Info-Palestine.eu : The score carried out at the time of the last Israeli elections by the Joint List - federating several political organizations representing Israeli Arabic (or Palestinians of 1948) - place this list in 3rd position in the Knesset, with 14 seats. Can one regard this electoral score as a major event, especially in a context of reinforcement of the segregationist and repressive laws against the Arab minority in Israel ?
Ramzy Baroud : It is a major event, although the ‘Joint List’ was an outcome compelled by political circumstances invited by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies in the Knesset. Israeli law has fundamentally been stacked to discriminate against Arab political parties. For example, a recent law increased the minimum threshold for parliamentary representation, and that was aimed at Arab parties. Netanyahu expected that if these parties fail to reach the new threshold, they will have fewer seats in the Knesset and perhaps eventually disintegrate.
But the parties united, essentially to guarantee their own political survival with consequences that surpassed all expectations, becoming the third largest bloc in the Knesset with 14 seats. It means that Netanyahu’s policies backfired, and Arab issues, meant to be completely overlooked, were pushed back into the agenda, thus the dread among Israeli right wing and Zionist parties.
I.P : The Palestinian question since many decades, was centered on two communities : that of the occupied territories in 1967, and that of the diaspora, mainly population of the refugee camps around the Middle East. Doesn’t the Arab and Palestinian community living in Israel (Palestinians of 1948) represent today a third and impossible to circumvent component of the fight of the Palestinians ?
R.B : The Palestinians of 1948 have always, and will remain a major component of the Palestine question and the Palestinian struggle for freedom and human rights. The fragmentation between the communities were largely political. For example, after the 1967 war, 48 Palestine was distanced from the political discourse, while, after the Oslo agreement in 1993, the refugees in the diaspora were more or less dropped out from the political equation.
That said, the issues have never been truly separated : the plight of Palestinians in Israel, those under military occupation in the occupied territories, and refugees in diaspora all go back to the same historical point of reference, the Nakba of 48, and are all sustained by Israel, its racist laws, its military occupation and its refusal to adhere to international law.
I.P : Do the fundamental claims of the Palestinians as a whole, the famous “constants” - right to return for the refugees, right to self-determination, end of the colonization of which end of the blockade of Gaza and the dismantling of the colonies - have to be reformulated in order to integrate into a common platform, specific claims for the equal rights of the Palestinians of 1948 ?
R.B : The ‘national constants’ were designed to include all Palestinians, and I don’t see a need to change them. ‘Self-determination’ applies on Palestinians living in Israel but are denied rights, access to education and fair political representation, as much at it applied on refugees denied the right of return.
The colonization of Palestine has affected all aspects of Palestinian life, and those disaffected also include Bedouins in the Negev as much as refugees in Lebanon’s Ein el-Hilweh. The problem is not with the ‘constants’ but those the political leadership that veered off from these constant in return for limited and ultimately frivolous political gains.
I.P : Doesn’t the acquired political weight in Israel by the Palestinians of 1948, go objectively in the direction of a political solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict based on the existence of only one state ?
R.B : Even if that was not the case, a one state is affectively the only plausible future scenario that would guarantee both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews an achievable peaceful future with democracy and equality being the medians of co-existence. That one state already exists despite all attempts at fragmenting Palestinians. The rise of the Arab parties in Israel was a proof that no attempt at marginalization will work. Israel builds walls, fences and enshrines discriminatory laws to divide the people ; and they have failed. 66 years after the establishment of Israel on the ruins of Palestine, there are still nearly five million Palestinians living between the River Jordan and the sea.
They are occupied, terrorized, besieged, imprisoned and discriminated against. But they are still living in the very piece of land Israel claims as its own. There can no way around this but a formula that would guarantee co-existence and sharing of resources. One state is not a ‘solution’ but the only just reality that would end the conflict.
I.P : How, according to you, the movement of solidarity at the international level, and particularly the movement BDS, should integrate the new political reality imposed by the Joint List in the Israeli elections ?
The BDS movement had already emphasized equality for Palestinians in 48 as a main objective that is as vital as all other objectives. The Joint List solidified the relationship between Palestinian Arab communities in Israel as the BDS movement has to a large extent solidified the rapport between Palestinian communities across political and geographical divides. But more is needed. The new self-assertive Palestinian community in Israel deserves greater engagement ; by doing so, the BDS would defeat Israel’s constant attempt at diminishing the collective aspiration of the Palestinian people.
It is time for Palestinian communities everywhere to make a crossover, to reach out to one another, to unite their ranks, unify their energies.
March 26th, 2015 - Interview and translation by Info-Palestine.eu