Good morning everyone, and welcome to our annual conference. It’s a great gathering. I’m honored to be here, looking at all of you — many are friends. Without further ado, we’re going to start because time is being pressed. I’m going to introduce the speakers — the panelists. What I will do, I’ll say their names now, but then I will do a little introduction about each speaker right before they speak. Okay. We will speak from the table, not the podium. Can you hear me properly? Okay.
First, we are going to start with Max Blumenthal, a local rabble rouser and a jailbird. Max is a friend, he’s a friend of this institution — he’s been here many times before. He is the founder and editor of the The Grayzone project, the co-host of a podcast (Moderate Rebels), and the author of several books, including Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza and, most recently, his book The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump. He also co-produced the 2018 feature documentary Killing Gaza. So Max, please.
Thank you for that warm introduction, Said. It’s really good to be here. I wish I was here a little later, I’m not really used to mornings, I’m one of those people who works at home, and doesn’t have to really put on a suit that often, except to go out to the world. Being a writer and journalist can make you kind of weird, and you exist on the margins of society, so forgive me if I’m a little rusty.
I’ve heard a lot about the ultimate deal over the past year, and it has been framed in the same way the Donald Trump himself has by people who are observers of Israel/Palestine, particularly people on the liberal side. This is not normal. We’ve heard that from the so-called resistance to Trump. This is not, nor everything Trump does is not normal. I see Trump in a different way than they do. I see him as the apotheosis of a failed system. I see him as lifting the mask on so many of the social crises that we’ve been facing for so long. I see Trump himself as the result of the ultimate deal between financial capital and the national security state. That’s how I really see the ultimate deal itself. Because I’m the first speaker, I’ll run through some of the most egregious details of it as quickly as possible, and I’ll try not to repeat everything everyone else said.
The ultimate deal is simply enacting Netanyahu’s wishes, but, put forward by someone who literally was in bed with him, Jared Kushner. Jared Kushner, as many of you know, was the son of a close friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, and when Netanyahu was in town [DC] when he was opposition leader or young deputy in Yitzhak Shamir’s government, he would sleep in Jared Kushner’s bed, and Jared Kushner would have to get up and go sleep on the couch. So that tells you who Jared Kushner is, and the two other figures who are really responsible for this document are Jonathan Greenblatt and David Friedman. I call them Team Likud. Jonathan Greenblatt’s principal role right now is trolling Palestinians on Twitter. I’m not sure what else he does. He’s Trump’s real estate lawyer, and that is his lone credential. Then you have David Friedman, who was the chairman of the Friends of Bet-El, the settlement in the West Bank. You can call him the US-Israeli reciprocal ambassador. He’s referred to me as one of the worst anti-semites in the world at a fundraiser for Trump in Jerusalem, which was a badge of honor. Then he said Huma Abedin was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s called J Street kapos.
These are some very crude figures. It’s ridiculous characters who’ve lifted the mask on the idea that the US negotiating team was an honest broker. We can no longer say that, and they’ve put forward a plan that calls for the removal of exactly zero settlements. They refer to the West Bank as, and specifically Area C, as Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem will not be divided under their plan, which they call (Jerusalem) the eternal capital, but it will be shared with the new Palestine. The new Palestine — I don’t know where that will be. It won’t be divided, but it will be shared. Israel will maintain political control over the city and Palestinians have to pay municipal taxes as they currently do. Of course, nothing is said about places like Kafr ‘Aqab [East Jerusalem neighborhood], which exists on the other side of the separation wall, and therefore do not receive municipal services from Jerusalem, but have to pay municipal taxes. They also can’t receive any services from the Palestinian Authority because they’re part of the Jerusalem municipality. So, these areas are left for later.
The [Israeli] occupation is not referred to at all. It’s called a logistical challenge — the Palestinians face logistical challenges. Of course, Palestine will be totally disarmed. Hamas will be disarmed as well, somehow, although there’s no plan for a state in Gaza, and nothing is said about the end of the siege of Gaza. Kushner pledges to reduce Palestinian unemployment to single digits and promises that expert economists peer reviewed the ultimate deal. He promises to transform Palestine itself into Singapore and Gaza into Dubai, which I guess means that there will be a Trump Tower in the Jabalia [Refugee] Camp. [A] transportation corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians will kind of travel on what they call an autostrada above the Jewish Israelis, so that they don’t have to interact, and they can go between their reservations. Of course, he promises health care investments and investments in schools, and at the same time, Jared Kushner is completely defunded UNRWA, so the ultimate deal document actually features photographs of UNRWA schools with happy children that Jared Kushner himself has personally defunded.
The [Arab] Gulf states, that have now formed the new axis against Iran with Israel, will pay seventy percent of the ultimate deal. They’ll cover the tab, and of course their goal is to profit from normalization by doing business with Israel and its other allies — [this] highlights Trump Incorporated’s tight bond with the Saudis and the Emiratis. The execution of this deal has been comically bad. It has been worse than the execution of Trump summits with Kim Jong-un [of North Korea] and [Vladimir] Putin of [Russia]. Unlike those, however, this is not for a noble cause that could actually bring peace — this is a terrible cause. The Bahrain Conference was a complete failure, and I think one of the few Palestinians who had attended (a businessman from Hebron) was basically disowned in the media by his family — what we would call a shanda.
As with Trump, the danger with the ultimate deal is that we exceptionalize it and view it outside the context of the dangerous peace process that was consolidated at Oslo. We cannot say this is not normal. The ultimate deal is, in fact, the ultimate expression of the long-standing peace process that promised that Israel would take piece after piece after piece. It’s basically a warmed-over version of what has been offered by liberal Zionists, and it’s the Democratic foreign policy establishment that created the political space for Trump’s Team Likud to put forward this awful but well marketed document.
The standard bearer of liberal Zionism, the martyr hero is Yitzhak Rabin — he’s presented as the sort of political counterpoint, ideological counterpoint to Netanyahu and everything that he represents, but we have to remember that it was Rabin who promised, when he was prime minister, to remove Gaza from Tel Aviv. Those are his precise words. He revoked thousands of work permits for workers from Gaza and laid the initial stages of the walls around the Gaza Strip. Him and his labor minister Haim Ramon presented the initial blueprint for the so-called separation barrier, which we know as an apartheid wall in and around the Palestinian, occupied West Bank. In his final speech before he was assassinated, before the Knesset, Yitzhak Rabin pledged that he would give Palestinians less than a state. Those are his words, and that was his promise, and that is what he aimed to achieve with Oslo.
