Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaza: the logic of colonial power

As so often, the term 'terrorism' has proved a rhetorical smokescreen under cover of which the strong crush the weak

Nir Rosen guardian.co.uk
Monday 29 December 2008 08.00 GMT

I have spent most of the Bush administration's tenure reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia and other conflicts. I have been published by most major publications. I have been interviewed by most major networks and I have even testified before the senate foreign relations committee. The Bush administration began its tenure with Palestinians being massacred and it ends with Israel committing one of its largest massacres yet in a 60-year history of occupying Palestinian land. Bush's final visit to the country he chose to occupy ended with an educated secular Shiite Iraqi throwing his shoes at him, expressing the feelings of the entire Arab world save its dictators who have imprudently attached themselves to a hated American regime.

Once again, the Israelis bomb the starving and imprisoned population of Gaza. The world watches the plight of 1.5 million Gazans live on TV and online; the western media largely justify the Israeli action. Even some Arab outlets try to equate the Palestinian resistance with the might of the Israeli military machine. And none of this is a surprise. The Israelis just concluded a round-the-world public relations campaign to gather support for their assault, even gaining the collaboration of Arab states like Egypt.

The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? So far, there have been large demonstrations in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The people of the Arab world will not forget. The Palestinians will not forget. "All that you have done to our people is registered in our notebooks," as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said.

I have often been asked by policy analysts, policy-makers and those stuck with implementing those policies for my advice on what I think America should do to promote peace or win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. It too often feels futile, because such a revolution in American policy would be required that only a true revolution in the American government could bring about the needed changes. An American journal once asked me to contribute an essay to a discussion on whether terrorism or attacks against civilians could ever be justified. My answer was that an American journal should not be asking whether attacks on civilians can ever be justified. This is a question for the weak, for the Native Americans in the past, for the Jews in Nazi Germany, for the Palestinians today, to ask themselves.

Terrorism is a normative term and not a descriptive concept. An empty word that means everything and nothing, it is used to describe what the Other does, not what we do. The powerful ˆ whether Israel, America, Russia or China ˆ will always describe their victims' struggle as terrorism, but the destruction of Chechnya, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the slow slaughter of the remaining Palestinians, the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan ˆ with the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed ∑ these will never earn the title of terrorism, though civilians were the target and terrorising them was the purpose.

Counterinsurgency, now popular again among in the Pentagon, is another way of saying the suppression of national liberation struggles. Terror and intimidation are as essential to it as is winning hearts and minds.

Normative rules are determined by power relations. Those with power determine what is legal and illegal. They besiege the weak in legal prohibitions to prevent the weak from resisting. For the weak to resist is illegal by definition. Concepts like terrorism are invented and used normatively as if a neutral court had produced them, instead of the oppressors. The danger in this excessive use of legality actually undermines legality, diminishing the credibility of international institutions such as the United Nations. It becomes apparent that the powerful, those who make the rules, insist on legality merely to preserve the power relations that serve them or to maintain their occupation and colonialism.

Attacking civilians is the last, most desperate and basic method of resistance when confronting overwhelming odds and imminent eradication. The Palestinians do not attack Israeli civilians with the expectation that they will destroy Israel. The land of Palestine is being stolen day after day; the Palestinian people is being eradicated day after day. As a result, they respond in whatever way they can to apply pressure on Israel. Colonial powers use civilians strategically, settling them to claim land and dispossess the native population, be they Indians in North America or Palestinians in what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories. When the native population sees that there is an irreversible dynamic that is taking away their land and identity with the support of an overwhelming power, then they are forced to resort to whatever methods of resistance they can.

Not long ago, 19-year-old Qassem al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian man from Jerusalem drove his car into a group of soldiers at an intersection. "The terrorist", as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz called him, was shot and killed. In two separate incidents last July, Palestinians from Jerusalem also used vehicles to attack Israelis. The attackers were not part of an organisation. Although those Palestinian men were also killed, senior Israeli officials called for their homes to be demolished. In a separate incident, Haaretz reported that a Palestinian woman blinded an Israeli soldier in one eye when she threw acid n his face. "The terrorist was arrested by security forces," the paper said. An occupied citizen attacks an occupying soldier, and she is the terrorist?

