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Nadia Hijab on what we’re fighting for, against, and growing our power

On Saturday 27th January, Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Netw..

On Saturday 27th January, Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, joined PSC members at the Annual General Meeting. Below is the transcript of her talk.

It’s an honor to be speaking to the group that’s made it on to Israel’s top 20!

In my talk today I want to focus on three things:

1) How to get our framing right in terms of what we’re fighting against;

2) How to put forward a compelling vision of what we’re fighting for; and

3) How to stay strategic in growing all our sources of power so we can achieve our goals.

This may all sound pretty basic but there’s a lot of confusion both among Palestinians and among Palestine solidarity activists. And the reason for confusion is that we don’t have a fully representative leadership that is providing clear direction – and that’s putting it mildly.

So first, the question of what we’re fighting against. There’s a lot of debate, particularly in academic circles about the framework of analysis we should apply to the Palestinians. Is it settler colonialism? Or ethnic cleansing? Or racial discrimination? Or apartheid? In fact you could make a case for any one of those and more.

But what we need is a common framing to make it crystal clear not only what we are fighting against – but also what we are fighting for. And we need that framing so we can be clear about the strategies we need to succeed. My Al-Shabaka colleague Ingrid Jaradat and I reviewed all these frameworks in a recent policy paper. We identified apartheid as the most strategic framework – in other words, as the one most useful in our struggle.

For example, although the settler colonial framework is strategic in many ways it was not expressly prohibited by international law at the time Israel was established. That means it would only be applicable to Israel’s settler colonial enterprise in the OPT. Thus, it could not be used to address the rights of the refugees or equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. In addition, although it was prohibited, it was not criminalized.

By contrast, apartheid has been treated as a serious violation under customary law at least since the end of the Second World War. It was prohibited and criminalized in the Anti-Apartheid Convention of 1973 and was incorporated into the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2002) as one of the most serious crime against humanity after genocide.

In the case of Palestine, apartheid began when the Zionist settler colonial society transformed into the state of Israel. That’s when the ideology of Jewish superiority and policy of ethnic cleansing were incorporated into the laws and institutions of the state. So Israel bears legal responsibility for acts of apartheid against all Palestinians, including the refugees, the citizens of Israel, and those under occupation.

It should be noted that individual criminal responsibility also applies to those who carry out, aid, or abet the crime of apartheid. All states and the UN are responsible for ensuring that those who are guilty are brought to justice. And they have a legal obligation to cooperate and adopt measures, including sanctions, to bring apartheid to an end and ensure reparations. There is much more on this in the UN report by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley that was withdrawn under pressure. There’s also more discussion in our Al-Shabaka paper.

Based on the above, if we can establish the apartheid framing as our common framing that would be a major source of power for our movement.

Now if that’s what we are fighting against, what are we fighting for? This is where the discussion often slips into an argument of 1-state vs 2-states. But let’s think about that for a moment. In terms of achieving Palestinian rights, what would a 1-state political outcome achieve that 2-states would not?

The vision of a secular democratic state in all of Palestine as set out by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1968, has always been more compelling for Palestinians than that of two states. Through a single state Palestinians would exercise their right to self-determination by returning to and living in the entirety of the land that had been Palestine, alongside the Jews living there, with equal rights for all.

As for the vision of 2 states, it’s important to distinguish between the one set out in 1988, when the Palestinian National Council adopted it, and the disaster that was the Oslo accords. When it was adopted in 1988, the 2-state solution was seen as a pragmatic, doable recognition of reality. Palestinians would exercise the right to self-determination through a sovereign state that would secure the equal rights of its citizens.

Such a state would enable Palestine to join the community of nations. Further, the 1988 PNC resolution upheld the UN resolutions regarding the rights of the Palestinian refugees. And the struggle for two states does not mean foresaking the vital struggle for equality of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Oslo doomed a rights-based state project from the start. The Palestinian leadership was willing to sacrifice refugee rights. As for the Israelis, even the so-called great peace-maker Yitzhak Rabin made it clear that Palestinians would have an entity that was “less than a state” with Israel’s security border located in the Jordan Valley.

Yet, had we built up enough power to ensure that the 2-state solution stayed faithful to its original framing, then it could have fulfilled Palestinian rights to self-determination and return, just as the 1-state would have done. In fact an end to apartheid does not necessarily mean a “one-state solution” in the entire territory that is controlled by an apartheid system. It can be a two-state solution. In Namibia, the people achieved self-determination through independence with their struggle against the South African apartheid regime.

I would argue that either state outcome could be made to achieve Palestinian rights – ifwe have the power to do so. Plus – and this is very important – fulfilling Palestinian rights needs some of the sources of power that are associated with the state system.

For example, the fact that Israeli sovereignty is not recognized in either occupied East Jerusalem – or indeed in West Jerusalem – under international law is a source of power we should not give up easily. The fact that the settlements are considered illegal under the law and by the vast majority of states is a source of power we should not give up until we achieve our goals.