Ehud Barak, his successor, moved more settlers into the West Bank than Netanyahu ever has, and campaigned on his belief, his statement that he had more in common personally with these settlers in the West Bank than he did with the cosmopolitan Jews in Tel Aviv. Of course, today, the liberal Zionists are stuck with Benny Gantz, former Israeli army chief-of-staff, whose campaign launch ad featured a baritone voice boasting of how many people Benny Gantz killed in Gaza over images of the rubble of Shuja’iyya. [This was] another mask-lifting moment on liberal Zionism. I described to you Team Likud — this ridiculous cast of characters who make Alan Dershowitz seem reasonable.
Under the past [US] administrations, from Bill Clinton, to George W. Bush, you had team status quo figures like Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Aaron David Miller, a whole cast of characters and diplomats like Jeffrey Feltman, who represented something that was analogous to Team Likud. They represented not a different vision of Israel/Palestine, but a different wing of the pro-Israel consensus. Martin Indyk is actually originally from Australia, and he came to the US from Australia to ensure that the US maintained a pro-Israel slant in its foreign policy in the 1980s. Indyk actually said at J Street in 2009 that he made aliyah to the United States. He started his first job in 1982 as a deputy researcher at AIPAC, then three years later him and Dennis Ross founded WINEP (the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) out of AIPAC. It was basically AIPAC’s think tank.
Ross’s first paper for WINEP, which he published in 1985, demanded the appointment of a non-Arabist special Middle East envoy who would not feel guilty about our relationship with Israel, and our reluctance to force Israeli consensus in Washington. That’s him describing himself in his future role alongside Dennis Ross and many other figures. Dennis Ross was responsible, in 2008, for Barack Obama’s notorious speech at AIPAC, where Obama declared that Jerusalem will remain the capital and it must remain undivided — again, creating space for Donald Trump to move the US embassy, funded by Sheldon Adelson, to Jerusalem. Ross, when he was out of power, out of the George W. Bush administration — where he served as the point-man on the peace process — collected $230,000 a year from WINEP, as well as $220,000 in speaking fees from pro-Israel organizations, essentially a reward for all the great things he did at Camp David, and before at Oslo. That’s how peace process[es] function in Washington.
I’ll talk to you about David Friedman, the US-Israeli reciprocal ambassador — the original US-Israeli reciprocal ambassador, or the one who normalized David Friedman was Daniel Shapiro, who was Obama’s ambassador. What did he do when Barack Obama left power after presiding over more disproportionate violence against Palestinians than any other [US] president — three major Israeli operations against Gaza — Shapiro chose to stay in Israel with his family and be an Israeli, where he felt at home. This was the US ambassador, and this was treated as completely normal here. Since then, Dennis Ross has continued to put forward proposals that he hopes a future Democratic president might take up, which look almost precisely like the ultimate deal. Ross called for, in 2017 in a paper in WINEP, a differentiated approach to settlements, accepting construction in existing settlement blocks in exchange for Israeli agreement to stop building outside them. This is precisely what the ultimate deal calls for: no Israeli withdrawal from east Jerusalem; Israel gets the Jordan Valley; Palestinians get merely economic activity in Area C, which means they’re cheap labor.
Of course, you have the same relationship that you see between Jared Kushner and Team Likud, and [Saudi crown prince] Mohammed bin Salman and Dennis Ross. Dennis Ross has become a de facto lobbyist for the Saudi royals. He’s described Mohammed bin Salman as a driving force for change, and a revolutionary in op-eds for the Washington Post, where he’s constantly touting MBS’s 2030 agenda. This is slightly more subtle than EJ Kimball, the Israel lobbyist from Daniel Pipes’s Middle East Forum, who said that Jamal Khashoggi deserved to die because of his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. But, the differences are in shades of gray, not black and white.
Now, finally, the real core of the ultimate deal — as Joseph Massad explained so eloquently this morning — was an economic piece, a neoliberal economic piece buying off Palestinian elites in exchange for political subjugation, which was also at the core of the Paris Accords, which represented the essence of Salam Fayyad’s doomed tenure as prime minister of Palestine. Fayyad was celebrated in Western media for advancing many of the same concepts that Jared Kushner has. The [Arab] Gulf funded Middle East Institute, for example, described Fayyadism, and Fayyad’s 2009 push for statehood as encouragingly benign. It’s benign, [but] it won’t do anything that encourages us. Out of Fayyadism came Rawabi — a version of Loudon County or Temecula, California — air dropped into the occupied West Bank built, as Joseph [Massad] said, by Bashar al Masri.
Bashar al Masri, before he was negotiating with Aviv Kochavi, negotiated with Dov Weissglass, Ehud Olmert’s fixer to build a road through Area C. The original organization that was going to provide the trees for Rawabi was the Jewish National Fund, the architect of Israeli settler colonialism and the Nakba. Actually, [I] ran into Bashar at his restaurant, Fuego, in Ramallah, and asked him about that, and he denied it. He denied all the reports, so I feel like I have to — and then his waiters were frightened for me.
The idea of Fayyadism — it separates Gaza from the West Bank and has a “West Bank first” approach where the West Bank will be built up as this kind of example of a neoliberal Palestine, and Gaza will be punished in order to teach Hamas a lesson and teach Palestinians who reject this approach a lesson, which makes the idea of a transportation corridor even more remote.
But, we should look at the liberal Zionist plans for a transportation corridor, for example, the one put forward in Harper’s Magazine by the liberal Zionist author and intellectual Bernard Avishai. This was in an article where Avishai was trying to explain how the right of return for refugees could be possible, and he put forward a plan for a tunnel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank so Jewish Israelis would never even have to see the Palestinian morlocks [humanoid characters from an H.G. Wells story] as they went through the underground tunnel. We have to completely “disappear” them because the liberal Zionists always emphasize hard separation more than the Likudniks.
