Displaying items by tag: palestine - Afro-Middle East Centre

By Tariq Dana

According to a recent survey, as many as eighty-one per cent of Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) believe there is corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions. These perceptions are reinforced by the recently-launched annual report of the Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), Transparency International’s Palestinian chapter. These perceptions persist despite much-touted state-building efforts by former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to root out corruption, and are at variance with international reports that suggest there is animprovement in governance.
Corruption has become structural to the Palestinian body politic, and pre-dates the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The problem needs to be tackled at its roots, and cannot be addressed through conventional measures used in other countries, particularly against the background of prolonged Israeli colonisation and occupation and the way in which Israel both reinforces and exploits corruption.[i]

Deconstructing corruption: The patron-client system

Corruption in PA institutions should not be perceived as merely a matter of administrative and financial wrongdoing committed by irresponsible individuals whose behaviour is driven by greed and personal interests.[ii] The scandals that Palestinians hotly debate from time to time – such as embezzlement of public funds, misappropriation of resources, and nepotism – are an outcome of long-standing corruption embedded in the underlying power structure that governs the Palestinian political system, and that were rooted in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) before the Oslo process.
Recent efforts to fight corruption have largely been ‘technical’ in nature, and have focused on such actions as drafting codes of conduct, improving recruitment procedures, and developing preventive measures to deal with specific violations. While such measures are necessary they cannot be sufficient if the political root causes of corruption are ignored. The nature of PA-specific corruption needs to be understood in order to tackle it effectively.
PA corruption is, in effect, a self-enforcing system. Perhaps the primary factor in reproducing and maintaining the corrupt nature of the Palestinian polity is ‘patron-clientelism’.[iii] In Palestine, patron-clientelism is rooted in the social values of kinship and familial ties, which are in turn shaped by factional politics. These social and political ties provide the ruling elite with a strategic tool to control constituents and expand the network of supporters by redistributing public resources in order to buy political loyalties, which in turn helps the ruling elite to preserve the status quo and maintain its dominance over political and economic assets.
Patron-clientelism also contributes to the climate of corruption by arbitrarily favouring incompetent loyal political constituents and excluding skilful people. It thus fosters rivalry among clients who compete to demonstrate their loyalty to the ruling elite. Corruption is further reinforced because one way in which patrons reward loyal clients is by tolerating their financial malfeasance.[iv]
Patron-clientelism has historically characterised the relations between the PLO executive and national institutions and political constituents.[v] The inner circle of the PLO leadership used patron-client networks systematically for multiple purposes: to extend influence over political constituents, to exclude other political forces, and to implement its political agenda unopposed.
For example, during the 1980s, the PLO leadership used the Sumud (steadfastness) Fund in the OPT – which was formally channelled through the Palestinian-Jordanian joint committee – to reward their supporters and exclude others.[vi] This approach encouraged manipulation and monopolies and introduced corrupt practices and duplication of development projects. It also contributed to expanded client networks to serve the political projects of Fatah and the Jordanian leadership. While the Sumud Fund’s stated objective was to support education, agriculture, health and housing, in reality the main beneficiaries were ‘the big landlords of the Jordan Valley, the industrialists, the Jordanian civil service (in the West Bank), and professional groups who received generous housing loans’.[vii]
After the Oslo Accords, the patron-client regime was unsurprisingly inherited by the PA and constituted the backbone of its institutional base. Instead of carrying out a merit-based institution-building process, patron-clientelism became a defining feature of the PA institutional structure, and a powerful tool of exclusion and inclusion. This was associated with the personalised and unaccountable style of governance of the late PLO chair, Yasser Arafat, and the Palestinian political leadership.[viii]
The PA has managed to secure loyalties among constituents largely by offering access to resources for economic survival rather than by persuasion for its political, economic and social programmes. In particular, the large PA public sector has been a vital instrument for creating dependency and securing loyalties. This contributed to the institutionalisation of corruption in the PA public sector, playing into the hands of the Israeli government whose intention in signing the Oslo accords was to create a client state that it could control through rents distributed to the PA via international donors, coupled with a strategy of territorial fragmentation and containment.[ix]
The PA public sector currently employs over 165 000 civil servants who are fully dependent on salaries guaranteed by international aid to the PA. The security sector is the largest with 44 per cent of total PA employment, absorbing between 30 and 35 per cent of the annual PA budget, thus receiving a bigger share than vital sectors such as education (16 per cent), health (9 per cent) and agriculture (1 per cent).
The dysfunction of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the complete absence of legislative monitoring of the governmental budget have freed the presidency and the executive from institutional checks and balances and public accountability. This has bolstered executive control over public spending and the executive’s ability to control constituents by using the stick and carrot strategy. This has, consequently, enhanced irregularities and violations of employment rights.
Indeed, employment in the PA public sector does not necessarily imply job security. If employees criticise PA policies they are likely to be forced into early retirement,denied salary payments, or arbitrarily removed from their posts. They may also face a series of punitive measures, including denial of promotions or transfers to distant areas.
Furthermore, given that much of Palestinian society is based on tribal/clan/family social relations, the PA has sought to accommodate large families in order to ensure their loyalty. When the PA established its Ministry of Local Government, it included a special department concerned with tribal/clan affairs. The Ministry recognises mukhtars (heads of tribes or clans) and authorises them to speak on behalf of their families. Whereas tribalism had been marginalised by the rise of the national movement, in the 1990s the PA appointed some representatives of prominent families to ministerial posts based on tribal considerations. These ministries were subsequently largely staffed by the ministers’ relatives and friends. After recent ‘state-building’ reforms, employment based on family considerations was reduced. Instead, some ministers have surrounded themselves with cronies.[x]
The patron-client system has also been used to co-opt and neutralise political opposition. Several political leaders – independents, leftists and Islamists – were incorporated into the PA project that they initially claimed to reject. They were offered privileges, advantages, and access to prestigious public posts in exchange for political loyalty. Some of those co-opted personalities subsequently became key actors in PA politics.

The money and power of elites

The corruption embedded within the Palestinian political system is best exemplified in the interplay between power and money at the highest level of political authority. This is the most prevalent form of corruption, and yet it is the most difficult to trace because the elites often enjoy social, political or legal immunity. Moreover, the complexity of the way in which money changes hands, and its transnational character – which can involve money laundering, black markets and foreign bank accounts – also makes this form of corruption particularly hard to trace.
Elite corruption generally comes to light only in times of internal conflicts within elite circles, and mutual accusations of large-scale embezzlement then dominate news headlines. For example, former Gaza security strongman Mohammed Dahlan accumulated much of his wealth from monopolies over key imports to Gaza during the 1990s. After he was expelled from the Fatah Central Committee due to allegations that he was planning to oust PA President Mahmoud Abbas, more accusations of corrupt practices were levelled against him, such as creaming off tax revenues used for his businesses in London and Dubai.
Similarly, Mohammad Rashid, former economic advisor to Arafat and a key Dahlan ally, was sentenced in absentia fortransferring millions of dollars out of the Palestinian Investment Fund and setting up fake companies. In response, Rashid revealed that Fatah had a secret bank account in Jordan that was run by Abbas and two of his associates. In each case, revelations of corruption are the result of a power struggle rather than serious efforts to combat corruption.
The misuse of official positions for personal gain is another facet of elite corruption. Cases that were exposed included unauthorised personal use of public resources, illegal public-private deals, and theft of public property. Such practices were a regular occurrence during the 1990s and negatively impacted local and international perceptions of the PA. According to the first Palestinian audit conducted in 1997, nearly 40 per centof the PA budget – approximately US$326 million – had been misappropriated.
Despite attempts at PA reform in recent years, there does not appear to have been substantial improvement in fighting this phenomenon. According to the 2008 AMAN report, the abuse of public positions for the misappropriation and waste of public property can be clearly seen in the allocation of state lands to individuals or firms. The AMAN 2011 report reveals the continuation of this trend, with the waste of public funds remaining the most prominent visible form of corruption.
Another means of self-enrichment by the political elite at the expense of the rest of the population can be seen in the excessive income inequality in Palestine. The Global Gini Index pointed to extensive inequality in income levels between high-ranking officials and other PA employees in 2013. According to recent reports, some public sector officials earn a monthly salary of more than $10 000, and enjoy other privileges. By contrast, two-thirds of PA public sector employees earn between $515 and $640 monthly.

