Trump and Palestine

– Welcome to Georgetown. It gives me great pleasure
to welcome you all to Georgetown University in Qatar and to welcome our distinguished guest and public intellectual,
Professor Ilan Pappe. Ilan Pappe is Professor of History at the University of
Exeter and the Director of the European Center
for Palestine Studies. He was born in Haifa in 1954. He received his BA from the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1978 and his PhD from the
University of Oxford in 1984. He founded and directed the
Academic Institute for Peace in Givat Haviva and from
1992 to 2000 was the Chair of the Emil Touma Institute
for Palestine Studies in Haifa between 2000 and 2006. Between 1984 and 2006,
Professor Pappe taught in the Department of
Middle Eastern History and the Department of Political Science in Haifa in Haifa University. He was forced to leave Haifa University because of his political
views and since 2007, he has been teaching at
the University of Exeter. Professor Pappe’s research
focuses on the modern Middle East and in particular the history
of Israel and Palestine. He has taught and written
on multi-culturalism, critical discourse analysis, and on power and knowledge in general. He is author of 20 books, among them “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” which was translated into 15 languages, “A History of Modern
Palestine” and on Palestine, which he co-authored with Noam Chomsky. His latest book is “The
Biggest Prison on Earth”, a history of the Israeli occupation. I would like also to take
the opportunity to thank our own student Halud Al-Ashiba
and Professor Karine Walther for taking the initiative to
invite and organize this event. Professor Walther will moderate the question and answer session
after the formal lecture. Please join me in welcoming
Professor Ilan Pappe. (applause) – Thank you, Dean, for
your kind introduction. And I want to thank the
Georgetown University in Qatar for inviting me and for all
of you attending here tonight. It’s a great pleasure to
be here and a great honor. Before I begin my actual
talk, I just want to say, since it’s always a great
opportunity to meet new people and be in places where
you haven’t spoken before, I want to stress that I would
welcome, after the talk, during the question and answer session, also comments and
questions beyond the topic as I’m sure for some of
you it’s the first time you hear me or listen to me
and I would be very happy to answer questions that also exceed and go beyond the topic
of the talk itself. We are, I think, living
in a very dangerous time in the Middle East and
this is nothing new. Quite a few years in the
history of the region were more dangerous than others. And one of the reason this is
a particularly volatile moment in the history of the region is that I think that we are
ending a certain chapter and we are on the brink of a new one but we haven’t yet fully
completed the chapter and we haven’t yet fully
entered the new one. And these are usually chaotic times and it is a time when there is a vacuum. And people and movements and ideologies which are quick in filling vacuums are not always taking us
in the right direction. And in many ways, the Trump
declaration about Jerusalem was yet another indicator
about the end of a certain era and the beginning of a new one and that’s why, like so many
such periods in history, it is a time of both great dangers but also big opportunities when it comes to the particular topic
that I’m interested in, which is the future of Palestine. There is a similarity between the Trump, one can call it the Trump Declaration, and the Balfour Declaration. And by some kind of a historical
jest, 100 years passed between the first declaration
and the other declaration and 100 years always gives us the sense that we can look at things more properly when such a period comes to an end. And I think the Trump
Declaration, in many ways, can indicate the end of
the Balfour Declaration and its impact on Israel and Palestine. The one similar point between
the two declaration is that the background for the declaration or the reasons for the declaration themselves are not very
important for understanding the significance of these declarations. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have very good historical analyses that explain why the Balfour Declaration
was given and I’m sure in due course we will have
proper scholarly analysis of why Donald Trump give the
declaration about Jerusalem. But the reasons themselves
are not that significant for the reality on the ground. Let’s talk about the Balfour Declaration. At the time that it was
given, it was vague. Britain gave similar
declarations and promises to other groups in the Middle East within the context of the
end of the first World War and we probably would have forgotten about the Balfour
Declaration had it not been incorporated into the
British Mandate in Palestine. And in that way, it contributed to the 1948 Nakba, to
the 1948 catastrophe. So it was the incorporation
of the Balfour Declaration or the decision by
politicians after Balfour to take the declaration and
turn it into actual policy that made the Balfour