The groundwork for the ultimate deal really comes out of these World Economic Forum conferences where previous presidents have put forward neoliberal plans for Palestine. George W. Bush, in 2008, proposed an economic bailout for Palestine, and then five years later, John Kerry presented his “Breaking the Impasse” plan during a speech at the World Economic Forum, where he did not mention the occupation once and provided very few details in. In fact, one of the only details that Kerry often offered was that his “Breaking the Impasse” would be presided over by the ultimate used-car dealer of Middle East diplomacy, Tony Blair, who is the leader of Tony Blair Incorporated, a gigantic international hustle that has generated over $100 million in profits for Tony Blair and his minions through lobbying gigs for tyrants and work for JP Morgan, which reaped a major windfall profit when Blair opened up West Bank markets for the Qatari-owned Cellcom provider Wataniya, which also happened to be owned by JP Morgan, so Blair’s employer.
By 2014, after Israel devastated the West Bank, John Kerry was back at it. He put forward a new economic plan authored by McKinsey & Associates that was leaked to me by a Palestinian businessman. It was basically a three or four-page document. It described Gaza and the West Bank as kind of normal societies just like any other countries that simply underperformed on tourism metrics. That’s the language that McKinsey used — Gaza underperforms on tourism metrics, and they chalk that up to, quote-unquote regional instability, completely ignoring the siege. [There’s] no mention of occupation or siege in this document. McKinsey proposed a range of new hotel offerings in Gaza to bring the economy back to life, and finally, it called for building literal sweatshops in the Gaza Strip that would produce buttons and zippers for high-end designers in Tel Aviv. Maybe, you know, some hipsters could wear those buttons and zippers on their uniforms for the next offensive on the Gaza Strip. This was the plan put forward. The only details of the plan that I could find had to be leaked to me by Obama.
Now finally, something that’s often left out of the discussion is the Golan Heights, or what I like to call the “stolen heights”. Many people gasped when a new Israeli settlement was inaugurated called Trump Heights. I mean this is just so crude and such a naked consecration of permanent occupation. It’s natural to be disgusted by it, but who created the political space for the Israelis and the Trump Administration to declare out in the open, just in plain sight, that the Golan Heights — the Syrian Golan Heights — would be annexed, and that Resolution 242 would just be ripped up and thrown away? It was the Obama Administration when the Obama Administration supported the dirty war on Syria and declared that the UN-recognized Syrian government had to go, and voided Syria’s sovereignty. It also allowed Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel to say that we no longer have to sit down at the table with animal [Bashar al] Assad. That is what has allowed, created the political space for Israel to rip up negotiations over the Golan Heights and the US to declare that it belongs permanently to Israel.
I remember being — basically there was an attempt to blacklist me within the Palestine solidarity movement for pointing that out, and for writing several exposes on, the dirty war in Syria. Specifically, on the White Helmets, which was an influence operation that sought to push US intervention in Syria. Well, the White Helmets, in 2018, were evacuated by Israel through the Syrian Golan Heights and into Jordan. I have nothing further to say about that.
We’re in an interesting era right now. We have been talking about the [US] elections, and we have people like Pete Buttigieg, who worked at McKinsey & Associates, who’s spouted the same language we’ve heard for decades about shared values between the US and Israel. Elizabeth Warren said she favors a two-state solution, which is the same thing — to paraphrase George H. W. Bush about Bill Clinton — her [Warren] foreign policy experience seems to be limited to having breakfast at the International House of Pancakes. Basically, her brain is going to be rented by a bunch of think-tank fellows from the Center for American Progress. It’s not a very good prospect. I disagree slightly about Bernie [Sanders], but you can imagine him getting rolled if he gets into office. He made some interesting comments recently that have moved the Democratic field, while speaking at J Street, that aid to Israel will be conditioned on its respect for human rights. If he follows through with that, it could be similar to something that George H. W. Bush did to [Yitzhak] Shamir, and it could move things on the ground. It would, at least, be a remarkable change from the status quo.
We need to ensure that this interesting discussion that’s playing out within the Democratic field, thanks to the pressure that the Palestine solidarity movement put on Bernie Sanders — who didn’t use to take these positions — does not remain just that, in that it actually moves the facts on the ground, that it actually shifts the situation away from a deadly status quo and settler colonialism that has been consolidated by the status quo of a peace process pushed by both parties in Washington. Thank you.
Thank you, Max. I just want to remind everybody that the title of the panel, “Liquidating Right of Return, UNRWA, US and Israeli Policies”. Next, we’re going to go to Dr. Randa Farah. Please stick to 15 minutes so that we can have plenty of questions and answers [from] everybody.
Dr. Farah is an associate professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Western Ontario, where she has been teaching since 2001. She’s also [an] adjunct faculty at the Centre for Global Studies at Huron University College. She was [a] visiting fellow and associate researcher at the Refugee Studies Centre — all these biographies are listed [in the brochure packet]. I’d like to mention one thing that she’s done, which is the research project on Palestinian refugees and UNRWA. Without further ado, Dr. Farah. Thank you.
Dr. Randa Farah:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be among friends, scholars, and academics. I’m privileged to be here.
I thought [that] because we don’t have a lot of time, [that] we’d focus on one dimension of the right of return in the context, of course, of the present political context of the new deal of the century. [undiscernible word] somebody [had] called it. The slap of the century. I used that in a short article that I wrote for Al Akhbar newspaper, and I used it to talk about Ahed Tamimi’s slap on the Israeli soldier’s face. It was a [undiscernible Arabic word] for me.
Without further ado, I thought maybe I’ll focus on this relationship between the idea of self-determination and the right of return. I promise you, I never read Joseph Massad’s keynote speech, and so there are things that might convert, perhaps because we have the similar worldview, and because our/the reality is the same that we’re talking about. [But,] before I start talking about Oslo and what happened to the notion of self-determination in the Oslo framework, I’d like to underscore the fact that Israel remains the main culprit in the rejection of the right of return. It is the one that’s responsible for violating international law, and a reminder here, briefly, that [in] the law of state responsibility, under that law, Palestinians are eligible for reparations. Reparations is the larger term under which we have the right of return, compensation, restitution, and so on.
It’s understandable as long as Israel is underpinned by Zionist ideology, it’s in direct contradiction with the right of return because Zionism says we [Zinosts/Israelis] always planned to build a Jewish state, underscoring the word ‘Jewish’ here. The result has been a process of not one nakba, but nakbat, an ongoing process of uprooting and dispossession. This process, of course, you consistently have to justify it. You have to come up with new narratives to justify what you’re doing in the 21st century, when everyone can see. There is this dissonance between what we are seeing in these images and what is being said, so you have to really make a very strong case and very strong propaganda machine, which I called expensive, extensive, and intensive. I was feeling very poetic last night, and I used these terms.