Corruption under occupation

Israel has repeatedly contributed to and exploited corruption in the PA in order to blame Palestinians for their economic ills, and to distract attention from the devastating impact of its colonial policies on Palestinian social and economic development. Although PA corruption is undoubtedly harmful economically, it is worth noting that its effects are a distant second to the impact of systemic Israeli destruction of the Palestinian economy.
There are many ways in which Israel is a key actor in fostering corruption and protecting the corrupt. The public-private monopolies controlled by individuals high in the PA bureaucracy and their partners in the private sector would not have been possible without the collusion and collaboration of Israeli businesses and the consent of the Israeli political and security establishment.
Another example is Israel’s direct involvement in the so called ‘secret accounts’ established in the 1990s by some Palestinian officials around the world, including accounts held in the Bank Leumi in Israel. Much of the money came from taxes on Palestinian imports that Israel had collected, which it directly transferred to these accounts. Between 1994 and 1997, Israel transferred $125 million into these accounts; in 1997 alone, Israel reportedly transferred $400 million into Palestinian accounts in Israeli banks.[xi] While Israel’s role has become less visible in recent years, it still offers a safe haven for the corrupt.
At the same time, Israeli propagandists actively exploit PA corruption, and uses accusations of Palestinian corruption for political gain. During the Second Intifada that began in September 2000, Israel used the corruption card as part of a broader strategy to remove Arafat and impose an externally sponsored ‘reform’ process to suit its own agenda. In particular, Israel exploited the international preoccupation with ‘terrorism’ by accusing Arafat of using PA resources to finance terrorism. It successfully pushed an internationally-sponsored restructuring of PA institutions, weakening Arafat through the creation of the new position of prime minister, and the restructuring of the ministry of finance.

How Palestinians respond to corruption

Palestinians living under Israeli occupation believe that corruption is one of the most serious problems they face, second only to the occupation itself. A 2014 opinion poll found that 25 per cent of Palestinians surveyed believed corruption was a serious problem, second after the problem of occupation and settlements, which stood at 29 per cent of those surveyed. This is unsurprising, given that corruption siphons off scarce Palestinian resources and breeds a wide range of social problems, contributes to inequality and harms the social fabric, and corrupts the struggle for national liberation and the pursuit of Palestinian rights.
The first domestic challenge to PA corruption was in 1997 when the PLC released a report in the wake of the first audit cited above. The report revealed widespread corruption in PA institutions and contained a damning indictment of all ministries.
The report was crucial as it opened the Palestinian public’s eye to the existence of systemic corrupt networks within the PA. In response, Palestinians mobilised and demanded reforms and transparency. In 1999, twenty prominent figures – including academics, intellectuals and members of the PLC – signed the ‘The Nation Calls Us’ manifesto, which accused Arafat of ‘opening the doors to the opportunists to spread corruption through the Palestinian streets’. PA security forces arrested many signatories and accused them of threatening national unity.
By 2004, growing popular dissatisfaction with PA corruption erupted in street protests over government appointments of some notoriously corrupt personalities. Due to the increasing internal and external pressure on the PA, Arafat acknowledged that there was corruption and promised that the culprits would be prosecuted.
Popular anger at corruption was also a main factor in Hamas’s overwhelming electoral victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections. For many people Hamas offered an alternative, and had earned respect for its efficient service delivery, particularly among the poorer people. However, after the formation of the Hamas-led government in 2006, it began to establish its own brand of clientelism by appointing and promoting supporters in various government posts. This contributed to the power struggle and political rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. To this day, Hamas-Fatah competition over appointmentsconstitutes a significant impediment to the reconciliation process between the two factions. Meanwhile, Hamas’s years in power in Gaza have led the public to level similar allegations of corruption against Hamas as they have against Fatah, especially after Hamas began making massive profits from thetunnel economy between 2007 and 2014 together with a lack of transparency in dealing with the receipts.
Partially in response to public dissatisfaction, the PA founded the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) in 2010, which was tasked with receiving public complaints and ensuring that corruption cases were dealt with speedily and effectively. Although the PACC is portrayed as an independent commission, financially and administratively, its chairperson was appointed by presidential decree, and many of its advisory board members include former ministers, ambassadors and presidential advisers. Some cases of corruption have reportedly been brought to justice, but press reports as well as interviews I conducted indicate that the investigations are selective. Furthermore, public opinion polls indicate increased public mistrust in the PACC, and a perception of systematic interference in its work by the presidency, security services and political parties.
Popular campaigns against corruption have largely diminished in recent years due in part to growing PA authoritarianism and increasing repression by its security services. This has includedblocking websites that reveal stories of PA corruption.

Uprooting corruption

Effectively ending corruption requires a structural response that involves the entire political system, including an effective legislative monitoring system, institutional checks and balances, and an independent and well-functioning judiciary. Immunity would be withdrawn from any person, regardless of position, in case of direct or indirect misuse of political power and public resources. Civil society representatives would play an effective role in monitoring public institutions and resources. Because the international aid industry provides fertile ground for corruption and lacks accountability, the existing aid system would need to be reformed to ensure it does not assist to foster corruption.
However, it is difficult to see a situation in the near future where these measures are agreed upon and implemented. Palestine has no sovereignty, and its people are barely surviving under a prolonged occupation of nearly fifty years, and a siege of nearly a decade. Most Palestinian people are outside the OPT, living as exiles and refugees in very difficult conditions, or as second-class citizens of Israel. Corruption is a major contributing factor to the Palestinian national movement’s inability to achieve its objectives, and also serves the objectives of Israel’s occupation. Yet corruption will remain endemic within the PA as long as Palestinians themselves do not begin restructuring their national institutions according to democratic principles and standards of accountability as part of a broader strategy to pursue self-determination and Palestinian national rights, including freedom from occupation.
 Tariq Dana is a Senior Research Fellow at the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, Birzeit University. He also teaches courses on global political economy.

 

 
[i] I thank Al-Shabaka Program Director Alaa Tartir for his insights, feedback, and support in the preparation of this brief, and the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation’s Palestine/Jordan Office for their partnership and collaboration with Al-Shabaka in Palestine. The views expressed in this policy brief are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation.
[ii] It should be noted that while neither the private nor the non-governmental sectors are immune to corruption, they are not the focus of this paper. In addition, it should be noted that this paper does not cover Gaza and Hamas, although this is an important area for future study.
[iii] Patron-client relations are based on inequality whereby a patron monopolises the centres of power and resources to contain the client within his sphere of influence. See Shmuel N Eisenstadt and Luis Roniger (1984). Patrons, clients and friends: Interpersonal relations and the structures of trust in society,Cambridge University Press.
[iv] Rex ‪Brynen (1995). ‘The Neopatrimonial Dimension of Palestinian Politics’, in Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 25, No. 1, 23-36.
[v] As’ad Ghanem (2010). Palestinian Politics After Arafat: A Failed National Movement, Indiana University Press.
[vi] The Sumud Fund is different from Samed, the economic institution of the PLO established in 1970.
[vii] Salim Tamari (1991). ‘The Palestinian Movement in Transition: Historical Reversals and the Uprising’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 20, No 2, 63. See also: Khalil Nakhleh (2004). ‘The Myth of Palestinian Development: Political Aid and Sustainable Deceit’, Jerusalem: Passia.
[viii] Ghanem (2010).
[ix] Mushtaq Husain Khan, George Giacaman and Inge Amundsen (eds) (2004). State Formation in Palestine: Viability and Governance during a Social Transformation, Routledge.
[x] Information collected in author’s interviews in Palestine in 2015.
[xi] For further information, see: Cheryl A Rubenberg (2003).The Palestinians: In Search of a Just Peace, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 256. See also: Jamil Hilal and Mushtaq Khan, ‘State Formation under the PNA: Potential Outcomes and their Viability’ in Khan, Mushtaq, et al (2004). 64-119.

