মুখ্য On Palestine

On Palestine

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Operation Protective Edge, Israel's most recent assault on Gaza, left thousands of Palestinians dead and cleared the way for another Israeli land grab. The need to stand in solidarity with Palestinians has never been greater. Ilan Pappé and Noam Chomsky, two leading voices in the struggle to liberate Palestine, discuss the road ahead for Palestinians and how the international community can pressure Israel to end its human rights abuses against the people of Palestine. On Palestine is the sequel to their acclaimed book Gaza in Crisis.
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প্রায়শই ব্যবহৃত পরিভাষা


আপনি একটি বুক রিভিউ লিখতে পারেন এবং আপনার অভিজ্ঞতা শেয়ার করতে পারেন. অন্যান্য পাঠকরা আপনার পড়া বইগুলির বিষয়ে আপনার মতামত সম্পর্কে সর্বদা আগ্রহী হবে. বইটি আপনার পছন্দ হোক বা না হোক, আপনি যদি নিজের সৎ ও বিস্তারিত চিন্তাভাবনা ব্যক্ত করেন তাহলে অন্যরা তাদের জন্য উপযুক্ত নতুন বইগুলি খুঁজে পাবে.


Chapter One: The Old and New Conversations

Part One: Dialogues Chapter Two: The Past

Chapter Three: The Present

Chapter Four: The Future

Chapter Five: Inside Israel

Chapter Six: Inside the United States

Part Two: Reflections Chapter Seven: Gaza’s Torment, Israel’s Crimes, Our Responsibilities

Chapter Eight: A Brief History of Israel’s Incremental Genocide

Chapter Nine: Nightmare in Gaza

Chapter Ten: The Futility and Immorality of Partition in Palestine

Chapter Eleven: Ceasefires in Which Violations Never Cease

Chapter Twelve: An Address to the United Nations



About the Contributors

© 2015 Frank Barat, Noam Chomsky, and Ilan Pappé

Haymarket Books

P.O. Box 180165

Chicago, IL 60618




ISBN: 978-1-60846-501-9

Trade distribution:

In the US, Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, www.cbsd.com

In the UK, Turnaround Publisher Services, www.turnaround-uk.com

In Canada, Publishers Group Canada, www.pgcbooks.ca

All other countries, Publishers Group Worldwide, www.pgw.com

Cover design by Christine Knowlton.

This book was published with the generous support of Lannan Foundation and the Wallace Action Fund.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data is available.


How did you become an activist? Why Palestine?

These are the types of questions many activists will be asked at one point or another when talking about their life, work, and motivations with a “non-activist” person. While I often want to reverse the question and ask, “Why aren’t you an activist?,” I usually decide, with insight, to try my best in answering this potentially frustrating question.

Why? Because I think it is important to understand where the questions are coming from, and it is as important to look inside yourself, take a step back, relive your journey, pause, and realize that you too, not that long ago, may have asked the same questions of anyone engaged in workin; g toward a better world—where equality, justice, and freedom apply to all, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, country of origin, skin color, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.

How, then, does one become an activist?

The easy answer would be to say that we do not become activists; we simply forget that we are. We are all born with compassion, generosity, and love for others inside us. We are all moved by injustice and discrimination. We are all, inside, concerned human beings. We all want to give more than to receive. We all want to live in a world where solidarity and companionship are more important values than individualism and selfishness. We all want to share beautiful things; experience joy, laughter, love; and experiment, together.

But we have a problem. A big one. We live in a society, and an epoch, where we do not have time to think any longer. We live in a time when taking a step back and a deep breath have become a luxury that many cannot afford.

We live in a world where the mainstream education system teaches you to obey and listen to authority from the earliest age and does not offer you the chance to think for yourself and express yourself in ways that are outside the proclaimed norm.

We live in a society where the “nothing” (shopping, watching TV) has become a “something” and the “something” (relaxing, meditating, sharing) has become a void in need of being filled. Our minds, our souls, have slowly been corrupted by materialistic nothingness that has been created for us, billboarded in front of our eyes, and printed, tattooed on our cells by advertising, marketing, and vulture capitalism.

The “remote control” of our world only has two buttons, “Play” and “Fast Forward,” while the one we are all looking for is the “Pause.”

I “became” an activist through books.

After having worked since my early twenties in various menial jobs, and like a good citizen doing my nine to five, looking away at the ticking clock, enjoying my life for the reasons I was told were needed to enjoy it, fulfilling the potential that I had been “allowed” to have by society and its “leaders,” I stopped.

I quit my job, moved from the city I had been living in for the last six years, and started studying again. I read loads of books and realized that I wanted this period, which was supposed to be temporary (because of the dread of unemployment and boredom potentially creeping in), to last forever.

Reading and feeling enlightened by those books really played a big part in changing my vision of life and what it was supposed to mean. I started with reading Chomsky and slowly became very interested in anything that had to do with Israel/Palestine. Reading Edward Said, Mahmoud Darwish, Ghassan Kanafani, John Berger, Tanya Reinhart, Ilan Pappé, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Kurt Vonnegut, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein . . . all became part of my daily routine.

Books changed me and I think that they are, more than anything else, one of the best tools we can use to learn, reflect on, and truly understand the world we are living in. They are a bridge between languages, continents, and people. A book will accompany you and will stay with you, it will mark you like nothing else. You will go back to it, quote it, argue about it. You will borrow one and lend one. The written word, in my opinion, is therefore more effective and long lasting than the spoken one as a tool for change.

I felt very lucky and privileged, when, in 2008, two of the authors I had read again and again on Palestine, Professors Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé, agreed to work on a book with me. Our long email exchanges became Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians, which found a broad audience and was translated into many languages. After the book, Noam, Ilan, and I continued talking, mostly via emails. One day, during a meeting with Ilan in Brussels, we both came to the conclusion that a follow-up to that book was necessary. One thing that had indeed left me frustrated working on Gaza in Crisis was how the email exchanges between Noam and Ilan were not interactive. Noam answered a set of questions, and Ilan did the same. The two authors had no way to respond to or argue with each other.

Ilan and I therefore decided that if another book were produced, it would have to consist of face-to-face conversations. Truly excited by the prospect, I emailed Noam, pretty sure that he was not going to be available due to his extremely busy schedule. To my surprise, Noam responded positively and, a few months after I sent the email, Ilan and I boarded a plane for Boston to meet Noam in his office at MIT.

In preparing the questions and the topics we were going to address, I thought that it was important to start with the past. Some commentators argue that you should always look forward, think about the future, that thinking about the past tends to be a stumbling block that impedes on the negotiations, the peace process. They are, often on purpose, missing the point. The past, as far as Palestine and Palestinians are concerned, is 1948, the Nakba, and the ethnic cleansing of two-thirds of the population (yes, two-thirds; try to put this in perspective and do the math with the country you are living in right now) that was expelled from historical Palestine to make space for a new state, Israel. It is a not-so-distant past; we are not talking about centuries ago. It is a very present past, for all Palestinians. Talking about it, analyzing it, is therefore crucial to understanding the current situation. Understanding Zionism is also key and the two professors have slightly different perspectives about the matter.

In discussing the present, we focused on the role of civil society and the impact it can have on radically changing the narrative and actual policies on the ground. The huge growth and the impact of the boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movement cannot be underestimated in putting Palestine back on the map. The BDS movement helped rejuvenate and rebuild the solidarity movement worldwide. It offered a step-by-step guide (with flexibility depending on the different national interests) on how to turn from a defensive stance to an offensive one. The BDS movement asserted: Let’s stop trying to justify our actions, let’s act. This made for very engaging discussions. The BDS movement is a subject of debate between Professor Pappé and Professor Chomsky and both this book and Gaza in Crisis allow room for differences between the two. I do think there is something to gain by enabling this conversation—that it can be constructive and reinforce the struggle for Palestinian rights.

Finally and obviously, we talked about the future—the day-after question. What is actually meant, practically, by a “free Palestine”? What kind of state is possible? Is a state the solution? How will Palestinians and Israelis share the country? What constitution will be drafted?

While it is important to focus on the present, as things on the ground are getting worse every day, having a clear strategy and political vision is crucial if we want people around the globe to see what is possible.

With that, the conversation part was concluded, and, as far as I was concerned, this was good enough. Ilan, however, thought we needed something more. He offered to write what I think is an amazing and incredibly timely and challenging original piece called “The Old and New Conversations.” It is a rallying call to move forward, change gears, and totally rethink the vocabulary we use when it comes to the Palestine question—to use semantics as an educating tool for change.

This piece makes, in my opinion, the book a much better and solid one. It fills in the blanks and opens up the debate to the world.

But something brought us back to the present in a most forceful way: another Israeli aggression in Gaza. Shortly after we submitted this book to the publisher, Israel was at it again. “Mowing the lawn” as they horrifyingly call it. The carpet bombing of an imprisoned population by its occupier, with the support of most Western states, spurred Ilan and Noam to write additional contributions. Working on the book again while Israel was indiscriminately carpet bombing a population of 1.8 million Palestinians was often very difficult. When things are radically wrong, writing does not feel like the most obvious response for an activist. Writing while feeling extremely angry and useless often does not produce the best results. I was glad to see some of my close friends involved in civil disobedience actions all over the world. It gave me strength and faith. With good people like that around, the struggle, after all, might not be endless. But the writing was essential and I hope that this book will help challenge the narrative of the powerful, the PR of governments, repeated in loop by the corporate media that helps justify the crimes, that allows them to be committed, that paralyzes people.

