Photos from IPS Private Receiption Institute supporters, scholars and authors mingle at private reception hosted by IPS USA at its Georgetown office.
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Institute for Palestine Studies (USA) , 3501 M St. NW, Washington DC, 20007
1 | Volume I | Number 1|Winter 2015
The South African Moment By Mahmood Mamdani
BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS (BDS)
activists who wish to learn from the South African struggle need to place the South African boycott in a larger context, that of the anti-apartheid struggle. To see the boycott in a larger context is to understand the politics that informed the boycott. My question is: What was the decisive moment in the development of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa? What was the South African moment? The South African moment involved a triple shift. First was a shift from demanding an end to apartheid to providing an alternative to apartheid. Second was a shift from representing the oppressed, the Black people of South Africa, the majority, to representing the whole people. The third was the turn from resisting within the terms set by apartheid to redefining the very terms of how South Africa should be governed. The South African moment took shape over time, in response to a set of challenges faced by the anti-apartheid struggle. I will begin with the birth of the armed struggle in 1963 in the aftermath of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. The stated objective of the armed guerrilla insurrection was to liberate the unarmed population. The professional revolutionary was patterned after Leninâ€™s injunctions in What Is to Be Done? he and she were both part of a vanguard whose mission was to lead and liberate the people. In Maoist imagery, guerrillas were to be like fish in waterâ€”the fish would be active, the water supportive. As the armed struggle unfolded as a project, the results were by and large negative. The more activist elements moved into exile, the more the population was pacified. Capital took command: the 1960s were a time of rapid economic development, a time when huge amounts of foreign capital moved into South Africa. Economic historians speak of the 1960s as the second major significant period in the industrial transformation of South Africa, the first being the 1930s. Unlike the 1930s, which were marked by the Great Depression, the fillip to industrialization of the South African economy in the 1960s came from an expanding wave of foreign investment. From the point
A confrontation between students and police in Soweto, June 16, 1976. Police killed at least 176 and as many as 700 students during the uprising. (AZAP Archive)
of view of the people, however, the 1960s were a decade of relative silence, the silence of the graveyard. That silence was shattered by two volleys. The first was the Durban general strike of 1973. The second was the wave of township protests provoked by the police shooting of protesting students in Soweto, on 16 June 1976. The significance of Soweto was threefold. First, Soweto shifted the initiative from professional revolutionaries in exile to community-based activists. Second, it shifted the focus from armed struggle to direct action. The youth of Soweto had no more than stones to throw at gun-toting police. In both these respects, Soweto evokes the first intifada in Palestine. And third, S oweto also signaled an ideological shift, a shift in popular political perspective, a shift so vast that one may speak of it as a sea change. Before Soweto, the resistance in South Africa developed within the framework set by apartheid. To understand this framework, one needs to look at the apartheid mode of governance. Apartheid divided the whole population into races: Africans, Indians, Coloureds (a “mixed race” group), Whites—the
so-called population groups. In response, each population group organized separately, as a race: Africans as the African National Congress (ANC); Indians as the Natal Indian Congress, first organized by Gandhi; Coloureds as the Coloured People’s Congress; and Whites as the Congress of Democrats. The Congress Alliance was an umbrella organization of these separate, racially-based resistance groups and the South African Congress of Trade Unions, which was not organized along race lines. This is how the mode of governance of apartheid became naturalized as the mode of resistance against it. There were two major breaches in this mindset. The first was the Freedom Charter, adopted by the Congress Alliance in 1955, and its ringing declaration: “South Africa belongs to all those who live in it.” This declaration by elites of different racially classified groups marked the birth of nonracialism. The second breach, which was just as fundamental, if not more so, was the work of Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement. This was an alliance of ordinary people, mainly students. The effect of the Black Consciousness Movement was to incorporate individual Whites into the anti-apartheid movement. South Africa claimed to be the only
Young Palestinians in Gaza during a demonstration in January 1988. (Jean-Claude Coutausse)
democracy south of the Sahara—just as Israel claims to be the only democracy in its region. Both were racially defined, and Israel still is: a democracy for Jews only in Israel, and Whites only in South Africa. In both cases, democracy is a fig leaf hiding racial privilege. It is in this context that the ANC put forward a meaningful notion of democracy—not a democracy of only one racial group, not even of the majority against the minority, but a democracy for all. Soon, individual White anti-apartheid activists began to join the ANC.
Is There a Lesson Here
I am tempted to ask: How many anti-Zionist organizations in historic Palestine have opened their doors to Israeli Jews opposed to a Jewish state? I ask because I do not know the answer. If the answer is not any, or hardly any, why not?
What, then, is the major hindrance to a forward movement? Is it the military power of the United States and Israel? It would be a mistake to think so.
