriaComments Off on ISIS using weapons made in I$raHell

After ‘fierce information war,’ Nazi court indicts Palestinian MK

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Basel Ghattas, a member of the ‘Israeli’ Knesset [Palestine 48]

Nazi district court in Beer Sheva indicted on Friday the Arab MK Basel Ghattas after a “fierce information war” that aimed to defame him and other Arab MKs, Quds Press reported.

Quds Press cited Zionist radio sources and said that a bargain plea was reached in the case of Ghattas that included his recognition of smuggling mobile phones to “security” prisoners, as well as his resignation from the Knesset.

Zionist radio also said that the Zionist Public Prosecutor would demand a two-year prison sentence for Ghattas.

Meanwhile, Ghattas, a member of the Arab Joint List of the Knesset, said:

Since the first minute I was released from Nafha Prison on 18 December until this minute, I have been exposed to unprecedented measures taken against an MK [by the Israeli authorities].

While speaking in a press conference, he continued: “It was an incitement, racist and aggressive campaign that included spreading lies by different Israeli security branches.”

He added: “The Israeli mass media cooperated with the Israeli security institution and the end was an unprecedented field trial and fierce information war.”

Ghattas said that the procedures he experienced during the recent months, including the stripping of his parliamentary immunity, imprisonment and investigations.

The Palestinian parliamentarian said that he is responsible for all what he did because that was based on his “humanitarian, conscious and moral duty towards the prisoners,” noting he is ready to bear the full responsibility of his actions.

By Ghattas’ resignation, the head of the public council of the National Democratic Association, Jumaa Zabarqeh, will replace him in the Knesset.

The Arab Joint List has 13 MKs out of 120.

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Silwan Palestinians receive evacuation orders due to damage caused by Nazi tunnels

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Nazi municipality of Jerusalem issued evacuation orders for three housing apartments in the Wadi Hilweh area of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Wednesday evening, due to fractures and cracks formed at the base of the houses, as Nazi regime continued work on a tunnel network expected to be used to provide services to Nazi Jewish settlers.

According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, the houses belong to Hamed Oweida, Abed Oweida, and Suleiman Oweida.

Sixteen family members, including ten children, reside in the houses.

The Oweida family said that Israeli tunnel-digging under their homes has increased over the past three days, adding that loud noises from the digging would last for several hours, while the family could feel their houses shaking during the construction.

They said that the digging had caused severe damage of fractures and cracks in the walls and the bases of the houses.

The family added that they had called the Nazi police, who had then summoned a municipality team to inspect the houses. After taking photographs and inspecting the damage, an architect for the municipality decided to issue an emergency order for the families to evacuate and seal the houses, saying that it was dangerous to remain inside.

Suleiman Oweida had left his house several days ago after fractures in the walls had become more severe.

The information center said that Nazi regime were creating a tunnel network for Nazi Jewish settlers directly under the Oweida family’s house.

Member of the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood committee Ahmad Qarrain said that the Nazi regime began work under the neighborhood in 2007.

The residents at the time appealed to Nazi courts and were able to halt the construction under their homes for 14 months. However, Nazi courts later issued another order allowing the work to continue on the condition that the digging not endanger the lives of residents.

However, Qarrain said that the digging and work under the houses continued “without any consideration for the safety of residents,” and pointed out that the streets, walls, structures, and houses of the neighborhood have also been fractured and collapsed owing to the tunnel work.

A spokesperson for the Nazi Jerusalem municipality told Ma’an that the municipality had informed the residents that their properties were “unsound and dangerous” out of “concern for their own welfare,”  while also being built “without regard for building codes or safety standards.”

The spokesperson added that “claims that the city is attempting to construct underneath this family’s structure are patently false.”

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16 Member States Will Establish the EPPO

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After nearly four years of negotiations, many concessions and compromises, and a significant change from the original proposal, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office for combating financial fraud with EU funds will be created by only 16 member states in the so-called enhanced cooperation procedure. Countries that have agreed to proceed with the project are Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. Left out of the equation are some countries, which insisted on a strong, independent supranational institution, led by Italy, as well as countries that wanted a maximally loose and largely dependent on member states institution. Among non-participants one can see some moderate and some not so moderate eurosceptic countries.

How did we get here?

In early December (December 8), the last public discussion on the text of the draft regulation took place, making it clear that the possibilities for compromise have already been exhausted. The Slovak Presidency presented the latest wording of the draft regulation which appealed to many, but drove away others. According to the Commissioner for Justice Věra Jourová (Czech Republic, ALDE), the text is significantly improved. She welcomed the inclusion in the scope of work of the EPPO VAT fraud and cross-border fraud. “This is a game changer and I am proud we managed to come that far”, she said, and this time refused to make any remarks, which clearly showed that it is time the work on this extremely difficult dossier is completed. She did, however, refrain from saying so out loud, which would have supported the move towards enhanced cooperation.

A raw nerve was touched by the representative of France. “I think we’ve all made concessions in all good faith in order to try and achieve a good compromise, but a compromise which would not be to the detriment of out initial ambition to have a good EPPO. I really believe that we’ve come to the end of negotiations which were aimed at trying to reach unanimous agreement”. The representative stressed that the EPPO’s creation is not a matter of choice, but an obligation, stemming from Article 86 of the Treaty of Lisbon. France and Germany came out with a joint declaration, insisting on establishing the institution as soon as possible.

Belgium also announced that the draft regulation has come to the final stage and called for a move towards an enhanced cooperation procedure. Romania also supported continuing without the most sceptical countries in the hope that it will enable the text to be more ambitious, meaning the EPPO being more powerful and supranational. The Netherlands, which has long ago made it clear that it may not participate, urged anyway for giving more time to achieve unanimity and so the institution can become one for the entire EU. Dutch Minister Ard van der Steur said it was “it’s too early to force member states to choose now or in 2 weeks for or against the text”. In his words, the text is still not stable enough.

The Czech representative agreed that a few more weeks should be given to those who need to clarify some details, but stressed that this should not take too long. The then Bulgarian Minister of Justice Ekaterina Zaharieva urged not to waste any more time. “I also agree that some of the texts need to be improved, but, colleagues, we are lawyers and, trust me, should we work for three more years, we will still see texts we will believe that must be improved and written better. We must not lose time. The next presidency needs to as soon as possible, perhaps even at an emergency council, move towards the enhanced cooperation procedure already”, was her appeal.

On 7 February the Justice and Home Affairs Council reported a lack of unanimity for the creation of a European prosecutor’s office and forwarded the problem to be solved by the leaders of the member states. A month later – on March 9 – the leaders approved the proposal of 17 member states to move to enhanced cooperation.

The opponents

The most problematic countries during the negotiations were Poland and Hungary, but objections and reservations also came from Austria, Latvia, Spain, Italy and others. Almost all countries had rather technical remarks. In its last publicly expressed position on December 8 Poland stated it is not against the EPPO per se, but does not accept the text suggested by the Presidency. The main problem for Warsaw is the text about the EPPO’s competence and in particular their fears that its powers will be wider than expected. “We cannot accept this unjustified restriction of the competences of national prosecutor’s offices” was the position of Poland. Hungary has long expressed resistance to many parts of the draft regulation, but its main problem is that the prosecution would, they believe, duplicate the responsibilities of OLAF and Eurojust. Budapest also disagrees with having VAT fraud be covered by the institution.

In the previous discussion Hungary declared its readiness to make constitutional changes in order to accommodate the EPPO, but in December the Parliament of Hungary expressed reservations on the subject, which means that there is no longer willingness to make such amendments. Austria expressed concern that the text, in its current state, will not let the prosecution function normally. Austria adamantly refused to support the text because of Article 26, which sets the framework for conducting cross-border investigations and indicates who, when, and in what situations has powers over national authorities.

Italy on the other hand did resort to threat by saying that in its current form, the text is not sufficiently ambitious and it will not support it, even if there is a move to an enhanced cooperation procedure. From the very beginning Italy insisted on the EPPO being strong and independent. Rome insisted that the scope of the institution is broad and covers even organised crime. Statements of Italian representatives in all three and a half years of negotiations were always very emotional and deep. Italy is not among the countries that will participate in the enhanced cooperation. A spokesperson for the Italian Permanent Representation to the EU told euinside that the country had insisted on a much more ambitious text. Asked whether it is provided that in the future Italy will join the regulation, similar to statements made by other countries, the spokesperson said, “So far we said no. We will look and see”.

The working group will meet for the first time in the coming days when the text will be discussed by the experts. No major changes are expected. It may suffer changes, but they will be minor, because countries, who have stated participation in the project have already agreed on it to a large degree. So far, the controversial texts are in Articles 20, 26, 65. Article 20 deals with the powers of the EPPO, 26 – with cross-border investigations, and Article 65 – with the transparency of the work of the prosecution. Holdups on this article come from Finland, which believes that in the proposed text transparency is not enough. As Ekaterina Zaharieva commented, even with three more years to negotiate, there will always be a fault with text, while her Czech counterpart added that it is high time the project is put on water to see how it works. Surely there will be things that we haven’t thought of, or the opposite – things that we discussed for a long time may never happen, he said.

Malta, which currently presides the Council, will not take part in the procedure but pledged to work actively on it. In the procedure of enhanced cooperation, when it comes to the political level, the ministers of all member states participate, but the decision is made by only those who will participate – Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, Finland, France , Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

All articles by euinside on the subject can be found here

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Germany approves bill curbing online hate crime, fake news

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Germany’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a new bill that punishes social networking sites if they fail to swiftly remove illegal content such as hate speech or defamatory fake news.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet agreed on rules that would impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($53.4 million) on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that the companies offering such online platforms are responsible for removing hateful content. He said the new bill would not restrict the freedom of expression, but intervene only when criminal hatred or intentionally false news are posted.

Germany poses a particular problem for U.S.-owned social networking sites accustomed to American standards of free speech. Due to its Nazi past, Germany bans public Holocaust denial and any overt promotion of racism. The issue has come to the fore amid the recent influx of migrants to Germany, which has sparked a backlash among some Germans including a rise in online vitriol.

Social media

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Social networks need to ensure that obviously criminal content — as defined by German law — will be deleted within 24 hours and other illegal content after seven days.

“Just like on the streets, there is also no room for criminal incitement on social networks,” Maas said.

“The internet affects the culture of debate and the atmosphere in our society. Verbal radicalization is often a preliminary stage to physical violence,” he added.

The minister pointed out that social networks don’t delete enough punishable content, citing research that he said showed Twitter deletes just 1 percent of illegal content flagged by users, while Facebook deletes 39 percent.

Maas also said that measures to combat hate speech and so-called fake news will ultimately have to be taken at the European level to be effective.

The bill still needs parliamentary approval.

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A Putin or Erdoğan Scenario for Serbia After the Elections?

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Adelina Marini, Zagreb

The big news of the presidential elections in Serbia is that now there is opposition. After five years reign of Aleksandar Vučić and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), the opposition was virtually gone. It was divided into dozens of parties and movements with different ideologies – from ultra-nationalism to moderate pro-European liberalism, the former prevailing. It was not expected that the elections of April 2 will bear this result because, just as in Bulgaria, the opposition failed to unite and come up with a common candidate to end the monopoly reign of Aleksandar Vučić. Therefore, in these elections the candidates were 11 – for the first time so many in years, though not for the first time without a single woman among the candidates.

In many ways, these elections were a turning point for Serbia and its future. It is yet to be seen whether Serbia will go even faster towards authoritarianism or it will begin to move towards democratisation and the rule of law. First of all, the elections provided an opportunity for the ruling party with its authoritarian tendencies to consolidate power and eliminate intra-party competition. In the weeks before the elections were scheduled and the candidates announced, there was a fierce internal party race between Aleksandar Vučić and his companion from the times of the Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Šešelj and current President Tomislav Nikolić. To Vučić, the former gravedigger had become a burden, but Tomislav Nikolić felt that he had more political life left in him, so he announced that regardless of whether he will be the candidate of the SNS, he will stand. Nikolić took advantage of the fact that on the road to monocracy Aleksandar Vučić left no strong personalities around him and the party practically had no recognisable candidate to face Nikolić, or someone else from the weaker opposition candidates.

So Vučić was faced with a difficult choice – to leave the executive branch (temporarily or permanently) to prevent a president who will be his institutional opposition and work at ruining his halo of a saviour of the nation. The breakthrough came after an agreement with Nikolić, who withdrew his candidacy and Vučić announced his. The price tag on this deal is not yet known. Indeed, this is a dilemma, faced by the Bulgarian equivalent of Vučić – Boyko Borisov, who was also considering taking advantage of its high rating and run for president because of the lack of another strong candidate in his party GERB (member of the EPP). The situation in Bulgaria, however, is different as Boyko Borisov had competition outside the party, while the SNS had none until Sunday. Borisov chose to give the ceremonial presidential post to someone he considered a pawn, instead of leaving executive power in the hands of someone who could be emancipated from him.