In September, Bush spoke at the United Nations. No cause could justify the deliberate taking of human life, he said. Yet the US has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes on populated areas. When you drop bombs on populated areas knowing there will be some "collateral" civilian damage, but accepting it as worth it, then it is deliberate. When you impose sanctions, as the US did on Saddam era Iraq, that kill hundreds of thousands, and then say their deaths were worth it, as secretary of state Albright did, then you are deliberately killing people for a political goal. When you seek to "shock and awe", as president Bush did, when he bombed Iraq, you are engaging in terrorism.

Just as the traditional American cowboy film presented white Americans under siege, with Indians as the aggressors, which was the opposite of reality, so, too, have Palestinians become the aggressors and not the victims. Beginning in 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were deliberately cleansed and expelled from their homes, and hundreds of their villages were destroyed, and their land was settled by colonists, who went on to deny their very existence and wage a 60-year war against the remaining natives and the national liberation movements the Palestinians established around the world. Every day, more of Palestine is stolen, more Palestinians are killed. To call oneself an Israeli Zionist is to engage in the dispossession of entire people. It is not that, qua Palestinians, they have the right to use any means necessary, it is because they are weak. The weak have much less power than the strong, and can do much less damage. The Palestinians would not have ever bombed cafes or used home-made missiles if they had tanks and airplanes. It is only in the current context that their actions are justified, and there are obvious limits.

It is impossible to make a universal ethical claim or establish a Kantian principle justifying any act to resist colonialism or domination by overwhelming power. And there are other questions I have trouble answering. Can an Iraqi be justified in attacking the United States? After all, his country was attacked without provocation, and destroyed, with millions of refugees created, hundreds of thousands of dead. And this, after 12 years of bombings and sanctions, which killed many and destroyed the lives of many others.

I could argue that all Americans are benefiting from their country's exploits without having to pay the price, and that, in today's world, the imperial machine is not merely the military but a military-civilian network. And I could also say that Americans elected the Bush administration twice and elected representatives who did nothing to stop the war, and the American people themselves did nothing. From the perspective of an American, or an Israeli, or other powerful aggressors, if you are strong, everything you do is justifiable, and nothing the weak do is legitimate. It's merely a question of what side you choose: the side of the strong or the side of the weak.

Israel and its allies in the west and in Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have managed to corrupt the PLO leadership, to suborn them with the promise of power at the expense of liberty for their people, creating a first ˆ a liberation movement that collaborated with the occupier. Israeli elections are coming up and, as usual, these elections are accompanied by war to bolster the candidates. You cannot be prime minister of Israel without enough Arab blood on your hands. An Israeli general has threatened to set Gaza back decades, just as they threatened to set Lebanon back decades in 2006. As if strangling Gaza and denying its people fuel, power or food had not set it back decades already.

The democratically elected Hamas government was targeted for destruction from the day it won the elections in 2006. The world told the Palestinians that they cannot have democracy, as if the goal was to radicalise them further and as if that would not have a consequence. Israel claims it is targeting Hamas's military forces. This is not true. It is targeting Palestinian police forces and killing them, including some such as the chief of police, Tawfiq Jaber, who was actually a former Fatah official who stayed on in his post after Hamas took control of Gaza. What will happen to a society with no security forces? What do the Israelis expect to happen when forces more radical than Hamas gain power?

A Zionist Israel is not a viable long-term project and Israeli settlements, land expropriation and separation barriers have long since made a two state solution impossible. There can be only one state in historic Palestine. In coming decades, Israelis will be confronted with two options. Will they peacefully transition towards an equal society, where Palestinians are given the same rights, à la post-apartheid South Africa? Or will they continue to view democracy as a threat? If so, one of the peoples will be forced to leave. Colonialism has only worked when most of the natives have been exterminated. But often, as in occupied Algeria, it is the settlers who flee. Eventually, the Palestinians will not be willing to compromise and seek one state for both people. Does the world want to further radicalise them?

Do not be deceived: the persistence of the Palestine problem is the main motive for every anti-American militant in the Arab world and beyond. But now the Bush administration has added Iraq and Afghanistan as additional grievances. America has lost its influence on the Arab masses, even if it can still apply pressure on Arab regimes. But reformists and elites in the Arab world want nothing to do with America.

