Who Decides for the Palestinians?

In a recent article, “On Israel-Palestine and BDS,” renowned anarchist professor Noam Chomsky describes the misery caused by Israel’s actions in the Occupied Territories. He says “the United States should also be condemned and punished for providing the decisive military, economic, diplomatic and even ideological support for these crimes. So long as it continues to do so, there is little reason to expect Israel to relent in its brutal policies.”

Yes, the US is the preponderant enabler of Zionist slow-motion genocide, oppression, and dispossession. However, the US is not to be condemned alone for supporting Israel. Canada, among other Zionist-supporting nations, should also be condemned and punished for providing military, economic, diplomatic, and ideological support for these crimes.

Chomsky notes the warning of Israeli scholar Zeev Sternhell: “The road to South Africa has been paved and will not be blocked until the Western world presents Israel with an unequivocal choice: Stop the annexation and dismantle most of the colonies and the settler state, or be an outcast.”

I submit Sternhell did not go far enough. He should have written dismantle all the colonies. Acceding — even partially — to facts-created-on-the-ground is acquiescing to the perpetration of war crimes. What kind of message does this send in today’s world?

Writes Chomsky, “One crucial question is whether the United States will stop undermining the international consensus, which favors a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized border (the Green Line established in the 1949 ceasefire agreements)…”

At the outset, I must establish that any demands, strategy, and tactics pursued are the right of the oppressed people, the Palestinians, to decide upon. It is not for outsiders, especially those who might have vested interests in the outcome, to decide for the Palestinians. The solution identified by Chomsky rewards the seizure of territory through violence. And his justification: “the international consensus, which favors a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized border.” The borders of the 1947 Partition Plan were also created by an international consensus (if one can seriously refer to unethical western arm twisting to reach an outcome in the UN as a “consensus”1; why does Chomsky tout the 1949 “international consensus” over the 1947 consensus? What does elementary morality posit here? Bear in mind that the nation state of Israel was appropriated by European Jews from the indigenous Palestinians through “international consensus” (i.e., great power not-so-diplomatic arm twisting).

The Tactics of Resistance

The professor discusses the BDS movement and its prospects for furthering the Palestinian cause. He finds BD (he correctly points out that S — sanctions — are missing) has “deservedly” received “considerable attention.” “But if we’re concerned about the fate of the victims, BD and other tactics have to be carefully thought through and evaluated in terms of their likely consequences.”

Who should decide whether the BDS tactic is correct? The victims or Chomsky? Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but does not elementary morality state that victims should decide upon the proper tactics and what level of suffering they are willing to endure to attain some form of justice?

Chomsky says aiming to end the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall “makes good sense.” However, the respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194 has, according to Chomsky, “virtually no meaningful support” except within the BDS movement. Chomsky is again relying on “international consensus” and “international law.” Morality apparently plays little meaningful role, except that Chomsky decries the war crimes and claims concern for the victims. His answer to the victims is, apparently, to accept getting a rump of their original state back. Never mind the refugees and restitution.

Chomsky is also skeptical about the possibility of attaining recognition for the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. He even warns that the Palestinian victims might wind up doubly harmed.

The professor posits, “Concern for the victims dictates that in assessing tactics, we should be scrupulous in recognizing what has succeeded or failed, and why.”

Of course we should be concerned for the victims and for their choice of best tactics, but does our concern supersede our recognition of their fundamental rights to decide for themselves?

BDS supporters should not look to South Africa as a model for success; it is an incorrect analogy says Chomsky.

While there is, finally, a growing domestic opposition in the United States to Israeli crimes, it does not remotely compare with the South African case. The necessary educational work has not been done. Spokespeople for the BDS movement may believe they have attained their “South African moment,” but that is far from accurate. And if tactics are to be effective, they must be based on a realistic assessment of actual circumstances.

Chomsky’s analysis seems sound. It will be exceedingly difficult to breach the western governmental, media, and academic wall that supports the slow-motion genocide, occupation, and oppression of Palestinians. I do not wish to impose victimhood on the Palestinians, and I do not suggest they identify themselves as victims. Nonetheless, insofar as war crimes, home demolitions, apartheid laws and practices, incarceration, collective punishment, humiliation, etc constitute victimization, then, I submit, Palestinians are victims of Zionist Jews. However, do the Palestinians not have the right to decide what is “a realistic assessment of actual circumstances” and what tactics will be effective? Why should Palestinians submit to an airy-fairy “international consensus” or “international law” that is more-than-likely unjust? Do they not have the right to decide what constitutes justice for themselves and what further oppression they are willing to endure to obtain justice?

Chomsky holds no illusions. He points out that Zionist Jews will pursue racist, expansionist plans. The US will probably continue to support Israel despite its lawlessness. He sees no savior on the horizon for Palestinians.

Thus the professor finds, “This is all the more reason why those who are sincerely dedicated to the Palestinian cause should avoid illusion and myth, and think carefully about the tactics they choose and the course they follow.” I am in solidarity with the professor on his opposition to the oppression and racism by Zionists. I am in solidarity with his concern for the consequences of tactics of resistance.

Outside advice for Palestinians may be beneficial, and Palestinians would be wise to consider all tactics. But Chomsky’s article raises another concern; it is a concern that outsiders might try to impose their own vision of what is a just solution for the Palestinians; it is a concern that the Palestinians be empowered to promote their vision. Nowhere is it made clear in Chomsky’s article that Palestinians have the dominant say in what fate they choose. Is not the “Palestinian cause” first and foremost the cause of the Palestinian people?

I iterate that the tactics and course of resistance are for Palestinians to decide upon. The supporters of the “Palestinian cause” can make their concerns known, but in the end, it is up to the Palestinians to decide what constitutes a settlement they can accept. It is up to Palestinians to decide what they will endure and for how long to obtain maximal justice.

  1. See Alison Weir, Against Our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how the U.S. was used to create Israel (2014). Read review. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.