Episode 28: The Asymptotic ‘Two State Solution’ (Part I)

Citations Needed | February 28, 2018 | Transcript

Citations Needed
48 min readFeb 28, 2018


Intro: This is Citations Needed with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to Citations Needed, a podcast on the media, power, PR and the history of bullshit. I’m Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Thanks everyone for joining us. You can of course follow us on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook at Citations Needed and help us out, support the show through Patreon, Citations Needed Podcast with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson; you can find it that way. Thank you everyone for supporting the show. Thanks everyone for listening. Hi, Adam. What are we talking about today?

Adam: Today we are talking about one of our favorite perma-narratives, which is the ‘two-state solution’ and the nebulous ‘peace process’ as it regards to Israel and Palestine.

Nima: And since this is such a tiny topic to talk about-

Adam: Very obscure.

Nima: Really we could just knock it right out. We’ve decided to do this as a two-part episode so we can actually have the time to dig into this. We will be joined later on this show by Noura Erakat, human rights attorney and Assistant Professor at George Mason University.

[Begin Clip]

Noura Erakat: Israel does not want a two state solution and has created the facts on the ground to make it absolutely impossible, which is in line with what Yigal Allon also outlined in 1967 when saying that Israel is defensible borders will never go back to the 1949 armistice line or what we better know as the 1967 borders. The two state solution is as difficult and as impractical as a one state solution in terms of practicality is concerned and what the map looks like.

[End Clip]

Nima: On part two, we will speak with Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice For Peace.

[Begin Clip]

Rebecca Vilkomerson: One of the interesting things that’s happened in the last few months is that the Trump Administration has sort of proven without a shadow of the doubt, because we have David Friedman who’s a settler, who is the ambassador to Israel. Of course we have Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner, who also has given money to settlements. We have Trump himself who declared Jerusalem unilaterally the capital of Israel, and so I think one of the things that’s actually positive that’s happened because of all these things, obviously it’s caused a lot of pain in Israel/Palestine itself, but one of the things that’s happened is it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the United States actually is not an honest broker and has taken the side of Israel.

[End Clip]

Adam: Obviously we deal a lot in this show about words and language and how language sort of can capture our minds and tell us what to think and have a classic situation where the word chooses the meaning, not the other way around. And this topic really captures that with these dual canards about a ‘peace process’ in the ‘two state solution’ because you’re always in a state of doing it and it never happens. And this is something like we talked about on the BDS episode, which I believe was episode seven with Steve Salaita, about the ongoing propaganda of the assumption that you’re somehow negotiating in good faith despite the fact that there’s very little empirical evidence to support that. Uh, it’s something that the United States did very well throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries where they acted like they were negotiating with the Native Americans in good faith while they settled their land.

Nima: Exactly.

Adam: Israel does something very similar. And, uh, it’s fascinating to me to watch it happening, especially with Trump coming into office and like the good acceleration is that he is totally exposing these contradictions to where liberal Zionists have to kind of confront the fact that there is no earnest effort anymore, not even nominal or kind of superficial effort to have a two state solution that Netanyahu in concert with Trump have completely embraced the settlements in the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank.

Nima: And the annexation of Jerusalem against international law.

Adam: The annexation of East Jerusalem against international law. And the continued, open air prison of Gaza without any kind of movement there or anywhere else and that now we’re at a point now where we can openly talk about the end of the peace process at quote unquote ‘and the end of the two state solution’. And talk about the j word, which is ‘justice’ and the r word, which is ‘rights’. Words that have more meaning in this context than this sort of nebulous idea of creating a second state for Palestine, which even if they did create it, would never really have any rights anyway. Um, and then of course this mindless cliché about a ‘peace process’, which is always in some sort of iteration of viability-

Nima: And always just barely dead. So it’s kind of both things. It’s always in the process of happening but never actually really happening. And then simultaneously on its deathbed and in danger of being too far gone. Of having the time pass it by and therefore there’s always an urgency to solve the problem. To find a solution for Palestine that never actually is being worked on. Uh, that’s never actually, by design, meant to move in any way towards justice. And just to kind of break this down a little bit, when we talk about the ‘two state solution’ versus like a, let’s say a ‘one state solution’, which is usually seen as the other option, when you’re talking about it in terms of a ‘two state solution’ is one wrapping up of this injustice perpetrated against Palestinians by using demography to parse the details, to have a dividing line, to build a wall, to have one you hear this all the time “two states for two peoples” as if Jews are a people unto themselves who are divorced from all other nations that they are a nation. And that Palestinians are a nation unto themselves and never actually addressing the fact that these are not equal labels. I mean one is based on geography; one is based on a place called Palestine and the people that live in Palestine, people who are, whose ancestors are from Palestine. And the other is a religion. And in some cases and ethnicity but not place based and so to divide this down the line of two peoples is also a very cynical way of looking at this. It is counterfactual in a historical way of looking at this to have these two groups pitted against each other that aren’t actually two groups pitted against each other because they are not the same kind of group. You’re not actually talking in the same language about these two sides. Obviously, Palestinians are primarily Arab, but some of them are Muslims, some of them are Christian, some of them are atheist, some are you know, other, or none. You know, there are a Afro-Palestinians and so you get into this, into this talking point, back and forth about that Palestinians over here and then Jews over there, never talking really about Israelis in the same way that that’s an actual geography based place. It’s a national based place and there are all sorts of problems with that obviously, which we can get into the history of the creation of Israel itself is certainly problematic. A colonial state built on the ruins of an indigenous population and then having a colonial settler society expand from there and that’s expansionist in its inception. But uh, these words really have meaning and ‘two state’ always has to do with demographics. Whereas a ‘one state solution’, as many people envision it, is a bi-national state, often a secular state. So it’s not based on, you know, it’s not a Jewish state. It’s not an Islamic state. It’s not a Christian state. Not a Palestinian state is just a state. And ‘one state’ is really about rights and it’s about rights denied to a native population. And then the restoration of those rights to those who have been displaced dispossessed and disenfranchised.

Adam: So let’s back up here and talk about what I personally consider to be the single most popular cliché that the cycle of violence clichés used to pathologize Arab, quote unquote ‘violence’ or Arab resistance to anything. It’s exceedingly lazy, very popular. You hear it a lot. I want to start off with by playing a trailer from an upcoming movie for a film called Beirut, with Jon Hamm.

Nima: Which I’m sure it hits all the right notes.

Adam: I’m very defensive about Beirut because I lived there for six months and I’m very like sensitive to it. Also because it’s sort of this go to punch line. And when this trailer came out, and again, I’m possible the movie is some nuance meditation on American imperialism, although I doubt it.

Nima: I’m going to say right here that it does not.

Adam: Let’s not judge, don’t judge. But so it has this, there’s this part in the trailer where they do the cycle of violence cliché that’s hysterical to me. So I want to play it real quick.

[Begin Clip]

[Music throughout]

Actor 1: And give Israel the keys to the city?

John Hamm: I need to see Cal.


Actor 2: It’s impossible.