Aleksandar Vučić was in the same situation, but chose the not less ceremonial presidential post. Now the main question is who will take his place as prime minister and whether a Putin or Erdoğan scenario will unfold in Serbia. In a Putin, scenario Vučić will install for prime minister a trusted person and for months the name of his deputy Zorana Mihajlović has been surfacing, who is also minister of transport and construction. A very influential woman, who however denies that there has been any discussion about her appointment as a PM. The trusted person will need to “keep warm” the seat for Vučić, until his presidency term finishes, or until another opportunity for a switch arises. In an Erdoğan scenario, Vučić may attempt to expand the presidential powers, in order to retain power for a longer period.

Counting chickens before the eggs have hatched

That would have been possible if a strong opposition had not appeared, since his emphatic victory in the presidential election (over 55%) opens up this possibility at a possible next snap elections – since 2012, when the SNS came to power, there had been two snap elections. The latter were last year, when the SNS began to decline as the party won 131 seats. At the previous snap elections in 2014 the SNS won 158 seats.

The government counted on possible early elections providing to the SNS, with the help of the current coalition with the Socialists of Ivica Dačić and the Movement of Socialists of Alexandar Vulin, a sufficient majority to make the necessary constitutional changes. After the vote on Sunday, however, snap elections already represent a huge risk, as recognised by Aleksandar Vučić himself  on election night. He congratulated the other candidates and said that their achievement is great and in a possible parliamentary election they could gain a lot. Ergo, probably the dilemma to have or not to have snap elections, which has been hovering for months in Serbian public domain, is dismissed.

The surprise candidate of these elections is human rights activist Saša Janković. He is a former journalist who worked in the Beta news agency right at the time of the bloody disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. From 2007 to the beginning of the campaign he was ombudsman of Serbia. Saša Janković appeared by himself in the elections, nominated by 100 public figures, including writers, journalists, actors, musicians. His candidacy was supported by the Democratic Party, the New Party, the Social Democratic Union Party and the Vojvodina party. Polls gave him third place with less than 10% of the vote, but he finished in second place with almost double the projected support – 16.2%. Not accidentally, Janković declared victory on election night, despite being second. According to him, this is a victory for integrity, rules, and principles.

And he’s correct. It really is a great victory for forces whose voice has so far been stifled by ultra nationalist and moderate nationalist cries. The main emphasis in the campaign of Janković was the rule of law, compliance with rules, democracy. If you look for an equivalent in Bulgaria, which is very similar to Serbia, it would be the newly formed Bulgarian party “Yes, Bulgaria”, whose platform is also based on the rule of law, fight against corruption and respect for rules and principles. The difference is that the young Bulgarian party, mainly composed of completely new faces to the Bulgarian political scene, appeared at parliamentary elections, which are always more difficult to win than the presidential ones, where there is only one candidate playing. It is important to note, however, that on the other very important issues for Serbia, Saša Janković is in the mainstream. He is for good relations with Russia, would not sign Kosovo’s independence, and sees no military future for Serbia in NATO.

Janković’s result is a symbolic victory, which showed that in Serbia there is a fairly large niche of people who want exactly what Janković has to offer. A niche, which no one filled until now. He announced in a statement on election night that the presidential elections are only the beginning of his fight, which is a commitment to work precisely this niche, whose potential is great, as in Serbia, just as in Bulgaria, half of the voters are not voting or as they are called in Serbia abstinenti.

It is also a victory, because in the current controlled media environment, where the ruling party SNS has complete monopoly, managing to break through and reach more than half a million people is really a great achievement. Media, independent of the government, reported that this campaign was extremely dirty and dishonest. All candidates complained of the same, including Aleksandar Vučić. All the tabloids and other media were engaged in this campaign to destroy the reputation of the most dangerous competitors. Vreme magazine came out [in Serbian] with a large material shortly before election day, in which it says that for the first time in this election the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) – the Serbian council for electronic media – has refused to monitor the election campaign and prepare a report. REM announced that it will respond only to individual signals for violations, but will not monitor the media and report irregularities.

One of the reasons for Janković’s win is that he was not considered a serious competition and therefore the efforts of pro-government media were aimed at undermining the prestige of Vuk Jeremić, who finished with less than 6% support. Jeremić, a former foreign minister of Serbia at the time of Boris Tadić’s presidency, and then president of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly. He was one of the candidates in the race for the post of UN Secretary General. The reason it is exactly him, who was considered the main competition, is that he is practically not much different in his views and values ​​than Aleksandar Vučić. His positions regarding Kosovo, Russia and the EU are the same as those of Vučić and he had directed his entire campaign towards criticising Vučić and his governance.

Serbia is not ready to break the taboos of Russia, Kosovo, and NATO

These elections abounded of innovations. Besides the above mentioned, another novelty was the nomination of Nenad Čanak, who is not a new face to the Serbian political and public scene, but came out with a whole new narrative which, hitherto, was taboo and no one had ever allowed himself to even think about raising. He is the leader of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina (LSV), was chairman of the Vojvodina Skupshtina. Čanak based his campaign on four taboos: recognition of Kosovo, membership in NATO, anti-Russian rhetoric, and lustration.

His results at the elections show that Serbia is still not ready for any of those things. Nenad Čanak barely made it to 1% support.

Besides Serbia still not being ready to break these taboos, according to Serbian analysts Mr Čanak’s campaign was quite passive. However, the main reason remains that there is still no fertile ground for a separation with Kosovo, accession to NATO, and breaking away from Russia. In one of his last interviews [in Serbian] before the election Nenad Čanak said that Russia sees Serbia as a zone of influence, which serves for negotiations with the international community about the recognition of Crimea. He stated that if elected, his first order of business would be to break the energy agreement with Russia and work to end the energy dependence on Russia. According to him the sale of the Serbian oil company NIS to the Russians was a big mistake, as they bought it for the price of oil, which that company derives only for one year. He also said that Russian influence is currently extremely dangerous and Serbia should join the EU as soon as possible.

Another novelty of these elections was the emergence of comedian Luka Maksimović, who ran with his artistic nickname Ljubiša Preletačević “White”. In opinion polls before the elections he appeared as a second force after Aleksandar Vučić with about 13% support, but managed to win just under 10 percent. The young satirist did not run with serious intentions, but rather to ridicule and caricature the current system in Serbia and its key players. According to Serbian analysts, White is the cartoon image of Vučić, so he was spared from media attacks, as it would practically mean Vučić to attack himself. His good performance in the elections raises the question whether he represents the protest vote. This question has yet to find an answer, but the fact that he failed to raise voter turnout shows that the abstinenti would not come out to vote even as a joke. Just as in Bulgaria, non-voters remain a major challenge for all candidates and parties.

Now what?

Because of all these innovations, the elections on Sunday were a breakthrough. From now on we will see if Saša Janković will be able to become the long-awaited Serbian opposition and whether he will be allowed to do this after establishing himself as serious competition to the government. This is a question that must be posed to the EU as well, which has so far tolerated Aleksandar Vučić and his authoritarian behaviour, as well as his double play with Russia. After the elections, the EU congratulated the preordained winner Vučić. In a joint statement [in English], European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg, EPP) and the European Council President Donald Tusk (Poland, EPP) congratulated Vučić on his victory. “This vote of confidence shows that the people of Serbia fully endorse the European path you have chosen and which will lead to EU membership,” said the letter, whose tone has nothing to do with the sentiment inside Serbia.

On election night absolutely all candidates, except Vučić, spoke of unprecedented irregularities and outrages – from changing the rules at the last moment, to the short duration of the campaign (less than a month) and complete media monopoly of the government. Most of them talked about a media blackout on opposition candidates, media attacks, and electoral violations. Again there was a mention of the “Bulgarian train” phenomenon, which appeared as a byword namely during the reign of Aleksandar Vučić in the last five years. Bulgarian train is a byword for vote manipulation and means an organised transportation of voters to vote in several different places. Individual candidates spoke of vote-buying too – everything which already is a trademark

of the Bulgarian electoral process, despite Bulgaria being a EU member for 10 years already, which acceded with “just” judiciary problems.

Against this background, the words of Messrs Tusk and Juncker “We wish you success in further pursuing this path by promoting the reforms associated with the ongoing accession process which will bring a better life to all citizens” sound inappropriate, more so with the fact that in Rome leaders of the member states and the European institutions, including Tusk and Juncker, signed a declaration, which clearly states that the EU’s door is open only to those candidates who not only share European values, but also promote them.

The Šešelj era is over

The other piece of good news from the presidential elections is that ultra nationalists lost, and lost by much. Noisy radical Vojislav Šešelj failed to reach even five percent of the vote and refused to address the public after the election. His performance in the election is significantly worse than the results he got in the parliamentary election last year. Then the Serbian Radical Party won 22 seats in the Skupshtina. It seems that his time in politics is over. The leader of the Dveri, Boško Obradović, who has almost the same rhetoric and views as Šešelj, fared even worse, winning just 2.3 percent of the vote, for which he blamed everyone, including the non-governmental organisations that were involved in election observation and parallel counting. Last year Dveri managed to score 13 MPs. The rest of the candidates with a stronger or weaker form of nationalism revolve around 1%. This clearly shows that, currently, the monopoly on nationalism is held by the SNS who, after disposing of Tomislav Nikolić, have rather moderate nationalist views.

What lies ahead in Serbia is the battle between the old generation, which embodies the nationalistic and radical past of the Milošević era, and a new generation of pro-European democratic forces. In this battle, the EU’s role will be extremely important, because the fight will be fierce. Vučić will bet on anything to win it, and as the months before the presidential election demonstrated, it will affect the stability of the entire region of the Western Balkans. While he competed with Nikolić, the relations with Kosovo got strained considerably, tensions rose dramatically in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and there was turmoil in tiny Montenegro as well. Relations with the EU member Croatia remained tense and with no perspective. So Serbia is facing a forthcoming struggle for the survival of the Milošević, allegedly disguised as pro-European, heritage and for the consolidation of an opposition around the advocates of the rule of law. Regardless of who will be the winner, however, Russia remains a priority for both camps, which should be telling us something important.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Has Populism Been Defeated in The Netherlands and What Lessons for EU?

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Rob Hoppe, Margarita Jeliazkova

The elections in the Netherlands attracted so much media attention for the first time in recent history. The dominating narratives – domino-effect, Trump-effect, Nexit, Wilders vs. Rutte – were all simplistic and based on little understanding of the national context and Dutch political reality. Was this interest inflated? Not really. After all, 81.9 % of the Dutch electorate showed up to exercise their voting rights – a 30-year record high voter turnout.

Why did the Dutch election matter?

First, the media narrative presented the election process as a one-off ‘defeat of populism’, ‘defeat of Wilders’. Case closed, next piece of the potential domino – France. The picture is more complicated, though, and if not told, the lessons to be learned will be lost as well. Second, paradoxically, this media attention, and our own experience with discussing the Dutch election in the media, made us realise how little we, Europeans, know about each other’s political systems and political ‘habits.’ Third, the issues underlying the Dutch electoral dynamics will surface and influence the European agenda in the coming years, through a government that is yet to be formed. Viable democracies rely on much more than elections. Between-election democratic politics goes on, after the media lime-lights are out,  so it is a good idea to pay attention. Hopefully, the Dutch story will contain some lessons for other European countries in terms of populism, EU-exits, media coverage, internal EU migration.

The main players

The Netherlands has one of the most fragmented multiparty systems in the world. Over twenty parties competed for the electorate’s votes in this election. Contrary to countries like Germany or Bulgaria there are no thresholds that political parties must pass in order to enter Parliament. In a 150-seat Parliament and almost 13 million voters, getting approximately 65 000 votes means one seat. Voters usually vote for the top seed politician on a party list, but they may express personal preferences for politicians down the party listing. This way they usually vote for female or minority politicians.

The dominant political parties that are usually represented in a coalition Cabinet are three: Conservative Liberals, or Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD); Christian-Democrats, or Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA); and Labour,  or Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA). None of these parties ever had a 76-seat majority, so coalition government itself is also traditional. Smaller parties that are regular coalition partners are: Progressive Liberals, or Democrats 66 (D66); two smaller Christian parties, the (social) Christian Union (CU) and (conservative) Reformed Political Party (SGP).

On the left of the political spectrum and so far never part of a coalition government there are two other parties: the Green-Left (a motley lot of greens, pacifists and feminists) and the populist-labour Socialist Party. A number of new parties were added to the mix, creating the unusually long ballot of 28 parties, including the newly established DENK – a predominantly Turkish minority oriented party, with an anti-discrimination agenda – and a curious party of the Non-Voters.

All foreign eyes were transfixed on Geert Wilders’ right-wing populist Party for Freedom (PVV), which, strange enough, is actually not a conventional political party at all. With only one formal member, the PVV is an undemocratic legal construction (an ‘association’ and a ‘foundation’) for the political and social stances of Mr Wilders. It is actually a memberless virtual political party with just one leader, consisting of an nontransparent inner circle of some 80 activists loyal to Wilders; but disinterested in creating a larger loyal membership; communicating with a sympathetic electorate only through Internet. In Germany, PVV would be denied existence on the basis of the law on political parties.

The current government was a coalition of the Conservative Liberals (VVD) and the Labour Party (PvdA), led by the VVD’s leader Mark Rutte.