The historical significance of Black Consciousness (BC) was that it constructed a unity from below, a unity of all the oppressed whom apartheid power had fragmented into so many groups. The great historical achievement of BC was to pull the rug from under apartheid. Black, said Steve Biko, is not a color, Black is an experience—if you are oppressed, you are Black!
for the Anti-Zionist Struggle?
The predicament of the Palestinians is not the same as that of South Africans under apartheid: it is worse. When a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation visited Tanzania in the 1960s and went to pay a courtesy call on President Julius Nyerere, he reportedly told them: “We lost our independence, you lost your country!”
The problem is twofold. It is certainly a problem that the United States and Israel are not yet convinced that a military solution to the Palestinian resistance is out of the question, but it is a secondary problem. The primary problem is that the Israeli people, the majority Jewish population within the state of Israel, is not yet convinced it has an option other than Zionism. The Zionist message to the Jewish population of Israel is this: Your only defense against a second Holocaust is the State of Israel. The real
challenge the Palestinian resistance faces is political, not military. Let me return to apartheid South Africa to clarify that challenge. The party of apartheid, the National Party, came to power through elections in 1948 and was returned to power in ever greater numbers throughout the 1950s. The dissolution of political and juridical apartheid also involved a Whites-only referendum— whereby a majority of the White population authorized its government to negotiate with representatives of the Black majority. The White rejectionists belonged to a number of organizations, from the Conservative Party to the separatist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB). Their point of view was best reflected in a popular book by Rian Malan, My Traitor’s Heart. As a reporter for the Johannesburg Star, Malan covered the crime beat in the Black townships of Johannesburg. He wrote a book about what the apartheid press called Black-on-Black crime. One chapter narrated the story of the Hammer Man—a big Black man who wielded a heavy hammer with which he smashed his victims’ skulls. The violence was largely gratuitous. The story had a subscript: If they can do this to one another, what will they do to us if given half a chance? Rian Malan failed to convince the majority of Whites in South Africa. Why? Because important sections of the liberation movement had moved to thinking in holistic terms. They told anyone who would
listen—and there were plenty—that the struggle was not against settlers, but against settler power. Without a state legally underwriting settler privileges, settlers would turn into just ordinary immigrants. The South African moment was when important sections of the liberation camp redefined the enemy as not settlers but the settler state, not Whites but White power. By doing so, they provided Whites with an alternative—not a democracy for Whites only, but a nonracial democracy. Liberation in South Africa was the result of a combination of factors: war in the region, direct action within the country, and a changing balance of power globally. All three developments were important, but the decisive development was internal. Direct action began in the 1960s and developed in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a response to what had become evident to all: that the armed struggle was a propaganda weapon at best and an empty boast at worst. It began in the late 1960s with a split in the liberal White student organization, National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), which had admitted Black members. Led by Steve Biko, the Black section formed a separate organization, the South African Students’ Organization (SASO). And out of SASO grew the Black Consciousness Movement. Both the White and Black wings of the anti-apartheid student movement mobilized wider sections of society against
Protest march in 1987 by students and faculty of Birzeit University. (Courtesy of PACBI)
apartheid. Black Consciousness students moved to the townships and White students organized migrant workers in hostels on the fringe of townships. Catalytic to the strike movement, which began in Durban in 1973 and spread to the Cape and the Rand, were radical White youth who provided strategic leadership in the burgeoning independent unions of the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the core of 1976 Soweto were Black youth who inspired a generation of struggle that would lead to community organizing and community-based resistance. Whereas the former organized the workplace and the latter the community—the former marching under the banner of a nonracial unionism and the latter under Black Consciousness—both pioneered a practice that moved away from armed to unarmed but militant popular struggle. The anti-apartheid struggle educated White South Africans: it taught them that apartheid’s claim that there would be no White security without White power was a hoax. Indeed, the reverse was true: their security required that Whites give up the monopoly of power. Analogously, the Palestinian challenge is to persuade the Jewish population of Israel and the world that the long-term security of a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine requires the dismantling of the Jewish state. While that may seem completely unattainable at present, nothing is inevitable in the realm of politics. Consider that South Africa’s legal and political
Student uprising in Soweto, June 16, 1976. (Courtesy of A World at School)
apartheid ended in 1994. But 1994 was also the year of the genocide in Rwanda. Ten years earlier, if you had told African intellectuals and activists that a decade hence there would be reconciliation in one of these countries and a genocide in another, the vast majority would have failed to identify the countries correctly—why? Because in 1984, the South African army had occupied most key Black townships and Rwanda was the site of an attempted reconciliation. In ten years, everything had changed—testifying to one fact: nothing is inevitable in political life!