The Palestine question is emblematic of what is wrong with the world. The role played by Western states, the complicity of corporations and of various institutions make this case a very special one. The fact that Israel actually benefits from violating international law and receives “red carpet” treatment from the West means that we all have a role to play in ending the injustice that the Palestinians are facing. The injustice in Palestine has ramifications throughout the world. From Ferguson to Athens, via Mexico, it is clear that many governments are reproducing the tools that Israel uses to repress and oppress the Palestinians. The replication of those same tactics, methods, and often weapons serves as proof that the Palestinians are now used as guinea pigs for experimentation. And Palestine is a great laboratory. Exploring the Palestine case is therefore crucial for understanding where we stand as human beings and what we stand for. Finding a solution to this question could then open the door to a new vision, to a new world, to new possibilities for all of us.

Palestine is slowly becoming global—a social issue that all movements fighting for social justice need to embrace. The next step is connecting the dots between various struggles around the world and creating a truly united front.

We are many. We will prevail.

Frank Barat


September 2014

Chapter One

The Old and New Conversations

Ilan Pappé

When Frank Barat and I sat with Noam Chomsky for a long discussion about Palestine we divided our conversation into three parts: a discussion on the past, focusing on understanding Zionism as a historical phenomenon; a conversation about the present, with a particular focus on the validity and desirability of applying the apartheid model to Israel and on the efficacy of the BDS movement as a major strategy of solidarity with the Palestinian people; and finally, in talking about the future, we discussed the choice between a two-state and a one-state solution.

The principal purpose of these meetings was to help us all clarify our views in light of the dramatic changes not only in Israel and Palestine in recent years but in the region as a whole. We assumed that many readers would agree with us that Chomsky’s take on Palestine, at the present historical juncture, is a crucial contribution for any relevant discussion on the issue. We hope that this conversation helps to clarify the Palestine issue, specifically highlighting the possible transition that is taking place in the solidarity movement with the Palestinians, with wide implications for the struggle from within Israel/Palestine. We do not cover all the issues; we selected those that seemed controversial, and strove for the exchange to be a civilized one (apart from one or two less-tame outbursts) for a movement that needs to be united. The fragmentation of the liberation movement itself, its apparent lack of clear leadership, and the ambiguity that characterizes the Israeli peace camp all contribute to this dissension. Nonetheless, a dialogue among those who believe in peace must be possible!

We seem to be in the midst of a transition from an old conversation about Palestine to a new one. I myself feel very comfortable in the new conversation but would not like to lose the comrades who are still happier in the older one. So here, in the first part of this book, I aim to delineate the two conversations before engaging in a conversation with Noam on the issues that are at the heart of the matter.

The Old Peace Orthodoxy and Its Challengers

The need to look for a new conversation about Palestine stems first and foremost from the dramatic changes on the ground in recent years. These developments are likely familiar to most of our readers, and I will summarize them in the most updated form possible toward the end of this essay and assess their impact on the future conversation.

But I think the search for new ideas, and maybe even for a new language, about Palestine emerged out of a longer-term crisis. The crisis was characterized by the inability to translate impressive gains outside of Palestine, especially in transforming world public opinion about it, into tangible changes on the ground. The new search is an attempt to deal with several gaps and paradoxes that haunt the solidarity movement with Palestine as a result of this obstacle.

These days the ever-growing camp of activists for peace and justice in Palestine is facing several paradoxes that are hard to reconcile. Let me first consider these paradoxes and then suggest a way forward both through my own analysis, the analyses of others, and finally through a conversation with Chomsky.

The first paradox is the gap between the dramatic change in world public opinion on the issue of Palestine on the one hand, and the continued support from the political and economic elites in the West for the Jewish state on the other (and hence the lack of any impact of that change on the reality on the ground).

Activists for the cause of Palestine sense rightly that their message of justice and their basic understanding of the grave situation in Israel and Palestine are now widely accepted in the world, but yet this has not alleviated the Palestinians’ sufferings wherever they are.

While in the past, the activists could have attributed this gap to a measure of sophistication behind the Israeli actions that hid well the uncanny, and quite often criminal, Israeli policies, this could not have been the case in our century. The successive Israeli governments since the beginning of this century rendered any sophisticated analysis of Israel quite redundant. These days, it is very easy to expose not only the Israeli policy but also the racist ideology behind it. The activists’ efforts and this deplorable policy produced a dramatic shift in Western, including American, public opinion; but so far this shift has failed to reach the upper echelons of society and therefore on the ground Israel continues—unabated and uninterrupted—its policies of dispossession and does not seem to be paying a price for its policies.

The second gap, indeed paradox, is the one between this widely held negative image of Israel on the one hand, and the very positive image its own Jewish society has of the state. Israel’s relative economic prosperity still promises that the most isolated state in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is regarded by its own Jewish citizens as a thriving state that has ended the Arab-Israeli conflict and has only to struggle with residues of the Western “war against terrorism” in the form of Hamas and Hezbollah (but even that is not deemed a crucial issue in the wake of the “Arab Spring”). Israel does suffer from social and cultural rifts and cracks, but they have been muted for the time being by the invention of a phony threat of an Iranian nuclear war and other such scenarios that also ensure the uninhibited flow of money to the army and security services.

This sense of success of course is not shared by the Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Galilee and the al-Naqab (the Negev) who continue to suffer from expropriation of their land and demolition of their houses and are exposed to a new set of racist laws that undermine their most essential and elementary rights. The Palestinians in the West Bank are still humiliated on a daily basis at checkpoints; arrested without trial, losing their lands to settlers and the Israeli Land Authority; and barred from traveling to nearby villages and towns due to the systems of apartheid walls and barriers that encircle their homes. Those who try pay with their lives or are arrested. And the people of Gaza are still subjected to the barbaric combination of siege and bombardment and shooting in the biggest open human jail upon earth. And of course one should not forget that millions of Palestinian refugees still languish in camps while their right of return seems to be totally ignored by the global powers that be.

The third paradox is that while specific Israeli policies are severely criticized and condemned, the very nature of the Israeli regime and the ideology that produces these policies are not targeted by the solidarity movement. Activists and supporters demonstrated against the massacre in Gaza in 2009 and the assault on the flotilla in 2010, yet in this arena of open and public protest nobody, it seems, dares to attack the ideology that is behind these aggressions. There is no demonstration against Zionism, because even the European Parliament regards such a demonstration as anti-Semitic. Imagine, in the days of supremacist South Africa, if you were not allowed to demonstrate against the apartheid regime itself, but only against the Soweto massacre or any other particular atrocity committed by the South African government.

The last paradox is that the tale of Palestine from the beginning until today is a simple story of colonialism and dispossession, yet the world treats it as a multifaceted and complex story—hard to understand and even harder to solve. Indeed, the story of Palestine has been told before: European settlers coming to a foreign land, settling there, and either committing genocide against or expelling the indigenous people. The Zionists have not invented anything new in this respect. But Israel succeeded nonetheless, with the help of its allies everywhere, in building a multilayered explanation that is so complex that only Israel can understand it. Any interference from the outside world is immediately castigated as naïve at best or anti-Semitic at worst.

These paradoxes at times have frustrated, understandably, the solidarity movement with Palestine. It is indeed difficult to challenge established powers and interests when they refuse to yield to the moral voice of civil societies and their agendas. But there is always a need to think hard about whether more can be done in those spaces and areas in which non-elite groups have the power to impact and change the conversation in effective ways.

In 1982, in the wake of Israel’s first invasion of Lebanon, Edward Said wrote an article titled “Permission to Narrate” in which he called upon the Palestinians to extend their struggle into the realm of representation and historical versions or narratives. The actual balance of political, economic, and military powers did not mean, he asserted, that the disempowered did not possess the ability to struggle over the production of knowledge. Whether such producers in, or in the name of, Palestine have heeded Said directly, or were thinking along these lines anyway, this project has indeed begun in earnest. Academic Palestinian historiography and the “new history” in Israel has succeeded in debunking some of Israel’s more absurd claims about what happened in 1948 and to a lesser extent had been able to refute the depiction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a purely terrorist organization.

But it seems that the historiographical revision and setting the record right has not had an impact on a peace process that ignored 1948 altogether. The absence of the narrative and the historical conversation about what passes nowadays as a peace process seems to serve the political elites of the day well—on either side of the divide and in the world at large. There is no incentive whatsoever, it seems, to transform the hegemonic discourse that seems to be acceptable exactly because it does not ask for a dramatic change on the ground.

As Said proposed, such hegemony can be challenged by language and narration. We need a more guarded approach when offering this new perspective, as we are not only challenging the hegemonic powers but also the convictions of many Palestinians and genuine friends of the Palestine cause. Hence framing this challenge as a conversation may be more helpful.

I suggest enhancing this conversation by producing a theoretical dictionary, specific to the Palestine issue, that gradually replaces the old one. The new dictionary contains decolonization, regime change, one-state solution, and other terms discussed in the following pages and later with Noam Chomsky and others who try to find a way forward and out of an ongoing catastrophe. With the help of these entries, I hope to reexamine the hegemonic discourse employed by both the powers that be and the solidarity movement with Palestine.

However, before presenting the entries in the new dictionary, I would like to look more closely at the waning of the old one still dominating the conversation about Palestine among diplomats, academics, politicians, and activists in the West. I call this discourse “The Dictionary of the Peace Orthodoxy” (in fact, not my term; but alas I cannot recall where I first heard it and I apologize for justifiable claims of unoriginality).

The Challenge to Peace Orthodoxy

The Dictionary of the Peace Orthodoxy sprang from an almost religious belief in the two-state solution. The partition of the land of Palestine (by allocating 80 percent of the land to Israel and 20 percent to the Palestinians) was thought to be a feasible target that could be achieved with the help of international diplomacy and a change within the Israeli society. Two fully sovereign states would live next to each other and agree on how to solve the Palestine refugee problem and would decide jointly what kind of a Jerusalem there would be. There was also a wish to see Israel more of a state of all its citizens and less as a Jewish state that retains its Jewish character.

