The following article appears in this week’s Australian Jewish News (AJN):
Speaking to a crowd of almost 200 people at Gleebooks in Glebe recently, outspoken Israel critic Antony Loewenstein spoke with Palestinian-American author Ali Abunimah about his perceived need for a shift in understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the necessity of moving towards a one-state solution.
Abunimah, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, said “the Zionists” would have to come to terms with relinquishing their “power and privilege.” He argued that the best method would be to push for international economic sanctions against Israel, and said the policy had been successful in South Africa. Abunimah made the comparison to the South African situation by referring to the Palestinian lands as “Bantustans.”
The Palestinian-American author told the crowd that Israel would not voluntarily relinquish its power and said, “If we don’t provide a stick – boycott, divestment and sanctions – the void will be filled by violence, as the Palestinians will feel they have been abandoned and have no alternative.”
He did not mention the ongoing violence between Israel and the Palestinians, which has claimed multiple lives on both sides.
Abunimah compared the mood in the Palestinian population today to the atmosphere prior to the outbreak of the second Intifada. “There is intense despair, the situation is very volatile, we could see another uprising change the landscape in ways that are difficult to predict.”
A fellow of the Palestine Centre, based in Washington DC, Abunimah said there had been an “intellectual equivalent of Holocaust denial in relation to Palestinian history”, and added, “people see the two-state solution is nonsense” and are waking up to the effects of “60 years of denial.”
Abunimah said he was confident the one-state solution was gaining credence during this “moment of transition.”
Loewenstein, author of My Israel Question, is due to publish his second book, The Blogging Revolution, with Melbourne University Publishing this year [September.] He was described throughout the evening as “an Australian Jewish dissident.”
Abunimah is speaking at various events for the duration of his Australian tour.
A few added words are in order. It’s an encouraging sign that the AJN covers this event, as such debates – the reality that the two-state “solution” is dead on arrival, Israel’s colonial project making it impossible – can no longer be ignored. During my recent interview with Abunimah (his blog is here), he further explained these themes. As a former believer in the two-state solution myself, it’s important that alternative voices, about anti-Zionism and one-state ideas, are pushed into the mainstream. Things are certainly changing on that front.
I’ve also been encouraged recently by the ever-growing interest in publicly debating the Israel/Palestinian conflict. After speaking last week in Sydney to a group of around 150 Muslim school children about my views on the conflict and the importance of seeing Jews as multi-faceted and anti-Zionist (thanks to the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations for inviting me), it still astounds me how important it is to rationally debunk prejudices on all sides.
I was similarly impressed with a forum I led on Saturday night in Sydney for the Al-Ghazzali Centre. Around 100 people, mainly Muslims, came to hear my thoughts on the future of the Mid-East – the lessening of Israeli and American power, something most of us welcomed – and highlighted the moderate tone of the participants. Nobody expressed hatred for Jews or even Israel, but welcomed the opportunity to articulate their hopes for a more just Middle East. For this to happen, both the Jewish state and Arab world will have to change.
Sadly, the organiser of the event told me that once it had been made public, the leading Zionist lobby in the state, the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, called him a few times to encourage him to cancel my invitation, because I was supposedly “not representative” of the Jewish community. I’ve never claimed that I am. It’s typical of the lobby’s insecurity that open debate is so problematic for them. Thankfully, its pressure failed.
The public appetite to hear different views about the Middle East is only rising. The tired, old ways of seeing things – Zionist belligerence, denial of the Palestinian narrative and defence of the occupation – is increasingly ignored across the community.
Somebody should tell the Zionist lobby.