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Category Archives: Government Oppression
Posted: December 13, 2019 at 3:06 pm
India shut down the internet in the state of Assam on Thursday, after citizens took to the streets to protest a controversial new citizenship rule. Its the latest example of a worrying worldwide trend: cutting online access to control the people.
The news: On Wednesday, Indias government approved the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which creates a path for citizenship for minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (but not for the countrys Muslim minority). In the state of Assam, where residents have long been unhappy about immigration from nearby Bangladesh, protesters set fire to train stations. The government sent in troops and shut down the internet, according to CNN.
Whats the big deal? In an increasingly connected world, shutdowns are a way to stop protest and are considered by many to be one of the defining tools of government oppression in the modern age. In 2016, the United Nations condemned internet shutdowns as a violation of human rights and freedom of expression. Notably, countries like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and India had suggested amendments to this resolution.
Growing problem: Internet shutdowns are also becoming more common. According to the group Internet Shutdowns, which tracks shutdowns in India specifically, there were three when it started in 2012. This year there were 89, more than in any year except 2018, when there were 134. Worldwide, the numbers dont look much better. The digital rights group Access Now has tracked internet shutdowns since 2016. According to its 2018 report, the most recent one available, the numbers are on the rise: from 75 shutdowns in 2016 to 196 in 2018. India continues to lead the pack.
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Posted: at 3:06 pm
A funny thing happened to the House on its way to impeachment. It got lost.
It happened a long time ago. Despite the unusual focus of impeachment on the role of Congress, it highlights just how irrelevant the national legislature has otherwise become.
In the congressional conflict with President Trump, its leaders stress that the House and Senate were placed in Article I of the Constitution for a reason. In a government with three co-equal branches, the legislative branch is really most important.
The House majority disputes Trumps objections to impeachment, reminding him that the Constitution gives the House the sole power of impeachment. This congressional power provides no role for the president.
In reality, among the three branches of government legislative, executive and judicial Congress may have the least power. Compared with the executive, it obviously comes in second.
Shedding oppression by the British king, the drafters of the Constitution sought to ensure control of the federal government would not be exercised by one person but by legislators representing the states and the people. Hence, Article I.
But they were overly optimistic. Three of the countrys greatest presidents would deal with challenges that increased their powers. Washington was empowered to create the federal executive. Lincoln led the country to save the Union. F.D. Roosevelt rallied the nation to reform the failing economy and win a world war.
Even without those events, central control of the military and foreign affairs in the worlds major power made a strong executive inevitable.
The country spread across a continent. At the same time, managing public affairs became more complex as government dealt with matters ranging from race relations to railroads. Congress increasingly delegated its powers to the president.
Gradually, the executive did more than carry out congressional decisions. Congress became dependent on it, granting it broad rulemaking powers.
In recent decades, Congress has also allowed the Supreme Court to make legislative decisions. Because the legislative body either passes unclear and conditional laws or doesnt pass them at all, the Court often fills the gap.
Take the abortion issue as an example. While federal law bans spending for abortions, it fails to define rights or limits, if any, for the procedure. In filling this gap, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Roe v. Wade. The matter was settled, perhaps tentatively, by nine justices, not by the elected Congress.
Strict party allegiance and the resulting partisanship promote executive power. Parties in Congress back, almost blindly, presidents of their own party.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell wont allow votes on major bills unless he is assured of White House support. Ceding all power to the president, the Senate has given up the role of an independent legislature.
What about Maine? Gov. Paul LePage set the record for vetoes, even rejecting bills passed with huge majorities or even unanimously. After the Legislature received a LePage veto, Republicans would often reverse their previous support for the bill and sustain their governors position to kill it.
Public opinion rates Congress even less favorably than the president. Compared with the president, members of Congress, whose prime focus is gaining re-election, seem to take little action. In part, that appearance results from the media focus on the president, easier to cover than Congress.
During the unusual House exercise of its unique power of impeachment, the favorability rating of Congress has increased. While that rating gain may be heavily partisan, it recognizes a rare moment of congressional action. The people probably want more.
To recover power, Congress could pass simple and unconditional legislative directives, not leaving it to the executive branch to fill in the blanks. It should decide tough issues and not leave them to the courts. Both take hard work and resistance to special interests.
It could strip power from congressional leaders and recover it for members, who would be less straitjacketed by party discipline. After all, voters elect legislators, not political robots whose main task may be campaign fundraising.
Gordon L. Weil formerly wrote for the Washington Post and other newspapers, served on the U.S. Senate and EU staffs, headed Maine state agencies and was a Harpswell selectman.
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Posted: at 3:06 pm
As I was wandering through the West Acres mall recently, I was reminded of the old expression: It's that time of year again. The time to overspend on Christmas presents, the time to overindulge on food and drink during our holiday gatherings, and also the time to enjoy catching up with old friends and distant relatives. Yes, it is a time of holiday cheer. Now, what could possibly dampen this feeling of joy and happiness that we experience during this time of year?
I could say the Bison losing in the FCS playoffs or minus 50 wind chill, but we can handle that. No, what really puts a sour taste in my eggnog these days is another issue we are dealing with. It is the time of year for presidential campaigns and the ongoing soap opera now taking place in Washington. You can't even watch the news, anymore, without being inundated with all this impeachment garbage. Some have argued that Donald Trump is primarily responsible for all the division going on right now in our country, but those who want to blame Trump are missing the big picture.
Politics is sometimes called the battle of ideas, and we should expect some disagreements along the way among honest people with good intentions. However, what's missing these days is common ground. There is a new civil war brewing in this country and the American people will be asked to choose in future elections between two philosophies.
Do you think, as our Founding Fathers did, that rightsincluding your own property earned by your own laborcome from the inherent value of individual persons(not government) and must be protected from government? Or, do you reject that foundational American idea and instead think rights can be manufactured (and removed) by government for whatever it deems to be the greater good? No less than the American ideal is at stake.
But, some will say, it's that time of year. Can't we just stop all this arguing and fighting over Trump and have a little peace during this holiday season? Yes, of course. I would like to live in a country that allows everyone the freedom to worship their particular religious faith without fear of government oppression. Oh, wait! We already do. Freedom of religion is listed in the Bill of Rights, which is part of the Constitution of the United States. The left in the Democrat party, however, seem intent on destroying the inherent principles found within the Constitution, all while paying lip service to it.
Now, for Christians, this time of the year is referred to as the season of Advent. The word advent means "arrival." Christians understand that the only true peace on earth is achieved through the forgiveness of sins, hence the need for a Savior. That is why, during this holiday season, we have come to worship that Holy Child of God, who was born in Bethlehem, and anxiously await his second coming. With one voice, we all declare: Maranatha.
Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Come soon!
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Posted: at 3:06 pm
TURKEYS opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) released a shocking report this week detailing the scale of oppression it has faced, with more than 15,000 members detained since 2015.
The partys Reports on Violations of Rights for 2019 showed that 1,674 HDP members and officials were detained during operations this year and 200 of them jailed.
The party released its findings to mark international Human Rights Week, with a statement warning: Turkey is nearing 2020 as a country where human rights are disregarded.
At least 15,530 people have been detained, of whom 6,000 have been jailed, since the HDP won its first seat in the Turkish parliament in 2015.
Operations against the HDP have intensified this year, with authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angry at being humiliated in municipal elections.
