HALPER: A just Israeli-Palestinian peace: towards an integrated strategy 24Feb11 March 1, 2011

by Jeff Halper  -  Middle East Window.com –  24 February 2011

The more I deal with the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more I sense a need for an integrated three-pronged strategy if we really intend to end the Occupation.

Level 1: Focused Campaigns Around Specific Issues. There are many issues that, together, comprise the Occupation: Israel’s policy of house demolitions and massive land expropriation, the Caterpillar campaign and the issue of American and European corporate involvement in the repression of the Palestinians, Israelis refusing military service, the construction of the Wall, Israel’s violations of its “Association Agreements” with the EU, the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of fruit and olive trees, the misery caused by “the Closure,” and all the others. Each is important in and of itself. What is important, it seems to me, is to use each issue to expose another part of the Occupation, and eventually to show the connections among them all, the web of injustice and suffering that defines the Occupation.

The trick is to find the issues inside the issue, what it is that makes it a significant part of the Occupation. The campaign against house demolitions (or the Wall), for example, is significant on several levels. Every family story graphically portrays the Occupation for a public for whom it is otherwise distant and abstract. It presents a compelling counter-framing to Israel’s contention that it is only combating terrorism. Resistance to demolition and rebuilding activities raise the crucial question: Why did Israel demolish that home? That, in turn, gives us an opening to begin to explain the logic behind demolitions (to confine Palestinians to small enclaves), and therefore behind the Occupation in general. It enables us to expose the Occupation’s complex workings, its use of planning, administration and legal mechanisms to achieve political ends. From there emerges a grounded analysis that helps focus on the main components of the Occupation, thereby strengthening the overall effort to end it.

The refusers issue has the same potential.

Level 2: Focused Campaigns Around the Wider Political Situation.

Activism “on the ground,” although necessary to protest unjust actions and policies, does not change policies. It must be integrated with a strategy of political change. By the same token, campaigns directed at specific policies – house demolitions, Caterpillar, refusing military service, the Wall, Israel’s “Association Agreements” with the EU, and all the others – are important to pursue in and of themselves. But they, too, must be integrated into a strategy for changing Israeli policies, for furthering Palestinian aspirations for self-determination and, in the end, for bringing about a just peace in the Middle East. These seemed like impossible tasks for small and marginal “grassroot groups” in the past, which is why many activists remain in the confined world of protest; they simply do not believe they can be actors in the same field as governments and corporations.

In the past several decades, however, a new superpower has emerged in the scene: the international civil society. Us. Able to physically meet in world-wide Social Forums, anti-globalization manifestations, coordinated demonstrations against the war in Iraq involving millions globally, having the internet and other instruments of communication at our service, recognized by the UN and other international bodies as legitimate NGO participants in the formulation of human rights covenants (as in Nairobi, Rio, Beijing and Durban), our efforts supported by an ever-expanding corpus of international law increasingly enforced by international institutions such as the International Court of Justice and, now, the International Criminal Court, we are in a position to challenge the monopoly of states in perpetuating situations of oppression. We have a long way to go, of course. States do not surrender their sovereignty willingly. Yet we have achieved enough of a critical mass that we can rightfully demand to be included in international policy-making. This will happen, of course, only if we view ourselves as players, not merely as isolated protest groups.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents a major milestone in the emergence of an international civil society. It is emblematic not only for the Arab and Muslims worlds, but for us as well. Here two conceptions of how the world should work have squared off. Israel’s Occupation, Sharon and Bush, represent the “Old World Order” in which military and economic power, domination of the strong over the weak, the North over the South, dependence, de-development, misery, constricted lives and demonized cultures rule the way we live. The fight against these things does not mean support only of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, but for a radically new world order based on universal human rights, international law, peace, justice, multiculturalism, people power and a level playing field for everyone. It also represents Israel’s only opportunity to integrate into the Middle East and save its own skin, since military strength, dominance over others by sheer force and injustice is empirically short-lived. The stakes are high, and not only for Palestinians and Israelis. Lose here and the new world we are slowly ushering in will be set back by years.

I am not saying all this to unnecessarily complicate our efforts to end the Occupation, only to emphasize that support for Israel is so entrenched in the world arms trade and in American foreign policy that it will entail cooperation among a wide range of civil society groups. Activist groups supporting local Palestinian and Israeli ones keep attention focused on what is happening “on the ground” by pursuing specific issues.

What seems to be called for is a three-pronged strategy against the Israeli Occupation that highlights both Israel’s strategy “on the ground” to perpetuate its control under the guise of a “two-state solution” while highlighting the source of its ability to impose its will on the Palestinians: its position at the center of US foreign policy and the arms trade.

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