A failed American administration departs, the promise of a Palestinian state a lie, as more Palestinians are murdered. A new president comes to power, but the people of the Middle East have too much bitter experience of US administrations to have any hope for change. President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden and incoming secretary of state Hillary Clinton have not demonstrated that their view of the Middle East is at all different from previous administrations. As the world prepares to celebrate a new year, how long before it is once again made to feel the pain of those whose oppression it either ignores or supports?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Israeli blockade 'forces Palestinians to search rubbish dumps for food'

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/21/israel-gaza-strip-middle-east

UN fears irreversible damage is being done in Gaza as new statistics reveal the level of deprivation

* Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
* The Observer, Sunday 21 December 2008
* Article history

Impoverished Palestinians on the Gaza Strip are being forced to scavenge for food on rubbish dumps to survive as Israel's economic blockade risks causing irreversible damage, according to international observers.

Figures released last week by the UN Relief and Works Agency reveal that the economic blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza in July last year has had a devastating impact on the local population. Large numbers of Palestinians are unable to afford the high prices of food being smuggled through the Hamas-controlled tunnels to the Strip from Egypt and last week were confronted with the suspension of UN food and cash distribution as a result of the siege.

The figures collected by the UN agency show that 51.8% - an "unprecedentedly high" number of Gaza's 1.5 million population - are now living below the poverty line. The agency announced last week that it had been forced to stop distributing food rations to the 750,000 people in need and had also suspended cash distributions to 94,000 of the most disadvantaged who were unable to afford the high prices being asked for smuggled food.

"Things have been getting worse and worse," said Chris Gunness of the agency yesterday. "It is the first time we have been seeing people picking through the rubbish like this looking for things to eat. Things are particularly bad in Gaza City where the population is most dense.

"Because Gaza is now operating as a 'tunnel economy' and there is so little coming through via Israeli crossings, it is hitting the most disadvantaged worst."

Gunness also expressed concern about the state of Gaza's infrastructure, including its water and sewerage systems, which have not been maintained properly since Israel began blocking shipments of concrete into Gaza, warning of the risk of the spread of communicable diseases both inside and outside of Gaza.

"This is not a humanitarian crisis," he said. "This is a political crisis of choice with dire humanitarian consequences."

The revelations over the escalating difficulties inside Gaza were delivered a day after the end of the six-month ceasefire between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers, which had been brokered by Egypt in June, and follow warnings from the World Bank at the beginning of December that Gaza faced "irreversible" economic collapse.

The deteriorating conditions inside Gaza emerged as Tony Blair, Middle East envoy for the Quartet - US, Russia, the UN and the EU - warned explicitly yesterday that Israel's policy of economic blockade, which had been imposed a year and a half ago when Hamas took power on the Gaza Strip, was reinforcing rather than undermining the party's hold on power. In an interview in the Israeli newspaper Haartez, Blair warned that the collapse of Gaza's legitimate economy under the impact of the blockade, while harming Gaza's businessmen and ordinary people, had allowed the emergence of an alternative system based on smuggling through the Hamas-controlled tunnels. Hamas "taxed" the goods smuggled through the tunnels.

It was because of this that Blair wrote to Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, earlier this month demanding that Israel permit the transfer of cash into Gaza from the West Bank to prop up the legitimate economy.

"The present situation is not harming Hamas in Gaza but it is harming the people," Blair said yesterday. Calling for a change in policy over Gaza, he added: "I don't think that the current situation is sustainable; I think most people who would analyse it think the same."

Blair's comments came as an Israeli air strike against a rocket squad killed a Palestinian militant yesterday, the first Gaza death since Hamas formally declared an end to a six-month truce with Israel.

Also yesterday, a boat carrying a Qatari delegation, Lebanese activists and journalists from Israel and Lebanon sailed into Gaza City's small port in defiance of a border blockade. It was the fifth such boat trip since the summer. The two Qatari citizens aboard the Dignity are from the government-funded Qatar Authority for Charitable Activities.

"We are here to represent the Qatar government and people," said delegation member Aed al-Kahtani. "We will look into the needs of our brothers in Gaza, and find out what is the most appropriate way to bring in aid."

The arrival of the delegation reflects the growing anger in the Arab world over the Gaza siege, directed at Israel but also at Egypt, which has allowed the border crossings at the southern end of the Strip to remain sealed.

