This is the transcript for the Empire episode Palestine state ... of mind (Thursday, October 6, 2011)

Marwan Bishara

Hello and welcome to Empire. I am Marwan Bishara. 

After more than 60 years of dispossession, 40 years of occupation and 20 years of failed peace process, the Palestinians came here to the United Nations asking for justice.

They asked for the withdrawal of Israeli occupation, and the recognition of their State. 

Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President

We’ve made application for the admission of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders, with al-Quds as its capital, as a full member of the United Nations. 

Marwan Bishara

What they got back was this ...

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister

The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their State. 

Marwan Bishara

And this ... 

David Cameron, UK Prime Minister

Peace will only come when Palestinians and Israelis sit down and talk to each other. 

Marwan Bishara

And this ... 

President Obama, United States President

Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. 

Marwan Bishara

An orchestrated campaign to kill their long overdue membership in the Community of Nations. 

Professor Richard A Falk, UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR, PALESTINE

Israel has made it so abundantly clear that it will not be pushed on these basic issues, and the Western countries led by the US have made it abundantly clear that they will go along with whatever Israel refuses to do. 

R. Nicholas Burns, INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY

I think this is a diplomatic train wreck and everyone’s going to suffer. 

It’s also very detrimental to the United States. 

For the United States to have to be put into the position of vetoing the aspirations of a Palestinian people for a State, a position that we support, we support a Palestinian State, is actually a defeat for diplomacy.

David Cameron

If you stand by and watch people …

Nicolas Sarkozy

The situation …

Marwan Bishara

They who lectured us on democracy and freedom in the Arab world, they couldn’t see that Palestinians are also Arabs. 

Observe the same rights…

Catherine Ashton, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF

We expect the parties to come together within four weeks …

Marwan Bishara

Instead they concocted another phase of diplomatic process …

Catherine Ashton

… that within three months we would want to see a significant progress on borders and security.

Hilary Clinton

We are meeting to talk about the way forward.  More to come.

Marwan Bishara

It’s dejavu all over again. 

President Clinton

Children of Abraham …

Benjamin Netanyahu

Brothers.

President Clinton

… have embarked together on a bold learning curve.

President Bush, Former US President

The United States will be actively engaged in the process.

Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State

Two States working side by side. 

Tony Blair, Middle East Peace mediator and former UK Prime Minister

A re-launch and revitalised renewed negotiation. That’s the best thing.

President Bush

I believe now is precisely the right time to begin these negotiations.

President Obama

Do we have the wisdom and the courage to walk the path of peace? 

Marwan Bishara

Apparently not. 

But who are they anyway to dictate what happens? Who appointed them?

Professor Richard Falk

In this conflict particularly the US has been able to call the tune, and others have followed. 

Marwan Bishara

The International Quartet of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN was created in 2002 who tried to break the deadlock peace process.

Hilary Clinton

The Quartet proposal represents the firm conviction of the International Community. 

Marwan Bishara

Almost a decade later, the Quartet has utterly failed. 

Professor Richard Falk

It was imprudent of the UN to join the Quartet and possibly a violation of their role as an independent, international institution. 

R. Nicholas Burns

The mediator, the United States, the European Union, Russia, the UN, have not put on the table our own ideas for what the shape of the Peace Treaty would be between Israel and the Palestinians. Where the borders would be, what would happen to the settlements in the West Bank, and if those two parties are unwilling or incapable of even starting on those tough issues, perhaps the mediator, the United States, needs to be more assertive in putting those views on the table.

Marwan Bishara

Really? The US? 

So we’re back to square one. 

Whether you are calling on, recommending, urging, censoring, deploring, strongly deploring, and condemning the Israeli occupation, and doing nothing to break the stalemate. 

Prof. Richard Falk

Delay is not neutral. The Israelis have consistently used the occupation to create the so-called facts on the ground, and so the longer the delay, the worse off the Palestinians are. 

Marwan Bishara

Meanwhile the Palestinians feel betrayed by an indifferent America and a complicit Europe. 

The only winners are the radical Israelis. 

Joining me to discuss the future of Palestine in light of US rejection of the United Nations bid are Nadia Hijab, director of Al-Shabaka Palestine Policy Network. She’s the author of Woman Power, the Arab debate on women at work, and Citizens Apart a portrayal of Palestinians in Israel.

Joseph Massad, professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University is the author of Desiring Arabs and The Persistence of the Palestinian Question

Mouin Rabbani, senior fellow at the Institute of Palestine Studies is the contributing Editor for The Middle East Report, and last but not least Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute of International Affairs at the American University in Beirut. Is the author of That view from East of Jordan and Perspectives on a Just Peace in the Middle East.

Rami, Just Peace in the Middle East, well we’re gonna have to talk about that. 

But first let’s start with the UN, you know the Palestinians made quite a splash there at the UN, but have they achieved anything? Were you impressed, were you positively surprised by Abbas’s speech? 

Professor Joseph Massad, ARAB POLITICS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

I was slightly surprised by Abbas’s speech because there was an attempt to actually speak of the injustice that has been visited on the Palestinian people since 1948 but he did use diplomatic language that did not actually list or condemn or show precisely the kinds of details of this injustice since 1948. 