This vision was clearly based on the desire to help the Palestinians on the one hand and on realpolitik considerations on the other. It was, and is, driven by oversensitivity to the wishes and ambitions of the powerful Israeli side and by exaggerated consideration for the international balance of power. It is a language born of American political science research and is meant to cater to basic American positions and stances on the issue. Most users of the language that surrounds the two-state solution as the ideal settlement are probably sincere when employing it. This language has helped Western diplomats and politicians remain ineffective—either out of will or necessity—in the face of continuing Israeli oppression. Expressions and phrases like “a land for two people,” “the peace process,” “the Israel-Palestine conflict,” “the need to stop the violence on both sides,” “negotiations,” or “the two-state solution” come straight out of a contemporary version of Orwell’s 1984. Yet this language is advanced even by people who would find this kind of a settlement morally repugnant (as Noam Chomsky has succinctly put it in the conversation in this book) and unsatisfactory, but who see no other realistic way to bring an end to the oppressive Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the siege on the Gaza Strip. The hegemonic language in the corridors of power in the West and among the Israeli and Palestinian politicians on the ground in Palestine is still that discourse based on the old dictionary.

But this orthodox view is slowly losing ground in the activist world. Granted, the official peace camp in Israel and the liberal Zionist organizations worldwide still subscribe to the view—as do leftist politicians in Europe. In some ways, known and famous friends of the cause still endorse it—some, it seems, even religiously—in the name of realpolitik and efficiency. But the vast majority of activists are looking for a new way out. The emergence of the BDS movement, through the call for such action by Palestinian civil society inside and outside of Palestine, the growing interests and support for the one-state solution, and the emergence of a clearer, albeit small, anti-Zionist peace camp in Israel, has provided an alternative thinking.

The new movement, which is supported by activists all around the world and inside Israel and Palestine, is modeled on the anti-apartheid solidarity movement. This has become clear by the prominence of BDS as the main tactic on campuses during Israel Apartheid Week—apartheid now an acceptable and common term used by student activists on behalf of the Palestine cause. This has been followed recently by a scholarly attempt to widen the comparative research on the two case studies, apartheid South Africa and Israel/Palestine, within the paradigm of settler colonialism.

Settler colonialism is a conceptual fine-tuning on the theories and histories of colonialism. Settler movements that sought a new life and identity in already inhabited countries were not unique to Palestine. In the Americas, in the southern tip of Africa, and in Australia and New Zealand white settlers destroyed the local population by various means, foremost among them genocide, to re-create themselves as the owners of the country and reinvent themselves as its native population. The application of this definition—settler colonialism—to the case of Zionism is now quite common in the academic world and has politically enabled activists to see more clearly the resemblance of the case of Israel and Palestine to South Africa and to equate the fate of the Palestinians with that of the Native Americans.

This new model highlights the significant points of difference between the peace orthodoxy and the new movement. The new movement relates to the whole of historical Palestine as the land that needs support and change. In this view, the whole of Palestine is an area that was and is colonized and occupied in one way or another by Israel, and in that area Palestinians are subject to various legal and oppressive regimes emanating from the same ideological source: Zionism. It stresses particularly the link between the ideology and Israel’s current positions on demography and race as the major obstacle for peace and reconciliation in Israel and Palestine.

Today it is an easier task to illustrate this fresh point of view. Since 2010, the Israeli legislation in the Knesset—demanding loyalty to a Jewish state from the Palestinian citizens, codifying (thus-far) informal discrimination in welfare benefits, land rights, and job hiring policies against the Palestinian minority—clearly has exposed Israel as an overtly racist and apartheid state. The Green Line that created different classes of Palestinians (those inside Israel and those in the occupied territories) is slowly disappearing because the same policies of ethnic cleansing are enacted on both sides of the line. In fact, the more sophisticated oppression of the Palestinian citizens inside Israel looks at times worse than the oppression of residents living under direct or indirect military rule in the West Bank.

Finally, the new movement does not shy away from pushing forward a solution that is not the preferred one in the eyes of either the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority (PA), or the political elites of the West: the one-state solution. The activist and the scholarly depiction of Zionism as a settler-colonialist movement and the state of Israel as an apartheid state also determine the mechanism of change. For the orthodoxy that mechanism is the peace process, as if Israel and Palestine were once two independent states and Israel invaded part of Palestine, from which it has to withdraw for the sake of peace.

The new approach proposes the decolonization of Israel/Palestine and the substitution of the present Israeli regime with democracy for all. It thus targets not only the policies of the state but also its ideology. From this perspective the Israeli refusal to allow the 1948 refugees to return home is seen as a racist rather than pragmatic position. The new activists voice their unconditional support for the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, and they voice it more clearly it seems than some Palestinian leaders.

In other words, the new approach proposes a paradigm shift for the solidarity movement, which hopefully will gain credence among those in power and in particular those who are engaged with the question of Palestine and peace. This new paradigm offers a new analysis for the present situation and proposes a different vision for the future. Many elements in this new paradigm are old ideas that can be found in the PLO 1968 charter and in the platforms of activist groups such as Abna al-Balad, Matzpen, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. These positions have been updated and adapted to the current reality. The issues brought up in the past by these groups were totally ignored by the orthodox peace movement when it supported at least initially the Oslo Accords in the name of realpolitik. Even at the time that the Oslo process seemed to produce some sort of change on the ground, it was in essence a settlement that ignored the fate of the Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian minority in Israel and did not relate to either the racist nature of the Jewish state or its role in the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The new movement has created a new dictionary that if used extensively can help shift public opinion on the subject. Below are some of the most illustrative and significant entries in this new language used to analyze the situation today in Israel and Palestine and describe a vision for the future. By adopting a new discourse, the activists can strengthen their commitment toward struggling against the ideology behind the current Israeli abuses and violations of human and civil rights, whether they take place inside Israel or in the Occupied Territories.

I have divided the entries into three different temporal zones. One zone relates to the way the alternative activist perspective views the past in general with its particular focus on how to define Zionism and Israel’s actions in the past. The second zone relates to the new definition of Israel today, mainly as an apartheid state, and the implications for activism, in particular outside of Israel and Palestine, of such a definition. This sparks a very relevant conversation about the importance and role of the BDS movement and the various Israel Apartheid Weeks held on campuses around the world. The third zone relates to the future—what are the alternatives to the dismal and ineffective attempts to move the peace process forward on the basis of a two-state solution. This alternative view toward the future substitutes terms such as the peace process with decolonization and regime change and envisages some sort of a one-state solution instead of the two-state solution.

These three different perspectives on the past, the present, and the future were each the focus of the conversations Frank Barat and I had with Noam Chomsky. We did not choose him as our interlocutor because we think he necessarily represents the “peace orthodoxy” (although he still subscribes to some of its basic assumptions) but because we feel that his views on these issues are crucial for pushing forward the discussion on Palestine.

The New Dictionary: The Past

The reassertion of the “Zionism as colonialism” equation is critical not only because it best explains the Israeli policies of Judaization inside Israel and settlement in the West Bank, but also because it is consistent with the way the early Zionists perceived their project and talked about it.

The Hebrew verb le-hitnahel or le-hityashev and the Hebrew nouns hitanchalut and hitayasvut were used ever since 1882 by the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel to describe the takeover of land in Palestine. Their accurate translation into English is “to settle,” “to colonize,” “settlement,” and “colonization,” respectively. Early Zionists used the terms proudly since colonialism was very positively received by the public at the time (and continued to until the end of the First World War). When colonialism’s fortunes changed in the aftermath of the Second World War and colonialism connoted negative European policies and practices, the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel looked for ways of dissociating the Hebrew terminology from the colonialist one and started to use more universal and positive language to describe their policies. Despite this energetic attempt to claim that Zionism was not part and parcel of the universal colonialist movement, there was no escape from understanding these Hebrew terms linked to the act of colonization. “To settle” is deemed as an act of colonization in the scholarly and political dictionary of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. So there is no way out of it: even if the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel did not regard the expropriation of Palestine’s land, quite often accompanied by dispossession of the natives, as an act of colonizing, everyone else did.

The analysis through the colonialist perspective also challenges the Israeli claim of “complexity” now desperately used by Israeli scholars to fend off the inevitable comparison between the situations in Palestine and in South Africa. The historical timeline is indeed unusual: it involves a nineteenth-century colonialist project extended into the twenty-first century. But the features and solutions for this project are not unique—it is a simple rather than complex narrative. Although its unique timing would undoubtedly require a complex settlement, the analysis is clear even if the prognosis will demand some ingenuity, since decolonization in the twenty-first century is indeed a complex project.

An important task in this respect is introducing to Western schools’ curricula and textbooks this understanding of colonialism and strengthening the research on it in universities. If this were to succeed, the media would follow suit. The task is not easy, but if this message were conveyed effectively, we could then hope that every decent person in the West, as in the time of colonialism, would not stand on the side of the oppressive ideology and instead would identify with its victims and deem their struggle as anticolonialist.

This particular new discourse is likely to be branded by the Israelis as anti-Semitic. But nowadays any criticism, even a soft one, of Israel is regarded by the state as akin to anti-Semitism, so it seems this potential accusation should not dissuade us from using the terminology of colonization. Anyone who does not subscribe to the Israeli version of a two-state solution is suspected of being an anti-Semite. Official Israel demands an absolute support of its version so when powerful secretaries of state do not reflect this version exactly they are condemned as anti-Semites. The Israeli version is a Jewish state next to two bantustans, divided into twelve enclaves in the West Bank, and contained in a huge ghetto in the Gaza Strip, with no connection between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and run by a small municipality in Ramallah operating as the seat of government. Official Israel insists that in the interest of national security a Palestinian state, if at all allowed, would be modeled along these lines.

