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Separating the issue of borders from colonial history

May 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Further statements have emerged with regards to the two-state solution based upon the 1967 borders, advocated by Israel’s allies and endorsed by Palestinian leaders. A news brief by Haaretz brings together the views of UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, all of whom fail to acknowledge the historical process and its ramifications which have rendered the subject of borders, whether ambiguous or clearly demarcated; a contentious issue.

Serry’s comments fail to articulate the existence of Israel as a settler-colonial state. In his address to the UN Security Council, Serry insisted that failure to negotiate the two-state solution will result in the “current one-state reality”. In accordance with the land appropriation discourse promulgated by Israel’s allies and the UN, the two-state solution remains a desirable alternative to ensure Palestinian subjugation.

Erekat declared Netanyahu’s government responsible for “sabotaging talks” and consolidating apartheid. “To build settlements in occupied land, kill Palestinians and demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes is certainly not the behaviour of a government that wants to end occupation but of a government that wants to turn occupation into annexation.” The criticism, however, is marred by the PA’s recognition of Israel and the focus upon the 1967 borders; a denial of Palestinian history and the atrocities committed during the Nakba.

Abbas’s comments acknowledged the obvious: “Since the creation of the state of Israel, nobody knows what the borders are. We are determined to know our borders and theirs, without that there will be no peace.” The statement is divested of historical context, a recollection of ineffective, symbolic resolutions enacted by the UN, demonstrating complicity in supporting the Zionist colonisation process in Palestine.

However, within the seemingly straightforward statement, the subject of borders divested of its historical context renders Palestinians subject to compromising gestures that ensure their subjugation rather than asserting self-determination. Historically, Palestinians were deemed unworthy of consultation, as evidenced by a memorandum sent by Lord Arthur Balfour to Lord Curzon in 1919: “In Palestine, we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country.”

Mingling alleged determination, as expressed by Abbas, with the negotiation of Palestinian borders based upon imperialist suggestions, is a fallacy. From the confines of oblivion, Palestinian leaders are adhering to external dictates with full knowledge of aiding the settler-colonial expansion to fulfil its process. The known and documented Zionist intention of colonising the entire land of Palestine is the premise which should be regarded as prevailing knowledge. Despite Israel’s refusal to declare its borders, Palestinian leaders continue to refrain from articulating a resilient position that is more substantive than compromise. The refusal to insist upon the dismantling of the Zionist state as a prelude to peace conditions any border negotiation, since its existence will continue to condition and influence perspectives of territorial control and autonomy.

It is erroneous to declare that a clear demarcation of borders can substitute as a condition for peace. Negotiating from within an oppressive, ruthless framework that still denies the right of return renders the question of borders a complex issue that should take into consideration the historical intentions and plans to colonise Palestine prior to implementation. Declaring a vague insistence to “know” the parameters within which a hypothetical Palestinian state can be established does not tackle the main impediment to its establishment. With Palestinian leaders epitomising 1967 and consenting to an imperialist-imposed illusory framework, the betrayal of history and resistance from within continues to provoke further colonial violence.