The Second UN Partition of Palestine

In light of Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas’s bid for “non-member observer state” status in the United Nations, Palestinians across the world are voicing their anger and discontent amidst conflicting celebrations of “recognition” and “statehood”.

It is important to note that Abbas’s mandate ended in 2009 and he is de facto an unelected leader. The recognition of a PA state at the UN is likely to marginalize the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which since 1974 has been recognized by the UN as the sole legitimate representative of all Palestinian people. This would be devastating to the Palestinian people at large.Whereas the PLO represents all 12 million Palestinians, the PA represents only those in the West Bank, 2.5 million.

The UN bid was not a bid for the state of Palestine. It was a bid for the West Bank bantustan, even that of which does not have true sovereignty. It is crucial that Palestinians and their supporters everywhere continue to demand an end of Israeli apartheid and are not moved to complacency by imitation statehood. Geographically, this state comprises less than 20% of historic Palestine, and more realistically, only 10% if Israeli settlements and military zones are factored in.

Ironically the vote fell on the anniversary of the UN Partition plan of 1947, wherein the UN partitioned 51% of Palestine to European Jewish colonizers, while “allowing” the native Palestinian population 49% of the land. This vote has served to update that contract, except this time the indigenous people are left with 10-20% and the right of return of the refugees has been threatened.

The following article was originally published by the late Edward Said, one of the most influential Palestinian scholars, in Al-Ahram Weekly On-line (1 – 7 October 1998). Despite being written over ten years ago, it is an essential read today. I am republishing Said’s work in the hopes of demonstrating that this recent partition was a premeditated action designed for Israeli colonialist intentions at the expense of the Palestinian people. Emphases have been added.

Edward SaidBy Edward Said  For several weeks, Yasser Arafat and members of his Authority have been saying loudly that, on 4 May, 1999, Mr Arafat will declare a Palestinian state. This announcement first emerged as a threat to Israel, and specifically to Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been delaying agreement on a further deployment of Israeli forces from Palestinian territory. Israeli responses to the announcement have been uniformly hostile, and very threatening: do it, says Netanyahu to Arafat, and we will be harsh in our reaction. Neither the Palestinian nor the Israeli side has been exactly specific, but this has not deterred either one from going on about a Palestinian state and an unpleasant Israeli counter-reaction. In any case, Arafat, it is said, now wants to announce his plans for a Palestinian state while he is at the United Nations, and perhaps even to Bill Clinton, who is still mired in the Monica Lewinsky mess and therefore not likely to be listening too closely or able to do very much to help. In addition, the Arabic press has been reporting that, during his numerous visits to both Arab and non-Arab countries, Arafat has been seeking foreign support for his project. By now, then, the notion that a Palestinian state will be declared on 4 May, 1999 by Arafat has acquired a momentum, if not exactly a life, of its own.

I say this with some irony because, at first glance, the notion of declaring a state for a second time (Algiers, November 1988 was the first) must strike the untutored spectator as inherently funny, since in both instances, except for about 60 per cent of Gaza, there is very little land for this state. There is some Palestinian control, without sovereignty — a major requirement for a state — on only three per cent of the West Bank, and no territorial continuity between the various spots of land that make up what is now called Area A. One likely Israel reaction might be to say that the Palestinian entity has to be in Gaza, which is already cut off from the West Bank, and more or less force Arafat to confine himself and, alas, Palestinian national aspirations, to Gaza. This would be a severe blow, no matter how much international support the declared state would have at the time. In addition, the new state would make little sense demographically, given that Palestinians in one area would be totally cut off from their compatriots in other areas.

Supporters of Arafat’s idea of declaring a state in spite of the concrete demographic and territorial problems say that the project itself would have the positive effect of stirring the Palestinian population into some sort of energy, thereby compensating for the dismal failure of the Oslo Accords on which Arafat and his increasingly small circle of supporters, advisers, and hangers-on have staked so much. There is a great deal of discouragement and lethargy in Palestine, and also elsewhere in the Arab world. So much has been written and proclaimed about the new era of peace, the benefits of peace, the economy of peace, etc., that with five years of non-peace, people are understandably disaffected, fed up with lies, fed up with Israeli arrogance, fed up, above all, with their own sense of powerlessness and failure. Master tactician and artist of survival though he is, Arafat, I believe, still thinks that he can move things along with this state idea of his and, in so doing, either avert an explosion against his faltering rule or divert attention away from it. There is always the danger that his plan may backfire but, again characteristically, he probably thinks he can deal with that when and if it happens. As for the institutions, machinery, governance of a real state, none of these are really in place. It is true that the Palestinian Authority has many functions of a state government — post office, birth certificates, security, municipal affairs, education and health — but it still far too dependent on Israel to do as states should be able to do. Thus, for instance, water is still under Israeli control, as is the use of land, and entrances and exits to the Territories. Any pressure applied by Israel on any of these can cripple the state and render it impotent. Surely no Palestinian government would want to be put in so harrowing a position.

