Dr. Subhi Ali: I believe that we have most of our audience attendees here. One, I applaud your staying here on a Friday afternoon and I believe that you will find that it was worth your time. We have a second panel on extremely low-key subjects. If you look at the program, panel two tackles just one Gaza, one of the […] areas in the universe, Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority, and last but not least the American Jewish solidarity. We have four experts who will vet these things out, analyze them. Each will speak for fifteen to twenty minutes. And the panel two is allotted two hours; that means there are forty minutes left for question and answers. As I asked this morning, please make it a question not a lecture, not a commentary. I hate to say it but if you have a speech, please, consider giving it elsewhere.
Moderating the afternoon session will be, probably one of the most stellar Arab journalists in Washington DC, and I honestly mean that. I have followed him for a very long time as a journalist. He is member of our Palestine center community, Mr. Said Arikat. His bio is in your program. Said is in charge of the entire session.
Said Arikat: Thank you doctor and thank you everyone for being here. We have a formidable panel of four people. I think although they need no introduction, but I will do a brief introduction of each one of them. To my right we have Jim Clancy who has been a journalist for over forty five years and reported extensively from Beirut, Gaza, Jerusalem, the West Bank, during some of the most tumultuous times that shaped today’s Middle East. He spent more than three decades as a correspondent and anchor for CNN, winning numerous awards for distinguished coverage of world events. Then moving on we have Miko Peled. He is a writer and human rights activist, born and raised in Jerusalem, very close to Abu Dis, my town. He is also the author of a personal memoir The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Third, we have Ali Abunimah who has been here many times before. He is the executive director of the Electronic Intifada, you should all be reading it. He is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. To the far right we have Dr. Osamah Khalil, an associate professor of history at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. So welcome them please.
Jim Clancy: Thank you very much Dr. Arikat. You know it is great to be here. This is my first trip to the Palestine Center and I’m really happy to be sitting here today and talking with you. I first started covering the question of the Palestine probably in earnest a long long time ago, 1982. The summer of ‘82 in Beirut when Israeli jets tried to dislodge the PLO from west Beirut. And it was the beginning of years of coverage. I lived in Lebanon. I moved to Beirut eventually. I’ve lived in Lebanon, covered the Palestinians, covered their plight. And covered it as well in Israel; going to Gaza, going to the West Bank, you know, for months at a time. So I became very aware of what the problems were and what were the complexities. I think, and we can get into this in the question and answers. Often times I think the conflict is overcomplicated. You know people like to say that you know the situation is hopeless but not serious. Because if nobody is being killed on any day than that is fine. It suits the narratives of some people just to allow this to fester and continue.
But I want to deal with you today talking about some of the issues and specifically looking at some questions about the media. Certainly there is good news and there is bad news. And let me start with the bad news. And that is that we have war crimes being committed in broad daylight, right in front of our eyes, in Gaza, and the media is failing to cover it and certainly failing to call it out. You know it is horrifying to see we have gotten to the point where one side is convinced that they can murder and maim civilians at will and suffer no consequences. Have complete impunity for that. And part of the reason they have that impunity is because the media doesn’t call them out. I mean that’s just the reality of the situation. If they can get away with it, they will get away with it. And unfortunately, they are getting away with it. Even when the story is covered, you know some of the same old things. And I have heard the same complaints from people, not just in the last few months but literally for decades, how the Israeli side is constantly portrayed as the victims. Israel doesn’t attack, it responds. Israel retaliates. It doesn’t start anything. Because the Palestinians are the ones, the victims are the ones, who are responsible for their situation.
Now admittedly all international news right now is not getting the coverage it deserves. Gaza is just one of these huge highlights that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. But this is the Trump effect. If you turn on the 24-hour news cycle on cable news in the United States what you discover is that it is all about Trump. I mean these are the networks that put Trump in power and they keep him there. They like the ratings. Leslie Moonves of CBS said during the campaign, he said “I don’t know if it is good for America but it is damn god for CBS.
Keep going Donald Trump.” Because they were making billions off of their ratings and the spectacle, if you will. The reality TV show that has become a nightmare for all of us. And certainly when we look at what’s happening with Jerusalem. You know, these kinds of things where literally U.S. Foreign policy is up for sale. I think the closeness of the Netanyahu government with Donald Trump is indicative of the fact that they know he can be bought. And they know they can buy him. But that is creating a dangerous alliance with so-called nationalists and these two entities, the U.S. and Israel. And it’s dangerous for Jewish people, it is dangerous for Muslims, it dangerous for everyone. Now one of the things that we have repeatedly seen the media fail to deal with this notion that Hamas has sent these people out to protest at the Gaza border. And there are cases certainly where Hamas is putting people into the fight and putting people at risk. But the whole notion that these people have not turned out for their human rights, their right of return, that they have turned out to be human shields for Hamas is a false narrative. But that’s what the media continues to do.
Now the good news is that people aren’t relying as much on the mainstream media to get their news. Social media is turning things on their head. We know that Israel has banned any video that shows the IDF in a bad light. Well you know that’s a situation where if you are really going to do the news you need that video. And that video has been a game changer because it does hold people to account. It opens people’s eyes when they see it. But it is accessible now on social media. On you tube its being exported there. They’re not waiting for the mainstream media to pick it up. In fact many times it’s the mainstream media, it’s when it gets to the point where we have a killing Gaza that is particularly significant, like the young woman, the 21 year-old who was the medic. Shot in the chest for what? She was completely unarmed, she was more than 100 meters away from the border fence. What was the reason for that? And it brings it into focus in people’s minds. When I say social media is good news, it makes a lot of mistakes yes, the wrong video there, but at the same time it shows people the raw reality that they wouldn’t otherwise be getting. It’s not going through the network filters, if you will. It’s not being balanced out with lies. With you know, you create a false narrative which there is actually two sides to this when there isn’t. There is only really one side and that is the facts of what happened.