His handpicked candidate in the controversially rerun Istanbul mayoral election, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, lost by more than 800,000 votes to oppositioncandidate Ekrem Imamoglu of the Kemalist Republican Peoples Party (CHP).
Mr Erdogans ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) also lost control of the capital Ankara and failed to win in Turkeys third-largest city Izmir, a CHP stronghold.
The state responded by moving against the HDP, removing elected mayors in Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces on August 19. They were replaced by government-appointed trustees.
Since then, the report states, 17 HDP co-mayors have been jailed as the government has taken control of more than 28 HDP-run municipalities.
Former party co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas are being held hostage as political prisoners having been held in jail since the state detained HDP MPs in a series of raids in November 2016.
One of the heaviest sentences was handed down to HDP MP for Diyarbakir Idris Baluken, who received 16 years and eight months in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges.
The HDP was established in 2012, bringing together a broad coalition of Turkish and Kurdish left organisations, including the Peace and Democracy Party, Green-Left and the Socialist Party of the Oppressed.
It was born out of the Peoples Democracy Congress, whose participants also included labour movement organisations such as the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey.
From its inception, the party attempted to build a bridge to overcome the Turkish-Kurdish divide.
It tested its electoral programme for the first time in the 2014 local elections and presidential election, when its candidate Mr Demirtas polled nearly 10 per cent of the national vote.
But it has faced increased pressure from the Turkish state, including the killing of supporters, as the government tries to silence opposition.
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Posted: at 3:06 pm
On the midnight hour of August 14, 1947, India set out on its post-colonial journey to build a sovereign secular democratic republic, sanctified in an elaborately-written Constitution, which became the pride of the nation.
Over seven decades later, when the republic should have mellowed with age and the wisdom that came with it, on the midnight of December 9, India took a step backward, seriously undermining the secular character of the republic. Parliament passed a Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) offering citizenship to refugees of all faiths, except Muslims, fleeing oppression in neighbouring countries.
Why has this happened? The RSS, the ruling BJPs ideological elder, provides some answers through the action plan it lays down. According to a report in one leading business daily, quoting a person in the know, the RSS wants committed centrally-appointed facilitators and the rollout of the pan-Indian National Register of Citizens (NRC) monitored by the Centre on a day-to-day basis in non-BJP ruled States, particularly West Bengal, to prevent undercounting of Hindu immigrants because the State government wants to prove a point.
This is strange, because the State government has given enough indications recently that it is courting the Hindu vote as much as the Muslim vote (recall the move to allow Chhat Puja to be celebrated at Kolkatas Rabindra Sarobar, despite the Pollution Control Boards orders).
An RSS functionary also referred to Hindus in Bangladesh being unable to come to India because of the Nehru-Liaquat Ali pact, despite the fact that millions have done so post-Partition. By all accounts, those who have remained in Bangladesh are at peace and their proportion in the population has gone up in recent years, according to what Sushma Swaraj told Parliament. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has around herself a number of trusted Hindu civil servants in important positions.
A declared aim of the RSS is to confer citizenship rights to the Namashudras, who are referred to by the functionary as our Dalit brothers and are described as suffering in West Bengal. The treatment of Dalits and Muslims in Bengal needs to be put in historical perspective. Large numbers of lower caste Hindus in Bengal converted to Islam not forcefully, but at their own volition to escape the caste systems oppression and in response to the love and affection extended by Sufi teachers.
Large numbers of mazaars (graves) of Sufi peers dot the two Bengals, which people of all faiths come to visit. Out of consideration for the sentiments of the Hindu visitors, many of these places of pilgrimage do not serve beef in the free meals they offer. Ideology apart, the decision to promptly bring in the CAB resulted from one unforeseen consequence of the final version of the Assam NRC. Many of the 1.9 million whose names were excluded were non-Muslims. To overcome this, the BJP government decided to amend the Citizenship Act first to confer citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants who have come in till 2014, and then roll out the NRC across the country. This will help include all those wrongly left out of the Assam NRC.
The RSS wants the procedure for the pan-Indian NRC to be simple. This is a hard-learnt lesson from the fiasco in Assam, which has resulted in an electoral setback for the BJP. It recently lost all the three West Bengal by-elections. In one constituency , Kaliagunj, the Rajbangshis, an ethnic Hindu community who constituted a majority of the electorate, voted for the Trinamool as they were aggrieved by many of their brethren in Assam being left out of the NRC.
The procedure for the pan-Indian NRC rollout is likely to be fraught. Poor people who may have migrated from one part of the country to another will often not have the necessary paperwork to prove their citizenship. Even when they do, there is every chance that petty officialdom from across the counter will harass them. The whole exercise can become a source of corruption, where the poor paying for it.
The final contradiction is that there is an agitation by students across the North-East against the CAB, when they should be among its foremost proponents. The Bill and the NRC go hand in hand. But when the final result of the Assam NRC went haywire and was disowned by the students, as many non-Muslims found themselves missing from it, the Central government has tried to rectify the situation by amending the Citizenship Act.
The revised Citizenship Act offers citizenship to all non-Muslims who came in till 2014, while the NRC a product of the Assam Accord allowed citizenship to all those who came in up to 1971. This extension will confer citizenship to a whole section of Bengali Hindus, which will affect the linguistic and ethnic character of the State. So the Assam students who have played a role in both the NRC and the CAB, have disowned both!
The writer is a senior journalist
Posted: at 3:06 pm
A Brussels court ordered the Belgian government on Thursday to help bring 10 children of Belgian nationality born in Syria to Daesh foreign fighters back to Belgium.
The children, ranging between the ages of 7 months and 7 years, must be brought to Belgium within six weeks, the court said. They are now at the al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, which is under the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units' (YPG) control.
Last month, a Belgian human rights group announced that five babies of Belgian descent passed away in the YPG camps due to negligence.
Speaking to Belgium's De Morgen daily, the director of the Child Focus human rights group said the horrible conditions in the camps alone were more than enough to cause the death of the children.
Having visited the camps with a child psychologist a number of times, Heidi De Pauw stated that thousands of people were trying to survive without their most basic needs being met.
If the government does not comply by providing consular assistance and administrative documents for the children, it will be fined 5,000 euros ($5,511) per child per day, the court said.
Belgium's justice minister, Koen Geens, told public radio the government was ready to take back the children as long as it did not have to take in their mothers as well.
Last month the court requested that the government take back within 75 days a woman whose husband fought for Daesh and her two children.
The camps are a holding place for civilians who escaped the conflict between the Daesh terrorist group in Deir el-Zour, along with the families of former Daesh members who surrendered and captured terrorists. Most of the civilians were forcefully brought to the camps by the YPG in April 2017, according to reports.
Several human rights organizations and the United Nations have repeatedly warned that conditions in the al-Hol camp are worsening each day and have demanded access to the centers where the families of former Daesh members are being held. According to the U.N., there are currently some 73,000 people held in the camp, 92% of who are women and children and 15% foreign nationals. The inhumane conditions in al-Hol are only one aspect of the YPG's atrocities, as the group has been accused of various human rights violations, from child recruitment to oppression of local people's customs and ways of life.
The issue of the handling of Daesh members and their families detained in Syria, including foreign members of the terror group, has been controversial, with Turkey arguing foreign-born terrorists should be repatriated to their countries of origin. Last month Turkey started to deport foreign fighters it captured in anti-terror operations at home and abroad to their countries of origin. Western countries are mostly hesitant to accept citizens who joined the Daesh terrorist group in Syria.