Jon Hamm: It’s only impossible if he’s dead! [Music intensifies] 2000 years of revenge. Vendetta. Murder. Welcome to Beirut.

[End Clip]

Nima: Okay, so Don Draper has really studied his Middle East history, so that’s really helpful.

Adam: This is a very, very popular cognitive dissonance ameliorating sort of, so many people say this, if you talked to anyone about Palestine or Israel, they’ll sort of do the, “Oh, they’ve been fighting forever”, right? It’s this exact power flattening, history flattening, ideology flattening cliché you hear over and over again. And it’s something that we’ve seen for, I mean since I mean anything from comedy shows to news programs.

[Begin Clip Montage]

Clip 1: Because the USA supports Israel and many Muslims hate Jews. We are tarred by that hatred. Its centuries old. It’s not going away anytime soon.

Clip 2: After thousands of years, Jews and Arabs are not strangers in a strange land.

Clip 3: The essence of what’s made Jerusalem a cockpit of violence for many hundreds of years.

Clip 4: They’ve hated each other for years, the Jews and the Palestinians and the Arabs; they’ve been going at it for thousands of years. They’re never going to sell out. I don’t care. Let them attack each other.

Clip 5: For thousands of years, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have been fighting about-

Clip 6: Meantime, the fighting in Israel has gone on for centuries and another big question is there anything that anyone can do?

Clip 7: It’s the kind of insolvable dispute that can’t help but descend into thousands of years of chaos and bloodshed.

[End Clip Montage]

Adam: The beauty of this is it treats what is effectively two competing nation states, which is a very generous, even a more generous way of framing it, but for the sake of common ground here we’ll say that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is not a conflict of religion. It’s a conflict of two competing nation states that have two different national liberation struggles.

Nima: Sure.

Adam: One of which I think we would broadly define as being more legitimate than the other, but nonetheless, it’s not about religion.

Nima: And it’s not about tribalism.

Adam: Right, it’s not.

Nima: And that’s what all of those, “This has been going on for thousands of years. This is intractable. It’s Jews and Muslims,” so again, flattening who Palestinians are and that all of a sudden it’s this Arab/Jewish war that has been raging, raging, raging, as opposed to a modern construct.

Adam: Well, the best part of the thousands of years of conflict is that Islam is only 1,300 years old. Like they can’t even get that right.

Nima: (Chuckles)

Adam: Um, I mean, I know what they mean, which is Arabs, which is ‘vague brown people,’ but even the concept of the ‘Arab’ is a pretty modern concept.

Nima: Right, and they’re like, “For 3,000 years, the war has raged on.”

Adam: Yeah. It’s a very Judeo-centric and very Judeo-Christian-centric view of the Middle East, right? That there’s this Arab hoard that is effecting the civilized Jew who we, of course, most Christian Zionists view Christian Jews as a kind of proto Christian, right? They’re kind of and incomplete Christian is what they used to call them. Again, what this does is it gets everyone off the hook. And the best part of this Jon Hamm trailer is of course there hasn’t been a war in Beirut for 25 years, with the exception of Israel bombing them and killing 53 people at the airport. That this idea that when you pathologize Arabic violence you get American Israeli imperialism off the hook. Of course, there’s also Arab responsibility, you don’t want to strip that out of there, but at the same time you know when the most part yeah-

Nima: When you’ve been divided, conquered and colonized for very long time.

Adam: Right. Right. It’s very similar to how white nationalists talk about African American populations. The black on black crime trope, right? That they, that’s a cycle of violence. You need to break the violence, increase the peace. It’s not systemic racism. It’s not our fault. It’s always the fault of those who are engaging in the sort of mindless violence.

Nima: Exactly. It’s always pathological. It’s always cultural. It’s always racial.

Adam: Right.

Nima: It’s never the white European’s fault.

Adam: And you saw this in the buildup to the war in Iraq. There was a lot of recycled Zionist tropes about Arab violence that you saw in the buildup to Iraq that you saw from people like Thomas Friedman, where, you know, the Arab only understands one thing and it’s violence and, you know, “you need to suck on this” and all that macho bullshit.

Nima: And then afterwards there’s always like the birth pangs of a new Middle East born of the rubble-

Adam: Right. Yeah.

Nima: That now they’re going to be democratic and Western and new, and not all, kind of, creepy Bedouin, tribal, desert people.

Adam: Primitive. Right. And then you have my favorite liberal iteration of that, which is that ‘they never had a Reformation.’ This is, I love this one, that Christianity had a Reformation, Islam never did. Which basically says that we can control and bomb them for the next 600 or so years until they have this sort of, but of course Judaism, Buddhism, like lots of religions don’t have sort of formal reformations you know. And also in many ways Islam did have many reformations. It’s a non sequitur.

Nima: Right. Exactly it’s also ahistorical to even say that. But, right, does that mean that somehow, if you could like on the battlefield, you can like call ‘Reformation!’ and, like, not get bombed?

Adam: Well, it’s part of the broader, you know, new atheist conceit that we’ve talked about right where it’s a problem of theology as opposed to politics and material needs and being bombed for, for decades. So there’s, there was another cliché we want to sort of deconstruct which is the idea that the US is somehow a neutral party.

Nima: The ‘honest broker.’

Adam: The quote unquote ‘honest broker.’

Nima: The United States is often cast as and it often casts itself as the arbiter of peace. When a new president comes into office, you always hear what is their peace plan going to be? Like are they going to bring the two sides together? In the waning days of a presidency, like a lame duck days, you always hear, “well, were they able to achieve anything or maybe now he’ll try because he has nothing to lose,” and like there’s always this idea of the United States actually wanting there to be what is known as quote unquote ‘peace’ which never has anything to do with justice. Never has anything to do with international law. Never has anything to do with rights and has everything to do with maintaining a status quo and more than that, the United States has always acted as Israel’s lawyer.

Adam: Right.

Nima: Has always been taking the Israeli side as the starting point.

Adam: I say one of the most common propaganda techniques is the assertion of good faith or some sort of like theory of mind about intention for which we have literally no evidence in that we say again The New York Times, it failed in the run up to the war in Iraq, of course it didn’t fail. The New York Times did exactly what it was supposed to do, which is sell war. So this idea of, you know, the US failed in Iraq. Well in many ways the goal was to get rid of a threat to US hegemony, which they succeeded. The fact that it killed a million people and birthed ISIS is sort of irrelevant since 40,000 guys running around in Toyotas and ski masks is actually not that big of a threat. And so we can get-

Nima: And serves its own purpose.

Adam: It serves its own purpose. Right? And we keep going into this idea of asserting intent and my argument is I don’t need to tell you what the intent is, but I’m letting you know that you’re asserting intent. So when we say things like “the US is brokering a peace process with the US as an arbiter of the peace process” it’s assuming and intent for which we have no evidence. Which is that the US is genuinely concerned with some meaningful peace in the Martin Luther King sense, right? A positive peace, which is to say, which is to say justice. We have no evidence to believe the US is not concerned with what MLK called negative peace, which is the absence of justice, but keeping things calm.