Now into all of this comes the whole campus movement for BDS. And young people are driven by social media. They’re driven by the news but they get their news on twitter on twitter now. They get their news on Facebook. They get their news in other places. They don’t get it necessarily from the mainstream media. So that filter is disappearing, that power to a great extent is disappearing. Young people are the ones that need to be reached. And they are the ones, obviously from the BDS movement, that you see they are being reached by these grassroots movements. And the media has to reckon with that. And the media often times now ends up covering the story in that life. Now one of the things that we have seen in recent days is this whole Canary Mission story and how it relates to the Israel project. And how all of these forces are out there trying to intimidate the individuals that are standing up, being activist, [and] expressing their opinions. Literally, threatening young people’s careers before they ever get started. And this is something that the news media has reported, the print media at least, has reported very well. Al Jazeera has reported it very well. Some of the mainstream media have not.
But these are the same kind of forces that you wonder and you ask yourself how is it that the mainstream media doesn’t really cover the situation in occupied Palestine. And I’m gonna give you the inside view of that. It is this, that when the mainstream media goes out to cover a story, say in Gaza, looking at the occupation and its impact, everybody in the office knows they are instantly going to be called on the carpet by various groups, pro-Israel groups. That are going to demand equal time, that are going to say that it was an unfair report no matter what was in it, whether it was fair or not. They just make the situation for the media heads, the heads of those media houses, almost impossible. The networks they say “look it’s not worth the trouble. If we get involved in this, if we start reporting an in depth series say on the occupation. We are going to get so much push back on our advertisers, on ourselves, we’re going to face smears.” You know these veiled threats they are very powerful. And I have seen one media executive after another simply say “It’s not worth it we need to be reporting less on the Middle East not more. We don’t need to be trying to be trying to explain these difficult issues. We need to just look the other way. It’s easier and it’s a lot cheaper.” The Israel project, talking about cheaper, one of the reasons that they have been so powerful is that they actually literally go to the assignment desks in Jerusalem of the major networks and they feed them stories that project Israel in a positive light. They don’t take on necessarily the controversial issues, but it could be a medical facility, it could be aiding wounded Syrian fighters. And these are good valid stories, but what they want to do is chew up that air time. If there is positive news going out in the mainstream media they don’t have to worry about negative news surfacing there.
Now I know a lot of you are going to have questions about all of this and I’m gonna try to cut it as short as possible because you will have some specific things that you might to hear about and all will be happy to answer all of those. You know I think when it comes to Palestine, unfortunately, I can stand here before you today and say that the mainstream media is not up for any courage awards because they are just not covering the story.
Miko Peled: Alright, well thank you all for being here and thank you to the Palestine Center for putting together this great event and putting me on this fantastic panel. Its real honor and a pleasure. So somebody earlier asked me what this badge was. So I explained this BDS stands for boycott divestment and sanctions. And these are probably the three most hated letters in Israel today. I think if they could they would take those three letters out of every single word, out of every single sign because they are terrified of these three letters: boycott, divestment, and sanctions. And I think it is a testament to just how effective the movement and the call for BDS have been and currently is when it comes to the struggle for Palestinian rights.
I gave a talk a couple of months ago in London together with Azzam Tamimi, who some of you may know. He is a great scholar and a great guy. And at the end of the talk, both he and I spoke about the need to free all of Palestine and the vision of a single democracy over all of Palestine. And to stay away and break away from, what I think is a ridiculous, notion of the two-state solution. And at the end one of the students, this was at a university, rose up and asked me “Well where should the Jews go? You and your one state solution, where should the Jews go?” And I asked her well why do you think the Jews should go anywhere? Why do the Jews need to go? And this strange mindset that there has got to be oppression one way or the other. One side always has to be pushing the other one out. There can’t be a reality where people just live in peace and there is tolerance. [It] is an interesting one.
But, I think, it brings to question first of all who are these Jews and what are they doing in Palestine. We know that there are about six million Israelis today. Now I refer to the people, Israeli Jews, as Israelis. And I think the identity of Israelis is very very, well it’s unique, and it’s important to understand because the support or lack of support that Israelis get and the state of Israel gets here in the United States. And I’m talking about not officially from the government but from Jewish communities, is very interesting. You saw we had two members Rabi Weiss and Rabbi Feldman, they had to leave because Shabbos starts soon and they had to prepare. They belong to one very decidedly anti-Zionist community, that has been anti-Zionist and anti-Israel from the very beginning. Then there are communities that are completely pro-Israel and totally Zionist. And if you drive around any city, any major city in America, you see on the big synagogues the signs “we support Israel”. And then there all these polls that show that the majority of young Jewish people in America don’t really care one way or the other about Israel very much. But I think it all has to do with this identity of this thing called Israelis. And who are they and who are we?