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Posted: at 3:06 pm
1.Embracing Mexican Traditions in a Church Founded for Italian Immigrants
Call it an American melting pot or pozole, a traditional Mexican soup, or cioppino, an Italian-American fishermans stew Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx welcomes worshippers from more than a dozen nations.
2.The Christian Withdrawal Experiment
Feeling out of step with the mores of contemporary life, members of a conservative-Catholic group have built a thriving community in rural Kansas. Could their flight from mainstream society be a harbinger for the nation?
3.Kindness Criminalized at the Border
The evening before an Arizona jury decided the fate of Scott Warren, who was charged with a felony for harboring and assisting "illegal aliens," people of faith from around the country gathered in Tucson to show their support. After two hours of deliberation, the jury found Warren not guilty.
4.Greta Thunberg Is TIMEs 2019 Person of the Year
The climate activist has succeeded in turning vague anxieties about the planet into a worldwide movement calling for global change.
5.My Country Stole the Dreams of Carlos Hernandez Vasquez
Too often, we discuss immigration as if migrants were objects, not subjects in their own journey. Individual stories disappear into the rhetoric of tens of thousands, retreating into statistics deadening numb.
6.Fox News Is Now a Threat to National Security
The networks furthering of lies from foreign adversaries and flagrant disregard for the truth have gotten downright dangerous.
7.Misusing Romans 13 to Embrace Theocracy
The gospel is ultimately a message of following Jesus, not passively cowing to a government.
8.Jewish Groups React to Trump's Plan to Designate Judaism as a Nationality
'Trump has never cared about stopping antisemitism this executive order is about silencing Palestinians and the people who speak up with them'
9.Migrants Form Community on the Steps of a Moroccan Church
The European Union has pressured Morocco to curb migration in recent years. Since 2014, they have committed to disbursing 232 million for migration-related support. But as funding has increased, so has the violence of law enforcement.
10.This North Carolina Church Is Doing Something Radical: Paying Off Peoples Debts
Jubilee Baptist is a quasi-socialist, anti-racist, LGBTQ-affirming church conducting a bold experiment: focusing on debt, work, and freedom from oppression instead of fear and moralism.
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Posted: at 3:06 pm
It has recently beenannouncedthat a confidential trove of government documents obtained byThe Washington Postreveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.Fascinating, of course, but the underlying message is that lying and deception continue and not only as regards the Afghan war catastrophe.
For months Western media outlets have been retailing stories about riots in Hong Kong. With lip-smacking relish there have been suchreportsas On October 1, Chinas National Day, the first live round to hit a protester was fired by riot police pursued by protesters in the distant suburb of Tsuen Wan.Unfortunately for the anti-China zealots in the US and Europe there were no deaths of rioting students, except one who fellfrom a parking garage during a police dispersal operation . . . escalating tensions between police and the public that have been increasingly strained over the months of worsening violence. The two incidents in which rioters were shot by policemen made Western headlines.
On October 15 the US House of Representativesvoted unanimouslyfor a Bill that addresses Hong Kongs status under US law and imposes sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong and on November 16 the Senatemovedto expedite passage of a bill that would open a path to sanctions against those seen to be eroding freedoms in the Chinese territory.
(On November 29 the BBCreportedthat when Hong Kong police entered the Polytechnic University they found 3,989 petrol bombs; 1,339 explosive items; 601 bottles of corrosive liquids; and 573 weapons but there will be no criticism by Congress about this arsenal.US legislators apparently consider that petrol bombs intended to incinerate policemen do not violate human rights, providing they are thrown by those in mobs rioting against China.)
US domestic legislation criticizing China is gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, but Washingtons finest are curiously selective about the countries they want to punish.Given the size of the majority votes in both Houses, President Trump had no option but tosignthe bill into law on November 27, thereby further complicating US-China relations and failing to benefit one single US citizen.
In the same period as the Hong Kong riots there was continued chaos in Iraq, not only involving the usual barbaric violence of car bombs and drive-by shootings, but extending to slaughter of civilian demonstrators by military forces. On November 25 it wasreportedthat Thirteen anti-government protesters have been killed by Iraqi security forces in one of the worst days of clashes in the countrys south.Demonstrators outraged by rampant government corruption and poor services burned tires and blocked main road arteries. Seven protesters were killed in the southern province of Basra when Iraqi authorities used live fire and tear gas to disperse them, security and hospital officials said.
Strangely, there wasnt a word of protest about the Iraq carnage from any of those in Washington who are so supportive of human rights, although US legislators had been extremely vocal about the Hong Kong riots, with, for example, Republican Senator Marco Rubiodeclaringon November 19 that the anti-China Bill is an important step in holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kongs eroding autonomy and human rights violations.He was echoed by Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer whoberatedPresident Xi and told him that You cannot be a great leader and you cannot be a great country when you oppose freedom, when you are so brutal to the people of Hong Kong, young and old, who are protesting.
Then on November 27, the day Trump signed the anti-China Bill into law, the US military issued astatementthatChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley met with Iraqi Joint Headquarters Chief of Staff General Othman Al-Ghanimi today in Baghdad, Iraq. The senior leaders discussed the vital strategic partnership between the US and Iraq and the current security environment throughout the Middle East. The partnership between the United States and Iraq is a crucial element to peace and security in the Middle East region.
While the Generals were discussing security, Reutersreportedthat Iraqi forces shot dead more demonstrators. In the holy city of Karbala they used live ammunition against protesters, killing two overnight. Two more were killed in clashes near Ahrar Bridge in Baghdad. Near Basra one protester died of wounds from gunfire, police and medics said, bringing the toll since unrest broke out on October 1 to 344 people dead nationwide.
Rioting in Iraq began on the same day that in Hong Kong the first live round to hit a protester was fired by riot police pursued by protesters, which gave rise to heated anti-China diatribes in the US Congress.But the two most senior military commanders of the US and Iraq had nothing to say publicly about the hundreds of Iraqis killed by soldiers of their own national armed forces.
US forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 with thestated aimsof disarming the country of weapons of mass destruction, ending Saddam Husseins support for terrorism and freeing the Iraqi people from his repressive regime.As we know and many of uswroteat the time there were no weapons of mass destruction and Saddam did not support terrorism, although there is no doubt his regime was oppressive, and often brutally so.However, the main long-term objective,accordingto GW Bush, was to help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free . . . we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty. And when the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.
But now it isevidentthat millions lack access to adequate healthcare, education, clean water and electricity, with much of the countrys infrastructure in tatters. The thousands who have taken to the streets in protestsweresubjected to poverty, rampant corruption, unemployment and crumbling public services.The country is a heaving shambles, thanks to the Bush war, but a Congressional delegation that visited in early Novembercould onlyexpress their support for the efforts made by the Iraqi government to respond to the legitimate demands of the Iraqi people.When Vice-President PencevisitedUS troops at a base in Iraq on November 23 he didnt meet any Iraqis and merely spoke on the phone with the prime minister who assured me that they were working to avoid violence or the kind of oppression we see taking place even as we speak in Iran. He pledged to me that they would work to protect and respect peaceful protesters as part of the democratic process here in Iraq.
On December 11 Al Jazeerareportedthat Protesters in Iraq are standing firm in their demands for political change with gatherings in central Baghdad continuing despite a particularly bloody weekend of demonstrations, but therehas been no criticism from the White House or Congress concerning the killing of hundreds of Iraqi civilians by their own governments troops and mysterious gunmen who fired on protestors on December 7, killing at least 12 and wounding over 20.There have been no threats of sanctions and no legislation proposed on the basis ofcountering the erosion of freedoms nothing except expressions of support for the Iraqi government whose prime minister has now resigned.
