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What to do with historic levels of Palestinian unity and international support?

NICK WRIGHT argues that the huge breakthrough for the resistance in the region and solidarity movement worldwide must lead to a political realism that includes effective Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions tactics

ISRAEL’S renewed assault on Gaza and the widespread Palestinian resistance it generated has had a profound effect on its standing.

According to last week’s Yougov polling, Israel’s net favourability in Britain is -42, down 27 points since February, in France it is -39 down 22 points, in Sweden -33 down 17 points and even in Germany — where an official pro-Israel public discourse is heavily policed by state, political parties and media — it is at -24 down 14 points.

And in Labour here the balance of opinion is overwhelmingly in support of the national and human rights of the Palestinian people.

But the Labour establishment presently in control of the party apparatus and the Westminster party are committed to a Palestine policy suffused with hypocrisy.

At the core of this decades-long exercise in double speak is an empty commitment to a “two-state” solution while the incompatibility between UN resolutions and the open and brutal annexationist policy of the Israeli settler state — backed by its principal allies — is clear.

Annexation is in the very DNA of the Israeli state which was notionally established on a precisely defined territory and over the explicit objections of the Palestinians and the members of the Arab League.

In 1947 the UN general assembly passed Resolution 181 which was based broadly on a “plan of partition with economic union” which proposed “an independent Arab state, an independent Jewish state, and the City of Jerusalem.” The UN partition plan was never implemented.

A measure of early Israeli intransigence was the assassination that year — by the terrorist Stern Gang — of the UN mediator, Folke Bernadotte, appointed to sort out the problems arising from the regional war which inevitably accompanied the imposition of the Partition Plan.

The following year UN resolution 194 supposedly settled the internationally guaranteed status of Jerusalem and secured formal Israeli consent to the provision “that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.”

Israel was thus born over the objections of the people who lived in Palestine and of its neighbouring states. The new state was established with the expulsion of near a million Palestinians and the appropriation of their homes, villages, towns, farms and enterprises.

The continuing basis of the crisis is precisely the refusal by Israel to abide by the internationally sanctioned terms of its establishment, within its defined borders or implement the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.

This is coupled with the continuing failure to implement the terms of all successive agreements by the states which assumed guarantor responsibilities.

The regional character of the continuing crisis as a state of war between Israel and its neighbours was supposed to be resolved by the 1967 UN security council resolution 242 to end conflict between the belligerents and see the withdrawal of the Israeli military from territory it had occupied.

Britain is a principal guarantor of international agreements supposedly to resolve the successive crises that have arisen.

The additional conditions attached to Resolution 242 were spelled out by Britain’s veteran colonial administrator, Lord Caradon, as freedom of navigation, a just settlement of the refugee problem and “a guarantee and adequate means to ensure the territorial inviolability and political independence of every state in the area.”

Israel’s occupation of the Sinai, the annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights, the threats to Lebanon’s southern borders, the challenge to the status of Jerusalem and the blockade of Gaza were just some features of the Israeli refusal and the international failure to enforce these successive “agreements.”

In the last few years Israel has been greatly encouraged in its expansionist aims by the failure of “the international community” — ie the Western guarantors of Israel’s inviolability — to restrain Trump’s brazen initiative to ratchet up annexation.

Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” was designed to legitimise Israeli settlements — which now constitute nearly a third of the West Bank — and officially incorporate the Jordan Valley into Israel.

Israel controls the whole of the West Bank, not just the illegal settlements. At the Oslo agreements the Palestinian negotiators — under extreme pressure — were forced to concede control of the largest land mass (Area C) to Israel.

This joint US/Israeli bid to end even the pretence that Jerusalem was a special case and make it the “undivided” capital of the settler state was a further denial of the right of Palestinians to return, recover their homes and property or for Jerusalem to be a safe space for Palestinians.

For Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump’s patronage and the unrealistic expectations that it generated mean he may be finished as Israel’s premier. But his successor Naftali Bennett is on record as being even more intransigently expansionist.

Netanayu’s boast that nothing in Trump’s plan would bring any “change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, in full co-ordination with the United States” must be understood as the settled policy of the Israeli state. From the river to the sea.