The Present: The Apartheid State of Israel

The scholarly literature comparing the apartheid in South Africa to that of Israel is only now beginning to emerge. Brave scholars such as Uri Davis used the term quite early on. His analysis in the 1980s was the first to expose Israel’s land regime and legal practices within the Green Line as another form of apartheid. Further research has highlighted both the similarities and dissimilarities. It was the first visitors from post-apartheid South Africa, who together with former US president Jimmy Carter, frequently used the term. Although it seems from very early on that they realized the regime imposed on the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was in many respects far worse than that of the apartheid in South Africa.

The most recent research has noted how uniform Israeli legal, economic, and cultural policies have become on both sides of the Green Line. The de facto and more invisible apartheid has been replaced by racist legislation in the Knesset and open policies of discrimination. It may be a different version of apartheid, but the Israel of 2014 is a state that segregates, separates, and discriminates openly on the basis of ethnicity (which in American parlance would be race), religion, and nationality.

Since the reference to apartheid has become common in the corridors of power as well as among activists, one can see why the inventive group of activists in Canada who initiated Israel Apartheid Week on their own university campus inspired so many others in the world to follow suit. The phenomenon has become so widespread (now also in Israel and Palestine) because it resonates with what people knew is happening on the ground due to the growth of the ISM (the international solidarity movement). It has provided an alternative source of information to the distorted reports of the mainstream media in the West, in particular grabbing public attention in the United States when Rachel Corrie, a young activist in the ISM, was brutally killed by the Israeli army.

The Apartheid Weeks are the main focal point of annual activity for the cause in Palestine and they have won over the campuses that were previously dominated by Zionist lobbying and academia. Because of the kind of harassment Steven Salaita, Norman Finkelstein, and others endured as university appointees suspected of harboring pro-Palestinian views, college professors and staff are still concerned in the United States that they too may be subjected either to a prolonged process of promotion or be disqualified and refused tenure. But the trend in the other direction is growing and campus communities as a space of debate have become more hostile toward those who support Zionism and more friendly to those who wish to show solidarity with the Palestinian cause. This has not transformed yet into support from university administrations, but the tide is definitely moving in the right direction.

The analysis of Israel as an apartheid state that resembles South Africa during its worst moment has produced another prognosis that is diametrically opposed to the raison d’être of the “peace process.” Most of the whites in South Africa were still quite racist when their regime of oppression collapsed, which means that change did not come because they were transformed from within the country. They were forced to change by the African National Congress (ANC) struggle and international pressure. While activists still struggle in and outside of Palestine to emulate the unity and power of representation the ANC enjoyed, they can more easily see how to manage a campaign of pressure from the outside inspired by the anti-apartheid movement with South Africa. The new basis for such activity is a realization that the change will not come from within Israel.

This is how the BDS campaign was born—out of a call from Palestinian civil society to pressure Israel through these means until it respects the human and civil rights of Palestinians wherever they are. The campaign, which in many ways became a movement, has its problems. The absence of clear representative and effective Palestinian institutions has forced the activists to act within a leadership vacuum. Hence at times strategic decisions have seemed to overstep the boundaries of what is tactical. The campaign’s relationship with boycott initiatives on the ground (such as the boycott of settlement goods in the West Bank or the rejection of any normalization with Israelis) is not always clear. But these flaws pale in comparison to the campaign’s success in bringing to the world’s attention a crisis that is at times overshadowed by the dramas that have engulfed the region since 2011. Major companies have rethought their investments in Israel, trade unions have ceded their connections with Israeli counterparts as have various academic associations, including leading ones in the United States, and an impressive number of artists, authors, and world-renowned figures, including Stephen Hawking, have cancelled their trips to Israel.

One component of the campaign—the academic boycott—is still contentious as is clearly evident in the conversation Frank and I had with Chomsky (Norman Finkelstein also publicly condemns this tactic). But it seems that it is accepted by many others as part of the new dictionary of activism and recently led to the creation in Israel of a “committee of boycott from within,” made up of Israeli Jewish academics with impressive membership numbers.

The Present: Ethnic Cleansing and Reparations

Insisting on describing what happened to the Palestinians in 1948 and ever since as a crime and not just as a tragedy or even a catastrophe is essential if past evils are to be rectified. The ethnic cleansing paradigm points clearly to a victim and offender and more importantly to a mechanism of reconciliation.

It clarifies the connection between Zionist ideology and the movement’s polices in the past and Israeli policies in the present: both aim to establish a Jewish state by taking over as much of historical Palestine as possible and leaving in it as few Palestinians as possible. The desire to turn the mixed ethnic Palestine into a pure ethnic space was and is at the heart of the conflict that has raged since 1882. This impulse, never condemned or rebuked by a world that watched by and did nothing, led to the massive expulsion of 750,000 people (half of the region’s population), the destruction of more than five hundred villages, and the demolition of a dozen towns in 1948.

The international silence in the face of this crime against humanity (which is how ethnic cleansing is defined in the dictionary of international law) transformed the ethnic cleansing into the ideological infrastructure on which the Jewish state was built. Ethnic cleansing became the DNA of Israeli Jewish society—and remains a daily preoccupation for those in power and those who were engaged in one way or another with the various Palestinian communities controlled by Israel. It became the means for implementing a not yet fulfilled dream—if Israel wanted not only to survive but also to thrive, whatever the shape of the state, the fewer Arabs in it, the better.

Ethnic cleansing motivated not only the Israeli policy throughout the years against the Palestinians but also toward the millions of Jews who were brought from Islamic and Arab counties. If they were to partake in the Zionist dream, they had to be de-Arabized (losing any connection to their mother tongue and proactively showing how un-Arab they were by daily expressing their self-hate, as Ella Habib Shohat has put it, for everything that is Arab). The Arab Jews who could have been the bridge to reconciliation turned out to be one of the highest obstacles to it.

Ethnic cleansing’s most preferred method is expulsion and dislocation, but in the case of Israel this was not always possible. This limitation forced the Israelis to be quite inventive in finding other means to continue with the vision of an Israel that has an absolute Jewish majority in it. They found that if you cannot expel someone, the second-best option is not to allow him or her to move. Enclaving people in villages and towns and disallowing any spatial expansion of human habitats became the hallmark of Israel’s ethnic cleansing after 1948, and it is still used today very effectively. When asked to explain why one new Palestinian village or town was not allowed to be built between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean (a prohibition benefiting the other ethnic group that today constitutes half of Palestine’s population), the official Israeli line is that Palestinians do not need the same space as Jews do and are quite happy to be stuck in their homes without free access to green spaces around them. In the past, any short aerial tour over the West Bank would have shown you how Palestinian villages used to look—comfortably spread over the hills of eastern Palestine, beautifully mingling with the natural landscape. But they have been gradually strangulated, especially if they lie in the vicinity of Jewish settlements or are locked between them, as is the case in the Galilee. At the same time the Jewish settlements, on both sides of the Green Line, form a very spacious suburbia.

So the refusal to allow the repatriation of refugees, the military rule on the Palestinians who were left inside Israel (1948–1966), the occupation and treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank, the erection of the apartheid wall, the silent transfer of Palestinians from Jerusalem, the siege on Gaza, and the oppression of the Bedouins in the al-Naqab are all either stages or components in an ongoing ethnic cleansing operation.

Using the term ethnic cleansing is also about justice. At every given moment in the history of the conflict, justice was ridiculed when it was even suggested as a principle in the attempts to solve the conflict. Ethnic cleansing however ensures that the basic right of return for those who were expelled is not forgotten, even if it is constantly violated by Israel. It seems that no real reconciliation will be possible without at least recognizing this right.

A new dictionary of activism is based on applying the universal concepts advanced by reparations to the case of the Palestinian refugees. The international community has long ago established the mechanism for treating the victims of ethnic cleansing, and reparations is often used as the remedy and solution. Reparations here exist in a spectrum of possibilities to allow the victims and the victimizers to build a new life. These possibilities include the physical return of those who survived ethnic cleansing or financial compensation to those survivors who wish to build a new life elsewhere. It also includes mechanisms for reintroducing the victims in the country’s historical accounts and retrieving their cultural assets. The major point of all these mechanisms is that it is up to the victims of the ethnic cleansing to decide individually which reparation they would prefer.

But there is more at stake here than just defining and properly conceptualizing the reparation paradigm as part of the new recommended dictionary. The idea of reparations, and in particular the right of the refugees to return, is rarely questioned in any other conflict in the world, apart from Palestine. The European Union and the US State Department have a principled position on refugees that accepts without any hesitations or qualifications the right of people to return to their homes after fighting has subsided. The United Nations has a similar universal position and made a concrete decision on the right of the Palestinian refugees to return unconditionally to their homes when it adopted Resolution 194 in December 1948 (it was adopted by the same UN General Assembly that decided on the partition plan and the creation of the Jewish state).

So putting the right of return at the very heart of any future solution is not a revolutionary idea that asks the Western world to betray its principles or adopt a unique exceptional attitude. On the contrary, it requires the Western world to be loyal to its principles and not exclude the Palestinians from the application of those principles. Yet the old peace orthodoxy abandoned these basic human principles and did not even think of fighting for them. Well, the new movement does and will put them at the center of its struggle as long as the last refugee wishes to return. The Al Jazeera “Palestine Papers” leak exposed how far the Palestine Authority was willing to go in order to appease the Israelis. It showed the PA’s readiness to give up this right of return. The new realities described at the end of this section reveal the emergence of a new political elite in Palestine that may have a different view on the issue.