He spoke of the Nekbah but did not speak of the actual expulsion and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. He spoke of the destruction of Palestinian society in a way without actually speaking about the actual destruction of Palestinian towns, the confiscation of Palestinian property, the refusal to repatriate Palestinians to their homes, even though he spoke of course about the right of the refugees in accordance with United Nations resolutions. 

So in some ways he did speak and list some of the important crimes, but by no means all of the important crimes that Israel has committed and continues to commit against the Palestinian people, and most of all did not in fact elaborate on what Israel gets to have as rights granted by the UN, and what it doesn’t. 

Israel has existed since 1948 with a battery of racist laws maintaining Jewish colonial and racist privilege inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories. When the United Nations granted Israel the possibility of establishing a State, it called a Jewish State, the United Nations stipulated in the 1947 Partition Plan that the Jewish State would not be allowed to confiscate the land of non Jews, would not be allowed to treat non Jews differentially by laws, and would not be allowed to actually expel them from their lands. 

Yet this is exactly what Israel has done, and it claims it has the right to do so as a Jewish State because it alleges that such a right was granted to it by the United Nations when it was not.

Marwan Bishara

You had the same impression Rami? 

Professor Rami Khouri, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

Well I think the speech, like any speech, is a collection of words. If the speech is backed by serious political action it has meaning. If it’s simply rhetoric, it has very little significance. I mean what he said was fine, it articulates ideas that many people share, but it has zero political impact as a speech, as we saw from Obama’s speeches that sound really nice, but if they’re not backed by concerted political action that is legitimate and undertaken by a credible actor, it has no meaning, and I think the Palestinians are in this very difficult situation of having a leadership, the Abbas leadership, which is a margin leadership that represents a small group of Palestinians, has very little international clout, and if he’s gonna make a speech  he should be making a speech to the Palestinians camp or Hussain camp, Palestinian, his constituency and not to the world, because he didn’t really I think advance the cause, other than simply putting it on the agenda one more time and shaking up the …

Marwan Bishara

So despite what Joseph said about the words and the importance of all these elements going in, what you’re saying is that speech is not policy. 

Professor Rami Khouri

Oh absolutely. As the great political analyst Mick Jagger said, it’s the singer not the song! But if the person making the speech doesn’t have either big legitimacy, and credibility, or a political force that he can engage on the ground, then the speech is meaningless. 

Marwan Bishara

And then President Obama poured cold water anyway on whatever President Abbas was going to say.

Nadia Hijab, DIRECTOR, AL-SHABAKA NETWORK

Yeah, I mean Obama has just moved further and further and further away from his initial desire to see a solution in his, his first term, and he’s really totally focused on the elections that are coming up. It was noticed by pretty much everybody that he spoke about Jewish suffering, didn’t speak about Palestinian suffering, didn’t mention settlements. He didn’t do, he didn’t do anything. But, I mean this is, this is good in a sense because it exposes completely for anyone that still had any doubts left about where the American administration is coming from and what it can do, and leaves the Palestinians to rebuild, to focus on rebuilding their national movement. 

What I really noticed about Abbas’s speech is that he was trying, as best he could without alienating his international sponsors, to speak to a Palestinian audience and to answer some of the questions that the Palestinians have been throwing at him, which is what happens to the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, if we get a State at the United Nations, that’s what Palestinians are saying, and he tried to answer that by saying the PLO would remain the sole legitimate representative. 

Marwan Bishara

Meaning to differentiate between a Palestinian Settlement in the West Bank and Gaza, and Jerusalem, from the larger Palestinian question? 

Nadia Hijab

Absolutely. The fact that you have a Palestinian people, most of it lives in exile outside the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem, and is represented by the PLO, and has had no voice in the negotiations that have been going on for the last 19 years. 

I don’t think his speech really fully addressed those concerns, because just a few days later 18 legal scholars and lawyers came up with a statement that said if there is a State it is a real concern to the entire Palestinian people because even though you might pay lip service to the PLO, this is a political issue, rights cannot just sit there by themselves, they have to be claimed to exist. 

For me what’s good that has come out of this is that the Palestinian authority has been put on notice that it, that it now has to deal with its primary constituents. 

Marwan Bishara

Mouin, do you think President Abbas, or Chairman Abbas in that case, came to the UN by default, because all the doors were shut or by design, because he had a strategy?

Mouin Rabbani, SENIOR ANALYST, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP

No, he clearly doesn’t have a strategy and he came here by default in a tactical manoeuvre rather than a strategic initiative, but again if we, if we go back to the speeches, what I think is significant here is perhaps less what was and was not said but more the act of the Palestinians once again returning to the United Nations to seek to establish the rights accorded to the Palestinian people first and foremost …

Marwan Bishara

And you think that’s a positive thing? 

Mouin Rabbani

Of course I think that’s a positive thing. I also think…

Marwan Bishara

But where did it, where did it take them? Where did it get them?

Mouin Rabbani

Well, nowhere yet. The Palestinians have now for two decades basically been mired in a process whose sole achievement can be said to be the deepening of occupation and …

Marwan Bishara

You’re talking about the bilateral issues with Israel? 

