The assassination of Ziad Abu Ein must trigger a new phase in the Palestinian political agenda that confronts the Israeli occupation and apartheid project head on.
The killing of a top Palestinian official by the Israeli army during an initiative to commemorate Human Rights Day on 10 December surprised everyone. This renewed demonstration of complete disregard for Palestinian life, human rights and international opinion should signal a new era in our diplomatic objectives and strategies of resistance.
Ziad Abu Ein, who was strangled by Israeli soldiers until he fell to the ground and died, was a cabinet member who headed the Palestinian National Authority’s commission for issues related to the Wall, the Israeli settlement enterprise and was a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Both the Palestinian leadership and the people in the street reacted with shock and disbelief. Thousands of people, including representations of all political factions, gathered for the funeral. Much of the international community issued condemnations and asked for independent probes into Abu Ein's killing.
The enormity of the shock and outrage was exacerbated by the facts: there was no actual confrontation. Israeli occupation forces attacked a group of people while they were trying to plant olive trees in Tarmasa’iya on Palestinian land threatened for confiscation to further expand the illegal Israeli settlement in the area.
Israel’s point of no return
This assassination wasn't accidental and is inherent to the full-scale onslaught Israel has launched since the beginning of this year in order to definitely liquidate the Palestinian cause. The implosion by the Israeli side of the “'peace talks” lead by the White House set the stage for this aggression. The latest massacre in the Gaza Strip and the brutal and irresponsible repression of any Palestinian presence in Jerusalem are the most horrific parts of this policy.
There is much conjecture that this escalation of ethnic cleansing and repression is influenced by the right-wing composition of the Israeli government and electoral calculations. This may be a part of the motivations. However, the strategic reasons for this course of action lie much deeper: the only logical explanation for Israel's latest political decisions is that the Israeli political leadership is convinced that it has entered a stage of no return. It knows that time is running out for its colonial apartheid project and feels that restraints at this point only cost precious time and wouldn't essentially change Israel's global standing. Israel’s international reputation is almost irreparably tainted and supportive policies by the international community are quickly becoming a heavy liability for the political elites.
The rapidly growing movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is the best indicator of this.
Hence, Israel literally bulldozes ahead against all warnings and criticism. It attempts to change the geopolitical map and demography in the West Bank as much and as quickly as possible. It reinforces the isolation of the Gaza Strip and its genocidal policies against the Palestinian population there.
In Jerusalem, Israel has ignited a never-ending series of popular protests, and with this pretext makes life for Palestinians in their capital almost impossible, advancing the “judaisation” of the city. In addition to this comes the effort to consecrate Israel's apartheid nature by a new law that, in practice, will change little for the Palestinian citizens of Israel who have suffered ethnic cleansing and institutional and legal discrimination since the very foundation of Israel. Although it does tear away the last smokescreen supporters could use to defend the “only democracy in the Middle East”.
Israel is convinced it is advancing its own “final status” as a reality on the ground before it is too late. It is grossly violating international law and each and every Palestinian inalienable right, such as the right of return and the right to self-determination, and buries any possibility for the establishment of an independent sovereign state in the '67 borders. Most likely, however, Israel is staging the ultimate suicide attack.
Minister’s death is a game-changer
The assassination of Ziad Abu Ein, therefore, must trigger a new phase in the Palestinian political agenda. Palestinian politics need to move from reaction to Israeli crimes and human rights violations to a proactive position that confronts the Israeli occupation and apartheid project head on. In the face of Israel’s self-destructive policies, the question of what is a feasible final status option becomes urgent again. Now that the paradigm of “negotiations” – which Israel used for two decades as a cover while it solidified its colonial project on the ground – has been abandoned once and for all. Diplomatic and political strategies need to be redefined on Palestinian, Arab and international levels.
The emergency meeting of Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee members and Fatah leadership discussed actions in response to the death of Abu Ein. They are taking up the calls that have been promoted for years by Palestinian civil society, by our popular movements in the slogans shouted during protests in the streets and echoed by international human rights organisations and social movements around the globe.
The first proposal is an end to “security coordination” with Israel, including information exchange, coordination on police/military deployment. The second proposal is to move forward in the accession to the various international treaties, foremost the International Criminal Court. Lastly, the meeting called for a strengthening of popular resistance on the ground and more emphasis on the promotion of local boycotts and anti-normalisation and of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
The question now is: Will these proposals be implemented or will the inevitable international pressure and fear from the Israeli reaction once again prevent real and meaningful action? The Palestinian leadership will have to answer this question sooner rather than later.
Faced with the Israeli escalation, the existing diplomatic strategy of the Palestinian leadership to lobby for recognition of the Palestinian state in Europe seems hardly an adequate counter-measure anymore. The efforts to pass a resolution in the UN Security Council to set a timetable for an end to the occupation will predictably be vetoed by the US.
The proposed three-layered political strategy would require, beyond the official cutting of security ties with Israel, a number of simple but concrete actions. United national leadership committees should be formed in every location. These united committees would include all political and social actors on the ground and promote the demands of the people in order to strengthen their steadfastness in the confrontation with the occupation.
In order to create the necessary environment for the ratification of the international treaties, in particular the Rome Statute, official diplomatic focus would have to shift. Countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, Arab States and even Europe would have to be won over in this effort aimed at implementing international law and human rights. This would be an effective step to further delegitimise Israel’s colonial and illegal policies worldwide and promote accountability.
Finally, the Palestinian leadership should facilitate and support the international BDS movement on all levels, which is successfully led by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee. Restoration of Palestinian national unity would be an almost natural by-product, considering that in the case of a united front against the occupation, any objective justification for the internal division would crumble.
Failure to act now will have a series of dire consequences, including the consolidation of impunity and the related intensification of crimes against our people. Idleness will further deepen the gap and lack of trust between the Palestinian people and their leadership and national forces. One outcome could be a de-politicisation rooted in frustration that paralyses popular action and aggravates political division. The Palestinian people might as well react with widespread protests and confrontations with the occupation, without its leadership and without strategic vision.
The current Palestinian national forces must take up their responsibilities now and move forward representing the demands of their people, or the next phase will inevitably produce its own tools and leadership. As a people under occupation, we do not have the luxury of inaction.
First published in: https://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/israels-human-rights-day-ultimate-suicide-attack-719414924