“The U.S. and Israel want to marginalize the Palestinians”
Peace between Palestine and Israel depends on Tel-Aviv and Washington, according to Magid Shihade, a political scientist at Birzeit University and currently a visiting professor at the University of California at Davis. Shihade is critical of the Cairo Conference, which aimed to raise billions of dollars for the reconstruction of what has been destroyed by Israel in Gaza. He is similarly skeptical of the will of John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, to carry forward the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which has since June represented a union government between Hamas, in Gaza, and Fatah, in the West Bank.
CartaCapital: Do you believe that the Palestinian Authority, now the umbrella organization of Palestine thanks to the reunification of Fatah and Hamas in June, can negotiate with Israel?
Magid Shihade: Israel will always find excuses to delay, and all along continue the theft of Palestinian lands, undermining the social, political, and economic integrity of the Palestinian people. As a settler colonial state, this is a normal pattern. Israel dragged out the talks with the PLO/PA for decades, and when Yasser Arafat wanted to establish an official timeline to achieve peace he was eliminated. Mahmoud Abbas replaced Arafat. The Israeli government continued using Hamas as an excuse for not negotiating. Both Israel and the U.S. will continue to push for “empty talks” in order to marginalize the Palestinians, creating further frictions thanks to policies such as new Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
CC: The Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the acceptance by the UK and Sweden of Palestine as a state. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and John Kerry say they wish to pursue the negotiations. Are we again facing an impossible peace process?
MS: Netanyahu is not an exception regarding the peace process. The difference between the various Israeli leaders is only a matter of tone. All of them want Israel to remain a colonial state, thus undermining any real sovereignty for an independent Palestinian state. The push from different states (Sweden and others) helps, but both Israel and the U.S. remain the main obstacle.
CC: In Cairo they are raising 3.2 billion euro to reconstruct Gaza.
MS: The so-called international community puts up money to rebuild what Israel destroys. It has become a routine. Why does Israel not pick up the bill? This is a way to let Israel act with impunity.
CC: How difficult is it for an academic to publish pro-Palestinian scientific research in the U.S.?
MS: It is very hard because the academy and the publishing of academic papers in the West are not free from sympathies for Israel and Zionism, to say the least. Therefore, honest critical writing about Palestine is censored. Even teaching here is also under restrictions when it comes to the question of Israel/Palestine. There are, for example, Jewish Zionist groups that blacklist academics for taking a stand against Israel, or even for not supporting Israel such as through the AMCHA initiative (in Hebrew Amcha means “your people, your nation”). There are also groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who write letters and meet with universities' administrators to ask for the repression of students and faculty who are critical of Israel.