Declaration significant. Because on the face of it, it was not a very significant document nor was it meant I think to be
very significant at the time. Now I don’t know yet
whether Trump Declaration is that significant, of
course, because not enough time has passed for us to evaluate
it but it already has created such, or generated such a reaction that you can begin, I think, to understand the possible implications
of that declaration. And when you look back at
the Balfour Declaration, you can see that people on the ground a year into the Balfour Declaration already understood the implications of that declarations once it became actual policy by the British
government in Palestine. And I think because of the
age we live in, the internet, the quick sends, we are
all kind of standing on, the implications become
clearer much faster than they did in the past. It’s the nature of the age we live in. So we can surmise already
with some certainty some of the major implications,
or rather, indications that the Trump Declaration brings with it into the area as a whole and into Palestine and
Israel in particular. The first point, and I
think this is really new because some of the
implications I will talk about I don’t think Trump or the Trump era is in particularly originating
anything new there, it just accelerates ongoing processes and continues patterns of
policies that were there before. But what is really new
in the declaration is the total disregard for international law. Now when I say total disregard
to international law, I do not mean necessarily that
the US policy before Trump with regard to the Palestine question was particularly strong on
respecting international law. That would be going too far. In fact, the US tolerated quite willingly Israeli violations of
the international law since 1948 until today,
so this nothing new. But when you examine closely
the American position on international law with regard
to the Palestine question, you can see that at least the discourse is one of respect to
the international law. There always came an
analysis and an explanation, I would say apologetics as well, that tried to clarify why this loyalty to the international
law does not translate into American policy on the ground. A very good example for this
is the American position on the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Until today, if you open the
State Department website, you will see that the Jewish settlements in the occupied
territories are regarded as violating the international law. That doesn’t mean, of course,
that the US did anything to change that reality but
the declared position was that international law is important and if someone violates international law, the Americans, at least on an
ethical level, are against it. What is so remarkable about the Trump, not just the declaration,
the whole attitude that followed the declaration is that there is a clear statement that international law doesn’t
matter, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter not
because there are explanation why the US would allow Israel
to violate international law but actually is not very happy
with these violations, no. There is a very clear
declaration that Israel is exempt from abiding by the international law. And this is so clear
because the Jerusalem issue was a kind of litmus paper
for how far can Israel go in violating international
law in its project of taking over Palestine as
a project of colonization. It is not a coincidence
that even the United States did not dare to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before 1967. Nor is it a coincidence
that the United States never thought of moving
actually its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after
1967 even when the rhetoric of different candidates for
presidency usually included such vague promises of
transferring the American Embassy. Everybody knew that this would not be done unless there would be
a kind of a statement that peace has come to
reign in the Holy Land or that the Arab-Israeli
conflict has come to an end. Now here comes a president who says that the United Nation decision of 1947, the United Nation decision of 1949, the United Nation condemnation of the Israeli annexation
of East Jerusalem are all irrelevant factors
in the international attitude towards the question of Palestine. And I think this has
implications for us in the next, in years to come because
quite a lot of the Palestinian position, the
pro-Palestinian position in the west, I would say even
of the peace camp in Israel, definitely of some of the
international organizations, that they’re interested in Palestine is based on the international law. Or the positions for how
to solve the problem, how to end the violence, engage directly with international law. Now if we take international
law out of the equation, we are creating a new
reality on the ground and I will come back to it. But I really think we
should not speak anymore when it comes to what should be done next with such certainty that
international law is on our side or that international
law can offer solutions to the ongoing oppression of
the Palestinians on the ground. So international law is out in many ways. And of course, this has