Judea and Samaria is code for the Occupied Territories. Sovereignty is the fancy word for annexation.

Inside Labour the stark contradiction between the widespread and broad-based solidarity with the Palestinian cause that animates the great bulk of party members and affiliates, and the official positions of the Westminster Labour leadership, is a problem that cannot be wished away by procedural fixes or a studied silence.

Late last year the newly elected leadership duo of Angela Rayner and Keir Starmer marked the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people with an appearance at a event organised by the British affiliate of the Israeli Labour Party — the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), and by Labour Friends of Israel (LFI).

November 29 is the day the world demonstrates its support for the “inalienable rights of the Palestinian people” defined by the UN general assembly resolution 3376 as self-determination for the Palestinian people and for the right of return of the refugees.

Within the Labour Party the newly established Labour and Palestine network is the direct expression of an overwhelming majority trend towards solidarity.

With thousands of supporters and a host of constituency parties vying to put the Palestinian issue on the conference agenda the prospect of a live conference hall adorned with a forest of Palestinian flags is a real threat to what remains of Starmer’s credibility as leader.

The broad sympathy and active support for the rights of the Palestinian people has become a given in British politics. Both here and at a global level the dominant narrative is one which casts Israel as a settler colonialist state whose repressive apartheid internal regime is the natural corollary of its role as the springboard for the projection of imperial power in the region.

With the balance of power as it is there is little prospect of Palestinian success in achieving a just outcome or self-determination through any process of negotiations, with Palestinian representatives pitted against a shape-shifting coalition of Israel, the US and EU with Britain running in between as a client state of the US.

The unprecedented unity achieved by the Palestinian people in Gaza, in Israel itself, the West Bank and the global diaspora over recent weeks has highlighted the fact, hitherto obscured, that this is one people.

And that despite the difficulties in forging unity when occupied, divided and imprisoned, a new Palestinian politics is emerging which is giving effect to this unity with young people playing a critical part.

This could revive the Palestine Liberation Organisation as a fully representative expression of Palestinian national unity.

At the same the idea of a single state with a common citizenship as the solution to cut through the seemingly intractable problems that winning self determination entails has gained some traction in sections of the left.

This improbable proposition faces two questions critical for its credibility. First, the settled policy of the Palestinian people is for a Palestinian state with full sovereignty, control of its borders, internal security and national economy.

Second, Israel is not interested in any meaningful alternative to the present status quo in which the steady annexation of the greater part of the land occupied by the Palestinians for centuries becomes part of Israel.

Zionism defines Israel as a Jewish state for the Jewish people and a bi-national state with a potential Palestinian majority is a complete negation of the central logic of Israel’s nationalist credo.

Zionism is playing a long game here. Of course some more rabidly reactionary Israelis favour a second and more total and cataclysmic Nakba — but the present approach is for many smaller annexations while endeavouring to eliminate every political, economic and cultural expression of Palestine.

It is in countering the Israeli strategy — shifting the global and regional balance of forces — that the solidarity movement can play a really effective role.

Discussion and political activity to give effect to the existing Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions strategy rather than preaching to the Palestinians about some mythical outcome must be the priority.

Like the struggle against the prototypical South African apartheid it is the combination of factors which can bring about decisive change.

The first requirement is absolute political realism. There are two peoples living on Palestinian soil and laying claim to a right to live there.

Neither is going to abandon their claim. There is no exclusively violent end to this contradiction and the human cost that such a process would entail would destroy any claims Israel has to the land.

A mutual acceptance of an equality of the rights to self-determination that entails Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, a right of return for the refugees and a comprehensive peace treaty that guarantees full sovereignty to the Palestinian state is the best basis for a settlement.

That this is only possible in the context of a decisive shift in the balance of global and regional power must be the starting point for the left in Britain.

The logic of this is a decisive reorientation of Britain’s foreign policy.

Developing the boycott movement as an exercise in people power, driving disinvestment to constrain the Israeli state and decisive state sanctions to compel its implementation of a comprehensive settlement is necessary. That should be our priority in Britain.

Nick Wright blogs at 21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com.

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