Imagine the different situation today if the PLO had – back in 2004 – “activated” the International Court of Justice ruling on Israel’s illegal wall. Although it was an advisory opinion, it made a clear call on all states not to “recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall” and not to provide any aid that could maintain that situation. The PLO could have used this to ensure that rules-conscious European countries acted much more decisively to make sure that their relations with Israel did not support the illegal Israeli settlements. The PLO did not do so.

These and others are important sources of power if we use them – if we really push for them through our movement and if we push the Palestinian leadership to push for them.

The reality is that today the Palestinian people have very little power to achieve either 1 state or 2 in the foreseeable future or to impose Palestinians right on Israel or on the international community. No one is going to give us anything so why let go of any of our sources of power? If we are determined to end apartheid we must not let go of any of our sources of power.

One can work for 1-state or 2-state outcomes so long as each fulfills Palestinian rights. This was the smart, strategic approach by the founders of the BDS movement. Given the disarray of the national movement and the lack of consensus around political goals, they focused instead on rights. The BDS call is for the realization of self-determination through freedom from occupation, equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and justice for the Palestinian refugees in fulfilling their right of return. Freedom, justice and equality. This is how they reached the broadest spectrum of Palestinian society & international solidarity activists – and built a considerable source of power. And these rights can be achieved in 1 state or 2.

Now there is one source of power we have not yet tapped: That of the narrative. Israel continues to dominate the narrative in the West despite the inroads we have made. And we must tap this source of power soon – we are facing a time of great danger and of fiercer attacks both within Palestine and against all efforts at real solidarity.

We badly need a positive, forward-looking narrative of what we are for, a narrative that unifies us and communicates the power of our vision. A narrative that provides a direction for the movement until the time comes for a political outcome. A narrative that overcomes the barriers that Israel’s physical fragmentation of the Palestinian people has created. A narrative that challenges Israel and prevents it from being able to paint us as anti-everything.

That unifying Palestinian narrative already exists: It’s Freedom. It’s Justice. It’s Equality. These are the goals identified by the BDS movement. They are also goals all human beings can aspire to and they speak to the reality of each segment of the Palestinian people, under occupation, in Israel and in refugee camps and exile.

We have that narrative, but we don’t use it. We say that we are anti-apartheid and that we support BDS against Israel. What we must make very clear is that we support BDS because we want to achieve freedom, justice, and equality. We are against apartheid because we want to achieve freedom, justice, and equality.

These goals need to be placed front and center of our movement as soon as possible: They are an uplifting and positive vision that can quickly occupy the high ground. And they can be achieved in 1-state or 2.

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša congratulates Donald Trump despite no election result

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has handed Donald Trump victory in the 2020 United States Presi..

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has handed Donald Trump victory in the 2020 United States Presidential election, despite no official result being declared.

“Its pretty clear that American people have elected ⁦Donald Trump and Mike Pence for four more years,” Janša tweeted on Wednesday.

Donald Trump declared a premature victory at the White House and described the election process as a “major fraud on our nation”.

The campaign for Democrat candidate Joe Biden has described the bid to stop vote counting as “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect”, and say they are “ready to deploy” legal teams.

The Slovenian Prime Minister’s tweet generated an immediate response from several MEPs, including German Nicola Beer from Renew Europe Group.

“Donald Trump has his deeply undemocratic, unjustified playbook on elections EU Member States should not play along,” tweeted Beer.

“The European Union, with all Member States, has a duty to show respect for every single vote. Period.”

No other EU leader has issued congratulations or themselves announced a result in the US election.

“While we wait for the election result, the EU remains ready to continue building a strong transatlantic partnership, based on our shared values and history,” said EU Vice-President Josep Borrell.

The electoral college votes have not all been counted at time of writing.

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“More delays and facts denying … [the] bigger the final triumph for the President. Congratulations ⁦to the Republican Party for strong results across the US”.

The US election is currently locked in a stalemate, with hundreds of thousands of votes still to be counted, and the outcome still unclear in key states.

The post Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša congratulates Donald Trump despite no election result first appeared on NewswireNow – A Press Release Publishing Service.

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Lessons for Africa from devastating Mauritius oil spill

The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and i..

The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and its devastating impact is expected to last for decades. Over 1 000 tonnes of fuel oil leaked into pristine Mauritian waters, covering the nearby shore in toxic sludge and immersing the ecosystem in a desperate struggle for survival.

This environmental crisis couldnt have occurred at a worse time for Mauritius. The spill will seriously impede the recovery of a Mauritian economy highly dependent on coastal tourism and already battered by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Mauritius and other African states need to promptly review their contingency strategies and response capacities so we can start positing immediate lessons to be learnt.

The national and international response to the MV Wakashio crisis was commendable. France, India, Japan and the International Maritime Organization cooperated to support local Mauritian efforts in a race against time to pump out the fuel from the vessel, which eventually broke apart on 15 August. Meanwhile local volunteers flocked to the shore with improvised booms and barriers.

Mauritius and other African states need to urgently review their contingency strategies

While a full investigation and report is urgently required, it is possible to start piecing together a narrative of what has occurred and how it turned so bad so quickly.