By Rod Such, The Electronic Intifada

retending Democracy: Israel, an Ethnocratic State is a collection of essays by Israeli, Palestinian and South African intellectuals dissecting the nature of the Israeli state and proposing how to get beyond the ethnic nationalism that characterizes Zionism and Israeli apartheid.

The book follows a conference held in Pretoria in 2010 by the Afro-Middle East Centre, a South African think-tank.

The argument that Israel cannot be both “Jewish and democratic,” especially when 20 percent of its citizens are Palestinian, is one that is finally beginning to resonate among US intellectuals who have long given the ideology of political Zionism a free pass because of the Holocaust.


Most recently, Joseph Levine, a philosophy professor at the University of Massachusetts, wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times challenging the idea that a state can belong to one ethnic group without, as Levine put it, “violating the core democratic principle of equality” (“Om questioning the Jewish state,” 9 March 2013).

A majority of Americans have soundly rejected its corollary — “a white, Christian and democratic country” — as a result of the struggles waged by blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and other people of color against a long-standing system of white supremacy.

So if not a democracy, then what kind of state is Israel? In this volume, several authors find common ground, though each has a slightly different emphasis.

Oren Yiftachel writes that Israel is more properly defined as an ethnocracy because the organizing principle around which the state is structured is based on what ethnic group one belongs to, rather than on citizenship.

Nakba Denial

In another essay, Nadim N. Rouhana expands on the notion of ethnocracy. Rouhana notes that the Israeli state links equality of opportunity — a concept central to a liberal democracy — to ethnic affiliation, rather than citizenship. Yiftachel and others argue that the Nakba — the 1948 ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians from lands in present-day Israel — is “the cornerstone of Israeli ethnocracy.” And Rouhana suggests that the only way to end the conflict is “to attack and expose” Israel’s denial of the Nakba.

South African political scientist Daryl Glaser calls Israel a “settler-minority democracy” (SMiD). A SMiD, he writes, is a democracy for the European or European-sponsored settlers who established colonies in circumstances where they were outnumbered by the indigenous people but still managed to dominate them.

Glaser argues that Israel was at one point a “settler-majority democracy” from 1948 to 1967 but managed to once again become a SMiD by occupying the West Bank and Gaza. It is therefore “a democracy for some and a dictatorship for others, its ethnic oligarchy beset by permanent demographic panic.”

Ronnie Kasrils believes that Israel fits the definition of “colonialism of a special type.” For Kasrils, “it is essential to grasp the colonial factor” to understand that the Palestinian struggle “is a national liberation struggle … against a colonial-settler project” that claims “democratic rights exclusively for its own group. It is the settlers’ racist, colonialist agenda that is the fundamental cause of the conflict,” he writes, “as was the case in South Africa.”

Valuable ideas

Pretending Democracy goes beyond simply examining the nature of the Israeli state. It offers valuable ideas for ending Israeli apartheid and the denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

Ran Greenstein proposes an alliance between Palestinian and progressive Jewish Israelis that could acquire the leverage needed to help start changing the Israeli regime from within. Along these lines, Fouad Moughrabi finds hope in an emerging Israeli “new left” that speaks a “dramatically different” language: “The old slogans for peace have been replaced with a call for an end to injustice.” He even envisions a third intifada that might be a joint Jewish-Palestinian uprising.

Ali Abunimah, in his essay, “Towards a One-State Solution in Palestine/Israel,” addresses the argument that Jewish Israelis will never agree to renounce an ethnic state and give up their privileges. He notes that polls of white South Africans showed entrenched opposition to the concept of one person, one vote even up to the eve of the dismantling of apartheid.

What was key, Abunimah argues, was the apartheid state’s loss of legitimacy in the international arena, a process that is also beginning to weaken Israel. “Zionism,” he writes, “will never be able to bomb, kidnap, assassinate, expel, demolish, settle and lie its way to legitimacy and acceptance.”

Pretending Democracy is unique in addressing the national question as it relates to Palestine and Israel. Zionists have long argued that Jews have simply exercised their right to self-determination in establishing the State of Israel and that the concept of a Jewish state has international legitimacy by virtue of the 1947 United Nations resolution partitioning Mandate Palestine.

The latter argument suffers many flaws, including the circumstances surrounding the UN vote, the fact that the resolution created a state for Jews “residing” in Palestine, not for Jews throughout the world, and the fact that Israel violated most of the provisions of the partition resolution regarding the rights of Arabs in the new Israeli state.

Perpetual struggle

But many people concur that Jews in Palestine deserved the right of self-determination as understood in international law. By including a chapter from Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People and an essay by Na’eem Jeenah and Salim Vally, Pretending Democracy raises the question, albeit indirectly, of whether Jews represent an oppressed nation or a persecuted people.

Sand’s research has challenged the Zionist historiography that attempts to re-imagine the history of the Jewish people as a centuries-long struggle for nationhood, rather than as a struggle against racist and religious persecution.

As Jeenah and Vally show, the question is not just academic. No one envisions a solution — whether two states, one state, or a bi-national state — that denies rights to Jewish Israelis. Nevertheless, they argue that a bi-national state, which assumes the existence of two nations, will ultimately subvert the creation of a democratic, secular state by reinforcing division.

The Zionist argument that only state power can protect Jews from persecution has long since proved morally and politically bankrupt. The logical consequence of a Jewish state was the racist dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian Arab majority and the creation of a militaristic, ethnic supremacist state.

There is probably no such thing as a safe refuge. There is only perpetual struggle against racism and inequality, a struggle that is most likely to be won in a society that values diversity and democracy.

* Rod Such is a freelance writer and former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He is a member of the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign and Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights.

by Ramona Wadi, Middle East Monitor

Editor: Na'eem Jeenah
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Afro-Middle East Centre; First edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0620540427

Public space in the state of Israel remains a contentious issue. The purported Jewish and democratic nature of the state – a political bargaining tool in order to obtain the coveted legitimacy from other significant countries, entrenches the reality of a settler and ethnocentric state. Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic State (AMEC, 2012), a collection of academic papers examining the reality and consequences for Palestinians, exposes an ethnocracy which has sought to promote an illusion of democracy to conceal a 'selective openness' which facilitates marginalisation of the indigenous population.


The book is an invaluable treatise which delves into the importance of recognising Palestinian legitimacy in order to achieve 'political and constitutional claim'. Deriving both similarities and contrasts from the apartheid in South Africa, it is observed that South Africa was more explicit in implementing apartheid. Israel continues to avail itself of democracy rhetoric in an attempt to distance itself from unofficial apartheid policy, despite ample proof with regard to dispossession, massacres, settler violence and deprivation of socio-economic rights. An overview of Israel's 1992 Basic Law ascertains Israel's ethnocratic nature, containing legal provisions allegedly safeguarding Israeli citizens, while enshrining the state's values within the banner of 'Jewish and democratic', thus promoting a Jewish cultural hegemony.

