Two very typical things regarding Palestine occurred recently. The first relates to the passage by the UN Human Rights Council of a resolution to condemn companies that benefit from and facilitate the building of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. It also calls on the Council to compile a list, updated yearly, of such companies. The EU and the US, at Israel’s urging, sought to blackmail the PA into removing the article about the database in return for supporting the rest of the resolution (after failing to bully the into PA withdrawing resolution in its entirety).
What this illustrates, once again, is that western powers are perfectly happy to condemn the illegal actions of Israel that they tacitly support and facilitate, but refuse to take action and seek to ban all others from taking action. Countless times, we have heard that settlements harm the peace process. Countless times, the US, UK, EU and Canada have condemned the appropriation of Palestinian land for the building of such settlements. The US even has a law stating that products made in settlements may not be labeled “Made in Israel.” Despite all this, no action is taken by the liberal, democratic, human rights defending western powers. These laws are not enforced. No pressure is put upon Israel to stop its expansionists policies. Israel known this, and the Netanyahu government seems to take special pleasure in announcing the appropriation of West Bank land and the issuing of permits for building more settlement houses on occasions of visits by Vice President Joe Biden.
The rest of us know this too. But when we, or the UN, try to take practical steps to end this practice that everyone agrees is illegal and damaging to the future of both peoples, the liberal democratic human rights defending west falls over itself in attempting to stop it. That is what happened when the PA went to FIFA and decided at the last minute not to seek Israel’s suspension. That is what happened with the Human Rights Council resolution (although the PA stuck to its guns this time). And that is what’s happening right now with bans and condemnations of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in the US, UK, and Canada. The message from our governments is clear: we will say all of the right words, but we won’t do anything to follow them up. And if you try, we will condemn you and silence you.
The second typical thing was a speech given by President Obama recently in which he stated that a bi-national, one-state solution was also not the answer:“That isn’t a solution that will bring stability because of the great distrust between the Jewish people and the Palestinians. The only way to solve the crisis is with two states for two peoples.” Such is the dominance of the two-state solution paradigm that it makes the impossible seems preferable to equality. What, I ask , is truly more likely? The removal of 600,000 settlers and all of the other prerequisites necessary for a viable, sustainable (but still inherently unjust) two state solution? Or the building of trust between two peoples that had coexisted for hundreds of years until the arrival of ethnic-national settler-colonial appropriation and ethnic cleansing?If you end the ongoing settler colonialism and make right the ethnic cleansing, the”distrust” you believe is so impossible to overcome will dissipate faster than you could ever create “two states for two people.”
Finally, the myth of two states for two peoples is one of the most damaging fallacies of the Oslo political process. It serves to erase the nearly two million Palestinian citizens of Israel who are subject to discriminatory laws in Israel because they are not Jewish. In these imaginary “two states for two peoples,” where are these non-Jewish citizens? Are they not deserving of equal rights? Why are we trying so hard to protect a state that has two sets of laws for two peoples based on ethnic identity? And what about the five to six million Palestinian refugees similarly removed from this conversation? Do they not deserve a place in the conversation? I believe, Mr. Obama, that the only thing that will bring the stability we all desire is through true justice, not an insistence on a failed peace process that only obscures apartheid and settler-colonial expansion. And if you refuse, don’t make it illegal for us to do so.