In the Israeli propaganda machine, Palestinians are simply non-existent. It’s not that they don’t exist, they [Israelis] see there are people there, but they [Palestinians] are non-existent as a people-nation. [undiscernible name] has said when he discussed that, he said, “It’s not like the land was empty”, they [Zionists] knew the land was not empty, but they just thought of these goat herders as undeserving of nationhood and of political independence.
The Zionist urgency to maintain a Jewish majority is the reason for Israel’s systematic attempt to de-legitimize any institution, organization, [or] movement that constantly invokes the right of return and the idea that Palestinians exist as a people. The recent US cuts and accusations of corruption [regarding UNRWA] — every institution has some corruption issues; UNRWA is not unique, I mean [look at] the White House, I’m sure if you dig a little bit further you[‘ll] see major corruption and [the same with] many other institutions — I think the timing of the accusations against UNRWA, as well as the cuts in funding are the continued attempts to dismantle UNRWA. I think Israel was waiting for the right political moment to give UNRWA its final blow.
These attempts, as I said, are not new. After the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles — almost immediately after — İlter Türkmen, the chairman of UNRWA at the time, made a statement that created a great deal of anxiety among refugees and employees of UNRWA, who are mostly Palestinians, that UNRWA was preparing to dismantle itself and pass on [or] transmit services and its functions to the Palestinian Authority. This was another way of dismantling UNRWA through Oslo. I remember thinking and writing at the time, ‘But isn’t that against international law,’ because UNRWA’s mandate is to stay there and to remain as long as there is no political solution to the 1948 refugees, and Oslo did not do that. [Oslo] did not tackle that at all. [Oslo] omitted them. Also, in 1997, following the announcement of cuts, UNRWA’s [undiscernible word] representative, or a leader of the community there said that these cutbacks ‘fall directly in line with the Israeli program aimed at eliminating the refugee problem, which lies at the core of the Palestinian issue.’ UNRWA as an institution, and UN General Assembly Resolution 194, are targets of Israel to dismantle or annul them.
Going back to the main point I was thinking about last night, and last week actually, is the issue of self-determination. In the 20th century, the main meaning of self-determination was external self-determination. The emphasis was to rid the colonized world [and] the colonized people of the burden of [colonization], like [the cases of] French Algeria and other places in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and so on.
Oslo was supposed to fulfill the Palestinian aspirations or the way it was marketed — it was marketed as if it was the fulfillment, the last sort of step towards resolving the Palestinian quote-unquote, as Joseph [Massad] said, conflict. It’s not resolving the Palestinian issue. I argue that self-determination — the way it was applied in the Palestinian national question, or to the Palestinian question — as meaning sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza [was] slowly turned into a trap to diminish or abrogate the refugee[s’] rights.
The most critical issue here is that it changed the national priorities from the right of return. If you are as old as I am or if you remember or read somewhere, until this Oslo and the idea of the two-state solution within the framework of Oslo [appeared], Palestinian refugees never talked about [undiscernible Arabic words] or the independent state. What was really the core issue of the Palestinian question is ethnic cleansing and the right of return of the people to their land. That is the main issue in the Palestinian national question, nothing else. But, the idea of the two-state solution did not begin, of course, with the Oslo [Accords]. It began, probably in the 70s I think, at the twelfth national PNC [Palestinian National Council], when there was talk about a mini-state. The idea of a mini-state at the time was that we’d have a little, we liberate a small piece of territory and we use it as a launching pad to build the one democratic state for all. It was not the end [of] the final strategic objective of the national movement.
The Oslo Accords, of course, were quite different because, according to Oslo, history begins in 1967, and what that did [is] it slowly obliterated and made invisible the right of return [of] refugees. One could argue that Oslo actually facilitated the utilization or the instrumentalization of the concept of self-determination by Israel itself. Instead of self-determination for the Palestinians, it became self-determination for the Jewish state. In the end, self-determination became a hollow shell for the Palestinians, albeit with a Palestinian flag. There were those who initiated or insisted on their right [of return]. I remember friends of mine said, “Oh, Oslo’s good, you know, the world has changed, you know, the structures of power, a global shift,” and so on. “I think the U.S. will be more supportive of the Palestinians.” At the time, [they] told me, “You are a romantic fool. You’re still, you know, this anti-colonial revolutionary from the twentieth century.” There was this accusation of us being idealists because we insisted that, no, the right of return is the issue, and we should not give that up. And it should remain central.
But there was a bizarre scene that emerged after Oslo where you have all the paraphernalia of the state — flags, you know, a lot of celebrations, and so on. Just much like the [inaudible] chiefs of South Africa. And yet, under the noses of this PA Authority, you had the land upon which the territory of the state was supposed to be established, being encroached upon continuously. So here you have “Oh, we’re a state,” and ministers, and departments, and the show, it was like a theater. It was our theater in a way. Our [inaudible]. Very bizarre.
In my research then, I found that until this idea, the Oslo, the signing of the declaration, and the refugee campus, the idea of return, independent state, all [of] these were thought of as one thing. That you would return — you know, the minute you say it, the Palestinian refugee right of return, it itself invoked that you would become independent, and that you would establish a state. You didn’t need to articulate the idea of a state or self-determination because you can’t have self-determination, in other words, without the right of return.
Palestinian refugees almost never, as I said, talked about our self-determination in that way. But that contrasts very much with the Sahrawi refugees. I worked, I did research among the Polisario camp in Algeria. And every refugee always talked to me about the independent Sahrawi state and how takrir must yield [the] right to self-determination. Language was different because, of course, the situations are different. And the word kneme, the tent, exile, refugees were the symbols of the whole Palestinian national movement. If you look at popular culture, as well as material works, artists, painters, and so on, these all reflect the significance of the relationship between the Palestinian people and their land and this yearning to return. Now, again, with the new narrative of the two-state solution, some scholars talked about how refugees are illiterate, they’re uneducated, they’re nostalgic, you can never go back to the past. They’re underestimating the fact that, of course, they know it’s not going to be the same. But at the same time, it was this yearning and this nostalgia that was constantly, and this transmission of memory, that was feeding the new generations and protecting the Palestinian national movement.
