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Biannual Newsletter - Seventh Edition
Seventh Edition
The Constitution
Introductory Bulletin
The Constitution - Introductory Bulletin
UN Resolution 1325
UN Resolution 1325
Date posted: September 12, 2018

  • No action will succeed against the nation-state law without the support of the Palestinian leadership, whether in the West Bank, Gaza Strip or inside the Green Line
  • Wagering on the demographic factor holds a certain risk; Israel is not stupid enough to put the Arabs in one basket
  • There is considerable interaction between populism in Europe and the United States and the right-wing extremists in Israel
  • Israel has moved from the stage of marginalizing Jerusalem to the stage of integrating it in its political, social and economic fabric
  • The deal of the century was stillborn; most likely there will be no deal as long as the Palestinian people reject it


    Dr. Huneida Ghanem, researcher in political social science and director of Madar Center for Israeli Studies, reaffirmed that the timing of the Israeli nation-state law has linked two important factors. The first is cementing the control of the new Israeli right, which is very close to populism, over all aspects of governance in Israel. The second is to close the door to Palestinians inside the Green Line [1948 territories] regarding their demand for a state of equal citizenship. This law does not only seek to systemize racism against the Palestinians and relegate them to second-class citizens, it has also made this constitutional and far-removed from the jurisdiction of the High Court. Furthermore, this law clearly declares and grants priority to the Jewish identity over democracy in Israel in a way that provides a legal cover for all Israeli measures since 1948 against the Palestinians.

    In an interview with Hosted by MIFTAH Dr. Ghanem poses the first step necessary for facing this law and its repercussions on the national rights of the Palestinian people, which she says is to get the Palestinian house in order. She also says the Palestinian leadership must be transformed into an active leadership through ending the political division and through agreeing to a formula based on the minimum ceiling for agreement and conciliation so the leadership could be able to truly represent its people in front of the world. As for the Palestinians inside the Green Line, she says they cannot remain mere bystanders just waiting for actions to be taken on the ground against this law. Discussions on the topic must be held on the tools needed to confront the law in defense of the original Palestinian presence inside the 48 areas.

    Following is the text of the interview:

    **Why do you think Israel passed the nation-state law now? What is the vision behind it?

    I think the timing of this law is linked to two main factors. The first is it is a way of cementing the control of the new Israeli right, which is an amalgamation of orthodox Zionists, the Haredi, the neo-liberals and the right-wing extremists. The latters rhetoric is very close to that of populists. This right wing has become entrenched and has dominated all aspects of rule in Israel. The second factor is that the law seeks to shut the door to Palestinians living inside 1948-territories in terms of demanding an equal-citizenship state. It also reaffirms that the right to self-determination in this state is exclusive to Jews only. In terms of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the law comes in the context of finalizing the conflict through cementing the Israeli vision via this law in terms of two things: the first is that the borders of Israel are not limited to the 1948 border, the partition plan, the armistice line or the 1967 border but are delineated and determined according to Israeli criteria. In that sense, it deems both parts of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while the Golan Heights are annexed for all practical purposes. Meanwhile, Jewish settlement is encouraged everywhere without confining it to within the land of Israel. This is indicated in the first article of the law.

    **What steps could be taken to confront this law, whether by Palestinians inside the Green Line, the PA or at the international level?

    There are two points on this matter. One, it is important that we clarify no Palestinian action will succeed without the collaboration of the Palestinian leadership, whether in the West Bank, Gaza Strip or inside the Green Line. In the West Bank and Gaza, the situation is catastrophic in terms of the current political division. This division was a huge gift to Israel. If it werent for the division and political fragmentation, Israel would have thought twice about passing such a racist law. Hence, the first step must be to get our Palestinian house in order and turn the Palestinian leadership into an active leadership through ending the division and agreeing on a formula based on the minimum ceiling for agreement and conciliation so the leadership can truly represent its people in front of the world.

    The same applies for those inside the Green Line. They must also take the initiative and not hesitate to carry out activities on the ground against this law. They must immediately declare a complete program for confrontation and how to take further action at the international level. The leadership and people inside the 48 borders hold an important card in this regard with which they could persuade the international community of the clear and tangible suffering this law will create for them.

    I think and perhaps I am wrong that a continuing presence in the Israeli Knesset as something implicitly accepted, is a problem in and of itself. Hence, I think this must be put to a public discussion and brainstorming. This could end in two things: either the Arab presence remains or it leaves. This requires rational and objective recommendations; what is clear is that we can no longer deal with the reality imposed by the new law in the same way we did before.