Nima: Right. Calmness is seen as being ‘peace.’ Acquiescence to Israeli hegemony is seen as ‘peace’ that the, you know, resistance against being repressed, being occupied, being colonized is like a frustrating thing for the US and for Israel obviously because it’s the lack of what they want.

Adam: That’s why it’s called, that’s why it’s called the ‘peace process’ and not the ‘justice process.’

Nima: Right.

Adam: Because if it was called the ‘justice process,’ we’d have to question the fundamental axioms of settler colonialism in Palestine.

Nima: You’d have to deal with actual borders. You’d have, if they are going to be two states, let’s say, you have to deal with what happens to the millions of refugees that were created and their families and their subsequent communities in the Diaspora and elsewhere since the creation of the state of Israel in the late 1940s. You have to deal with honestly, if we’re talking honest brokerage, honestly with what happens to Jerusalem and so we just saw, obviously. The Trump Administration deciding for itself where it comes down on that and basically removing that as a talking point from this ‘peace process,’ which actually could serve as a positive thing potentially because it does lift that veil. It does knock down that concept of honesty, of impartiality, of neutrality, which the US has never been in this role.

Adam: Right. So the question is why does the media make that assumption when there’s absolutely no basis to make that assumption? What I think we’re arguing here is that, again, like we did with the human rights episode, there’s a default setting amongst American media where we always have good intentions. Everyone else is sinister. The US is an ‘honest broker’ for Israel, Palestine, despite, you know, tons of evidence to the contrary. And occasionally they’ll slap their wrist, they’ll have a sort of, uh, you know, they’ll abstain from something at the UN to sort of around the margins there are some difference. Just as you know, any couple has their differences, but they’re still married, you know. They’re still not going anywhere. They’re going to have each other’s back. They’re going to lie to the FBI if they’re interrogated. I mean, the idea that there’s some, there’s some differences between them does not mean they’re not fundamentally tethered. Whereas the same can be said for Palestine, you know, with maybe they’ll have the sort of select few Palestinians who they permit to have an opinion. But ultimately, you know, there’s, nothing’s going to change which goes into the issue of settlements. In the issue of the, the fact that there isn’t a stalling of the peace process or a sort of status quo, there’s an active, there’s an ethnic cleansing going on here.

Nima: There’s an active destroying of any possibility for the thing that wasn’t even possible in the first place.

Adam: We need to talk about settlements and why settlements are important because you hear this a lot. Settlements are an impediment to peace, which a lot of liberal Zionists, including former Secretary of State John Kerry said, and they’re right. It is a huge impediment to peace.

Nima: And what we hear all the time is that they’re, they’re unhelpful.

Adam: Unhelpful right.

Nima: Unhelpful as opposed to direct violations of international law.

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: That against colonizing other land, against moving your population onto occupied land, which is not allowed.

Adam: And on the issue of the media using their mind powers to sort of ascertain good faith. Like the one major data point we have of bad faith is settlements because it’s the thing that says we have, we actually have no interest on negotiating a Palestinian state because settlements which have increased from about a hundred thousand to 800,000 in the past 10 years, give or take, are selectively and carefully placed to prevent a contiguous Palestinian state by design and radical Zionist and settlers will tell you that that’s the goal. The goal is to make a Palestinian state impossible because they want to turn Judea-Samaria into part of Greater Israel.

Nima: And so this is a concerted effort. Where settlements pop up, uh, is not arbitrary. They are specifically where the aquifers are so that Israeli settlements control all the water in Palestine. They cut off access between Palestinian towns and villages. They specifically cut off villages from their farmland, from their olive groves. This is all done purposefully. They’re strategically placed to destroy any notion of continuity, of community, of a contiguous viable, viable is another word you hear a lot, of viable state that could conceivably be self-governing. Obviously baked into all of this is the fact that it is taken for granted in politics and the press that any potential Palestinian state would not be able to defend itself, will not have an army, would not have borders that it controlled, will not have airspace that it controlled.

Adam: Well of course not.

Nima: And so the myth of this ‘two state solution’, as it’s known, is kind of, you know, dead on arrival. And yet what we hear in the press over and over and over again is that the ‘two state solution’ is either almost dead, almost dead, might be too late, or it is already dead. We have seen this, The New York Times in early January of this year, 2018, had a headline “As a 2-State Solution Loses Steam, a 1-State Plan Gains Traction”. A year before that, Haaretz told us that “The Two State Solution Is Already Dead”. That was Gideon Levy, who, who’s a wonderful columnist. Just a month before that, December 2016, Times Of Israel, uh, had an article saying that “The 2-state solution isn’t risk, it’s already dead”. Before that, The Washington Post ran a column from, uh, one of the Palestinian officials saying, “As long as Israel continues its settlements, a two-state solution is impossible”. Uh, and this, this, this, we’ve seen, you know, Chatham House has done this. Jimmy Carter has said this; there have just been many, many articles like this over the years. The New York Times, back in 2013, ran an opinion piece called “Two-State Illusion”, New Republic before them, “The End of the Two-State Solution”. It goes on and on.

Adam: Yeah, and of course there’s an old joke amongst economists that, um, that Brazil is the country, the future and always will be. The ‘two state solution’ is always about to die and always will be. It’s, it’s asymptotically failing because it can’t fail because if it does, you have to acknowledge reality. And that is that there is effectively two options. There was three in theory, right? There’s the first one, which is a two state solution. But setting that aside, which I don’t even think is a real solution anyway. The two, the two solutions are the two options are, full blown ethnic cleansing you can even call it in some contexts-

Nima: Apartheid.

Adam: Yeah, Apartheid and even genocide to some extent, although I want to be careful about using that word. The second option is a one state solution with equal rights. That is unacceptable to most people. I think most people who consider themselves Zionists don’t view that as being acceptable because of this demographic threat, which of course is a sort of inherently sort of ethno nationalist concept, right?

Nima: Right. Using the South African model, ‘one person, one vote’ model of equal rights.

Adam: Yeah, not acceptable.

Nima: Is completely unacceptable to those who view themselves as not only proponents of the ‘two state solution’ but Zionists in general.

Adam: So you have yourself a little bit of a pickle here, right? Cause you’re trying to be liberal and woke and good, you know, and go to women’s marches and be a good Zionist. But also you want to create an ethnic state where there was, there was about four and a half, five million Palestinians who lived there before, kind of hard to do without massive displacement and ethnic cleansing. So let’s just be honest about what that is, but nobody wants to be honest about what that is. So here we are with these bullshit terms like ‘peace process’ that don’t mean fucking mean anything.

Nima: And as a result of exactly that conundrum for liberal Zionists in conjunction, in concert with the repeated articles and headlines about the dead or almost dead ‘two state solution’, we also hear that liberal Zionism itself is almost dead.

Adam: Yeah, well yeah, because that was, that’s the logical implication and I think a lot of people are also pushing that on the right too because they want the liberal Zionism to die so they could just call it straight up ethnic cleansing and be more honest about it.

