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Ilan Pappè: Comment on the Stuttgart conference and declaration

Recently the organizers of the Stuttgart conference and especially those who signed
the Stuttgart declaration came under sever criticism from various writers and
politicians in Germany and were exposed at time even to typical German center left
abrasive language.

Setting aside the insignificant aspects of the dialogue – the style and the bizarre
focus on one particular person who signed the declaration – it is important to stress
the main issues and the principal points that made this conference such a significant
contribution to the struggle for Palestine.

The scene of activism in the struggle of Palestine has an orthodoxy on the one hand,
and a new challenging movement ,on the other. The Orthodoxy based its vision of
peace on a two states solution and on a deep conviction that a change from with the
Israeli society, through the 'peace camp' there, will bring about an equitable solution.
Two fully sovereign states would live next to each other and would also agree on how
to solve the Palestine refugee problem and will decide jointly what kind of a
Jerusalem there would be. It also included a wish to see Israel more of a state of all
its citizens and less as a Jewish state – but nonetheless retaining its Jewish

This vision was clearly based on the wish to help the Palestinians on the one hand
and on real politick considerations on the other. It was and is driven by over
sensitivity for the wishes and ambitions of the powerful Israeli party and by
exaggerated consideration for the international balance of power and in particular it
is calculated in a way that would fit the basic American position and stances on the
issue. It is however a sincere position and in this respect it is different from the
position of the political elites of the West which were much more cynical when they
pushed forward a softer version of this Orthodox view – these politicians knew and
still know that this discourse and plan allows Israel to continue uninterrupted the
dispossession of Palestine and the Palestinians and is not in any way a credible
formula for ending the colonization of Palestine.

This orthodox view has slowly vanished from the scene of activism. The official peace
camp in Israel, and the Liberal Zionist organizations world wide still subscribe to it –
as do the more leftist politicians in Germany and Europe. In some ways, dear friends
such as Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky still endorse it in the name of
realpoliik and efficiency.

But the vast majority of activists had enough. The emergence of the BDS movement,
through the call for such action by the Palestinian civil society inside and outside of
Palestine, the growing interests and support for the one state solution and the
emergence of a clearer, be it as small, anti Zionist peace camp in Israel, have
provided an alternative thinking.

The new movement which is supported by activists all around the world, inside Israel
and Palestine, is modeled on the anti-Apartheid solidarity movement. The whole of
Palestine is an area that was and is colonized, and occupied in one way or form by
Israel and in it Palestinians are subject to various legal and oppressive regimes and
therefore the need is to change fundamentally the reality on the ground before it
would be too late.

In other words we have witnessed a paradigm shift represented in this new activism
(which of course has many elements of old ideas drawn from the PLO 1968 charter
and activist groups such as Abna al-Balad, Matzpen, the PFLP and PDFLP which are
updated to the current reality and which were deserted in 1993 in the name of
realpolitik). The new paradigm insists on analyzing Israel as a settler colonialist state
of the 21st century whose ideology is the main and principal obstacle for peace and
seeks peaceful means of changing this regime for the sake of everyone living there
and those who were expelled from there.

Activism for the sake of activism is useless. It has to be based on an analysis and
suggest a prognosis. For this work activism for the sake of activism is useless it has
to be connected to a clear analysis and prognosis. Zionism was and is a settler
colonialist movement and Israel is a settler colonialist state and as long as this stay
like this, even withdrawal from part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the
creation of a Bantustan there would not end the dispossession and the ethnic
cleansing that began in 1948. Bantustans did not end Apartheid in South Africa.

The new movement, in which the meeting in Stuttgart, was an important landmark, is
galvanizing OUTSIDE support for Palestine and the Palestinians. It is not, and can
not, be concerned with the question of Palestinian representation – this can only be
resolved by the Palestinians themselves, or how best is for the Israeli Jews to accept
the responsibility for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and how to move on to a
different future where both Arabs and Jews can live together. But in Stuttgart,
especially on the podium there was a sizable representation for both Palestinians
and Israelis and therefore the declaration wisely describe both their aspirations,
supported morally by others, and an outline for action in Europe for bringing an end
for the dispossession of Palestine – not just in small parts of it.

It is not ridiculous to aspire for a regime change in Israel; it is not naïve to envision a
state where everyone is equal and it is not unrealistic to work for the unconditional
return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes. Moreover, such wishes do not
obstruct the struggle against the current daily Israeli abuses in the land of Palestine;
on the contrary, it gives the only possible rational explanation why we should oppose
with the same commitment and moral force the demolition of houses in Jerusalem, in
the Negev and in the Gaza Strip.

Stuttgart was a station, and the train continues now elsewhere to campuses in
America, Churches in England and union halls in Europe. Hopefully it will get to
synagogues as well and there is no need to confuse the struggle against Zionism,
with anything else. This is as it is a formidable ideology, with a state and an army that
harmed not only Palestinians but also Jews wherever they are, including in Israel.
We should thank the organizers, sign the declaration, and move on. Palestine can
not wait for the internal German misgivings and inhibitions. We should boycott,
sanction and divest as this is the only way forward for us from the outside so that
both peoples in the inside would have fair chance to build a better future.

Ilan Pappe, 12.01.11