Through a comprehensive discussion of various complications, including Israel's distinction between citizenship and nationality, incongruous borders, the subjugation of ethnic groups, alleged biological historiography and the legitimate right to oppress, the authors reveal the foundations of a state based upon selective fragments of history which are manipulated in accordance with Zionist ideology. Shlomo Sand's contribution discusses how Jewish acknowledgment of subjugation to greater powers shifted the dynamics of group solidarity to ethnic dominance. "Zionism from its inception was an ethnocentric nationalist movement that firmly enclosed the historical people of its own invention, and banned any voluntary civil entry into the nation its platform began to design."

Through this chronological fragmentation, the absence of nationhood promoted the conquest of the 'imaginary homeland', marked by the Palestinian Nakba and the incessant onslaught of violations. Jewish self-determination could only be supported by European colonialism, hence the settler culture of European Jews in Palestinian territory. As Ze'ev Jabotisnsky had asserted, Israel's expansionist programme was based upon 'a permanent alliance with European colonies against all the Arabs in the Mediterranean'. The use of force became a necessary strategy to ensure a weakened resolve of Palestinian, also portraying Israel's condescending attitude towards colonialism an apartheid, which it deems a 'legitimate right'. Oren Yiftachel's paper discusses the manner in which Israel, together with globalisation, have exacerbated inequality and the contradictions within Zionist discourse in stressing the need for 'peace' and agreements while implementing measures which further Israel's expansion into Palestinian territory, thus justifying the occupying power's rhetoric of security concerns. The geographical fragmentation of Palestinian villages, the deprivation of rights for Bedouin in the Negev, and the insistence of invoking militant rhetoric as proof of anti-Semitism are described as 'calculated changes' by Yiftachel, who elaborates further upon Israel's self-portrayal of democracy as a means to legitimise ethnocracy. The extraction of the Jewish state from Palestinian history also distances the occupying power from geography – an approach taken by intellectuals sympathetic to Zionism which allows a negotiating space for overlooking the ramifications of colonialism. The allegedly 'temporary' characteristic of Israel's occupation, reinforced by security concerns, has proven vital to retain a constant manipulation of international law.

Israel's 'settler democracy', represented by the occupation and its allies as a 'representative democracy', thrives upon an artificial majority. The illegal hegemony clearly demonstrates a demographic reality. Recognising the right of return for Palestinians would propel the sustained Jewish majority into a minority group. Daryl Glaser argues that settlers have availed themselves of a rejectionist approach by enforcing a control system. Having 'persuaded' the West of democracy, Israeli narrative ensures colonial survival by expounding upon civil rights in the region, in turn shifting attention to the Jewish state's internal and selective democracy. As Glaser states, "Another way to think about Israel's 'at least we're democratic' defence is that it implies that democratic rule over one's self legitimates non-democratic rule over others. In effect, democracy legitimates dictatorship."

The transformation wrought by a misrepresentation of democracy transforms the masses into 'collective tyrants'. In the case of Israel, the reluctance to define territorial borders as well as Zionist adherents has ensured the improbability of stability, aided by imperial interests and guilt in manufacturing an acceptance of apartheid by playing upon the history of the Holocaust as justification for atrocities committed against Palestinians. The alleged vulnerability of Israel, warranting defence by extreme militarisation, has convinced a considerable percentage of the Jewish population that Zionism provides protection against a repetition of Holocaust crimes, according to Daniel Boyarin exhibiting their inability to survive without the reality of state violence in order to ensure continuity of their identity. This tendency is contrasted with the fact that migration from Israel surpasses the influx of new settlers, thus invalidating the argument of state protection as a necessity.

"A new Palestinian-Israeli nation cannot be imagined if it implies the legitimation of land theft as is the case in various parts of the West Bank and Israel, or of the deliberate disadvantaging and humiliation suffered by Palestinians for decades." The Zionist 'ownership' of Judaism has resulted into a settler usurpation of land, a concept which frames the Hamas struggle against Zionist legitimacy. Expansion has encompassed Palestinian land, with adjustments being carried out in order to enforce isolation and possible displacement of the indigenous population. Reconciliation remains distant if Israel consolidates the historic denial of Palestinians, which hinders any possibility of constructing the ideology of a nation if the homeland of Palestine remains occupied within a physical and philosophical context.

- See more at: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/6369-pretending-democracy-israel-an-ethnocratic-state#sthash.5rCeQgv3.dpuf

itor: Na'eem Jeenah
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Afro-Middle East Centre; First edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0620540427

Book review by Ramona Wadi

Public space in the state of Israel remains a contentious issue. The purported Jewish and democratic nature of the state – a political bargaining tool in order to obtain the coveted legitimacy from other significant countries, entrenches the reality of a settler and ethnocentric state. Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic State (AMEC, 2012), a collection of academic papers examining the reality and consequences for Palestinians, exposes an ethnocracy which has sought to promote an illusion of democracy to conceal a 'selective openness' which facilitates marginalisation of the indigenous population.

The book is an invaluable treatise which delves into the importance of recognising Palestinian legitimacy in order to achieve 'political and constitutional claim'. Deriving both similarities and contrasts from the apartheid in South Africa, it is observed that South Africa was more explicit in implementing apartheid. Israel continues to avail itself of democracy rhetoric in an attempt to distance itself from unofficial apartheid policy, despite ample proof with regard to dispossession, massacres, settler violence and deprivation of socio-economic rights. An overview of Israel's 1992 Basic Law ascertains Israel's ethnocratic nature, containing legal provisions allegedly safeguarding Israeli citizens, while enshrining the state's values within the banner of 'Jewish and democratic', thus promoting a Jewish cultural hegemony.

Through a comprehensive discussion of various complications, including Israel's distinction between citizenship and nationality, incongruous borders, the subjugation of ethnic groups, alleged biological historiography and the legitimate right to oppress, the authors reveal the foundations of a state based upon selective fragments of history which are manipulated in accordance with Zionist ideology. Shlomo Sand's contribution discusses how Jewish acknowledgment of subjugation to greater powers shifted the dynamics of group solidarity to ethnic dominance. "Zionism from its inception was an ethnocentric nationalist movement that firmly enclosed the historical people of its own invention, and banned any voluntary civil entry into the nation its platform began to design."

Through this chronological fragmentation, the absence of nationhood promoted the conquest of the 'imaginary homeland', marked by the Palestinian Nakba and the incessant onslaught of violations. Jewish self-determination could only be supported by European colonialism, hence the settler culture of European Jews in Palestinian territory. As Ze'ev Jabotisnsky had asserted, Israel's expansionist programme was based upon 'a permanent alliance with European colonies against all the Arabs in the Mediterranean'. The use of force became a necessary strategy to ensure a weakened resolve of Palestinian, also portraying Israel's condescending attitude towards colonialism an apartheid, which it deems a 'legitimate right'. Oren Yiftachel's paper discusses the manner in which Israel, together with globalisation, have exacerbated inequality and the contradictions within Zionist discourse in stressing the need for 'peace' and agreements while implementing measures which further Israel's expansion into Palestinian territory, thus justifying the occupying power's rhetoric of security concerns. The geographical fragmentation of Palestinian villages, the deprivation of rights for Bedouin in the Negev, and the insistence of invoking militant rhetoric as proof of anti-Semitism are described as 'calculated changes' by Yiftachel, who elaborates further upon Israel's self-portrayal of democracy as a means to legitimise ethnocracy. The extraction of the Jewish state from Palestinian history also distances the occupying power from geography – an approach taken by intellectuals sympathetic to Zionism which allows a negotiating space for overlooking the ramifications of colonialism. The allegedly 'temporary' characteristic of Israel's occupation, reinforced by security concerns, has proven vital to retain a constant manipulation of international law.