There is the smell of death in the streets of Iraq but the stink of hypocrisy in Washington.
From confusion to clarity: Three pillars for revitalizing the Palestinian national movement – Brookings Institution
Posted: at 3:06 pm
The signing of the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) ushered in a period of both promise and confusion, especially for the Palestinians. The creation of the Palestinian National Authority (PA), a transitional government of limited self-rule in the occupied territories, added an institutional layer to Palestinian politics that quickly became difficult to distinguish from the PLO, in no small part because the leadership of both entities was the same.
Over time, Palestinian representation also suffered from this institutional ambiguity, with the PLO, the representative of all Palestinians, subsumed by the far more parochial PA. Subsequent events led to the rupture of the Palestinian body politic, the deterioration of the democratic process in the occupied territories, and the strengthening of authoritarianism in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, all of which have undermined the legitimacy of Palestinian representation.
The Oslo Accords also reconfigured the relationship between Palestinians and Israel, which, pursuant to the agreements, became partners in the peace process. Yet this relational shift was far from clear given that Israel continued its military occupation of Palestinian territory, which is still ongoing more than two decades later, for the duration of the negotiating process.
Today, the peace process is dead. The Oslo Accords are no longer operable,1reflecting neither the reality on the ground nor the trajectory of the conflict. Yet the effects of the Accords continue to confound Palestinian political life, which is facing an unprecedented level of division and dysfunction. The Palestinian political leadership is unable to address the range of pressing challenges it now confronts.
The most significant of these stems from the mounting realization that an independent Palestinian state may be forever out of reach. If this is true, it raises profound questions for all parties, but especially for the Palestinians: Where do they go from here? What do they do with the state-building project that has consumed so much energy and so many resources? How do they revitalize and reorient their national movement?
Figure 1: West Bank: What a One State Really Looks Like
Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), The West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, accessed November 30, 2019, http://www.ochaopt.org
While these questions would be difficult to answer under any circumstances, the complete disarray of Palestinian politics at this moment has rendered it almost impossible.
The Palestinians two main institutional bodies, the PLO and PA, are weak, divided, stagnant, and dysfunctional. In the West Bank, the Fatah-dominated PA-government exercises limited autonomy over an archipelago of ghettoized enclaves separated by Israeli-controlled territorial zones and connected by an Israeli-controlled transit system.2 In Gaza, Hamas rules over a single, larger ghettoized enclave that has been under siege by Israel, with cooperation from Egypt, for 12 years. Neither side appears capable on its own of reversing these adverse circumstances.
The political and territorial rupture that occurred in 2007 between these two factions has paralyzed the democratic process and institutional governance.3 PA elections have not been held in 13 years. The PA president and PLO chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, rules by decree without legislative or judicial constraint. Not surprisingly, without elections the PA is facing an acute crisis of legitimacy. Contending with growing dissatisfaction and unrest, politics in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip have become increasingly authoritarian and repressive.4
Beyond the challenge of reorienting the national movement, this weak and divided Palestinian body politic faces a growing set of challenges on the ground. Successive rightwing governments in Israel seek to secure permanent control over the West Bank, and the Trump administration aims to fundamentally reframe the U.S. approach to the conflict by downplaying [the] political and national concerns of Palestinians and by supporting the agenda of the Israeli settler movement.5
As the population of Israeli settlers has expanded almost four-fold since the start of the Oslo process,6 the calls have grown louder to formally incorporate into Israel the territory on the West Bank where those settlements have been established, a portion of land designated Area C under the Accords. Area C comprises more than 60 percent of the West Bank and is essential to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Yet more than 620,000 settlers are now living there illegally in more than 240 dispersed settlements, including in East Jerusalem.7 In addition to the physical barrier to Palestinian statehood, the settlers and their organized movement have become an even bigger political obstacle. The rightward slide in Israeli politics has tipped the scales in favor of the advocates of extending Israeli sovereignty beyond the Green Line.
The policy of annexation was both adopted by the ruling Likud party in its political platform in December 2017,8 and promised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of the April 2019 elections,9 as well as multiple times since. It is increasingly improbable that any political coalition could take action to reverse the settlement project without collapsing itself, igniting large-scale political upheaval, or even provoking a civil war.10
Indeed, today there is no appetite in Israel, from the political leadership or the majority of the public, to take concrete steps toward partition.11 The status quo has proven too convenient, especially when measured against the potential risks involved in facilitating the establishment of a Palestinian state. Moreover, as political scientist Ian Lustick once predicted, the occupied West Bank, or Judea and Samaria in Israeli parlance, is increasingly perceived by Israelis as an integral part of the society, the state, and the collective identity of its polity.12 Few today talk about relinquishing these territories, or of dividing Jerusalemtwo requisites for the two-state solution.
Furthermore, the United States under the Trump administration has abandoned long-standing U.S. policy regarding the status of occupied territory 13 and the two-state solution.14 Moreover, the officials tasked with leading policy on this issue have seemingly embraced the agenda of Israels far right proponents of a Greater Israel,15 who advocate applying Israeli sovereignty to all or part of the West Bank. The administration has also taken a series of steps aimed at turning up the pressure on the weak and fractured Palestinian polity.16
These political shifts are making an already volatile situation even more explosive. In order to withstand the combined forces arrayed against them and to continue as a national movement, the Palestinians must get their house in order as soon as possible. But what does this mean in practice, especially in light of the changing dynamics on the ground and in the international arena? And what does it mean if a Palestinian state is no longer in the offing?
The answers must start with dispelling some of the confusion that has amassed around Palestinian institutions, representation, and relationships. More specifically, Palestinians must clarify: (1) the roles and responsibilities of their institutions beyond the Oslo Accords; (2) the individuals and ideas they want these institutions to represent; and (3) the nature of their relationship with Israel. Taken together, achieving basic clarity around these three pillars will provide a better foundation for reinvigorating their national movement, for re-determining a unified vision of the future, and for rallying the Palestinian people and allies to their cause.
PILLAR ONE: INSTITUTIONAL CLARITY
Set up distinct roles and responsibilities for Palestinian political institutions
First and foremost, the Palestinians must strive for institutional clarity. For more than a quarter century, since the signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements and the subsequent creation of the PA, the Palestinians main institutional bodiesthe PLO and the PAhave become conflated, and their roles difficult to distinguish. This has hampered their abilities to operate effectively and to serve Palestinian national interests. It has also led to a lack of accountability, the over-centralization of power, and confusion over representation.
Establishing clear boundaries and roles for the institutions that govern and represent Palestinians is critical. Without them, Palestinians will likely be unable to take the necessary steps to reinvigorate their national movement, to redefine their goals, and to transition away from the failed Oslo Accords.