Finally, this ideology of ethnic cleansing also explains the dehumanization of the Palestinians—a dehumanization that can bring about the kind of atrocities we witnessed in Gaza in January 2009. This dehumanization is the bitter fruit of the moral corruption that the militarization of the Jewish society bore in Israel. The Palestinians are a military target, a security risk, and a demographic bomb. This is one of the main reasons why ethnic cleansing is an ideology that is regarded by the international community, in the aftermath of the Second World War, as a hideous crime and moreover one that can lead to genocide—since with both crimes you have to dehumanize your victim in order to implement your vision of ethnic purity. Whether you expel or massacre people, including children, they have to be objectified as military targets, not as human beings.

Anyone who has been in Israel long enough, as I have, knows that the worst corruption of young Israelis is the indoctrination they receive that totally dehumanizes the Palestinians. When an Israeli soldier sees a Palestinian baby he does not see an infant—he sees the enemy. This is why all the military documents, whether those ordering the occupation of villages in 1948, those instructing the air force in 2009 to resort to the Dahiyah Doctrine (the strategy that was meant to defeat Hezbollah in the 2006 assault on Lebanon with the carpet bombing of the eponymous southern suburb of Beirut, which is the Shiites’ stronghold), or when bombarding Gaza, depict the civilian areas as military bases. In Israel, since 1948, ethnic cleansing is not just a policy—it is a way of life, and its constant practice criminalizes the state, not just its policies.

More important, when one has such a term in the activist’s dictionary, he or she realizes that ethnic cleansing does not end because it peters out. It ends either when the job is completed or is stopped by a more powerful force.

This realization turns on its head the logic of the peace process that has been attempted so far. The process was meant to limit the implementation of Israel’s policies onto the pre-1967 borders. It has not of course succeed in doing that, as the basic Zionist quest is for control, direct or indirect, over the whole of Palestine. Any tactical concessions on this space have been only due to demographic considerations, not a desire for peace and reconciliation. For this reason, the direct control over the Gaza Strip has been abandoned and the Zionist Left supports the two-state solution. But this course of action is not working and as the recent, more direct ethnic cleansing operations of Israel in the Negev, the Jordan Valley, and the Greater Jerusalem area have shown, the old plan A—of direct expulsion—is still used in order to complete the work that was begun in 1948.

Thus, the peace process forces Israel to be more inventive in its ethnic cleansing strategy but does not require it to stop that strategy. The new dictionary regards the end of the ethnic cleansing as a precondition for peace.

The depiction of Zionism as colonialism, the analysis of Israel as an apartheid state, and the recognition of how deeply imbedded the notion of ethnic cleansing is in Jewish society in Israel is the source of thee key entries in our new dictionary shaping our view of the future: decolonization, regime change, and a one-state solution.

The Future: Decolonization and Regime Change

The invalidity of the term peace process in regards to the Israel/Palestine conflict became clear when people started to have access to what was really happening on the ground. Through the work of the ISM, as well as communication via the Internet, satellite TV, and other means, people in the West could see the discrepancy between the various attempts to solve the conflict (such as Geneva 1977, Madrid 1991, Oslo 1993, and Camp David 2000) and what was really taking place on the ground. In this respect Chomsky was the first to observe that the process was never meant to reach a destination but only to perpetuate a situation of no solution. Israel used it as a means to grab more land, build more colonies, and annex more space. The status quo was the solution.

The entry of decolonization in the dictionary would hopefully put an end to the “coexistence” industry, which fueled a false dialogue financed mainly by the Americans and the leaders of the European Union. Most Palestinians have pulled out of this post–Oslo Accords project and wasted millions of dollars.

What was particularly annoying and unhelpful was the paradigm of parity on which the peace process was based: it divided the blame between the two parties and treated them as equally responsible for the conflict while offering, allegedly, an equitable solution. The blatant misbalance of power should have discredited this solution a long time ago as a realistic approach to peace. It was based on the wish to appease Israel without irritating it too much. The end result was that the Palestinians were to receive whatever Israel was willing to give them. This had nothing to do with peace; it was a search after a comfortable capitulation by the native people of Palestine who lost it to the Zionists who invaded the region in the nineteenth century.

But the new dictionary is not made of entries based on romantic or utopian notions. Past injustices cannot all be undone; this is very clear to the people who have been branded as “unrealistic” even by their friends. Not all past evils can be rectified, but ongoing evils surely should stop. And this is where the entry regime change becomes so appropriate.

According to the new movement it is not unthinkable to aspire to a regime change in Israel, nor is it naïve to envision a state where everyone is equal. And it is not unrealistic to work for the unconditional return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes. The principle of regime change was abused by the United States and Britain in their attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan but won a new international legitimacy in the popular revolutions in Tunis and Egypt.

Regimes can change dramatically and drastically, but they can also change gradually and in a bloodless manner. Although the upheavals in ex-Yugoslavia and Syria serve as warnings of how badly regime change can go, most of the historical examples in recent times are of nonviolent, or nearly nonviolent, regime changes. Therefore, the last entry in the new dictionary, a one-state solution, is based on the hope that a clear vision of how the future relationship between victims and victimizers is framed will indicate also the nature of the change needed and the way to achieve it.

For many activists the two-state solution was dead long before the desperate admission of that fact by US secretary of state John Kerry in April 2014. The strengthening of voices about the demise of the settlement does not mean that a clear alternative immediately has emerged. A long process in search of the alternatives has just begun. Some people, activists, and new political organizations have already articulated a clearer program and idea of what such a state would be. Their views are based both on old ideas that were developed in the past and their own new inputs. Others are still groping in the dark. But the journey has commenced.

Preliminary milestones of this journey have been achieved. The first milestone was the reconceptualization of Israel and Palestine as one country—not two present or future states. Palestine became once more a country called Palestine and not just a geopolitical reality called Israel and the Occupied Territories. And it is in this space that the new dictionary needs additional entries to clarify how people who live in Palestine, and those who were expelled from it, could live as equals and even live in ways better than in other parts of the Middle East, maybe even better than in some parts of Europe.

A second milestone, which was particularly crucial (as again can be gleaned from the conversation with Chomsky in the second part of this book), was the refutation of the allegation that the one-state vision denies Israel’s right to exist. The new movement of activists does not possess the power to eliminate states nor are they interested in doing so. Israel has the power to eliminate states; the peace movement does not. But it does have the moral power to question the ideology and ethical validity of the state and the destructive impact it had through the expulsion of half the country’s population.

The third milestone was the head-on challenge of one of the most basic assumptions of the peace orthodoxy: that partition of a country is an act of peace and reconciliation. Partition in the history of Palestine is an act of destruction committed within a framework of a UN “peace plan” that drew no international reaction or condemnation whatsoever. Thus the terms in the international dictionary from that formative period that signify positive peaceful values such as partition are a newspeak, to borrow George Orwell’s famous term for such deceptive realities. Partition signifies international complicity in the crime of destruction, not a peace offer.

Consequently, anyone opposing partition became the enemy of peace. The more sinister and pro-Israeli elements of the peace orthodoxy used to blame the Palestinians for being irresponsible, warmongering, and intransigent—beginning with the Palestinian rejection of the partition plan in 1947. In hindsight, we know partition was also an ill-conceived idea from a realpolitik point of view. This may not have been known at the time. But to offer partition now as a solution on the same premise that informed the 1947 resolution—which was that Zionism was a benevolent movement wishing Israelis to coexist as equals with the Palestinian native majority—is an absurdity and a travesty.

The continued adherence to the interpretation Zionism gave to partition, and liberal Zionism very recently gave to the Oslo process, corrupts every human and humane value cherished in the West. Partition, in both 1947 and 1993, means a license to have a racist Jewish state in more than 56 percent of Palestine in 1947 and more than 80 percent, if not more, in 1993.

This is where the senior Israeli and pro-Israel Western political and social scientists are exposed in their utter immorality and indecency. They claim, and teach, that a Jewish state reigning over much of Palestine, provided there is a Palestinian entity next to it, is a democratic reality. It is a democracy that is maintained by all means possible to ensure an everlasting Jewish majority in the land. These means could and have included genocidal policies and other brutal strategies to safeguard that the state embodies the ethnic identity of one group alone.

Israelis do not find it therefore at all bizarre or unacceptable that determining the results of a democratic process by first determining by force who makes up the electorate gets the desired result: a purely Jewish state in a binational country. This charade is still marketed successfully in the West: Israel is a democracy because the majority decides what it wants, even if the majority is determined by means of colonization, ethnic cleansing, and, recently, by ghettoizing the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, enclaving them in Areas A and B in the West Bank and in isolated villages in the Greater Jerusalem area, the Jordan Valley, and the Bedouin reservations in the Naqab.

Israeli Jews need to safeguard the existence of the Palestinians, threatened daily by their government and army, before nourishing the project of coexistence. If they want to help, they can join the international solidarity movement and those within the land who wish to transform Israel and Palestine into a geopolitical entity in which everyone can live as equal persons and citizens.

Conclusions: Palestine and Israel, 2014–2020

In order to move out of the paradoxes mentioned above, the ideas of the old peace camp have to be abandoned. The international community interested in helping Palestine needs to stand behind the attempt to turn Israel into a pariah state as long as Israel continues to pursue its policies of apartheid, dispossession, and occupation.