So as an Israeli in, the subtitle of my book The General’s Son is Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. It forced me to think about what is an Israeli and what is Palestine and what are the boundaries between these two things. Where is Israel? Where is Palestine? And what does it mean as an Israeli to go into Palestine, because I was born and raised in Palestine. But really it’s a journey from the sphere of the oppressor to the sphere of the oppressed. That’s really what it is about. And as an Israeli, you know, we are taught, we are told that we are Jews and that we are a nation. Well according the strictest orthodox Jews and the strictness reading of Orthodox Judaism, which is what the two rabbis here would have said, Jews are a nation. But not a nation like normal nations, we are a nation that is united by our common faith. Well, Israelis are secular. Zionism is a secular movement. So we can’t be bound by faith if we are secular. We don’t have a faith if we are secular. So we are secular Jews. So what in the world does that mean. Then we are told, well what we do here in Palestine or as the call it the land of Israel, is you know we have returned. We have legitimacy because we used to be here and now we are back. But that doesn’t really withstand any kind of serious test either. I don’t know any Jewish person anywhere that can trace their roots back to the ancient Hebrews. I don’t think anybody like that exists. We know that Palestinians in refugee camps and elsewhere have the deeds to their lands and the keys to their home. I know no one Jew in the world or Jewish family in the world that can do that. So how could we claim that we were once there when we have absolutely no way to show that? We have nothing. So we are not really from there, we are not really natives. I mean we are certainly not Palestinians, most of us.
Now when you look at Israelis, today, we don’t look alike, we have different customs, we come from different places. I’ll share a little anecdote with you. I remember when I was in maybe sixth or seventh grade we heard that they were going to institute this thing called integration in our schools. And we had no idea what integration means, it’s a big word, but we knew it was going to happen. And what they did was, they brought the kids who are children of the Arab Jews, the Jews that came from Arab countries, who went to a different school than we did because they were working class people and they were lower class people and the school was only a couple blocks away, into our school. Which is the school of the white the Ashkenazi, educated, wealthy, you know. We were the ones that were going to be professors and leaders and so forth and they were going to be the janitors and the street sweepers. And they brought them to our school, not the same classes, just the same building. And that was integration. That was integration. And then we looked at each other and we had very little in common. Our parents came from different places, we ate different food, our parents [and] our grandparents spoke different languages. We shared absolutely no customs whatsoever and because we were being secular we didn’t even share the same faith, because we were secular. And we were more secular than they were. Typically the Arab Jews had a little more connection to their religious traditions than we did. So we are not even the same people.
So then there was the story of the persecution and the holocaust. Because we were persecuted people, because of the holocaust, that unifies us. But Zionism really failed in providing any sort of help to Jews when they were being persecuted in Europe. And we know that from when Zionism began, in the late 19th century until, at least, until the time that my grandparents, who were Zionists, ended up coming to Palestine millions of Jews did immigrate from Europe but they came to America mostly. So millions of Jews did go to other places but they did not buy into Zionism. And we also know that after the holocaust the vast majority of holocaust survivors chose to go elsewhere when they had the choice. The only ones that came to Israel, or what became Israel, are the ones that had no choice or for some reason were Zionists which was a minority. And then when these holocaust survivors did come they were treated very poorly and they still are. Those that alive today are treated very very poorly by Israel. So even that which we are told is part of our identity really isn’t. Most Israelis have nothing to do with persecution, none of us were ever persecuted. Most of us have no connection, most of us have no connection to the holocaust, because very few of us have grandparents […] that came and were survivors of the holocaust. So were not really Jewish according to strict Jewish law. Because strict Jewish law rejects secularism and rejects Zionism. And according to strict Jewish law, Jews are prohibited from having sovereignty in the holy land. And for us as Zionists, as Israelis, sovereignty in the holy land is everything. That what we’re about. You know, that why Netanyahu has to jump up and down every day and say this is ours this is ours this is ours. And keeps passing laws including the Nation State Law. Palestinians don’t need a Nation State Law. Palestinian kids do not need a law to tell them that this is their country and Arabic is their language, Israelis do. So we are not really Jewish, we’re not really native, and we have very little in common with each other. So what is going on here?
Now we have to admit that Zionism did succeed in forging something new. I think Israelis are a little bit like, or in many ways, not a little bit, we’re like the whites of South Africa. We don’t belong there, we are not native to the place, but now we are there. As a result of settler colonialism and racism and the ethnic cleansing and the genocide. That we’re now there and there are six-million of us or so. And we have a culture and a language and so forth. But the interesting thing is that most Israelis don’t view Israel is kind of a normal democratic state. They view Israel, of its citizens, they view Israel as a state of all Jewish people. But they don’t view it as the state of the native indigenous people, who are the Palestinians. Even Palestinians who are citizens of the state of Israel really are not part of the state of Israel at all. And of course, we knew this all along and there have been dozens of laws past until now. But the Nation State Law pretty much firms that up. They do not belong. So it is a strange kind of an entity. So the state does not belong to its citizens. It belongs to all these people on the outside, many of whom don’t this favor, thank you very much. Again if you talk to Rabbi Feldman, Rabbi Weiss, and their community, they don’t want anything to do with that state. And like Rabbi Weiss said earlier, when the state of Israel was established the chief rabbi of Jerusalem begged the United Nations to give them some kind of special status. They did not want to be citizens of this thing, of this new creation. They did not want to have, they did not want to be part of it and they are beaten up very badly because of that. So Israeli-ness has to do with really, we are not Arabs and we are not Jews. We are not Palestinians and we are not Jews. And, as some kind of the younger Israeli politicians today have defined, Israeli-ness is defined by hatred of the Palestinians and hatred of the Orthodox Jews. Because we are not either one of them, and these are two groups that actually do have legitimacy and we do not. So that really is what defines us.