Mouin Rabbani

Bilateral relations with Israel under the unilateral supervision of, of the United States. 

Marwan Bishara

But, but tell me Mouin what changed in the sense that what, what they’ve noticed the Palestinians went to the UN, is that there is America and its junior partners, there is no international community when it comes to the Palestinian question. 

Mouin Rabbani

I disagree. I think if there is one thing that can already be considered an achievement of what’s happened in the past few weeks, its shown that there is an international community, it has shown that American policy is completely at odds with the international community, and its shown quite clearly that the United States can no longer claim or pretend to be in any way representative of the role of that international community. 

Marwan Bishara

But there isn’t even eight votes at the Security Council for Palestine because of the American pressure at the Security Council. 

Mouin Rabbani

You’re talking about the Security Council, the Security Council is, is no more the international community than is the international Quartet. 

Marwan Bishara

So, so tell me Joseph, why did they go to the Security Council and not to the General Assembly? 

Professor Joseph Massad

I actually disagree that this recent move has exposed the US as the only player and the international community being at odds with it. This indeed has been the situation for many decades, this is hardly new. We know that the US stands almost alone in its support for Israel …

Marwan Bishara

You think, you think let’s continue with what Obama has been saying or do you think it has changed? 

Professor Joseph Massad

Absolutely. He spoke, he spoke of facts that are undeniable. He claimed, for example, against history, academically established and objectively established history, that the Arabs are the ones who’ve attacked and launched wars on Israel since 1948, when in fact of course this has not happened, except in 1973 to retrieve occupied land. All the other wars were started by Israel. 

Marwan Bishara

So Joseph there is an internationalisation or there hasn’t been internationalisation this last, last week? 

Professor Joseph Massad

I think we, we saw a huge amount of support for the Palestinian Authority Move at the United Nations, but also at the same time the kind of support that cannot stand up to US pressure. 

Marwan Bishara

So why not then go to this General Assembly and get the majority vote for a Palestinian State. Rami? 

Professor Rami Khouri

They probably felt that they had to make a, a bang, a dramatic statement, and maybe some people thought that to put the Americans and the Israelis in a corner and isolate them might be useful, but really the one single thing that I think is fascinating and intriguing about this move is that its caused people all over the world to start talking about Palestinian Statehood and acquiescent vulnerable marginalised actor like the PA leadership, Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues, suddenly took this move and the world is talking about it.

Marwan Bishara

So it is a smart move then? 

Professor Rami Khouri

It’ll be judged by its impact, by its consequences. If they follow it up with a strategic plan that harnesses Palestinian solidarity, get support that is out there in the world, the International Community essentially supports a fair resolution that gives the Palestinians their rights. If that process happens then we can say it was good. Up to now we can’t say that anything …

Marwan Bishara

Gentlemen, Nadia, I still have a problem with the question of the International Community. They still, now we go back to square one with a International Quartet making a statement and the Palestinians and Israelis more or less accepting it? 

Nadia Hijab

The Israelis want to try and look, you know, as though they’re reasonable, as though they were willing to, to compromise and so on, when in fact the reality on the ground is extremely, extremely different. I mean they continue to colonise …

Marwan Bishara

So what about square one?

Nadia Hijab

We never left square one. I mean unless, until and unless the Palestinians get the power to impose themselves and, and re-buff what Israel and, you know, totally counter what Israel is doing, there’s going to be no impact. 

Marwan Bishara

Could they do anything different today in the international arena than what they have done? 

Mouin Rabbani

This represents a possibility towards internationalisation of, of the question of Palestine, in all of its dimensions, and, and the ironic thing is that the initiative has been taken by the Palestinian leader who has basically been the very personification of the Oslo Process, of the Palestinians existing in the US orbit and so on, and so…

But you don’t think Washington has taken the international community hostage on the question of Palestine? 

Mouin Rabbani

I think it has quite successfully, and I, and I think, and I think the Stockholm syndrome if you will, can, can now be challenged.  I also think it can be broken.  I think the past two decades have shown very clearly that the only path towards Palestinian self determination is through a systematic effort at, internationalisation. 

Marwan Bishara

But Joseph there is a sense that maybe what Abbas wanted from this is a manoeuvre that would help him in the negotiations. 

Professor Joseph Massad

Even if successful, the possibility that this is a good thing for the Palestinian people, for the restoration of Palestinian rights, is not necessarily a given. 

Marwan Bishara

Why do you think that? 

Professor Joseph Massad

Basically the Israelis and the US, if forced to accept this decision, assuming the International Community is able to bypass the US, and the US decides not to veto to it, we say fine. One we will accept that you are a State now, you’ll be a State on the exact amount of land that you’re established on, we shall not give any more land, and two it could say of course no right of return for the Palestinian refugees. Three, it’ll say now that you have something that you are calling a Palestinian State, and we are a Jewish State, it already puts in danger the 1.6 million Palestinians or Israeli citizens in Israel about actually deporting them to the Palestinian State …

Marwan Bishara

You don’t think the mention of, when 1894 this resolution that take care of the question of the return of the refugees …

Professor Joseph Massad

There, there is an attempt by this move to actually bypass all these things, and there is of course the whole issue of the PLO itself which represents all the Palestinian people across the world, will cease to exist as an entity and …

Marwan Bishara

Hold that thought, hold that thought.  We’re gonna have more time to discuss in the second half …

Professor Joseph Massad

Alright, yes. 