The Campaign

Foreign TV spectators were surprised and impressed to see the open manner of campaigning: leaders in the streets, mixing with people, lots of volunteers, often of two or three different parties, working together at busy locations, exchanging tips. Many parties registered a stronger-than-usual influx of new members, and local organisations supported the campaign, often grouped around the ‘local’ candidate on the list who would hope for some personal preference votes.

Only Wilders did nothing of the kind. In fact, his campaign was sloppy, ill-organised, and largely invisible. Some speculated that he did not actually want to win. What are the explanations? One is indeed that Wilders realises that he does not have the capacity to govern, there are simply not enough capable and experienced people in his party, even if someone would invite him to govern. Another reason is that Wilders is the leader of a movement, not a party. There are no party members, only followers; practically no local structures in place. His channels of influence differ substantially from those of the traditional parties. Like Trump, he communicates with his followers through tweets. He seeks media exposure and hijacks every possible event with his extreme comments. With this style of behaviour, Wilders has managed to craft and maintain the image of an outsider to politics, in spite of his over 20 years of professional political experience as an MP!

Voters’ attitudes and orientation

In the last two decades, Dutch voters have become increasingly unpredictable. The ‘traditional’ electorate of the parties, based on the former segregated (Liberal. Catholic, Protestant, and Socialist) ‘pillars’ in Dutch society, behaved increasingly as a consumer shopping for the best personal deal between parties with small differences in their platforms. With the rise of radical parties at both ends of the political spectrum the turn to basic values and core orientations became apparent this time around.

This trend is reflected in the boom of different online tools for voting advice. For the first time, in many years, voters tended to base their choice on core ideological issues, seen by many as game-changing: for or against ‘the establishment’; for or against Europe, and what kind of Europe; the costs and scope of social welfare, and even a hotly contested issue like extended euthanasia provisions. The ever more fragmented voting tools could not capture this search for clarity and fundamental orientations and went on to offer piecemeal advice on items ranging from teacher salaries to exotic preferences of bird lovers.

School elections

An interesting detail in Dutch voting events is the tradition of school elections. While for younger pupils this is a way to get acquainted with the political system and the electoral process, the results from the upper secondary school elections are actually followed with heightened interest. Obviously, students aged 15-18 are close in attitudes to first-time young voters aged 18-25, and thus the results are a strong indication of emerging trends. The school elections’ big winner this year – the Green-Left – did indeed emerge as the strongest player on the left in the actual elections, largely due to young and higher educated voters. But the more important impact of these school elections is that they are preceded by extensive political education throughout the school year, training students to orient themselves in the political landscape, to decide on ideological and policy issues and to make up their minds: a skill to be employed in the next elections. This is one of the explanations for the traditionally high activity of Dutch voters.

Public debates in various formats and levels

A record high of 3.3 million people watched the concluding debate on the National Public Channel – about three times more than the previous elections. This was a good precursor of the record high election turnout on election day. More importantly, the number reflects the record high number of undecided voters, in the last evening before election day. To a large extent, the interest in the concluding debate reflects the disappointing vagueness of the previous debates – usually orchestrated, superficial and limited to rehearsed one-liners and talking points by the participating party leaders; or, in some cases, distorted by overly aggressive journalistic focus on personalities instead on substance.

The topics of discussion were a mix of ‘core’ ideological messages – Europe, national identity – and specific policy issues – cost of health coverage, road tax systems etc. This mix reflected the same kind of ambiguity demonstrated in the online voting advice applications – the game-changing issues were dispersed for many and were difficult to capture. Probably more informing and influential were the numerous live debates throughout the country, at university campuses and municipal town halls, where dialogue with the public broke the pattern of ready-made messages.

As a whole, particularly commercial media, informed by premature polls, inflated the Rutte vs. Wilders narrative, which was picked up by media abroad. It was easy to present without delving into the intricacies of Dutch political system, the good guys and the bad guys were clearly recognisable, and a final sprint at the end would always make the public excited.

The scandal with the Turkish ministers

The dominant narrative was only reinforced by the stand-off between the Netherlands and Turkey. A diplomatic scandal of this format (Dutch authorities actively stopped Turkish ministers from addressing ‘their’ voters living in the Netherlands), caused tension among Turkish minority citizens in the Netherlands, and obviously impacted the elections. Naturally, the media focused on the dividend to be gained by either Rutte or Wilders. Wilders found himself in a tricky position: he could not capitalise on the scandal without appearing to be a supporter of Erdogan, since Erdogan announced that by flaring up hatred towards minorities only Wilders would gain support from the events.

In reality, the more direct impact was on minority voters themselves. Some of them were beginning to see the newly established party DENK as a broad anti-discrimination party. When DENK leaders failed to take any stance against Erdogan’s increasingly inflammatory actions and remarks, many voters, with ethnicities other than Turkish, changed their minds and did not support the party. Although it is not at all that clear if the party leaders really support Erdogan or are just afraid for repercussions, the issue turned out to be defining the party’s new face as an ethnic Turkish party.

Who got mobilised to vote?

It was the ‘mainstream’ voters who felt alarmed by the imminent threat of Wilders winning and got out to vote. Many people thought it necessary to defend ‘normality’ in the Netherlands. In this sense, ‘the Trump effect’ – the fear of too much division and polarisation – was probably playing a role. Wilders or other copy-cat parties in his populist sector did not succeed in mobilising protest votes by first-time voters who had not been engaged with ‘the system’ until now. Within this ‘normal’ range, at least 30% (some estimated them at 50 %) of the voters were undecided a day before the elections, many of them literally making a choice in the voting booth. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this happened both on the left and to the right oriented voters. Traditional party preferences were broken, sometimes after decades of stable choices.

The prevalent mood on election day was positive – a day to reaffirm democratic freedoms, to celebrate the Dutch way. Voting was well organised and directed at facilitating people in exercising their right to vote: from polling stations at busy places, particularly train stations, through additional voting booths and mobile polling stations in busses, drive-through stations, to the exotic idea of letting young people vote in the small hours of the day, after a pop concert. The media celebrated unusual first-time voters such as a 52 years old homeless man, or curious cases with voting tickets rescued from wastebaskets or destroyed by house pets. And yet, controversies with possible electoral fraud and hacking attempts in other countries, particularly in the United States, lead to the decision to count all tickets manually, as a precautionary measure. The manual counting had a largely symbolic meaning against the backdrop of speculations about Russian interference with the Brexit vote, for instance. Eventually, the final results had to wait for a bit longer.

Rutte won, Wilders lost

This is the part where all the media started packing their equipment. The VVD, the liberal conservative party led by prime minister Mark Rutte, won over Wilders, who had to compete for  the second place with two more parties and barely passed them. The Liberals won, the story goes, populism was defeated. Was that really the case?

To begin with, Rutte won and lost at the same time. The ruling party actually lost a considerable number of seats and still came out first (down from 41 to 33). There are some convincing reasons for this loss. In a traditionally egalitarian society, due to harsh VVD-initiated austerity policies the distance between an established elite (15%) and uncertain workers and a precariat (30%) has grown ever larger. There is overdue maintenance and repair work to be done in some of the traditional state functions. Intended reforms in the police, the judiciary, and public prosecution have run into implementation, expertise and integrity problems. Even the tax apparatus’ effectiveness is currently in doubt through badly executed reforms. All of this under the wing of a VVD-led Ministry of Safety and Justice. Most scarily, the VVD’s campaign platform proposes to damage rule-of-law in the NL by abolishing the right for citizens to check Dutch law against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and go to the European Court of Justice.

Still, Rutte did come out first, and this victory was more than symbolic. Three main reasons contributed to his moment of triumph:

First, strategic vote. Rutte’s campaign successfully capitalised on the media narrative on the Good Guy versus the Bad Guy, and managed to convince many to vote strategically. Liberal voters from other parties were pulled to the right, in order to make sure that Wilders did not end first. It was a matter of national pride for many Dutch people. As a woman put it on election day, ‘I am so ashamed that the whole world is looking at us right now, because of Wilders.’ How many seats did this strategic vote secure, remains to be seen in future demographic analyses of the outcomes.

Second, the Erdogan effect, obviously. Rutte, the country’s prime-minister and leader of the Conservative party, booked the greatest profit from looking ‘presidential’: the leader of a country in crisis, with leaders of all political colours united behind him. Rutte is traditionally good in this role of a leader, most notably played during the tragic shoot-down of the MH17 flight. Emotions might have had a mobilising effect now, too.

And third and most important, the fear of losing voters to Wilders led to adopting quite a lot of his rhetoric during the campaign. Two possible readings of this phenomenon should be noted. In a more cynical view, one could say that Wilders became obsolete, because he became ‘mainstreamed,’  as hard language against minorities and refugees was used not only by Rutte’s party, but also by the Christian Democrats. The other reading is the familiar mechanism that fringe or radical parties are the first to signal issues perceived as important but neglected; and mainstream political parties also start picking them up somewhat later.

Why was Wilders declared a loser?

Geert Wilders gained five more seats (up from 15 to 20), compared to the previous election and yet he was still perceived as a loser. Why? For months in a row, his party was dominating each and every poll and appeared unbeatable at over 30 seats. The expectations were high, among supporters and rivals alike. But Wilders did not deliver. He ran a sloppy campaign, hardly appearing at events, conspicuously refusing to take part in television debates and to respond to any media enquiries. Some even say that he did not want to come out first. This would have brought him in the humiliating position to ask for coalition partners and to be publicly rejected by all of them! Plus, his unconventional way of campaigning helped him to maintain his branded image of a provocative outsider.

Wilders chose to expand his electorate through ever more radicalised and hysterical Islamophobia. The wide-spread concerns about safety and the influx of refugees notwithstanding, the number of people who see Islam as the main culprit turns out to be, after all, limited. In fact, many interviews with PVV voters suggest that they voted for him in spite of the anti-Islam rhetoric, and supported him out of a more generally felt social and political discontent. To these potential voters, his generic, virtually non-existent party platform, did not provide enough reassurance and specific policy measures to support. Maybe his time is just gone. Maybe his type of populism is out of fashion. Maybe this ‘wrong type’ of populism was defeated, as Mark Rutte said.

Was populism really defeated?

The short answer is – not really. To begin with, PVV was not the only party running on an openly populist agenda. If we count the left-populist votes, the ethnic DENK party, the one-issue ‘50+’ party, and the Wilders copy-cat – Forum for Democracy – we see that almost 30% of the voters chose populism. Some of the newcomers display more radical, and more divisive tendencies than Wilders already. In this sense, populism is fragmented, dispersed, or in search of a new face. The fact that one third of the voters put faith in easy promises, unrealistic plans, or hate messages remains worrisome. A serious discussion on the nature of populism, its different versions and sources of appeal is beginning to emerge in the Netherlands.  Mark Rutte tried his hand at positing a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ populism and stated that the good sort has won.

But at least racism took a beating, right?

Maybe, partly. Wilders, undoubtedly the most powerful and recognisable Islamophobia and inspiration to racists, took a blow by the majority of Dutch people. However, the openly racist Forum for Democracy (don’t get fooled by the name) will have two representatives in Parliament. The enfant terrible of Wilder’s hate message – the party DENK, a direct mirror response to his racist message – also found its place in Parliament with three seats. If it weren’t for the troublesome ties to Erdogan, one could be inclined to see this party in a positive light, as the hopeful sign of emancipation: minorities putting their predicament on the national agenda.

Racism is not an easy topic for the self-proclaimed ‘tolerant’ Netherlands. Their distorted historical self-image until this very day disparages slavery and structural violence in Indonesia, the colonial past and the role of the Netherlands in apartheid in South Africa. The discussion is still centred around the contested image of ‘Black Pete’ – an innocent ‘traditionally Dutch’ children’s character to some, and a painful reminder of slavery and racism to others. There was even a political party that emerged from the debate, though it didn’t make it into Parliament.

Thus, identity remains an issue on the agenda. Given the new constellation, national identity, integration, culture and religion will have to be addressed in a systematic way, and not only for the sake of attracting votes.

A shift to the right or a new left?

One party – the Labour Party – was nearly destroyed in these elections (down from 38 to 9 seats!). Various explanations have been offered: the party has been punished for participating in a coalition with the Conservative Liberals and was forced to approve unpopular austerity measures; the party leadership was not strongly charismatic enough; they refused to go ‘with the flow’ of anti-refugee rhetoric. All of these are valid, but not sufficient: we may have just witnessed the death of traditional social democracy in the Netherlands. Traditionally a party anchored in mainstream Dutch politics, the Labour Party had the tendency towards clientelism, particularly for its ethnic minority voters. The new party, DENK, was established by break-away Labour MPs. Effectively, they took their electorate with them as well. Even more importantly, the Labour party did not succeed in attracting young voters, mainly due to their ambiguous message on two major issues – climate change and Europe.

The uncontested winner on the left side was the Green-Left party. While the factor of the young leader’s personal charisma and appeal, particularly among first time voters, cannot be ignored, most voters had substantial reasons to switch. First, for years, the Green-Left party has been seeking a right balance between the ‘green’ and the ‘left’ part of its constituents. With the general shift to the right, the liberal-minded voters appear to take prevalence. Second,  traditional supporters of the Labour Party were not convinced that their party offered a realistic perspective for the challenges of the future.