The disadvantages of declaring a state seem to me far to outweigh the advantages. Most important, a state declared on the autonomous territories would definitively divide the Palestinian population and its cause more or less forever. Residents of Jerusalem, now annexed by Israel, can play no part, nor be, in the state. An equally undeserving fate awaits Palestinian citizens of Israel, who would also be excluded, as would Palestinians in the Diaspora, whose theoretical right of return would practically be annulled. Far from uniting Palestinians, therefore, the declaration of a Palestinian state would in fact divide them more than they have ever been before, rendering the notion of one Palestinian people more or less void. In whose interest is such a result? Certainly not the Palestinians’.

I have a strong suspicion that Arafat is using the declaration of a state as a way of covering himself with what looks like a gain even as he is about to accept the treacherous Israeli “offer” of nine per cent plus three per cent as a nature reserve under Israeli control. Arafat is a prisoner of both the Israelis and the US; he has no place to go, no corridor he can escape into, no excuse he can rely on. I fear that, under pressure, he will concede and accept the Israeli deal, using the declaration of a state as a way of compensating (as well as trying to fool) his people. Watch him carefully.

Another disadvantage which seems just as significant is that the Israeli idea of getting rid of Palestinians by separation will be achieved not by Israel but by the Palestinian leadership. This would be the final triumph of the desire for the Palestinian people’s disappearance by dispossession for which a century of Zionist planning and belligerence has always plotted: the elimination of the Palestinian presence as a national group on the territory of historical Palestine. The Zionists consider it to be the Land of Israel, reserved exclusively for Jews. On the other hand, we should remember that every idea of Palestinian self-determination since the ascendancy of the present PLO has envisaged and embodied an idea of non-discriminatory equality and sharing in Palestine. This was the notion of a secular democratic state and, later, the idea of two states living side by side in neighbourly harmony. These ideas were never accepted by the Israeli ruling majority, and Oslo, in my view, was a clever way for the Labour Party to create a series of Bantustans in which the Palestinians would be confined and dominated by Israel, at the same time hinting that a quasi-state for Palestinians would come into being. To Israelis, Rabin and Peres spoke openly about separation, not as providing Palestinians with the right to self-determination but as a way of marginalising and diminishing them, leaving the land basically to the more powerful Israelis. Separation in this perspective then becomes synonymous with apartheid, not with liberation. To declare a Palestinian state under such circumstances is essentially to accept the idea of separation as apartheid, not equality, and certainly not as self-determination. “Self-rule” is Netanyahu’s euphemism for it. Moreover, those who would argue that, for Palestinians, such a declared state would be the first step towards a real state, with true self-determination, are actually deluding themselves by thinking illogically. If by declaring that what, in effect, is a theoretical abridgment of true statehood is the first step towards the realisation of actual statehood, then one might as well hope to extract sunlight from a cucumber on the basis of the sun having entered the cucumber in the first place. This is an example not of serious, but of magical thought, something we have no need of now.

No, this hullabaloo about 4 May, 1999 is part of Arafat’s tried and true method for distracting us from the true difficulties we face as a people. He used to do the same thing before every National Council meeting, floating rumours about an upcoming date, then postponing, then announcing a new date three or four times, until people would greet the actual meeting itself with much delight and celebration. This time, however, the political drawbacks of his declared state project perform the additional function of obscuring the true imperative, which is first of all to unite Palestinians and, above all, to provide us with a new political vision, programme, leadership. If the last few years have proved one thing, it is the bankruptcy of the vision proclaimed by Oslo, and of the leadership that engineered the whole wretched thing. It left huge numbers of Palestinians unrepresented, impoverished and forgotten; it allowed Israel to expropriate more land in addition to consolidating its hold on Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank and Gaza settlements; it validated the notion of what can only be called petty Palestinian nationalism, which in reality was little more than a few worn-out slogans and the survival of the old PLO leadership. What is now needed is first of all a symbolic political event held outside Israeli and Palestinian Authority jurisdiction that will bring together all the relevant segments of the Palestinian population, a truly national meeting or conference. From such a meeting, new outlines for resistance and liberation would be announced, coordinating not just the efforts of people in the Occupied Territories, but also those Palestinians from Israel and the whole Diaspora. It is the members of this larger group (in fact the majority of Palestinians) that Arafat neither can nor is willing to try to address, since they have been left out of the deal he made with Israel and the US, and whose hostage he now is.