The main organ of the Palestinian liberation movement is the PLO, which was created by the Arab League in 1964. A decade later, the PLO was recognized by the Arab League and United Nations as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, a designation it has held ever since. The PLOs primary functions are to unite the disparate factions of the Palestinian national movement under one umbrella, offering blanket representation, and to pursue the goal of national liberation as defined by the PLOs central body, the Palestinian National Council (PNC).17
When the PA was created in 1994, pursuant to the Oslo Accords, it was intended to be a provisional entity lasting until a final status agreement was negotiated between the two partiesa period of no more than five years. The purpose of the PA was to implement the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel and to assume governing powers ceded by the latter in the occupied territories.18 As an implementing body, the PA was subordinate to and dependent on the PLO, which was still the internationally recognized representative and negotiating partner of Israel.19
In essence, the PLO was to remain the national representative of the Palestinian people everywhere, charged with leading the movement, presumably until a resolution of the conflict with Israel made it irrelevant. The PA was simply a transitional administrator of limited self-rule in the occupied territories, until negotiations determined a final outcome. No attention was paid, however, to what would happen if the parties failed to come to terms at the end of five years, and no mechanism put in place to transition away from the framework that was established in the absence of an agreement. Most importantly, and perhaps consequentially, the two sides did not share the same basic assumption of where the process would lead.20
The distinctions between the PLO and PA quickly broke down, in no small part because the chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, also assumed control of the fledgling PA. Straddling these two positions gave Arafat greater maneuverability as he shifted between roles and powers based on expediency. But distinguishing between the roles and powers became difficult, and accountability nearly impossible. As a result, the institutions themselves were increasingly interchangeable, and the distinct interests they were meant to serve became intertwined.21 Arafat did not respect the separate structures and roles of these institutions or prioritize the institutional precedent he was setting. Unfortunately, Arafats successor to both the PLO and PA, Mahmoud Abbas, has continued and aggravated this legacy.
Over time, the PLO-PA dynamic became inverted, with the PA eclipsing the PLO in importance, despite its inherent temporality.22 Funds and resources flowed to the PA rather than the PLO, which was increasingly used only to confer legitimacy on the faltering peace process and state-building project that began to unravel by the mid- to late-90s.23 As a result, the PLO gradually ceased to function in its intended capacity. And the failure to realize an independent Palestinian state has left the PA, 20 years after the expiration of its mandate, operating without clear purpose or legitimacy, unmoored from the process that brought it into existence.24
The conflation of these entities has also made challenging Israels occupation extremely difficult. By design of Oslo, the PA is ultimately under Israels control and subject to its influence. But the PLO should not be. However, because the two entities share the same leadership, and are located in the same place, PLO officials are subject to the same coercive pressure as those in the PA. This greatly hinders the independence and effectiveness of Palestinian decision-making.
Relocating the PLO leadership does carry a real risk of weakening the nationalist element in the territories. It could also allow Israel to further exploit Palestinian fragmentation, as it tried to do prior to Oslo, by manufacturing an acquiescent, de-nationalized local leadership. However, Israel, to a large degree, has already succeeded in this regard, despite the PLO presence, by coopting members of the Palestinian leadership. Therefore, although the risk is real, the current arrangement is arguably worse.
In the absence of a real state, the conflation of these separate Palestinian entities has, for at least its leadership, served to compensate for one. This reduces the incentive of political elites to abandon it. Yet this pseudo-state, totally lacking in sovereignty, is actually weakening both the Palestinian national movement and local governance. It subordinates national interests to parochial ones; it cuts off the larger Palestinian community from the decision-making process; and it leads to poor governance on the ground by obscuring transparency and accountability. It also blurs the asymmetry between itself and Israel, where the PA-PLO entity is often treated like a state government even though it remains inand negotiates froma position of near-total subjugation.25
While dissolving the PA has been actively discussed for years, the institution still has an important role to play, at least in the short term. The PA is responsible for managing the daily lives of Palestinians in the territories. Dissolving the PA outright is extremely risky because it is uncertain if Israel would pick up the pieces, or when and how it would do so. Even ending coordination with Israel, which the PLO Central Committee has called on the PLO Executive Committee to do repeatedly since at least 2015,26is fraught with difficulties and complications.
While reassessing the relationship between the Palestinians and Israel is vitally important (see pillar three: relational clarity), in the meantime the focus should be on bringing clarity to those political institutions in place. That starts by decoupling the PLO from the PA, beginning with the leadership. Officials within either organization should be prohibited from holding a leadership position in the other. Separate decision-making should help clarify the roles and responsibilities of the two bodies. Ideally, the PLO should find a headquarters outside of the occupied territories, where its top officials cannot be directly pressured or co-opted by Israel, while maintaining offices for coordination purposes in the territories. The distinct roles of each body should also be clearly demarcated and emphasized. The PLOs primacy over diplomacy and the national project should be restored, along with the limitations of PA power of governance in the occupied territories. Palestinians, and their international partners, must understand what each body is supposed to do, and hold the officials accountable for their successes and failures.
PILLAR TWO: REPRESENTATIONAL CLARITY
Establish trusted leadership through reconciliation, elections, and reform
In addition to institutional clarity, Palestinians need to once again determine who is able to speak in their name. A weak, divided, and illegitimate Palestinian leadership cannot set a national agenda nor make peace.27 Even if such leadership is able to sign a document accepting a deal, it is unlikely that this agreement would hold up over time.28 A strong, united, legitimate Palestinian leadership is in the best interests of Palestinians, the international community, and even Israel.
Today, however, the Palestinian body politic, at both the PA and PLO levels, is almost completely broken, characterized by fragmentation, stagnation, corruption, and dysfunction.29 Elections to the PA have not been held since 2005-2006, with officials still in office well beyond their mandates. The schism between the Fatah-dominated PA and the Hamas government in Gaza has not only split Palestinian politics physically and institutionally, but has also paralyzed the entire system and prevented accountable governance, especially through the ballot box. In the absence of elections, both the PA and Hamas have become increasingly repressive, relying on their respective security apparatuses to crush dissent.30
In the West Bank, Abbas has monopolized power and decision-making by consolidating control over institutions and sidelining opponents. In 2018, Abbas dissolved the PAs legislative body, which had not functioned in more than a decade, but in which Hamas held the majority of seats. He also convened a highly controversial meeting of the PNC, the PLOs parliament, for the first time in 22 years. The meeting, which was held in Ramallah and boycotted by other major Palestinian factions,31 was widely seen as an act of political theater staged to shore up Abbas eroding credibility, to replace detractors with loyalists, and to further consolidate power.32 Most recently, in January 2019, Abbas dissolved a unity government formed as part of a reconciliation agreement with Hamas and tasked a high-ranking Fatah official, Mohammad Shtayyeh with forming a new one,33 thus completing the removal of all opposition voices from the formal political space.
As a result of his undemocratic rule, Abbas popularity in the West Bank and Gaza has steadily declined to the mid-30s,34 according to recent polling, with around 60 percent of Palestinians believing he should resign.35 Perception of corruption in PA institutions stands at a whopping 80 percent. A plurality of Palestinians in the territories, roughly 48 percent, view the PA as a burden on the Palestinian people.36
Eventually, however, the rule of Abbas will come to an end. He is 83 years old and in relatively poor health.37 Without a clear successor or an electoral process in place, his exit will likely create a political vacuum with potentially tumultuous consequences. In order to stave off such a crisis and secure legitimate, accountable representation, the Palestinians must pursue political reconciliation, restore the democratic process, and reform the PA and the PLO.
Reconciliation is not just about healing the rift that erupted after Hamas electoral victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections. It has been on the agenda at least since the death of Arafat in 2004 and the changing of the guard within the PLO and PA. In 2005, for instance, 13 political factions, including Fatah and Hamas, agreed in the Cairo Declaration to work for national unity, resolve their differences peacefully, and bring Hamas and other groups into the PLO.38 These promises, like so many others, never came to fruition.