Mahmood Mamdani is a professor at Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala, Uganda, and Columbia University in New York City. This abridged text is based on the author’s remarks as discussant at a talk on BDS held at Columbia University on 2 December 2014. The full text will appear in the winter issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 45, No. 1).
Meet the Scholars: Rashid Khalidi
“It should be a source of pride that the Institute has survived and thrived in spite of all the vicissitudes” In the course of IPS’s 50-year history nearly ever major scholar of Palestine has contributed to the Institute’s intellectual production in some way: as an author, editor, fellow, researcher, panelist, peer reviewer, adviser, staff person, etc. This issue, the Newsletter introduces you to Rashid Khalidi, IPS Senior Fellow and Editor of our Journal of Palestine Studies. Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He is author of 7 books and 2 co-edited volumes. His most recent book, Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013), is a study of failed American mediation between Israel and the Palestinians. Khalidi was an advisor to the Palestinian delegation during the 1991-93 Madrid and Washington negotiations, previously served as President of the Middle East Studies Association, and is editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies.
Besides being editor of the Journal, you also play a leadership role as the Vice President and Vice Chairman of IPS USA. How and why did you get involved with the Institute? I became involved with IPS in Beirut as a grad student in the early 1970’s. I used the library for some of my research and worked at the Institute part time. Later, when I finished my doctorate and came back to Beirut to teach in 1974, I joined the Institute’s Research Department on a part-time basis, working mainly on Soviet policy in the Middle East. That continued until we left Beirut in late 1983 and we’re unable to return. [Ed. Note: Following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Institute’s offices were temporarily relocated to Cyprus.] Can you tell us about the Institute’s impact on academic and policy debates in the United States? I think the impact has been great, especially on academic debates, and on public opinion below the elite level. IPS has been at the forefront of a trend in scholarship that involves a deepening understanding of the realities of Palestinian history and society, and of the nature of the conflict with Zionism and Israel. The Journal for Palestine Studies, in particular, has played a big role in this evolution of scholarly discourse, and of the growing understanding among young people and others who are more open to diverse viewpoints than their elders. Social media and alternative media have played a big part in this process. The impact on the political, policy and mainstream media levels, however, has so far been minimal. As someone who was once a student and now a professor, can you relate your perspective on how Palestine is discussed both by academics and students on U.S. colleges and universities and the transformation you have witnessed? There is a much higher level of discussion of matters related to Palestine than ever before, especially in the field of Middle East Studies and among students on many campuses. This is truer of younger academics than of older ones, and of those in fields related to the study of the Middle East, such as history, literature and languages, and many of the social sciences and humanities. One can today discuss topics on campuses, in the classroom and outside, at
a reasonably high level and without overt friction, that would have been completely off limits 20 years ago. Today, there is more understanding among Americans of the Palestine problem and criticism of Israel than ever before. What role can scholars play at this propitious moment to further educate the public? Scholars should do more and better scholarship, and scholarship that is more accessible. That is their role, and they have this responsibility above all others. As citizens, they also have a responsibility to use their expertise to speak out outside the classroom in public fora and in the media. As someone who was once a student and is now a professor, would you say that you have seen a transformation in the discourse on Palestine on U.S. campuses, both by academics and students? It should be a source of pride that the Institute has survived and thrived in spite of all the vicissitudes, from the terrible shock of the Lebanese civil war, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the continuing instability in that country, to the difficulties of working in Palestine under occupation. Its publications, especially its three excellent journals, have been successful in providing an indispensable basis for scholarship, and increasingly for public advocacy and activism.
Latest Book Release from IPS Sara Roy:
The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development Expanded Third Edition More than 170 pages of new material! To order the book please visit www.palestine-studies.org and click on bookstore In the new expanded edition of The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development, Sara Roy takes her meticulous study of the political economy of the Gaza Strip since the Israeli occupation in 1967 through to the impact, one year after, of Israel’s massive summer 2014 assault known as Operation Protective Edge. In this final edition of Roy’s groundbreaking work, she argues that Gaza’s trajectory over the last 48 years has reconstructed the territory from one that had been economically integrated and deeply dependent upon Israel and strongly tied to the West Bank, to an isolated
and disposable enclave cut off from the West Bank as well as Israel and subject to ongoing military attacks. She further shows that these destructive transformations are becoming institutionalized and permanent; shaping a future for the Gaza Strip that is undeniably grim. Roy clearly demonstrates that Gaza’s debility not only is catastrophic but also deliberate and purposeful. Consequently, Roy argues that the de-development process she formulated and defined 30 years ago has approached its logical endpoint: rendering Gaza unviable.
