In July, 2003, Palestinian American Toufic Haddad and Israeli feminist Tikva Honig-Parnass, eyewitness journalists and activists currently living in Palestine and Israel, visited Seattle while on tour. They spoke at a University of Washington forum sponsored by the Freedom Socialist Party and endorsed by a dozen Arab, Jewish and other community organizations.
The two were also interviewed by Freedom Socialist staff writer Monica Hill. Following are excerpts from their interview, introduced with a set of comments by Honig-Parnass from her forum talk.
Honig-Parnass: In the era of “Pax Americana” after Iraq, we are all witness to a full-fledged advancement of the true 1948 Zionist goal, which is to establish control and sovereignty over historic Palestine from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean Sea. The Israeli military junta makes all the decisions — both external and internal policies of the state. Long ago, the thin veneer of democracy in the Israeli state was finished, and now the military is in full control.
They recognize the root causes of the conflict. They recognize that the resistance of the Palestinian people will not go away. And since the last Intifada they have declared full war against not only the Palestinian national movement, but their entire society. Many call it “sociocide.”
Moshe Ya’alon [Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff] said explicitly, “We are back to ’48. We thought they would give up, but they don’t. Therefore, we will not stop fighting, and we will not agree to anything until acceptance of the Zionist goals and Palestinian defeat is burned into their consciousness.“
According to the Zionists, all Jews all over the world have a “natural bond” with that land and therefore an automatic citizenship to Israel; while for the Palestinians who live there? They cannot get citizenship for a spouse from the occupied territories!
Hill: What essential difference do you see between the first Intifida and this one, especially around the role of women?
Haddad: Primarily, the first Intifada when it began was the result of well-prepared different forms of social movements. The political parties had since the early 1980s developed deep roots in communities and organized along with workers and students and women accordingly. So when the Intifada broke out, society was organized, which gave the first Intifada its character as a well-organized campaign of civil disobedience.
When the Oslo accords were signed [in 1993], Palestinian society was tired and there was a feeling as though, “Now the national struggle will be in the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization.” After Oslo, we witness the retreat of the left political parties, which were primarily behind a lot of the women’s initiatives, and professionalized elements formed into NGOs. During the 7 years of Oslo, there was a deliberate attempt by the [NGO] funders to co-opt from the political parties the organic leadership that had led the first Intifada. NGO agendas were increasingly decided by outside funders under the guise of “professionalism.”
The women’s movement is where we saw this so clearly.
Honig-Parnass: One of the main differences between the first Intifada and the second is that for the first, the PLO was in Tunis. For the second Intifada, the PLO was in Palestine.
During the first Intifada, the real grassroots were very connected to the women’s movement. I was very close to the women’s movement during that first Intifada. It started declining together with the decline of the Intifada. Women who had led the popular committees in the refugee camps and villages during the Intifada were now being told by Hamas they had to wear the veil!
In the second Intifada, the Palestinian Authority blurred the lines of who the fight was against, because it was partially against the PA, though not clearly defined as such. But already, since Oslo and with the collusion of the PLO, the whole society became NGOed.
Hill: What do you think of the Palestine Authority?
Haddad: The Palestinian Authority from its inception was created primarily for a security role, and to run the civilian affairs of the main cities. It was to be the administrators and bureaucrats of the 140,000 public sector employees, and to do this without any genuine sovereignty. This is what Israel accomplished with Oslo — the erection of an authority that had a policing role and a bureaucratic role.
The Palestinian Authority needs to dissolve itself. At this stage it is an impediment to anything new — they have no authority, they’re just expected to pay the bills and police. And if they don’t police, they get hit more by the Israelis. It’s an abusive relationship!
Palestinians have been unwilling to directly confront the PA, because there’s a great fear of internal disputes playing into the hands of the Israelis. But the second Intifada has an entire subtext to it which seeks to delegitimize the PA and its political trajectory.
Honig-Parnass: A few Palestinians make up a comprador bourgeois class, which profits from the occupation because they are the intermediaries between the PA and the Israeli economy — the brokers of the PA. They profit not from production — there is none — but from being an intermediary.
Hill: What do you say to people who think that the hostility between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews is just too great to be bridged?
Haddad: If you believe in humanity and social justice and equality between peoples and if you think life is worth living, then you have to struggle.
Honig-Parnass: It’s a long struggle, and it’s the same struggle as you here wage against capitalism. In a nutshell, it’s the same struggle going on everywhere.
Someone said that Toufic and I are examples of how Jews and Palestinians can work together. But we do not come from different camps forming some sort of compromise. We have the same enemy, the same goals, the same struggle.
Haddad and Honig-Parnass co-edit Between the Lines (www.between-lines.org), a political journal and online magazine that provides “a radical analysis of the political, economic and cultural realities in both Palestinian and Israeli societies.”