Thursday, 3 September 2015

Understanding Palestinian rights and the ideology of Zionism - an essential piece from Ilan Pappe

I urge people to set a little time aside to read or/and listen to this brilliant interview with Professor Ilan Pappe:

Pappé on apartheid, ideology, Chomsky, and the contradictions of “liberal Zionism”

Free from clumsy jargon, Pappe lays out a penetrating set of comments and explanations on Palestinian rights, the driving ideology of Zionist Israel, the contortions of liberal Zionism, the illusion-peddled 'peace process', the contrived narrative of the 'two state solution', the fit between Israel's racist settler colonialism and wider neoliberalism, the applicability of 'apartheid' to Israel, and the case for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

Reflecting many of their current exchanges, Pappe's account is also a vital engagement of Chomsky's formulations - and it's important that it should be read in that spirit of healthy systematic inquiry, of constructive critique rather than criticism

Some examples of Pappe's acute observations:
What lies behind the idea of a two-state solution is: if the Jewish national movement and the Palestinian national movement arrive more or less at the same time to the same place, and were unable to settle the question of to whom the land belongs, and were unable to reconcile, and what was needed was kind of a grown-up in the form of the United States and Britain that would help these two sides to reconcile on the basis of a kind-of American, business-like approach, where you divide the land, you divide the responsibility, and so on. And that is a very wrong way of reading the whole history of Palestine since the arrival of the Zionist movement there in the late nineteenth century until today.  
The two state solution fits so well to the neoliberal paradigm, where you look at Israel and Palestine and you claim that you are using a very sensible measure called partition between two conflicting sides. But you give one side 80% of the land and one side 20% of the land, and you sell it as a fair deal. That is neoliberalism, that is exactly neoliberalism, the idea that economic balance of power determines what equality means. In reality, it is inequality in essence. But again, this new speak of neoliberalism is very, very important.
Overall, a riveting and deeply educational piece for anyone seeking clarification of the core issues and serious positioning on Palestine-Israel.

1 comment:

Alavari Jeevathol said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I hope Pappe lays out a better case for BDS and TODS in his book, when he can actually quote Chomsky directly, than he, and his interviewer, do in this interview.

After many years of following critiques of Chomsky and Finkelstein's position on the two-state solution and BDS goals/strategy, I am saddened to see how many of their interlocutors commit the same basic mistake over and again. They do not engage directly with the analysis and historical examples presented, instead, they shoot as near as is comfortable for their case, but do not undermine points being made.

The interview does this, for example, when trying to engage with Chomsky's South Africa formulation, there is very little engagement with the pivotal issue - US support for the nefarious state in both cases (South Africa and Israel). The US is mentioned a handful of times, but never in the context of it being a necessary factor in Israel's expansionism. Nor is there any recognition, let alone deconstruction, of Finkelstein and Chomsky's points about why the anti-democratic nature of Israel should be a priority BDS target for activists over, say, Indian anti-democratic tendencies and ethnic tensions, or that of any other country in the world.

I was especially interested to see the scenic psychological route taken in the interview: speculating on the reasons why people join Chomsky's stuck-in-the-past tribe, and poking around in his past as a Zionist youth in an attempt to divine his intellectual blind spots. Like it has any bearing whatsoever on the actual arguments made. People in the glass house of "we'd rather not focus on feasibility right now" should not be throwing the stones of reality checks.

I find it difficult to take seriously any activist philosophy that leaves aside what is feasible in order to ruminate on "narratives" and the repercussions for these narratives, if, say, the West plays a constructive role in ending the occupation.

No one is suggesting that they may know better than the Palestinians and therefore they are right. Activists both inside and outside of Palestine may have differing views based on their capacity to act to affect change, and may read the situation differently. The right to chose the direction of their own struggle will always remain with the Palestinians, as it will with the Naxalites in India, for example. This does not compel all concerned Westerners to put aside their own concerns if there are reasonable counter-arguments. To try and connect this to the White Man's Burden poisons the well for serious discussion of the issues.