On Friday, thousands of people joined a rally in Beirut organised by Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah movement against Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Addressing the Beirut crowd, Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Kassem called on Arab and Islamic governments to act to help lift the Gaza blockade, and urged Egypt to take an "historic stance" by opening its border crossing with Gaza.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shoes Thrown in Iraq

by Najlaa A. Al-Nashi, with Noah Baker Merrill

It was only a few seconds -- the shoes were flying toward President Bush, and with them a huge insult in Iraqi tradition.

You may have heard the news that an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at the American president, but as an Iraqi I'd like to share with you a few details about the journalist, and why he did that.

Muntather Al-Zaidi, the journalist mentioned in the reports, is 28 years old. He is from the Southern city of Nasiriyah, and lives in Baghdad. He works for the Egyptian-owned Al-Baghdadiya channel, but he is Iraqi.

Muntather is well-known among those who know him as being against the occupation. Several months ago, he promised his brother that, if he was ever selected to interview President Bush, he would throw his shoes at him as a sign of his outrage and opposition to Bush's role in the suffering of his people and the destruction of his country. At the time, his brother thought it was nothing more than words spoken in an angry moment.

Muntather's last reporting assignment, which ran last month, was an investigation of the conditions for Iraqi widows and orphans. As a result of three wars, the rule of a dictator, devastating sanctions, and a disastrous occupation, it is estimated that 5 million children are without at least one of their parents and there are 1.5 million widows. As he prepared this report, he was deeply impacted by what he saw, and he can be seen crying in the film that was broadcast in Iraq.

Now let's have a look at what's going on in Iraq, and how these events are viewed among Iraqis:
At Baghdad University and Al Mustansiriya University, students have refused to study or attend classes. Instead, they are protesting and asking for the release of Muntather by Iraqi security forces.

From all over the world, Iraqis are sending messages thanking Muntather and his family for their son's message. In TV interviews and with phone calls, Iraqis are expressing their support of his actions.

Many Iraqis inside and outside their country are saying that "for each action there is a reaction". Bush hurt everyone, they say, and so why is he surprised when he is met with an angry and insulting response on behalf of the people of Iraq?

In Iraq, the traditional community is deeply rooted in tribal relationships. Whether Sunni or Shi'ite (and some tribes contain members of both sects), in Iraqi tradition if a member of a tribe takes an action or is in trouble, members of his tribe will represent him and will be responsible for supporting him. But in Muntather's case, tribal leaders from throughout Iraq, from the North to South and from East to West, have claimed him as their son. They have said that they want him released safe and sound, offering to pay whatever fine the government will set for him.

Muntather's actions have, for these days, united Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians. It united Iraqis as Iraqis. And it only took a few seconds. Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders have publicly asked that Muntather not be referred to using his tribal affiliation (Muntather Al-Zaidi), because they believe his tribal affiliation now encompasses all the tribes of Iraq: They've asked for him to be referred to as "Muntather Al-Iraqi" (Muntather the Iraqi). At the same time, the tribal leaders have said that they hope it is now clear that they have only one enemy -- the occupation of Iraq.

The Iraqi response shows clearly that Muntather's actions have triggered a deep release in Iraqi society. It gives an indication to the outside world how much so many Iraqis oppose the occupation and the ongoing presence of foreign troops in their country, but have been without a voice that cut through the walls of silence and the filtered mainstream media.

It is important to be clear that this action by a single man does not arise from his role as a journalist, or from some specific incident or time in his life. It comes from an Iraqi man who, like all of his people, has suffered greatly from occupation, from the actions of mercenaries like those employed by Blackwater Worldwide, from the torture of Iraqis by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere, and from the sectarian violence that the occupation has cultivated, fueled, and allowed to thrive. Muntather himself was kidnapped a few months ago, though thankfully he was released alive.

Now let's stop to analyze the situation. Why do so many Iraqis consider Muntather "their son", and why are they calling him a hero? Why are people printing his photo and distributing it in many parts of Iraq as a symbol to promote Iraqi courage and freedom?

His actions expressed the same anger and pain they feel. But his actions gave it a voice, and in that one small action he lit a spark in them that reminds them of their history and their dignity. His symbolic act of protest told the whole story, cutting through the carefully constructed image that has been built by Bush and his supporters since they defied the UN and the world to invade and occupy Iraq.

