Q: What are the achievements and gains of the Resistance Movements in Palestine in the past year in the face of the Israeli occupation?
Palestinians continue to live in their open-air prisons in Gaza and the West Bank, but the struggle goes on in creative ways. On the illegal Apartheid wall that cuts into much of the West Bank, ‘Existence is Resistance’ is lettered across many areas. This simple act underlying their peaceful resistance to blatant injustice is an ultimate form of resistance.
In sports, there are small but rewarding achievements. The Palestinian national team rarely practice together and yet they still managed to play in the Asia Cup Games last year. “It is time to show the red card to racism, humiliation and injustice in Palestine and everywhere,” said Jibril Al Rajoub at the FIFA conference in May 2015, calling for Fifa to investigate Israel’s racism towards Palestinian players.
The Palestinian National Basketball team has been even more successful despite the restrictions. They played in the FIBA Asia Championships and beat the Philippines in a shock first game (Philippines went on to come second in the competition and Palestine ranked 10th).
The UN provided a new nod of recognition. The village of Battir was recognized as a UNESCO heritage site, giving it a responsibility towards Battir.
The most famous artist from Gaza is the Arab Idol sensation, Mohammad Assaf, who faced many obstacles to be awarded the title. He is now also the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Youth Ambassador.
More recently, Ramallah-based artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme won the Abraaj Group Art Prize, sponsored by Dubai. Their work "depicts and engages with their Palestinian environment, tackling themes of colonialism, occupation and militarism.”
Q: Regarding the worsening of Israel’s situation in the international community and growing waves of protests against Israel during the past year, how do you see the current situation of Israel in terms of economy, diplomacy and security?
Israeli leaders are conflicted about the situation in both Palestine and Palestine's main support, Iran. For many years, Israel has had a free ride on both counts.
One after another, the Arab nations opposing Israel have been brought to heel. Egypt, Libya, Iraq have all seen their anti-imperialist leaders defeated, and pro-imperialist governments installed. The only non-Muslim nation to support the Palestinian cause, the Soviet Union, was also brought down, giving a huge boost to Israel, with a million Russian Jews emigrating to Israel.
Only Iran has managed to stem the tide. At great cost, as intrigues against Iran have never ceased. But times change. The US leader, less biased than early ones, began to see that the US was losing credibility to the non-imperialist nations, who were not interested in US plans to destroy Iran. Finally, the Cold War has given way to a detente. Iran is moving forward politically, working to improve the economy and relations with the West.
Zionist leaders in Israel are not happy with the nuclear deal ending sanctions on Iran. Netanyahu’s new Mossad chief Yossi Cohen declared that the risks inherent in a post-nuclear agreement with Iran are even greater than before. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, Israel is the last watchdog defending the free world from Iran’s nuclear ambitions. They are following the Goebbels strategy: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."
However, the Israeli military is left holding the bag, and is not so cynical, though still anti-Iranian. One official told AlMonitor, "International pressure, sanctions and the clandestine campaign have induced Iran to sign the nuclear agreement, and it is our assessment that they will implement it meticulously. The agreement creates a 10- to 15-year window, which provides us with an enormous opportunity. Now it has all been blocked, rolled back and frozen at a reasonable distance from that goal. This is real news.”
The implication of "an enormous opportunity" is that Israel can mobilize western pressure on Iranian President Rouhani to lessen Iran's resolute support of the Palestinian struggle, to stop it from supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. This would give Israel "an enormous opportunity" to finish off its unfinished business -- the final solution of destroying the remnants of Palestine, either by completing its settlement occupation or even expelling the remaining Palestinians from the West Bank and Israel proper. Close to half of Israelis approve of this.
Every day, Israeli forces persecute and kill Palestinians. While Israel marches on with its crimes, the western powers dither and accept empty Israeli promises to improve. Only Iran is clear about the Israeli Goebbels strategy of telling big lies often and lulling people into accepting them.
Q: How are political developments in the West affecting the Palestinian struggle?
While there is a strong popular movement in the West to support Palestine, sadly, the efforts in the West to prevent the boycott of Israel continue. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, now in its eleventh year, cites UN resolutions and echoes the anti-apartheid campaigns against white minority rule in apartheid era South Africa, calling for "various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law". The British Conservative government and the new Liberal government in Canada both recently passed laws condemning BDS.
They didn't dare make BDS a criminal activity, but the effect is nonetheless chilling. BDS activity continues to grow. In 2014, the Canadian Federation of Student's Ontario branch, representing 300,000 students, joined BDS unanimously. The latest campaign was in Prime Minister Trudeau's Montreal, where McGill BDS was formed in February 2016. But the new law made it easy for the Board of Governors’ Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility to reject the student-led motion.
The struggle at McGill continues, led by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). They announced that the CJPME has a campaign “Go Ahead, Make My Day, Condemn Me,” a country-wide flash campaign, inviting Canadians to sign up for a packet of free “Boycott Israel” sticky notes to post at local stores on Israeli merchandise. A women's flotilla to Gaza was just launched by Canadian activists, scheduled for September.
The churches are less cowardly than university administrators. The United Church and the Quakers both refuse to invest their funds in Israel. In January, the United Methodist Church in the US divested from five Israeli banks implicated in Israel’s illegal settlements, and French telecom giant, Orange, pulled out of Israel. The British security giant G4S is selling its operations in Israel.
So Iranians can take heart from their friends and allies in the West. We in the West can also take heart that there is no evidence that Iranian public opinion has changed, nor the will of Iranian leaders. Our common battle is justice and peace, and it will never change.
From Books of Interest
Connect with Eric Walberg
Eric's From Postmodernism to Postsecularism is available here
Eric's Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics
and the Great Games is available here
Eric's Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics
and the Great Games is available here
Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.
He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.