As I said, the leitmotif of return, and so on, were not only in popular culture, but also in the literary and artistic work of Palestinian novelist(s) — Ghassan Kanafani, Aid ila Haifa, Returning to Haifa, poets, Darwish, artists like our late artist Kamal Boulatta, who was inhabited by Jerusalem and its light, and the memory of his Jerusalem. Now it’s ordinary Palestinians, refugees, supporters, organizations like this one, but it is very important in Bethlehem, activities like BDS, and most importantly, the marches of return. These are the ones that are helping protect the struggle. It was interesting. I don’t know if you follow the marches of return in Gaza, I think we should at the very least, because every Friday, there are a few Palestinians killed, injured, whatever. And it shows you, for me, these are heroic [acts], puts us all to shame in a way, that they insist on going to, you know, to march on despite this overpowering state called Israel that shoots them as if it’s hunting birds. It’s incredible. But last Friday, there was a slogan every week. It was “Down with the Balfour Declaration.” I thought “That’s good.” That’s a way to reposition the struggle and what’s it all about. It’s about colonialism and the anti-colonial struggle. And I thought it’s very important because these marches are re-anchoring, re-positioning against what the PA is doing and against the U.S., Israeli, Saudi, you know, this conservative and aggressive alliance. It’s a new kind of people’s alliance that is emerging that is saying, “No, the right of return should be the central theme of our struggle.”
And I was, I started working on, actually my whole PhD thesis, I remember in the ’90s was about Oslo and the political context, and how refugees in exile were reacting to that. And almost every refugee produced some artifact from Palestine, you know, either through the narratives, the memory, the oral histories, or like a document that they had safeguard(ed), you know, given by grandmothers, and the elderly, like a land deed. This is a land deed proving that they own land, despite, and they said ‘no, there is no right of return except to our original places. And I called it, I remember. Following the title of a book by Keith Basso on indigenous people in the States. It’s called, it was called Wisdom Sits in Places. And I thought for these refugees, for Palestinians in general, almost every refugee, Palestine sits in places. This means that Palestine is not this abstract territory, abstract state. You can have a state in Timbuktu and call it Palestine. But for every Palestinian, Palestine is where they come from. It’s their village. It’s their land. It’s the people that live there, the relationships upon which they had, you know, that they forged.
The first generation in refugee camps, you see the zinc or the metal sheets on top of the refugee camps. The younger generation told me their parents refused to change these metal sheets because they thought their economic practices of building a concrete roof would mean that they have agreed to resettlement and integration. And the new generation, still, of course, you know, holds on to the right of return, but they separate their political stances from the economic. The struggle for Palestine is going to be a long time, and we need, you know, to build, and so on. But the first generation was adamant. So, what Oslo has done is clear when you ask when and where is Palestine. Ask Palestinians when, and you see how the deep schisms that this or the Oslo agreements had produced because how can we mobilize at a national level if we don’t know where Palestine is, if we disagree. Some say it’s the West Bank and Gaza. Some say it’s all of Palestine. Some say it’s one democratic state. Like there are so many visions, and it’s so critical that for these strategic objectives, that we unify our vision so that we can, you know, be effective as a national liberation movement. And it’s, of course, also always important to envision what is the future society. It’s not also only what we’re fighting against, but what are we fighting for that we need to ask.
In conclusion, I studied [a report] by BADIL, which is like this (these) organizations in Bethlehem that is, I think BADIL Residents’ Society or for Refugees and Residency Rights in the West Bank and Gaza. And they focus on refugees. They have done all their work on refugees. An incredible amount of work goes into their surveys and studies. So, they found a study that says that the youth believe in the feasibility of return, and this remains exceptionally high among Palestinian youth. And in other words, return is understood to be the key to restoration of their human dignity and the full realization of all other human rights. So, unlike what the Zionist and racist view is, Palestinians are not economic animals. They’re not, you know, you don’t give them, by bread alone, they don’t exist. For Palestinian refugees, it is their dignity and their rights, and they are very aware. They’re smart enough to know that it’s not going to be the same as before, and they’re willing, but they know that what the first step is to acknowledge the right and to do everything that needs to be done to implement this right.
But since Zionism is inherently antagonistic and opposed to the Palestinian right of return, the latter is the salvation and liberation for all. So, if you focus on the right of return, it means that it’s automatically, it’s the de-Zionization of the state. It’s like taking away the racist basis of the Zionist state. And if this is, you think I’m calling for one democratic and secular state, then so be it. Our, it turned out because everybody says, “Oh, you’re not, you’re idealistic. This can never be.” But what really happened in practice is that the two-state solution turned out to be this romantic illusion and delusion in a way and that we have to start thinking in fresh ways and more universal ways that situate Palestine in the world. So, we have to think about what kind of society are we aspiring for and stay away from essentializing identity politics that will just reproduce another racist state. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Dr. Randa, and thank you for mentioning the marches. Today, the March is called [inaudible], and as of two hours ago, there were 70 casualties. I just want you to know that. So, 70 casualties. Okay, and of course… 70 casualties in the marches. 7-0. As of two hours ago. Not necessarily dead, but casualties, you know, with firearms.
Anyway, so third we go to Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, who will be talking about the UNRWA. By the way, we are disheartened to see [undiscernible name] forced out simply because he defied this administration, and so on. Elizabeth Campbell is the director of URNWA’s representative office in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining UNRWA, Campbell was the senior humanitarian policy advisor in the Bureau of International Organizations Affairs at the Department of State, where she worked on refugee and humanitarian issues in the United Nations system. Campbell has also served as a senior advocate for Refugee International where she focused on the humanitarian crisis in East Africa and the Middle East. Without further ado, Elizabeth.
Alright, thank you so much. Thanks so much to The Jerusalem Fund for having me today. I think it’s very complimentary, what we’re going to talk about today. Obviously, I’m going to come from a very operational perspective. UNRWA is, no doubt, at a crossroads, and perhaps it came early on and this is many decades in the works. But we are certainly facing some of our (the) most severe financial and political situation that we ever have in the history of the agency. And I really have to say that I don’t know how it will end. So, let me just walk you through a little bit on where we are and focus particularly on what the impacts of the U.S. funding cuts have been on the agency.