The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is a medical miracle: it died several times, was resuscitated for a while, then collapsed again. It holds on not because there is the slight chance it will succeed but because of the dividends its very existence brings to many involved. The Israeli government understands that without this “peace process” Israel would become a pariah state and would be exposed to international boycott and even sanctions. As long as the process is alive, Israel can continue to expand its settlement project in the West Bank and the dispossession of the Palestinians there (including in the Greater Jerusalem area) and establish facts on the ground that would render any future settlement unfeasible and impossible. Because of the dishonest brokering of the United States and Europe’s impotence in international affairs, Israel continues to enjoy immunity in this process.

The Palestinian leadership is divided on the question of how desirable the continuation of the process is. Senior members in the Palestinian Authority assert that the establishment of the PA was a very important national achievement and therefore should be maintained. Others, and it seems this includes President Mahmoud Abbas himself, have begun to doubt the validity of the PA and the chances of reaching peace. It is true that hollow threats to “hand over the keys to the Israelis” were voiced in the past by Abu Mazen, in order to exert pressure on Israel; but it seems that the threat from Israel in spring 2014 was more genuine and the sense of despair more real. And therefore the attempts to establish a unity government with Hamas, which were resumed in earnest that April, may have a better chance of succeeding.

The new efforts at unity were just one indication that quite a few of those who supported the process in the past, and those who have been observers, have prepared themselves for the eventuality that the medical miracle would not repeat itself and the dead would not be resurrected. Most of those who try and understand as well as predict what will take place, if indeed the process cannot be revived, see any other alternative as disastrous. The Zionist Left as well as liberal pro-Zionist bodies in the West talk about the “nightmarish” scenario of a binational state, not only because it would mean the end of Zionism but also would produce a far worse reality for both peoples (as if things can get worse for the Palestinians).

The Israeli Zionist Left has a bizarre explanation for its fear of a binational state, or for that matter of a single democratic state. The Palestinians will become “tree hewers and drawers of water,” as the biblical phrase has it, proponents warn us (a warning made several times by Uri Avnery). Others describe scenes of a never-ending civil war. Among the Palestinians the support for the two-state solution comes from a different angle. It is perceived as the only settlement that has global support, even inside Israel, and therefore should still be maintained. Quite a few of Palestine’s genuine friends continue to subscribe to this point of view for similar reasons.

Although the way the center and right wings in Israel imagine a two-state solution differs from that imagined among members of the Zionist Left, or within parties such as Hadash and Tajamu’ in Israel, and differs again among PA members and supporters of Palestinians in the enlightened world, there is generally a consensual depiction of it that dominates the political conversation on Palestine in the world.

But will the consensus be there in 2015? More and more voices among various Palestinian communities and among non-Zionist Jewish activists are replacing their unwavering support for the two-state solution with a search for new alternatives.

It is on the ground that one can see clearly how irrelevant this hegemonic and orthodox discourse of peace is and how futile any future attempts to revive it will be. The Zionist Left has disappeared from the political scene in Israel for all intents and purposes, and thus the only viable political alternatives are either a coalition between the Right and a secular Center or a coalition between the Right and ultra-orthodox Jews. The emergence of a new and left-leaning political force in Israel does not seem likely at this time. Anyone who is still hopeful of such an eventuality underrates the mental process Jewish society in Israel underwent following the creation of the state in 1948. It was put under an indoctrinating steamroller that pressed together old Jewish phobias about hostile Gentiles in Europe with typical colonialist anxieties about the natives into a frightening local version of racism. Deep racist layers like this are not removed easily and definitely do not disappear by themselves as the case of post-apartheid South Africa has so clearly shown us.

Counter-educational projects in the long run, active resistance, and huge pressure from the outside can transform a society like that in Israel. However, counter-education is a very long process, and the immediate dangers emanating from the collapse of the diplomatic effort have such destructive potential that they would render these educational efforts useless. As for the resistance movement, it is still fragmented (it has produced five different Palestinian groups that developed discretely since 1948, each with its own national agenda) and has to navigate in an almost impossible historical reality. Forging unity is another long-term process, probably taking as long as it would take to immunize Jewish society against the racist virus that affects it. The BDS movement with all its incredible achievements—and there are many—has still not affected the political elites in the West who are still providing Israel with immunity for its actions and policies.

In spite of positive developments—a few brave Israelis seek to confront their society’s racism in all its political manifestations (a systematic policy of ethnic cleansing in the Negev, Jaffa, Acre, Nazareth, East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and south of the Hebron mountains) and its constitutional manifestations (a racist wave of legislation in the Knesset); the BDS movement becomes stronger by the day; and we may be witnessing genuine efforts at Palestinian unification—on the ground a new state, the Greater Israeli state, has been born. This state has nearly completed the annexation of Area C in the West Bank and offers the Palestinians in Areas A and B incarceration in cages if they do not resist the new state or the threat that they will be treated like the population in Gaza if they do resist. This model is offered to the Palestinian people throughout the new state. In cages there is no room for spatial expansion, no resources for development and progress, and an absolute prohibition on resisting this new vision of a greater Israeli state.

Whoever follows the index of racism and democracy in Israel recognizes this is a creeping reality—a slide toward an age of more racist legislation, expanded projects of Judaization, and an alarming increase in attacks on Palestinians under the slogan Tag Mehir (Price Tag) that consists of the daily destruction of Palestinian property and holy places. In the new Greater Israel, impotent local Palestinian councils and uninterested police forces watch helplessly as organized crime takes over the more deprived Palestinian neighborhoods and villages between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean, fed by the poverty and unemployment that has reached unprecedented levels.

This is a tough reality that could be and should be challenged, but it is left intact partly because of the energy wasted in the futile peace process, as well as in power struggles among its victims over insignificant fiefdoms.

Today, in three areas a new conversation has to commence that addresses, rather than ignores, the reality. The first area is the overall Israeli policy that has obscured the Green Line, already in existence for many years, and which basically treats all the Palestinians in the same way. There are still advantages for Palestinians who are citizens of the state of Israel, but these seem to disappear as the years go by. As mentioned before, this is happening not only because Israel is less interested in providing these advantages but also due to the growing recognition that a hidden apartheid system, such as the one in Israel itself, is no less oppressive than a direct occupation (in the West Bank) or prolonged siege (in the Gaza Strip).

When different forms of oppression emanate from the same source, the struggle against it has to be focused. I have no illusions that in the near future we will all be guided by a clear and unified Palestinian strategy, but whoever subscribes to the importance of the Jewish-Palestinian joint struggle has to recognize a worldview that confronts the ethnic cleansing throughout all of Palestine and not just in part of it. A genuine and clear conversation about the new options instead of a dead formula is imperative at this moment in history. The reframing of the Arab-Jewish relationship over the whole land of historical Palestine is a crucial project that has to commence. Whatever one proposes in terms of the future political entity, it has to be based on full equality for whoever lives in or was expelled from the country. Each such entity or ideal future model hopefully could be developed through the existing representative bodies and new ones that might emerge. But for the sake of some sort of progress beyond the conceptual paralysis imposed on us in the name of the two-state solution, anyone who can and wants to—on every possible stage—should offer a political, ideological, constitutional, and socio-economic structure for whoever lives in the country of Palestine—and not just in the state of Israel.

The second area is the future of the Palestinian refugees. As long as this question is discussed within the framework of the old peace orthodoxy and the two-state solution discourse, it remains marginal and its solution deemed possible only as a return of refugees to the future Palestinian state. A totally different conversation about the refugee issue focuses on two subjects: the first, an analysis of the Israeli refusal to allow the return of refugees as yet another manifestation of how racist this state has become; the second, the need to consider the fate of the refugees in the light of the new refugee problem in Syria (which includes large numbers of Palestinian refugees).

Within the framework of the diplomatic effort that was based on the two-state solution, Israel’s determined rejection of any return was legitimized, as was the Israeli argument that return would not allow Israel to maintain a Jewish majority in the state. This international legitimacy indirectly licenses Israel to employ any means it deems necessary to maintain a significant Jewish majority in the state. In this respect there is no difference between an Israeli position that rejects the refugees’ right of return and the other Israeli projects of ethnic cleansing, be it proposing to annex Wadi Ara to the West Bank, uprooting the Bedouins in the Naqab, or depopulating East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. Peace cannot be on the agenda of a state that exercises such policies against its own citizens. A subject associated with the refugee question is the immediate fate of the Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Jordan who fled the civil war in Syria. Israel boasts of its humanitarianism by telling the world that it admitted dozens of wounded Syrian fighters to its hospitals. But Syria’s four neighbors, who have no less complicated relationships with Syria, absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees. Even if Israel does not show any humanitarian interest in these refugees, many of whom are Palestinians, anyone who is part of the peace camp inside and outside Palestine has to highlight the linkage between the Syrian tragedy and the Palestine issue: the need to offer the old-new Palestinian refugees a return to their original homeland has to be endorsed as both a humanitarian gesture and as a political act that can contribute to the end of the conflict in Israel and Palestine.

The right of return in general should be placed at the heart of much of the activity inside Israel (and there are early encouraging signs that the local agenda of activists there is moving in this direction). The Nakba took place where Israel is today, not in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Any conversation about reconciliation with both communities should take this fact as a starting point. A preliminary step is probably recognizing at least the right of internal Palestinian refugees (about 250,000 today by conservative estimates) to return to their homes or nearby. The right of internally displaced persons to return is the issue on which the widest consensus can build inside Israel in the struggle against the ongoing ethnic cleansing. The internal refugeehood presents a testimony from the past for what, and against what, the struggle is all about. The refugees are already part of the demographic balance. How these people will return and how other refugees will return is a question that has to be at the center and not on the margins of the public debate about Palestine in this century.