Nima: Right. That would actually be very honest. Um-

Adam: Because that’s what it is. The difference between Zionism and far right Zionism is simply an issue of how long has the timetable for ethnic cleansing.

Nima: And how much handwringing are you going to do?

Adam: How much hand rigging will you do and how humane will it be? To the extent ethnic cleansing can be humane. So I mean, it’s what all the Ali Abunimah would argue is that the settler colonialism of the quote unquote ‘radical right’ or ‘radical Zionist’ is inherent in the very nature of Israel because it is a colony itself. I’m perhaps a little bit more forgiving in that, you know, maybe because I’m a product of the settler colonial country and I don’t want to go back to Poland, that it’s an issue of degree, right? It’s an issue of how many years back and what is sort of ongoing. I think the very least, you know, calling time out on the current displacement and current ethnic cleansing seems like a good place to start and that’s not even something where you can even agree on. And of course Obama will sort of hand wring and slap wrists, but they don’t I mean they still sold them three and a half billion dollars in arms.

Nima: This actually makes me think of one more common talking point that is often used to paint Palestinians as uncommitted to peace. Right? And seen as not a partner for peace. That’s what we hear all the time.

Adam: Partner for peace.

Nima: So one of the most common refrains to paint this picture is talking about how in 2005, Israel, what’s known as the Gaza Disengagement Plan. So Israel pulled its settlers and army out of Gaza, Gaza was, was occupied and being colonized in that much the same way the West Bank is still being ruled by Israel. And so that was happening in Gaza and in 2005 under Ariel Sharon, far right, Prime Minister, Israel pulled its settlers out, pulled its troops out, and created this complete and total blockade and siege of Gaza. Which exists to this day. It got worse in 2006 and afterwards, after Palestinians had an election and voted Hamas into office. So basically this disengagement plan, this will look, look at what Israel did for peace, right? They pulled their people out and still, and this is the common refrain, still what did they get? They got rockets. Here’s the thing, the actual purpose of the Gaza Disengagement Plan by Israel had nothing to do with peace. It had everything to do with making sure that the ‘peace process’ would never actually happen. And so, Dov Weissglass, an advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert jokingly said at one point that the siege of Gaza is like “an appointment with a dietician. Palestinians in Gaza will get a lot thinner, but they won’t die.” That this is the same guy, the same guy who when he was senior advisor to Ariel Sharon in October of 2004, who told Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper, “The significance [of the 2005 Gaza disengagement plan] is the freezing of the peace process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively. This whole package called the Palestinian state with all that it entails has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission all with the presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.” And he elaborated on this, boasting, “The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians. The disengagement plan makes it possible for Israel to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure. It legitimizes our contention that there is no negotiating with the Palestinians. There is a decision here to do the minimum possible in order to maintain our political situation. The decision is proving itself.”

Adam: So you have this Weekend At Bernie’s situation where all these sort of high minded liberals and even some right wingers are carrying around this dead peace process, treating it like it’s something that’s a legitimate thing that really exists and this burns up so much energy and calories and time that could be better spent talking about how to reconcile these two competing futures about what’s going to actually happen in Israel. Whether or not to outwardly embrace ethnic cleansing or whether or not they want to embrace a state, which has equal rights, whatever that looks like, and there’s some earnest disagreement about what that would look like. Um, there is concern about protecting minority rights and whether or not it’s some sort of, it’s bi-national.

Nima: And this is what we’re going to speak with Noura Erakat about. She is a human rights attorney and Assistant Professor at George Mason University and she’s going to join us in just a sec. So stick with us.


Nima: Nora Erakat, thank you so much for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Noura Erakat: Thank you for having me.

Nima: So what we’ve been talking about on this show is the always almost dead peace process and how there’s this Utopian solution to, uh, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has always just around the corner if only there were, it could be anything, a ‘partner for peace’, an ‘honest broker’. What we never hear obviously is an end to occupation and apartheid and colonialism. And so what we wanted to talk to you about is with this kind of infinitely regressive nature of the so called ‘peace process’ where even if someone nominally supports like a ‘two state solution’ in theory, at what point does the facade completely fall away? At what point is this going to break where the advocacy really turns to one state for equal rights for all its citizens?

Noura Erakat: So, sure. I think there’s a few things to point out. I think that the, there, we should not collapse support for a ‘two state solution’ with support for a ‘peace process’. Those are two very distinct things. You can be an avid two-stater very legitimately so and be in opposition as one, as everyone should be to the ongoing peace process as outlined by the United States. I think that the collapse of two states that the desire for two states and the peace process is a very deliberate collapse, um, that has compromised even those that might not want necessarily a one state solution. But um, anything and anything short of that is being read as one and the same thing. The other thing that you said that I think we should distinguish is this idea that if we did have an ‘honest broker’ that things would be different. And I do think that’s true. Unlike a ‘partner for peace’, we do not have an ‘honest broker’. The United States has a very vested interest and is not just a third party. It is, it is a party. It is part of the problem. And the reason that we have not been able to find our way out of this. So I guess let me answer each in turn. One, for those who are in support of the two state solution. Uh, the problem with that is that Israel doesn’t want it and not withstanding the fact that it in fact represents the, the primary and most ideal way for Israel to maintain its Jewish settler sovereignty within it’s undeclared borders. Palestinians in 1988 endorsed resolution 242 after 20 years of rejecting it and also declared independence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. So as far as Palestinians are concerned, that was the compromise. They were willing to take that and run with it. Israel did never conceded and gave them the two state solution. And even entering into the peace process, never even said they were going to negotiate for a Palestinian state. But at most, were willing to give Palestinian self autonomy over individuals and certain plots of land but not over tracks of territory, let alone the entirety of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel has torpedoed the solution by expanding its settlement enterprise by building a wall within the West Bank, by annexing East Jerusalem and now declaring as part of it’s unified capital, by unilaterally disengaging from the Gaza Strip, by declaring that there will never be a Palestinian state. Israel does not want a two state solution and has created the facts on the ground to make it absolutely impossible, which is in line with what Yigal Allon also outlined in 1967 when saying that Israel’s defensible borders will never go back to the 1949 armistice line or what we better know as the 1967 borders. The two state solution is as difficult and as impractical as a one state solution in terms of practicality is concerned and what the map looks like. As for the peace process. Now that’s another situation where people also need to interrogate what is actually going on in the peace process. If we go back and look at the 1993 declaration of principles, better known as Oslo I or the Oslo Accords, that document was an agreement to agree. What Israel stipulated in the agreement was that they would enter into an autonomy framework to give Palestinian self rule over certain parts of their population and that at a later stage, unconnected completely with whatever happened during this interim stage, that they would address all of the final status issues upon which a Palestinian state is predicated including East Jerusalem borders, the question of refugees, access to water and the settlements. The Oslo document itself doesn’t prohibit settlements, doesn’t outline that East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian state. And so as a result, and in addition of course, it stipulates that it maintains civil and military control over 62 percent of the West Bank. So under Oslo’s terms, Israel’s settler colonial expansion, where it has entrenched its presence, is totally in line and legal with what was articulated in the peace process. Continuing to participate in the peace process is therefore continuing in a practice of settler, of facilitating Israel’s expansion and the absolute death of the ‘two state solution’. The Palestinian Authority has done this for 25 years on what it has declared, what the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] itself described in 2001 as ‘blind faith’ and that blind faith is, is obliterated by any examination of a map, evidence or what has happened in the first seven years of the peace process, let alone what’s happened over two and a half decades of it.