Marwan Bishara

 … but we do need to take a news break, but before we do that we’ll take a look at the rising extremists Nationalist Movement in Israel.

Owen Fay

Conventional wisdom maintains that these three men hold the keys to peace. 

The conventional wisdom is wrong. 

There is another man, Danny Dayan. 

Dayan currently represents the roughly 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and his opinion can either prop up a Government, like it did last year…

Danny Dayan, CHAIRMAN, YESHA COUNCIL

Prime Minister Netanyahu is now setting the rules of the game. 

Owen Fay

… or threaten to bring it down. 

“If the freeze continues in any way, we promise to make every effort to fight against the Netanyahu government.  It will be”, he said, “the beginning of the end”. 

The Yesha Settlement Council refuses to even consider the possibility of a Palestinian State, and it boasts strong and growing support both within the Knesset and indeed the Cabinet, and that provides Benjamin Netanyahu with a convenient excuse, to do nothing.

The other man to watch out for is Avigdor Lieberman, the current Foreign Minister who may, if the government were to fall, likely emerge as King maker. 

It’s safe to say that even within Israel Lieberman is highly controversial.

Yuli Tamar, FORMER KNESSET MEMBER

I think that Avigdor Lieberman is going to become the next Foreign Minister of Israel is nothing less than a sheer disaster.

Avigdor Lieberman, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER

Let’s send a clear message to the next Government.  No loyalty – no citizenship. 

Saeb Erekat, PLO EXEC COMMITTEE MEMBER

Today we have an Israeli Government that has a Foreign Minister who openly advocates in is political programme the expulsion of non Jews from Israel, namely Christian and Muslim Palestinian Arabs, who are citizens of this country, and if this is not racism I don’t know what racism is all about.

Owen Fay

Lieberman himself is an illegal settler, along with more than a dozen other members of the Knesset. 

The settlers are a huge part of Lieberman’s political constituency, and the numbers are staggering. 

GRAPHIC ON SCREEN

Map showing the Israel State in 1968 up to 2011

Owen Fay

The Centralist Movement began in 1968 when about 40 people occupied land near Hebron seized the previous year.  

By 1985 there were an estimated 42,000 Israeli settlers. Today around 300,000 are firmly in place.

These figure don’t even take into account Israelis living in occupied East Jerusalem. Add those to the tally, and the figure rises to roughly half a million.

And if there were any doubt about how Israel intends to act in future, the day after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech at the UN he immediately approved construction of an additional 1100 houses.

The fact remains that while Right Wing Israeli Governments do nothing to stop settlements, the so-called Left Wing Governments have actually approved more construction. More housing under Labour’s Rabin than Likud Shamir.  More under Labour’s Barak than Likud Sharon, and again more under Kadima’s Olmert than Likud’s Netanyahu.  

Obviously the Palestinians are all too aware of this. 

Mohammad Zaben, PALESTINIAN FARMER

I’m not afraid as I’m in my house, if they want to fight me I’m waiting for them. Whatever we do they attack us, they attack us every day. 

Owen Fay

Meanwhile many of the occupying settlers prefer to view their flagrant breach of international law as nothing more than a local tiff. 

David Hanfi, SHOMRON SETTLEMENT COUNCIL

Any place that you go in the world you will find problems between neighbours. Within our communities and within the Arab communities there are problems amongst neighbours, and disputes, but that’s a minor issue. 

Owen Fay

Ultimately what the State of the Israeli settlements shows is that it isn’t political will which prevents final status negotiations taking place. It’s the structure of the entire political system itself and the attitudes that go with it.

Concrete is forever.

Unless and until that changes, nothing else will. 

(INTERVAL)

Marwan Bishara

Welcome back. Many who celebrated the absence of Israeli or American flag burning in Tahrir and other freedom squares of the Arab world were shocked by the recent display of anti-Israeli sentiments. 

But the Palestinian struggle for freedom has been a major source of inspiration for the Arab revolutions and many of those behind the Protest Movement in the Arab world were groomed in the Solidarity Movement with Palestine after the 1987 and the 2000 uprisings. 

Sherine Tadros, SHERINE TADROS, REPORTER

From Tunisia to Egypt and Libya, the people have spoken. Tired of policies that only serve the interests of leaders and their backers, both domestically and abroad. 

One reaction after the uprising in Egypt was that anger towards Israel was unleashed. 

In their show of solidarity with their Arab neighbours, Egyptians demanded the reopening of the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip. 

Kept under siege for five years by Israel, many Egyptians felt their former President Hosni Mubarak had betrayed them by trapping Gazans inside the small coastal strip, and with an Egyptian population outraged at Palestinian oppression and occupation, Israel was and is rightly worried.