The third and last area is the absence of any socialist discourse from the conversation about Palestine. This absence is one of the main reasons the so-called peace camp in Israel (and the same is true regarding the lobbyists on J Street in the United States) has no issue with neo-liberalism. This worldview is not opposed to Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories but has no position on the harsh economic and social oppression that does not distinguish between a West Bank inhabitant and an Israeli citizen. It is true that, unfortunately, some of the Jewish oppressed classes in Israel, in particular the Arab Jews, who see themselves as Jews first, subscribe to extreme racist views, but their plight is another good reason not to give up on a worldview that challenges the present economic, not just political, regime between the River Jordan and the sea.

The absence of this angle also weakens our ability to understand the Oslo Accords, the creation of the PA, projects such as People to People, and the maintenance of the occupation by EU and USAID money as neoliberal projects. Economic elites supported the “peace process” because it was perceived to lead to an economic bonanza.

The importance of insisting on a socialist worldview can be gleaned from the example of post-apartheid South Africa, which has proven so disappointing as it maintains an economic structure that still discriminates against the African community there. Those who represent institutionally, collectively, or individually this worldview have a responsibility to make sure the conversation about it will not stop at the Green Line but will relate to Palestine as a whole; and who knows, it may kick off a serious conversation about the future of the Middle East in its entirety.

Heading toward 2020, we will all most probably face a racist, ultra-capitalist, and more expanded Israel still busy ethnically cleansing Palestine. There is however a good chance that such a state will become a global pariah and the people around the world will ask their “leaders” to act and end any relations they have with it. What they should not hear are the past slogans, which are no longer relevant in the struggle for a more just and democratic Palestine.

Part One


Chapter Two

The Past

Frank Barat: How important is the role of the past in understanding the present? More and more, people are asking the Palestinians to move on—to forget about the past, the Nakba of 1948, the refugees. How would you respond to that?

Noam Chomsky: Well, it’s not just on this issue. It’s quite standard for those who hold the clubs to say: “Forget about everything that happened and let’s just go on from here.” In other words, “I’ve got what I want, and you forget what your concerns are. I’ll just take what I want.” That’s what it translates as—in this case too. To forget about the past means forgetting about the future because the past involves aspirations, hopes, many of them entirely justified, that will be dealt with in the future if you pay attention to them. It’s essentially saying, “Let’s dismiss just hopes and aspirations because we’ve got what we want.”

Ilan Pappé: I definitely agree with this. I would say that in the case of Palestine, and why we continue to receive requests to speak and give our views, the clock of destruction continues at every historical juncture at a much faster pace than our clock of ideas on how to get out of this. This stalemate continues however because the perception of those who manage the so-called peace process—those who interpret the reality in Palestine and Israel and claim that they know what is the right solution—is rigid and has not changed for years.

At its base is a formula for peace that insists on taking the past out of the equation of peace. These peace brokers claim that the relevant past for any peace process is the moment the process begins. Anything that happened before is irrelevant for that process. So if you already have huge Jewish settlement blocks all over the West Bank, you cannot think about dismantling them. You may think about the exchange of territories but not about dismantling these settlements. So the past becomes an obstacle in the eyes of the so-called mediators, but the past is everything in the eyes of the occupied and the oppressed people.

NC: I might add to that it’s universal. President Obama says: “Well let’s forget about the crimes that were committed, the invasion of Iraq, let’s just go on.” In others words, let’s continue the same way we’ve been proceeding. That’s the weapon of the powerful.

IP: Absolutely.

FB: Zionism has become a word that has many definitions and interpretations. Some people don’t know what it means anymore. Could you give us an overview of what this word has meant historically?

IP: As you’re saying, Zionism has many interpretations. Its more neutral definition would be ideology I suppose. Zionism is a set of ideas that inspires people to do certain things and act in accordance to them. What is important in my mind is how people in power interpret this ideology. I’m less interested in how it is interpreted by neutral scholars. I’m interested in Zionism as an ideology that has an impact on people’s lives on the ground. As such, it is an ideology, and has been, since almost the beginning of the Zionist project in Palestine, that meant, in very simple terms, that Judaism as a national movement has the right and the aspirations to have as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible. Such a reality was determined as a precondition for creating new Jewish life. I think that throughout the years, when you have an institution like a state, which accepts this ideology as its ethical infrastructure, that ideology becomes even more powerful in the life of people.

As such it is not that different from other national or cultural ideologies. Its uniqueness lies elsewhere. Zionism today is an ideology of power that is quite peculiar in history as it is directed against one particular group of people. Usually ideologies have wider implications for people. Zionism is very focused.

[Whether it can] be substituted by a more progressive ideology is a very good question. The best way forward seems is for its victims and opponents to see how far they can progress, motivated by a set of universal values of human rights and civil rights. Because most of what is interpreted today as Zionism violates, and contradicts, basic human rights and civil rights for anyone who is not a Jew in Israel. Rather than finding the alternative ideology as such, the goal is to create positions that claim the right of people to elementary human and civil rights.

FB: Is there a clear definition of Zionism today? What is a Zionist today?

NC: First of all I think that here again the past is relevant. Zionism meant something different in the pre-state and post-state period. From 1948 on, Zionism meant the ideology of the state. A state religion. Like Americanism, or the magnificence of France. In fact even in this period the notion has changed. I remember for example in 1964, I happened to spend some time in Israel, and among leftish intellectuals, Zionism was regarded as a joke. A thing that was used for propaganda for children. Three years later, most of these people were raving nationalists. That changed in 1967, which was a sea change in the way many Israelis saw themselves and what the state was like. Fundamentally in the pre-state period it was not a state religion. For example, in the mid-1940s, I was a Zionist youth leader, but strongly opposed to a Jewish state. I was in favor of Jewish-Arab working-class cooperation to build a socialist Palestine, but the idea of a Jewish state was anathema. I was a Zionist youth leader, because it was not a state religion.

You go back a bit further, my father, his generation, they were Zionists, but they were Ahad Ha’Amists. They wanted a cultural center as a place where the diaspora could find a way to live together with the Palestinians. That ended in 1948. From then on, it essentially became a state religion. One that shifted, in terms of policies. It’s interesting to remember this. In the mid-1970s, it was clear that the Arabs were perfectly willing to make a political settlement. Syria, Egypt, and Jordan proposed a two-state settlement at the Security Council; the USA had to veto it. Egypt had already offered a full peace treaty with Israel. It was necessary to raise barriers to block negotiations. So the concept of Zionism changed. Everyone had to accept the “right to exist” of Israel. States do not have a right to exist. Mexico does not accept the right of the USA to exist sitting on half of Mexico. States recognize each other but not their right to exist. There is no such thing. But Israel raised that barrier to require that Palestinians accept that their oppression and expulsion is justified. Not just that it happened, but that it is justified. Of course they are not going to accept that. So it was a nice barrier to stop negotiations. Now it’s harder. The support for a settlement is now so overwhelming that Israel has been forced to raise the barrier still higher. The Palestinians now have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. That’s the core element of most of the speeches that Netanyahu gives. Why that? Because that’s understood to be impossible. Nobody should recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Just as we do not recognize the USA as a Christian state. Say Pakistan calls itself an Islamic state, but the USA does not recognize it as one. Zionism in the policy of the state of Israel has had to shift to impose still higher barriers to any kind of political settlement. If something more is needed in the future, they will invent something new. Zionism as state policy is a shifting concept depending on what the state needs.

IP: For me there is one constant dimension of Zionism that does not easily shift with time, one can call it mainstream Zionism, sometimes referred to as Labor Zionism. It’s the colonialist, or settler-colonialist, dimension of Zionism. From the moment the more vague ideas of Zionism as the revival of Judaism as nationalism became the concrete project of settling in Palestine, Zionism became a settler-colonialist project and still is one today. Maybe the means of colonizing Palestine are changing according to circumstances and the balance of power, but not the vision itself. Within that act of colonizing also come perceptions of the native, or the indigenous, population as being an obstacle for the success of the project. I think that this part of Zionism stays at the heart of the ideology even before the state was founded. The state just enhances the ability to colonize but does not change the vision of colonizing Palestine.

Palestinian perspectives on it, however, did change with time. Noteworthy is the position of Palestinian intellectuals and leaders such as Azmi Bishara, who argues that the settlers today have a certain right and presence in Palestine. When the first wave of settlers came as Zionists, it happened at a historical moment when quite often in the history of nineteenth-century colonialism, the local population could opt for resistance and successfully, usually in an armed struggle, push the colonizers back to their home countries. When the colonizers are already a third generation and even succeeded in founding their own state, the native population has to strategize differently and find ways of coexisting with this generation of colonizers.

The reason the colonialist impulse of the Zionist movement did not end at a certain historical moment lies in the territorial appetite and greediness of these settlers. When they were offered part of Palestine in 1937 they regarded it as insufficient space for implementing their aspirations. But they had a wise leader, David Ben-Gurion, who understood that it was tactfully beneficial not to spell out clearly these annexationist dreams. So he told the Royal Peel Commission the Zionist movement was content with a small part of the country.

He continued this tactical and successful policy in 1947 and led his community to accept a larger part of Palestine than that offered in 1937, but one that he still deemed as insufficient. He told his colleagues he was very unhappy with the map offered by the UN Partition Plan in November 1947 and promised them, as indeed happened, that they would have the means, the opportunity, and the plan to change these borders later on. His successors still hope to re-create his winning formulae today after Israel completed the takeover of the whole of Palestine in 1967. But unlike Ben-Gurion in 1937 and 1947, they so far failed in obtaining the international legitimacy for the last territorial expansion (and unlike him at least some of them were even seeking, again unsuccessfully, Palestinian legitimacy for this act).