The long-term health of the Dutch polity depends on the way the governance system deals with the finally emerging high politics issues to do with striking a viable balance between national and frequently populist identity politics and inevitably continuing globalisation. The victory of the Green-Left is an indicator that voters are turning towards new types of parties, more dynamic, but still with a recognisable ideological core.

Similar processes are taking place in all winning parties (D66, and the dark green Party for the Animals/Planet), which means that the death of traditional party structures may have been prematurely declared. To the contrary, the parties who attracted more voters are successful in expanding their basis at the municipal level and to focus on canvassing, direct contact with the public and a merging of municipal and central issues in the campaign. This is a new and interesting trend, since the opposite has been the case – the national political agenda has been dominating municipal elections. This trend may be reinforced by recent transfer of considerable policy responsibilities, for instance in the area of youth and social services for the elderly, to local governments.

Europe, the elephant in the room?

Europe was simultaneously the most divisive and the most obscure issue in Dutch election debate. On the surface, pro-European sentiments clearly won. For most media, end of story. During the campaign, the issue was avoided as much as possible, like the proverbial elephant in the room.  It is clear to everyone, though, that the debate about the actual content of the pro-European sentiment, and the different brands of Euroscepticism will inevitably come high on the post-election agenda. Instead of dealing with migration and the EU by a populist blame game, the Netherlands and other countries as well need a serious, honest debate on all the relevant high politics issues entailed. If the Netherlands must be a bellwether, let it be the inspiring first to engage in such debates in the run up to its own and other European countries’ elections.

Why no Nexit?

First of all, the Dutch electorate was probably affected by an overall European mood swing. All over Europe, the more moderately oriented citizens disapprove of the turmoil and uncertainty sparked by Brexit and the Trump administration in the US. They simply prefer economic stability and predictability in their own lives, which, let’s face it, are not so bad after all. Second, most Dutch realise that a Nexit is not an option for the open Dutch distribution economy. Dutch small and medium businesses are tied to Europe as much as the big global corporations are. Hence the Europe-friendly base in the Netherlands is probably broader than elsewhere.

Third, don’t be fooled: no-Nexit is perfectly compatible with continued, long-term Euroscepticism as long as  the underlying issues of identity, integration, discrimination, refugee influx etc. have not been sufficiently resolved. Only D66 is an enthusiastic supporter of the idea of one Europe under the European Union. Most other parties feature one type or another of deep Euroscepticism. The Socialist party rejects the EU because it does nothing for a social and just Europe, and favours labour migration which threatens wage levels for Dutch workers. The Dark Greens (Party for the Animals/Planet) reject the EU because they see it as a vehicle for planet-destroying big business.

The Conservative Liberals and Christian-Democrats share a number of objections to the EU: to build a real Fortress Europe against refugees from the Middle East and Africa border control has to be strengthened; they share the Socialist Party’s objections against uncontrolled labour migration; they want to tone down the EU’s political aspirations to just economic and trade partnership; and they are in favour of a Europe of ‘different speeds’, meaning the Netherlands, Germany an some other countries could de-link from ‘laggards’ in Southern and Eastern Europe.

What’s next?

The election outcome does not unambiguously translate into a clear direction for what government the Dutch will have. The outcome only delimits arithmetically which coalitions are possible, because they get 76 or more seats in parliament. Which coalition that will be, depends on the skill of those who negotiate. Here are the three major possible scenarios and their political difficulties:

First option is a green-right, ‘rainbow’ coalition, consisting of the winning loser VVD, and the three winners: CDA, D66 and Green-Left (85 seats). The political and policy differences between these parties are huge; but there is policy space due to a considerable surplus on the state budget. This is why the most powerful business lobby – VNO/NCW – advocates a right-green government, in line with the idea that business needs a firm ‘greenish’ government stance as push for massive green investments which make the economy fit for the future.

In case negotiations for this ‘rainbow’ coalition break down, the second option is a centre-right government (a minimal coalition with just 76 seats), where Green-Left is replaced by the smaller Christian Union. Their push for more social justice (softening austerity policies and financial prudence) and more climate friendly measures is far more modest than Green-Left proposals. But on ethical issues, especially facilitating euthanasia procedures for old people who claim their life is ‘completed’, D66 and the Christian bloc of CDA/CU have unbridgeable principled differences.

Should this centre-right coalition also be still-born, there is a third option: a minority cabinet of VVD, CDA and D66,without a fixed and certain majority in the Lower (Second Chamber) and Upper Houses (First Chamber) of parliament. The Netherlands would become similar to another small European nation, Denmark, which has more experience with minority governments. As the Danish example teaches us, this option may not be bad after all. According to many internationally comparative rankings, the Danish are a very happy and well-governed people!

Tackling the deep issues of serious politics for the Netherlands in the coming years – a sustainable economic business model, a dynamic labour market flexible enough to accommodate radical technological developments, a robust pension and healthcare system able to equitably deal with an ageing population, the refugee and labour migration issues inherent and unstoppable in a globalising world, and fighting the nationalist-populist inclinations of people who feel a ‘loss of entitlement’ of living in a changing ‘Holland’ that is no longer ‘theirs’ – this web of issues can be dealt with only with an open mind and lots of flexibility and creativity. Governing with shifting majorities may prove to be the most flexible and adequate political answer to the challenges of a highly fragmented political landscape. A minority government may be both risky and simultaneously the best bet for prudent governance in The Netherlands.

 

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Ilan Pappé: The Value of Viewing Israel-Palestine Through the Lens of Settler-Colonialism

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs • The Israel Lobby and American Policy • March 24, 2017

Dale Sprusansky: Our final keynote is a man who is well known to all of you, Ilan Pappé.  As Hanan Ashrawi mentioned earlier today, in an age of alternative facts, I think we can all agree on the importance of being able to discern truth from fiction.  While alternative facts may be a new term in American politics, the idea behind it is far from original.  As we all know, for decades colonial powers have developed and propagated false narratives to legitimize the subjugation of indigenous peoples.

Like colonists before them, Israel has relied on alt history, a false or distorted account of history to justify its policy toward the Palestinians.  If the so-called conflict is ever going to be resolved, the events that led to the creation of Israel—namely the Nakba—must be reckoned with.  This reality, that an honest understanding of the past is necessary to pave a better tomorrow, is the reason we invited historian Ilan Pappé to today’s conference.

Ilan Pappé has written prolifically and with honesty and courage on the history of Israel and the events that facilitated its creation.  His 2006 book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, with its painfully honest title, created controversy, but it’s nonetheless a seminal book on this issue.  Professor Pappé chose the title knowing that it would be provocative, but that it was also true to the research presented in his book.  As I told him at dinner last night, one can say that, in choosing the title, Professor Pappé was being more timeless than timely.

I’m sure as the West slowly comes to better grips with the reckoning of the history of Israel, future generations will find the title of his book progressively less controversial – at least I hope.  Ethnic Cleaning, of course, is just one of many books Professor Pappé has written.  He has an upcoming book entitled Ten Myths about Israel, which will be released shortly and will surely be a valuable resource to those looking for a critical and honest assessment of pro-Israel narratives.

Professor Pappé is currently a professor of history and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK.  He was born in Haifa.  Prior to coming to the UK, he was a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa.  His keynote today will focus on how an honest assessment of history is necessary in order to resolve the seemingly intractable conflict.  Professor Pappé.

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Photo Phil Portlock.

Ilan Pappé:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  [STANDING OVATION] Thank you.  Thank you very much. I’m really honored to be here, and thank you for the warm and empowering reception.  I told my dear friend, Clayton [Swisher], that we have traveled farther than anyone else.  For me it’s midnight, for him it’s 2:00 in the morning.  Yet, we were put at the end of the conference.  And we wondered what was the hidden agenda.  Either they thought we can wake you up after a very long and exhaustive day.  Or they thought that you are sleepy anyway, so you won’t notice the provocations that both of us are going to present to you.  So we’ll see which one of the two narratives is valid.

Bill Quandt, in a series of articles in the Journal of Palestine Studies, very cleverly charted what makes an American president’s legacy about Israel and Palestine valid.  He pointed to three major factors that inform such a legacy.  One is the personality of the president.  The second one are the lobbies.  By the lobbies, he meant both the AIPAC and the Christian Zionist lobbies.  The third group, he called them the professionals—the people who work in the State Department, in the National Security Council, in the intelligence community, and were there not necessarily just because of their political affiliation to the presidency, but also because—at least allegedly—of their professionalism.

He concluded, and I think he is right, that the president’s personality, although it is very important—and I don’t have to tell you this today, he wrote it before he thought that personality could be that important in a president [LAUGHTER]—but he concluded that the personality of the president did not have a huge impact on American policy toward the Palestine question.  It did have some impact, but not a fundamental impact.

He did agree with everyone who spoke before me that the Israeli lobby had a huge impact on American policy toward Israel and Palestine, but also tended to grant or credit the professionals with an equal impact on American policy toward the Israel-Palestine question.

I would like really to focus on that third group, because everyone else was talking about the lobby and I don’t need to repeat the wise words that were already said.  In fact, what I’m going to argue today, this afternoon, is that as much as the lobbies are important in affecting and influencing American policy, there is a basic and fundamental misunderstanding of what the conflict in Palestine is all about, including among those American diplomats, pundits, politicians who see themselves champions of Palestinian rights.

The level of—I wouldn’t call it ignorance, because these are very educated well-read people, so ignorance would not be a fair concept here—the level of blindness, or the level of ignorance in the sense of ignoring certain chapters rather than not being able to understand reality, this level is so high that it really makes it impossible, even when you have a period in which the lobbies are not strong or even when you have a president who is more pro-Palestinian than anyone before him.  The level, the depths, of that ignorance is so significant that it would not allow the two other factors, even if they are diminished or weakened, to influence fundamentally the American policy and, in association, the reality on the ground.

Now, what is missing?  And this is what I would like to point out.  What is missing is an understanding of the nature of Zionism, the nature of the Zionist project in Palestine—not as a nostalgic journey into the past, but as a current analysis.  The late and amazing scholar of settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe, said famously that settler colonialism is not an event.  It’s a structure.  Zionism is not an event.  It’s a structure, and it’s a settler colonialist structure.  It was a settler colonialist structure in 1882, and it is a settler colonialist structure in 2017.

You don’t appease a settler colonialist project by dividing Palestine into two states.  That will never appease the settler colonialist project.  The only way to challenge a settler colonialist project is to decolonize the settler colonialist project.  This challenge has not been digested by American policymakers, including those who regard themselves as open-minded, balanced—if you want—objective above the situation.

I don’t blame them, because to talk about decolonization in the 21st century is abnormal.  Colonialism, in our mind, belongs to the 19th century.  Decolonization belongs to the first half of the 20th century. But in the 21st century, if we will not resell or return to these fundamental concepts of colonialism and decolonization, we will not move forward toward a solution in Israel and Palestine.

I will give you examples of how the narrative, the discourse, the conceptual framework of settler colonialism can lead us to a different view on the reality today, not just about the reality in the past.  I will begin with something that, even here, I think, is sometimes accepted maybe not intentionally, maybe unconsciously, but is part of the American heritage of dealing with conflicts such as Israel and Palestine.  This is the idea that in Palestine you have a conflict between two national movements, and then everything else comes out of this analysis. If these are two national movements, we have to satisfy both of them.  We have to divide the land between both of them.  They share responsibility for the conflict equally.  We should find a way of satisfying their aspiration equally.

Now, it doesn’t matter, of course, that when you translate this paradigm of parity to a percentage of territory or demography, of course it was never suggested by any mediator—whether they were Americans or non-Americans—that the land would be divided 50/50. That was never in the cards.  But even the idea of 22 and 78, or the 55 and 45 of 1947, was based on this false analysis that what you have in Palestine is a genuine struggle between two national movements.

Zionism is not a national movement.  It’s a settler colonialist movement.  The Palestinians, before they become a nation, they are first and foremost the native indigenous people of Palestine [APPLAUSE] who sometimes chose nationalism as the best vehicle to defend their native indigenous rights, and probably would have to find a different vehicle in the 21st century to protect their rights—much more an agenda of human rights and civil rights than national rights.  Because the national rights have been understood in the world as a wish to have a small bantustan next to Israel, and this is not going to work.

Another point which is important when you use the settler colonial perspective on the situation in Israel and Palestine.  A basic American assumption—and not just an American assumption, a United Nations assumption, in fact an international assumption—is that the conflict in many ways began in 1967.  Not because people don’t know what happened before 1967, but because in 1948 the international community through the United Nations legitimized the idea of a Jewish state over 78 percent of Palestine.  So even Palestine’s friends advised the Palestinians not to bring the future of the 78 percent of Palestine, namely Israel, into the negotiation.  The best, they were told, you can hope for is to have a state over 22 percent of Palestine.

