[This is a summary of author Ben White‘s remarks at an Arab Center of Washington DC round table about his book Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel. held on March 29, 2019. It is not a transcript, but a summary of my impressions of his presentation and the discussion.]
There is a de facto single apartheid state in all of Palestine, but the good news is the cracks in the wall developing internationally. I myself favor a single democratic state, but I will focus on the cracks in the wall that reflect trends that go a way back, not only changes in how jews see themselves, but how the Palestinians are being seen. J street, JVP, If Not Now, etc. are important developments. We are witnessing the ending of the era of bipartisan support for Israel. There is a huge change and now a big disparity in how the grass roots in each party see Israel. From 2014 to 2017 Israel dropped on the survey of American allies from 6th to 16th, but more importantly the disparities between the two parties widened. This phenomena can be seen in other countries where even liberals and progressives have become more critical of Israel while Israel right had become more willing to collaborate with far right parties abroad. The third factor is how the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has grown. Itâ€™s economic impact has been marginal, but it has changed the discourse and given activists a way to get on board. It says this is ultimately about rights.
It is vital to express how little is on the table for Palestinians across the Israeli political spectrum. The mainstream spectrum has only three offers for the Palestinians: the status quo, annexation, or separation. The last group is too often mistaken for viable peace partners but they provide no timetable for a Palestinian state and set conditions that make its realization impossible. The blue and white list has hardly spoken about this issue and Benny Ganz kicked off his campaign by boasting about how many Palestinians he has killed in the Gaza Strip. The parties differ about what to do about the fact that there are Palestinians in the land but their fundamental assumptions are all the same.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad: You made a profound point about how the effect of the BDS movement on the discourse has been more important than its economic impact. I invite you to comment on the narrower issue of how the attempts to suppress the BDS movement by executive orders and legislation provokes a backlash as Americans realize that these attacks on First Amendment rights demonstrate that Israel threatens democracy in America as well as in Israel/ Palestine.
Ben White. It not only threats to freedom of speech but is a sign of weakness. The Jewish nationality law was in part a reaction to Palestinian demands to equal national rights, but it has dragged into the spotlight the same type of reaction. Such acts produce conversations that their movers eventually wish they hadnâ€™t started. As the supporters of Israeli apartheid realize this, new non binding resolutions are being introduced to silence the free speech objections, but their impacts are still provocative.
For a number of years the UK had a conveyor belt theory of terrorism that nonviolent extremists would eventually become terrorists, resulting in the PREVENT policy that institutionalizes Islamophobia. I believe that in the UK you must make case by case decisions as to whether to push back or just go in with work at hand.
There is no JVP in Britain because it is a much smaller community in Britain. There are smaller groups. JVP is unique in the world. There is a kind of J Street equivalent but it is smaller and doesnâ€™t do lobbying as internal conversation.
The BDS in South Africa in South Africa was different in that it had a simple end point: one person one vote. The Palestinian situation is more complex, but I see an advantage to the difference. This BDS movement is about ending oneâ€™s own complicity in the oppression. As and when there are significant developments in the Palestinian movement, there will be a ceiling on the impact of the BDS movement, but itâ€™s ingenuity is in taking the political issues off the table and focusing on human rights.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute