The official Arab World seems to be intent on betraying the Palestinian people through an ongoing process of normalization that was launched by the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in the late 1970s, and continued by the Jordanians and the PLO in the early 1990s. This led to the UAE and Bahrain joining in, giving legitimacy to a settler colonial project in the heart of the Middle East.
It has become crystal clear for the Palestinian people that we have to give up on relying on most Arab governments. Only civil society–including opposition parties, syndicates, unions, clubs, women’s organizations and others — is able to mobilize true support for an end to Israel’s unprecedented crimes against the three components of the Palestinian people: the Palestinians in the 1967 occupied territories, 1948 Palestinian citizens of Israel, and refugees in the diaspora.
Hence, the importance of the lessons we have learned from the South African struggle against the inhumane apartheid regime. Our inspiration is the anti-apartheid movement, and the intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime. It can do the same thing in support of a just peace in Palestine. Nothing can force Israel to abide by international law except people of conscience and civil society.
We Palestinians are no longer interested in the sterile opposition to the normalization process initiated by the Camp David Treaty and the Oslo Accords, and solidified by the Gulf Sheikhdoms. Rather, we are keen on formulating the kind of response that could actually defeat the multi-tiered system of Zionist oppression: occupation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. The moment that the international community — civil society and governments — decides to act the same way that it did against the apartheid system in South Africa, Israel will succumb to the voice of reason represented by the 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). This call was issued by more than 170 civil society organizations and endorsed by almost all influential political forces in historic Palestine and the diaspora. The ruling oligarchy of the Gulf states will also learn a lesson, namely the power of ordinary people is what matters. These countries, comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC,) are what the late Saudi writer Abdelrahman Munif calls “Cities of Salt.” Exactly like salt which dissolves in water very quickly, those big, glittering cities, from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Jedda and Manama, will crumble the moment another source of energy other than petrol is discovered.
But we Palestinians, together with freedom loving people, have an urgent question to address. How long will the world tolerate Israel’s blatant constitutional racism, ethnic cleansing policies, and settler colonialism? We know for a fact that it took the international community more than thirty years to heed the call made by the oppressed people of South Africa. How long will the oppressed people of Palestine have to wait?
Isn’t it crystal clear to those normalizing Arab oligarchies that Israel, supported by the insane government of the United States, is intent on liquidating the Palestinian cause all together? In spite of all these long years of oppression and thousands of reports from mainstream human rights bodies, and the denial of basic rights to education, free movement, employment and health provision, Palestinians are being blamed by their brethren for not being flexible enough! Palestinians are deprived of a normal life by more than 600 Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem; the medieval siege of Gaza; and the official apartheid discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens in Israel itself. To put it bluntly, we are discriminated against because they are not Jews, just as Black South Africans were discriminated against simply because they were not white.
We believe that it is our right to expect Arab peoples to join us in our struggle against Israel’s apartheid by boycotting the racist and militarized regime and the institutions that keep it thriving. Exactly like the Blacks of South Africa before us, we rely increasingly on international law and solidarity for our very survival, especially from our own brethren.
The official Palestinian leadership has been threatening to take some serious steps that may include doing away altogether with the Oslo process, but without reaching the only logical conclusion; i.e. moving toward a one-state solution. Israel has already started moving towards annexing 30 percent of the occupied West Bank in what is seen as a declaration of the end of the dream of an ‘independent’ Palestinian state on 22 percent of historic Palestine. It is the realization of this dream that pro-Oslo intellectuals elevated as the ultimate goal justifying the heavy price the Palestinians have been paying.
Isn’t it high time that the Palestinian people move away from the illusion of the two-state solution and try a democratic approach, one that can guarantee their basic rights – freedom, equality, and justice?
Israel is a settler-colonialist, apartheid state and the tools used against apartheid South Africa can be the model in our struggle against apartheid Israel. Transforming Israel from an ethno-religious, apartheid state into a genuinely democratic entity should be the objective of every single person who believes in liberal democracy.