Getting back to responses:
More than 200 Iraqi and Arab lawyers have volunteered to defend him in Iraqi courts, if they are given that opportunity.

One Iraqi businessman signed a blank check and called on Munthather to make it out for any amount, as long as the businessman could receive the shoes that Muthather threw. Another man from Saudi Arabia offered 10 million dollars for the shoes.

Muntather's nephew is about 6 years old. He was shown on video carrying another pair of his uncle's shoes, and he told Al-Baghdadiya Channel that he was prepared to throw this second pair of shoes, too, if they wouldn't release his uncle.

In Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, there have been strong expressions of support, including protests and celebrations.

Many Iraqis are saying that the situation in Iraq now is like it was before the revolution in 1920, which threw out the British occupying forces. They're saying that Muntather might be a spark for a new revolution in his country. In recent days, there have been protests all over Iraq asking for Muntather's release. Crowds in Najaf threw shoes at occupying forces. The streets of Iraq are filled with anger as people learn that Muntather has been beaten and tortured while in the custody of US-supported Iraqi forces.

Yesterday in Jordan, a good Iraqi friend of mine got into a taxi cab. For Iraqi refugees in Jordan, riding in a cab often means insults, scorn, and disdain from Jordanians and Palestinians unhappy to have so many Iraqis seeking refuge in their country. But this time, it was different. The cab driver treated her with respect. Recognizing her Iraqi accent, he said he'd take her anywhere she wanted to go, and he would do it with pleasure, because she was one of the "shoe throwers".

His case is not just a personal case -- it is a national concern. Yesterday parliament had a meeting to help in releasing him. The news yesterday was that within two days he would likely be released, after having paid the fine for his actions under Iraqi law -- 200 Iraqi dinars, or, after the catastrophic collapse of the Iraqi economy in recent years, less than twenty US cents.

Today, though, the situation remains tense, and has worsened. The Iraqi government says he will likely have to serve 7-15 years in jail, with no possibility of paying a fine to be released. But in spite of this news, it does seem as if they will have to release him soon. If they don't, they risk losing the tenuous control they have in many parts of Iraq. Muntather's actions could serve as a spark bringing Iraqis to unite to oppose the occupation and the US-supported government. Anyone who knows Iraqi history knows very well what the anger of the tribes can do.

Before the British were thrown out of Iraq in 1920, there was a recently-signed agreement on the status of occupying forces in the country. Under the pressure of a sustained national uprising opposing foreign occupation, the troops left far sooner than the British occupiers had hoped. It may well be that the agreement that Bush and Nouri Al-Maliki signed just before the "moment of the shoes" will fail before 2011, following the same course. Many Iraqis today hope so.

Meanwhile, Muntather is still in jail, where he has suffered serious injuries, including what are likely a broken hand and arm, an injury to his eye, and possibly to his legs. Today there were protests in many of Iraq's governorates demanding his release.

I remember, in the early days of 2003, it was said that invading US troops would be "greeted with flowers". No one said anything about how Iraqis would say farewell to Bush and his occupation.

Please take a moment to sign this petition demanding Muntather's immediate release from Iraqi security forces:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/montather/?e

Thank you!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Leftist U.S. Jewish group backs Israelis who shun IDF enlistment

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1047644.html

By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent

Presumably this initiative will not be welcomed with open arms in Israel, but a group of American Jews has launched a campaign in support of conscientious objectors who refuse mandatory conscription into the Israel Defense Forces.

Supporters of the refuseniks plan on staging a protest near the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, where they hope to deliver 20,000 letters from Diaspora Jews backing the initiative to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Some of the letters were written from supporters of the left-wing group "Jewish Voice for Peace," who contributed video testimony from some of the conscientious objectors who explained the reason for their positions in English.

Although most American Jews are politically aligned with the liberal left, IDF service is generally viewed as an unassailable duty. Thus, officially there has never been a concentrated effort to lobby Israelis to evade conscription.

The Jewish Voice for Peace has recruited actor Ed Asner, historian and author Howard Zinn, and folk singer Ronnie Gilbert to the cause.

