Ali Abunimah is a Palestinian who resides in Chicago. As the co-founder of the essential Electronic Intifada website, his goal is to give voice to the Palestinian cause and challenge the dominant Zionist narrative of our time. Leading Jewish blogger Phil Weiss writes that people like Ali should be seriously considered as a major figure in the American debate, yet he remains marginalised. Why? Articulating Palestinian rights has never made people popular.
He’s been in Australia this week and spoken at universities, lecture halls and in the media generating a great deal of interest (not least his article in the Sydney Morning Herald detailing his vision for a one-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, also the message of his book, One Country.) He’s explained his ideas elsewhere, too, such as ABC Radio National’s Media Report on the fundamentally flawed reporting of the conflict due to Western bias, ignorance and outright racism. After all, the Israelis are seen as more like “us.”
Last night, in front of an audience of 200 people, I was in conversation with Ali at Sydney’s leading independent bookshop, Gleebooks (photos here.) We covered everything from Zionist attitudes, the rise of Barack Obama and Ali’s belief that the only way to move the issue forward is international isolation of the Jewish state. No country will willingly give up its power, especially when it benefits solely one section of society. Like apartheid South Africa, whites were eventually made to realise that their position was untenable. Furthermore, Israel’s ongoing colonisation of the West Bank has forfeited the possibility of a two-state solution. One-state is now the only answer.
Tonight, at the New South Wales Parliament House, Ali along with a leading Labor and Liberal MP spoke at the 60th anniversary of the al-Nakba commemoration (photos here). It was a moving night of reflections and moderately hopeful thoughts (including tales of the typically ham-fisted attempts by the local Jewish lobby to block access at Parliament House for the event, of which more later.)
Ali said that Israel cannot remain a predominantly Jewish state because Jews themselves will soon be outnumbered by Arabs and Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories. The world will then have a clear choice: either support an apartheid state or encourage a single, democratic entity. Suffice to say, years of struggle lie ahead.
Ali is a kind, generous, warm, funny and highly articulate man. It was an honour to spend time with him.