The only political vision worth holding on to is a secular bi-national one that transcends the ludicrous limitations of a little Palestinian state, declared for the second or third time, without much land or credibility, as well as the limitations that have been so essential to the Zionist form of apartheid imposed on us everywhere. I am not the only one to see our plight today as basically that of human beings deprived of the right to full citizenship. It is this that united us all as a people, whether in Lebanon, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Amman, Damascus, or Chicago. The present Palestinian leadership has neither comprehended our dilemma nor, obviously enough, furnished an answer to it. This is why we shouldn’t be too excited by Arafat’s rather juvenile enthusiasm for the prospects of what might or might not take place on 4 May, 1999. The real task, I think, is to be planning a real alternative to the nonsense at present being put about, that by declaring a state — somehow — we will actually get one — somehow. Typically, this silly slogan conceals the real difficulties in actually establishing a state, difficulties that can only be overcome by real work, real thought, the real unity and, above all, real representation of all (as opposed to a part) of the Palestinian people. Not unilateral, empty, repetitious slogans. It is an insult to the integrity of our people to keep on making up such make-believe “realities” and trying to pass them off as political substance. Arafat and his advisers should be ashamed of themselves for such banal tricks. They should stand aside so that a more serious and credible political process can replace their disastrous fumbling once and for all.

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Palestine-solidarity activists in Canada and across the world continue to organize

Global Palestine-solidarity was re-awoken with the latest Israeli offense on Gaza. The 8-day  assault resulted in more than 160 Palestinian deaths, 33 of them children. Over a thousand Palestinians were wounded, including 274 children. 5 Israelis were killed by resistance rockets from Gaza. The bloody ignited protests around the world, but they were not the only reason for them. Nor was a ceasefire the end of them.

Following Israel’s public launch of Operation Pillar of Defense and the assassination of Hamas’s Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday, November 14th, activists everywhere began organizing themselves to voice their opposition to the attacks, as well Israel’s ongoing apartheid regime. Protests were held in almost every major city in the world, across Europe, North America and the Middle East, including Palestinians throughout the West Bank, and with thousands taking to the streets from Indonesia to Egypt. 3 Palestinians from the West Bank were also killed as Israeli forces attempted to silent protesters.

On November 21, a ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas. The agreement is not unlike that reached in 2009 after the Israeli attacks that left over 1400 in the Gaza Strip killed and 13 Israelis. As history has shown us, a ceasefire does not mean peace. There can be no peace in a situation where Gaza is under a suffocating Israeli blockade and where the heavily-populated area can indiscriminately be shelled without any great repercussions to Israel.

Where I am now located, Ottawa, Canada, two large vigils and three large protests were organized in the span of a week and a half.  I was also in Toronto on the weekend where a protest was organized protesting the annual Jewish National Fund Negev dinner. The following are photos from both Toronto and Ottawa that either I or my mother took.

Speakers address the media before the march | 16 November 2012, Israeli embassy, Ottawa

When speakers were done, protesters spontaneously called for the procession to march to ‘Israel’s second embassy’ – Parliament Hill. In the spirit of civil disturbance, protesters took to the streets (“without permits!” police shouted to no response) and protested the Canadian government’s unwavering support for Israeli apartheid.

Police block the door to the Israeli embassy | 16 November 2012, Ottawa

Hundreds of protesters march, decrying Canada’s support for Israel | 16 November 2012, Ottawa

The protest lasted several hours long without losing energy. The “snake march”, a march without a planned route, traveled from the Israeli embassy to Parliament, back to the embassy, and back to Parliament, where it ended with a promise to meet again the next day.

Police attempt to contain the protest | 16 November 2012, Ottawa

Several hundred again gathered on Wednesday, November 22 for a vigil. Several speakers addressed the crowd, including professors and representatives of Students against Israeli Apartheid-Carleton, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights-Ottawa U, Independent Jewish Voices, and Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG-GRIPO).

Hundreds gathered with lit candles to remember the names of all the lives lost because of Israel’s Operation Cloud of Pillar | 21 November 2012, University of Ottawa

The names of all the martyrs were read, followed by a moment of silence, then participants placed their candles to form the words “Free Gaza”.

Participants spelled ‘Free Gaza’ with their candles | 21 November 2012, University of Ottawa

Despite the ceasefire agreement, protesters continued to protest the siege on Gaza, the Occupation, the denial of the right of return to refugees, and Israeli apartheid at large.

Poster-making | 23 November 2012, Ottawa

Hundreds march for Palestine | 25 November 2012, Toronto

Hundreds march for Palestine | 25 November 2012, Toronto

Hundreds march for Palestine | 25 November 2012, Toronto

Following a rally of hundreds in Ottawa, a small group of protesters entered a large shopping centre, marching silently and distributing flyers. Before leaving the mall, the procession began to chant slogans such as “Harper, Harper, Can’t you see – Palestine will be free!” and “Gaza, Gaza, Don’t you cry! – Palestine will never die!” When they finished, the crowded food court began applause of support. The group narrowly avoided security guards before leaving.