Adam: That was a very thorough breakdown. Thank you. One of the things we discussed on a prior episode of the show when we did an episode on BDS was this idea that what Israel is doing effectively, as you laid out so clearly, is doing what the United States did with the Native Americans in the nineteenth century and even as late as the early twentieth century, where you act like you’re negotiating in good faith while simultaneously colonizing land and obviously you see this in the West Bank with that kind of nineteenth century style colonialism, which is why the UN slaps them on the wrist every now and then. When we say ‘peace process’, the assumption is that or that it’s intractable even, there’s an assumption that there’s a kind of stalemate, but there really isn’t obviously a stalemate. There was an act of ethnic cleansing going on. From your perspective and how the media covers it, is this something that’s sort of never brought up at all in terms of the urgency of the issue or is this idea that there’s this intractable, unmovable situation a narrative that you find frustrating in your line of work?

Noura Erakat: So I think the idea of, of even, you know, comparing it to what happens here in North America and that’s a very apt description because we are in, we are a settler colony, um, is quite apt and never comes up and it doesn’t come up because the way Israel would like to frame this is as an ethnic religious conflict between two peoples rather than what in fact it is, which is a conflict that was created in the aftermath of the first world war when Britain in its imperial, um, capacity declared an allotted a Palestine. You know, before that under the Ottoman Empire as a land that would be a, where a Jewish national home would be established, there by declaring that the native population which is otherwise deserving and entitled as a matter of law to self determination, would just not get it. Not because they didn’t deserve it or they weren’t eligible, but because Britain decided that it should belong and become a homeland for another people. And so that has necessitated and continues to frame the dehumanization of Palestinians as always being secondary in this question so that anything that they deserve, need, want, becomes a secondary, tertiary, or, or, if at all, a kind of consideration alongside and in the aftermath of what would be necessary, uh, for Jews to be able to fulfill their settler sovereignty in Palestine.

Adam: Yeah.

Noura Erakat: And so we miss this entire dimension that this is an active frontier of settler colonization. Add to that that now we want Palestinians to participate in the negotiations, which they do in good faith. In 1988, when they declare a declaration of independence, they recognize Israel. They say that we’ll build and establish a Palestinian state on, you know, 22 percent of our historic lands.

Nima: Right.

Noura Erakat: Right? And what is intractable about that? What is intractable about a native population that said, we’ll go ahead and recognize you and, and, and this is done by the Palestinian National Council, which is overseeing the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The only thing that’s intractable at this point is the fact that Palestinians can’t possibly continue to participate in a process of self-annihilation, which is what the framework of the peace process is. It’s basically making Palestinians part of the structure of their own eraser by stipulating that their autonomy on fragmented lands in a framework where there is no Palestinian nation, but instead there’s Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, in East Jerusalem, refugees in the Diaspora. So now we’re even fragmented as a people and we’re fragmented territorially and what’s being offered is that we will have the right to exist once where our numbers are diminished sufficiently so that we no longer pose a challenge to Israel’s narrative of uninterrupted, Jewish temporal and spatial presence in Palestine. The fact that our numbers are so large is the reason that we’re not in an era, for example, that Native Americans are in North America. Numbers of Native Americans here are diminished so significantly that we can, we still don’t have an honest conversation. We still haven’t apologized, we still haven’t called it genocide, but we can, you know, we still have some sort of debate about whether or not Columbus Day should be Indigenous People’s Day, um, but in contrast to South Africa and Algeria, um, and their colonial situations there the native population was a significant majority so that it was much harder to contest this. In the case of Palestine, it’s quite unique in regards to these cases of settler colonization because the balance of, of the settler populations, the native population is almost equal. Add, compound that with the fact that this is one of the only outstanding active frontiers in the twenty first century.

Adam: Right.

Noura Erakat: So it’s really difficult to explain settler colonization to people who think that it’s some historical artifact and not an ongoing condition.

Adam: Roger Cohen in The New York Times in 2016 called the idea that it colonize Palestine, he called it anti-Semitic, and he said, quote, “This was not colonization. It was the post-Holocaust will of the world. Arab armies went to war and lost.” Now, what’s interesting is that before the 1960s, it was totally normal to call Israel a colony. In fact, I’m going to rattle off four different sections from four different newspapers. From 1898, this is the Associated Press, “In the Zionist colonies Hebrew will be the official language.” This is 1901, uh, this is The New York Times, “At the time, there was nine of these Zionists colonies.” This is the Associated Press in 1930, and this says, quote, “More money needed for the Zionist colonies.” This is AP 1945, it says, uh, “In a small office in the pioneer Zionist colony and Palestine.” So the idea that it was a colony was completely normal until the word colony became a pejorative in the 1960s.

Noura Erakat: Well I feel like we can explain those shifts, um, in order to explain what the media is doing and what it’s trying to uphold. So let me first start by saying that at the turn of the twentieth century when the Balfour Declaration is issued, and even before that, when, when a nascent Zionist movement is developing in Europe, colonization and colonialism is seen and regarded as a legitimate system of governance. And so that there’s nothing evil about colonization. To the contrary it’s a desired system that offers a good for the natives. It’s a civilizational program, it’s a way that brings, you know, uh, plumbing, better modes of technology for agriculture and health and whatnot. And so it’s regarded as something, as some sort of a positive good, which is why there isn’t, you know, a disregard or moving away from calling, you know, Zionist settlement, colonial settlement. That’s what it is. It’s the work of colonized peoples, um, through, you know, throughout the twentieth century leading up to the declaration to end colonialism, um, and, and for the freedom of all colonized peoples in 1960, where colonization is discredited all together and becomes delegitimized. And we see that the battles of the 1960s and the 1970s is basically a battle of the global south and former colonized people and ongoing colonies to overthrow the system that is being maintained. And we don’t just see that in Palestine, but it’s ongoing in Namibia, in South Africa, in Angola, in Mozambique, in Guinea, in, in, I mean, it is a global movement. Algeria is still colonized up until 1962. And so that the, the idea that we’re moving away from this language is frankly an amnesia that we practice regularly in order to sustain a privilege a wealth that has been taken and not earned. And that, that in Palestine is certainly no exception in this regard. We can barely talk about Native American genocide or the fact that we continue to practice institutionalized racism against black people as a direct legacy of slavery. So they’re not exceptional there. In terms of, um, Roger Cohen wants to, um, distinguish Zionist settlements in Palestine from, you know, other forms of colonial settlement by trying to frame this, as, you know, “these are victims. They didn’t mean to harm Palestinians. They were forced to. It was almost like they jumped out of a burning building and landed there.” And what that does, there’s one, one, there’s truth to a lot of, you know, Jewish survivors of mass annihilation in Europe who do take refuge in Palestine and not because they have the intent to settle. There’s truth to that. That truth, however, and that lack of intent, one, doesn’t negate the settler colonial nature of this because they didn’t just settle somewhere that gave them refuge. That settlement had been planned and executed well before the rise of the Third Reich in 1933, number one. Secondly, uh, once they’re there, they don’t just take refuge, but they enter into a structure and a system where Jewish nationalism and Jewish, a Jewish homeland is predicated on establishing an eighty percent majority of Jewish people where there’s already a native population, which means that the natives have to be removed and they are removed. Palestinians are removed systematically with plans that and what Patrick Wolfe describes as “unparalleled” to any other settler colonial project and how meticulous, well planned and what the thought was of that removal.