    **Do you think the large demonstration that recently took place in Tel Aviv represents the start of a popular movement that could produce tangible results? And do you think this protest could turn into a national Palestinian movement that brings together all Palestinians inside the homeland and abroad?

    The demonstration was important but we must understand that it was just the start and not the end. The demonstration showed that the Arabs are capable of organization and influence in spite of the criticism and perhaps the discomfort of some regarding this protest. However, in the end, the protest reaffirmed that Palestinians exist, that they are to be reckoned with and are an actual challenge to Zionism. At this point, the leadership must take advantage of the momentum from the demonstration to construct clear and unapologetic statements that represent the general interests of the group targeted by the law. It must focus on strengthening cooperation and coordination between the various movements and stress on collective team work as opposed to being pulled behind factional conflicts and narrow disputes. Like I said, this is a good start, but it is not the end.

    **In light of these developments, some voices are being heard from within the Palestinian community inside [the 48 areas], calling for the resignation of Arab Knesset members. On the other end, there are Palestinian voices in the West Bank and Gaza that are calling for the dissolution of the PA and a death certificate for the Oslo Accords. How would you comment on this?

    I am not interested in how Oslo ends. All these things are mere phrases and part of a rhetoric rather than actual analysis of our reality. Whether we say that Oslo is dead or is still alive, this is irrelevant to our current reality because Israel is exercising a decisive policy on the ground far removed from any of Oslos principles. The question is, what will be the nature of our future steps and responses to what Israel is doing? We as Palestinians must reconsider what effective Palestinian strategy we need to rebuild. We must also devise a new strategy with an effective liberation and social vision.

    I dont think Palestinian society or its leadership currently have a clear vision or plan of what they want, nor the tools they need to adopt. That is why they have knee-jerk responses. So when the Israelis passed the nation-state bill, the Palestinian response was confined to reactions. On the contrary, the Israelis succeeded throughout the Oslo years to have unilateral initiatives that contributed to imposing a new reality. They doubled the number of their settlements for example. At the beginning of Oslo, there were 110 settlements. Today there are over 220. They try to mask this by saying this increase is from settlement outposts, but in reality they are huge settlements. The number of settlers in 1992 was 107,000. Today there are over 600,000 settlers in the West Bank, including Jerusalem.

    The fact that we are under occupation does not exempt us from taking the initiative and for having a strategy for confrontation. It also does not exempt us from having a plan to end the division. Unfortunately, we have no plan; instead, we are harming ourselves.

    **Do you think this law is different than the dozens of racist laws that have been passed in recent years or does it basically bring them all together in one?

    It is true that since 2009, with the rise of Netanyahus second stint in office, there has been a growing number of laws proposed and passed that aim to end the two-state solution on bases that could be acceptable to the Palestinians in terms of a withdrawal to the June 4 borders, the dismantlement of settlements, etc. All of the laws today are seeking to set down foundations that prevent this goal from being achieved. Furthermore, there is competition within the Zionist parties over who submits the most extreme and populist laws to appease the people.

    **Do you think this populism and racism in Israel has extensions in Europe and the United States?

    There is considerable interaction between the populist movement in Europe in particular and in the United States and between populism and right wing extremism in Israel. This is manifested in the ideological similarity between Trumpism and evangelicalism and the new right wing in Israel, even though evangelical ideology is purely racist, even hostile to the Jews since it speaks about the end days and salvation through conversion and Jews not remaining true to their faith. Hence, there is a tactical overlapping between the two groups, which bond over Islamophobia, racism and incitement against Muslims and Arabs. They have a racist, orientalist view of Arabs, Muslims and non-whites in the United States. This overlapping is not just between Trumpians, evangelicals, Netanyahu supporters and their offshoots in Israel, but also between the racist right wing in Europe and that in Israel.

    **What do you say to those who claim the law favors the Jewishness of the state over democracy? Who say it handles the Palestinian case by dividing it one of truncated individual citizenship for Palestinians inside the Green Line and by nullifying the Palestinians collective rights in general in all of Palestine, including the right of return, self-determination and the establishment of their state?

    You can always dress democracy in several outfits far removed from its values and universal spirit, including adopting the democracy of race and masters. Democracy in Israel is the democracy of masters in that there is a white group -- which is Jewish in this case that rules overall all aspects of governance because they are Jews. Hence, this is a state that completely refuses to consider anyone non-Jewish as citizens. Israels identity was formed on the premise of excluding the values of equality and democracy. The nation-state law does not include the word equality at all. It also does not include the word citizens, but uses the word Jewish. Meanwhile, giving Arab MKs the opportunity to participate in the Knesset grants the state a chance to whitewash its racist image to the world. However, in the end and in spite of all this, the democracy of this state will always remain one of masters.