The MV Wakashio left China on 14 July heading for Brazil. On 25 July it ran aground on the reefs located roughly a mile off Pointe dEsny and the Blue Bay Marine Park along the south-eastern shore of Mauritius. No oil leakage was reported at the time, and the Mauritius coast guard swiftly deployed booms and took other preventive actions. The government activated its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan the following day.

By 5 August a minor oil slick was observed surrounding the vessel. It was still assumed that the countrys contingency plan was sufficient and that the risk of oil spill was still low. But then the MV Wakashio flooded and began sinking. Oil started to spill into the sea.

On 7 August Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a national environment emergency. Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo suggested that this is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem. Mauritius called for international help once the scale of the emergency became apparent and quickly overwhelmed the resources and capacity of the countrys national contingency plan.

The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating

Some of these resources were acquired as part of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Highway Development and Coastal and Marine Contamination Prevention project from 2007-2012. The project also called for the establishment of the Regional Marine Pollution Co-ordination Centre (RCC) for Marine Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Western Indian Ocean.

South Africa will host the RCC, and its establishment must now be expedited. The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating, especially when they occur in sensitive and critically important environmental areas.

Will other African countries and regional organisations develop sufficient capacity to respond to crises on the scale of the MV Wakashio without depending on international assistance? There is a great risk of oil spills and leaks occurring elsewhere in the African maritime domain in the future, especially spills that occur during bunkering.

The Cape of Good Hope route is a maritime super highway. Some countries, like South Africa, are able to swiftly respond on their own, as demonstrated in May when the potential wreck of the Yuan Hua Hu, also carrying 4 000 tonnes of fuel oil, was narrowly averted.

Theres a great risk of oil spills occurring elsewhere in Africa, especially during bunkering

Many countries such as Mauritius lack at least some of the resources or capacities needed to deal with such a disaster. Governments require up-to-date assessments to plan future responses. Better and more collective resources and skills at a regional or continental level are required.

Improved accountability mechanisms are also important. The Japanese owners of the MV Wakashio have offered, under international obligations, to pay compensation for applicable damages caused by the oil spill. Yet in other cases it might not be as easy to track the owners and determine liability (as can be seen in the investigation into the tragic Beirut port explosion of 4 August).

It is time for African maritime institutions to review their approaches and develop appropriate expertise and response mechanisms. This should ensure fast and effective regional or continental action when the inevitable oil leaks arise.

The results should be reported to key multilateral organisations – ideally to the African Union (AU) – as part of the implementation of 2050 Africas Integrated Maritime Strategy. The AU could, for instance, convene a consultative forum for experience and skills sharing with inputs from all the regional economic communities such as that hosted by the Southern African Development Community in 2018.

Disaster relief is expensive, but is nowhere near as controversial as other maritime issues such as creating security frameworks and determining boundaries. It can also foster collaboration anchored in regional AU institutions that draw on indigenous expertise and capacities.

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More than 100 children killed and injured as violence intensifies in Ituri, DRC – Save the Children

Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the..

Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo between April and July. Save the Children is horrified by the recent escalation of extreme violence, in which also at least 17 children were injured and 12 were sexually abused.

In the same period, around sixty schools were attacked, and 17 health facilities – two of which were supported but the charity.

“The situation for children is getting worse by the day, in a conflict they should not have a part in. We need to ensure children can return to school, that they and their families can go to health facilities if they need to, and that they are protected”, said Malik Allaouna, Save the Children country director in DRC.

“We need more resources, and call upon the international community and the Government of DRC to help alleviate the suffering of these children. We are asking all involved parties to grant unhindered access to humanitarian workers, so they can support those who are most in need.”

Since January 2020, the situation in Ituri has deteriorated significantly in the Djugu, Irumu and Mahagi territories. At least 1,315 people were killed, including 165 children. An estimated 300,000 people have been displaced since January, adding pressure to the situation in Ituri, which already hosted over 1.2 million Internal displaced people in 2019.

“Children who had to flee from the violence told us they had to leave everything behind because militias came into the area of Djugu. Suddenly, they found themselves homeless and without any food, having to sleep in schools”, said Dr Macky Manseka, Humanitarian Health and Nutrition Programme Manager at Save the Children.

Save the Children, which has been responding to this crisis for over a year, warns that displaced populations do not have access to enough food. Communities are also lacking health and nutrition services, clean and safe water and hygiene materials, as areas become increasingly cut off by violence and resources are in low supply.

“For example, there were more than 235 new cases of severe acute malnutrition in July 2020”, Dr. Manseka continued. “But because of the violence, we cant follow-up properly on sick or malnourished children. As a consequence, their treatment is disrupted, which might lead to relapses or even deaths.”


Note to editors:

Save the Children supports 17 health facilities, and runs programmes in support of survivors of sexual and gender based violence. It has a strong presence in the field of nutrition, and water, hygiene and sanitation. The organisation is also running education programmes in Ituri, and working to improve access to education for girls.

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