Following the controversy (*) caused by the Final Declaration of the Conference of Solidarity with Palestine, held in November 2010 in Stuttgart under the title "One Democratic State in Palestine with Equal Rights for all its Citizens ", Ilan Pappe emphasizes here the importance and relevance of this statement which represents a paradigm shift.
Ilan Pappé at the Stuttgart Conference, in November 2010
Recently the organizers of the Stuttgart conference and especially those who signed the Stuttgart declaration came under sever criticism from various writers and politicians in Germany and were exposed at time even to typical German center left abrasive language.
Setting aside the insignificant aspects of the dialogue – the style and the bizarre focus on one particular person who signed the declaration – it is important to stress the main issues and the principal points that made this conference such a significant contribution to the struggle for Palestine.
The scene of activism in the struggle of Palestine has an orthodoxy on the one hand, and a new challenging movement, on the other. The Orthodoxy based its vision of peace on a two states solution and on a deep conviction that a change from with the Israeli society, through the ’peace camp’ there, will bring about an equitable solution. Two fully sovereign states would live next to each other and would also agree on how to solve the Palestine refugee problem and will decide jointly what kind of a Jerusalem there would be. It also included a wish to see Israel more of a state of all its citizens and less as a Jewish state – but nonetheless retaining its Jewish character.
This vision was clearly based on the wish to help the Palestinians on the one hand and on realpolitic considerations on the other. It was and is driven by over sensitivity for the wishes and ambitions of the powerful Israeli party and by exaggerated consideration for the international balance of power and in particular it is calculated in a way that would fit the basic American position and stances on the issue. It is however a sincere position and in this respect it is different from the position of the political elites of the West which were much more cynical when they pushed forward a softer version of this Orthodox view – these politicians knew and still know that this discourse and plan allows Israel to continue uninterrupted the dispossession of Palestine and the Palestinians and is not in any way a credible formula for ending the colonization of Palestine.
This orthodox view has slowly vanished from the scene of activism. The official peace camp in Israel, and the Liberal Zionist organizations world wide still subscribe to it – as do the more leftist politicians in Germany and Europe. In some ways, dear friends such as Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky still endorse it in the name of realpolitic and efficiency.
But the vast majority of activists had enough. The emergence of the BDS movement, through the call for such action by the Palestinian civil society inside and outside of Palestine, the growing interests and support for the one state solution and the emergence of a clearer, be it as small, anti Zionist peace camp in Israel, have provided an alternative thinking.
The new movement which is supported by activists all around the world, inside Israel and Palestine, is modeled on the anti-Apartheid solidarity movement. The whole of Palestine is an area that was and is colonized, and occupied in one way or form by Israel and in it Palestinians are subject to various legal and oppressive regimes and therefore the need is to change fundamentally the reality on the ground before it would be too late.
In other words we have witnessed a paradigm shift represented in this new activism (which of course has many elements of old ideas drawn from the PLO 1968 charter and activist groups such as Abna al-Balad, Matzpen, the PFLP and PDFLP which are updated to the current reality and which were deserted in 1993 in the name of realpolitic). The new paradigm insists on analyzing Israel as a settler colonialist state of the 21st century whose ideology is the main and principal obstacle for peace and seeks peaceful means of changing this regime for the sake of everyone living there and those who were expelled from there.
Activism for the sake of activism is useless. It has to be based on an analysis and suggest a prognosis. For this work activism for the sake of activism is useless it has to be connected to a clear analysis and prognosis. Zionism was and is a settler colonialist movement and Israel is a settler colonialist state and as long as this stay like this, even withdrawal from part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the creation of a Bantustan there would not end the dispossession and the ethnic cleansing that began in 1948. Bantustans did not end Apartheid in South Africa.
The new movement, in which the meeting in Stuttgart, was an important landmark, is galvanizing OUTSIDE support for Palestine and the Palestinians. It is not, and can not, be concerned with the question of Palestinian representation – this can only be resolved by the Palestinians themselves, or how best is for the Israeli Jews to accept the responsibility for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and how to move on to a different future where both Arabs and Jews can live together. But in Stuttgart, especially on the podium there was a sizable representation for both Palestinians and Israelis and therefore the declaration wisely describe both their aspirations, supported morally by others, and an outline for action in Europe for bringing an end for the dispossession of Palestine – not just in small parts of it.
It is not ridiculous to aspire for a regime change in Israel; it is not 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. Moreover, such wishes do not obstruct the struggle against the current daily Israeli abuses in the land of Palestine; on the contrary, it gives the only possible rational explanation why we should oppose with the same commitment and moral force the demolition of houses in Jerusalem, in the Negev and in the Gaza Strip.
Stuttgart was a station, and the train continues now elsewhere to campuses in America, Churches in England and union halls in Europe. Hopefully it will get to synagogues as well and there is no need to confuse the struggle against Zionism, with anything else. This is as it is a formidable ideology, with a state and an army that harmed not only Palestinians but also Jews wherever they are, including in Israel.
We should thank the organizers, sign the declaration, and move on. Palestine can not wait for the internal German misgivings and inhibitions. We should boycott, sanction and divest as this is the only way forward for us from the outside so that both peoples in the inside would have fair chance to build a better future.
12 January, 2011.
Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian, Professor of History at the University of Exeter (UK), has written many books and works with local and international journals. He is the author of : “The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict” (London and New York 1992), “The Israel/Palestine Question” (London and New York 1999), “La storia della Palestina moderna” (Einaudi 2004), “The Modern Middle East” (London and New York 2005) and “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” (2006).
(*) The Final Declaration of the Conference was strongly criticized (see: “Ein- oder Zweistaatenlösung für Palästina? ” and “Zur „Vision“ einer Einstaatenlösung im Nahen Osten”) by Dr Ludwig Watzal who had not participated in the Conference. The Stuttgart Palestinian Committee has responded to this criticism in a letter entitled .“Wer verschanzt sich eigentlich hinter dogmatischen Barrieren?” (“Who is really hiding behind dogmatic barriers?”).)