Professor Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid, POLITICAL SCIENCE, CAIRO UNIVERSITY

Diplomatic isolation is definitely a reality, it’s not a threat, there is a reality. There are no contacts between the Israeli leaders and the Egyptian leaders also, or for our countries who used to have interest officers there, I think it is very difficult for the Governments of these countries to maintain the presence of these offices there, and to practice economic relations with Israel as if nothing has happened. 

Sherine Tadros

After Israeli soldiers killed six Egyptian guards on the border in August, Egyptians demanded the Israeli Ambassador be expelled and Israel punished. 

The authorities reacted like the regime before them, protecting the Embassy in Cairo, fortifying it.

The people took matters into their own hands, storming the Mission and destroying documents.

The anger wasn’t simply at Israel, but at their Egyptian rulers failure for decades to make the right moral decisions.

Turkey, one of Israel’s only allies in the region, has changed course since Israeli commandos stormed a ship, taking aid to Gaza, killing Turkish activists. 

Prime Minister Erdogan, eager to be the face of the Middle East’s new People Power Movement, cut defence trade with Israel and promised to send Turkish Naval vessels to escort the next attempt to break Israel’s Naval blockade of The Strip.

The Prime Minister’s appearance in Cairo days later sent an important message. The tide was turning.

New alliances were being formed in the region, that were decidedly against Israel. 

Prime Minister Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister

Israel has to apologise and Israel must compensate the families of the martyrs, and it also must end its blockade on Gaza Strip. 

Sherine Tadros

It may not have been what Egypt’s new rulers wanted, indeed they went out of their way to assure Israel it was all business as usual. 

Perhaps the billions of dollars worth of aid they receive annually from the US as a result of the Peace Deal trumping the people’s wealth.

President Obama, US President

It’s basic and joy for longing for human freedom echo the voices that we had heard all across the region, from Tunis to Cairo. 

Sherine Tadros

US President Obama has supported the wave of street protests throughout the Arab world. 

His failure to extend that value to the Palestinians was a fact not lost on an Arab population no longer afraid of speaking out against hypocritical policies.

For decades Arab leaders have been criticised for paying lip service to a Palestinian State, whilst not doing enough to realise it. 

The question is no longer whether these leaders, old and new, want to support a Palestinian State, but whether domestically they can afford not to.

Marwan Bishara

So Rami, so we said internationally the Palestinian authority is squeezed between the US and the so-called international community.  Regionally they are now squeezed between rising rights in Israel, and rising upheavals and uprisings and revolutions for freedom in the Arab world. What are their options domestically? 

Professor Rami Khouri, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

Well I think that we have to understand two things. That the Arab revolutions and uprisings that are taking place are intellectually and historically a continuation of what the Palestinians have done for 60 years, which is to struggle for their rights. 

Second of all, the reasons that drive Arab revolts, citizen revolts across the region, are, the reasons are a combination of mainly domestic and dignity, being treated as Europe by your own power structure badly, but also by the consequences of Arab subservience, acquiescence and marginalisation to Israeli predatory actions and international, the third reason, foreign, mainly American, European actions in the region. 

The foreign policy dimension of the Arab uprisings has not been manifested on the streets, but it is there deeply ingrained in the driving forces, and you’ve started to see it in Egypt first of all because of the shootings in Sinai and the Embassy there. So I think the Palestinians should clearly mobilise as much as they can in a way they’ve never really done before, Arab public opinion with them, but they can only do that if they mobilise their own Palestinian public opinions first. 

So there is an organic link between the driving force of revolutions in the region, and support for the Palestinian quest. 

Marwan Bishara

So it sounds to me Mouin that the natural next step is for Abbas not to be travelling to Portugal or to Colombia looking for the ninth okay vote at the UN Security Council but rather to be establishing a national unity with Hamas and the other opposition forces.

Mouin Rabbani, SENIOR ANALYST, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP

Well I, I don’t think it’s one or the other. I think indeed if you’re going to establish a credible new strategy, national reconciliation, mobilising your own people, mobilising regional support, mobilising international support has to be at the core of that. 

Marwan Bishara

Why aren’t they moving quickly to establish that? 

Mouin Rabbani

I don’t think that the present leadership is interested in engaging in that kind of strategy or that kind of confrontation.  What, what the current leadership is trying to do is, is basically jilt the system into making Oslo a more credible process. 

Marwan Bishara

But they did sign an Agreement with Hamas in Cairo. 

Mouin Rabbani

And haven’t implemented it. I mean the point here is, is that this is an initiative which is basically being implemented by a group that doesn’t want the logical consequence of that initiative, and therefore I think you need more pressure first and foremost internally, and …

Marwan Bishara

An Arab spring Joseph?

Professor Joseph Massad, ARAB POLITICS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Well this, this is the thing, I think pat of the move, part of the move by the unelected PLA leadership is precisely to forestall the possibility of an uprising against its own rule. This is after all a, an authority that has already gotten an electoral sort of revolt several years back, when people voted in the majority for Hamas against it, and I think we’ve seen an increase in sort of grass roots activism and resistance against the wall, against confiscation of land etc., and I think there is an increasing sense of despair among West Bank Palestinians. 

