Mandy Turner (ed.), From the River to the Sea: Palestine and Israel in the Shadow of “Peace” (Rowman and Littlefield/Lexington Books, 2019).
Jadaliyya (J): What made you edit this book?
Mandy Turner (MT): The ideas behind it emerged in 2013 in response to the flood of books, newspaper articles, and journal special issues being published on the twentieth-year anniversary of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, otherwise known as the Oslo Accords, between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Pretty much all of these publications focused on assessing why the two-state solution had (so far) not been achieved, how the peace process had failed, and why Palestinians were still no closer to achieving self-determination.
Many of these assessments were important and useful, but I was interested in something else. I wanted to know how the “peace” and the supposedly “interim” framework had shaped the lives of the different communities of people involved, and what had been their coping strategies and political responses to it. Because this required a more anthropological focus, I drew together expert scholars who had a deep knowledge of the communities and issues I wanted to explore. I was aiming, as much as possible, to get a full and clear view of what had been happening “between the river and the sea” during a purported period of “peace.”
J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?
MT: The book analyzes the combined effects of the ongoing impact of Israeli settler colonial policies and practices, as well as the policies and practices introduced after the Oslo Accords. The chapters show how Israel’s expropriation and repression of Palestinians accelerated during this purported period of “peace,” and how different forms of expropriation and control emerged under the cover of this peace framework which were less visible and more stable. For instance, the chapter by Raja Khalidi shows how the Paris Economic Protocol (PEP), the economic part of the Oslo Accords, not only allowed Israel to continue to de-develop the OPT economy, but also regularized and legitimized these strategies through an internationally-accepted economic agreement. He reveals how the conventional wisdom, which understands the OPT economy as experiencing impressive levels of economic growth, in fact masks its structural deformation over the past twenty-five years, as well as the resource extraction by, and dependency on, Israel. But one of the worst aspects of all this, Khalidi concludes, is that the PLO accepted the PEP as a legitimate policy framework, and so are complicit in the development model distorting the OPT economy. He shows how this came about historically (at the end of the Cold War, and with the dominance of neoliberal economic frameworks) and through political economy processes (the profit and rent-seeking imperatives of Palestinian private capital, and the dominance of the World Bank in the development of economic frameworks in the OPT). He thus provides a rich analysis of how the situation turned out the way it did. The other chapters follow similar methods of enquiry.
J: How does this book connect to and/or depart from your previous work?
MT: I am a conflict and peace scholar researching thematically on the politics of international intervention. What is interesting about the Israeli-Palestinian case is that it requires us to consider broader debates on how to conceptualize the international system and the nature of power, how we should understand international intervention, and what kinds of actors/ideas are involved in developing an alternative future.
I have always found it odd that the discipline of International Relations fetishes sovereignty as constituting the main principle of the international system and so any contravention needs explanation. This is because the empirical record shows that intervention is a constant practice in the imposition and policing of international order—and I am not just talking about military "boots on the ground." Sanctions, financial assistance for preferred elites, and development and governance aid are other strategies of intervention used to control, manipulate and coerce. Of course, these are more subtle methods, but they are no less effective than direct military force. In fact, more subtle methods are perhaps more effective. The modern international system should be understood as constituting a global colonial matrix of control policed by various strategies of intervention, of which formal colonialism was only one historical instance.
I felt that western donor practices in the OPT since 1993, which were purportedly to help create the conditions for a two-state solution through the implementation of a variety of peacebuilding strategies, were an important example to explore. My research has tried to understand these policies and strategies—how they impact on the ground, particularly in terms of the form of political economy they are helping to implant; how they interact, coexist, and consolidate Israel’s strategies and practices of settler colonialism and counterinsurgency; if and how different sets of Palestinian political and economic elites have co-opted, adapted, or rejected these policies; and what western donors say they are doing but what they are actually doing in a context of settler colonialism and the global alliances that dominate in this case.
This edited book allowed me to continue to explore these themes through working with researchers who had the in-depth knowledge and expertise to uncover the conundrums, contradictions, and hypocrisies in the history of the conflict and “peace” in Israel/Palestine.
J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have?
MT: We (meaning the contributors and I) deliberately kept our contributions light on theory because we wanted these histories to reach beyond the academy. So, I hope that anyone interested in understanding the situation that currently exists in Israel/Palestine will read it.
However, I am under no illusion that more research and more words will change the current situation. The promise of peace has become increasingly hollow, negotiations have collapsed, sovereign statehood for Palestinians has been denied, and exchanges have become ever more bitter—perhaps even returning to the level of acrimony that dominated the decades before peace talks began in the early 1990s. Indeed, given the recent policy directions under the presidency of Donald J. Trump, it appears that the United States is insistent on forcing a victor’s peace, and it is using its power and might to do so.
What we need in such a context is a transformation in international public perception and opinion that, in turn, fuels an increase in solidarity actions and movements in support of Palestinian rights. We hope this book helps by offering documentation and analysis of the experiences and responses of the people who have been affected by the festering wound created by this conflict.
J: What other projects are you working on now?