And I think it’s paramount that we all come to the realization or come to terms with the fact that Zionism is incompatible with peace. It’s incompatible with accepting the rights of the indigenous people of Palestine. Which is why we are, seventy years later, after the establishment of the state of Israel, we are still here. We’re still in this situation. So it’s not so much a conflict between Israel and Palestine or Israelis and Palestinians. It’s a question of a movement that created this brutal, uncompromising, society that is incompatible with peace. So either accept it in whole or reject it in whole and that’s what I think is difficult for many people. And again, coming from a very Zionist family, I know how difficult this choice can be for many people. But we have to make a choice. It’s either Israel or its Palestine. And when we accept one we reject the other. And I think the whole idea of a two state solution is to legitimize Israel while not admitting that legitimizing Israel is incompatible with Palestinian rights. And that is the reality that is still going on today. But we have to decide. And I think the best way to decide where we stand on this, and again I’m not talking about rejecting a people we are talking about rejecting an ideology and a political reality. So “where did Jews have to go?” Jews don’t have to go anywhere. Israelis don’t have to go anywhere. That’s not part of the conversation. But they can’t be allowed to continue to be there, and I say this with they you know I’m from them, and live in a reality where they have all the privilege at the expense of the people of the land, who are the Palestinians.
And I think it is really important, and I am going to end with this, just to clarify some of the terminology. So the big thing is, is it Israel or Palestine? Well if you call it Israel, we are legitimizing this brutal, racist, apartheid ideology and regime. Because there is no part of Palestine that is not occupied. So there is no Israel and occupied Palestinian Territories. Because that would suggest that there are some Palestinian Territories that are not occupied. So again its either Israel or its Palestine. And if we accept racism and if we accept apartheid, than certainly we should accept Israel and call it Israel. If we reject them and we believe in justice and freedom and so forth, and the rights of Palestinians to be free than we cannot in good conscious call that place Israel, because Israel is this creation. So I would invite people to call it Palestine and stop talking about occupied Palestinian territories. Because, again, that creates the impression that there are some Palestinian territories somewhere that are not occupied. And another interesting term is illegal settlements. So are there legal settlements somewhere? Because if they are illegal in one place they are probably illegal in another place. What legal about Tel Aviv for example? You know Israelis who live in pre-67 borders like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, people like myself. You know we are educated. We are Ashkenazi. We are white. We are good people. We are not settlers. Are we really not settlers? You know if you look at Tel Aviv, you know there is an organization called Zochrot which commemorates the destroyed villages and town of Palestine. Go to their map and you can take a look at Tel Aviv and how many destroyed villages it sits on. And on and on and on. So I mean this is a reality and these are terms that are very important. They are all illegal settlements, they are all settlements. And it all needs to be changed. So we either legitimize it or we de-legitimize it. And I think it is a decision that we have to make. Now again being an Israeli, I can see how that might be difficult for some people to do. So invite people to just look at their conscious, look at their values. And you either accept occupation, racism, oppression, [and] ethnic cleansing or you reject it. I have a very good friend in San Diego who says “Well, I oppose the racism. What is your position?” And the answer is “yes but” than you know that person is not exactly willing to reject Zionism or reject racism.
So I’ll end with this and thank you all very much.
Ali Abunimah: Good afternoon, after the lunch session so we have the hard job of keeping everyone awake. But so far it has been very lively so I am going to try to continue that. First, let me thank the Palestine Center once again for having me here. It’s really an honor to be back. And to thank all the staff for their hard work putting this conference together. I think, you know, this is 2018 right, it’s hard for me to remember sometimes, it’s the 70th year we commemorated the beginning of the Nakba. Because the Nakba, as we know, is ongoing. It’s the year of the Great March of Return when so many Palestinians have given their lives for us. They are giving their lives for our rights not just for ending the siege of Gaza. But, as speakers earlier in the day noted, for the right to return for all Palestinians. And it is the year that, as Josh Ruebner, pointed out, the Trump administration has taken so many measures aimed at really, essentially, destroying the status quo and liquidating the Palestinian cause. Eliminating the notion of a Palestinian refugee. And their logic, as Zaina Aha pointed out, is totally flawed. The idea that if you get rid of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees you get rid of the refugees themselves. [It] is like saying, I know we have some doctors in the room today, is like saying if you get rid of hospitals, or if you go to a hospital it’s full of sick people, so if you get rid of hospitals you solve the problem of sickness. This is the logic.
But I think we should not underestimate the power of this Trump administration strategy because they are creating political facts on the ground. And don’t expect, you know, if the Democrats come back in 2020, I think Hillary is gonna run by the way, we were talking about this last night and just watch out, even if the democrats come back they are not going to restore the consensus that existed before. What Trump creates will be the new political reality. And so I really think that we need to go on the offensive politically. We cannot afford to keep talking the same discourse about two states and international law and so on as if nothing has changed or things are going to go back to the way they were and as if that got us anywhere in the first place. We have to put into question all the fundamental questions. And, as earlier speakers said, making the right of return central as Palestinians have made it central. Remember whatever price we are paying for speaking up about Palestine in Gaza they are paying a much higher price. They are paying with their lives, they are paying with everything that they have. So I agree that Trump is providing us with an opportunity to put those issues back front and center. And to stop this sterile discourse of Palestinian State and two state solution and peace process and all of this kind of nonsense. We also have to put the issue of Zionism back at the center because, you know, one of the worst tricks that Zionism has played is to confuse us and many others into thinking that Zionism has something to do with Judaism.
