Today it is 126 years after the initiation of the Zionist project
to colonize Palestine and 60 years after the realization of that
vision in the form of a Jewish ethnocentric nationalistic state. In
this article, I wish to explore the challenges and options for
Palestinians in the face of this reality.
During his visit in May 2008 to participate in the 60-year
anniversary celebration of the creation of Israel, United States
President George W. Bush addressed the Israeli Knesset, stating:
"The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the
source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is
grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book,
the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the
Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: 'Come let us
declare in Zion the word of God.' The founders of my country saw a
new Promised Land and bestowed upon their towns names like
Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became
passionate advocates for a Jewish state."
The spirit he speaks of is the spirit that has caused the
decimation of millions of Native Americans with the same colonial
language of "manifest destiny" in what remains perhaps the biggest
genocide in human history.1 In the case of Palestine, it is the
living history of the ongoing Nakba of the Palestinian people that
has left over 5 million Palestinians refugees and displaced. Will
this "manifest destiny" characterize the future, and will the
Palestinian "natives" follow the same trajectory as that of
America's natives? More to the point, what can Palestinians do
about the fate that Zionism had charted for them?
Looking for the Causes, Not the Symptoms
In medicine, understanding the etiology of the illness and not just
its symptoms is essential to devising effective therapies and
advising on prognosis. Describing symptoms has instead dominated
our discourses. Thus, we must first and foremost understand the
underlying cause of the problem - which is the global reach of the
adherents of Zionism - and appreciate their accomplishments. These
go back to the late 19th century and include the Zionist
development of meticulous settlement projects; then their attempts
to obtain British and French declarations of support -Secretary
General of the French Foreign Ministry Jules Cambon's declaration
(June 4, 1917) and British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour's
declaration (November 2, 1917) - and to convince U.S. President
Woodrow Wilson to support them, and to convince President Harry
Truman to push for the partition of Palestine when all his career
diplomats and intelligence services advised against it.2 These
accomplishments also include the international support in the 1950s
for the buildup of the Israeli military, and, also in the 1950s,
the thwarting of efforts to uphold international law on issues
pertaining to the Palestinian refugees. In the1960s, there was the
attempt to stifle the investigation of the Israel lobby - or to
even have it listed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act - as
well as to suppress the investigation into the deliberate attack on
the USS Liberty3; all this in addition to the dozens of U.S. vetoes
of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) President Howard
Friedman titled his letter of July 30, 2006 to friends and
supporters of AIPAC "Look What You've Done." In it he explained:
"Israel is fighting a pivotal war for its life [...] the expected
chorus of international condemnation of Israel's actions [...] only
one nation in the world came out and flatly declared: 'Let Israel
finish the job.' That nation is the United States of America, and
the reason it had such a clear, unambiguous view of the situation
is you and the rest of America Jewry [...] How do we do it? Decades
of long hard work which never ends."4
More recently, Ari Berman stated in The Nation that "[t]he
congressional reaction to Hizbullah's attack on Israel and Israel's
retaliatory bombing of Lebanon provide the latest example of why
AIPAC's lock on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East must be
examined."5 Those who dissent are punished.6
Understanding the Ramifications of the Conflict
There are many books that deal with the history of the techniques
and methods that have been used to achieve the current position of
domination by the Jewish state in Palestine and to dispossess the
native Palestinians.7 Most people are beginning to understand the
ramifications of this conflict and its ripple effects around the
world - the attacks of 9/11 being symptomatic. This understanding
has been accelerated with the presence of information on the
Internet, bypassing the notable biases of Western mainstream
The primary victims of Zionism did put up resistance, even at
incredible odds. Resistance here was similar to other colonial
situations, whether in French Algeria or apartheid South Africa. It
always involved both violent and non-violent resistance.
Non-violent resistance and the vastly deadlier violence of the
colonizers are always less publicized, especially when the
oppressors' Zionist goal was the control of far larger territory
but has been limited to historic Palestine. And even here, about 4
million Palestinians remain, largely due to an amazing resilience
on the part of the indigenous Palestinians.
In many ways, the challenge to Zionism will continue to be carried
out primarily in Palestine and only secondarily in the centers of
power that have made Israel so recalcitrant. Today that major
center of power is the U.S. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
accurately predicted the meaning of Truman's push to partition
Palestine, against the wishes of its inhabitant and despite the UN
founding charter, as appears in a now-declassified original
document of November 28, 1947:
The U.S. by supporting partition has already lost much of its
prestige in the Near East. In the event that partition is imposed
on Palestine, the resulting conflict will seriously disturb the
social, economic, and political stability of the Arab world, and
U.S. commercial and strategic interests will be dangerously
Further on (p. 6), it states:
The goodwill enjoyed by the U.S. at the time of the Roosevelt-Ibn
Saud Conference and following the backing of the Lebanese and
Syrian claims for independence was short lived as a result of
President Truman's support of Jewish immigration to Palestine and
of the Anglo-American Committee report. Because of the
long-standing cultural ties between the U.S. and the Arab world,
the friendly role that the U.S. played in the achievement of Syrian
and Lebanese independence, the partial dependence of certain Arab
states on oil royalties from U.S. companies, and the promise of
increased royalties in the future, the Arab states would like to
maintain friendly relations with the U.S.… Little of this
[positive] development will be possible, if the U.S. supports a
Jewish state in Palestine.9
The decolonization of South Africa happened without the expulsion
of the white settlers or their descendants, but other fates
possibly await us in Palestine: the fate of the Algerians' struggle
against colonial rule or the fate of the Native Americans or the
fate of Northern Ireland. No one can predict the future with
certainty. We can reflect on currents and we can also reflect on
available options. As far as a final destination for our journey, I
believe that the only viable solution is one state for all its
citizens.10 How we get there is key.
