The "Palestine Papers": Grave Palestinian concessions met with utter Israeli rejectionism
Occupied Palestine, 17 February 2011 – The recent public exposure of a large number of documents related to the U.S. -sponsored "peace process" between Israel and Palestinian officials provides hard evidence, if any was needed, not only of readiness on the part of unrepresentative Palestinian "negotiators" to concede basic Palestinian rights, but also of Israel's rejectionism and unwillingness to negotiate even an unjust and unsustainable peace. The leaked documents also reveal the arm-twisting employed by international "peace brokers" to compel – unelected -- Palestinian officials to serve Israel's expansionist and colonial agenda through the surrender of UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestinian people. It is now clearer than ever that the so-called negotiations were never based on principles of international law and human rights and never promoted just peace.
With popular revolutions scoring immense successes in the region, particularly in Egypt, against despotic regimes that were deeply implicated in protecting Israel and complicit in its war crimes and crimes against humanity, Israel's impunity, intimidation and "deterrence" power, and its ability to maintain occupation, colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people have been substantially weakened. The lightening speeds at which democratization and freedom are taking hold in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab states ruled by authoritarian regimes will undoubtedly boost Palestinian popular resistance, including the boycott movement, in an unprecedented way.
In light of these radical developments in the region, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls upon people of conscience worldwide to view these documents ("Palestine Papers") as the final nail in the coffin of the so-called "peace process." We urge international civil society and concerned citizens of the world to redouble support for the more ethically consistent and effective alternative: a dignified and rights-based strategy for just peace, in particular the Palestinian civil society-led, global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and respects the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
The recently published documents include protocols, maps and correspondence from almost 10 years of political negotiations, including direct meetings between Palestinian and Israeli delegations and preparatory talks with U.S. officials, as well as summaries of numerous meetings in which U.S. and European official and non-official parties exert pressure on what seemed to be pliant Palestinian counterparts. A series of papers from the preparatory meetings of the latest round of failed peace summits (2007 Annapolis Conference) document Israel's rejection of a joint platform based on the traditional two-state model for peace, i.e., a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and the persistent efforts of then Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni to extract recognition of the racist concept of the "Jewish state" from the Palestinian negotiators, who refused to accede to this dictate. Livni’s words, “I am a lawyer… But I am against law - international law in particular. Law in general,” uttered during a negotiating session are telling of Israeli contempt for international law and disregard of Palestinian rights.
While the "Palestine Papers" have not revealed any major news that was unknown to keen Palestinian and international observers, they have painted a detailed picture of a negotiation process characterized by disrespect of ethical and legal standards, lacking any accountability (especially on the Palestinian side), and fraught with blatant unwillingness of Israel and international actors to address the real obstacles to just peace, i.e., Israel's ongoing practice of apartheid, colonialism and occupation.
In summary, the "Palestine Papers" offer a glimpse of the reality of 20 years of "peace" making which has failed because the U.S. and the Quartet as sponsors have ignored what the United Nations has recognized at least since 1974, i.e., that exercise of the inalienable rights of self-determination, independence and sovereignty by the Palestinian people, and return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties from which their were uprooted, constitute the key preconditions for achieving just peace (UN General Assembly Resolution 3236). In other words, Israel's three-tiered system of oppression must be brought to an end before any real peace negotiations can succeed. Peace talks should be conditioned upon recognition by all parties of the applicability of relevant precepts of international law, human rights principles, and the inalienable rights of the indigenous Palestinian people, paramount among which is the right to self-determination. Negotiations can then focus on the modalities and timelines of implementing international law, not on whether or not to recognize its reference.
The BDS Campaign against Israel presents a strategic alternative on this basis. Guided by the 2005 BDS call, the Palestinian civil society-led global BDS Campaign focuses on the comprehensive rights of the Palestinian people and strives to realize them through dismantling Israel's discriminatory and oppressive regime over the Palestinian people in its entirety. Specifically, the BDS Call highlights the three basic rights that constitute the minimal requirements for the Palestinian people to exercise its right to self determination: ending the 1967 occupation and colonization; ending the institutionalized and legalized system of racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel; and recognizing and enabling the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin and receive reparations. Only thus can comprehensive and lasting peace be built.
Palestinian citizens of Israel have for more than six decades faced a system of discrimination enshrined in law. This system is now being further entrenched by a raft of new legislation that aims to undermine Palestinian rights in all areas of life. At this crucial time, the demand that these1.3m Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up one-fifth of the population of Israel, enjoy full equality is more important than ever. Any proposal for a just peace must enshrine this basic demand for equality.
As for the refugees, at the end of 2008, there were at least 7.1 million displaced Palestinians, representing 67 percent of the entire Palestinian population (10.6 million) worldwide. Among them were at least 6.6 million refugees and 427,000 internally displaced persons. The denial of these refugees' right of return has been described by Prof. John Dugard, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as “perhaps the greatest injustice of the post-World War II period, and certainly the most long-standing.” The right of return is at the heart of the question of Palestine.
Rooted in a century of popular, non-violent Palestinian struggle against settler-colonialism and – later – dispossession and apartheid, and largely inspired by the heroic struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the BDS Campaign for Palestinian rights has scored major successes since its launch less than six years ago, confirming the effectiveness of its rights-based approach. Two recent developments attest to the spectacular growth of the Campaign's influence. A few weeks ago, 155 Israeli scholars, including Israel Prize laureates, have called for a boycott of the colonial Ariel College due to its existence on occupied Palestinian land in contravention of international law. Around the same time, the Jewish Federations of North America announced a $6m fund to counter BDS and other efforts accused of promoting the “deligitmization” of Israel. The two examples, coupled with the characterization of BDS as a "strategic threat" by top Israeli officials, show that the BDS movement, which has a vibrant and growing Israeli chapter, is creating significant fear in the Israeli establishment of becoming the world pariah in the way that South Africa once was. Visible and effective BDS action is striking real victories against Israeli apartheid and its complicit institutions and is in turn creating a challenge to the colonial consensus within Israeli society.
In response to the publication of the "Palestine Papers," the Palestinian BDS National Committee reiterates the centrality of recognizing and implementing the full set of rights of all Palestinians and the need for credible alternatives, in particular of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by its obligations under international law and respects Palestinian rights. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once wrote, “I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.”
With revolutionary change across the Arab World eroding Israel's power in the region, BDS has become a key strategy of the Palestinian people for a global struggle to hold Israel accountable and assert our inalienable rights under international law.
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