And now this is their main strategy, to claim that if you criticize Israel, if you stand up for Palestinian rights, you are somehow attacking Jews. The reality is that there is no greater threat today to the wellbeing and safety of Jews everywhere in the world than Israel and Zionism. And this is very real, this is not rhetoric. We saw after the horrific massacre by a white Christian nationalist Nazi in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that our Jewish brothers and sisters in this country cried out rightly against the racist and anti-Semitic and white supremacist incitement of Donald Trump and his movement, his ideological ilk. They cried out against it. That racism, that anti-Semitism, it targets Jews, it targets Muslims, it targets Mexicans, immigrants, black people, people of color, it targets us all who are not white Christians in this country. And who came out to defend these people, Ron Dermer the Israeli ambassador or as I call him the ambassador from Miami. Because that is where he is from. I mean I think that illustrated the point the Miko made. The Israeli government came out full force to deflect the criticism from Donald Trump and the white racists who support him and to put it on the Jewish left. To attack leftist Jews using the same rhetoric as the killer in Pittsburgh. Its Jewish left wing groups who are antagonizing Americans and bring about this violence about Jews. And it’s also turning, using, exploiting the blood of those innocent people who were murdered in Pittsburgh to attack the Palatine solidarity movement and to push congress to adopt these laws to censor and repress the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. This is Israel and its Zionist cohorts cynically explaining the blood of the Jewish victims of a Nazi killer to advance the cause of a racist apartheid state. And it puts Jews in danger everywhere. And we see this going on in Europe as well where neo-Nazi governments like in Austria are embracing Israel to get a certificate of good conduct from Israel. If you are a racist, a Nazi, an anti-Semite but you’re pro-Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu will give you a blessing. And you can go around saying, as representative Steve King in Iowa did, “well how can I be an anti-Semite or a racist? I love the state of Israel.” And this is the ploy that these people are using.
Now we have to be more forthright in challenging Zionism and challenging its claim to speak for Jewish people. I think what the challenge is for us, in this country, is that we, people have laid out, other speakers have laid out the changing landscape. We have seen it in poll after poll. Support Israel is slipping among progressives, among people of color, among women, among young people and really the support for Israel consolidating on the right. As it was stated “The Republican Party is now the party of Israel”. This is a great opportunity for us but we have to seize it. And I do not see us seizing it to the extent that we can and should. There have been enough of the great success of good disciplined organizing. We heard an example earlier of the bill to protect Palestinian children, the first bill in Congress supporting Palestinian rights. Which has now, I believe, 31 co-sponsors, one more came on today. But that bill didn’t just happen. It happened because of well-planned grassroots work. It didn’t take millions of people to do it but it took determined people who are organized, who are doing public advocacy, who are contacting members of congress, who are doing media work, who are holding events, and communities around the country that made that happen. And in the midterm elections, you know, not one of the members of Congress who have co-sponsored that law lost their seat. All those that sought reelection, a few of them retired, but all of those that sought reelection we re-elected. Whereas, I’m not claiming this is related but in Illinois Peter Roskam, the main sponsor of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, lost his seat. So supporting Palestinian rights isn’t the killer of political careers people think it is and supporting Israel to the hilt is no guarantee of success anymore. And this is something we have seen in the context of the Great March of Return. One thing that has been little commented upon that I noticed is that there has been a little bit of criticism from members of Congress about Israel using snipers to murder children in cold blood. Some have spoken out, sadly not to many, that’s unfortunate. But I think the more significant thing is the lack of support for what Israel is doing. The fact that even fewer, I think only one member of congress, actually came out and supported what Israel is doing and that is a sea change. Because in the 2014 war against Gaza, 2012, 2008, every Israeli military attack AIPAC will circulate a letter and get 300, 400, signatures or the senate will pass a resolution 99-0 endorsing whatever horrors Israel is committing as self-defense. That didn’t happen this time. No letters circulated. No congressional resolutions. In other words members of congress they may not have the courage to speak out but they are not going to actually associate themselves with what Israel is doing anymore. That is a big change.
When I say that we have to have a disciplined movement, I mean that we have to really take seriously what we are demanding and hold people accountable for it. And I mention this because I chose not to attend the talk of the Mahmoud Abbas ambassador this morning, but I heard through the grapevine that he was unhappy with some of the things I said about Rashida Tlaib. First, he misrepresented them. I never brought up her support or not for a one state solution, that was never the issue. The issue that I raised was that she accepted an endorsement from J-Street: a racist, Zionist organization that exists to oppose the Palestinian right to return and to liquidate the Palestinian cause under the banner of peace. Nobody contested anything I reported regarding Rashida Tlaib. And in fact bringing this to the public was successful because it encouraged Rashida Tlaib to clarify her positions and to state them in a way she had never done before, publicly. You know people told me “If you know her, she believes this, she believes that.” Well what she believes in private is one thing, what she says in public is another thing. And she had to state her position publicly and J-Street dropped its endorsement because it understood that Rashida Tlaib was not going to associate herself with their racist agenda. So that’s what we ought to be doing. Accountability is important. Remember Rashida Tlaib, you may love her, you may hate her, but she is not running to be your aunt or you best friend. She is running to be a member of the most brutal, powerful, genocidal legislature in the history of humanity. And we need to hold people accountable for what they say and what they do in our names. It’s not enough to wear a thobe when you are sworn into congress there has to actually be substance to what you do. So I encourage people to hold representatives accountable.