Since the 2007 split, reconciliation efforts have focused mainly on bringing the PA back into the Gaza Strip to re-administer the territory. Despite multiple agreements and even the formation of a unity government, repeated attempts to resolve practical issues of governance have ultimately fallen apart. While there are many reasons for this, fundamentally, neither side is willing to cede what it currently has in terms of actualized power and control and to open itself up to competition or interference from the other side.
Given the institutional uncertainty over the PAs political future, it makes little sense for the various Palestinian factions to reconcile inside the construct of the Oslo Accords. Reconciliation talks should therefore be based on getting Hamas and other factions to agree to the terms and guidelines for accession to the PLO as part of a larger restructuring of the institution. Then, allowing an inclusive PLO to determine how it wants to organize institutional governance on the ground should help assuage the stickier points of contention over reconciliation.
The second step should be holding elections in the occupied territories at the earliest possible date. This would give renewed legitimacy to the political structure. Elections work hand-in-hand with decoupling the PA from the PLO. That starts by reforming the electoral system. Palestinians should abandon the mixed-system of voting established for the 2005-2006 elections, which promoted regionalism and tribalism through district-based simple majority voting for half the seats in parliament. The legislative council should be determined according to proportional voting in national party lists only. That way, Palestinian parties will be forced to build coalitions and consensus, with no single party having a stranglehold over politics, as is the case today. Election results must be respected and protected from outside interference, unlike what occurred in 2006.
While the exact structure of a reformed PA cannot be determined by this paper, the PA should focus on governance, while the PLO should focus on external affairs, leading the campaign to unite Palestinians globally and pushing for the fulfillment of their political rights. Some existing PA institutions, like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are not relevant, nor were they even mandated by the Oslo Accords.
Moreover, the PA suffers from significant bureaucratic bloat. Prior to Oslo, Israels Civil Administration governed the West Bank and Gaza with one-eighth the personnel.39The PA also has a massive combined security force with one of the highest ratios of security personnel to civilians in the world,40 which consumes more of its budget than the education, health, and agriculture sectors combined.41 The PA would do well to shed as much of this extraneous workforce as possible, to redirect vital resources elsewhere, and to reduce dependence on foreign aid and PA salaries.
Reforming the PLO to be more representative should also be a top priority. It will give the PLO more legitimacy and revitalize the stagnant institution with new blood, while also making sure an unrepresentative PLO is not making decisions affecting a representative Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), as occurred in the early days of Oslo.42One option for initiating this process would be to convene a Palestinian National Assembly to determine the specifics of reform.
In the longer term, the development of an energized political space for Palestinians to voice fresh ideas and to rally around is essential. An online platform could be established for Palestinians across the globe to organize new parties and political programs in a centralized place. That way, new political parties could circulate their ideas openly and freely, and membership or affiliation with these parties could be more accurately measured or counted. A new crop of recognizable leaders would also be able to emerge based on the strength of their ideas, rather than their proximity to the original leaders of the PLO. While direct elections might still be difficult, at least the proportional system on which the PLO is currently based would be far more precise if based on a digital database.
Altogether, reconciliation, elections, and reform should be enough to repair the Palestinian body politic and infuse it with renewed legitimacy and strength.
PILLAR 3: RELATIONAL CLARITY
Re-determine the nature of the relationship with Israel
One of the great ironies stemming from the gradualist approach of Oslo is that Israel exists, simultaneously, as both partner and occupier of the Palestinians. This problematic duality was easier to justify and overlook during the early days of Oslo when many believed that Israel was scaling back its military occupation. However, as the occupation deepened and statehood never materialized, the PA was reduced to an instrument of Israeli rule whereby it relieved the occupier of its costs and obligations by managing and policing Palestinian population centers on its behalf.
If the Palestinians are to find a way out of their current predicament, this relationship must be addressed and changed.
Without question, the partner-occupier dynamic has proven confusing to ordinary Palestinians, their allies, and the larger international community. As a result, most Palestinians justifiably do not know how to perceive their own government. Often over the past 25 years, the PA has stood in the way of legitimate attempts to challenge the military occupation and its colonial policies, principally by not allowing civil or popular organizing outside its own initiative. The PA does this primarily to fulfill its security obligations vis-a-vis Israel. Moreover, within this partnership, the PA is not even able to provide basic security to its own citizens against Israeli settler violence, or to prevent daily incursions of the Israeli military to arrest Palestinians.43 These constraints significantly undermine the PAs legitimacy among Palestinians.
At the diplomatic level, too, the PLO has often taken stances that appear contrary to Palestinian interests, frequently under pressure from the United States or Europe not to use its moderate amount of leverage in the international arena to pressure Israelin the interest of upholding the peace process. For example, when the United Nations issued the so-called Goldstone Report after the 2008-09 War on Gaza, which accused the Israeli military and Palestinian militant groups of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity,44 the PLO withdrew a motion with the U.N. Human Rights Council to take action, astonishing Palestinians and generating a large public backlash.45
The PLO also failed to act on the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which ruled that the construction of Israels wall was illegal and must be dismantled. This inaction ultimately compelled Palestinian civil society to take the initiative and launch the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement on the first anniversary of the ICJ judgement,46 which the PLO did not explicitly endorse until 2018, 13 years later.47
The semi-cooperative relationship between Palestinian institutions and Israel has also muddied the waters for the international community, including Palestinian allies in the Arab world. Much of the international community either established or elevated their relationship with Israel only after the Oslo Accords were signed, a virtual doubling of the number of countries with which it had diplomatic relations.48 While peace never materialized and the situation in the Palestinian territories has deteriorated drastically, it has been sufficient for the international community to continue to pay lip service to Oslo and the peace process, and to finance the PA, in no small part because the Palestinians have remained committed to pursuing statehood through the Oslo framework.
Yet as Noura Erakat points out in her new book, as part of the Faustian bargain that is the Oslo framework, the Palestinian Authority has internalized the colonial logic that its compliance and good behavior will be rewarded with independence.49 In other words, the Palestinian leadership operated under the premise that if it fulfilled its myriad obligations Israel would either volunteer, or be forced, to end the occupation and cede the Palestinians a state. This was indeed the modus operandi of the government led by Salam Fayyad from 2007 to 2013, which coupled compliance with U.S. and Israeli demands with effective state-building in the hopes of reaching the desired fait accompli. As Robert Danin argued in 2011, Fayyads strategy is providing good government, economic opportunity, and law and order for the Palestinians and security for Israel by extension and so removing whatever pretexts may exist for Israels continued occupation of the Palestinian territories.50
Despite the ultimate failure of Fayyads plan, his efforts did manage to expose deep flaws in the logic underlying Palestinian and international strategy.51 Nonetheless, not much has changed in the Palestinian or international approach since his departure, except that governance has deteriorated rapidly. The Palestinian leadership continues to adhere to an Oslo framework that has been defunct for years, while Israel only adheres to its terms when they coincide with its direct interests.