Now this idea that because the United Nations legitimized a state—which is, of course, an important fact which we should never ignore—but this idea of course brings us to a narrative of why there is a conflict which has little relevance or connection to the reality on the ground.  The conflict did not start in 1967.  The reason that there is still a conflict today is not because of the events of 1967.  In fact, our historical research these days shows something many of us who lived in Israel knew anyway, but it was always good to corroborate this by new documentations and archives: that Israel planned the occupation of the West Bank long before 1967.

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Photo Phil Portlock.

In fact, from a Zionist perspective, it made no sense whether you were on the left in the Zionist movement or the right of the Zionist movement.  It made no sense whatsoever to allow the Transjordanians, namely the Jordanians, to annex the West Bank while the Zionist movement had the military power to take it over.  The reason they allowed the Jordanians to annex the West Bank was because they wanted to neutralize the Arab Legion in the ’48 war so that the most efficient Arab army would not be part of the all-Arab coalition.  They were supposed to save Palestine from the Zionist conquest.

But in any case, many among the Israeli generals and politicians regretted their decision and from 1948 onwards created a lobby that pushed the Israeli government to seek the opportunity to occupy the West Bank.  In fact since 1963—and a book of mine on this will come out in the summer called The Biggest Prison on Earth—since 1963 the Israelis systemically and methodically prepared for the occupation of the West Bank. And Gamal Abdel Nasser provided them the opportunity that they were looking for in June 1967.

The Israelis were very well prepared for taking over the West Bank.  They already had the military rule imposed on the Palestinian citizens in Israel.  All they had to do was transmit this military rule from Israel itself and impose it on another group of Palestinians.  But maybe even more important, if you understand Zionism as settler colonialism and Israel as a settler colonial state, you understand that any depiction of the Israeli society as being torn between two camps—a liberal camp that wants to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and believes in a two-state solution, and an intransigent, inflexible camp, a war camp that does not want to give up the territories—this depiction is true only as far as the general public is concerned, but is not relevant to the DNA of the Israeli political, military and strategic elite.  They are united, and they were united since 1967, in their determination to do all they can to keep the West Bank as part of Israel and find ways of not incorporating the population that lives there.  And they had a similar strategy toward the Gaza Strip as well.

The peace process was not born in Washington.  It was born in Tel Aviv as a means of creating this charade of an internal Israeli debate that brings hope for anyone who believes that these two national movements could be coached through the intervention of a mature mediator into a reasonable peace treaty; one that you can easily find in a textbook in the political science departments in American universities which is drawn from the world of business where, as Madeleine Albright used to put it, everything visible can be divisible. So you divide land, demography.  She warned us when she was the secretary of state that everything which is invisible is indivisible; namely, don’t talk about justice, morality, the refugee problem, the nature of Zionism and the nature of the state of Israel because there is nothing we, who learned this in the departments of business and political science, can offer in front of such realities.

What can be done in order to move forward the discussion  so as to address the mismatch between the discourse that we have been using for years about the conflict, its origins, its nature, the reasons for its continuation?  How do we move from this mismatch to a conversation, at least a conversation that is far more relevant to the reality on the ground?

In every passing day with these unilateral Israeli policies on the ground, you don’t even need to talk to people about settler colonialism because the one Israeli state is already there.  The one apartheid state of Israel came into being around 2001, but maybe we haven’t noticed that.  But it’s there.  It is there and it’s going to be more and more legalized as an apartheid state with every passing day.  If we will continue to talk about a two-state solution, if we will continue to talk on the basis of the assumptions of the previous peace process, there is nothing we could do to change that reality, in which six million Palestinians would continue to live under an oppressive regime in various forms.

So what can we do?  One thing I think, and I know it’s difficult for some people, is to realize that the two-state solution is dead. [APPLAUSE] Many of us still sleep with the two-state solution, but you are sleeping with a corpse.  Many of us still dine with the two-state solution, but you are sleeping with a dead body.  It’s time to go to the morgue together and watch together the corpse of the two-state solution.  Hopefully we will all be invited to the funeral so that we can get over it and move on. [APPLAUSE]

Secondly, and not less importantly, we should understand that decolonization is not a process that can be forced from the outside.  What you can force from the outside is the end of occupation, the end of oppression, the end of the atrocities that are done in the name of apartheid.  But you cannot force reconciliation between the settlers and the natives from the outside. But as long as you are not sending the message—as we did send the message to apartheid South Africa that the end of apartheid is a precondition for a process of reconciliation, whereas, in Palestine we always said reconciliation first, and then the end of apartheid—as long as we don’t send this message either as a civil society or as a political and intellectual elite, we will continue to have this mismatch between the way we talk about the reality and the way the reality unfolds on the ground.

I think this clearer division of labor between the outside and the inside from the perspective of decolonization—not from the perspective of a peace process, from the perspective of decolonization—it has to be urgently adopted by anyone of us who is either a student of the conflict or is involved in it or is interested in it or wants to show solidarity with its victims.  Because if we in the universities, in the press, in the political arena, if we will not use the right dictionary and the right language to describe what goes on on the ground, then we will continue to provide an umbrella of immunity to the settler colonial state of Israel to try and complete what it started in 1948—namely, to have as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible.

Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.  I was born in Israel in 1954.  I’m a product of the Israeli education system.  Probably not a very good product of the Israeli educational system [LAUGHTER], quite a flawed product of that system.  But there is sometimes someone who was part of that system, who was indoctrinated in this system, when you hear the discourse abroad about the possibilities that are open in the Jewish society for change, when you hear that there is a two-state solution around the corner somewhere in the globe, you find it very frustrating, because in your daily experience you know how far away from the reality is this conversation.

Now, analyzing correctly does not mean that it will be an easy ride forward.  I’m finishing.  Analyzing or having the right analysis doesn’t mean that the prognosis would be easy.  I’m not going to say here that the move into decolonization, into probably the path on a one-state solution—with various models that are possible—is an easy journey.  It is as difficult as any journey we have to take as a human society when we face an indoctrinated racist society that has to be deprogrammed.  It has to be decolonized in the mind before we can decolonize it on the ground.

The only thing I’m saying is that for 50 years now we didn’t even try to do that because we claimed that the only urgent need we had was to convince the Israeli society to give up the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and then we can lead to the path toward reconciliation and peace. Well, this was a waste of time.  This was a waste of energy.  Fifty years are a lot of time in a peace process that was based on the wrong assumptions and had reaped the bitter fruits that anyone with his eyes in his head could have seen were the only possible consequence of such a misconception and misunderstanding of what the conflict is about.

Finally, I would say this.  Nothing of what I said can materialize without, of course, a new unification of the Palestinian political scene.  We need a different Palestinian thinking.  We need a united authentic representation of the Palestinian people, which we don’t have today, that should give us the lead.  We will have to get rid eventually of the existing political structures in Palestine in order to be able to lead us, settlers and natives together, into a future that has normal life in it, as you and other people in the world enjoy.  Thank you.

Questions & Answers

Dale Sprusansky:  Thank you very much.  Most of the questions here revolve around one point here, and that’s what exactly a one-state solution would look like.  So one person asked, what happens to the Palestinians?  Another asked, how do Israelis, settlers, Palestinians and refugees coexist?  What happens in that first day, week, year, or decade?

Ilan Pappé:  Right.  Well, building a different political structure from the one you have is a long journey.  Any attempt to answer all these questions would be wrong, because first of all, as I said, you have to remove the one conversation that does not allow you to invest the same energy as you have invested in the last 50 years in the wrong solution.  So I would say two points about this.

One is, as I think there is already a one-state solution, we don’t need to build a one-state solution.  What we need is to change the regime of that one state.  We need to make it a democracy, because now it is not a democracy.  Now, you build it by a slow movement from below and not by big revolutions, as the Arab world has learned unfortunately and painfully in the last six or seven years.

It is time, I think, for academics, pundits, and people who have the time and the energy to try and begin to build models of a joined curriculum, a joined judicial system, a joined political solutio for questions of symbolism such as names, the identity of the state and so on.  I don’t think it’s time for a political movement to do it as yet.  It’s too premature.  I’m just saying we have to start this conversation.

There are more and more movements from below that define themselves as a one-state movement.  We talked about the BDS a lot today.  But there’s also an ODS, the One Democratic State movement from below.  Now this group of people—whether they are activists, whether they come from different walks of life—begin to give answers to the questions that you are asking.  But I think more than anything else—I’m always surprised when I’m sort of re-listening to John Kerry’s last speech.  If you remember, in a very dramatic voice he explained to us that without a two-state solution, the only possible scenario is an apartheid Israel.  I wanted to say, hello, John.  How are you?  I’m looking up [LAUGHTER].  The one-state apartheid is already there, so your warning is not about the future.  You’re actually describing the present.

Secondly, couldn’t you find one moment in your speech, maybe two sentences in your speech, to say that actually having a democratic state for Jews and Palestinians between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean is not a doomsday scenario?  Couldn’t you just say, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have settlers and natives living as equal citizens in the same state?  Why do you have to describe this as a doomsday scenario?  The only people in the world who would describe this as a doomsday scenario are Zionists.  Because they think that when the Jews are not the majority, the only possible thing Palestinians can do is to kill them.

Well, I lived in Haifa all my life.  I lived in the Galilee.  I was in political outfits and academic outfits where the Jews were the minority and nothing bad happened to us.  The idea that Palestine cannot be a political outfit if the Palestinians are the majority and the Jews are the minority is a racist idea that should be challenged strongly. [APPLAUSE]

Dale Sprusansky:  A question about the role of the Palestinian Authority in an official rather than a de facto one state.  How would the Palestinian Authority go about disbanding?  What would that look like?

Ilan Pappé:  I think, anyway, Israel is going to eventually disband the PA, so it’s not my agenda.  Exactly? I’m not a prophet, I don’t know exactly how it will unfold.  But I have no doubt that the way Israeli politics is going, and the way American politics is going, and the decreasing level of interest in the international community about Israel and Palestine—given all of these factors, I have very little doubt that there will be a moment where the reality that already unfolded—namely that Israel controls the West Bank and in many ways controls the Gaza Strip, despite what the Hamas may feel—that this de facto reality would be declared as a de jure deep reality.

There’s one interesting and significant development in the West Bank that people have not noticed.  In the last few months Israel has removed half of the checkpoints in the West Bank.  When I noticed that, I said, is it because an American president is coming?  Because the last time they did it was before Obama’s visit.  Then they returned the checkpoints two days after he left.  No.  They have removed most of the checkpoints from Area C because they regard Area C, which is 55 percent of the West Bank, as part of Israel, and they don’t want Israelis to move around a state which has checkpoints.  It doesn’t look nice.  It doesn’t feel nice.  So the checkpoints are only in Area A and B and between Area A and B and C.

Now the next step is to do the same for Area B.  Maybe Area A would remain, Greater Ramallah, as a Palestinian enclave.  I doubt whether at that moment in time there would be enough Palestinians to say this is what we were fighting for, a nation state in Area A.  I’m very blunt with you because I think I don’t want to spend another wasteful year of talking the wrong language about a reality that I know very well and this language has nothing to do with that reality.

So it’s not a matter of saying the PA should go or shouldn’t go.  The PA belongs to a narrative and a story that has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, and that story is going to change.  In fact, it’s already changing.  It’s just a matter of when people are willing to use the right words to describe a reality that they don’t like, for various reasons, to acknowledge.

Dale Sprusansky:  A couple of questions about BDS.  One person asked if BDS is the only way to achieve decolonization and what are the possible outcomes of the movement.

Ilan Pappé:  Well, I think one thing we shouldn’t do is confuse BDS with a vision.  We need the Palestinians to redefine what the liberation of Palestine means in the 21st century.  We cannot rely on nostalgic ideas of the 1960s.  Neither do I think the political Islamic movements have a vision that is going to work.  So we need a redefinition of the Palestinian liberation project.  Sometimes people I think confuse the means, which is the BDS, with the need to rethink the vision—the project of liberation.

However, as I said before, the outside world cannot be indifferent to the suffering of the people just because we are in this limbo between a project, the two-state solution, that is irrelevant and is not going to work and—as I said—is in the morgue for a few years but we haven’t noticed. And a new project we will take quite a while to build, because we need the unification of the Palestinian side, we need more authentic representation.  We need a lot of things to happen for us to be on the road toward this new vision.

But we don’t have the luxury of remaining idle and indifferent while the clock of destruction, which is faster than the clock of reconstruction, is working.  Therefore, the BDS is so important because the BDS is there to say, yes, there is a void of leadership.  Yes, there is a chaotic moment in history where there is no peace process and there’s no alternative to that peace process. But that doesn’t mean that we, as the international community, have nothing to do and can do nothing in order to stop the suffering of the people on the ground.

The greatest thing about the BDS was that it introduced to us again the two groups that the Oslo process brutally excluded from the future of Palestine—the Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian minority in Israel. [APPLAUSE] And we should be thankful to the BDS for reminding us that the people of the West Bank and the people of the Gaza Strip are only half of the Palestinian people and that these two territories are only 22 percent of Palestine.  You don’t cure an illness by dealing with the hand if the whole body is ill.