Israel's 'settler democracy', represented by the occupation and its allies as a 'representative democracy', thrives upon an artificial majority. The illegal hegemony clearly demonstrates a demographic reality. Recognising the right of return for Palestinians would propel the sustained Jewish majority into a minority group. Daryl Glaser argues that settlers have availed themselves of a rejectionist approach by enforcing a control system. Having 'persuaded' the West of democracy, Israeli narrative ensures colonial survival by expounding upon civil rights in the region, in turn shifting attention to the Jewish state's internal and selective democracy. As Glaser states, "Another way to think about Israel's 'at least we're democratic' defence is that it implies that democratic rule over one's self legitimates non-democratic rule over others. In effect, democracy legitimates dictatorship."

The transformation wrought by a misrepresentation of democracy transforms the masses into 'collective tyrants'. In the case of Israel, the reluctance to define territorial borders as well as Zionist adherents has ensured the improbability of stability, aided by imperial interests and guilt in manufacturing an acceptance of apartheid by playing upon the history of the Holocaust as justification for atrocities committed against Palestinians. The alleged vulnerability of Israel, warranting defence by extreme militarisation, has convinced a considerable percentage of the Jewish population that Zionism provides protection against a repetition of Holocaust crimes, according to Daniel Boyarin exhibiting their inability to survive without the reality of state violence in order to ensure continuity of their identity. This tendency is contrasted with the fact that migration from Israel surpasses the influx of new settlers, thus invalidating the argument of state protection as a necessity.

"A new Palestinian-Israeli nation cannot be imagined if it implies the legitimation of land theft as is the case in various parts of the West Bank and Israel, or of the deliberate disadvantaging and humiliation suffered by Palestinians for decades." The Zionist 'ownership' of Judaism has resulted into a settler usurpation of land, a concept which frames the Hamas struggle against Zionist legitimacy. Expansion has encompassed Palestinian land, with adjustments being carried out in order to enforce isolation and possible displacement of the indigenous population. Reconciliation remains distant if Israel consolidates the historic denial of Palestinians, which hinders any possibility of constructing the ideology of a nation if the homeland of Palestine remains occupied within a physical and philosophical context.

- See more at: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/6369-pretending-democracy-israel-an-ethnocratic-state#sthash.5rCeQgv3.dpuf

itor: Na'eem Jeenah
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Afro-Middle East Centre; First edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0620540427

Book review by Ramona Wadi

Public space in the state of Israel remains a contentious issue. The purported Jewish and democratic nature of the state – a political bargaining tool in order to obtain the coveted legitimacy from other significant countries, entrenches the reality of a settler and ethnocentric state. Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic State (AMEC, 2012), a collection of academic papers examining the reality and consequences for Palestinians, exposes an ethnocracy which has sought to promote an illusion of democracy to conceal a 'selective openness' which facilitates marginalisation of the indigenous population.

The book is an invaluable treatise which delves into the importance of recognising Palestinian legitimacy in order to achieve 'political and constitutional claim'. Deriving both similarities and contrasts from the apartheid in South Africa, it is observed that South Africa was more explicit in implementing apartheid. Israel continues to avail itself of democracy rhetoric in an attempt to distance itself from unofficial apartheid policy, despite ample proof with regard to dispossession, massacres, settler violence and deprivation of socio-economic rights. An overview of Israel's 1992 Basic Law ascertains Israel's ethnocratic nature, containing legal provisions allegedly safeguarding Israeli citizens, while enshrining the state's values within the banner of 'Jewish and democratic', thus promoting a Jewish cultural hegemony.

Through a comprehensive discussion of various complications, including Israel's distinction between citizenship and nationality, incongruous borders, the subjugation of ethnic groups, alleged biological historiography and the legitimate right to oppress, the authors reveal the foundations of a state based upon selective fragments of history which are manipulated in accordance with Zionist ideology. Shlomo Sand's contribution discusses how Jewish acknowledgment of subjugation to greater powers shifted the dynamics of group solidarity to ethnic dominance. "Zionism from its inception was an ethnocentric nationalist movement that firmly enclosed the historical people of its own invention, and banned any voluntary civil entry into the nation its platform began to design."

Through this chronological fragmentation, the absence of nationhood promoted the conquest of the 'imaginary homeland', marked by the Palestinian Nakba and the incessant onslaught of violations. Jewish self-determination could only be supported by European colonialism, hence the settler culture of European Jews in Palestinian territory. As Ze'ev Jabotisnsky had asserted, Israel's expansionist programme was based upon 'a permanent alliance with European colonies against all the Arabs in the Mediterranean'. The use of force became a necessary strategy to ensure a weakened resolve of Palestinian, also portraying Israel's condescending attitude towards colonialism an apartheid, which it deems a 'legitimate right'. Oren Yiftachel's paper discusses the manner in which Israel, together with globalisation, have exacerbated inequality and the contradictions within Zionist discourse in stressing the need for 'peace' and agreements while implementing measures which further Israel's expansion into Palestinian territory, thus justifying the occupying power's rhetoric of security concerns. The geographical fragmentation of Palestinian villages, the deprivation of rights for Bedouin in the Negev, and the insistence of invoking militant rhetoric as proof of anti-Semitism are described as 'calculated changes' by Yiftachel, who elaborates further upon Israel's self-portrayal of democracy as a means to legitimise ethnocracy. The extraction of the Jewish state from Palestinian history also distances the occupying power from geography – an approach taken by intellectuals sympathetic to Zionism which allows a negotiating space for overlooking the ramifications of colonialism. The allegedly 'temporary' characteristic of Israel's occupation, reinforced by security concerns, has proven vital to retain a constant manipulation of international law.

Israel's 'settler democracy', represented by the occupation and its allies as a 'representative democracy', thrives upon an artificial majority. The illegal hegemony clearly demonstrates a demographic reality. Recognising the right of return for Palestinians would propel the sustained Jewish majority into a minority group. Daryl Glaser argues that settlers have availed themselves of a rejectionist approach by enforcing a control system. Having 'persuaded' the West of democracy, Israeli narrative ensures colonial survival by expounding upon civil rights in the region, in turn shifting attention to the Jewish state's internal and selective democracy. As Glaser states, "Another way to think about Israel's 'at least we're democratic' defence is that it implies that democratic rule over one's self legitimates non-democratic rule over others. In effect, democracy legitimates dictatorship."

The transformation wrought by a misrepresentation of democracy transforms the masses into 'collective tyrants'. In the case of Israel, the reluctance to define territorial borders as well as Zionist adherents has ensured the improbability of stability, aided by imperial interests and guilt in manufacturing an acceptance of apartheid by playing upon the history of the Holocaust as justification for atrocities committed against Palestinians. The alleged vulnerability of Israel, warranting defence by extreme militarisation, has convinced a considerable percentage of the Jewish population that Zionism provides protection against a repetition of Holocaust crimes, according to Daniel Boyarin exhibiting their inability to survive without the reality of state violence in order to ensure continuity of their identity. This tendency is contrasted with the fact that migration from Israel surpasses the influx of new settlers, thus invalidating the argument of state protection as a necessity.