Marwan Bishara

So you think the roots of a Palestinian spring have started? 

Professor Joseph Massad

It’s a possibility, but I think the, the, the, this move at the UN could very well be also a way to forestall that possibility, to make sure that they can shift the ground from an actual popular struggle against an unelected leadership that has been collaborating with Israel, to the United Nations where it’s much safer, where the, where the PA itself will be actually immune …

Marwan Bishara

I actually, I actually see it differently, Joseph. What I see, and tell me if you agree with me or not Nadia, that to mention words like apartheid at the United Nations, you know, words in such forms have meaning. You cannot just say, or part throw the word apartheid in Palestine and not speak of boycott for example, and not get the community in Palestine involved.

Nadia Hijab, DIRECTOR, AL-SHABAKA NETWORK

You have to look at what’s happening on the ground.  What’s happening on the ground is that, for example, the security relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis are still maintained between the Palestinian authority and the Israelis, you know, under …

Marwan Bishara

So security coordination? 

Nadia Hijab

So security coordination, yeah. So here you have a people under occupation having to rise up against their occupiers as well as against their own leadership, but to …

Professor Joseph Massad

Nadia the PA authorities even asked for anti riot gear from the Israelis to provide them with it right before they went to the UN to, in order to fight their own population should there be an uprising against the PA. 

Nadia Hijab

Why the went to the UN is to buy a bit of time and to sidetrack the issue. The core issue of the Arab spring is accountability. People demanding accountability from their leaders for mismanagement of economic resources, what’s happening to the peoples money, what’s happening to the peoples politics and representation, and in Palestine, just like the rest of the Arab countries, you have not had a democratic system, you know, since 1988. 

The people elected in the West Bank Gaza and East Jerusalem represent only part of the Palestinian people and they no longer have a mandate, and the people who are supposed to represent the entire Palestinian people i.e. who head the Palestine Liberation Organisation, no longer have an elected mandate. 

I mean that’s one thing that the move to U.N has done, is its pushed a much larger number of Palestinians to speak up and speak out and say “first of all this was not done in consultation with us, secondly you don’t have a mandate to represent us”. 

Marwan Bishara

But, but has this step now taken a life of its own?  Will it eventually torpedo the authority? 

Professor Rami Khouri

If it was designed to gain time, or if it was designed simply to shake up the board, the playing board, or basically make the point that the last 20 years of American mediated direct talks with Israelis have not worked, we wanna shift to a new arena, a new legitimacy in the UN, maybe that’s the, the point that they’re trying to make. We have to …

Marwan Bishara

That’s the point that Mouin has made and it seems to me, it’s not necessarily because of any moral imperative, but certainly the bilateral issues have left no more room for the Palestinians to make any progress.

Professor Joseph Massad

Well you had 20 years of negotiations, when they started the negotiations the occupation was 24 years old, so I’m not sure it’s only 24 years of negotiation to end the 24 year occupation, which, which seems to b the strategy of Israel.  But at the same time this could be the prelude for more concessions. 

I mean, listen the only, the only …

Marwan Bishara

What, what concessions, what concessions? 

Professor Joseph Massad

I’ll tell you, the only game in town by what Obama and the American administration has said, and what the Israelis have said, is that the only basis for peace is for the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish State, meaning to recognise Israel’s right to grant Jews colonial and racial privileges. They want to continue their colonial and racial privileges of conquest since 1948 and have peace, and this is a wave of concession. 

Marwan Bishara

But, but Joseph, we covered that but the PLO said no. 

Professor Joseph Massad

Well we’ll see. 

Mouin Rabbani

The priority now is for the Palestinians to develop credible representative and accountable nationally inclusive leadership …

Marwan Bishara

So in the absence of elections what does that mean? 

Mouin Rabbani

Well it’s not only elections, I mean I’m not so fetishist about elections, there is all kinds of, there’s all kinds of legitimacy the leadership of a national liberation movement can have that’s not necessarily through the ballot box. 

What we’ve seen I think in the Occupied Territories is that, you know, free, fair and transparent elections have actually been quite catastrophic for the principal of national representation. 

Marwan Bishara

But Mouin you know all too well that the Palestinians are completely polarised today between Hamas and Fata and that’s why Gaza …

Mouin Rabbani

And that’s why it needs to be resolved. 

Marwan Bishara

… why Hamas …

Mouin Rabbani

And that’s why, and that’s why that needs to be resolved. 

Marwan Bishara

So, so, in the reality what does it mean? 

Mouin Rabbani

What it means is activating the process of national reconciliation, broadening it to include not only other, other organisations besides Fata and Hamas, but also the gamut of Palestinian constituencies whether in the occupied territories inside the …

Professor Joseph Massad

How do you do this when you have a Palestinian authority committed not to legitimise Israel?  Committed to the legitimisation of Israel

Mouin Rabbani

Because, because you don’t, because you don’t …

Professor Joseph Massad

It’s no longer a liberation organisation. 

Mouin Rabbani

… because you don’t only take what part of the present leadership wants to do for granted. 

