Across Divides, against the Grain: On "Negotiations: From a Piece of Land to a Land of Peace"

Article excerpt

Toronto, Ontario

The current Palestinian Intifada is not simply a localized nationalist response to the repressive Israeli occupation and its war machine. Rather, it is local, regional, and global in its dimensions and implications. It is important to rethink the practices through which we respond to the conflict and the struggles of the Palestinian people as part of our anti-imperialist interventions and in our international/transnational practices of solidarity. Negotiations was a multi-part arts-driven event staged in Toronto in June 2003 by artists, activists and academics who felt the urgency to respond to the escalation of war in Palestine-Israel in solidarity with Palestinian struggles towards a just peace.

Beyond its unequally tragic impact on the daily lives of Palestinians and Jews in the region and in diaspora, the on-going conflict in Palestine-Israel is of particular global significance. Emerging through complex histories of European colonialism, this conflict challenges current-day peace activists to confront the efforts to strip it of its historical dimensions and reduce it to the question of the Palestinian territories that were occupied by Israel in 1967. Such amnesiac discourses are not just lacking in critical readings and engagements, they are also incapable of recovering different possibilities for existence and/or co-existence in the present and future. The failure to offer resolutions to issues such as the right of return for Palestinian refugees of 1948 - an issue that has been consistently a source of tension and divergence, if not of breakdown, in all the so-called "peace" negotiations - is symptomatic of the paralysis endemic to such amnesiac discourses. Moreover, the Palestine-Israel conflict remains hostage to US imperialist interventions, wars, investments and policies in the "Middle East." Both the 1990 and the 2003 wars on Iraq show that attempts to draw the region's societies and economies into the orbit of a "new world order" have been marketed through European-proposed and/or US-brokered initiatives that presumably will bring "peace" to Palestine-Israel and "stability" and "security" to the economies and countries in the region. Both Oslo and the Roadmap directly followed the wars on Iraq. The imbrication of Palestine-Israel conflict within colonialist histories and imperialist politicking challenges international/ transnational peace activists to rethink the Palestinian struggles in their local, regional, and global dimensions.

The Second Palestinian Intifada, which erupted in September 2000, presents us with the invaluable opportunity to expose the inextricable links among the local, regional, and global coordinates of power as they manifest themselves in the Palestinian struggles for liberation and self-determination. A new instance in the ongoing Palestinian anti-colonialist struggles since 1897, the Intifada is not simply a localized nationalist response to the repressive Israeli occupation and its war machine, as even the best of the liberal discourses want us to believe. Rather, the Intifada is local, regional, and global in its dimensions and implications. It is an insurgence against the Israeli occupation, against the political and financial corruption of the Palestinian Authority, against the open-door and normalizing policies of the Arab regimes, and against American dreams of sole-hegemony in the region and, by extension, in the world.(1) The impetus that the Intifada has given to the anti-globalization, anti-normalization and anti-war movements in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and other Arab countries exposes the extent to which the Intifada is embedded in regional and global relations of power and resistance.(2) It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to rethink not only the modes in which we represent the conflict and the struggles of the Palestinian people, but also, and simultaneously, the practices through which we respond to them as part of our anti-imperialist interventions and in our international/ transnational practices of solidarity. …