Nima: Absolutely. These were all known when this project was beginning to really get underway. I mean, you look at the 1919 King Crane Commission, an American report that was put out in 1919 that found clearly that if you were to create a Jewish state in Palestine, it would, it would result in “a practically complete dispossession of the present non Jewish inhabitants. Nor can the erection of such a Jewish state be accomplished without the gravest trespass upon the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” This was known.

Noura Erakat: Mhmm. And then if you want to get into just settler colonial studies and theory, intent is not necessary in order to be a settler. So that I in the United States, I’m also a settler, even though I have no intent, my presence here furthers and perpetuates settler colonialism and the eraser of Native Americans and the Piscataway in particular where I live in Northern Virginia. So, you know, that’s getting into another dimension of this. But what Roger Cohen is attempting to do is to obscure one, the history of this colonial settler colonial process and what was, um, established well before 1945. Two, the fact that when even Jewish survivors arrive, they arrive in and enter into a program of ethnic cleansing and removal where there isn’t room for coexistence. They don’t come to live with Palestinians. They come to take their place. And then finally, um, this I, this last idea that he mentions about the Arab states attacking, yes they did. The Arab armies don’t declare war until Israel declares independence, which is after they’ve already launched about 13 full-scale military offensives to remove Palestinians. Avi Shlaim has shown in his work that one, the Arab armies were no match for Israel. When they do attack, they never violate the partition plan borders that were stipulated in a UN resolution 181 that stipulated the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab state where it allotted 55 percent of the mandate to Israel, um, and 45 percent to an Arab Palestine. The Arab armies respected those boundaries. And Jordan under the leadership of King Hussein in particular not only respected it but was colluding with Israel because he wanted to maintain the West Bank. And so actually there was never a coordinated attack with the Arab armies. There was always ongoing collusion. And what nobody ever talks about is that one Israel, even though Israel, um, predicates it’s establishment in international law on the basis of 181, it establishes itself on 78 percent of the Palestine Mandate, even though the resolution only stipulated that 55 percent would become the Jewish state. So for anybody paying attention to these things, we know at what point are you going to drop this, you know, the legal argumentation, which is endless frankly, because law is malleable and indeterminate and so we can have an endless legal conversation which I think is irrelevant. At what point do we drop this to say, the establishment of Israel left no room for Palestinians to continue to exist and exercise their self-determination and the ongoing insistence upon Israel’s Jewish settler sovereignty is predicated on the negation of Palestinian existence. Their erasure and ongoing removal in a way that leaves them no room to exist except as supplicants under continued and interminable Israeli domination. I think Roger Cohen should answer that question. Does war mean that people cease to be humans? Because that is what these liberal arguments amount too.

Adam: Well, yeah, so they have this idea of, if I may channel Roger Cohen and some of the other liberal Zionists as it were, the, I think, the general idea is that if they run out some vague notion of terrorism and they accept the Jewish state right to exist, that some Israeli government, presumably some liberal Israeli government will bestow upon them the state, the nature of which I assume will basically look like a glorified NGO. They won’t really allow, be allowed to have a military of any meaningful sense, which I don’t think anyone will ever allow Palestine to have. They certainly won’t be allowed to have, you know, chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, whatever any other military’s allowed to have, whatever Israel has. They’ll basically just be a glorified viceroy-ship, which is sort of what they already have, but it’s a deeply dysfunctional one and one without even an ounce of moral authority. I think even the liberal Zionist vision of a second state is still going to be a state in name only.

Noura Erakat: Um, and, and it wouldn’t be a state even in name according to Netanyahu and according now to the right wing establishment that has taken over the Israeli government. There wouldn’t be a Palestinian state. And I think it’s important to remember-

Adam: But if some liberal Zionists want an election say five years from now?

Noura Erakat: So the most liberal Zionist was Ehud Barak who was elected in 1998.

Adam: Right.

Noura Erakat: And enters into the Camp David accords warranted, excuse me, the Camp David talks in 2000. He was the first Israeli leader to acknowledge that he would be negotiating for a Palestinian state. Up until that point and in all documents leading up to Oslo and during Oslo, there is no mention that Palestinians will get a state. That is never on the table. Ehud Barak is the first to offer it. And under his formulation, as all news reporters and analysts documented at the time, he was offering a very glorified ghetto. Um with several red lines including the fact, forget the fact that there would be no Palestinian military. Okay. Nobody wants to entertain that fine. But the idea that there would be no borders based on the 1967 lines, that the largest settlement blocks would be incorporated within Israel.

Adam: Okay.

Noura Erakat: That water would remain under, which is, you know, the largest, most significant source of water is in the Western Aquifer in the West Bank and it would remain under Israeli control. That the refugees would not be allowed to return and that East Jerusalem was actually off the table. And so, and the way that this was set up would basically divide the West Bank into East and West so that there wouldn’t even be any kind of territorial cohesion between the territory. So even, we’ve already seen what Israelis have, and Bill Clinton have described as the most generous offer. It’s certainly the most generous relative to all other Israeli leaders. But even the most generous offer is a form of ghettoized sovereignty.

Adam: Yeah. And of course, I think that the sort of general conventional wisdom is that Yitzak Rabin, was the most liberal, you know, leading up to Oslo and obviously some hardcore Zionists thought that way, which is why they killed him.

Noura Erakat: Well, they were upset, they were, so Rabin was never, Rabin never ever acknowledged that there would be a Palestinian state and was also interested in establishing Palestinian autonomy and the cost of occupation had just become too high, especially in the face of an intifada or Palestinian uprising that had been televised. What Rabin, the difference between Rabin and others, and this is what, you know, why, um, the liberal establishment liked him so much, is he never believed in the settlements for religious purposes. He believed in them for security ones. And so he was seen to be flexible on that front. That was why, Yigal Amir, who assassinates him is a 25 year old settler who believes that Jewish sovereignty extends to the West Bank. And so the fact that Rabin is even entertaining pulling out of any of it, is why the settler is, is, basically assassinates him.