In reality, very little from the six agreements that were signed more than two decades ago still exists, including the many joint committees that were created to facilitate cooperation.52 Israel never withdrew its forces from the bulk of the occupied territory, as was mandated. It routinely violates the vestiges of Oslo that are nominally intact, including the principal economic agreement and security arrangements, which are based on the zones of jurisdiction known as Areas A, B, and C. According to Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of Oslo, Israel acts on the ground as if the agreement does not exist.53
In July 2019, for example, Israel went as far as destroying dozens of homes in Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem. The residences were located in Areas A and B, under nominal PA jurisdiction, and the families had received building permits from the Authority. Yet Israel acted on its own accord to demolish the homes, irrespective of its arrangements with the PA.54
While the episode produced a backlash from the Palestinian leadership, which promised to end its cooperation with Israel,55 little acknowledgment was given to how the PAs state-building project contributes to Israels deepening settlement enterprise. As Nadia Hijab and Jesse Rosenfeld pointed out in 2010, Israels development of roads and infrastructure for the exclusive use of its Jewish settlerswhat Israel calls fabric of life56 infrastructureforces Palestinians to build an alternative, separate network for themselves. This actually could facilitate settlement expansion, apartheid-style segregation and annexation by taking Palestinians off the main grid on their own territory.57 Thus the PA, with the help of donor financing, is unwittingly facilitating its own dispossession by constructing a parallel infrastructure on the same piece of land without challenging Israels competing settlement architecture.
Essentially, the implementation of state-buildingover which Israel exercises ultimate controlactually allows Israel to use the PA, and its donor financing, to help resolve a paradox that has confounded Israeli policymakers for generations: how to keep the land conquered in 1967 without enfranchising the Palestinians living there.58 Israel is doing this by manufacturing a new physical reality in the West Bankthrough the building of bypass roads, bridges, and tunnelsand superimposing one spatial grid on top of the other so that the two societies can occupy the same geographical space without ever meeting in the same topographical one.59
Israel can only do this because of the buffer Oslo created between itself and the occupied population under its control. The PA facilitates this buffer by policing the Palestinian population centers while Israel methodically takes control of the land around them, even as the pretense of a partnership has largely disappeared, along with the act of negotiations.
In order to bring much needed clarity to this relationship, the PA can no longer adhere to an agreement that is fundamentally at odds with the reality on the ground and the trajectory of the conflict. Today, Israel appears more likely to begin formally annexing portions of the West Bank than ever relinquishing them. The PAs cooperation with Israel not only sustains the prevailing dynamic, but also fuels resentment and undermines its legitimacy among its own public.
If the Palestinians are to alter their relationship to Israel, the steps involved require extensive planning and strategy. Ending cooperation cannot happen overnight. In truth, cooperation did not begin with the creation of the PA. Rather, in some ways, it is a fact of life of living under a long-term occupation. Since 1967, Palestinians in the occupied territories have been dependent on the state of Israel, which has ruled over them with an extensive permit system. This is especially true of the pre- and post-Oslo Palestinian economy, which although structurally different, was and remains wholly dependent on Israel60the sovereign.
While the PA exercises some forms of autonomy, every aspect of life ultimately runs through Israel. If a baby is born in Ramallah today, the PA has to inform the Israeli authorities; the child has to be registered in the Israeli system or they will not receive a birth certificate, an identification card, or a passport. Essentially, the national identity of the child is granted by Israel, not the PA. Palestinian businesses cannot import or export products without Israels facilitation and taxation. Palestinian telecommunication companies and banks operate through Israeli networks and use Israeli currency. Individuals in the West Bank cannot move within or exit the country without going through Israeli checkpoints or border customs. There is simply no way around this: Israel maintains sovereignty over the entire territory.
Under these conditions, it is not clear how the PA can stop cooperating with Israel. Yet non-cooperation of some form is essential. The Palestinians simply cannot continue to facilitate their own dispossession by complying with the current framework and treating Israel as a partner. One option is to work for the development of a resistance economy, which aims to reduce Palestinians economic dependency on the Israeli economy and to create a solid political base to sustain the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle.61 This includes supporting local alternatives to Israeli products, and especially promoting Palestinian agriculture as an economic base.
Another possible way around this predicament is to clarify their relationship to Israel by redefining its very nature. Since 1967, the international community and international law have recognized the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem, as occupied territory under provisional military rule. Even after 50 years, this designation has not been changed, despite Israel transferring more than 620,000 of its citizens into occupied territory in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, which regulate military occupation.62
Yet what is the cumulative effect of this settlement policy? How about the legal architecture Israel has gradually put in place to integrate the settlers and settlements into its state? Or the fact that a sovereign Palestinian polity will likely never come into existence? Do these change the nature of the regime in place?
One thing is for certain, Palestinians insistence on defining their struggle as one against military occupation, with its connotations of temporality and security, conceals the transformative nature of Israels half-century old settlement project. This project not only violates the Geneva Conventions, but also institutionalizes a regime of systematic oppression and domination that maintains the superiority of one ethnic group over another.63
Military occupation also distinguishes between the Palestinians living in the occupied territories and those in Israel, despite only 19 years of physical separation. It ignores what happened in 1948 and the ongoing fragmentation of Palestinians, which runs to the heart of the conflict. It willingly accepts the need to only resolve one fragment of the conflictthat which began in 1967 with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Lastly, it disregards the singular regime of control that has solidified in the totality of Israel-Palestine over a 70-year period.
Even many rightwing Israeli officials and their supporters abroad have reverted to the narrative that there is no occupation, a discourse that prevailed in Israel before the Oslo Accords were signed.64 But if Israels control over the Palestinian territories is no longer considered an occupation, then what is it?
This system may very well merit a different appellation, that of apartheid. The distinction is not just semantic. It comes with real differences in the ways the regime is treated under international law and may come to be treated by the international community. More importantly, it would make the relationship clearer for Palestinians, Israelis, and everyone else, and force parties to choose sides.
The debate about whether the apartheid label applies to the Israel-Palestine case is already happening. Legal scholars and academics around the world have been taking up the issue for at least a decade.65 At the political level, multiple Israeli prime ministers and political figures have openly discussed the inevitability that Israel would become an apartheid state if a separate Palestinian state was not created. Even David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin made similar predictions several decades ago.66 Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Israel risked becoming an apartheid state if his peace efforts failed in 2014 (even though he subsequently walked back his use of the word under pressure),67 and former President Jimmy Carter even titled his 2006 book on the subject, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. In 2017, the United Nations Social Commission on Western Asia (UNESCWA), became the first UN agency to use apartheid to describe the Israeli regime in an official report.68
Many Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists have used the term for years, while Palestinian officials and institutions have largely refrained. If they, too, are to take this route, it should be carefully considered for its many consequences, especially the abandonment of the independent national project in pursuit of equal rights in some other, more integrated, political entity. This, in particular, will impact current and future alliances as the Palestinians move away from the international consensus on two states.
In any case, the Palestinian-Israeli relationship deserves to be reassessed and redefined at this crucial juncture. That begins by starting the process of non-cooperation with the occupation. It can then be followed up with a reappraisal of the nature of the relationship between Palestinians and the state of Israel. But as long as things remain as they are, shrouded in a confusing partner-occupier relationshipthe Palestinian leadership will have a difficult time rallying their people or their allies to achieve their goals.
The Palestinian national movement is facing a growing and coalescing set of challenges, including the recognition that a sovereign, independent Palestinian state may be beyond realization. Yet as a result of internal weakness, division, stagnation, and dysfunction, the political side of the national movement remains unable to counter these threats or seek new ways forward with the full support and strength of its people.
Since the creation of the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian politics has struggled with a bifurcated institutional system that gradually fused in several ad hoc and problematic ways. The inversion and conflation of the PLO and PA has been disastrous for the Palestinians, generating confusion over roles and status, subordinating national interests to parochial ones, cutting off the larger Palestinian community from the decision-making process, and leading to poor governance on the ground by obscuring transparency and accountability.