Professor Joseph Massad

But the present leadership of the PA and of Fata, this is what you have, the Americans have been able to transform the Palestinian leadership in the last 20 years into a subcontracted party to the occupation…

Mouin Rabbani

And that’s where Palestinian society comes in and that’s where you need the pressures from …

Professor Joseph Massad

Yes. So the existing framework then itself is a problem. I’m not sure they exist.

Marwan Bishara

No but, but Joseph what happened in the UN signalled something different than what you’re saying.

Professor Joseph Massad

What happened at the UN …

Marwan Bishara

And that’s, and that’s just going, as we said, not just at the General Assembly, but going to the Security Council to embarrass Israel and the United States to sponsor the bilateral negotiations.

Nadia Hijab

But that was buying time, that was buying time, because if they, they were planning to go to the General Assembly and it’s very reliably reported that they came under enormous pressure from the United States not to go to the General Assembly, to go to the Security Council instead, and, and that by going to the Security Council …

Marwan Bishara

The Security Council, that’s where they got the veto.

Nadia Hijab

Yeah I know, but the Security Council goes into committee, nobody needs to veto right away, you know, at the General Assembly …

Professor Joseph Massad

Yes but Obama did threaten Abbas in a private meeting the day before his speech, telling him that any blood, American blood shed as a result of an American veto, he would hold Abbas responsible, but of course all the Palestinian blood that has been shed, Obama isn’t  responsible. 

Marwan Bishara

It’s a very expensive way to buy time isn’t it?  It’s a very expensive way to buy time by earning another American veto or, because here in, in Washington where we are it seems that there is quite anger at the authority. 

Nadia Hijab

But if you’d gone to the, yeah. 

Mouin Rabbani

And that may be a good thing. 

Professor Joseph Massad

And they cut off … $200 million have been cut off.

Marwan Bishara

Either there is, either there is a rupture with the past and the PA is moving towards new quarters that are not friendly to Israel and the United States, well it’s, it’s …

Mouin Rabbani

The point is that, that Abbas is not seeking such a rupture, but the extremism that’s taken hold in Washington may well lead to such a rupture, particularly …

Marwan Bishara

And why, extremism as we mentioned in our reports. The extremism in Israel and the popular movement in the Arab world is increasingly squeezing the Palestinian National Authority.

Mouin Rabbani

And that’s why I’m saying you can’t judge everything purely by what Abbas is doing and what his intended objectives are.  There are all kinds of independent, local, regional, international dynamics which are …

Professor Joseph Massad

Something like that we are seeing in the Arab spring, grass roots? 

Professor Rami Khouri

What I, what I would add to that is the new player, the joker on the table, is the Arab citizen and the Arab countries and Palestinians. Look what happened four, five months ago and you had refugees all around Israel trying to come to the borders in a symbolic demonstration, and a few of them actually crossed into Palestine and Israel. 

It’s possible that you might see a mobilisation of Palestinian public sentiments across the region, precisely in response to what we’re hearing, which is that there is this leadership of the Palestinians that isn’t really a good leadership, and is not doing very much, and if it’s just gaining time and stalling and doing this, it’s not gonna work. 

Everything that has come out of the U.S. and the Israelis and the Quartet and the Europeans is flat re-treads of old tyres that don’t work. We’ve had it over and over and over again, bilaterial negotiation, within one month, within six months, credible positions, serious negotiations, confidence-building measures. The legacy of Dennis Ross and Tony Blair has come back at us now as this monster that is devouring any serious attempt at negotiation, so this is, you’ve gotta have a dramatic break with this failed legacy. 

Marwan Bishara

So let’s think this then the next step. Could the step at the United Nations open the way for a new spiral of events that would undo the Palestinian Authority even further? 

Professor Joseph Massad

I mean I’m, I’m concerned about the whole issue of speaking about the Right Wing in Israel, because you must remember that the leadership of labour, of Likud and of Kadima are all committed again and again as a basis for peace, that any peace agreement must maintain Jewish colonial and racial privileges. What this means is that it must maintain Israel’s right to occupy, Israel’s right to colonise, Israel’s right to discriminate against non-Jews. 

So if the Palestinian would accept these parameters and call what they have a State, that would be peace for the Israelis, and the PA so far realises that it cannot do this and survive. 

Marwan Bishara

But Joseph what’s happening is exactly the opposite. It’s Israel that’s becoming more isolated, not the PLA. Even America is worried about Israel’s increasing isolation. So now more settlements. The answer to the UN? More settlements. 500,000 and counting, when the peace process started there were 75,000. So what does this mean now?  Has time run out on a two state solution? 

Professor Joseph Massad

The deal is that whatever they give to the Palestinian authority, the Palestinian authority would like to call a State, would be called a State, even though it would not be a State it would be on fragmented territory, it would have no national economy, no control over its borders or water resources, no actual sovereignty. 

I mean the other day Netanyahu was insisting that like South Korea or like Japan we could station our troops there in the Jordan Valley and continue to control the area and we will call it Sovereign. 

Marwan Bishara

But the road map did talk about the idea that this needs to be a continuous territory. That this needs to be liveable. 

