The end of Palestinian Statehood is a beginning for Decolonization

The basic opposition at this point to the two state solution is not world opinion or america or geo-strategic considerations or the Arab world or the Palestinians, but Israeli public opinion and the Israeli leadership. Since Oslo, Israeli politiciens have used the “peace offensive” of the Palestinians to lower the cost of the occupation and speed up colonization in the West Bank.

The political difference between Israel/USA and the rest of the world rests on a disagreement about the basic principle at the basis of the negotiations. Even since before Oslo, the Palestinians and the global consensus have pushed for negotiations on the basis of international law, whereas Israel/USA have pushed for negotiations on the basis of “direct talks”, which means on the basis of the political power imbalance between a state and a resistance group politically tied to the commitment of ending resistance. Within the “direct negotiations” framework, the power imbalance is simply too extreme to come to a settlement which is acceptable to the Palestinian people – most would rather return to resistance rather than live in a non-viable state with no part of Jerusalem as its capital.

It’s easy to say that the the problem with the idea of compromise is it assumes that the stronger party is rational enough to give up some of its privilege to come to a settlement acceptable to both sides. Israeli society has been choosing against peace for years by electing governments more committed to counter-terrorism and colonization than to recognition of Palestinian rights and working towards creating a viable Palestinian state. The more difficult thing is to recognize the dishonesty in continuing to affirm a politics based on the lies told by entrenched elites, which no longer have the function of moving towards a two state settlement but are now mostly part of a game of maintaining their power.

The radical position to take today is to recognize that the Palestinian people are no longer represented by the leadership of the Palestinian Revolution – Oslo has gutted the PLO and has disenfranchised most Palestinians. Any two state solution based on the current elites will merely be an entrenchment and humanization of the occupation, with nothing for the refugees and nothing for the million Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship. However, the radical insight is not this but the recognition that Israeli society can no longer be considered a potential party in peace negotiations, but a racist, colonial people who have overwhelmingly chosen apartheid over peace by ramping up settlements and destroying the viability of a Palestinian state.

I think a more productive role that solidarity activists can take today is to ally not with the corrupt Palestinian leadership who continues to be committed to a solution systematically undermined by Israeli unilateral actions, but with the Palestinian diaspora against the intransigence, corruption and the lack of genuine political leadership on both sides. Rather than striving to create another Lebanon in Palestine, the time has come for the youth to embrace a future free of the quick equivocation between religion and nationality, but instead to recognize nationality as something only of worth insofar as it is liberating, and once national freedom is achieved to move forward to the next liberation. As a Palestinian poet I recently saw declared, “I would burn this flag and my keffiyeh if my people were not burning”.

Such a political program based on liberation rather than essentialized communities already has a historical figuration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: it was taken up by Fatah and the Marxist factions in the late 60s and early 70s as they created alliances with anti-colonial third world liberation movements all around the world. And they developed quite a sophisticated analysis of how to persuade Israeli jews to join them in their struggle against the ethnic nationalism of the Israeli state. This program can be read about in this early 70s publication by the General Union of Palestinian Students in Kuwait.

Unfortunately, the PLO never lived up to its highest ideals and over time resentment and eventually religious nationalism won the day. This doesn’t mean a return to anti-racist politics is impossible, however, especially if led by the youth on both sides. Equality, religious freedom, and indigenous rights have a lot to offer to Palestinians. And all that Israelis are asked to give up is religious and colonial privilege. The principle of de-colonization, led by the youth, and supported by a non-violent resistance campaign around the world can give force to ideals worth fighting for in Israel/Palestine today. And while Israel has hardly been a light unto the nations, its decolonization could serve as a shining example of historical justice that could help open the way for the decolonization of other places around the world where European settlers continue to deny their role in the disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples.



  1. I’m quite confident, if left to their own devices, that Palestinians and Israelis could coexist. Unfortunately, the political elite are never going to let that happen. The real question is how can people come together in spite of the political elite. As I’ve always contended, peace was never the objective of peace talks – chaos was.


    1. I don’t agree with the idea of dismissing political leadership, as fashionable as it is today. If people are organized, there will always be leaders – the problem is how to have good leaders, and how to embody good values in institutions and revolutionary movements. The creation of Palestinian Student Movements are an inspiring example of this.

      I also think it’s pessimistic to a point of fault to argue that “chaos” was the goal of peace talks. Chaos is no one’s goal, unless you believe the “war on terror” discourse. The goal of the talks from the Palestinian point of view was a two-state settlement, and from the Israeli point of view the goal was the legitimization of the occupation and the expansion of settlements. The intifada was organized, but its goal was not chaos but to change the balance of power so Israel would agree to an acceptable political settlement.


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