MT: I have just finished co-editing a special issue of the journal Conflict, Security and Development entitled: ““The West” and “the Rest” in International Intervention: Eurocentrism and the Competition for Order,” which will be published later this year. This brought together regional studies experts and scholars of intervention to interrogate the frequently made Eurocentric assertions by politicians and academics that Western states and non-Western states are fundamentally different in terms of their aims and methods of intervention—with the former regarded as legitimate, and the latter regarded as illegitimate. Unsurprisingly, we found that this was not the case, and the reality was far more complex and interesting.
I am now working on a monograph based on my 2014 Review of International Studies article, provisionally entitled “Optical Illusions, Webs of Deceit: Peacebuilding as Counterinsurgency in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
J: Why did you call the book “From the River to the Sea”?
MT: The whole project was conceived of with this title and most of the contributors refer to the phrase “from the river to the sea”. It is a descriptive term that encompasses both modern-day Israel inside the "green line" and the occupied Palestinian territory, and has also been used by both the Zionist movement/Israel and Palestinian groups to stake their claim to the land.
The use of this phrase by Marc Lamont Hill, Professor of Media Studies and Urban Education at Temple University, at the United Nations in November 2018, drew the ire of those seeking to silence criticism of Israel’s actions in the OPT. These kinds of attacks are becoming more frequent. It is commonplace, as a researcher of this conflict, to be accused of “bias”—like Lamont Hill was—as if somehow the study of society and social life can be “scientific” and “neutral.” It has been a guiding principle throughout my intellectual life that research can be objective but it cannot be neutral—so there is a common thread that underpins this edited book, i.e., how the past twenty-five years has witnessed the imposition of a victor’s peace for Israel and has denied rights (both national and human) to Palestinians, under the guise of a “peace process.” For all the contributors to this book, these facts are undeniable. Unfortunately, though, these facts are not enough because there is a broader battle over narratives–and this is going to get worse before it gets any better.
Excerpt from the Book
With chapter contributions from Luigi Achilli, Diana Buttu, Tariq Dana, Toufic Haddad, Jamil Hilal, Cherine Hussein, Raja Khalidi, Yonatan Mendel, Mansour Nasasra, and Mandy Turner
To receive a thirty per cent discount on the book add the code LEX30AUTH19 when ordering, until 31 March 2020, on this website.
Excerpts from the introduction
“We stand here. Sit here. Remain here. Immortal here. And we have only one goal: to be.”
— Mahmoud Darwish, A State of Siege (2002) in The Butterfly’s Burden, translated by Fady Joudah
One month after the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (DOP) between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the London Review of Books published a scathing critique by leading Palestinian academic, Edward Said. Entitled “The Morning After,” Said attacked the agreement as “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles.” While many participated in the euphoria surrounding Israel’s recognition of the PLO, relished the anticipation of an end to 26 years of occupation and six years of Intifada, and welcomed that famous handshake on the White House lawn between PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, and Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, Said’s words seemed harsh. But now, 25 years later, they have proven to have been prophetic. Far from bringing peace, the DOP—and the geographical, economic, and political framework that was its result (herein referred to as the Oslo framework)—has failed to halt Israel’s vice-like grip over Palestinian natural resources and Palestinian lives. Rather, it gave breathing space for Israel to deepen its colonization and statebuilding practices over the whole of Mandate Palestine, but this time under the guise of a peace process endorsed, supported, and funded by the international community.
Dozens of books and articles have been written on whether this was Israel’s original intention, and that the DOP should actually be understood as the most recent and successful attempt to implement the Allon Plan—a strategy proposed in 1967 by Israeli minister of labor, Yigal Allon, to annex East Jerusalem and most of the Jordan Valley, but leave the heavily populated areas of the West Bank under Arab control (with either Palestinian or Jordanian leadership). Others argue that the DOP offered a genuine window of opportunity for a two-state solution, but that this was slammed shut by the assassination of Rabin in November 1995 at the hands of a Jewish-Israeli ultra-nationalist opposed to peace with Palestinians. That the PLO participated in what was clearly a problematic process which left all the important issues to final status negotiations can be explained by a number of factors. However, the most important one was quite simply because the PLO was bankrupt and isolated after the withdrawal of financial and political assistance from the Gulf States due to its support for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. But whatever the reasons for why Israel and the PLO signed the DOP, one thing is clear: that its impacts and implications have been far ranging and transformative: spatially, politically, and economically.
Spatial practices were imposed that again divided Palestinians from each other: Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were cut off from Palestinians in Israel and East Jerusalem, and eventually from each other. And after 25 years of physical restrictions on movement in the OPT, imposed and policed through the closure regime, which was designed to expand and protect Israeli settlements (that have continued to grow exponentially), the West Bank has become internally fragmented. Politically, the creation of the Palestinian Authority as an institution of limited self-rule for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, splintered the nationalist movement. Thereafter the official focus of liberation lay on the territories occupied since 1967 whereas the PLO had been established to represent all of the Palestinian people—from those in the OPT, to those inside Israel, to those in the shatat (diaspora) including refugees. While the PLO remains the negotiating partner to the peace process as well as the internationally-recognized representative of the Palestinian people at the diplomatic level, the terms “the PA” and “the PLO” are often used interchangeably and there is confusion over their separate functions particularly because of their interconnectedness, the fact that Fatah dominates both, and that there has been a de facto shift in political power toward the Palestinian Authority. The marginalization of Palestinians inside Israel and in the shatat from the Palestinian nationalist movement is particularly embodied in this shift.