Nima: So Noura, do you see the media and more public, maybe even pop culture narratives, about Israel, about Palestine, about the real history and possibly even about what will happen next, do you see these being affected by now the Trump Administration being in power? That it almost lifts the veil that before may have been able to sort of have this wishy-washy process, but now with the Jerusalem declaration or you know, a recognition of effective annexation because Trump is so toxic, does it rub off on Netanyahu and does it rub off on the Zionist project in general, which is far larger than anything right wing?

Noura Erakat: I think that’s really interesting. So one of my concerns is that Trump, you know, is, is, is more of the same on this issue, um, as every other administration except without any pretense. And so he’s basically, remove the emperor’s clothes to reveal American policy for what it is. So on the one hand, it’s frustrating to me to exceptionalize Trump because he is in fact doing almost the exact same thing. The declaration of moving the embassy to Jerusalem is basically fast forwarding with the United States was going to do in practice over maybe an extended period of time. So, and it doesn’t end if we do exceptionalize Trump what it does is it absolves, you know, all administrations from Lyndon B Johnson to the present leading up to Obama of being a central part of the problem. So that we make the problem Trump and not American policy. Um, on the other hand, on the other hand is exactly what you’re pointing out, which is he is so toxic and everybody, um, that you know, wants to believe that they’re liberal is in opposition to him, um, suddenly becomes a, an opposition to his policies even on this question in ways that other liberal, you couldn’t do, for example, with the Obama administration when it increased a military aid to Israel to an unprecedented level. There you couldn’t have the same critique that you can now have with Trump. So there is something to be said about what his explicit toxicity and this consensus around how awful he is does for our ability to be able to at least create more space to learn and to educate and to speak on these issues. And so yes, I think that, you know, to that extent, it’s refreshing. It’s also really interesting because this is a moment when we see that those organizations that are self proclaimed Zionist organizations that say that they’re you know trying to protect Israel as a way to also combat anti Jewish bigotry, we see that those alliances for them, that Israel and the preservation of Israel as a nationalist movement takes precedence to protecting Jews against white supremacy. And so that the collusion between some of these Zionist leaders in the United States in the Trump Administration actually harms Jewish interests, for example, that are anti Zionist or any Jews that are also going to be subject to these white supremacists, this white supremacist violence. And yet these alliances are intact because of the Trump Administration and white supremacist’s commitment to Israel as a settler colonial state that has and maintains military superiority over all of its neighbors.

Adam: Well, you know what the liberal Zionists would say is that it’s a relationship of necessity, right? This is kind of like we talked about in the show before. I went to Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, which is a massive Christian Zionist church When I was growing up, and Pastor Hagee, you know, he had said several sort of anti Semitic comments as, as to Jerry Falwell as do a lot of these guys, right. Um, about how good they aren’t making money so forth, but yet for, you know, 30, 40 years pro-Israel factions have aligned themselves with them for what they would argue is necessity. Now, of course the quote unquote ‘liberal Zionist’ is trying to put some holes in a leaking ship. Right. You saw this with the, the John Kerry abstention at the UN. Um, you know, it was probably significant because Israel lost their shit and they committed multiple crimes probably to try to get Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn to lobby Russia to not veto the resolution. So there are, there are some differences there. In your opinion, to what extent is this kind of asymptotic liberal Zionism where we’re sort of, it’s always about to be, and we talk about this at the beginning of the show where liberal Zionism’s always about to fail. Uh, you saw this piece by Michelle Goldberg, of course, in The New York Times a few weeks ago. Peter Beinart writes this piece every, every few weeks. To what extent does this myth of liberal Zionism provide the cover for the broader project of ethnic cleansing? And do you that they’ll ever be a kind of liberal Zionist government as something that’s serious or do you think its liberal cover?

Noura Erakat: Well, you know, I was talking about this with somebody earlier where our attitude about, that this is the end of liberal Zionism, but we’re never really quite there is kind of the same way our attitude about gun control or climate change. The evidence is there, we’re suffering as a result, but because of political interests, we are not doing anything about it. We’re probably going to be drowning under rising water levels before we ever admit that this was a result of human made climate change that we had the opportunity to reverse several times and the question of Palestine and specifically liberal Zionism is in that same category. There is no lack of empirical evidence that can demonstrate that there is no such thing as liberal Zionism in practice. There is no such thing. There was, you know, if there, if there was one, the Netanyahu’s ascendance in 1996 on a campaign based on opposition to the peace process should have been the first indicator. Okay, we’re not going to believe anything Netanyahu says. Later when he says there will never be a Palestinian state. Okay, we can still convince him otherwise. Later when we see that, you know, a unilateral disengagement from Gaza, an all out war and siege and blockade and aerial and ground offensives and a 2014 war that’s unprecedented. We say, “Oh okay, it’s still not the end.” Later when we see that this settlement movement takes the government. Literally takes over the government and is now the mainstream establishment, there is still this idea that, “Okay, there’s still hope.” Now they, they declare that Jerusalem is not, there will be no Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and they’re contemplating all out annexation of Area C of the West Bank, which is 62 percent, and you’re still going to say that there’s going to be a Palestinian? What is necessary? What is necessary for liberal Zionists to accept that this might have been a worthwhile idea conceptually, that in practice just doesn’t work except in this violent form that is hell bent on eraser and that perpetuates itself. There is no way to establish Israeli settler sovereignty that is predicated on a Palestinian minority or exclusion all together, that doesn’t continue to self perpetuate and reproduce itself as an expansionist, violent project that cannot tolerate the existence or presence of Palestinians. This is not something you can control unless they decided we will take what Palestinians give us. But they don’t even acknowledge that Palestinians exist. And in fact, the most recent studies that the Israeli government has done, including a 2012 one on whether or not, um, you know, the settlements are legal, they conclude that there is not even an occupation because there’s no people to occupy. Which resurrects the mantra of the sovereign void that Israel used to justify its occupation in the first place. So, you know, one has to think there are some projects that cannot be contained to restrain, especially when their origins are based in force and based on an exclusionary logic that, you know, negates the existence of Palestinians to begin with. If Israelis wanted to stay and make this a project that worked they would first and foremost have to acknowledge and embrace that indigeneity in the Middle East means being a part of the Middle East and not a part of Europe. And that would mean embracing everything Arab in the region and with a number of other minorities and the diversity that it exists in the region. And that would mean acknowledging that Palestinians have a lot to teach what it means to be indigenous to that place rather than what it means to be European in that place.

Nima: Right? I don’t remember, uh, you know, 70 years of hand wringing over “Is this the end of liberal apartheid?” Um, and you know, I feel like we’re just seeing that with Zionism and with, and with Israel again and again and again, it’s just this perpetual loop that is pretty much by design to keep the indigenous people of that land subjugated.