This definitive edition also contains two essential primary documents describing the planned reconstruction of Gaza in the aftermath of the 2014 war: Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (published here for the first time and brokered by UN envoy Robert Serry, the Palestinian Authority, and the Government of Israel) and the Materials Monitoring Unit Project Initiation Document done by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University. Her most recent book is Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: Engaging the Islamist Social Sector, Princeton University Press, 2011, 2013 “Sara Roy is a first-rate scholar who tells unpleasant truths about the Israel-Palestine conflict. In this new edition of her seminal book on Gaza, she lays out in shocking detail how Israel—with the help of the EU and especially the United States—has devastated the lives of the Palestinians confined to that tiny strip of land. This book should be widely read in the West, where ignorance about all things Palestinian is the norm.” — John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago
Annual Panel in Washington DC, The Future of Bipartisanship on Israel
On October 15th, IPS USA hosted a panel at the SEIU building in Washington, DC on the future of bipartisanship on Israel moderated by Journal of Palestine Studies editor Rashid Khalidi and featuring panelists Paul Pillar, former CIA analyst and fellow at the Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University; Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the coalition group U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; Maya Berry, former Legislative Director of erstwhile House Minority Whip David Bonior and Executive Director of the Arab American Institute; and Nihad Awad, co-founder and Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Pillar examined Israel’s role as a Middle Eastern ally: highlighting that they are neither a source of energy resources nor
contributor to regional security. Moreover, U.S. and Israeli interests diverge on many key issues. Thus the no-daylight approach favored by Israel and its most ardent Capitol Hill backers is rooted in a fiction of common interests that should be reevaluated. As Pillar appropriately quoted at the top of his talk, “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests,” (Lord Palmerston, the 19th century British prime minister and foreign secretary). An experienced Hill staffer and the current director of Arab American Institute promoting Arab American involvement in the U.S. electoral system, Berry identified the guiding spirit of the politician: the path of least resistance. Although politicians might privately voice sympathy for Palestinian aspirations, the influence of
the pro-Israel lobby and the absence of a countervailing force compel them to adopt unconditional public support to which Isreal has grown accustomed. This is not cause for cynicism, Berry contends, as minorities and the younger generation of Americans are more pro-Palestinian than the aging and less diverse preceding generations. This demographic shift in public opinion might eventually lead to cracks in the bipartisan wall of support to which Israel has grown accustomed. Munayyer challenged the Beltway wisdom that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) “lost” the battle over the recent P5+1 deal with Iran. AIPAC knew from the start that a congressional blocking vote was not in the cards and AIPAC had lost prior lesser battles with “Washington’s premier lobby, the White House,” according to Munayyer. “They fought despite knowing that they were going to lose the vote, but in this calculation there was more to be gained from fighting and losing than losing without fighting at all.” What was gained was the leverage born out of the impression that President Obama threw Israel under the proverbial bus and therefore owed Israel a consolation prize—which, naturally, would be an increase in military aid. Munayyer concluded that while AIPAC has furthered its paramount objective, “it has also reached the limits of its power and put those limits on display.” Closing out the discussion, Awad explored the prevalence of Islamophobia and its impact on congressional legislation, and identified the common network between pro-Israel lobbies and groups promulgating anti-Muslim polemics. Both camps seek to defame and marginalize Muslims-Americans in order to curtail their political influence. Awad made particular note of an infamous DVD sent out to millions of American voters on the eve of the 2008 presidential election titled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West.” As the head of the nation’s largest Muslim-American organization, Awad has been subject to numerous attacks and the absurd
accusation that CAIR’s congressional intern program is a spying organization. The Institute would like to thank our generous supporters and all those who attended the event. Your support allows IPS to be the independent Palestinian voice in Washington. To watch the entire talk, please visit youtube.com/PalestineStudiesTV
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Letter from the USA Executive Director IPS USA
Dear Friend, For more than 50 years, the Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) has served as the world’s source for research, analysis, documentation and publication about Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Thanks to the generous support of people like you, our scholars and resources are available and depended upon to serve as a trusted source of accurate information on Palestine. Your generous and longstanding support has helped us sustain the Institute’s US presence, grow our impact and change the way Americans see Palestine. But we need your help now. As 2015 comes to a close, attacks on the truth and reality of Palestine and Palestinian history continue to grow. IPS’s work remains critical. In 2016, our New Year’s resolution is to double our efforts to support the truth – through educated independent perspectives, groundbreaking research and publications, challenging distortions and protecting the accuracy of the historical record – for Palestine and the world. Your generous financial support will allow us to make our resolution a reality. Thank you for believing in the power and importance of the facts on Palestine. Please make a tax-deductible contribution to the Institute for Palestine Studies (USA) today! Go online to www.palestine-studies.org and click on DONATE or send you contribution in the included envelope to 3501 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20007 Thank you in advance for your generous gifts to Palestinian research and the protection of the facts! With much gratitude,
Michele K. Esposito Executive Director Institute for Palestine Studies (USA)