implications beyond Palestine into the rest of the Middle
East when we’re thinking about the future of Iraq or Syria
and other places in the world where some sort of a
system that was created after the second World
War becomes irrelevant not just because it doesn’t
have the power of sanctions, which was its main weakness until today, but it doesn’t have the support of the main super power in the world and that’s really something
that for years to come I think we will see the significance. There are three other implications which I would like shortly to spell out that come
from this declaration and they are not necessarily
somethings that happened during the Trump era alone. I think they were also
already happening before but Trump was a kind of an accelerator. He accelerated certain
truths, certain realities that some of us had
difficulties in acknowledging and accepting because they really require new thinking on the question of Palestine. One is the end of
American role as mediators in the Israel-Palestine question. And this is not a mere issue. If you look at the so-called peace process that began after the 1967 war, you cannot but realize and acknowledge the centrality of the American involvement in initiating this
process, in sustaining it, in making it the only game in town. I once looked at the time
that Palestinian diplomats were involved in the so-called peace process, or in the Oslo Accord. I once checked how many days
a year did they have to spend in Washington to make the peace process alive, or keep it alive. Each one of them spent more
than half a year in Washington. So it was really a Pax
Americana in many ways. And if this analysis is right, that not only does America
end its role as a mediator because it is suspected of
not being an honest broker, it never was an honest broker
in the Palestine question, but if it really ends its
role as a broker altogether, that really means that we are in a new era because it was very dominant
in anything that is connected with the so-called peace process
or the diplomatic process. And I think that brings
me to the second point. There were times in the
history of the Israel-Palestine conflict where diplomacy
was not very active. We always have lulls
in diplomatic efforts. I think this time it’s
not just a question of diplomacy resting for a while
before it will be resumed. I think we have, with
the Trump Declaration, have ended diplomacy as
the main principal means for ending the problems in Palestine. And I will come back to that
in what would replace diplomacy because diplomacy cannot deliver anymore any change in the reality on the ground. Of course, if you are
pleased with the reality on the ground, you don’t mind. But if you would like to change
the reality on the ground because you are the oppressed,
you are the colonized, you are the ethnically cleansed people, you have to think, what does it mean that diplomacy does not work
anymore for changing a reality that gets worse by the
day from your perspective? Finally, and I think that is a
very logical conclusion again provided these two assumptions
that I just gave are correct, and time will prove whether
it’s right or wrong, but if they are correct, it’s also the end of the two-state solution
as a viable solution for the Israel-Palestine question. And again, this kind of recognition has a lot of implication,
many implications for the next few years in terms of anyone who’s either active in
trying to change the reality or anyone from the outsides who cares about what happens there and would like to play a
role in changing the reality. Now for many people, especially
people who believed in, I would say, almost the sanctity
of the two-state solution, for many people who saw diplomacy as the exclusive way
of changing realities, if this analysis is
correct, this is bad news. So the Trump Declaration created the fear that it really unfolds
a new dangerous reality where the risks are many
and the dangers are plenty. However, if you never,
as I did, if you never totally believed in either
the two-state solution or you never saw the Americans as playing a positive role in the
history of Palestine or in the history of the
peace process in Palestine and when you thought that diplomacy is not delivering the goods, then maybe this indication that Trump’s
declaration ended the chapter and opens up for us a new chapter is not just a dangerous moment but also a moment of new opportunities. And the most important opportunity, or the most important
assignment, I would say, that comes from this realization, and I can feel it on the
ground in Palestine, in Israel, among the communities around
the world which are engaged in one way or another with
the Palestine question, the most important initial reaction to that kind of analysis, that means that in those
places I’m talking about, the kind of analysis I presented to you is accepted as valid, one
has to stress this point, there is a call from
bottom-up, I would say, for redefining the project of
the liberation of Palestine and adapting it to the 21st century. Because the project of the
liberation of Palestine suffers from all kinds of
