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Book review: Palestine’s horizon towards a just peace

Book Author(s) :
Richard A. Falk
Published Date :
March 2017
Publisher :
Pluto Press
Paperback :
176 pages
ISBN-13 :
978-0745399744

With constant pragmatism and impeccable analysis derived from decades of experience, former UN Special Rapporteur Professor Richard Falk has compiled a detailed analysis of how illusion and compromise have enforced the deterioration of Palestine with severe consequences for Palestinians.opylytl

In “Palestine’s horizon towards a just peace” (Pluto Press, 2017), Falk establishes the obvious dynamic which the international community, at Israel’s request, is persistently obliterating: “If the relation of forces changes to create more balance, a revived diplomacy based upon a genuine peace process might contribute in the future towards a solution.”

Yet, Falk also exhibits a consciousness with regard to “international will”, which he says was evident in the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, and the on-going violations which are occurring as a result of the international community’s collusion with Israel’s narrative. This situation is enforcing Israel’s refusal to “compromise” which, in turn, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attributes to the Palestinians’ lack of unified leadership. The latter is a problem which directly affects Palestinians in their internal politics and is a bonus point for Netanyahu to persist in settlement expansion and resultant fragmentation of Palestine.

Prof. Falk’s book is divided into four parts, each dealing with particular segments of memory, diplomacy and resistance. Commencing with the Palestinian imaginary and diplomatic framework, Falk mentions the most important details that are intentionally overlooked; the Balfour Declaration as proof of “colonial intent” and the 1947 UN Partition Plan as the initial instigator of the Oslo process that established the two-state paradigm as the only possible solution. In the current political framework, which is characterised by regional turbulence and the disintegration of any possible adherence to the two-state paradigm, Falk notes that global solidarity and, as a result, symbolic victories for Palestine, are pushing forth the delegitimisation of Israel at an international level. “Symbolic battlefields” have gained ground due to their emphasis on international law. However, given that diplomacy is still a weapon favouring Israel, there is no reason to underestimate the possibility of Palestinian resistance, including legitimate armed struggle.

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Falk’s detailed analysis of the power imbalance stemming from colonialism is evident throughout the book. The compromise created through the Oslo Accords — which obliterated reference to Palestinian sovereign statehood and self-determination — can also be seen in subsequent diplomatic negotiations which strengthened Israeli impunity. Former US President George W. Bush included statehood in the Roadmap but subjected the entire process of rights to diplomatic dispute which resulted in another internationally-acceptable violation of Palestinian rights.

In this regard, Falk states: “The Oslo Accords, as superseded in negotiating contexts by the Roadmap, have worked out to be a formula for the non-realisation of the vision of a sustainable peace process between the two sides as projected in general terms by the canonical Security Council Resolution 242.”

International insistence upon the two-state paradigm and failure to halt settlement expansion provided Netanyahu with the perfect opportunity to employ two strands of rhetoric, thus separating the façade used in diplomatic circles from the expansionist agenda carried out in Palestinian territory.

Another important point that resonates throughout the book is the fact that Palestinians were subjected to colonialism at a time when former colonies were embarking upon their own struggles against their oppressors. With this dissonance firmly entrenched decades later, Falk shows how Zionist influence in shaping international policy has resulted in the normalisation of colonial violence, particularly in the limited options offered to Palestinians: negotiations or a refusal to negotiate.

The Palestinian Authority embodies an example of such dynamics, through its acceptance of “peace and normalisation with Israel that is premised upon the surrender of significant Palestinian rights under international law.”

The above quote points to another observation by Falk regarding the political discrepancies between Israel and the Palestinians. While Israel benefits from “hard power dominance”, Palestinian political fragmentation manifests both the difficulties of unity as well as the encouragement of such differences between factions; for example, by the constant marginalisation of Hamas, which allows Israel to hypocritically argue against negotiations due to unresolved, major differences and an absence of unified representation of Palestinians.

A considerable part of the book deals with non-violent Palestinian resistance with regard to the quest for legitimacy, in which both international law and internationalist support for Palestine are intrinsically intertwined. Falk identifies two main strands of non-violent resistance: principled and pragmatic, both of which are marginalised regularly to the point of dissociation from Palestine’s history of non-violent resistance.

With that in mind, Falk goes on to analyse Israel’s abhorrence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and international law, as both constitute resources that can aid in furthering Palestinian legitimacy and, if employed correctly, can provide foundations for negotiations “that can operate more effectively than Oslo”. Falk argues that lawfare can provide the foundations through which public opinion on settlement expansion can be influenced, which in turn would emphasise the criminality of Israel’s settlements and apartheid.

The Israeli response to Palestinian UN non-member statehood in 2012 was an increase in settlement expansion which further reinforced the impossibility of implementing the two-state framework. However, Falk points out the peril of assuming that the alternative “one-state solution” is inherently positive: “In the present setting, it has become also necessary to contemplate a one-state imposed Israeli solution that seeks to deny forever the right of self-determination to the Palestinian people.”

Throughout the book, Falk includes references to Edward Said’s writings, which culminate in a conclusion that juxtaposes the current political reality with Said’s literature and political thought. The author surmises that Said would employ the moral approach which refutes a repetition of dispossession; not out of sympathy to the colonisers but to eliminate a cycle of violence. Said would, however, insist upon Israeli accountability for its colonial violence. Falk also notes, though, that the past 10 years of Palestinian history might contribute towards a change in perception, reminding the reader that Said’s rejection of Oslo was influenced by fragmentation and the normalisation of settlement expansion, among other issues.

For anyone desiring a comprehensive and detailed insight into the dynamics of legitimate Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonial violence, this book is highly recommended, particularly as its tone imparts further assertiveness as regards Palestinian rights. Unlike several other books regarding colonial expansion and its ramifications, Falk consistently points out the recurring cycles of dispossession and Palestinian struggle through historical consciousness, imparting a relevance which is commonly overlooked, with severe consequences for the colonised population.

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