Dale Sprusansky:  Earlier today, in his keynote, [Prof. John] Mearsheimer suggested that the idea of an expulsion is unlikely.  But lots of people here seem to be worried about it, because I’m getting lots of questions about this.  So one person asked, what exactly is stopping another mass expulsion?  One person says, Netanyahu realizes the two-state solution is dead, but doesn’t want one state with Palestinians, so what’s stopping him from trying that again as in ’48?

Ilan Pappé:  I think that John was right in the sense that it’s difficult to envisage an ethnic cleansing on the scale that Israel committed in 1948—expelling half of Palestine’s population, demolishing half of Palestine’s villages, and destroying almost all the Palestinian towns apart from Nazareth.

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Photo Phil Portlock.

Yes, I agree this is difficult.  But I think what is important to understand is that ethnic cleansing is a paradigm as much as settler colonialism is.  The Israelis perfected the notion of ethnic cleansing and adapted it to the 21st century much better than any other political movement that I know in history.  For instance, they found out that actually you can achieve the same goal of having a space without the people in it by not allowing people to leave the place in which they live.  You don’t have to expel people from villages.  You can enclave them. You can siege them in villages and you get the same result; namely you don’t have demographically to include the enclaved, imprisoned, incarcerated people in your demographic balance, which is the most important thing for a settler colonial state.

Even liberal people around the world somehow agree that Israel has the right to talk in these racist terms, as if this is acceptable.  So you don’t need massive expulsion in order to annex Area C, for instance.  And they’re already doing it.  I don’t know how many of you have been to ’Anata, how many of you have been to the Shuafat refugee camp, how many of you have been to Tulkarm—a whole town that is surrounded by a fence with one gate to the town in the hands of the Israeli soldiers. It’s a big jail, and the only reason people are incarcerated in this jail is because they are Palestiniansfor no other crime.

Now this is the model Israelis of the left like, because they are against expulsion. They’re against expulsion.  They say expulsion is the Israeli right-wing notion.  Our notion is separation or, as they call it in Hebrew, hafrada, which means in English “apartheid.”  Hafrada—segregation, more literally.  We really believe that it’s much better for the Palestinians to be incarcerated, enclaved in homogenic Palestinian areas. They don’t even need Green Lines, the Palestinians, because they’re not the Western modernized society.  We can keep it forever like this because we have hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are part of the police state—this is not an occupation—that manages the colonization of Palestine whether it is in the Naqab, in the Galilee, in the Gaza Strip, or in the West Bank.

There’s no need for mass expulsion.  You have built an amazingly big apparatus that so many Israelis are involved in that you have the manpower to police daily the control over six million Palestinians within the one state that you have created 15, 16 years ago, and still even sell this to the world as a democracy that unfortunately had to occupy a certain area, but of course is just looking for the right Palestinian partner to get it back to them.  We are still hearing this bullshit today, unbelievably.  [APPLAUSE] Thank you.

Dale Sprusansky:  A question about terminology here.  One person says, why didn’t you choose to label the Palestinians’ suffering as genocide instead of ethnic cleansing?  This person contends that Palestine is a classic example of the U.N.’s definition of genocide.

Ilan Pappé:  Because I think there is a difference between genocide and ethnic cleansing.  I did use the term genocide for Gaza.  I called it incremental genocide.  This was reiterated by the United Nations report last year that talked about the de-development of Gaza in 2020, which means the Gaza Strip is under such circumstances that massive death of people and young people is inevitable.  So it becomes an incremental genocide.  But for me, genocide is also a term that talks about intention and ideology and racism.

Now there is a kind of in between, but that’s a bit too scholarly and I don’t like to use it in the world of activism.  But I’ll do this.  There is something in between the term of genocide and ethnic cleansing that, again, if I’ll refer to Patrick Wolfe, who I mentioned before.  For those of you who haven’t read his work, I really recommend this.  He has an amazing article called “The Logic of the Annihilation [sic] of the Native.”  As I said, it’s 2:00 in the morning for me, so maybe it’s not annihilation.  Where is Andrew?  Andrew, are you there?

Andrew:  The elimination.

Ilan Pappé:  The elimination.  I knew it was wrong.  Thank you.  He’s my student, so he knows he has to be awake and answer these questions even at midnight if I ask him.

So the title is “The Logic of the Elimination of the Native.” He refers to all the settler colonial societies including in this country, in the south of America, in Australia, in New Zealand and so on, in which he explains quite simply and very convincingly that the people who escaped or fled from Europe in the last three or four centuries because of all kinds of persecutions and looked for a new homeland encountered native populations that they believed they had to eliminate for the success of building this new homeland.  Here it resulted in genocide.  The same happened north of the border and south of the border.  Also in Australia it ended in genocide.

In South Africa, in Palestine, in Algeria, the methods of eliminating the native as an obstacle for creating the new homeland was not genocidal but it was bad enough.  It was bad enough.  So, yes, you can talk about the elimination of the Palestinians as a natural consequence of the logic of Zionism of all its shades and colors.  However, elimination in the 21st century with international focus on human rights and civil rights, with the internal wish of the Israelis to be part of the democratic world and maybe even genuine Israeli impulses of democracy, elimination becomes something far more complex than what I associate with genocide.

In fact, we saw the need for an accurate conversation when the terrible events unfolded in Syria in 2011.  We, as activists on behalf of Palestine in the West, struggled to keep Palestine as an issue.  When people said to us how can you compare what happens to the Palestinians with what happens in Iraq and what happens in Syria? We were trying to say, yes, but you know, we are talking about the same brutality, the same inhumanity, but we are talking about a span of 100 years.  Not four or five years.  This incremental inhumanity happens every day.  And when it happens on a daily basis, it’s not very dramatic.  It doesn’t catch the media’s attention, and you can put it aside compared to the huge massacres and horrible things that are happening in Syria and Iraq.

This is where the idea of settler colonialism as a structure is so important.  This is why it’s not necessary to talk about genocide as much as it is necessary to say that the DNA of the settler colonial state of Israel is to continue the project, as I put it in simple terms, of having as much of Palestine with as few Palestinians in it.

Now they have the whole of Palestine.  In the last 50 years they don’t have a geographical ambition anymore.  Israelis of all kinds do not want to occupy Lebanon, Jordan or Egypt.  They are satisfied with the borders that they have today.  They have a demographic issue, not a geographical issue.  And when they deal with the demographic issue, they have found a formula that one could say is working, unfortunately. That formula says you can police six million Palestinians and still the world will believe you that this is a temporary oppression, and still the world will believe you that you will stop this oppression once peace will arrive.  You still can convince the world that you are the only democracy in the Middle East and the oppression of six million people is not a relevant item when you analyze the country as a democratic state.

This is the importance of analyzing what’s happening in Israel as settler colonialism that can sometimes resort to genocide, sometimes resorts to ethnic cleansing, and quite often resorts to a charade of peace that provides it a shield of immunity from any genuine rebuke and condemnation in the global community. [APPLAUSE]

Ilan Pappé:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Ilan Pappé: The Value of Viewing Israel-Palestine Through the Lens of Settler-Colonialism

Hanan Ashrawi: The Israel Lobby and the “Peace Process” from a Palestinian Perspective

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs • The Israel Lobby and American Policy • March 24, 2017

Introduction of Hanan Ashrawi

Delinda Hanley:  I’m Delinda Hanley, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs news editor and executive director of the American Educational Trust.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi has broken through the glass ceiling that can prevent women around the world from reaching the top.  She was the first woman to be elected a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2009.  She served as the official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace Process from 1991 to 1993 and participated in the 1991-1992 Madrid Peace Conference.  In 1993, Dr. Ashrawi founded the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights, PICCR, to investigate Israeli and Palestinian human rights violations, recording her experiences in This Side of Peace: A Personal Account, which she just signed at lunch time.

In 1996, Ashrawi was elected and subsequently re-elected many times to the Palestinian Legislative Council.  In 1996, she also accepted the post of minister of higher education and research.  In 1998, Ashrawi founded and continues to serve in MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.  It is not hyperbolic to say that Dr. Ashrawi has also broken through the Palestinian sound barrier, the wall of silence in America’s media which excludes Palestinian voices.  She is the Palestinian Iron Dome.  Whenever Israel sends war planes, troops and weaponized drones to attack her people, we can count on Hanan Ashrawi to be out there trying to stop the bombs and the Israeli propaganda.  Her only weapon: her articulate, reasonable voice and demand for justice and fair play.  She will address the Israel lobby and the peace process.  Welcome, Hanan Ashrawi.


Hanan Ashrawi:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  This is indeed heartwarming and humbling.  I thank you all for coming.  Thank you, Delinda, for your invitation.  Thank you, Grant.  Thank you, Janet for picking me up also, and all the people who made this possible.  I’m delighted to be here with you.  I’m delighted to be part of this occasion, this endeavor, which in many ways is extremely timely.  It does respond to a sense of urgency, really—a need to intervene and to shape policy and discourse.  And it’s wonderful to hear all these, not just distinguished people, but very profound and persuasive people and courageous people, really, who are speaking truth to power and who are standing up for justice.  I don’t want to waste too much time because I have a lot to say.  So you have to let me know ahead of time.

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Photo Phil Pasquini.

As you know, this is a very significant occasion, because we’re talking about 100, 70, 50, and zero:

A hundred years since the Balfour Declaration.  I do hope that the Brits will not celebrate it, even though Theresa May invited [Binyamin] Netanyahu to celebrate with her.  This is a colonial legacy par excellence.

Seventy years since the partition plan that did partition Palestine and created the State of Israel, at that time on 55 percent of Palestine.

Fifty years since the occupation of 1967.

And zero time for the two-state solution.

I’m asked to talk about the Israel lobby and the peace process.  I will focus on the peace process, because you all know that the Israel lobby is never absent.  Whenever anything happens related to Palestine, it is there.  And when it comes to the peace process, they have always been a shaping force-intertwining, interweaving, intervening their presence, and at the same time maintaining their—I don’t want to say control, but their influence every step of the way.  They play a major role in shaping and influencing U.S. policy, particularly the peace process.  Since its inception, there’s a sense of ownership, that the peace process is owned by the Israeli lobby in many ways, because they’re looking out for the interests of Israel all the time.

There are various components of the lobby.  As you all know, they’re not monolithic.  They all have their impact here and there.  But the most significant impact is for the lobby groups, the special interest groups that are closest to the Israeli government in particular.  And that tends to be the more hard-line extremist groups.  Even though there are different voices, but the greatest impact is by the more extreme voices.  The most influential, of course, is AIPAC and its Washington Institute for Near East Policy—as you know, a think tank that has probably had the most direct say in terms of the peace process itself—and other organizations–the Heritage Foundation and so on.

So you have all these organizations that move from the extreme right to the center like J Street, as was being discussed before this talk.  They all have a different set of requirements and different ways of intervening.  There are different fields and players.  There’s a diversity in the pro-Israel lobby.  There’s the private sector.  And as you know [Sheldon] Adelson was trying to buy a president here, but he’s also buying a prime minister in Israel. [Irving] Moskowitz, who bought settlements, who built settlements in Jerusalem.  These are individuals in the private sector who have had a direct impact and direct intervention using their money.  Haim Saban, as you know, and Brookings, and down to the left, Danny Abraham, who has accompanied the peace process all along from a more liberal perspective.

There are institutions and think tanks with individuals feeding into them.  The most significant and you’ll hear me talk him about often not because I like him very much but because he has been the most persistent—Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and others.  Then you have academic and cultural individuals and spin doctors who have been a primary force in shaping public perceptions, including [Charles] Krauthammer, [Alan] Dershowitz, I’m sure you’re hearing him now, Daniel Pipes.  There are lots of people who are Israeli apologists and spin doctors.

Then you have religious organizations and institutions, self-appointed Israeli apologists and defenders who take the Bible literally, many of them.  And this is the extreme Zionist-Christian organizations.  They are extremely dangerous, in the sense that they do have a literal biblical exegesis that gives Israel license to do whatever it wants.  And one of them told me once, Palestinians have no right to exist because you’re standing in the way of prophecy, the fulfillment of the prophecy.  So I said, “It doesn’t sound very Christian when you advocate genocide.”

And then there are toxic organizations, as you know.  They have been very effective in distorting the Palestinian message in reality, like MEMRI.  You know, M-E-M-R-I?  You should be aware of this.  This is a most toxic organization.  It is run by Yigal Carmon, who used to be the adviser to the military governors, and he became the adviser to Shamir on terrorism and so on.  And he used to interrogate me once in a while.  But now, he has this organization with tremendous funds.  He monitors everything and then he has access to Congress, particularly to many decision makers.  He distorts Palestinian utterance and anything that is published.  We can talk about this later.  You have MEMRI, you have NGO Monitor that attempts to bad-mouth all Palestinian NGOs.  You have the PM Watch [Palestinian Media Watch], which is also waiting for any Palestinian to open his or her mouth and they attack.

And then you have publications.  I’m sure you’re hearing more and more about Breitbart, for example.  Gladstone [Observer].  These are extreme right-wing white supremacists.  Some of them are really anti-Semitic, but Zionists—very interesting, this combination.  Now, they influenced substance, structure, procedure, and priorities and objectives in the peace process.  They influenced terms of reference.  And they influenced also the players, and predominantly the U.S. role in the peace process.