diseases that are typical to a project of liberation
that for more than 100 years did not liberate one square
inch of the homeland. It’s not surprising that
there is a sense of crisis. There always is a sense of
crisis, but 100 years onwards, if more than 100 years onwards,
there is a sense of crisis. But the Trump Declaration
indicates the need, which many people of course were aware of, I’m not inventing the wheel here, but more and more understand that there is a need to redefine what does it mean to
liberate Palestine in 2018. Does it mean the same thing
that it meant in the 1960s where the inspiration came
from liberation theologies in the third world, where the Kalachnikov and Che Guevara were
more or less the iconic emblems of such a
liberation, probably not. Does it mean that what came afterwards, the Fatah stages program, the
incorporation and integration into the Pax America was the right way leading to acceptance of
the two-state solution, especially with the
weakness of the organization after the events in Lebanon
in 1982, probably not. I think, as I said, I think
Trump also indicates that this strategy and tactics did not work either. So I’m not going to, don’t
expect me now to give you my formula for the liberation
of Palestine in 2018. I have my own ideas but I
will not share them right now. But I do think it’s important to indicate, as a scholar in this respect, that what a love of Palestinians understand, that there is a need for
redefining the liberation project. So many things happened
since the last time the Palestinian movement
defined its liberation project. We have to go back to 1968. Well, between 1968 and 2018,
the whole scene has changed so dramatically that it makes
sense that the 1968 discourse, in many parts, not in all parts, but in many parts is irrelevant to 2018. The second kind of consequence
of this, and this is also not just my opinion, I
also feel it’s happening so I’m also reporting it
not just suggesting it, is a new role for what
is called in Arabic, (speaking Arabic) or the
Palestinian minority inside Israel. They always took the backseat
on Palestinian strategy. They always felt, until 1967, they felt actually quite ashamed
because they had this image of the people who stayed behind. Why did you stay behind where
everybody else was expelled? There was a misunderstanding
of how the Palestinian minority in Israel was created but they
were called, prerogatively, the (speaking Arabic), the
people from within and so on. This changed a bit after 67. 67 ironically united two groups, the two very important
groups of Palestinians. After 19 years of
separation, the Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip united with the Palestinians in
the rest of Palestine. But even then, there was
always this strategic decision by people who were leading
the Palestinian community in Israel but also by the PLO that the Palestinians
in Israel cannot play an important role in
strategizing the old Palestine definition of the project of liberation. I think this has to change. I think the Palestinians in Israel should play a far more decisive role for the mere reason that you cannot define the project of
liberation of Palestine without taking into account in the vision the fate of the Jews
who live in Palestine. And the Palestinians in the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the only Jews they know
are soldiers and settlers. The Palestinians in
Israel have a much more intimate knowledge of
the Jewish community, of the Jewish society, of its
weaknesses, its strengths, and its more complete human existence. And therefore, they would bring into the project of liberation something that wasn’t there
from the very beginning and I will explain in a moment why, I can understand why, but it’s a fact. There was never ever a
clear Palestinian statement of how do Palestinians see the future of the six million Jews who live today within a Jewish state. What is the vision for that? Until 1968, the vision was
of the Zionist movement as a colonialist movement. And when you envision a movement
as a colonialist movement, the solution for the
colonialist is to go back home. And therefore, you don’t need to think too much about integration, you think about reversal
of the historical process. Now this has changed, but the movement was too far to the other side. Then came the idea of
the two-state solution. Well, you accept them as a nation state over 78% of the homeland. Not surprisingly, it did not work. Because if you think about
it, it’s really not something that is based on any
fair or just assessment of what happened in Palestine and Israel in the last 100 years. But what can work then? What is the message? It’s very important. Now that doesn’t mean, that doesn’t mean that I think that there
are any things today that the Palestinians can
offer to the vast majority of the Israeli-Jewish electorate
that would be accepted. Don’t misunderstand me. I think the Israeli electorate today opposes the two-state solution,
the one-state solution. What they want is, and this is the vast
majority of Israeli Jews, they want the status quo to continue and they want to use
what they see now as a exceptional good window of
