The Zionist project continues
For Magid Shihade, professor at Birzeit University, it is crucial to increase the pressure against Israel and its racist and destructive policies
CartaCapital: In your essay, “Not just a Picnic,” you write that an Imam of Kafr Yasif, a Palestinian village under Israeli control since 1948, told you, “no matter what Palestinians write, Israeli authorities and their western supporters will use this writing to their advantage, and to the disadvantage of the local community.” Can we make a difference through writing?
Magid Shihade: The Kafr Yasif’s residents are Israeli citizens. Reading the article about the history of the village since 1948 can help shed light on the nature of Zionism and of the Israeli state, and how Israelis perceive native Palestinians, whether they are citizens of Kafr Yassif or not. Yes, writing is one tool to expose the Israeli and Zionist propaganda, the repressive policies of the state against a peaceful population. The usefulness of writing about Palestinians in Israel is also to connect the ruptured and often disconnected history of the Palestinians since 1948. Internally, it helps to make the history of disconnected Palestinian communities much better known to one another. Externally, it can help in mounting international pressure against Israel and its racist and destructive policies.
CC: During his legislative campaign for the elections in March, Netanyahu shifted even more to the right, if that’s possible. He said, “As long as I am premier there will be no Palestinian state.”
MS: The negotiations with Palestinians are not about a sovereign contiguous state. Palestine won't have sovereignty over its borders. Jerusalem will remain under Israeli rule. This is because Zionism does not allow for sovereignty for native Palestinians. Netanyahu sees even those Palestinians who are citizens of Israel as a threat to the Zionist project built on maximizing Israeli lands in terms of extension and reducing the population of Arabs/Palestinians.
CC: The Zionist Union, an alliance of the Labor leader Isaac Herzog and the Hatnua’s leader Tzipi Livni, promised in the campaign to negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas (leader of the Palestinian Authority). The alliance opposing Netanyahu was willing to negotiate a “two-state solution.” Herzog and Livni also wanted to freeze the settlements. Would there be more chances for a peace process under a Premier Herzog?
MS: Neither Herzog nor any Israeli leader is for a sovereign Palestinian state. The willingness to negotiate, freezing of settlements and so on are just rhetoric. Herzog, like Livni, and their political parties, were in governments that constantly expanded the settlements. Even more than the Likud. Building and expanding settlements means that they aim at killing any real possibility of a genuine Palestinian state and sovereignty. They want the same as Netanyahu and the Likud. But they want to be less hawkish and confrontational in their rhetoric. It is all about buying time, and continuing the Zionist project.
CC: The Arab alliance of parties did quite well in the legislatives in March. Is there any hope for the Arab alliance in Israel?
MS: The Arab Alliance List won 13 seats in the parliament. It is the third largest party. Yet no Israeli government in history has included them in a coalition. The hope is to unite in order to confront increased racism and chauvinism in Israeli society and politics in light of a weakened Palestinian leadership, and, at the moment, weakened Arab states.
CC: Barack Obama is apparently furious with Netanyahu because the Israeli Premier went to the majority-Republican Congress to say that the US nuclear deal with Iran was a bad deal. Can Obama finally do something against Israel in the years he still has as president?
MS: Neither Obama, nor any other American president will do something meaningful to change or put pressure on Israel to change its policies. This is not only because of a powerful Zionist lobby in the US, but also because of the affinity of the American leadership with Israel, and of a large part of the public. For Americans, the Israeli settler society is similar to their own history.