"The recent election of anti-war candidate Barack Obama , who by the way received some 80% of the Jewish vote, was evidence of the American people's disenchantment with war and occupation," said Cecilie Surasky, the communications director for Jewish Voice for Peace. "Seven years and untold lives and dollars later, there is almost total agreement in the US that our venture in Iraq has been an unqualified disaster."

"I am an old-time peace activist," Gilbert said. "I have marched and pleaded against the cruel occupation for years. The presence of the Shministim (the Hebrew term for Israeli youths who refuse IDF enlistment) makes me ashamed of sometimes feeling that Israel will never change. You are the change."

"I've been thinking a lot about courage," Zinn, the controversial scholar, wrote in his letter. "Right now, while I'm snug and fed this Thanksgiving holiday in the comfort of my home, halfway around the world a group of teenagers is sitting in a jail cell today, demonstrating the very definition of courage and sacrifice. It's frustrating. Humbling. And I'm damn glad to have the chance to do something big about it."


----

Hebrew: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1047949.html [the Hebrew contains more than the information furnished by the English report; the Hebrew appears to be a later version, and includes a picture of this evening's demonstration.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The emerging bi-national reality

Encountering Peace: The emerging bi-national reality
Dec. 15, 2008 Gershon Baskin

THE JERUSALEM POST

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellitecid=1228728209241&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

Palestinian affairs expert and longtime journalist Danny Rubenstein came to visit me a couple of evenings ago. He was researching the issue of the transfer of cash to Gaza that Defense Minister Barak had allowed. After clarifying this issue our conversation went on to discuss what Danny called the emerging "bi-national reality" that has developed in the West Bank and has become more entrenched, perhaps beyond the point of no return. Danny is one of the real experts. He's been covering Palestinian affairs since 1967, has written several highly respected books on Palestinians, their national movement and leaders. He has contacts in every part of Palestine, with all sectors of the society. His conclusion concerning the "bi- national reality" is drawn from observations over the past months after traveling north, south, east and west - all throughout the West Bank, spending hours listening to people and observing the reality on the ground.

I told Danny that I am not ready to give up the hope that our leaders will find the wisdom and the courage to implement the "two-state solution" before it is too late. In my heart, I had to wonder if Danny wasn't right. Perhaps it is already too late. Perhaps the events of Hebron, of the forced removal of the settlers from the building that they claim and the riots that broke out afterwards when they went on the rampage against Palestinians in Hebron demonstrates in the most bloody terms that these two communities might be too locked into a entanglement that is already beyond the possibility to untangle.

IT IS not only Hebron that might be impossible to disembroil. The settlement enterprise has implanted about 500,000 Israeli Jews (including greater Jerusalem) beyond the Green Line in the occupied territories. Along with those settlers in their segregated communities comes a whole system of infrastructure, roads, public transportation, water, sewage, post offices, police and more. Although the entire area is essentially controlled by Israel, there are two entirely separate systems of governance and the provision of services, but in reality, Israel controls it all. The Palestinian Authority is little more than a "puppet" government and President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are essentially little more than mayors. In principle it might be possible to separate the two systems; in reality it may actually be impossible. When one wanders around the West Bank the question of how Israel will ever withdraw itself from all of those settlements is a natural one to ask. Any acceptable future border between a State of Palestine and the State of Israel with the Palestinians accepting the principle of a minor land swap of about 3 percent of the West Bank will mean that Israel will have to remove about 100 settlements with at least 80,000 settlers. Part of the solution could be in the proposed legislation for voluntary resettlement and compensation. Some of the settlers might agree to move from their settlement to another settlement within the Israeli annexed areas that will remain in "Judea and Samaria." A large number of settlers will not cooperate at all.

The Gaza disengagement provides one model whereby the Israeli police and army physically removed the settlers from their homes. In principle, that could work, but will the settlers resort only to non-violent resistance? What would happen if the settlers took up arms against those coming to remove them? What would happen if there was more wide-spread refusal on the part of soldiers to remove them? Even before the stage when the government has to remove the settlers, what if there is simply no Israeli leader or a parliamentary majority willing to make the territorial compromise necessary for peace with the Palestinians? Tzipi Livni negotiated with the Palestinians for a whole year. She was unsuccessful at reaching an agreement, and she had the political will to do it. What will happen if it is Binyamin Netanyahu is on the Israeli side of the table "negotiating" with the Palestinians? Will he have the political will to reach a peace agreement based on real territorial concessions? Will he be able to enable the Palestinians to establish their capital in East Jerusalem? Without this there is no peace agreement.

