Ali Abunimah, a world-renowned Palestinian-American journalist with expertise in the Israel-Palestine conflict, will speak to students at the University of Colorado on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. in Eaton Humanities. A graduate of Princeton and the University of Chicago, Abunimah is co-founder and director of The Electronic Intifada, an online publication and resource that supports the Palestinian cause. Abunimah spoke to the CUI for a preview of the topics that will be covered in his talk.
CUI: Why have you agreed to come talk to the students at CU and what do you hope to accomplish?
Ali Abunimah: Well, I speak to students all over the U.S. and I was invited to come to CU. I try to make it my priority to go to places I haven’t been, and I’ve never been to Colorado. I also try to go to places that are not big metropolitan cities. I like to go where people want to have these conversations but don’t always have the opportunity. I hope this will be an occasion for people to learn more about Palestine.
CUI: There is a large Birthright organization at CU called “CU Buffs Go to Israel”. What is your opinion on the Birthright trip?
Ali Abunimah: Birthright is an Israeli government-funded program and it supports Israel by bringing young American Jews to the country in order to indoctrinate them. It tries to entice them to move to Israel or, even more dangerously, join the Israeli army and potentially participate in occupation and war crimes. The Birthright has an inherently discriminatory nature because it has specific ethnic and religious criteria. For example, Palestinian-Americans whose parents and grandparents may be born in what is now called Israel are not eligible for this program. Unfortunately, as a private program, it has the right to discriminate, but such programs should not be sponsored by public institutions or public universities. I would be concerned if there was a public sponsorship to a discriminatory, ethno-chauvinist program.
CUI: What is the state of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement and what are its recent accomplishments?
Ali Abunimah: The movement is growing and is gaining prominence all over the world. There is a sense that there is no other form of accountability applied to Israel. Just over a year ago, an enormous military assault killed more than 2,200 people, including 551 children, in Gaza. The United Nations called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and we have seen no effort to do that. You mentioned that you are from Italy: the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi recently made a declaration against BDS, and Italy is among the countries in Europe that is actually increasing cooperation with Israel, including military cooperation. So in this context of lack of accountability and official complicity with what Israel is doing, we fortunately have a growing BDS movement. In one of its latest reports, the World Bank said that there is a measurable decrease of Israeli goods being purchased in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian consumers are looking for alternatives to Israeli goods, and all over Europe Israeli manufacturers are having a hard time selling their goods. In the U.S., BDS has probably been most prominent on university campuses in terms of divestment efforts. Israeli organizations have put in millions of dollars in the past years to combat BDS on campuses and try to make it illegitimate. The scale of the effort to combat BDS tells us how effective the movement has become.
CUI: In your latest book “The Battle for Justice in Palestine,” you say that you do not believe in a two-state solution. Considering the recent violence, what do you think is the best solution to end the conflict?
Ali Abunimah: Violence is not a natural condition that is inevitable. If you resolve the basic injustices and the structure of inequality and apartheid, the violence will disappear. We have seen this in South Africa and in Northern Ireland, and these are two cases that I examine with some detail in my book. I would argue that there already is a one-state solution in effect, but it is an apartheid state and therefore the challenge for us now is to move toward equality, decolonization and democracy. These concepts are not very controversial in other contexts, it’s only when it comes to Israel that calling for democracy, equal rights and pluralism is considered to be a radical and shocking position. I don’t think that ethnic partition is possible, or viable. There is no territorial division that will satisfy Israelis and Palestinians, and there is no territorial division that can be carried out without a great deal of violence. In sum, a single state is the most moral and ethical outcome, as well as the most practical and realistic at this point.
CUI: Considering the latest violence in the West Bank, the situation in Jerusalem and what happened in the past few months, would you say that we are on the brink of a new intifada?
Ali Abunimah: There has been a slow-burning increase in violence in the past two years, particularly in Jerusalem. This is not a coincidence. This is happening because Israel’s military occupation has become more aggressive and Palestinians are seeing fewer and fewer alternatives to try to stop and resist this ongoing colonization. The more settlements that are built in the West Bank, the more Palestinians try to resist through stone-throwing and demonstrations. This creates the condition for more and more violence as Israel tries to suppress this with snipers, incredibly harsh and brutal imprisonment of children and so on. It will continue increasing unless Israel is confronted. We need to focus on the international complicity. This is not about the settlements, this is about the European Union and the U.S. who talk about the damage done by the settlements but do absolutely nothing to stop it. Violence in the West Bank is the local expression of a global system that supports Israel’s crimes. That is why I think that BDS is such an appropriate response. Palestinians alone, protesting in their villages, cannot stop this phenomenon. There has to be a much more global resistance.
Abunimah’s talk on Wednesday will be followed by a signing of his latest book, “The Battle for Justice in Palestine.”
Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Giorgio Ausenda at email@example.com