I think that we can also look at the ongoing battle for the right to boycott and BDS. And this is a very important battle. It’s a free speech battle and it is ongoing. And there have been great victories that were mentioned. The federal judges in Arizona and Kansas cases throwing out or severely limiting the anti-BDS laws that were passed. This is great but remember it is not enough to fight for the right to BDS. We actually have to be doing BDS campaigns and frankly at this moment in the United States there is a dearth of campaigns. We say that we have national coalitions to support Palestinian rights. But I don’t see many campaigns going on right now. Now this might be part of the natural cycle. There was tremendous activism on campus, a lot of divestment resolutions, and students are meeting at UCLA this week despite the Zionists smear campaign to try to have them banned from the UCLA campus. National SJP is meeting nonetheless. By the way the chancellor of UCLA joined the smear campaign using a typical ploy that we hear that “oh well, we good liberals have to tolerate this because we believe in free speech. Even though supporting Palestinian rights is this horrible terrible thing.” Anyway, the point is, students made great sacrifices and gains in passing divestment initiatives. They reached as far as they could in many of those cases, now there has to be a next step for us. There has to be new campaigns. And I think the one I mentioned in terms of Palestinian children’s rights is a great example of how disciplined, careful, well planned work can really yield results. I never thought that Congress could be fertile ground for Palestine organizing. But, that campaign really changed my mind.
And I think we need to get very serious about this. It’s not just that there are opportunities for us with the status quo being smashed, there are enormous dangers if we continue to wait for others to define our cause. We are we waiting, why is anyone waiting for Donald Trump to come out with his peace plan. We should be coming out with our peace plan. Which is the right of return, the end of Zionist colonialism, restitution, democracy, and full equal rights for everyone in Palestine, from the river to the sea. Thank you.
Dr. Osamah Khalil: Okay so I have the difficult task of being the last speaker and then following these great speakers here. Especially, coming on after Ali is like coming on after Beyoncé it’s not easy right. So bear with me here. Alright so let me take a minute. Let me thank Dr. Subhi and Dr. Eid and all the members of the Palestine Center’s board for all the great work you do. The Palestine Center is an essential institution here, in America, for Palestinians in Palestine and everywhere. It’s so important to have this center here, in Washington, and I want to thank them again. I also want to thank Mohamad and Samer for the help and the logistics and my fellow panelists for all the great work that they are doing, that they’ve done. It’ a real thrill. Okay so my job as a historian is to kind of put things in a broader perspective when we talk about Jerusalem. This is not to put you to sleep but we are going to follow up and connect some of the dots with the speakers today. As the title of the talk tells you, I’m going to focus on a little bit on American imagination and Palestinian reality when we talk about Jerusalem. What does that mean?
How many of you have ever seen this picture before, the “Jerusalem Exhibit?” So this was taken in 1904 at the World’s Fair in Saint Louis. And this is very typical of late nineteenth century, early twentieth century, World’s Fairs. They would recreate these exotic places. This covers four acres at the World’s Fair, and it’s in Saint Louis, middle of America, to extraordinary detail. Right, you can see the Dome of the Rock. Damascus gate is recreated, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. And they actually go a second step, in which they bring Jerusalemites who are now living in America, American Jerusalemites, Arabs Jews etc, to come serve as tour guides and answer peoples questions. And so this is part of the idea, and you can see how big it is here in this picture right, with the Ferris wheel behind just to add to the cinchy nature. The one thing that is missing is a Trump sign and it would be perfect, right. But this is not unique and this is actually part of a continuum of how America thinks about Jerusalem and thinks about Palestine.
So those of you who live in and/or near Virginia, or even further up north, or as you go west, you see names of towns that are named after places in the Bible. And this is part of a much broader sweep that takes up back into the mid-nineteenth century of trips to what are called “the Bible lands”, right, so Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and sometimes Egypt. And so what would happen is Americans would go, and some British, so you would have these western European or American travelers, and they would take their pilgrimage. And when they would go, then they would write these travel logs. And these are huge best sellers. And so one of the most famous American writers, Mark Twain, goes to Palestine in 1867, [and] two years after he writes Innocents Abroad. And he talks about, and there is kind of this real shift in the book, because it’s very typical of what these pilgrims would see. They will go to Palestine and they have this idea of Palestine from the Bible. What does it look like? And they write all these glorious things about what they are expecting and then they get there and it’s a huge let down. Why? Well because of Ottoman rule, Muslim rule, and we see this also in Twain’s book. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it because we have a lot, but you can see some of it in some of the excerpts. So in fact, as he is writing about his group as they are approaching Jerusalem they are all in awe. They can see the gates. They can see the wall of the old city and then they get there and he tells us it’s filled with dirty people, who spoke languages we don’t understand, and this is a sign of Ottoman rule. And Palestine, he tells us, is this desolate place. And then at the end he tells us that it is a “hopeless, dreary, broken hearted land.” And at the end he tells us that, what it is, Palestine is a dream world. This dream world of the Bible that doesn’t exist anymore.