opportunities, the Trump era, to improve the status quo,
namely annex officially large parts of the West Bank and sort of inflict the last blow
on any Palestinian hope for changing the reality on the ground. And this manifests itself
in the new legislation and the Israeli parliament in
the way that the political map in Israel has been shaped
in the last 10 years. We are in for a very rough ride with this current Israeli
regime in terms of legislation and unilateral actions which
are meant to make Palestine, from the river Jordan
to the Mediterranean, an exclusive Jewish space
with an apartheid system that will control the Palestinians in different kinds of regimes. It’s already unfolding
in front of our eyes but it’s not yet fully legitimized. Trump gave them the idea
that now is the time to legitimize it because
the international climate can change in the near future. So there is a sense of
urgency in Israel now to complete the making of the
Israeli apartheid republic effect that could not easily
be changed or reversed by a changing international realities or changing regional realities. They also read the
regional map and they say now is the time, I don’t
have to explain this to you, that they see the
development in Saudi Arabia is very positive and brilliant
as far as they are concerned and gives them another sense
that this is the moment. This is the moment to tie the loose ends of the Zionist project and
bring it into full completion because what the Israelis don’t like is the sense that they have not yet completed fully the project. Now, in order to react to this, part of the things that
we do in the academia that analyze the situation in
Palestine I think is relevant is a tool of assistant, I
will call it, to the need to redefine the project of
liberation in Palestine. I don’t think academics will redefine the project of liberation
but I think there has to be a closer dialogue between the
academics and the activists and the politicians for
such a redefinition. Nobody should take upon themselves exclusively such a redefinition. There used to be a time
in the 60s and the 70s, not only in Palestine,
all over the Arab world, where academics and
politicians used to work much more in tandem and
produced synergetically quite exciting, constructive
perceptions of reality. We have lost this dialogue and
I think we have to renew it, especially in the case of Palestine. And this is where an
old-new paradigm is now, as many of you may know,
is now exciting everyone who does Palestine as an
academic topic around the world and this is the paradigm
of settler colonialism. And it’s not surprising
that settler colonialism, which is very different from colonialism, became such an attractive tool for both academics and
activists, not just to explain what happened in Palestine
in the last 100 years, but what should happen in
Palestine in the next 100 years. Because settler colonialism,
as many of you know, is the idea that groups of Europeans left Europe because they were persecuted for economic or cultural
or religious reasons and they settled in someone else’s land, creating a new nationality for themselves. This happened in the
United States as well. And the best way of
recreating a new nationality if you are a refugee from Europe was to overcome the
indigenous native population. You appropriate their history, you appropriate their
identity and in many cases, unfortunately, you eliminate them in order to create your new homeland. It happened in the United
States, it happened in Canada, it happened in Latin America,
Australia, New Zealand. It was attempted in South
Africa and Algeria but failed. And it is in the process
of making in Palestine. We do not know yet whether it will be a successful story or a failed story. Now it’s very easy to analyze Zionism as settler colonialism. It’s much more difficult to
say, how do you decolonize a settler colonialist project
that already has a state, that’s already recognized internationally in the 21st century? And here, there is no
easy answer for that. What I can say is that
some of the answers, but by no means all of the
answers, or beginning of answers, have been given by the BDS movement, the Boycott, Divestment,
and Sanction movement which is an interesting project because the movement, the Boycott,
Divestment, and Sanction movement is not replacing the
Palestinian national movement or any movement on the ground in providing a vision for the future. It doesn’t do that. It just offers means of pressuring Israel to change the reality
on the ground because there is no project of liberation
on the Palestinian side. Because there is confusion
on the Palestinian side and there is activism that
does not want to be idle. I think that’s the main
reason why it was conceived and why it became so
popular and why the Israelis are now getting quite
crazy in their reactions to such a movement and
they disallow the Quakers, the American Quakers to come to Israel. The movement that saved
more Jews in the Holocaust than anyone else is now
banned from coming to Israel because they supposedly
support the BDS movement. The importance of the BDS was its focus on human rights and civil rights. And somewhere in the redefinition of the project of liberation,