"A new Palestinian-Israeli nation cannot be imagined if it implies the legitimation of land theft as is the case in various parts of the West Bank and Israel, or of the deliberate disadvantaging and humiliation suffered by Palestinians for decades." The Zionist 'ownership' of Judaism has resulted into a settler usurpation of land, a concept which frames the Hamas struggle against Zionist legitimacy. Expansion has encompassed Palestinian land, with adjustments being carried out in order to enforce isolation and possible displacement of the indigenous population. Reconciliation remains distant if Israel consolidates the historic denial of Palestinians, which hinders any possibility of constructing the ideology of a nation if the homeland of Palestine remains occupied within a physical and philosophical context.

- See more at: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/6369-pretending-democracy-israel-an-ethnocratic-state#sthash.5rCeQgv3.dpuf

itor: Na'eem Jeenah
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Afro-Middle East Centre; First edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0620540427

Book review by Ramona Wadi

Public space in the state of Israel remains a contentious issue. The purported Jewish and democratic nature of the state – a political bargaining tool in order to obtain the coveted legitimacy from other significant countries, entrenches the reality of a settler and ethnocentric state. Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic State (AMEC, 2012), a collection of academic papers examining the reality and consequences for Palestinians, exposes an ethnocracy which has sought to promote an illusion of democracy to conceal a 'selective openness' which facilitates marginalisation of the indigenous population.

The book is an invaluable treatise which delves into the importance of recognising Palestinian legitimacy in order to achieve 'political and constitutional claim'. Deriving both similarities and contrasts from the apartheid in South Africa, it is observed that South Africa was more explicit in implementing apartheid. Israel continues to avail itself of democracy rhetoric in an attempt to distance itself from unofficial apartheid policy, despite ample proof with regard to dispossession, massacres, settler violence and deprivation of socio-economic rights. An overview of Israel's 1992 Basic Law ascertains Israel's ethnocratic nature, containing legal provisions allegedly safeguarding Israeli citizens, while enshrining the state's values within the banner of 'Jewish and democratic', thus promoting a Jewish cultural hegemony.

Through a comprehensive discussion of various complications, including Israel's distinction between citizenship and nationality, incongruous borders, the subjugation of ethnic groups, alleged biological historiography and the legitimate right to oppress, the authors reveal the foundations of a state based upon selective fragments of history which are manipulated in accordance with Zionist ideology. Shlomo Sand's contribution discusses how Jewish acknowledgment of subjugation to greater powers shifted the dynamics of group solidarity to ethnic dominance. "Zionism from its inception was an ethnocentric nationalist movement that firmly enclosed the historical people of its own invention, and banned any voluntary civil entry into the nation its platform began to design."

Through this chronological fragmentation, the absence of nationhood promoted the conquest of the 'imaginary homeland', marked by the Palestinian Nakba and the incessant onslaught of violations. Jewish self-determination could only be supported by European colonialism, hence the settler culture of European Jews in Palestinian territory. As Ze'ev Jabotisnsky had asserted, Israel's expansionist programme was based upon 'a permanent alliance with European colonies against all the Arabs in the Mediterranean'. The use of force became a necessary strategy to ensure a weakened resolve of Palestinian, also portraying Israel's condescending attitude towards colonialism an apartheid, which it deems a 'legitimate right'. Oren Yiftachel's paper discusses the manner in which Israel, together with globalisation, have exacerbated inequality and the contradictions within Zionist discourse in stressing the need for 'peace' and agreements while implementing measures which further Israel's expansion into Palestinian territory, thus justifying the occupying power's rhetoric of security concerns. The geographical fragmentation of Palestinian villages, the deprivation of rights for Bedouin in the Negev, and the insistence of invoking militant rhetoric as proof of anti-Semitism are described as 'calculated changes' by Yiftachel, who elaborates further upon Israel's self-portrayal of democracy as a means to legitimise ethnocracy. The extraction of the Jewish state from Palestinian history also distances the occupying power from geography – an approach taken by intellectuals sympathetic to Zionism which allows a negotiating space for overlooking the ramifications of colonialism. The allegedly 'temporary' characteristic of Israel's occupation, reinforced by security concerns, has proven vital to retain a constant manipulation of international law.

Israel's 'settler democracy', represented by the occupation and its allies as a 'representative democracy', thrives upon an artificial majority. The illegal hegemony clearly demonstrates a demographic reality. Recognising the right of return for Palestinians would propel the sustained Jewish majority into a minority group. Daryl Glaser argues that settlers have availed themselves of a rejectionist approach by enforcing a control system. Having 'persuaded' the West of democracy, Israeli narrative ensures colonial survival by expounding upon civil rights in the region, in turn shifting attention to the Jewish state's internal and selective democracy. As Glaser states, "Another way to think about Israel's 'at least we're democratic' defence is that it implies that democratic rule over one's self legitimates non-democratic rule over others. In effect, democracy legitimates dictatorship."

The transformation wrought by a misrepresentation of democracy transforms the masses into 'collective tyrants'. In the case of Israel, the reluctance to define territorial borders as well as Zionist adherents has ensured the improbability of stability, aided by imperial interests and guilt in manufacturing an acceptance of apartheid by playing upon the history of the Holocaust as justification for atrocities committed against Palestinians. The alleged vulnerability of Israel, warranting defence by extreme militarisation, has convinced a considerable percentage of the Jewish population that Zionism provides protection against a repetition of Holocaust crimes, according to Daniel Boyarin exhibiting their inability to survive without the reality of state violence in order to ensure continuity of their identity. This tendency is contrasted with the fact that migration from Israel surpasses the influx of new settlers, thus invalidating the argument of state protection as a necessity.

"A new Palestinian-Israeli nation cannot be imagined if it implies the legitimation of land theft as is the case in various parts of the West Bank and Israel, or of the deliberate disadvantaging and humiliation suffered by Palestinians for decades." The Zionist 'ownership' of Judaism has resulted into a settler usurpation of land, a concept which frames the Hamas struggle against Zionist legitimacy. Expansion has encompassed Palestinian land, with adjustments being carried out in order to enforce isolation and possible displacement of the indigenous population. Reconciliation remains distant if Israel consolidates the historic denial of Palestinians, which hinders any possibility of constructing the ideology of a nation if the homeland of Palestine remains occupied within a physical and philosophical context.

- See more at: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/media-review/book-review/6369-pretending-democracy-israel-an-ethnocratic-state#sthash.5rCeQgv3.dpuf

By Jadaliyya

Na’eem Jeenah, editor, Pretending Democracy: Israel, An Ethnocratic State. Johannesburg: Afro-Middle East Centre, 2012.

Jadaliyya (J): What made you publish this book?

Na’eem Jeenah (NJ): The book emerged out of a conference organized by the Afro-Middle East Centre and which was held in Pretoria, South Africa. The conference brought together important scholars who have being thinking and writing about the issue of the nature of the Israeli state, those who are affected by this, and also ways in which to move beyond the ethnocratic state that Israel is towards a future that can address the injustices that have been heaped on Palestinians by Israel’s Zionist policies and practices. In conceptualizing the conference we were determined that the critical ideas emerging from it should be collected into a book. The book is really an attempt by the Afro-Middle East Centre to provide some fresh thinking on what the Israeli state is, what it pretends to be, and how that can be changed.


J: Who are the contributors to the book?

NJ: Ali Abunimah, Neville Alexander, Max du Plessis, Steven Friedman, Daryl Glaser, Ran Greenstein, Heidi Grunebaum, Adam Habib, Na'eem Jeenah, Ronnie Kasrils, Smadar Lavie, Fouad Moughrabi, Nadim N. Rouhana, Shlomo Sand, Avi Shlaim, Azzam Tamimi, Salim Vally, Oren Yiftachel, and Andre Zaaiman.

J: What particular themes and issues does it address?