So, as you all know very well, the United States was one of the founding countries that created UNRWA, and it served for 70 years as its strongest political and financial supporter, for various reasons. In 2017, the United States was providing about 30 percent of UNRWA’s total budget, or around $360 million. And that’s funding that I think the agency, you know, basically counted on annually. I joined the agency late in 2017 and was part of the team that concluded the negotiation with the State Department on what we call a cooperative agreement, but basically, the document that lays out the funding arrangement for the following year. As is always the case, UNRWA’s basically short on cash for the simple reason that our needs continue to grow, largely as a result of population growth and ongoing conflict, which results in growing humanitarian needs. And there’s no end in sight to the political, there’s no political process, right?
And so, the State Department was very good about providing funding to us early on in the calendar year, which we then used basically immediately. So, it was news to me. I truly learned about the funding cuts, by hearing Ambassador Nikki Haley, at the time, the U.S. ambassador, in New York respond to a question by Canadian journalists at a press briefing. And it was interesting because immediately my phone sort of, you know, started ringing and everyone said “Well, what’s this mean?” And I said, and also as someone who had just come from the State Department and worked on humanitarian issues, I said “No, look, I mean, let’s not read too much into it. I mean, there’s no way that any U.S. administration, Democrat or Republican would withhold humanitarian assistance.” That does not — that goes to the United Nations, not to a government or to the PA to achieve a political objective. That hasn’t been the case under a Republican or Democratic government for arguably, you know, the last 30 years.
And as I understood it at the time, you know, I would have described the U.S. policy as having always sort of two tracks: a bilateral track, which, you know, it has with any country, but in this case, the Palestinian Authority, and a multilateral track where it provides fairly generous humanitarian assistance on the basis of civilian need alone and not political affiliation or anything else. And it does that, had done that, fairly well and managed to really stay and to keep those two lanes separate. And I believe that on January 2, 2018, I was wrong. I was obviously wrong. And as you all know the story as it unfolded, it wasn’t just UNRWA that was, that the U.S. cut funding from. It was also, of course, the funding that went to international humanitarian organizations, NGOs, U.S.-based NGO’s, and then, of course, the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which to this day — I mean, it’s very difficult for me to understand why that was necessary or what was, what they were aiming to achieve in that decision.
And you can see from recent press reporting, which I believe is probably quite accurate, that even when now the Israelis may ask to turn on various parts of aid — in this case, it was security assistance — you can see that the administration is quite clear that it doesn’t intend to return any funding to anyone anytime soon. And you know, it’s important to also note that this, as I understand, was a decision that was made by the United States. It’s not something that the government of Israel in the first instance asked of the U.S. So, it was a shocking decision and something for which the agency clearly was not prepared because as I described, we, in fact, had just completed our agreement with the State Department to engage in a funding relationship for 2018.
Okay, so what has this meant? And I would like to sort of just go over the five fields where we operate to tell you what the human cost has been and then maybe paint a little bit of a picture of what I think is to come. So, let’s start with our largest operation in Gaza, or maybe let me just begin by painting sort of the overview of the scale and scope of our operations. I know most of you probably know a lot about UNRWA, but I have found that very few people understand the scale and scope in totality of what we do today. So currently, we are educating 535,000 children. If you brought that school system to the United States, it would be about the third largest after New York and Los Angeles. So that, the scale and scope of that, is, you know, not to be underestimated when we talk about the impact.
The second piece, of course, is healthcare. So, we are operating 142 primary health care centers. Last year, those centers absorbed nine million patient visits, so that’s also significant. So, when you start thinking about impacts on a regional or global scale, you know think about it very simply in terms of vaccinations, right? UNRWA is vaccinating all of these children and these families, and there’s no other entity immediately available to step in. And the last pillar of our work, of course, is the humanitarian assistance, right, for the most vulnerable individuals. So, in Gaza today, UNRWA is providing food for one-half of the total population, or one million individuals. That number, incidentally, has grown from 80,000 in 2001 to a million today. And you can, if you recall when the blockade started, you’ll see a clear relationship there.
So, in broad strokes, those are the three things that we do in the five areas where we operate. So, in Gaza, we are the second-largest employer. If you are living in Gaza today, for the most part, UNRWA is your source of income. It is your access to healthcare. And it is probably where your children are going to school. So, the idea that UNRWA would downsize or disappear for 70 percent of the population — you’re looking at basically the entire infrastructure for many of the families who reside there. Of course, it was just noted that the (there is an) ongoing sort of health emergency that Gaza is facing because of the ongoing clashes at the border. So, it has definitely, in addition to the deteriorating conditions about which you know quite a lot, the sort of more recent health emergency that has arisen. And it’s sort of a silent health emergency, frankly but an astounding one, in terms of the numbers of (people) killed, but also severely injured, right? You’re looking at tens of thousands of people, at this point. So that’s in Gaza.
And I also, when I talk about Gaza, I don’t also, I always want to remind folks that yes, you have these extraordinary circumstances, but on the other hand, what you still have — and I will credit UNRWA significantly for this — is extraordinary resilience I think best exemplified in education. You still continue to have an extremely, highly educated population that is driven by obtaining strong education outcomes, which is tremendous and very humbling when you see it up close, how bright, how talented and extraordinary these individuals are.
Turning a little bit to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, you know, as was described earlier, of course, East Jerusalem is basically a battleground. It is a place where the government of Israel has informed us as official policy that it’s — of its intentions to basically take over our operations. It’s a place where it’s very difficult for UNRWA to operate these days, and I expect (this) will continue for some time. And then, of course, in the West Bank, as a result of the funding cuts of the U.S. — I should have said in the beginning, but the United States used to provide about 80 percent of the funding to what we call the sort of emergency appeal for Gaza and the West Bank. So, when that was halted, it caused us to engage in a number of cuts. So, we have stopped humanitarian assistance. We have cut back our workforce, you know, and stopped other programmatic elements, including in the West Bank. And there, of course, the operating environment in general for us remains hyper-politicized and very, very difficult.
Just very quickly on Jordan, the government of Jordan at the highest level continues to talk about the criticality of UNRWA, and they continue to describe it as a national security issue for them if UNRWA were to suddenly not be funded or to disappear. In Syria, another tragedy in many ways. Prior to the Syrian civil war, about — I think it took like, something like 6,000 total individuals, Palestine refugees living in Syria, relied on UNRWA for humanitarian assistance. That number now stands at 100 percent. So again, it’s just another example of a place where this idea that somehow Palestine refugees are sort of living in these, sort of stagnant situations, is obviously false. Of course, you all know that. But what we find increasingly is that we are dealing with, you know, secondary and tertiary displacement and all of the humanitarian consequences that come with that. So again, another example of rising need and major financial and budget constraints.