These spatial and political practices, that were designed to divide and rule, created the context for different forms of economy to emerge: the fragmented West Bank economy with small pockets of prosperity surrounded by a sea of marginalized communities; the disintegrating East Jerusalem economy isolated from the rest of the West Bank and marginalized within the Israeli economy; and the Gazan economy under siege and blockade reduced to being completely dependent on donor aid for survival. Inside Israel, the Palestinian-Arab economy continued to be subjected to contradictory processes that both marginalized it and integrated it within the wider Israeli economy largely to its detriment. There were also impacts in the social sphere, particularly through Israel’s law restricting family reunification (i.e., that prevents Palestinians from East Jerusalem or Israel from living with spouses from the West Bank or Gaza inside Israel or East Jerusalem), and through restrictions on movement. And it is in response to these different contexts that distinct and divergent responses were crafted to the restrictions and problems that were faced—often in innovative and unexpected ways. Familial, community, economic, and political relations have sometimes been sufficiently robust in continuing to knit Palestinian communities together thus leading to new forms of (re-)integration.
Israel, on the other hand, has experienced exceptional levels of economic growth prompted by policies that internationalized its economy coupled with the expansion of trade with large parts of the world through the establishment of relations made possible by the DOP and the peace process, and compounded by a wave of immigration in the 1990s from the former Soviet Union. Such neoliberal capitalist policies were, as they have been in other parts of the world, accompanied by a rapid increase in inequality that has disproportionately impacted communities along communal lines—the worse affected being (in order): Palestinians-Arab citizens of Israel, the Haredim, and the Mizrahim. And while the OPT is highly dependent economically on Israel, the converse is not true. Some commentators argue that the economic impact on Israel is to be found in the costs of maintaining the occupation through state subsidies for Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the military costs of defending them. But there are, of course, a multitude of ways that Israel profits from its colonization and occupation, such as through access to natural resources in the OPT, i.e., water and fertile land, and through its leading role as an exporter of “homeland security” products and weapons. The massive scale of land expropriations from Palestinians, upon which the Israeli state itself was built in the immediate years following 1948, continued in the West Bank and Gaza after 1967, thus indicating the continuity in the mechanisms used by Israel to expand its control over the whole of Mandate Palestine. Politically, Israel has shifted to the right in the past few decades—a process that has put settlers and their supporters deep within the government, with concomitant impacts in terms of policies. Many of the settlements (particularly large ones such as Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, and those surrounding Jerusalem) are now largely not regarded by Jewish-Israelis to be problematic or illegal. Indeed, so many Jewish-Israelis now know someone (colleague, relative, friend) who lives in a settlement, that the “green line” has been virtually erased in their collective mind-set. Meanwhile, the Israeli state has continued with its strategy of conflict management and counterinsurgency (rather than conflict resolution, as promised by the peace process) against Palestinians with overwhelming support from Jewish-Israelis.
The communities selected for analysis include: Palestinians in the West Bank; Palestinians in East Jerusalem; Palestinians in the Gaza Strip; Palestinians in Israel; Palestinian refugees in Jordan; and Jewish-Israelis. The development of these communities from that initially widely acclaimed peace accord until 2018 is traced through the different chapters—and each reveals how the Oslo framework instituted certain processes of both separation and unification.
[T]he in-depth analyses of the selected communities have been supplemented with chapters that analyze the economy of the OPT; the development of Palestinian nationalism historically through the PLO and more recently; the emergence of the Palestinian Authority and how the main Palestinian political factions responded to the DOP; the rationale, policies, and impact of the Western donors and the aid regime; and activists proposing an alternative strategy to that offered by the partition framework imposed by the DOP and the two-state solution.
As shown by the chapters in this book, the DOP and the Oslo framework have instigated new experiences or further compounded old processes of oppression, marginalization, fragmentation, and dispossession for Palestinian communities. But what these analyses also show is that the responses of the different communities to these processes have also created the foundations for new forms of political expression, mobilization, and interaction.
Despite stringent and extensive actions by Israel to control and oppress Palestinians—ranging from counterinsurgency techniques such as military violence, administrative detention, assassinations, and house demolitions; to more bureaucratic methods such as controls on movement, travel, and citizenship rights—it is clear that Palestinians, as encapsulated by Mahmoud Darwish’s poem which is the epigraph to this introduction, continue to “stand here. Sit here. Remain here.” As, indeed, do Jewish-Israelis. The key question thus remains: how to liberate Palestine from the violence of Israeli settler colonialism and to build a future based on the defeat and eradication of the inequality and oppression that this system has created.