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Palestine and Rule of Power. Local Dissent vs International Governance

Palestine and Rule of Power. Local Dissent vs International Governance
Book Editor(s) :
Alaa Tartir, Timothy Seidel
Publisher :
Palgrave Macmillan, 2019
ISBN-13 :

This collection of well-researched essays provides an insight into the dynamics of how neoliberalism is woven within the Zionist colonial process and how it has created two opposing camps, succinctly described in the foreword by Richard Falk as the failure of UN diplomacy and the existing possibilities of Palestinian anti-colonial struggle.

The neoliberal framework depoliticises not only Palestine, but also the discrepancy between power and forced acquiescence, the latter being associated with the ramifications of colonial erasure and replacement. However, the book analyses the dynamics within the subjugation enforced upon Palestinians and brings the resistance to the fore. Palestinian daily resistance, the book argues, enables us "to hear and see a much larger and more powerful landscape of resistance in Palestine."

Israel's settler-colonial project and Palestinian state-building are both internationally-accepted and funded ventures. As the international community involves itself further in diplomatic peace-building and refutes recognition of Palestinian aspirations of land and liberation, the outcome points towards a hypothetical state that is an extension of collaboration with Israel and international actors. The land is already a contested space; Palestinians are contesting not only their space but also their existence and their demands, which are not covered by the remnants offered by the international community in terms of neoliberal humanitarian aid.

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Manufacturing Palestinian dependency, therefore, has been a key component of the settler-colonial project and its neoliberal politics, shared by the international community. Violence is the initial and prolonged step through which Israel seeks to control Palestinian dependency, which is now largely uncontested and normalised through the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements. Through this transformation of violence, Israel has found willing accomplices prioritising economics and security as essential for state building, even if the established parameters are impediments to Palestinian rights.

Hence, normalising the violations renders Palestinian anti-colonial struggle as violent. "Resistance," writes Timothy Seidel, "is rendered invisible because the violence – of the state – is invisible… it erases its own violence while rendering others like Palestinians as violent, as something they cannot be."

However, Palestinian anti-colonial struggle exists in relation to settler-colonialism and the neoliberal framework which forces Palestinians into contradictory roles. On one hand, the economic dependency enshrined in the Oslo Accords as determined by the international community has all but eliminated prospects for Palestinian independence and the people's legitimate demands. Conversely, Palestinian existence and the refusal to be erased from their land is the foundation of the people's anti-colonial struggle.

The peace framework promoted internationally relies on such erasure of colonial and collaborative violence while emphasising the importance of neoliberal donor aid. This detachment from the demands of the Palestinian people to accommodate an international narrative that is in line with Israel's colonial demands, as Alaa Tartir describes, is particularly visible when it comes to the EU's role as a peace-building entity that marginalises the demands of the oppressed. "The EU has, in the case of Palestine," he explains, "become one of the conduits through which colonial rule is sustained."

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With such complicity absorbed and endorsed by the Palestinian Authority, peace was prioritised over Palestinian state-building and independence. According to Jeremy Wildeman, "The Oslo process was only ever offering Palestinians more colonial occupation." The Oslo Accords, he asserts, were not just intended to fail Palestinians, "but to exacerbate the underlying conditions of colonial occupation, making the economic and human security coordination much worse."

Oslo Accords, the 25th Anniversary – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The latter, described by Tartir as a system "opposed to the political priorities of the Palestinian population," is one of the most blatant manifestations of how the purportedly neutral neoliberal impositions inflicted upon Palestinians have created a sanctioned web of human rights abusers that work from widely accepted frameworks to eliminate Palestinian political priorities.

Besides reiterating the isolation of Palestinian anti-colonial struggle through the enforced erasure of Palestinians from the political process, international governance and its collusion with Israeli settler-colonialism and the PA has also forced a rethinking of dependency and anti-colonial struggle. Depoliticising Palestine, while an aim of the aforementioned accomplices, is also a premise for Palestinian anti-colonial struggle to evolve and navigate the international oppression brought to Palestine through aid impositions.

Donor aid is described by Seidel as "purchasing Palestinian support for peacebuilding." Melanie Meinzer elaborates on how such aid undermines Palestinian self-determination and shows how, as part of their anti-colonial strategy, Palestinians have developed the means through which to accede to donor funding without compromise through solidarity donors, in particular for education and historical memory purposes. Meinzer describes this type of aid independence – allowing Palestinians to set their own terms – as "a strategic response for maintaining organisational autonomy." The tactic is in stark contrast to development aid, which is based upon the contradiction of eliminating Palestinians while claiming to provide incentives.

Palestinian anti-colonial struggle is best perceived as an ongoing daily routine that battles neoliberal depoliticisation. It also requires constant dissemination to defy the external and internal oppression restricting such expression and strategy. Danna El-Kurd's essay provides an important insight into how the PA – a political body designated by external actors – has been detrimental to Palestinian resistance in several localities. Using the term "neutralising resistance", El-Kurd explains how Palestinian political autonomy, in terms of resistance, furthers anti-colonial struggle and points out how the Palestinian working class and refugees are the epitome of such resistance.

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The international narrative insists upon determining how to value or devalue, Palestinian resistance. This also results in a separation of narratives between armed and non-violent resistance. The former, post-Oslo, has been orchestrated to force divisions, misinterpretation, and manipulation, in the same way that the neoliberal framework is determining what constitutes Palestine and Palestinians.

This book raises several important issues, not least in showing how Palestinian resistance, largely viewed as restricted due to the ramifications of colonialism, is, in fact, fluid and capable of rising above labels of acquiescence. All contributors show how neoliberalism has manufactured acquiescence as a commodity. Yet, as Tartir and Seidel note, resistance is at one with social and political change. International involvement in Palestine seeks to smother Palestinian resistance by creating narratives of what such resistance constitutes. As agents of change, those involved in resistance are contesting the diplomatic failure which the neoliberal model has forced upon the Palestinians.

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