NJ: The book is divided into four parts: “Israel and its Founding Myths”; “The Ethnic State and its Victims”; “Comparative Ethnic Nationalisms”; and “Beyond Ethnic Nationalism.”

The first part includes chapters by Shlomo Sand and Avi Shlaim, which lay the basis for the following chapters, about Jewish nationhood, nationalism, and Israeli statehood. Sand critically examines the notion that Jews belong to a single nation with a common ancestry. He suggests that the “Jewish nation” is, in fact, a recent invention created for political purposes. Shlaim examines some of the issues that characterized debates among early Zionists and concludes that on matters of principle, strategy, and tactics there were few significant differences between the “right” and the “left.”

Part Two covers issues related to the victims of the Israeli state, their plight, and ways of progressing beyond the situation of victimhood. Ran Greenstein explores the meaning and implications of the notion that Israel is an ethnic state; Oren Yiftachel builds on his contention in earlier writings that Israel is an ethnocracy; Max du Plessis, who was a member of a research team that investigated Israel’s actions from the perspective of international law, writes about the findings of that study and its conclusion that Israel’s actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory constitute occupation, colonialism, and apartheid. He argues that a case should be made against Israel in the International Court of Justice. Nadim Rouhana’s chapter about Palestinian citizens of Israel argues for reconciliation—including redress for past injustices—between Jewish and Palestinian citizens. The final chapter in this part, by Smadar Lavie, looks at Jewish victims of Zionism—particularly Mizrahi Jews.

Part Three compares Jewish nationalism in Israel with other forms of nationalism. Neville Alexander discusses the national question, particularly in South Africa, providing food for thought for those trying to succeed where South Africa seems to be failing. Andre Zaaiman writes about his personal experience of growing up with Afrikaner nationalism and compares that to Jewish nationalism. Daryl Glaser discusses Israel, South Africa, and Ulster as “settler democracies.” Adam Habib reflects on the role of the international community in South Africa and Israel, arguing that ethnic states are unsustainable. Heidi Grunebaum examines South African Zionism through the Jewish National Fund. In his chapter, Ronnie Kasrils applies the lens of “colonialism of a special type”—previously employed by the South African Communist Party—to analyze the Palestinian-Israeli situation.

The last part of the book looks at the theme “Beyond Ethnic Nationalism,” and points to possible future solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli question. Azzam Tamimi presents a Palestinian Islamist perspective on future possibilities, focusing particularly on Hamas. Steven Friedman argues that the notion of Jews living as a minority in a future single state with a Palestinian majority is not a shocking prospect. Jewish survival, he asserts, does not hinge on a “Jewish state.” Fouad Moughrabi suggests that there is “radical hope” in the cultural activities of young Palestinians. Ali Abunimah suggests that the South African experience of ending apartheid might be useful in pointing towards a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli question and argues for a peaceful transition to a single democratic state in Palestine-Israel. Finally, Salim Vally and I take the one-state argument of Ali and Steven a little further, arguing that a major part of making such a solution work successfully for all its people will be a careful and thorough resolution of the national question. We suggest that the project of building a new nation may be more important for Palestinians and Israelis than resolving the question of statehood.

The book includes a foreword by South African deputy minister of international relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim.

J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have?

NJ: While the book is aimed at academics and those involved in the question of Palestine and Israel, we were determined to produce a book that will be accessible to anyone that wants to unpack what the Israel state is all about.

We hope that it will help enhance scholarly debate around the nature of the Israeli state and the question of the place of ethnocracies in our world today. We also believe that the book raises debates that can contribute towards the process of finding solutions for the future of Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

J: What other projects are you working on now?

NJ: Two projects will come together early in 2013. The first is the re-publication of a book by Azzam Tamimi on the life of the leader of the Tunisian Ennahda movement / party, Rachid al-Ghannouchi. The book is called A Democrat Within Islamism. It’s a very timely re-publication and will include a new afterword by the author and a foreword by me.

The second project is a book on the PLO, with contributions from a range of Palestinian activists and scholars. In a sense, this book is an “internal” conversation between Palestinians, which we are allowing readers to be voyeurs to. The book was originally published in Arabic and we have translated it for an English-speaking audience.

J: What kinds of insights does your book present for Israel regarding alternative state models to an ethnocracy?

NJ: Well, to be honest, the book has not been too creative in providing a range of alternative models. There is a strong argument that the best way forward is a single democratic state whose citizens will include all Palestinians and Jewish citizens of Israel. There are also some suggestions for a binational state. In either case, the overriding idea is a democratic state where all citizens have equal rights and where there will be determined attempts at redressing the injustices of the past.

Excerpts from Pretending Democracy: Israel, An Ethnocratic State:

[There is] a duality in the Israeli state between a democratic facade and a deeper undemocratic regime logic, which facilitates the dispossession, control, and peripheralization of groups that do not belong to the dominant ethno-class. Thus the very nature of the settling ethnocracy, which combines expansion, settlement, segregation, and ethno-class stratification, militates against the effectiveness of challenges emanating from peripheral groups. The selective openness of the regime, which allows for public protest, free speech, and periodic elections, is largely an illusion: the ethnocratic regime has arranged itself politically, culturally, and geographically so as to absorb, contain, or ignore the challenge emerging from its peripheries, thereby trapping them in their respective predicaments. – Oren Yiftachel

Most Jewish Israelis and the Zionist movement across the world like to insist that Israel is what they call a “Jewish and democratic state.” Without realizing the irony or contradiction in this, they insist that both epithets—Jewish and democratic—equally apply to the Israeli state. Further, while other states define themselves for themselves and their citizens, Israelis go beyond that and insist that others recognize their state’s “Jewish and democratic” character too. The refusal of the Palestinian Authority (PA), for example, to agree to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” has been a sticking point in negotiations between the PA and the Israelis.

Israel is, in fact, as much a Jewish state and a democratic state as apartheid South Africa was a white state and a democratic state. Israel is not exclusively Jewish, and Israel is certainly not democratic. Both are pretenses upheld for political purposes—for the sake of obtaining legitimacy for the Israeli state and as an attempt to mask a form of ethnic cleansing. The truth is that Israel is an ethnocratic state; perhaps a more accurate description would be “a Jewish and ethnocratic state.”

The notion of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” requires some interrogation. The defenders of this notion go to great lengths to attempt to show that the terms “Jewish” and “democratic” are not contradictory and that a state can be ethnically based and still be democratic. It is a difficult argument to sustain.

Even though the notion of Israel being “Jewish and democratic” has been used by certain Israelis since the late 1960s (mostly by the Israeli “left”), the official use of this phrase is just two decades old. Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence mentions its Jewish character but makes no mention of democracy. It does, however, claim that the state will “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex” and that it would “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture”—stipulations which, in themselves, convey a sense of democratic values—except that they have not been implemented in reality

[...]

In 1992, Israel discussed and then adopted two new Basic Laws after which the term “Jewish and democratic” entered official discourse. Known as Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, these basic laws—especially the first—ostensibly provide for the human rights of Israeli citizens. Thus, for example, retired president of the Israeli supreme court and professor of law, Aharon Barak, argues that the two laws “serve as the Israeli equivalent of the Bill of Rights.” The first clause of the Human Dignity and Liberty Law states: “The purpose of this Basic Law is to protect human dignity and liberty, in order to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” (emphasis added). The oxymoronic phrase was introduced in order to satisfy both the Jewish religious parties (which insisted on “Jewish” being explicit) and the Jewish secular parties (which insisted that “democratic” be explicit)...