taking into account the end of diplomacy, taking into account that international law
cannot work anymore, taking into account the death
of the two-state solution, somewhere in the alternatives
that we will seek we will have to remember
that the 21st century is a century of human
rights and civil rights, much less national rights. And if you are open
enough about this idea, of putting nationalism on a more marginal, you don’t want to get rid of nationalism or national right in that respect. You want the national movement
to be very strong, of course, but to put it in a different perspective and relocate human rights and civil rights at the center of the agenda of change. Given the realities that Israel
is creating on the ground, this will be the most
powerful tool for change. How exactly do you fight for
human rights and civil rights? Well, nobody has a magic formula for that. We would all like such
fights not to be violent because violence gives a
pretext to the colonizer, the occupier to use more
violence against you, usually in the form of
collective punishment and you don’t want that to happen. On the other hand, if you just sit idle, it doesn’t change the reality either. I will finish my talk by
giving you one example. And I hope I’m not exaggerating
its importance, but for me it has all the ingredients
of what can help change the reality while
remaining a realist knowing that the political
elites in the west have not changed their point of view on Israel and Palestine, knowing that only the civil
society has really shifted and dramatically towards
adopting the Palestinian cause while remaining realistic, is taking some inspiration
from something that happened in Jerusalem as you know two
months ago when the Israelis introduced new devices into
the entrance of the Aqsa Mosque and everybody thought there’s
nothing you can do to force the Israelis to remove anything
they want to introduce. And the quiet demonstration,
at first not at all supported by the Palestinian authority, only then they decided to support it, a quiet demonstration of people who were tolerating Israeli beating
and all kinds of other means that they would use, a quiet
demonstration that lasted hours convinced the Israelis
to remove the devices that they introduced on the
entrance to Masjid al-Aqsa. Now you can say, come on, this is nothing. So now you can enter more
freely the mosque than before. How can you compare
this kind of success to a new reality of justice
and equality and liberation? Well, I think sometimes the small models bottom-up are far more
important, especially the time that politics is so cynical,
when political elites do not care really about
changing realities, it’s quite good to look more
closely at the realities that are built on the ground and get them as a model for the future. This is also true about the
way Palestinians and Jews who live in the Galilee were
relatively, their relationship is far more better than
any other Palestine as a model maybe for a bi-national state, maybe for a democratic state
because we will have to find a replacement for the two-state solution. It’s already dead but we have not been invited to the funeral yet. It’s in the morgue, the
body is in the morgue, but every now and then, someone comes, takes it out, puts some life into it, dons it with new clothes
and thinking it’s alive. But we should have a period
of mourning and then move on. But this is where I think
academics, activists can begin to fill the vacuum
with ideas and dialogues because unfortunately, the
politicians, the political elites and the other elites will be
the last one to join the wagon. They would not initiate a new
journey but they might join a new journey if it would
have a clear beginning and understanding that it is
possibly the best path forward and that the old way should be deserted. Thank you very much. (applause)

6 thoughts on “Trump and Palestine”

  1. The ADL needs to open offices in Israel an educate Israeli society. In the USA the ADL demands equality for Jews but in Israel Jews behave like criminals towards the Israeli-Arabs, Druze and those in the occupied territories.

  2. However, if unification and integration fails then the last blow will be the total annihilation of the Palestinian people, including those inside Israel. This is totally unacceptable at any level.

  3. The project of liberation is now the project of unification and integration. That is the answer. With it is the end of Zionism.

  4. The Arab League consists of 22 states controlling 13 million sq kms of land as opposed to Israel which consists of 26000 sq kms of land yet Arabs who left or were forced to leave Israel Palestine 70 years ago are still refugees while the Jews who left or were expelled from the Arab league states 70 years ago found full citizenship in the newly created state of Israel. Arabs of Palestinian decent are still treated with contempt in the Arab League states today because the Arab League passed resolution 1458 in 1959 that clearly instructed to refrain from granting citizenship to Arabs of Palestinian descent.

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