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Sophia Akram

Cracks in the wall: Beyond apartheid in Palestine/Israel

Ben White explores where the fissures in support for Israeli apartheid lie [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 May, 2018

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Book review: Ben White's refreshing analysis provides something that we should all want to hear: Israel could be losing at its own game, writes Sophia Akram.
Last week, protests that coincided with the US' controversial embassy move saw over 60 Palestinian protesters killed in one day, and many more injured.

Arriving at the tail-end of a six-week long demonstration dubbed the Great Return March, 14 May appeared to be one of the most bloody days of protest, and perhaps one of the bloodiest since Israel's incursion on the strip in 2014 - Operation Protective Edge.

Amid the outrage expressed by observers, there was also anger at politicians and world leaders for propping up the region's bully. Some states reacted by summoning or expelling Israel's ambassadors. Others simply offered empty words of condemnation.

Predictable commentary then pinned the blame squarely on Gaza's governing party, Hamas. Dismissing the protest as a corruption by extremist elements, rather than appreciating the grassroots and popular context in which it had taken place.

To those who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian pursuit of self-determination, the picture looked bleak, all too familiar and with no signs of disruption to the status quo.

It's perhaps good timing that Ben White's new book comes out in the same week as the upsetting events in Gaza. 'Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel' published by Pluto Press offers a reality check, and also a sign of optimism.

It contends that despite the de facto apartheid state that Palestine/Israel has become under a relentless occupation, there are several widening cracks where Israel would have traditionally found support.

BDS appears to challenge Israel's legitimacy and risks exposing it as an actual illegal occupier and aggressor

White, a seasoned journalist and writer on Palestine who has spent time in the region, lays out where the fissures lie, while examining how they may have emerged in the first place. It makes for important and fascinating reading.

No longer bipartisan

One of White's key points is that Israel and unwavering support for it, no longer enjoys bipartisan backing, particularly in the context of Israel/US relations.

Gone are the days that saw Republicans and Democrats alike defend Israel to the hilt. Some evidence of their support beginning to crumble occurred just before former US President Barack Obama left office, when he chose not to approve the exact terms and amount of military aid that Israel's government were asking for and expecting.

What we can see here, is the departure of many liberals who would otherwise have staunchly supported Israel. This however, has inadvertently pushed it towards the far-right of the political spectrum instead, helping it gain support from a number of far-right groups across Europe. Nothing galvanised this more than Donald Trump's election, which has proven fruitful for Israel.

Impasse, deadlock

Another key point White brings up is the impasse in reaching a political solution.

While this might lead people to conclude that the situation is just far too complex to move beyond deadlock, White breaks it down pretty succinctly:

"The Israeli maximum on offer does not meet the Palestinian minimum, or the demands of international law." (p.31)

In fact, it boils down to the fact that one side of this equation doesn't even believe in the other's right to sovereignty. And White describes the political reality that will most likely make this the case for the foreseeable future.

However, he does so before offering up that despite political and ideological stances that threaten the realisation of Palestinian statehood, there is a converse trend. He says:

"Yet away from the headlines, opposition to these discriminatory policies is growing - including amongst a particularly key constituency: American Jews." (p.48-49)

The cracks in the wall

White explains that sympathy for Israel among American Jews - a traditional pillar of support for Israel - is slowly dissipating. In particular, young Jewish Americans see the manifestation of Israel's presence of a Jewish state as in opposition to their own liberal values.

White even notes that many of them would support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement although this would be a particularly difficult thing for them to admit within their own communities.

Because despite BDS support and successes, the resources and efforts being deployed to shut it down are immense. BDS appears to challenge Israel's legitimacy and risks exposing it as an actual illegal occupier and aggressor.

Read more: The one-state solution is the only solution

And in some instances
, these efforts to discredit or stop the BDS movement have worked. Laws have passed in some US states to make BDS illegal, and soft tactics such as equating it with antisemitism are successfully used to deter people away from BDS or anything that looks like it might be BDS.

In other instances - in the UK and to some extent the UE -  efforts to thwart BDS have failed, and it therefore remains firmly in the game.

It's not necessarily "the only game in town" though as journalist Gideon Levy once said. White points out that Palestinians, through smaller movements outside of the stagnant Palestinian institutions, have managed to pull in wins.

Citing Palestinian hunger strikes and the Day of Rage protests in East Jerusalem after the closing of Al Aqsa, White clearly demonstrates that Palestinian resistance is not something to underestimate.

White clearly demonstrates that Palestinian resistance is not something to underestimate

And the "uptick in uprisings" has sparked discussions around representation among leadership. That means new organising to ensure Palestinians own the strategies deployed that are supposed to work for their interests. Israel's hard headed approach which has prevented a two-state solution has thus opened up a "new strategic space".

White's unique analysis here provides something that we should all want to hear: Israel could be losing at its own game.

The more it moves away from peace, the more resilient the movement towards sovereignty and statehood appears to become. These cracks might yet bring Israel's strategy crashing right down.

Sophia Akram is a researcher and communications professional with a special interest in human rights particularly across the Middle East. 

Follow her on Twitter: @mssophiaakram

Ben White's new book, Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel is published by Pluto Press.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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