But, to connect this to Palestine today and Jerusalem today and really this continuum of U.S. policies and American imagination, in a way, this idea that Jerusalem is separate, that Jerusalem is different is going to play into actual policy concerns. So when we get to this idea, when I throw out this phrase, how many of you have ever heard of this the corpus separatum? Who has hear that phrase before? Okay, so if you haven’t heard that phrase before, that is it basically takes us back into the mid-nineteenth century British rule. And this idea, because eventually we have to partition Palestine, the British mandate, we have to create a Jewish state in what is supposed to be an Arab state. What is supposed to be Palestine will be part of Jordan. But Jerusalem is separate. Jerusalem is always separate. Why because it is this holy city, you will hear, it this holy city to the three monotheistic faiths. Britain and America could care less about the three monotheistic faiths. There is only one faith that counts, one. Maybe Judaism because you hear about Judeo-Christian tradition. But as we know, and I’ll get to at the end, the same reason why they are having a World’s Fair and showcasing Jerusalem, the same reason, as I’ll talk about at the end, what drove Trump’s decision to move the Embassy, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, is this deep seeded Christian-Zionism and Christian Evangelical notions about the place of Jerusalem. And its central role in their faith.
So, you’ll see also, so the corpus separatum is here in the middle, alright, you’ll see the red lines, you’ll notice, it’s not just the Old City, right, because this is just a bad religion, it should just be the Old City. In fact, it should just be, maybe, even the Christian quarter, but it’s not. So you’ll see how far down it stretches, it encompasses Bethlehem. So this goes all the way to the coast. So this is the 1937 Peel Partition Plan. How many of you have heard of that? I mean, you’re going to get a history listen here today. Alright, I promise I won’t do that. I won’t put you to sleep. But the Peel Partition Plan comes up after the Arab Revolt, so, of course, this is what the British do, alright. Whenever there’s a major revolt in one of the colonies, they send over their experts and they come back and write a report. They say the way to solve this is to partition this Palestine. There will be a Jewish state; there will be an Arab state which we merged with Jordan; and then this separate enclave that we will rule, we Britain. It’s going to run from the sea to encompass all the religious sites that we care about. That part will be kept for the ‘47 Partition Plan. But, as we know, the 47 Partition Plan doesn’t really work the way they expect and Jerusalem is going to be divided. [This] takes us to this map. So you will notice in the far left the yellow line, right, is the original municipal boundary from the British Mandate. You will see how much Jerusalem has grown. So, two things have effectively happened here: [First,] the size of Jerusalem has grown under Israeli control and this is deliberate, as I’ll talk about. This is deliberate but what’s also deliberate is that since 1967 the United States, in spite of its claim….so the United States as part of its policy will claim that “no, we agree with the corpus separatum” and “this will be decided in negotiations”. But the United States adopted policies from 1967 up until 2017 that ensured Israel’s control. Some of these were public and some of these were private.
So as many of you know, in June 1967, when Israel captures the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the Old City, Israel annexes East Jerusalem. What did the United States do? Do they go to the Security Council? Do they pass sanctions? Do they deploy the hundred and first airborne? No. The annexation stood. When settlements started being built in and around Jerusalem, when the shape of Jerusalem changed, what did the United States do? So you got great statements out of the State Department: ‘this is terrible’, you [referring to the United States] object to this, ‘here is more aid’. So series of public and private policies and reassurances to the government of Israel, including ever increasing aid, ensured Israel’s control over an expanding Jerusalem was maintained. Now, how do we know? One of the answers would be: ‘this is natural growth’, right? From 1967 to today, this is natural growth. How do you it’s not natural growth? The Palestinian sector. So what we know, over 50 to 60 years the control of the Palestinian sector of East Jerusalem, a deliberate policy of constraining Palestinian growth, deliberate. Any native of Jerusalem can tell you [about] that deliberate policy to restrict growth. So where is this growth? Look at the west side, look north, [and] look at [the] encompassing and containing or reducing. This is the second map. So, look at those areas and that tells you. This includes inside the smaller version-the Old City…the creation of quote-on-quote settlements inside our archeological digs, tunnels, excavations. All of this is designed to do two things: assert Israel’s control [and] diminish the Palestinian population inside Jerusalem.
So by the summer of 2000, seven years into the Oslo, we recognized Ali mentioned the 70th anniversary of the Nakba but also the 25th anniversary of Oslo this year. So by summer 2000, when they finally […] the final status talks, Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barack, this is the situation, all right. Because what happened during those seven years was not that settlements stopped in the West Bank as well all know. It’s not that settlements stopped in Jerusalem, in fact, they escalated under the great peacemakers. So the far left is the current status, as the status by 2000. In the middle you will see the dark blue spots are the settlements that are built in and around Jerusalem, deliberately to change the demographics of Jerusalem to change the shape of Jerusalem. And you’ll see, here, just how big it is and how much of the West Bank it takes and how deliberate that is. This is not accidental. This is a policy pursued over decades. Now, the final map is the great offer, Ehud Barak’s great offer that wasn’t really an offer as we now know. But you can see, cuts the West Bank into several different pieces. None are contiguous and how massive Jerusalem is and where that is going. Now, this also continues into the Old City, alright, because the Old City has its four quarters. So what we now know about the negotiations at Camp David were the following. Where they got before everybody became angry and walked away was that there would be several different layers of sovereignty. What do I mean by that? So part of the Armenian Quarter and Jewish quarter would go to Israel. The other part of the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter would go to the Palestinians, but, overall sovereignty for the Old City would remain with Israel. This is where the negotiations broke down. So what does that mean? That means Israel has sovereignty. All the rest is kind of who wears a uniform in and around the Old City and checks passes, not that it was going to happen anyway. So, as we all know, from 2000 to 2008, Camp David collapses, the Second Intifada breaks out, and negotiations continue. On and off, while Arafat is alive, after Arafat is assassinated. Israel builds a massive wall in the West Bank for two reasons: one of the main ones is to ensure and to annex Jerusalem. We also have a withdrawal from Gaza, and we have a new Palestinian president.