NC: I think that’s a correct characterization of what you’d call hard-core Zionism or more generally political Zionism, which of course Ben-Gurion was a leading figure of. But Zionism generally was broader. Like Ahad Ha’Am was a Zionist, but not a political Zionist. The groups that I was involved in admittedly were marginal. Like Kalvarisky’s League for Arab-Jewish Rapprochement. They were Zionists, but anti-state. They were class based and in favor of Jewish-Arab working-class cooperation. It might sound strange today, but it did not in the context of the thirties and the forties.

IP: The Jews were a minority then. Is it possible when the Jews are a majority and in power to develop such ideas?

NC: Well this is later. A majority and a state. In fact they were strongly opposed to it at the time. So the concept changed. What you are describing is a correct characterization of the mainstream of political Zionism. Technically the Zionist movement did not formally accept the notion of a state until 1942, but it was always in the background of political Zionism. You just could not say it. I think it’s worth thinking through what the options were because that may be some kind of a guide to what the future could be.

FB: Nowadays a lot of people describe Zionism as a settler-colonial movement. Do you both agree with this definition?

NC: The Jewish settlement in Israel was certainly a settler-colonial movement. When you talk about what Zionism was, it depends on how wide you want to spread it. The movement that developed, yes, is a settler-colonial society. Like the USA, Australia, the Anglosphere. Israel is one of them. It’s not a small point. If you take a look at the international support for Israeli policies, it’s of course primarily the USA, but secondarily it’s the Anglosphere. Australia, Canada. . . . I suspect that there is a kind of intuitive feeling on the part of the population. Look, we did it, it must be right. So they are doing it, so it must be right. The settler-colonial societies have a different kind of mentality. We did exterminate or expel the indigenous population so there has to be something justified about it—superior civilization or other ideas.

IP: Our chance to change international perspective and perceptions even in settler-colonialist societies has to do with the past. Even if you go to the USA and Australia nowadays, maybe because the policies were genocidal and happened many years ago, I do not think these societies will resort easily today to settler-colonialist practices. They may deal well, or not so well, from our perspective, with crimes of the past. They may find different ways of engaging with them. As the Australians did when they initiated the Sorry Day. Or even a more progressive act of reconciliation in the permit given by the government of New Zealand to the Maoris to return to their lands that were stolen from them. All these acts are taken from what one can call the comfort zone of those settlers’ societies that have diminished the native population to such an extent, at the early stage of colonization, that they have no fear the symbolic acts will change the socio-economic or even political realities of today. For the Israelis, of course the task is far more formidable. They are still dispossessing because they failed in the early stage of the 1948 ethnic cleansing to eliminate the Palestinians as a people. And thus every symbolic act of reconciliation would have a profound and tangible impact on the socio-economic and political realities on the ground. Most Israeli Jews do all they can to prevent this from happening. Where they are not sure about their success is in winning international and regional legitimacy for their acts.

NC: It’s true. Israel has had the problem that it’s a twentieth-century version of a seventeenth- through nineteenth-century colonialism. That’s a problem. But my point was a little bit different. There is a kind of an underlying mentality in the Anglosphere, in settler-colonial societies, which is simply some kind of deep-seated part of the way in which people look at the world and that slips through. However, speaking about the future, this is changing in the Anglosphere. Since the 1960s, mainly the effect of sixties-era activism, there has been a considerable revival, a significant one, of concern for what actually happened in the past. A lot of it was suppressed until then, literally. You go back to the 1960s when leading anthropologists were claiming that there were maybe only a million Indians [Native Americans] around the country. That’s collapsed. Now attitudes are very different. I think this is part of the background for the increasing criticism of the settler-colonial character of Israel. These things are connected in sort of subtle ways.

IP: I agree and I think that this shift in perceptions in the settler-colonial societies is something we are still struggling with as activists. I remember how I struggled to explain to my students in England that what they see in Israel and Palestine today is a daily implementation of nineteenth-century colonialist ideology and discourse.

NC: Yes.

IP: Where the Israelis find it difficult is actually in escaping the description of the reality as colonialist when trying to do this in Hebrew. Any translation into another language of the Israeli terminology of settlement is bound to expose the colonialist nature of the project. Even those progressive Jews who support Israel feel uncomfortable when this act of translation is taking place.

This Israeli predicament is also our predicament as activists. We are dealing with a nineteenth-century fossil that is very alive and kicking in the twenty-first century. That’s why I think the power of connecting the past to the future comes through the paradigm of settler colonialism. Because settler colonialism is not only about the act of settling and colonizing but what happens afterwards.

NC: Driving out the indigenous population.

IP: Exactly.

FB: I want to go back to the question of a Jewish state. If the Jews are a people, what is the problem of them having a state? And why shouldn’t we recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

IP: I think that no one I know has ever objected or questioned the right of people to redefine themselves on a national, ethnic, or cultural ground. There is no ground for objecting from the perspective of international law or international morality. Neither is the historical moment in which they decide to do it questionable, however this particular group had defined itself in the past (in our case, as a religious group).

The problem lies elsewhere. What is the price paid by this transformation and who pays the price? If this new definition comes at the expense of another people, this becomes a problem. If a group is a victim of a crime and is looking for a safe haven, it cannot obtain this by expelling someone else, another group, from this space that you want as your safe haven. This is the difference between what you want as a group and what means you use to achieve it. The problem is not the right of the Jews to have a state of their own or not. That’s an internal Jewish problem. Orthodox Jews might have a problem with this. Palestinians have no qualms about the Jews forming a state in Uganda, as some people proposed in 1902 to 1903. Not one Palestinian in the world would be interested in this scenario. That’s the main issue. How do you implement your right to self-determination?

NC: The idea of a Jewish state is an anomaly. It’s not something that’s happened somewhere in the world. The question is based on the wrong presupposition. Take France: It took a long time for France to become a state. A lot of violence and repression took place. In fact all state formation is a process of extreme violence. That’s why Europe was the most violent place in the world for centuries. Once a state is established, any citizen is a citizen of the state. No matter who you are, if you are a French citizen, you’re French. If you live in Israel, and you are an Israeli citizen, you are not a Jew. So the Jewish state concept is a complete anomaly. It has no analogs in the modern world. Therefore it’s obvious why we should not accept it. Why should we accept this unique anomaly?

Every state, if you look at its history, is created by extreme violence. There is no other way to impose a uniform structure on people of varying interests, backgrounds, languages, and so on. So it’s done by violence. But once it’s there, at least in the modern state system, anybody who is part of a state is theoretically an equal member of the state. Of course it might not work in practice, but that’s the concept. In Israel it is totally different. There is a distinction between citizenship and nationality. There is no Israeli nationality. You cannot be an Israeli national. This came up in the courts back in the sixties and came back up again recently. A group of Israelis wanted to have their papers identify them as Israelis, not as Jews. It went all the way to the high court, which rejected it. It reflects this anomalous concept of a Jewish state, which has no counterpart in the contemporary international political system.

IP: Paradoxically it is used by Israel in an attempt to stifle any criticism of the state and its ideology. If you chastise Israel, you assault the Jewish state and by association you attack Judaism. That’s a very interesting line of argumentation and defense.

This prohibition would not work in any case. If you look at the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, it is as if in the heyday of the struggle against apartheid, you were only allowed to criticize certain policies of South African society but not the very nature of the regime. That’s a great success for Israel that it obtained immunity from such a protest movement so far. They defined the parameters of the game: you are allowed to demonstrate against Israeli policies, but if you demonstrate against Israel, you demonstrate against the Jewish state and therefore you demonstrate against Judaism. That is why it is very important to bring this to the fore of the discussion.

NC: It’s interesting that it is now the Israeli leadership itself that is bringing it to the fore.

IP: Exactly.

NC: When Netanyahu says, “You have to recognize us as a Jewish state,” he is saying: “You have to recognize us as something that does not exist in the modern world.” There is no such thing. Again, if you are French, a citizen of France, you are French. If you are a citizen of Israel, you are not Jewish. It’s crucial.

FB: Could Israel have formed without the Holocaust?

NC: It’s hard to debate such a question, but I think it would have. What Ilan was describing before, the national institutions that had been created—they were strong, there was a military force, an ideology, support for it in the powerful countries, for all kind of reasons. Like in Britain and in the US, a lot of the support for it was religious. Christian Zionism is a very significant force. It goes back way before Jewish Zionism. It was an elite phenomenon. Lord Balfour, Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman read the Bible every morning. It says there, “God promised the land to the Jews.” That’s in the powerful states. There was already plenty of support. In fact, Britain as the mandatory authority facilitated the development of the Jewish national institutions. So my guess is that it would have happened without the Holocaust.

Also it’s worth remembering that the Holocaust was not a big issue in the 1940s. On the contrary; it became a big issue after 1967. If you take a look at the Holocaust museums, the Holocaust studies programs, it’s post-’67. It’s very striking in the USA. So ask yourself a very simple question. After the war, there were many survivors of the Holocaust, many of them living in concentration camps. They were in camps that were essentially no different from the Nazi extermination camps except that there were no crematoria. There were US government presidential studies that investigated and said that the people were living under the conditions of Nazi occupation. Simple question. How many of them came to the United States? Virtually none. If you had asked them where they wanted to go, I think you can make a sane guess that they would have wanted to come to the United States. Half of Europe wanted to come, especially Holocaust survivors. They did not. The American government did not want them, the American Jewish community did not want them. Zionist emissaries took over the camps. They had a principle that able-bodied men and women between seventeen and thirty-five had to be shipped off to Palestine. The first book on this,