The Palestinians negotiated with Livni because they honestly believed that it might be possible to reach an agreement with her. There is absolutely no belief on the Palestinian side that Netanyahu, with a right-wing religious parties-backed coalition will be able or willing to negotiate anything of substance with them. Netanyahu's "economy first" plan is a non-starter for the Palestinians. They have lost hope with false promises. They know from experience of years that there can be no real Palestinian economy that is under occupation. The needs of the occupier will always come before the needs of the Palestinian population and the Palestinian economy will always be subservient to perceived Israeli economic interests and to Israeli security prerogatives. Palestinians are not going to give up their national struggle so that they can have a few more dollars, euros or shekels in their pockets. You cannot buy people's personal or national dignity. The Zionist movement in pre-State days would have never given in to some British ploy to improve our economic lot in lieu of our national rights for independence and sovereignty. The Palestinians are no different from us in that respect. They will not give up their freedom for money. They will not end their struggle because Netanyahu tells them that they should build their economy before they get their national rights. If there is no real peace, there will be real violence.

THE PALESTINIAN desire for independence and sovereignty will not be broken, but it will evolve. There are two separate and clear evolutions of the Palestinian national movement taking place. One is Gaza. Islamic fundamentalism is a clear direction of evolution of the Palestinian national dream. The hope for a better reality is transformed into the hope of a better future, even if it means in the afterlife. The bottom line is not to give into Israel or to the West, to maintain hard-line firm positions cushioned by blind faith in an omnipotent Allah whose plan we cannot understand but we know that he is on own side.

The other evolution is the secular answer of the Palestinian intellectuals. They say: "The two-state solution is no longer viable - not by our choice, but by the choice of the 'Zionists' who chose settlement and occupation over logic." Palestinian intellectuals, including the very same people who led the Palestinian national movement to support the two state solution, have now turned back to the bi-national plan. They are not naïve enough to believe that Israel will accept the bi-national reality that it has created. They know that Israel will continue to hold onto the occupation and to keep the local Palestinian population under its guns and control. They know that the price of accepting the bi-national option is continued struggle which will more than likely be much bloodier than anything we have seen until now.

IT IS hard to imagine that there are Israelis who actually believe that this totally unequal reality is sustainable. But there are. There are perhaps millions of them in Israel today, and they are probably going to vote for the Likud. With Netanyahu at the helm and without a course to steer that leads towards sincere negotiations with the Palestinians on all of the core issues, including Jerusalem, the chances for reaching a two-state solution will rapidly fade away and in its face will come, without a doubt, the bi-national reality, either in its secular form or in its Hamas form.

The international community will respond quickly. It may take the US longer because the hope for the two-state solution will linger longer across the ocean, even with a president who should be super sensitive to blatant discrimination. The bi-national reality will be brutal because by accepting it the Palestinians will not be acquiescing to the status quo. There is nothing about the status quo that will be acceptable or that can be acceptable. If the secular evolution endures, the Palestinians will launch and international struggle for full democracy - one person one vote for everyone living between the river and the sea. Once the two-state solution is no longer viable, and with the election of Netanyahu we will rapidly approach that moment, the dream of a democratic Jewish state will be lost. The international community, even Israel's best friends, will not be able to accept the bi-national reality where the Jewish people completely control the lives of millions of Palestinians who no longer want independence in their own state. The Palestinians will demand democracy, civil rights, the right to vote, the right to be elected, the right for representation, the right to change the character of the bi-national state. They will never agree to some form of counterfeit freedom called "economic peace" or "autonomy." Netanyahu and Feiglin and their friends can dream on.

If the secular evolution does not endure, Hamas will rise and then the security of the entire region, even east of the Jordan River and to our south across Sinai into Egypt, will be threatened.

The end of Zionism is in sight brought to us by the very hands that created the bi-national reality on the ground in the name of Zionism. This does not have to be the course that we take. But that decision will be made by us on February 10, 2009.

The writer is Co-CEO of IPCRI - the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information.