By 2008, in the summer, as we recognize the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, you will notice this morning speaker, next to him is the Israeli ambassador, smiling. This is after a siege on Gaza, an invasion of Lebanon, an invasion of Gaza. I’m sure Gaza wasn’t mentioned this morning, like Ali I would not attend. Now, why are they smiling? Well, the Israeli ambassador is retiring. Apparently, he was a very genial, very nice man, especially when he’s covering up Israel’s crimes in Gaza and Lebanon. But, there is a new set of negotiations in 2008. The last six months of the Bush administration, here we are finally, mission accomplished. But, for anyone who is paying attention, for anyone who is paying attention, except for the negotiators: Ehud Olmert was in trouble; he was going to be in indicted and was, in fact, indicted. Bush is out of office in six months. How is he going to oversee a peace deal? And yet we now know, from the Palestine papers, during these negotiations, we know two things: the major one is this is that after the failure in Camp David, Israel insisted and the Palestinian leadership agreed, that the discussions of Jerusalem were off the table for negotiators, that was for only the leadership to discuss, discussions were off the table for negotiators. Let me repeat that. What does the Palestinian leadership team do? We presume, with the agreement of Mahmoud Abbas, they make a proposal. They make a dramatic proposal, in fact. And they present this. The proposal is the following: we will agree, we are going to make a major concession, that Israel can annex all the major settlements around Jerusalem, except for two, marked in the dark red, this is our great offer. A concession, you don’t even have to give anything back. Now, when you read the minutes, what’s amazing is the Israeli team is shocked and angry, led by Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister. What is this? We’re not supposed to discuss this. What are you doing? Now the chief Palestinian negotiators, he thinks he’s very witty, loves the sound of his own voice, as we all know, tries to assuage her and says “we”, “we”, this is how generous we are, ”we are building for you., the biggest Jerusalem in history”. The chief Palestinian negotiator, as he likes to call himself, is not even content to say this once. He says it several times in different meetings over the next months. He tells the Americans and he tells it to Livni again. So, as I mentioned, anyone who is paying attention knows this is going to go nowhere, knows Ehud Olmert is in trouble, knows the Bush administration is six months out. What do the Israelis do? They pocket this concession, because they’re not interested in sharing Jerusalem. Because let’s be clear here they are not interested in sharing Jerusalem, but thank you for the concession. And so where are we ten years later? Ten years later, the man who claims to be the president of the Palestinian Authority. Now, remember, his term in office ran out a long time ago. He is no longer president, he is a dictator. Let’s be clear what we have in Palestine today—we have an Israeli occupation and a Palestinian dictator.
Now, two months ago, the man who calls himself the president of the Palestinian Authority or of the state of Palestine, I take that back, of the state of Palestine, said “Jerusalem is not up for sale”. [He] said this at the UN. This is how he opened his speech at the General Assembly. ”Jerusalem is not up for sale” and the Palestinian people’s rights are not up for negotiations. Except we know that that’s not true. We know that he and his negotiators and his ambassadors. We know they’ve been negotiating selling this for a long time. So where are we today? So this actually, I couldn’t get a more recent map, but this is from 2014. All right, so, settlements are expanding, of course, in and around Jerusalem. Because again, we pocket the concession to always point about the facts on the ground. We’re going to pocket the concession and we’re just going to keep building, right. Who’s going to stop us? So, as you know, later last year, President Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and called to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now, two main drivers, right. One of the main things he’s looking at, of course, is an eye towards 2020. Now let’s be clear, all right, and, of course, securing the Christian evangelical base. So how many of you have heard of John Hagee? Okay, right, so pastor head of Christians United for Israel, but Christians United for Israel, don’t, how many know this, actually gets a huge chunk of its funding from a man named Sheldon Adelson. Do you all know Sheldon Adelson? So Shel, right, as his friends call him, she’s getting her award, she’s getting her medal. Do you know why she’s getting her medal? Fifty million dollars in this cycle alone, at least 170 million since 2008…alright. At least she paid for it, you know. What did Elvis do to get his, right?
You’ll see Pastor John Hagee there with president and the vice president. Apparently, he was pushing hard for this. Adelson was pushing hard for this. Actually said he would underwrite the move of the embassy. But, to bring us back, this idea of American imagination, so the embassy is moved and the new embassy is build. And it’s become a tourist attraction. That is just to tie us back to the beginning of this, all right; I told you I will tell a little story. [Pointing to screen] She is a Christian evangelical singer. So it’s become a tourist attraction. People come and take their pictures next to the gaudy nameplate, right, and with the size of 85 font. And here is John Hagee, again, reinforcing this idea of Palestinian reality under occupation, what is now entering its 52nd of perpetual occupation. But what is Jerusalem? Jerusalem is the future of the world, all right, shoreline of eternity. Jerusalem is the city of god. I’m sure you have other questions. I’m probably under my time but thanks for your attention.