One thing I would again say, just in the vein of resiliency in conflict, where I think Palestine refugees, among all, have mastered that, you know, it, one of the amazing things UNRWA did, and it’s something that was interestingly developed in Gaza, was a way to create basically mobile education classrooms. And basically, we had the best of our teachers, you know, in our sort of Gaza TV studio recording all of the lesson plans for students who could no longer access our schools during the war in Syria. And they were broadcast on UNRWA TV, which as I understand from my colleagues, was viewed most intensely in Saudi Arabia due to the quality of the teaching, currently. But anyway, this allowed students, our students in Syria, to continue their education. And when you meet these young people who are now, you know, in, you know, ninth, tenth, eleventh grade who grew up through the UNRWA education system during the height of the civil war, they’re brilliant. And again, a tribute, of course, (to) the refugees themselves to that — to finding that extraordinary solution.
And then just finally in Lebanon, a place that I find, at least in Washington, is often forgotten by policymakers and officials. I think it remains, at least for me, one of the most difficult places where Palestine refugees continue to live. And the funding impacts there have been as severe as anywhere else. I think as you all are aware, unlike in other fields, refugees there are not permitted by law to access higher education, many parts of the labor market, and as such, rely intensely on UNRWA to pay for things like hospitalization. So, the funding impacts — the funding cuts have also impacted families there as well. So just, maybe, in sum, what I can say is, and picking up on the point about the Commissioner General who just resigned this week, of all weeks, is that, you know, it’s very difficult for me to see, to imagine what not only the humanitarian impacts would be of an UNRWA that is further weakened or dissolved, or dismantled, but also, of course, the security impacts across these areas I just described.
You may know that UNRWA’s mandate in New York is being debated basically as we speak. There will be a vote on that next week. While I think it’s quite likely that that mandate will be adopted, the question remains: what’s a mandate without the money necessary to run the programs? UNRWA is facing an extraordinary financial crisis. You know, as it stands, we are basically, at this moment, deferring vendor payments to pay salaries. It remains very unclear whether or not we’ll receive the money that we need to continue to keep the schools open, the food pipeline open, and the healthcare system up and running. Certainly, all efforts are being made to secure the funding that we need from the various donors, but it’s definitely an extremely — I don’t know. I can’t find a better word than ‘worrying.’ It’s (an) extremely serious moment.
And I think, I mean, I maybe just conclude by saying that when I look across the Middle East, and I look at the various challenges and problems and different things that governments can do to try to bring, you know, security, stability, whatever you want to call it, UNRWA’s actually the easiest problem to fix because you have a highly effective development and humanitarian system. It just requires an injection of cash, unlike so many other challenges that governments and other actors are grappling with. And it’s my sincere hope that after the United States has invested 70 years in building these institutions, which in my view and experience, are quite extraordinary, that they don’t simply, you know, throw it all away. Thank you.
Our last speaker for this morning’s session, but not least of course, is Dr. Osamah Khalil. He’s an associate professor of history at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He’s the author of America’s Dream Palace: Middle East Expertise and the Rise of (the) National Security State and the editor of United States Relations with China and Iran. Without further ado, Dr. Osamah.
Dr. Osamah Khalil:
Thank you, Said. It’s not easy to be the last speaker before lunch, so I’ll try not to keep it too long. But I want to take a moment to thank Dr. Subhi and Dr. Eid and all the members of the Palestine Center Board for organizing the conference and all the great work they do here in the nation’s capital, in the United States, and in Palestine. It’s an essential institution, so thank you again. I want to thank Mohamed and Samirah for their help with logistics and the conference, and of course to my fellow panelists.
So, there’s a tendency, and I think you’ve heard some of this often in the media, maybe less so today, but there’s a tendency to discuss Trump’s actions and policies, including the deal, as a break with U.S. foreign policy. Right? The reality is that deal and Trump, and some of the speakers have already said, is more consistent with U.S. foreign policy over the past seven to eight decades — if not, further back. If not, back to, quite frankly, the Wilson administration — that has been recognized. There is a difference in style and rhetoric. That’s clear, right? But as I’ll show you today, what has been done secretly, or talked about secretly, by American officials and then documents and agreements with the Israelis, what has been done secretly is now done openly and, in typical Trump fashion, loudly. All right? We have to take credit for everything and announce it, two times over and put a Trump label on it. But since World War I, Washington has viewed Palestinians as an inconvenient reality. And they’re an inconvenient reality to be essentialized and erased.
So, what do I mean by that? In other words, they were essentialized as part of the broader Arab world, either as Arabs or as Arab refugees, without legitimate political rights and without an attachment to Palestine. I’ll talk more about that in a moment. The deal continues this trend. The second major point to take away is that there will be no deal. The deal will not be presented. All right? The elections are less than a year away. Donald Trump is not going to present the deal in an election year. Now, it will not be presented until after 2021, if ever. But as Max pointed out, it’ll be adapted and adopted with a different packaging, a new and improved deal, perhaps with a Democratic administration or perhaps in the second Trump administration. And as we’ve talked about, and there have been a couple of questions about this, the Democratic candidates, none of them, are going to roll back Trump’s decisions. Not on Jerusalem. Not on the Golan. Not on anything he may do in the next 11 months to please Sheldon Adelson or somebody else. Right? It’s not going to happen.
Even though Bernie Sanders has made — to Max’s point, and I think Max is right — he’s made some very important points about linking U.S. aid to Israel to human rights, we’ve heard this before during the Carter administration. As I like to tell my students when we talk about the Carter administration and his amazing human rights policy, there was an exception to Carter’s human rights policy, right? And every state was an exception. So, none of the Democratic candidates will roll back, and even if Bernie Sanders is elected, it is unlikely that Congress will go along. Now fourth, as long as there is a collaborationist leadership, a collaborationist Palestinian leadership, Palestinians cannot expect any change in their status and achieving their rights and achieving self-determination and certainly not statehood.
