A VERY necessary conversation
19/5/12 - 2/6/12
So many things still to share - one of the most important, I believe, came up many times as we moved through Palestine, from the Gaza Overlook near Sederot to our stop 7 miles south of Lebanon, and crossing East to West: Normalization, and Dialogue. The thoughts were articulated most clearly by Omar Barghouti, the primary spokesperson in the U.S. for the Boycott, but were heard from others throughout our trip.
Both are related to the Boycott Call from Palestinian Civil Society, which I believe is very important for a full discussion with local groups. I believe Myrta agrees, but will speak only for myself. I believe they are important for us in the U.S. for we, more than in other nations, often find our work bogged down by both concepts, but without the vocabulary to define what we see are often unable to combat it. We in Spokane have experienced several painful instances of this over the years.
Of all the information we gathered, witnessed, discussed on this trip to Palestine, two things stand out for me as most important for us to remember as we work on this issue. One, I've already shared with you: the idea of "steadfastness" in the face of impasse or even defeat.
The other, which we heard over and over again, is the idea of the unacceptability of "normalization" and "dialogue". This is the wording from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI): "the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people."
How does this translate for us in the U.S.? Omar Barghouti, founding member and major spokesperson for the Boycott movement, helped to clarify this for us when we spoke with him in Ramallah.
He mentioned "dialogue" and its role in normalizing the racism and oppression carried out by Israel, indeed inherent in the very concept of a "Jewish State". When we support events or formal discussions about Palestine that do not include a clear statement of opposition, not only to the occupation, but to the racism and discrimination that underlies it, we are "normalizing" the situation. A call for "Two-States" calls for normalizing the situation, for preserving apartheid, racism, inequality.
I suggest those who are interested in, or conflicted by, "dialogue" read "Co-existence vs. Co-resistance: A case Against Normalization" on the PACBI website. http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1789
And some of the best discussion I've found outside the PACBI website is from livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com, written by a long-time Australian activist who has spent much time in Palestine:
BEGIN QUOTE FROM BLOGSPOT:
Normalization in the International Context
In the international arena, normalization does not operate all that differently and follows the same logic. While the BDS movement targets complicit Israeli institutions, in the case of normalization there are other nuances to consider. Generally,international supporters of BDS are asked to refrain from participating in any event that morally or politically equates the oppressor and oppressed, and presents the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis as symmetrical. Such an event should be boycotted because it normalizes Israel's colonial domination over Palestinians and ignores the power structures and relations embedded in the oppression.
In all these contexts,"dialogue" and engagement are often presented as alternatives to boycott. "Dialogue", if it occurs outside the resistance framework that we have outlined, becomes dialogue for the sake of dialogue, which is a form of normalization that hinders the struggle to end injustice."Dialogue","healing" and "reconciliation" processes that do not aim to end oppression, regardless of the intentions behind them, serve to privilege oppressive co-existence at the cost of co-resistance, for they presume the possibility of coexistence before the realization of justice. The example of South Africa elucidates this point perfectly, where reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness came after the end of apartheid, not before, regardless of the legitimate questions raised regarding the still existing conditions of what some have called "economic apartheid".
Two Examples of Normalization Efforts: OneVoice and IPCRI
While many, if not most, normalization projects are sponsored and funded by international organizations and governments, many of these projects are operated by Palestinian and Israeli partners, often with generous international funding. The political, often Israel-centered, framing of the "partnership" is one of the most problematic aspects of these joint projects and institutions.
PACBI's analysis of OneVoice, a joint Palestinian-Israeli youth-oriented organization with chapters in North America and extensions in Europe, exposed OneVoice as one more project that brings Palestinians and Israelis together, not to jointly struggle against Israel's colonial and apartheid policies, but rather to provide a limited program of action under the slogan of an end to the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, while cementing Israeli apartheid and ignoring the rights of Palestinian refugees, who compose the majority of the Palestinian people. PACBI concluded that, in essence, OneVoice and similar programs serve to normalize oppression and injustice. The fact that OneVoice treats the "nationalisms" and "patriotisms" of the two "sides" as if on par with one another and equally valid is a telling indicator. It is worth noting that virtually the entire political spectrum of Palestinian youth and student organizations and unions in the occupied Palestinian territory have unambiguously condemned normalization projects, such as OneVoice. ……… END QUOTE FROM BLOGSPOT.