I would like to mention that many of the individuals who are associated follow what I call the revolving door.  They use the revolving door as a charge against Palestinians, that when people are arrested, they are released later.  But you have a revolving door in terms of their role.  Many of them were in the State Department.  And it seems that—like Dennis and Martin—that they do go to the State Department, and then they leave and go to the Washington Institute or another pro-Israeli lobby.  Then they come back through another door in the State Department.

Now we have people in the White House who are not only lobbyists and advocates, but who are active supporters of settlements.  So it’s not enough to have settlers in the Israeli coalition government.  Now you have settlers in the White House. This is incredible.  So they don’t need to lobby.  They are decision makers.  So that’s what’s happening.  That frames in terms of influence the peace process with this revolving door.  You’ll be surprised also that ex-[U.S.] Ambassador [to Israel] Dan Shapiro, for example, decided to stay in Israel.  He’s joined the Institute for National Security Studies, which is something that also Dennis joined at one point or another—Dennis Ross.

It’s interchangeable.  Either they are influencing policy or they are making policy.  That’s why American policy was so distorted, because they played a significant role in framing and defining the discourse and perceptions, but went beyond that to manipulating the verbal public space, anything related to the peace process.  And they generated a narrative based on myths, and provided alternative facts.  It’s not Kellyanne [Conway] who invented alternative facts.  We’ve been victims of alternative facts all our lives, alternative realities.  They’ve certainly willfully misled public opinion with a fabric-I don’t want to go into details about the spin, about the hasbara, as they call it.  But it has been very active in shaping public perceptions and, hence, attitudes.

A distorted pattern emerged that was totally weighted in favor of the occupation, generating a cyclical pattern, a vicious cycle, that totally subverted progress and led to the current impasse, which has been in the making for quite a long time-since the beginning.  And they ensured that the peace process maintained its parameters within the domain of Israeli priorities and interests.

Now we are back at the beginning.  I wanted to read you a quotation from a paper in 1991, a position paper by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  And guess who wrote this?  Martin Indyk.  This is March 4, 1991 just before the peace process started, when President [George H.W.] Bush and James Baker were preparing for the 1991 Madrid process.  Some of the things he says, I mean, are being said right now.  That’s why I call it a cyclical pattern.  He says, “Israel now has a golden opportunity to deal with an indigenous Palestinian leadership in the territories before the PLO phoenix rises again.  It’s true the prime minister leads an unruly coalition of right-wing and religious parties unwilling to countenance territorial compromise in the West Bank.  But if there is a genuine offer of peace from the Arab side”-outside then-“he’s acceptable to delivering a territorial compromise on the Golan Heights and an interim deal for Palestinian self-government which leaves open the final status of the territories.”  This is the ongoing policy.  I mean, all you need to do is go to the Washington Institute website and you will find all these policy papers.

Now there’s another one.  I’m not going to read all these things, but this one is the Transition 2017: Toward a New Paradigm for Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, David Makovsky and Dennis Ross, Washington Institute.

This is another blueprint that was prepared to give to your new President [Donald] Trump—and you have my full sympathy—on how to progress.  Because they want to confiscate the language once again and confiscate the process once again and decide how it’s going to proceed.

Anyway, so the peace process, conceptually, the influence was on the terms of reference.  They made sure it dealt only with [U.N. Resolutions] 242 [and] 338, not other resolutions.  Because 242 [and] 338 deal with ’67.  They don’t deal with ’48 or the roots of the conflict, if you call it a conflict.  They also made sure that there was no reference to sovereignty or statehood for the Palestinians.  No reference to the roots of the conflict, including refugees and so on, 1948, [U.N.] Resolution 181.  No international law.  It must not apply.  Only what the parties agree to in this asymmetry of power, where you have occupier and occupied, you go and talk and you agree and we’ll agree with whatever you decide.

And of course, they used the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David Accords in order to define Palestinian objectives or rights as autonomous.  We need autonomy, functional autonomy, or self-government for the people, as though the Israeli control is a given, and therefore you deal with self-government for Palestinians.  No reference to Palestine as a country or the Palestinians as a people or a nation.  You’ve had this construct of Israel and Palestinians.  It’s never Israel and Palestine.  It’s never Israel and the Palestinians.  It’s Israel and Palestinians that we found by the wayside.

Again, I mean, look, Nikki Haley at the U.N. voted against Salam Fayyad, vetoed the appointment of Salam Fayyad as deputy secretary-general to [Antonio] Guterres.  Why?  Because the appointment had the word “Palestine.”  So we are guilty for existing.  We are guilty because we have an identity.  We are guilty because we are members of Palestine—the Palestinian nation.

Now of course, you’ve read Uri Savir’s article on Madrid II or Moshe Ya’alon’s new article on [giving] the Palestinians autonomy, or Netanyahu’s speeches here and there, particularly in Australia, when he talked about transitional phases and functional approach.  We will get to that later.  But you have enough literature to see where they’re heading with that.

On substance, the priority, of course, for the peace process was Israel’s security.  That was the primary objective.  Israel’s security is defined in military terms and maintaining military control.  Now, there is doctrine if you want a demilitarized state minus our entity, then if you want a state minus, then it has to be demilitarized.  Then Israel has to have full military control, especially control over the borders, the air space, territorial waters, and with true presence.  And of course, they want the Palestinian Authority to be the security subcontractor.

Congress in its overzealousness wanted to cut off all funds to the Palestinians.  There was a resolution—what’s her name?  I forgot her name.  Anyway, she’s the one who always comes up with these interesting resolutions about the Palestinian culpability a priori.  Kay Granger.  Any of you from Florida?  You’re really blessed with two.  Kay Granger and-what’s her name–[Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen.  Yeah, the hyphenated name.  It’s obsessive with them.

Anyway, but they have decided that they should cut off all funds from the Palestinians.  Then AIPAC went to them and said, no, no, no.  You can’t cut off funds to the security forces.  You have to keep paying the Palestinian security forces, because they’re good for Israel’s security.  Really.  It’s AIPAC that wanted funding for the Palestinian security force.  They want a subcontractor, and that to them is the primary function of any Palestinian security force.

But also, finally enough with this, it doesn’t have to do with security, but I always like to say this.  That the Congress in its overzealousness to protect Israel-who was it?  I think, Jim [Moran] was talking about it or Nick [Rahall], about how they are overzealous.  Sometimes they want to outdo AIPAC, Congress members.  Yeah, in their overzealousness to serve Israel and protect Israel, they took resolutions that gave us enormous power.  They took resolutions that any organization which accepts Palestinian membership will be defunded by the U.S. and they will not pay their fees.  They took resolutions that any convention or agreement that we accede to and so on will not be supported by the U.S.

What’s happening?  We told them, fine, we are going to join all of them.  This means the U.S. will be isolated because it will have to leave all of them.  [APPLAUSE] So can you imagine what happens when we join WIPO Intellectual Property?  What will happen to all the patents and intellectual property of the U.S.?  Or when we decide to join the Atomic Energy Commission?  But they say, if you join these things and if you accede to any agreement or convention that you will be punished.  We will not fund you.  Well, thank you very much.  Let’s accede and see what happens to the U.S. when it has no say in any international organization.  Anyway, that’s overzealousness.  Sometimes you go overboard where you punish yourself.

Not only that, but we were supposed to be held-I said this before, forgive me if I quote myself, it became a famous quote, I think-that we are being held responsible for the safety of our occupiers.  That the Israeli settlers and the Israeli army can do whatever they want to us, and we are responsible for their safety.  No Palestinian can react, not even in self-defense.  Because automatically, the terrorist label comes out and like a Post-It it’s on your forehead, you’re a terrorist.  Because a 14-year-old dared attempt to strike at a soldier carrying scissors—she was carrying scissors.  But he was on Palestinian land as an occupation soldier wearing a bullet-proof vest, wearing a helmet, and carrying a machine gun at a checkpoint on her own land.  But she’s the terrorist.  He’s the victim.  And she was the one who was shot.

delindaAshraPasq

Photo Phil Pasquini.

Anyway, we are responsible for the safety of our occupiers.  The Israeli army can go into Area A-and I hate this designation—but Area A, in which they are not supposed to come in.  And they can arrest.  They can blow up homes.  They can do whatever they want at will.  But should the Palestinian security forces try to stop them, they’re in serious trouble.  They cannot, and they’re not supposed to, stand up to the Israeli army.  Should any Palestinian react to this intense injustice, then he or she is a terrorist.

Now, in terms of the regional dimension, of course, it has become very clear and it has come back to haunt us.  Now it is called the outside-in approach.  And it’s a very sexy term now.  I’m sure you’ve read this in all the new proposed approaches to peace making, outside-in.  Let’s go to the Arabs.  Let’s go to the region.  Let’s put the API–the Arab Peace Initiative-on its head.  Let’s normalize with the Arabs, and then we can deal with the Palestinians.  This was from the beginning the Israeli lobby approach.  Two tracks, Palestinian-Israeli track, Arab-Israeli track.  Bilateral track.  Multilateral track.  Normalize.  Bring the Arabs to normalization with Israel and then the Palestinians will fall in step.  Not just that, but you transform the Palestinian issue into a domestic issue within Israel.  We can control-we’ll deal with them.  Therefore, it becomes a question of controlling the people in Palestine.  And we are a domestic issue.

I’m sure many of you have read [Isaac] Herzog’s 10-Point Plan.  Herzog is supposed to represent the more moderate, what has become the Labor Party in Israel that has been renamed as the Zionist Camp, because they have to compete with Likud on Likud’s terms.  They have to show they are more right-wing and hard-liner than the Likud.  Now, he has a plan, a 10-point plan.  Again, functional approach.  Again, gradual approach.  Put the Palestinians on probation.  I will talk about this later.

But this is Netanyahu’s constant hymn-that the Palestinians live in population centers, fragmented and localized.  Of course, the approach now is back to the Village Leagues approach.  If you remember, many of you are young enough not to remember, but some of you are old enough to remember the attempts to establish Village Leagues, localized communities, community centers, and so on.  But it takes us back even further, where you can find collaborators who will collaborate with the occupation and then our lives.  It takes us back to the Balfour Declaration, right?  Didn’t he say they want to establish a national home for the Jews but at the same time a state? Keeping in mind what the interest of—the well-being—without prejudicing the non-Jewish communities in Palestine.  We are being now addressed as the non-Jewish communities in Palestine.

Excuse me.  I mean, the majority and the basis were Palestinian—Christian, Muslim and Jewish, and some atheist, but they couldn’t be officially atheist.  That’s the majority.  We’re not the exception as being non-Jewish.  Now, it’s the minority that has become the defining factor.  Now, we are the non-Jewish community, so we are back to 100 years ago.  Of course, there were attempts at bringing together some Arab countries, like the Aqaba meeting, in order to come up with an agreement with Israel.  This time it was Netanyahu who scuttled it.  The whole approach, of course, is the substance.  It’s not ending the occupation but carrying out administrative functions, economic ease, the quality of life argument which is now part of the [Jason] Greenblatt platform.

I remember when they offered us in the early 1980s to run our lives.  They said, you can have all the powers and responsibilities of the civil administration.  We said no thank you.  We don’t want to work for the occupation.  We want the occupation to leave—then we can run our lives.  So now, this has become another focus.  We are going back to the beginning and even pre-peace process.

Four, maintain the strategic alliance between U.S. and Israel.  This was a constant focus of the peace process.  It was brought to bear on everything that was done in that context.  It has enhanced the power asymmetry and the imbalance until now.  The features of this alliance was accommodate Israeli priorities and demands, adopt their own diction and perspective.  I was going to say fiction.  Yes, most of it is fiction and perspectives.  Always frame the relationship in terms of the Judeo-Christian traditions–remember-and shared values.

So I keep asking my American friends, what shared values?  The values of occupation, of enslavement of a people, of impunity, of oppressing a whole nation, of carrying out extrajudicial executions, of demolishing homes, of stealing other people’s lands, and so on.  Are these the values you want to share with Israel?  Is this the Judeo-Christian tradition?  I don’t know.  I mean, really.  To me, it’s very strange.  Because automatically, the moment you find this fusion today, you are excluding Islamic, Buddhist, any other tradition that does not belong to this club.  And to me, Islam is one of the most tolerant religions, because it doesn’t deny the existence of the others.  It builds on Judaism and Christianity, while Judaism and Christianity supposedly cancel each other out, don’t they? Anyway.

Of course, the other myth is that Israel is the only democracy in the region.  You hear that all the time.  This is part of this alliance.  Even Theresa May talked about this when she criticized John Kerry for not vetoing the [U.N.] 2334 resolution on settlements.  How dare you criticize the only democracy in the region and our best friend, our ally?  And the Palestinians, of course, are the alien, the other, the fearful, the incomprehensible.  And even the orientalist glasses, to quote Edward Said, the late Edward Said, have come out again.  And of course, there is an automatic linkage between terrorism and Islam.  And now, it’s becoming much more evident.

