It will prove to be Israel’s misfortune that the Zionist project to take over Palestine got underway at a period when settler-colonialism was coming to be viewed with moral and legal contempt. Nevertheless, such has been the effectiveness if its hasbara — propaganda — that even as the world entered a post-colonial era it has failed to disrupt the creation and expansion of a new colonial reality in Palestine.
Relegating Palestine to an extra-legal territory, not subject to laws governing state behaviour, has been key to this success. Right and wrong in this lawless space has been surrendered to the coloniser’s logic: “The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must.”
No plan to end the conflict has been able to escape this reality. All such efforts played a performative function to advance the slow erasure of Palestine off the map. From the 1917 Balfour Declaration — which was seized upon for the creation of a self-declared Jewish State by the promise of support for a “Jewish homeland” — to the 1993 Oslo process, every attempt to find a solution has been seized by Israel as an opportunity to lockdown its land grab, secure new negotiating positions and exact new concessions from the Palestinians. Peace plans have been nothing more than new staging grounds for the mounting of fresh attacks on the Palestinian national movement.
President Donald Trump’s much-heralded “peace plan” is simply the latest such initiative in the century-long colonisation of Palestine. It has finally shattered the two-state delusion, a vision that has been the fantasy of “progressive” supporters of Israel — if they can even be described as such — who had desperately clung to the hope that the Zionist project could somehow be redeemed.
Trump’s plan has been almost unanimously condemned. It displays the same contempt for the law as all previous plans while rewarding Israel for its rapacious land theft. Unlike those previous schemes, however, the “deal of the century” did not hide the glaring fact that there exists an inherent clash between Israel and international law such that no amount of gerrymandering will ever allow for the two to be reconciled.
On page 39 of the US plan released last week, one of the architects of the plan, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — who is a strong backer of Israel’s illegal colonial-settlements — concedes that the law is Israel’s greatest enemy. Taking the meaning of political concession to a new level of surrender, Palestinians are ordered to abandon their pursuit of Israel in the International Criminal Court in exchange for what is nothing more than a colonial deal that surrenders every single one of their legally safeguarded rights. “The PLO and the Palestinian Authority shall take no action, and dismiss all pending actions, against the State of Israel, the United States and any of their citizens before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, and all other tribunals.” (Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People) Elsewhere in the document, it is demanded from the Palestinian leadership that they take no “action against any Israeli or United States citizens before Interpol or any other non-Israeli or United States legal systems.”
This assault on the law has been a consistent theme from Balfour to Trump. “Arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in November while announcing that the US had shifted its position by viewing Israeli settlements as “not inconsistent with international law”.
Pompeo’s remarks reflected the truism in the erasure of Palestine: every Israeli demand takes priority over Palestinian rights. On all final status issues — refugees; borders; Jerusalem; settlements — international law stands unequivocally on the side of Palestinians, and yet the dispute has been relegated to an extra-legal status, on all these key matters, wherein might is most definitely right.
International law is unambiguous on these issues for good reason. The prohibition on occupying powers transferring their own people into occupied territory, for example, was intended to prevent a repeat of Nazi Germany’s invasions and population transfers in order to “Germanise” the country for racial and economic reasons.
Critics of the two-state model in Israel-Palestine harbour no illusions that the Zionist state is willing or able to abandon its colonial ideology and subject itself to a rules-based international order. Opposition to Israel’s colonialism is not rooted in any kind of antipathy towards the idea of a Jewish state per se. Rather, it stems from the belief that displacing hundreds of thousands of people and gerrymandering a Jewish majority to accommodate the fantasies of European Zionists has been from the outset morally and legally indefensible.
Furthermore, every version of the two-state resolution has mistaken the symptom for the cause, and through this error has locked-in past injustices while condemning millions of Palestinians to future suffering.
The assumption that the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians is simply about territory is a case in point which can no longer be sustainable, not least because of Israel’s inability to abandon the “Greater Israel” ultimate objective of Zionism. With Palestine facing complete erasure, and “peace plans” falling by the wayside, it is time to accept that it is Zionist ideology built upon domination and separation that is the main source of conflict in occupied Palestine. Such plans have failed because they have been unable and unwilling to admit this fact. All presume — mistakenly — that the conflict is a quarrel over territory between two legitimate nationalistic claims. That has clearly proven to be false. If any plan is to succeed, it will first have to “de-Zionise” Israel.
The reality of the two state discourse is that its main proponents have felt the need to keep the fantasy status quo alive for no reason other than to exonerate Israel’s past and present behaviour in the hope of its future redemption. Critics of the two-state paradigm never bought into the blind optimism that Israel could one day end its domination and control over the lives of millions of Palestinians by giving up territory set aside for a Palestinian state.
Instead of finding redemption, therefore, Israel has arrived at apartheid. Continued land grabs have meant that facts on the ground, at least since 1967, are such that the Zionist state of Israel controls the lives of the 12 million or so people who live across the whole of historic Palestine, only half of whom have any say in which government controls their lives. That is the precise definition of apartheid.
Israel has a choice to make: criminal apartheid or a new future which respects international law, and the political and other rights of everyone in the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. With “peace plans” like that proposed by Donald Trump having no function other than to serve Israel’s colonial takeover of Palestine, it look as if the Zionist state has opted for a permanent crime against humanity.