So, one aspect of the deal that has been often discussed, right, is that there will not be a Palestinian state at the end. Right? Not a sovereign Palestinian state. This is not new. All right? And in fact, we can take this back to the origins of the peace process. Not Oslo. Further back to the 1970s, to the 1960s with 242, right? So, this is a quote from Secretary of State James Baker. It’s at the end of the Gulf War. This is six months before the Madrid process, and he makes it clear. Now this should look familiar, right? It’s pretty much what you have today: “I will tell you one thing as Secretary of State.” Here, he’s talking to one of King Hussein’s key advisors on Palestinians: “There will be no Palestinian state. There will be an entity, less than a state, more than autonomy. That’s the best we can reach with the Israelis.” So that’s March of 1991. Now, of course, you’re probably wondering how did we get to this situation? If you remember the Madrid peace conference, the Palestinians, the PLO, was not allowed to participate. All right? There was an Israeli veto on PLO participation. There was a joint Palestinian-Jordanian Confederation in terms of a negotiating team. But the PLO was “not allowed to participate” openly, all right? And this is in part, the issue. For the PLO to participate, it meant trading away Palestinian self-determination and statehood as an essential prerequisite for the PLO to participate.
This is 1976 in the middle of the first phase of the Lebanese civil war. This is Secretary of State Henry Kissinger talking to two of his ambassadors, Hermann Eilts and Thomas Pickering. Now keep in mind, some context: Kissinger is under pressure in an election year — sound familiar? — in an election year, from President Anwar Sadat to begin talking to the PLO as a way to end the Lebanese civil war and as a reward for Sadat’s signature on the Sinai II disengagement agreements. And so, Sadat is talking to the U.S. ambassador, and the U.S. ambassador’s trying to pressure Kissinger. Give something to Sadat, he tells him. And here’s Henry. “We cannot deliver the minimum demands of the PLO, so why talk to them?”
So, the minimum demands, okay? So how did the PLO become a party to negotiations, you’re wondering, right? And in a way, this takes me back to the point I made about Palestinians having to be essentialized and erased. So, you can essentially divide U.S. policy towards the Palestinians in three phrases. In the first phase roughly from 1948 to 1974, Palestinians were to be treated as a humanitarian problem, not a political one. Right? No political representation. The hope was the United States would be able to arrange a peace deal with the Arab states and force the resettlement of Palestinian refugees where they were and negate the presence of the rest. All right? That we’d just fall within the populations of the existing Arab states, or as the Arab minority in Israel. After 1974, the PLO gained recognition — right — as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Then the idea was to ignore them, as the Kissinger quote tells you. That will continue until roughly 1993 in the Oslo Accords. And with Oslo: the goal was the following: to co-opt the PLO and pressure them, as we see culminating with the deal of the century.
Now, one aspect of this is that always — always, always, always — Israel’s demands take primacy. Here, you have two documents separated by 23 years. The second is during Oslo, and the first is linked to the Sinai II agreement. This a secret Memorandum of Understanding that accompanied Sinai II. One of the aspects you always hear about this Memorandum of Understanding is the following, that the U.S. agreed, negotiated by Henry Kissinger, not to negotiate with or recognize the PLO until it recognized Israel. Here’s the aspect you don’t hear about: Israel’s veto. Israel’s veto on any — on any — attempts to present some kind of formulation that they would object to. Twenty-three years later in the middle of Oslo, you have a very similar formulation in a letter from Secretary of State Albright to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. All right? Let’s take a look.
Take a look at the first one: “The United States government will not join in and will not seek to prevent efforts by others to bring about consideration proposals which it and Israel agree are detrimental to the interests of Israel. 1998. Recognizing the desirability of avoiding putting forward proposals that Israel would consider unsatisfactory, the U.S. will conduct a thorough consultation process with Israel in advance with respect to any ideas the U.S. may wish to offer to the parties for their consideration. It’s particularly true, with respect to security issues or territorial issues. So, the price for participation is acquiescing in Israel’s demands.
Now, the other key piece of this that even when the United States talks about Palestinian statehood — and many of you I’m sure are wondering, ‘But what about all these negotiations that have gone on and there have been all these talks about creating a Palestinian state?’ You’ll remember that that doesn’t start until George W. Bush had his vision. Right? Because there was nothing embedded in the Oslo agreements that guaranteed that the final state was a Palestinian state. There’s nothing written in there. You will not find it. The other aspect that tells you that that’s true is to Max’s point about Dennis Ross and his role. It’s that once the United States got involved in the Oslo process, the negotiations got dragged out, became more complicated, and then ultimately failed, which leads us to the Bush administration.
So, one of the key aspects with Bush’s vision — and this is consistent — is that once again, Israel’s demands have primacy. And in giving Israel’s demands primacy, and enforcing acquiescence to those demands, it creates an unresolvable contradiction in which Palestinian rights, Palestinian statehood, Palestinian self-determination are negated. What do I mean by that? April 14, 2004 letter from Bush to Sharon. At the top, you’ll see the discussion of the right of return. And notice how it’s framed. Now you don’t have to be a lawyer to analyze this. This is pretty clear-cut. W couldn’t write one in legal language anyway. So, “The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and will begin — well-being, I’m sorry — as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just fair, and realistic framework to the Palestinian refugee issue will be part of an agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there.” So, there’s the refugees.
Number Two: “Israel must have secure and recognized borders. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect the final outcome to be returned to the 1949 armistice lines.” Right? And he tells you, again, taking us to the deal, “All previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.” This is 2004. “It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.” But then he tells you the United States — in accordance with his vision, that, as we know, came to him from a divine intervention, all right — but, “The United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent so the Palestinian people can build their own future.” These do not match. It is impossible with the existing realities on the ground to have a viable, contiguous, independent Palestinian state.
So, where does that leave us? And what do we do now? There is a one-state apartheid reality today. There is no peace process, and there will not be a Palestinian state no matter what individuals here in the DC think tanks tell you, what the Democratic presidential candidates say, or what peace process veterans want to say because they can get more speaking fees. What needs to be done is that if Palestinians hope for a change in Washington, they must abandon their collaborationist Palestinian leadership. And they must abandon engagement in the peace process charade. The only way rights will be achieved is through a broad-based movement for full and total equality. And that requires abandoning this reliance on the peace process, on the halls of power, on the negotiators, on Saeb Erakat’s endless speeches — that’s at least one benefit— and it means preference given to grassroots movements on an international level. Pushing for not just human rights. Full and total political, civil, and religious rights. Total equality. And that means a preference given to grassroots mobilizing and organizing. Thank you.