Activists march through a central Ottawa shopping mall | 25 November 2012, Ottawa

Activists march through a central Ottawa shopping mall | 25 November 2012, Ottawa

Activists march through a central Ottawa shopping mall | 25 November 2012, Ottawa

If you are a student located in Ottawa, there are Palestine-solidarity groups at both Ottawa U (SPHR) and Carleton U (SAIA) that I encourage you to join – they are founded specifically on the call to Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS), organizing largely around the divestment of their universities from Israeli apartheid. If you are not a student, there have been recent talks about forming a Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) for Ottawa-wide organizing. If you are interested, please get in touch with me!

Returning

After being pepper-sprayed on May 1, I began to write an article about what happened to me. I have yet to finish it to today. I simply wasn’t able to put into words what my experience was, nor the constantly changing situation of Palestinian political prisoners. 

Forgive the absence. Now I’ll catch you up to the  several actions we have done in the past two months, and postpone the May 1st article further..

My Dignity is More Important Than Food: Day 64

Rana Hamadeh | Feb 20, 2012
Khader Adnan has been on hunger strike for 64 days now and his will remains strong. He has chosen his dignity over his hunger.

Today, Israel’s High Court of Justice scheduled a petitions hearing for Adnan, scheduled for Thursday, February 23. The petition was filed on February 15th but the court has not treated the situation with the urgency it requires. The High Court of Justice was provided with a medical report by an accredited Israeli doctor (Physicians for Human Rights- Israel) which confirmed that Adnan is “in immediate danger of death” and that “a fast in excess of 70 days does not permit survival.” February 23, the day of the hearing, will be Adnan’s 69th day without food.

The 33-year old father of two young girls, whose wife is pregnant, has lived his entire life under the omnipresent oppression of the Israeli occupation. His hunger strike began one day after he was arrested from his home, in the terrorizing style of a night-raid, while his wife and daughters looked on. That was December 17, 2011. His hunger strike began the next day and continues today. He received no charge, and was not even informed of a reason for his arrest. Rather than confusion, Khader Adnan was facing a process he has grown to be familiar with: administrative detention.

Day 64 of Khader Adnan's protests | Hafez Omar

Administrative detention is arrest without trial or charge. Evidence is not disclosed for “security reasons”. A period of detention can last 6 months, but can be renewed indefinitely. Some detainees have been held for up to 8 years. The practice as such is illegal under international law.

In an Electronic Intifada interview, ex-prisoner Mousa Abu Maria commented on his own experience in Israeli prisons and under administrative detention:

“They try to show how they have control over you… They would force me to sit with my hands cuffed to my ankles, on a tiny chair that was tilted over so that I was in a crouching position for hours, day after day. It is both very painful and a psychological torture. You can’t lift your head, you can’t look them in the eye. They want you to feel that you do not own yourself, that they own you, and you do not have any power to resist.”

Khader Adnan, however, has taken his power back by the only means he had available to him – to refuse food. In doing so he has made a statement that has drawn global attention to the inhumane practices of Israel. Abu Maria puts it perfectly:

“They know you have been an activist and that you have internal strength to resist. They have to break that from you. Sometimes it’s to try to get information from you but many times it is just to break your will. That’s why you go on hunger strike. It is the only thing you can control: what you eat, what you put into your body. It is the way to show that you can still resist. You are showing your captors and your comrades, but you are also showing yourself, giving yourself strength that you are still resisting, that they haven’t taken everything away from you.”

Adnan refuses to eat until he is given his rights as a human being. Bobby Sands of the IRA was another prominent hunger striker in the 70s who died after a fast of 69 days. Adnan is on day 64. A supporter wrote this beautiful song:

A portion of the lyrics:
“Khader Adnan loves his wife and daughters
And he likes to eat his daily bread
But in prison he can’t see his children
Or live life with the lady that he wed
So on behalf of all the children without fathers
He decided he had to strike a blow
He said I will have dignity or death
Like in Belfast not many years ago

…Khader Adnan lost his liberty before he was born
To fight for life it’s death he must embrace
But just like others come before him
There are others waiting to take his place
And even the great powers can lose interest
In supporting such a vicious status quo
Because you can’t break a man who won’t be broken
Like in Belfast not many years ago”

It is a shame that his story has not made headlines globally, so we must take it into our own hands to spread his message far and wide.

There has been a petition circulating via Samidoun for a while now: sign here.

Two days ago, Amnesty also set a petition: take action here.