Noura Erakat: You know, I think we forget when we look back in history we tend to look back with these rose colored glasses that we always knew what was wrong and it was just a matter of overcoming until we got there. But, you know, even looking at MLK’s writings, um, he writes about the white liberal establishment as being the primary impediment to freedom because the white liberal establishment didn’t want black freedom to happen too fast. It happened to, it had to be more reasonable, right? If we look back, the US is upholding apartheid in South Africa and in Namibia until the early nineties. And so this isn’t something that, you know, we were always, we always knew what was the right side. This was controversial as well. And white South Afrikaners also claimed that they belonged in that land and that they were escaping persecution. Um, and that’s why they created and established themselves in the land. We didn’t, we didn’t, you know, we, we regarded Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and maintained him on a State Department list of terrorism. So it’s just important to remember-

Nima: Until like the mid 2000s.

Noura Erakat: Right. So it’s just important to remember that what’s, what’s really going on and all of these histories is not, you know, because you had said that we weren’t hand wringing. Actually we did, we did do a lot of hand wringing we just, when we look back, when we look back, we have a revisionist history of it because it’s done and it’s settled and we’ve decided on the question of, of good and bad. And why the BDS movement is so threatening to Israel is because what it’s putting on trial is the morality of a Zionist project and whether or not it’s good or bad and that is, that’s still out. That’s still out in the court of public opinion and that’s what we’re debating and that’s what we’re hand wringing about. We haven’t settled that. When it is settled, we’ll go back and we’ll have our own revisionist history, but up until now it’s still it’s still up for question and debate.

Nima: Reading Reagan’s speeches, reading speeches from the Kennedys in the sixties, there was always this idea that South African apartheid was bad, was racist, was discriminatory, and yet, “well there was just nothing that can really be done effectively to bring justice to everyone.” And therefore constructive engagement was pushed, anti sanctions, legislation was pushed and so it’s, it is so similar. I think that what maybe wasn’t quite there is the idea that this was a liberal project that like liberals were also behind. I mean, at the same time, in practice, it was exactly that. So I guess the theory doesn’t really matter.

Noura Erakat: For decades it was the US, the UK and France that exercise their veto power on behalf of South Africa so that the UN General Assembly and the international community couldn’t do anything about it. So we see the same type of intransigence. Um, and also, you know, arguments that the UN is biased. That attempts by the Afrikaner government to engage in and, and, um, initiate negotiations outside of the UN framework. All of these things have been tried and true. The difference is that the PLO entered into the interior of the US and Israeli sphere of influence and has become part of the problem. And for the last two and a half decades has posed zero, almost, excuse me, not zero, that’s unfair, but negligible opposition to Israel in order to maintain, uh, the US’ favor on the faith that it alone as a global superpower will deliver them a state.

Nima: Mhmm.

Adam: Yeah. Which seems a bit naive. Well, that was intense. So I understand that you have a book coming out, is that correct?

Noura Erakat: That’s correct.

Adam: Do you want to tell us what that’s about and when we can expect to see it and if we can pre-order it?

Noura Erakat: Um, yes. I have a forthcoming book, tentatively titled Justice For Some: Laws, Politics and The Question of Palestine, by Stanford University Press. It explores the relationship between law and power within a framework of critical legal theory. But then examines how that framework plays out in a settler colonial context where the law furthers settler colonial ambitions and simultaneously can be used as a mode of resistance and demonstrates how the law is doing that work over a century long arc between 1917 and 2017 in a way that helps explain both why the law is part of the problem, but can also be a tool of resistance. Um, and, and perhaps most interestingly helps explain the history of the present. How is it that today we can have, you know, a situation of apartheid that’s been facilitated in these various junctures? Um, and one that’s been facilitated a lot through the language of law and through its deployment. You can’t pre-order it quite yet, um, but when it’s placed up on Amazon, um, I’m sure you can do that. The release date is for the Spring 2019.

Nima: Oh, fantastic.

Adam: Great.

Nima: Yeah. This has been so great. Noura Erakat, human rights attorney, Assistant Professor at George Mason University. It has been so great to talk to you today on Citations Needed.

Noura Erakat: Thank you very much. I appreciate all the work that you’re doing and hope that those citations were helpful.


Adam: That was a lot of information to take in, a lot of good stuff there. Uh, she really distilled a lot of the contradictions that lie at the heart of the issue, um, because, you know, it’s one of those things where you go back to the forties and fifties people say, “oh, that’s ancient history” but so much of the axioms of this quote unquote ‘conflict’ are based on the initial purpose of the state of Israel and how Palestine has, has always been seen as secondary or sort of ancillary to that. So you know, these issues of what happened in ’67 and what happened in 2001 and 2005. They’re not academic. They’re actually key to like the current situation as it stands.

Nima: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I mean, you know, I tend to also really like the century old history as well, you know, the, the, how this process began, how Zionist ideology started, how it spread, how it was lobbied for, how it was embraced by the British in the wake of World War One to really take over a Ottoman lands. Um, there’s this one last quote that I would love to read before we wrap up. It’s from June 21st, 1922, and it was during a session in the House of Lords in England discussing the implementation and parameters of the Balfour Declaration and Lord Sydenham, George Clarke, got up, he was a parliamentarian, and he said, quote, “What we have done is by concessions not to the Jewish people, but to a Zionist extreme section to start a running sore in the east, and no one can tell how far that sore will extend.” He continued that, “The harm done by dumping down an alien population upon an Arab country, Arab all around in the hinterland, may never be remedied.” That was in 1922.

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: This cannot be said that this was not foreseen. This cannot be said that this was not a colonial endeavor from the beginning. Uh, I love that Noura pointed out that, you know, colonialism was seen as a positive at the time.

Adam: It totally was. And this is why when you talk about the moral dimensions of, of this and colonialism, it’s not, you know, it’s not an issue of a bunch of mustache twiddling villains. Again, everything that Israel has done, the US has done 5, 10X. Like, but you know, no one’s pure here. The difference is that Israel is colonization in ethnic cleansing is ongoing today. Whereas the US, you know, effectively managed to wipe out an entire race, you know, a hundred years ago. So that’s the difference. The difference is not even so much one of a moral difference between the US and Israel and other colonial countries, France, you know, Germany, so forth. The issue is, is it ongoing and the parody of populations, as Noura points out, makes it so effectively, I mean, for lack of a better word, that ethnic cleansing is impossible or not impossible, but it takes time. You know if there was a 10 percent Palestinian population we’d be having a different conversation.

Nima: Right.

Adam: And you saw this with South Africa as well. One of the reasons why the apartheid state fell was that the white population was, you know, roughly 20 percent, whereas in Israel it’s roughly half and half. So.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: But the fundamental problems are exactly the same. And the desire for and the inevitability of ethnic cleansing is just as urgent, if not far more recent.

Nima: This actually concludes part one of our big ol’ Palestine ‘peace process’ ruse show. We will return next week to talk more about this with our guest, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice For Peace. It will be great. Stay tuned for that next week. Thank you everyone again for listening, especially to our critic level supporters on Patreon. Thank you again for listening everyone. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Our production consultant is Josh Kross. The music is by Granddaddy. We will catch you next time.


This episode of Citations Needed was released on Wednesday, February 28, 2018.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.