    **What about those called blood allies? How will any amendment to the law reflect on their status?

    This will be even uglier. I think they will introduce a new amendment to the law under the category of certain groups. If such an amendment is introduced to the law, this will be very interesting because there have been racist and oppressive systems throughout history that always used certain equations, either based on race or on language to introduce certain groups that are linked to interests. But let us wait until we see how the issue of the Druze for example is resolved.

    ** The amendment on Jerusalem reads: Jerusalem complete and united, is the capital of Israel after the original paragraph read: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Do you think this amendment is a message to the Palestinians on Israels rejection of any future political settlement on the city?

    In a law passed at the beginning of the eighties, they announced that Jerusalem was united before an article was passed that mentioned Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel. Then they spoke about Jerusalem, complete and united so that no one would dare to demand rights to it.

    Anyone who sees whats happening in Jerusalem right now knows perfectly well that Israel has moved from the stage of marginalizing Jerusalem to one of integrating it into the political, social an economic fabric; that is, turning it into a political twin whose parts cannot be separated. An example of this is when I began my studies at Hebrew University, the number of Jerusalemite students ranged between 20 and 30 students. Today, that number exceeds 600. This is not because Hebrew University offers such good education to these students but because Jerusalem has been completely cut off from its Palestinian context and is being redirect through calculated plans towards the western sector of the city. They want to link the everyday lives of Palestinians in Jerusalem with the smallest of details on the west side. That is why all their measures on the ground are being guided by this law.

    **What about the lawsuits being filed in the Israeli High Court against the law? Do you think the court will take a decision contradictory to the very law it approved?

    There is a problem in this regard because going to the High Court should first be discussed among the Palestinians. Also, we all know that the court gives cover in one way or the other to the occupation and its measures whereby it turns every issue into a political issue and then refuses to discuss it. We must remember that one of the justifications for this law was to counter the so-called interference by the High Court and stymie judicial intervention that some of the more right-wing judges do not like. The question however, is what is the nature of the language and discourse we must use when turning to the High Court? Should we say we are against this law and thereby show that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, according to the 1992 Basic Law? That is, we would have to recognize the Jewish and democratic nature of Israel. I think this must first be discussed so that the grounds on which we go to the High Court are made very clear.

    **What is the political, regional and international context that helped pass this law at this certain point of time? Is there a relationship between this law and the so-called deal of the century? Did the current Arab and regional reality encourage Israel to pass the law?

    I like to refrain from speaking about the deal of the century because I believe it was stillborn. That is, most likely, there will not be any deal as long as the Palestinian people reject it. No power on earth can get past this no matter what they do or want. The other issue is that there may be a relationship between this law and the brutality in some countries in the region which gives cover in one way or another for this deal law such as the rise of terrorist fundamentalist movements, how the Syrian regime operates and the existences of corrupt regimes. These have all created an atmosphere that allowed Israel to pass racist resolutions under the guise of self-defense and of self-preservation, through the linguistic whitewashing of democracy. If the Arab situation was not so deteriorated, Israel could not have passed the nation-state law or other laws with such blatancy. Furthermore, Israel could not ally with Arab governments that respect their citizens because an alliance with a democratic system based on respect for humans goes fundamentally against the basic premise in Israel towards Arab citizens or Palestinian refugees. There is nothing easier than to deal with ugly regimes so that you can show yourself as different and wipe away your own actions.

    **There are people who are betting on the demographic factor as the finalizing factor for the conflict. Do you think this could happen?

    Today we are equal in numbers 50% Jewish and 50% Palestinian. This is not a factor we can wager on because we can be a majority by number but a minority qualitatively in terms of the ability to take action and to make an impact. Not to mention, Israel can manipulate this factor by the categorization of Palestinian groups, such as referring to them as charges, or as Palestinian groups in the West Bank and others in the Gaza Strip, citizens inside the Green Line and those who reside in Jerusalem. In this way, it deals with each group as a minority and then can claim there is no Palestinian numerical majority.

    I think a wager on the demographic factor holds a certain risk. Israel is not so stupid as to put the Arabs in one basket even though it already categorizes them today according to its own interests. For Israel, its demographic concept is based on its higher national interest as a Jewish state.

  • Note: The content of this interview does not reflect the official opinion of MIFTAH. Responsibility of the information and views expressed in the interview lies entirely with the interviewee.

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