Professor Joseph Massad

Basically that hour has gone. This will not happen. A two State solution in the way that the world understands two sovereign States living side by side is not tenable, and I think at this rate …

Marwan Bishara

It’s not tenable? 

Professor Joseph Massad

It’s not tenable at all, except only at a nominal level of getting whatever banter stand they will give the PA and the PA will call it a State and the US will recognise it as a State.

Marwan Bishara

Which is temporary anyway? 

Professor Joseph Massad

Absolutely. 

Marwan Bishara

So what does that mean Rami? 

Professor Rami Khouri

Well it means that there’s a massive problem here that is not gonna be resolved by simply applying the old techniques, and this is what’s going on. You mentioned the quartet and the road map and, these are historical incidents that have no real relevance any more. 

There has to be some kind of dramatic new approach to resolving this problem. The kind of South Africa approach, Northern Ireland approach, where some credible mediator, or two very powerful charismatic leaders in Israel and Palestine emerge who have credibility and can drag their people into a dramatic resolution of this conflict. I think that, I think that a two stage solution is still possible if …

Marwan Bishara

On the 1967 borders?

Professor Rami Khouri

Right, with dramatic changes going on. It’s very unlikely it’ll happen. 

Professor Joseph Massad

But that’s what I was saying. I think the problem is definitional. What is the problem?  The Israelis are very clear. The problem is that they have the right to, to have established a colonial satire State in 1948 that must continue to have colonial and racial privileges. If the Palestinians will accept this, they will have peace. 

The Palestinians seem to think that they can sway the Israelis away from this. The Americans support the Israelis. This is the core issue. Any Palestinian leadership must address this issue squarely, and says “we shall not accept”, the only basis for peace is to terminate the colonial and racial privileges of Israeli Jews. That is the core. 

Mouin Rabbani

I think recent changes, particularly regional, if they have removed anything from the agenda it’s this idea that you can create a Palestinian banter stand or a series of Palestinian banter stands as a durable solution. I think that is what is no longer viable. 

What I think you’ve seen re-emerge in a sense is that Israel now has a very clear choice. Either a meaningful two State settlement, meaning an independent sovereign Palestinian State throughout the territories occupied in 1967, and if they reject that well then they’re going to have to come …

Professor Joseph Massad

Why would they have to accept it? The Americans are standing with them, why would they have to accept it? 

Marwan Bishara

Nadia? 

Nadia Hijab

I think a lot of Palestinians are side stepping this issue because they don’t see a solution any time soon, you know. Two States are not gonna happen tomorrow, one State is not gonna happen tomorrow, and they’re focused on stating what are Palestinian rights and working for those rights, and exposing all of Israel’s apartheid, colonial practices and really harming Israel’s pristine reputation as it used to be in the West as the only democracy in the Middle East, and they are working on that front, and this whole question, this whole notion that we could have a solution tomorrow, the day after, that’s not gonna happen until the, the balance of power between the Israelis and the Palestinians gets re-established somehow.

Mouin Rabbani

And, and therefore perhaps …

Marwan Bishara

So, so buckle up I think the revolution continues I guess? 

Mouin Rabbani

Well I think therefore perhaps what the Palestinians should focus on in the coming period is not necessarily these big picture ideas of whether you’re going to have, you know, one, two or 17 States, but focus on the situation on the ground. 

Focus on issues like reactivating the International Court of Justice Advisory opinion on the wall.  Focus on individual cases of settlement expansion. Focus on, on, on these things precisely in order to lay the groundwork for changes in the balance of power. 

Nadia Hijab

And if I could just quickly, after that there is a very strong Palestinian movement of boycott sanctions, that’s actually the only thing at the moment that’s extracting an economic price from Israel, you know, around the world, so there are …

Professor Joseph Massad

And the price of prestige which, which I mean it has been so threatening to Israel that even Obama himself has named it as something he opposes. However I think the Palestinian bashfulness, or embarrassment from not naming what the actual core of this question has been for the last 63 years is what needs to change. 

That Palestinians need not be ashamed of saying that Israel continues to be a State that extends racial and colonial privileges to Jews and discriminates against non Jews, and wants to make that the basis of all peace. That is unacceptable and that is the main problem. Terminate the colonial and racial privileges of Jewish citizens of Israel and everything will fall into place. If you don’t, then you don’t. 

Marwan Bishara

On that we’re gonna have to end.  Nadia, gentlemen, thank you for joining Empire and I’ll be back with a final thought. 

So many demands, so much from those who have so little.  Israel which sits on 78 per cent of Palestine wants more of its land, its capital and its sovereignty. Washington, that wasted 20 years of precious Palestinian time on failed process, demands more time and more compromises. 

Europe, which victimised Jews in past times hopes to cleanse its sins on the back of Israel’s own victims, the Palestinians, and Arab leaders who betrayed Palestine hope peddling its cause abroad would help them at home. 

And many of Palestine’s own leaders who used it to advance their own agendas, demand more sacrifice and support.

I say no more. Ask not what Palestine can do for you, ask what you can do for Palestine, and that’s the way it goes. 

Write to me with your suggestions. Until next time.

empire@aljazeera.com

Source: Al Jazeera