[…]

If conventional wisdom is to be believed, the idea that Jews might survive culturally and physically as a minority in a Palestinian state is a dangerous fantasy. But if Jewish tradition and experience is to be believed, there is nothing odd—let alone fantastic—about the possibility.

A core Zionist assumption is that Jewish survival hinges on Jews maintaining a specifically Jewish state; without this, it is claimed, Jews face the constant threat of the genocidal violence unleashed by Nazism—or, at least, of constant persecution.

[…]

While this claim that a state is the only plausible antidote to the threat of extinction is by far the dominant Zionist concern, an ethno-nationalist state is also often held to be essential for the maintenance and expression of an authentic Jewish identity: political Zionism has, therefore, been described by some of its academic adherents as the “national liberation movement of the Jewish people.” These assumptions are a core obstacle to a just and democratic resolution of the Palestinian conflict. Not only do they reject the notion of a single, democratic polity shared by Jews and Palestinians, they also make more limited attempts at accommodation impossible by constantly reinforcing a sense of threat within the Jewish Israeli mainstream and, as a consequence, a demand for “security” at virtually any cost to ward off the danger. This has enabled successive Israeli governments to pass off virtually any measure inimical to Palestinian interests as a “security” precaution, which may at least partly explain the continuing rightward shift in Jewish Israeli politics. Continued Palestinian resistance is portrayed as an existential threat (and its failure to disappear is seen to demand ever more extreme measures to eliminate it). While critics of a single democratic state often cite this Israeli assumption as an argument for a “two-state solution” on the grounds that Jewish Israelis will never relinquish the protection of an ethnic state, it increasingly presents itself as an abiding obstacle to any sort of solution.

As long as Jewish survival is equated with the maintenance of an ethnic state, no resolution that might win sustained Palestinian loyalty is possible. The rigidity of the Jewish Israeli equation of ethnic statehood with safety, often cited as an eternal obstacle to a single state, is in reality also a powerful argument against the viability of a “two-state solution.” As long as this equation persists, it seems highly implausible that a separate Palestinian state will appear to mainstream Israeli opinion as a viable guarantor of the security of the Israeli state. And if the view that ethnic statehood is integral to Jewish survival begins to erode, then so does much of the rationale for two separate states. The insistence that without a state of their own Jews are in constant peril is thus an obstacle to any settlement, even one which concedes the principle of Jewish ethnic statehood. This means that accepting the principle of Jewish ethnic statehood on pragmatic grounds, arguing that only this scenario offers any prospect of a settlement, is a strategy doomed to fail. Prospects for justice and peace rest, then, on positing a future in which Jewish statehood will no longer be seen as essential to Jewish survival and in which minority status in a democratic state will be seen as an appropriate means of achieving Jewish security.

An obvious objection to this approach is that it seems to deny Palestinian agency by making Jewish opinion a precondition for a just and peaceful end to the suppression of Palestinian rights. It is therefore important to stress that the analysis presented here assumes that changes in Jewish opinion are likely only if there is a fundamental challenge to the prevailing balance of power and that this requires an effective Palestinian campaign to deprive Zionism of its legitimacy. This is not the place to discuss the strategies which might achieve that, save to say that the emergence of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement holds out the prospect of a new Palestinian politics that can offer more effective resistance to ethnic domination and might well generate the secular democratic political organization required for that domination to end. But change in Palestine, as was the case in South Africa, is not purely a matter of the victims of ethnic domination mustering enough strength to defeat the system—it depends also on the emergence of divisions within the dominating group. In Palestine, as in South Africa, pressure is required to force the dominant group to reassess its options. But the military strength of the Israeli state means that this pressure is unlikely to overthrow the system of domination: its purpose is thus to force those who preside over it to reconsider their options and to negotiate a settlement with Palestinian leadership. It follows clearly from this that change will require a reassessment of Zionist options. The question of whether mainstream Jewish understandings of identity and security are capable of adjusting to the possibility of a shared state with a Palestinian majority is crucial to prospects for a settlement.

Buy your copy now

For anyone interested in Palestine, and in national liberation struggles more broadly, AMEC’s powerful new book, The PLO: Critical appraisals from the inside, provides an essential anthology of key perspectives on the Palestinian struggle up to 2006. The book offers readers a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on the conversations of those intimately involved in searching for solutions to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.853197cadb7f0bf1a498fa7fcc83ce07 S

At the turn of the millennium, after decades of struggle, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was in a shambles. In 2005, a reconciliation conference held in Cairo seemed to offer some hope for the revitalisation of the organisation, but Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections caught the PLO off-guard. Conflicts and tensions exploded as the PLO tried to claw back the power it had lost. Amid calls for the organisation to renew itself or make way for a new group, the al-aytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations convened a conference in Beirut to discuss the PLO. Representatives of the PLO’s main factions joined leaders from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, as well as activists and academics, to discuss what they could learn from the past, and try to forge some consensus on how to take the Palestinian struggle forward.

Critical Appraisals from the Inside documents the papers and debates presented at the conference. Originally published in Arabic, the book provides a fascinating window on Palestinians’ unique understandings of the history of their struggle, and of the PLO. It offers an insider’s view on issues such as national unity, the intricate nature of relations between Palestinians in the diaspora and those in the Occupied Territory, the fragmented nature of the Arab condition, as well as the impact of the meddling by Arab nations and western powers in Palestinian affairs.

The book was originally published in Arabic by the Beirut-based Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, and was translated into English and republished by the Afro-Middle East Centre. It was edited by AMEC’s executive director, Na’eem Jeenah, and Al-Zaytouna Centre director, Mohsen Moh’d Saleh.

Contributing authors include:

Shafiq al-Hout

Usama Hamdan

Mohsen Moh’d Saleh

Nafez Abu Hasna

Muhammad Tayseer al-Khatib

Ahmad Said Nufal

Munir Shafiq

Saqr Abu Fakhr

Salman Abu-Sitta

Helmy Mousa

Mohammed Sayed Said

Abdullah al-Ashaal

Fathi Abu al-Ardat

Marwan Abdul Al

Anwar Abu Taha

Suhail al-Natour

The table of contents includes:

Introduction

            Mohsen Moh’d Saleh

The PLO’s journey from 1964 to 2006: An overview

            Shafiq al-Hout

The rise of Palestinian national consciousness in the PLO

            Nafez Abu Hasna

Towards an inclusive national charter

            Muhammad Tayseer al-Khatib

The Palestinian National Council: Restructuring for

fairer representation

            Mohsen Moh’d Saleh

Towards a healthy relationship between the PLO and

the Palestinian Authority

            Ahmad Said Nufal

The PLO and endeavours to forge Palestinian national unity

            Munir Shafiq

The PLO’s planning and research centres: Academic freedom

and academic research

            Saqr Abu Fakhr

The PLO’s handling of the refugee issue

            Salman Abu-Sitta

The PLO’s management of negotiations with Israel

            Helmy Mousa

The PLO’s perspective on Arab–Palestinian relations

            Mohammed Sayed Said

Towards a new kind of international diplomacy for the PLO

            Abdullah al-Ashaal

Rebuilding the PLO: Fatah’s perspective

            Fathi Abu al-Ardat

Rebuilding and reactivating the PLO: The Hamas perspective

            Usamah Hamdan

The PLO – present reality and future prospects:

The perspective of the Popular Front for the Liberation

of Palestine

            Marwan Abdul Al

Rebuilding the PLO: The perspective of the Palestinian

Islamic Jihad movement

            Anwar Abu Taha

Rebuilding the PLO: The perspective of the Democratic

Front for the Liberation of Palestine

            Suhail al-Natour

The book will soon be in bookshops. In the meanwhile, you may obtain your copy from the Afro-Middle East Centre. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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