Talking Palestine-Israel

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A Conversation With Diana Buttu

Staying Alive — on the Land

By David Kattenburg

Some hoaxes — the Alien Autopsy, Fiji Mermaid, Disappearing Blond Gene and Geostationary Banana Over Texas tales come immediately to mind — declare themselves at the door to all but the most pitifully gullible.

Now there’s the “Deal of the Century,” a snake oil claim if ever there was one. Brain-child of real estate huckster/reality TV host-cum US President Donald Trump and his rich son-in-law Jared Kushner, this latest American attempt to resolve the Israel-Palestine “conflict” by throwing money at it was scornfully dismissed well before its unveiling, at this week’s gathering in the Bahraini capital, Manama. By all accounts, the event was a flop.

Palestinian mothers call for the release of jailed husbands and sons.

For the Palestinian-Israeli “conflict” to end and “peace” to be achieved, Israel must terminate its 52-year-old military occupation / colonization of the West Bank and Gaza, withdraw at least a hundred thousand of its citizens from West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements —  a “flagrant violation under international law” — and allow a truly sovereign Palestinian state to be formed.

Large suitcases stuffed with cash (mostly for Israel’s corrupt Arab neighbors, not for Palestinians) will not induce Palestinians to forego their inalienable human right to self-determination, political freedom and dignity.

If Israel refuses to allow a truly sovereign Palestinian state to be formed — Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing cohorts couldn’t be clearer in their rejection of the notion, as noted here and here and here and here — then the only alternative is a single democratic state between the river and the sea; a single nation of its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike.

Israeli activist Miko Peled tells police commander what he thinks.

This is what Diana Buttu dreams of. Towards this end, Buttu and a hundred other Palestinians and Israelis have launched a One Democratic State Campaign, and are now consolidating a political program.

Their campaign’s key goals: a single constitutional democracy between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, with guaranteed individual and collective rights for all, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or national origin. Also the right of return for all Palestinians and their descendants, driven out of Palestine in 1948 or thereafter.

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and political activist based in Haifa. Armed with a pair of degrees in Middle East Studies and law from the University of Toronto and Queen’s University, and a Masters of Law from Stanford, Buttu moved to Palestine in 2000. The Second Intifada would soon begin, and with it, a fresh round of negotiations aimed at reviving the Oslo “Peace Process” and “Two-State Solution.” Buttu took up a position with the Negotiations Support Unit of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Jewish-American activist manhandled at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

But Buttu soon grew disenchanted. Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise under full steam at this point, settlements popping up like mushrooms up and down Palestine, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likudniks had absolutely no intention of allowing a viable, geographically-contiguous and fully sovereign Palestinian state to be formed.

Nor did the international community have any intention of forcing Israel to do so.

So Buttu quit her post with the PLO (or was released, in response to her critiques). Since then, she has worked independently, and with a variety of non-governmental groups.

Diana Buttu summed up her position in a September 2018 op-ed for the left-center Israeli publication Ha’aretz:

“The negotiations process has, in effect, served as cover for the world to do nothing – while giving Israel the cover to build and expand settlements … To demand that Palestinians — living under Israeli military rule — negotiate with their occupier and oppressor is akin to demanding that a hostage negotiate with their hostage taker. It is repugnant that the world demands that Palestinians negotiate their freedom, while Israel continues to steal Palestinian land. Instead, Israel should have faced sanctions for continuing to deny Palestinians their freedom while building illegal settlements.”

I spoke with Diana Buttu at a cafe in Haifa. Listen to our conversation here:

All images by David Kattenburg.

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