JSW on the US Campaign to Make Sure No One Supports Palestinians and Everyone Supports Israel

March 19, 2015

In Blog News


World reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory has ranged from barely concealed dismay to open-mouthed horror.

The New York Times published a scathing editorial, condemning Israel’s likely next prime minister as ‘desperate’ and ‘craven’, his ‘subversive’ and ‘outrageous’ behaviour having ‘laid bare his duplicity’.

Today it publishes a column by Yousef Munayyer, arguing that Netanyahu’s victory ‘could actually hasten the end of Israel’s apartheid policies‘ by stoking international pressure on Israel. (Is this appearance of the A-word in the New York Times, as a positively endorsed description of existing Israeli institutions and practices, a first?)

Yet, if the publication of Munayyer’s column testifies to the level of international hostility towards Netanyahu, it also bodes ill for the prospects that this anger will be leveraged to the Palestinians’ benefit.

Munayyer argues that Netanyahu’s election is to be welcomed because it puts Israel on a much needed ‘collision course with the rest of the world’. This collision, he predicts, will force Israelis ‘to decide between perpetual occupation and being accepted in the international community’, at which point they will either

choose a more moderate leader who dismantles settlements and pursues peace, or… choose to annex rather than relinquish land — provoking a confrontation with America and Europe.

The world’s frustration, Munayyer recognises, is fuelled by Netanyahu’s opposition to a two-state solution: Netanyahu ‘has become the internationally recognised face of Israeli intransigence, settlement building and brazen disregard for Palestinian human rights… [He] has become synonymous with the occupation’. Munayyer cites examples of growing boycott campaigns against Israel’s settlements and occupation:

In the past few years, a major Dutch pension fund divested large sums from Israeli banks active in the West Bank, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been divested from companies, like G4S and SodaStream, that operate in occupied territory.

If Netanyahu provokes international hostility because of his commitment to occupation and the settlements and his rejection of the internationally accepted two-state solution; and if we want more of this hostility; then presumably the solidarity movement should be campaigning for an end to the settlements, an end to the occupation and the realisation of two-states, seeking to mobilise international opinion behind the application of material pressure to those ends and highlighting Netanyahu’s opposition on all counts.

In fact, Munayyer draws the opposite strategic conclusion:

The two-state solution, which has seen more funerals than a reverend, exists today only as a talking point for self-interested, craven politicians to hide behind — not as a realistic basis for peace.[*]

The old land-for-peace model must now be replaced with a rights-for-peace model. Palestinians must demand the right to live on their land, but also free movement, equal treatment under the law, due process, voting rights and freedom from discrimination.

Leave aside that, as of now, Palestinians are not mobilising en masse to demand anything.

Per Munayyer, international hostility to Israel is not based on occupied Palestinians’ lack of voting rights. The Dutch pension fund did not, on his account, divest from Israeli banks active in denying occupied Palestinians voting rights. Netanyahu did not, on his account, ‘become the internationally recognised face of’ Israel’s denial of occupied Palestinians’ voting rights.

Yet the director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Denial of Occupied Palestinians’ Voting Rights – sorry, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation – would have activists shift their demands from those grievances which, by his own account, resonate, to those which, by his own account, do not.

‘The re-election of Mr. Netanyahu’, Munayyer concludes, ‘provides clarity’.  If only.


* But, didn’t Munayyer say that international pressure might induce Israelis to ‘choose a more moderate leader who dismantles settlements and pursues peace’? And, didn’t he conspicuously not say that international pressure might induce Israelis to dismantle Israel as a Jewish state?


A post-script to this.

In an op-ed for MSNBC, Yousef Munayyer, newly appointed head of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, urges US policymakers to ditch ‘the two-state framework’:

What is needed now is for policymakers to engage in a moment of deep reevaluation and throw out the two-state framework that has underpinned US policy for the last several decades.

The ‘two-state framework’ is endorsed every year by an overwhelming majority of the United Nations General Assembly. It calls for peace based on Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 border (with minor and mutual landswaps), the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and a just resolution of the refugee question.

Every year, two countries stand virtually alone in rejecting these terms: Israel and the United States.

It has been the work of many years and much pedagogical effort to raise awareness of the US’s destructive role in blocking a two-state solution.

And yet here is the head of one the main solidarity movement organisations in the US, casually airbrushing the long record of US rejectionism out of existence.

As the Obama administration energetically conflates the international consensus two-state settlement with its own counterfeit version, which would see Israel annex critical chunks of the West Bank in violation of Palestinian rights; and as it considers tabling a Security Council resolution to consecrate and legitimise these counterfeit terms, dealing a likely fatal blow to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination – at this perilous moment, one of America’s most prominent pro-Palestinian spokespeople echoes and endorses that same conflation.

And in the service of what?

The hope that ‘bold and smart’ American ‘policymakers’ will ‘press Israel to immediately dissolve’ the ‘system Zionism has imposed on Palestinians’.

Taken together, Munayyer’s New York Times and MSNBC pieces advance the following strategic argument:

  1. Prime Minister Netanyahu has provoked growing international hostility towards the Israeli government.
  2. Since Israel will only reverse course under external pressure, it is crucial that this international hostility be further fuelled and inflamed.
  3. International hostility is driven by Netanyahu’s rejection of the internationally supported two-state solution.
  4. Therefore… the solidarity movement and US policymakers must ditch the two-state solution.

At the level of governments as well as public opinion, frustration with Israel has never been higher. What a pity if, for the sake of fantasies and dreams, the momentum is squandered – or, worse, left for capture by Palestine’s enemies.