[News] An independent homeland or Bantustan in disguise?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 4 14:46:07 EDT 2011

An independent homeland or Bantustan in disguise?

<http://electronicintifada.net/people/haidar-eid>Haidar Eid
Electronic Intifada
4 May 2011

The induced euphoria that characterizes 
discussions within the mainstream media around 
the upcoming declaration of an independent 
Palestinian state in September, ignores the stark 
realities on the ground and the warnings of 
critical commentators. Depicting such a 
declaration as a “breakthrough,” and a 
“challenge” to the defunct “peace process” and 
the right-wing government of Israel, serves to 
obscure Israel’s continued denial of Palestinian 
rights while reinforcing the international 
community’s implicit endorsement of an apartheid state in the Middle East.

The drive for recognition is led by Salam Fayyad, 
the appointed prime minister of the 
Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. It is based 
on the decision made during the 1970s by the 
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to adopt 
the more flexible program of a “two-state 
solution.” This program maintains that the 
Palestinian question, the essence of the 
Arab-Israeli conflict, can be resolved with the 
establishment of an “independent state” in the 
occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East 
Jerusalem as its capital. In this program 
Palestinian refugees would return to the state of 
“Palestine” but not to their homes in Israel, 
which defines itself as “the state of Jews.” Yet 
“independence” does not deal with this issue, 
neither does it heed calls made by the 1.2 
million Palestinian citizens of Israel to 
transform the struggle into an anti-apartheid 
movement since they are treated as third-class citizens.

All this is supposed to be implemented after the 
withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank 
and Gaza. Or will it merely be a redeployment of 
forces as witnessed during the Oslo period? Yet 
proponents of this strategy claim that 
independence guarantees that Israel will deal 
with the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank 
as one people, and that the Palestinian question 
can be resolved according to international law, 
thus satisfying the minimum political and 
national rights of the Palestinian people. Forget 
about the fact that Israel has as many as 573 
permanent barriers and checkpoints around the 
occupied West Bank, as well as an additional 69 
“flying” checkpoints 
employment and entrepreneurship 
,” Food and 
Agricultural Organization, 2010). And you might 
also want to ignore the fact that the existing 
Jewish-only colonies and roads and other Israeli 
infrastructure effectively annex more than 54 percent of the West Bank.

At the 1991 Madrid Conference, then Israeli Prime 
Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s hawkish government did 
not even accept the Palestinian “right” to 
administrative autonomy. However, with the coming 
of the “dovish” Meretz/Labor government, led by 
Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, the PLO 
leadership conducted behind-the-curtains 
negotiations in Norway. By signing the Oslo 
accords, Israel was released of the heavy burden 
of administering Gaza and the seven crowded 
cities of the West Bank. The first intifada was 
ended by an official ­ and secret ­ PLO decision 
without achieving its interim national goals, 
namely “freedom and independence,” and without 
the consent of the people the organization purported to represent.

This same idea of “independence” was once 
rejected by the PLO, because it did not address 
the “minimum legitimate rights” of Palestinians 
and because it is the antithesis of the 
Palestinian struggle for liberation. What is 
proposed in place of these rights is a state in 
name only. In other words, the Palestinians must 
accept full autonomy on a fraction of their land, 
and never think of sovereignty or control of 
borders, water reserves and most importantly, the 
return of the refugees. That was the Oslo 
agreement and it is also the intended 
“Declaration of Independence.” No wonder, then, 
that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 
makes it clear that he might agree to a Palestinian state through negotiations.

Nor does this declaration promise to be in 
accordance with the 1947 UN partition plan, which 
granted the Palestinians only 47 percent of 
historic Palestine even though they comprised 
more than two-thirds of the population. Once 
declared, the future “independent” Palestinian 
state will occupy less than 20 percent of 
historic Palestine. By creating a Bantustan and 
calling it a “viable state,” Israel will get rid 
of the burden of 3.5 million Palestinians. The PA 
will rule over the maximum number of Palestinians 
on the minimum number of fragments of land ­ 
fragments that we can call “The State of 
Palestine.” This “state” will be recognized by 
tens of countries ­ South Africa’s infamous 
bantusan tribal chiefs must be very envious!

One can only assume that the much-talked about 
and celebrated “independence” will simply 
reinforce the same role that the PA played under 
Oslo. Namely providing policing and security 
measures designed to disarm the Palestinian 
resistance groups. These were the first demands 
made of the Palestinians at Oslo in 1993, Camp 
David in 2000, Annapolis in 2007 and Washington 
last year. Meanwhile, within this framework of 
negotiations and demands, no commitments or obligations are imposed on Israel.

Just as the Oslo accords signified the end of 
popular, nonviolent resistance of the first 
intifada, this declaration of independence has a 
similar goal, namely ending the growing 
international support for the Palestinian cause 
since Israel’s 2008-09 winter onslaught on Gaza 
and its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla last 
May. Yet it falls short of providing Palestinians 
with the minimal protection and security from any 
future Israeli attacks and atrocities. The 
invasion and siege of Gaza was a product of Oslo. 
Before the Oslo accords were signed, Israel never 
used its full arsenal of F-16s, phosphorous 
bombs, and DIME weapons to attack refugee camps 
in the Gaza and the West Bank. More than 1,200 
Palestinians were killed from 1987-1993 during 
the first intifada. Israel eclipsed that number 
during its three-week invasion in 2009; it 
managed to brutally kill more than 1,400 in Gaza 
alone. This does not include the victims of 
Israel’s siege in place since 2006 which has been 
marked by closures and repeated Israeli attacks 
before the invasion of Gaza and since.

Ultimately, what this intended “declaration of 
independence” offers the Palestinian people is a 
mirage, an “independent homeland” that is a 
bantustan in disguise. Although it is recognized 
by so many friendly countries, it stops short of 
providing Palestinians freedom and liberation. 
Critical debate ­ as opposed to one that is 
biased, demagogic ­ requires scrutiny of the 
distortions of history through ideological 
misrepresentations. What needs to be addressed is 
an historical human vision of the Palestinian and 
Jewish questions, a vision that never denies the 
rights of a people, which guarantees complete 
equality and abolishes apartheid ­ instead of 
recognizing a new Bantustan 17 years after the 
fall of apartheid in South Africa.

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial 
and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa 
University and a policy advisor with 
<http://al-shabaka.org/>Al-Shabaka, the 
Palestinian Policy Network, where this essay was first pubilshed.

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