Establishing clear boundaries and roles for the institutions that govern and represent Palestinians is critical. This can be done by decoupling the PA from the PLO and prohibiting officials from holding leadership positions in both entities. Separate decision-making should help clarify the distinct interests of the two organizations. Ideally, the PLO should find a headquarters outside of the occupied territories, where its leadership cannot be directly pressured by Israel and where the larger Palestinian population can access it, while maintaining offices for coordination purposes in the territories.
The distinct roles of each body should be clearly demarcated and emphasized. The PLOs primacy over diplomacy and the national project should be restored, along with the limitations of PA power of governance in the occupied territories.
Palestinians must also reconcile and reform these institutions in order to make them more representative through elections or, in the case of the PLO, some other process for establishing legitimate, representative leadership. Taken together, these steps should be enough to repair the Palestinian body politic and infuse it with renewed legitimacy and strength.
Palestinians must also reassess their relationship to Israel in consideration of the failure of the Oslo Accords, the entrenchment of Israels military occupation, and its determination to continue settling the West Bank, transform the status of Jerusalem, and besiege the Gaza Strip. The partner-occupier dynamic that resulted from Oslo has confused the Palestinian people and their allies in the international community.
Palestinians should find a means of non-cooperation, especially through limiting economic dependence on Israel. They can then reassess and potentially redefine the nature of Israels regimeand their place in itfrom a military occupation to an apartheid state. This must come with serious deliberation and a clear strategy for how to confront the regime on the ground and in the international arena.
When any movement fails to achieve its basic goals, it must ask itself profound questions about what to do next. For the Palestinians to even ask these questions, they must first put their house in order and dispel the confusion that has accumulated around their institutions, their representation, and their relations. By bringing clarity to these three pillars, they will be in far better shape to reinvigorate their national movement, face down challenges, and pursue their goals for the future.
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Now Modi govt has proved that it not only talks like Pakistan, it thinks and acts like it – ThePrint
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In a flourish of the brute majority the Bharatiya Janata Party enjoys in the Lok Sabha, after a marathon seven-hour debate that went past midnight, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB waspassedin Lok SabhaMonday with 311 voting in favour,and theopposition, despite a spirited and reasoned critique, putting together just 80 noes. The Rajya Sabha followed suitWednesday, with a tighterscoreline125 to 105. In passing this communally tinged legislation,the Narendra Modigovernment has successfully managed to setIndiaon a dark path from which we may struggle to return.
The Bill that was debated, considered and passed, is by design, fundamentally antithetical to everything our country has historically stood for. By essentially declaring that one community is valued less in the eyes of their government, theamendmentis not just an affront to the basic tenets of equality and religious non-discrimination that have been enshrined in our Constitution, but an all-out assault on the very idea of India that ourancestorsgave their lives for during the nationalist struggle. We have now, in the words ofPratap Bhanu Mehta, taken a giant step to officially convert a constitutional democracy into an unconstitutional ethnocracy.
Also read: Why CAB-plus-NRC fantasy is BJPs next Ram Mandir-plus-Article 370 gambit
In parts ofIndia, particularly in thenortheaststates, therepercussionsof this conversion are already being felt, with mass protests, state-wide bandhs declared and internet and telephone services suspended in certain areas. JustTuesdayevening I received an email from a worried Bengali Hindu third-generation student in Assam who pointed out that they are living in fear of reprisals against them by the local Assamese people who are worried that thisbillwill create an additional burden on them.
The fact is that the implications are not limited to the clauses of the bill in itself, for in introducing such a piece of legislation, especiallyinconjunction with a new national NRC, the BJP will unleash an atmosphere of fear and a climate of bigotry that will sweep across the country, claiming Indian citizens as victims, generating chaos in the name of nationalism.
Also read: CAB protests a battle for India either we are a secular state or we arent India at all
Through this exercise,the BJPhasallowed two individuals to have the last laugh. The first of course is their own ideological forefather, V.D. Savarkar who first spoke of dividing our country into a Muslim India and anon-Muslim India. In 1940, this idea was reflected in the Pakistan Resolution adopted at the Lahore session of the Muslim League. At the twilight of our nationalist struggle, our own freedom movement split on the issue of whether religion should be the determinant of nationhood. Those who believed in that principle were those who advocated the idea of Pakistan.However,Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad,B.R.Ambedkar believed the oppositethat religion had nothing to do with nationhood.Their idea of India wasa free country for all people of all religions, regions, castes and languages, in utter repudiation of the two-nation theory. Our Constitution reflects this basic idea of IndiathattheModigovernment now seeks to betray.
As I said in my parliamentary debate, the passage ofCABwill mark the definitive victory of Jinnahs thinking over Mahatma Gandhis. The BJP cannot both reject Pakistan and advocate the same logic as Pakistan. How ironic that it should bethat Hindutva BJPnow seeks to ensure the final vindication of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. And how ironic that Prime Minister Modi shouldaccusehis Congress critics of talking Pakistansinlanguage, when it is hisgovernment that not just talks like Pakistan, but acts like Pakistan and worst of all, thinks like Pakistan.
How ironic, too, that theHindutvaparty hasaggressivelypushedfor alegislation that betrays millennia of Hindu civilisational practice and abandons a historic legacy that Hindus were proud to lay claim to. Swami Vivekananda had famouslysaidin his 1893 Chicago speechthat he was proud to speak for a land that had always offered refuge to the persecutedfromall nations and faiths.We lived up to that legacy when we gave shelterto Tibetan refugees, the Bahai community, Sri Lankan Tamils, and Bangladeshis without ever asking about their religion. Now, thisgovernment wants to single out one community andrefuse themasylum from oppression on the same conditions as other communities. And they are also ensuring that members of the same community within India will be subject to a climate of fear and oppression that will get worse in the wake of this exercise.
Also read: Indian liberals & Hindutva supporters, stop dragging Jinnah into Citizenship Bill debates
The right thing to do would have been to produce a religion-neutral Citizenship Bill, as many parties, including the BJPs own ally the Akali Dal, suggested in the Lok Sabha.It is a shameless performance by agovernmentthat has evenlast year refusedto discuss and createa National Asylum policy, which I had proposed in a Private Members Bill and shared personally with then Home Minister, hisministersand his home secretary.If theModi and Amit Shah governmentgenuinely cared about refugees, why has it consistently refused to accept the need for an objective asylumpolicy orcome up with one ofitsown? Suddenly,itclaimsto be going the extra mile in granting citizenship tosomerefugees, whereas in reality, they dont even wantto do the basicas required under international law to improve the determination of refugee status or ensure decent treatment of refugees.
A little more than a year ago,I received a great deal of opprobrium for saying that an election victoryforthe BJP in 2019 would begin to usher in a Hindutva version of Pakistan. The ruling party protested loudly and its members rushed to sue me for defamation; aKolkatajudge even issued an arrest warrant against me for the remark. Sadly, I now sound prescient. A Hindutva version of Pakistan is just what, under BJP rule, our India is becoming.
The author is a Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and former MoS for External Affairs and HRD. He served the UN as an administrator and peacekeeper for three decades. He studied History at St. Stephens College, Delhi University and International Relations at Tufts University. Tharoor has authored 19 books, both fiction and non-fiction. Follow him on Twitter @ShashiTharoor. Views are personal.
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