Never surprise Israel with any American statement, position, or document related to the peace process.  This I know from experience, and they will admit it.  The American team, they always coordinated with the Israelis first on any American position.  They always cleared it ahead of time with the Israelis.  And if you have the Greenblatt-Friedman Plan, also you should read it, it was called a policy paper for Trump.  He was candidate Trump then and it became Trump’s policy paper on Israel.  You will see how toxic it has become.  It was read by him as an AIPAC speech.

Again, never allow or express any public censure or criticism of Israel.  That’s why they reacted in such a hysterical manner.  They waxed ballistic just for the mere fact that the U.S. abstained on settlements, when a few years earlier they had vetoed a resolution on settlements, which violate international law and so on.  Therefore, they’re not used to accepting any kind of criticism or censure, let alone sanctions.

Always use the positive approach with Israel.  Incentives, rewards, advanced payments, inducements, and so on.  When we started the talks, they immediately got the Zionism is Racism resolution nullified.  You know that.  And then they got the diplomatic recognition, trade agreements, and so on.

Another thing, of course—incentivizing Israel, including Europe.  I can give you many examples how Europe used this approach too.  Conversely, you use pressure, threats, and blackmail on the Palestinians.  Exploit the weakness of Palestine and augmenting Israeli power and control.  Of course, this was the special contribution of AIPAC, ZOA, and others, the Council of Presidents [of Major American Jewish Organizations].  And drafting Congressional resolutions that always adopted punitive measures against the Palestinians especially if we joined organizations like the ICC [International Criminal Court] and IC3 [Internet Crime Complaint Center].  How dare you hold Israel accountable?  Israel is above the law.  Hence, the Palestinians are always on probation, on good behavior.  We have to prove that we deserve our rights.  We have to prove that we deserve human recognition.  It’s a test that we have to demonstrate that we are worthy, the test of merit.

I’m sure you’ve read Dershowitz’s horrible article posted on the Gatestone Institute website, in which he says, “Palestinians must earn the two-state solution.”  And of course, he proceeded to give a fake version of history.  I have news for him, the Palestinians don’t think that the two-state solution is a fair or just solution.  It was a major painful compromise by the Palestinians.  [APPLAUSE] So it’s not our aspiration to give away 78 percent of our land.  It is a compromise that we made in order to give our children a future and a life in freedom and dignity and to exercise our right to self-determination.  Now, Israel, and probably the world, are not very keen on seeing it happen.  Well, I’ll get to that later.

Now, always blame the Palestinians in the blame game.  I can give you many examples from the Clinton Parameters, even when there was discussion in Camp David in 2000.  I was there.  We were told, you will not be blamed.  Give it your best shot.  And I remember Yasser Arafat told them, “We are not ready.  The talks have not progressed enough to have a summit in Camp David.”  Clayton Swisher is here.  I don’t know if you remember, right?  He said, “We are not ready.”  And both Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton said, give it your best shot.  We won’t blame you.  What happened later?  The whole mess of the generous offer.  We were blamed when there was no offer.  I said, “Show me.  Show me a concrete offer on the table.”  There were all these different groups discussing different issues in a fragmented way, but there was no generous offer that the Palestinians—and this myth gained a life of its own, actually.

Now every time you hear an Israeli apologist, he or she will say, you see the Palestinians refused the generous offer.  And we have to earn it.  Always blame the Palestinians.  We said that, again, the roadmap.  Do you remember the roadmap, 2002-2003?  Sharon placed 14 reservations on the roadmap that totally nullified and negated it.  They came out and said, the Israelis accepted the roadmap.  The Palestinians didn’t.  The Palestinians accepted the roadmap knowing that it’s not perfect or ideal.  But we knew that Sharon was rejecting it.  So the issue was that Sharon accepted it and not even a footnote about the 14 reservations.  But the Palestinians didn’t.  I don’t know where they get their version of history.

Again, John Kerry’s initiative on 2014.  You remember when he tried this initiative.  He tried to do more of the same thinking that he will get a different result, or thinking that he might get one.  Anyway, he promised.  He said that any party that scuttles or undermines or rejects or whatever the peace talks will be publicly blamed.  So what happened?

The Palestinians dutifully went to these negotiations knowing full well that we took a decision not to go, frankly speaking, because there were no terms of reference.  There were no clear objectives.  There was nothing to tell Israel to stop settlement activities, to respect signed agreements, to release prisoners and so on.  And John Kerry said, try your best.  He was given a verbal promise, an oral promise by the Israelis that they will minimize settlements, that they will release prisoners.

What did they do?  Immediately, they escalated settlements.  They escalated violence.  They shot a few people at checkpoints.  And then they refused to release the last installment of prisoners.  So where is the blame?  Both sides.  They’re not ready.  What?  The Palestinian leadership lost its constituency for going to these negotiations when they weren’t assured of the substance and outcome.  And the Israelis deliberately violated their commitments and obligations, and they weren’t blamed.  There were some leaks here and there that the settlements were bad.

In that context, I have to mention this.  It’s a very racist statement that makes me very angry.  Abba Eban said this, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”  It has been used to bash the Palestinians and to feed these misconceptions and distortions forever.  So every time you hear this, I think you have to reverse this.  It’s the Israelis that missed historic opportunities to make peace and totally destroyed the chances of peace.  We’re not on the defensive.  We don’t have to prove that we miss opportunities, because we never had one.

Of course, the other terms, like the leitmotifs of our reality, have been shaped by the Israeli lobby.  Like, Hamas rockets raining down on Israeli towns and villages.  Have you heard this?  And it’s repeated verbatim by everybody in Congress and outside Congress.  Nobody asked how many did they kill, and nobody asked how many Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. And nobody asked about the siege and the assault and so on.  It’s as if people in Gaza decided to wake up one day and manufactured these homemade pipes and threw them out of the blue because they’re terrorists by definition.  Again, Palestinian terrorism, incitement, and violence.

Now, you cannot mention Israeli settlements without finding a force equivalent with incitement.  Palestinians incite.  Palestinians incite to violence.  Palestinians think that their prisoners are heroes, and they are terrorists.  So you adopt the language of the Israelis that everybody who’s a Palestinian is a terrorist.  But since 1967, Israel has imprisoned more than 800,000 Palestinians, including myself and many others of my friends.  And so I don’t think there are 800,000 terrorists.  People who did not acquiesce to the occupation or accept to have their spirit broken—these are not terrorists.  Israel has killed more than 75,000 Palestinians since ’67.  Who are the terrorists?

Now again, there are new preconditions.  The refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, that’s our fault.  Either we become Zionists or we are not fit for human company.  Again, any criticism of Israel is conflated with anti-Semitism.  You’ve heard this before.  So this is one way of censoring and silencing criticism.  And the Palestinians are not a peace partner.  We don’t have a peace partner among the Palestinians.  I can’t tell you how many types of negotiations there were, needless negotiations from direct to indirect, to proximity talks, to bilateral, to multilateral, to long-distance talks, to exploratory talks.  And at the end, we even had epistolary talks, exchanges of letters.  We’ve been talked out, frankly speaking.  But it was a good peace process because Israel used it as a cover to create facts on the ground, to negate the very substance and to destroy the objective of the talks.  So here we are.

Now, while the process is ongoing, never allow any issue critical of Israel to be brought before the U.N.  This is something ongoing—again, massive lobbying.  I don’t want to give you too many examples, but we don’t have time.  I know I’ve run over my time.  Should I stop? [AUDIENCE SAYS NO]  Okay.

So use the veto, and at the same time protect Israel’s impunity.  Enable Israel but maintain Palestinian vulnerability.  We shouldn’t have access to international organizations or international law to protect our rights and our lands.  But Israel has the full right to act outside the law.  No sanctions or punitive measures from any party anywhere, no accountability and so on.  And this generated a culture of entitlement, exceptionalism, preferential treatment and privilege in Israel which in itself justifies the subjugation, discrimination, violence, and total captivity of the Palestinian people, and especially the continued military assaults on Gaza.

Palestinian lives in Gaza have been reduced to abstractions.  They are numbers; they’re not human beings.  The murder of civilians doesn’t count.  It’s the fact that there were 70 soldiers who were killed, that’s very important.  But they [Palestinians] were being attacked, bombed from the air.  Ninety-two families totally obliterated from the population register.  It doesn’t matter.  And yet, you blame the victim because Hamas was using these people as human shields.  Therefore, they have the right to kill them.  Of course, the occupier is claiming self-defense.  They are defending themselves against their own victims.  I’ve never heard this logic before in all history.

Then, the structure and participants, the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation as you know, now it’s back again, the whole issue of the Jordanian option, the alternative homeland, the confederation, that it’s a Jordanian issue.  When they said no Palestinians from the PLO and no Palestinians from Jerusalem, that’s precisely because they didn’t want a national address for the Palestinians, a localized address.  Village Leagues, communities, and so on, but not the right to self-determination and not Jerusalem.

Again, there was a division of labor.  I will skip a few things.  That the U.S. is in charge of the political process, but Europe and the Arabs are in charge of signing checks.  So the political decisions are up to the U.S.  It’s a monopoly.  The others have to work on nation building.  Because you see, we have to prove that we deserve a state, even though it is a right enshrined in international law—the right to self-determination.  Again, proof of merit.

Even then, for the U.S. to participate directly in the talks, it had to get Israel’s permission.  They couldn’t participate unless Israel invited them to participate or asked them to participate with their approval.  So Israel positioned itself as a gatekeeper to the peace process.  And the Europeans followed step.  They always had to give them inducements and advance payments and rewards and so on to allow them to play a role.  If you are the occupying power and you are the gatekeeper, what kind of peace process is this where you exclude others?

Procedurally, the phased approach, conflict management, open-ended process—you can look at all these documents I gave you.  And of course, the deal, we had to deal with administrative, technical, peripheral issues first.  Postpone the real issues and get no guarantees on that.  No mechanisms for arbitration, monitoring and verification, although all negotiations should have those—even though I still believe negotiations between occupying and occupied are illegal.  They violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, by the way.  And it has to be done between equal parties.  But when you have a situation of occupation, where one party exercises total control over the others, any agreement will be illegal because it will be reached under duress and with undue influence and force.

And then the whole issue of pocket and proceed.  This is happening with things like the land swaps.  There was never any agreement on the land swap.  But somehow they decided that, yes, land swaps, because they want to keep the settlement blocs no matter what.  All settlements are illegal, whether they are blocs or whether they are outposts or whether they are mobile homes or whatever.  They are all illegal.  So we never agreed to having settlement blocs as being legal or remaining.  Now, they talk about it as a foregone conclusion, or that there will be land swaps.  It was very difficult to accept the ’67 boundaries.  Now, we have to give away Jerusalem, the Jerusalem environment, Ariel, Gush Etzion, all this.  So they pocket and proceed, including the issue of refugees, by the way.

The process is a process for its own sake.  Now, using prolongation and stalling, it is the Dennis Ross logic, I call it, where so long as there’s a process, God is in his heaven, all is well with the world.  Let the two parties speak.  And then Israel can do whatever it wants on the ground, which is an endless process.  It became an abstraction.  It became a tool for Israeli power and expansionism and so on.  And they cover for the occupation.  So negotiations became an objective, not a tool to get somewhere.

Hayes Hanan Pasquni

Photo Phil Pasquini.

Now, we are back at the beginning, as I said.  At one point, there was one point in which there was talk of ’67 boundaries, two states.  It started with George Bush and Clinton talking about two states.  It wasn’t, by the way, Obama who was bashed by Israel for mentioning ’67.  It was Clinton and George Bush.  It was George Bush actually who talked about ’67 and the two states. You’ll be surprised.  And then now, the cycle is completed.  We’re going back to all the issues of the functional approach, non-sovereign approach, gradual approach, and so on.

With Greenblatt, I just want to mention quickly-there are two things I cannot skip.  The fact that we are not a demographic problem for Israel, please do not accept this. [APPLAUSE]  We are a nation with our rights, with our history, with our culture, and we abide by international law.  I don’t believe any other country in the world is allowed to discriminate against the people because it wants to maintain the ethnic or religious purity of its own entity at all.  So we cannot be a demographic problem to scare the Israelis into giving us our little statelet or state minus, as they say.

Now, they are busy superimposing Greater Israel on historical Palestine.  What are the options if they destroyed and they are destroying the two-state solution?  Is it the ongoing state of apartheid that exists?  Of course, again, they waxed hysterical when people described them as being apartheid.  Note what happened to Rima Khalaf.  Because now, the U.N. is echoing the language of Israel at the behest of Netanyahu and Danny Danon, and all these people who formulate that language.  If the situation will continue then it will run its course as an ongoing perpetual occupation, conflict, extremism.  Or are we going to have a qualitative shift?  Maybe we need to de-Zionize Israel rather than Zionize the Palestinians.

I have to stop.  Okay.  I will talk later about what Greenblatt did.  But I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Thank you very much.  It’s a pleasure.  Thank you.

[APPLAUSE]

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Hanan Ashrawi: The Israel Lobby and the “Peace Process” from a Palestinian Perspective

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