Some Options for Moving Forward
Israel is strong economically and militarily. But its attack on
Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and its failure to defeat Hamas in
Gaza illustrate the limits of such powers when faced with popular
resistance. Only a scant 20 years ago, there was no recognition of
the existence of the Palestinian people or of the legitimacy of
their struggle. Today most of the world - even the Zionists
themselves - recognize not only the existence of the Palestinians
but that there is indeed such a thing as Palestine. The Palestinian
flag now flies over Palestine, even inside the Green Line. But
whether one looks at the glass as half full or half empty, it is
how to go beyond the descriptive to the prescriptive that
captivates most Palestinian intellectuals and ordinary
To think of many possible options for moving forward is an exercise
worth pursuing, if nothing else than to show that there are choices
besides surrender. Here is a list of some examples of options - not
mutually exclusive, not exhaustive, and some not appropriate by the
standards of many people:
1. To collaborate or succumb to the power structures, play along
and obey the people in power - e.g., the Palestinian police to be
trained by the CIA and to operate to quell Palestinian violent and
2. To revive and democratize the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) with its original charter, to liberate all of Palestine from
Zionist colonial rule.
3. To engage in massive non-violent resistance in the areas
occupied in 1967 (3.6 million Palestinians form a base).
4. To engage in massive non-violent resistance in the areas
occupied in 1948 (1.5 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens
form a base).
5. To start an intifada/uprising in the areas occupied in 1948
(violent and non-violent resistance, ongoing non-violent resistance
that can be intensified).
6. To engage in non-violent resistance in areas outside of
Palestine (300,000 Palestinians in the U.S., 350,000 in Lebanon, 2
million in Jordan).
7. To engage in resistance outside of Palestine that involves
targeting Zionist-dominated companies and interests
8. To engage in educational and media campaigns - lobbying,
writing, speaking out, etc., with the logic of capturing hearts and
minds by telling the truth about what colonial Zionism has
9. To wait for the U.S.-Israel empire to implode - for example from
the massive economic dislocation created by Israel's push for the
war on Iraq and, perhaps, an upcoming conflict with Iran.
10. To convert to Judaism and claim "the Right of Return" as
11. To engage in boycotts and sanctions, which are helpful also in
raising awareness about the apartheid nature of Israel.
12. To live for the moment, care for one's family and forget the
13. To convince enough Israeli Jews to abandon Zionism and to vote
for a post-Zionist state for all its citizens.
There can be many combinations of the above and many other options.
History provides some lessons on what works or what does not work.
Already in a number of conferences and meetings, Palestinian
intellectuals, leaders and others have engaged in these
discussions. As Palestinians, now the sacrificial lambs for a
supine world community, we can shape our future with choices we
make in the next few decades. The burden is heavy, but our
ingenuity and resilience throughout our history shows that we can
succeed. Silence and collaboration are both complicity in this epic
injustice that may become the defining issue of the 21st century,
the injustice of the continuing ethnic cleansing/continuing Nakba.
And, just like the Palestinians, those who support their just
struggle also have equally varied choices. But for now, the choice
that remains relevant is the one suggested by Martin Luther King,
Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? Expediency asks the
question: Is it politic? Vanity asks the question: Is it popular?
But conscience asks the question: Is it right? And there comes a
time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor
politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is
1. Salaita, Steven and Peter Gran. The Holy Land in Transit:
Colonialism and the Quest for Canaan. Syracuse: Syracuse University
2. Mulhall, John W. America and the Founding of Israel: An
Investigation of the Morality of America's Role. Los Angeles:
Deshon Press, 1995.
3. Ennes, James M. Jr., Assault on the Liberty. Bloomington:
Raintree Press, 1987.
4. John Walsh, "'Look What You've Done!': AIPAC Congratulates
Itself on the Slaughter in Lebanon." Counterpunch. 16 August, 2006.
5.Ari Berman, "AIPAC's Dangerous Grip on Washington." The
Nation.com. July 31, 2006.
6. Findley, Paul. They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions
Confront Israel's Lobby. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2003.
7. Cooley, John K. An Alliance against Babylon: The U.S., Israel
and Iraq. London: Pluto Press, 2005; Felton, Greg. The Host and the
Parasite: How Israel's Fifth Column Consumed America. Tempe:
Dandelion Books, 2007; Mearsheimer, John J. and Stephen M. Walt.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. New York, Farrar, Straus,
Giroux Publishers, 2007.
10. See for examples: Qumsiyeh, Mazin B., Sharing the Land of
Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. London:
Pluto Press, 2004; Tilley, Virginia. The One-State Solution: A
Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock. Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005; Abunimah, Ali. One
Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.
New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2007.