The Israeli Nationality Law: A Blueprint for a Twenty-first Century Settler-Colonial State

Ilan Pappe. Journal of Holy Land & Palestine Studies. Volume 18, Issue 2. November 2019.

The new Israeli Nationality (Nation-State) Law is a natural, inevitable, product of the Zionist project in Palestine. In many ways, the 2018 law is as relevant to the current Zionist project as has been President Donald Trump’s recent decision in 2018 to move the American embassy to Jerusalem coupled with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump’s decision was very much in line with the policies of previous American administrations. In both cases in 2018 (the Nationality Law and US embassy in Jerusalem) we have steps that spell out clearly attitudes and positions that were obscured in the recent past by more cautious assessments. Israeli and American leaders subscribed to the same ideological positions that produced the Nationality Law and the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. The intersection of these two moments in 2018 is not coincidental—the policies of both sides are designed to wreak havoc on historical Palestine.

In this article I argue that the Nationality Law is a refined Israeli methodology for dealing with the challenges facing the Zionist settler-colonial project: coveting someone else’s homeland while excluding the indigenous population of Palestine. This methodology was first put into action in the late nineteenth century and has been pursued consistently ever since, while being adapted to changing circumstances and realities. More specifically, the Nationality Law addresses the reality Israel created in 1948, namely the fragmentation of the Palestinian people into groups that from then on were subjected to different means of control and now are being perceived as constituting a major threat to the Israeli settler-colonial state. The text of the Nationality Law embodies both the basic Zionist ideology as well as the adjustments of this ideology to present-day realities of Israel (and Palestine). Texts such as the Nationality Law—which is a constitutional law in Israel—have deep origins stretching back to the beginning of the Zionist settler-colonial project in Palestine. The law is also informed by more immediate developments that give the law its final shape. The text of the law therefore embodies fundamental ideological positions of the Jewish state and charts a way forward for the near and foreseeable future of the Jewish State.

The law begins with statements similar to those found in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, issued on 14 May 1948. The Declaration states that Palestine is the historical birth place of the Jewish people. While the Declaration talks about the right of Jews for ‘self-determination based on historical, cultural and continuous religious attachment to the land’ (Official Gazette: 1), the Nationality Law describes Israel as ‘a Jewish nation-state’ based on ‘a moral, religious and natural right’ (Book of Laws: 898)—and not merely on the basis of the attachment to the land. Thrown to the wind in this law are the previous Zionist claims that creating the Israeli state was a secular project of modernisation that has benefitted all who lived in historical Palestine.

These two concepts: ‘the Land of Israel’ and ‘the State of Israel’ are crucial for understanding both the Nationality Law and the nature of the Zionist project in Palestine. The concept and discourse of ‘Land of Israel’ centre on the spatial (geographical) dimension of the Zionist settler-colonial project, while the ‘State of Israel’ represents the power structure and demography of the Zionist project. According to the law there is only one ‘national group’ within the State of Israel, and there will always be only one ‘national group’ when the State of Israel expands territorially to incorporate other parts of the ‘Land of Israel’; clause 1.3 of the Law asserts that ‘the right of national self-determination in the State of Israel is exclusively Jewish and ‘unique to the Jewish people’ (‘yihudi l’am hayehudi)’. This exclusivity of ‘national rights’ will be applied in the future to any additional parts of the ‘Land of Israel’ that might be acquired through ‘Jewish settlement (Hityashvut Yehudit)’—namely through the colonisation of other parts of the ‘Land of Israel’ which are not currently with the State of Israel (Book of Laws: 898).

In order to grasp fully the significance of the law and its impact on the ‘1948 Palestinians’ (Palestinian citizens of Israel) one has to elaborate on the applicability of the settler-colonial paradigm in the particular case of Zionism. Only through this paradigm—despite some of the Palestinian criticism of it—can one appreciate the significance of the Nationality Law both as an ideological instrument and a plan for the future. The settler-colonial paradigm also provides an insight into past Palestinian resistance to the colonisation of Palestine as well some indication as to how this colonisation can be challenged within the overall Palestinian liberation project.

The Settler-Colonial State

We make a distinction between ‘settler-colonialism’ and classical ‘colonialism’. The settler-colonialists are white Europeans who were encouraged or forced to leave Europe due to persecution and who settled in someone else’s homeland. They were at first assisted by European empires, but soon rebelled against these empires and sought to redefine themselves as new nations (Veracini 2015). Their main obstacle, however, was not their imperial backers but the indigenous population. Their main challenge was the presence of indigenous populations and indigenous peoples in the newly coveted homelands. The encounter with the indigenous people activated what the late Patrick Wolfe called ‘the logic of the elimination of the native’ (387-409). At times settler-colonialism led to genocide, as in the case of North America, and at times it led to Apartheid, as was the case in South Africa. In Palestine, the presence of indigenous people led to ethnic cleansing operations that began in the mid-1920s and culminated in the 1948 Nakba; creeping ethnic cleansing has continued since 1948. The white European settlers also saw themselves as the ‘new indigenous’ and portrayed the indigenous as ‘aliens’. This self-indigenisation of the European settler and de-indigenisation of the native in the case of Zionism was carried out in the name of the Bible. And, thus, a secular Jewish settler movement created a ‘new homeland’ by using a sacred religious text, the Bible. The first Zionist settlers who arrived in Palestine between 1882 and 1914 could not have survived it in Palestine without the help of the local Palestinians, but in their diaries and letters back home they describe their local hosts as the ‘foreigners’ who usurped ‘our ancient homeland’ and left it desolate’.

The settler-colonial paradigm is particularly useful for explaining what lay behind the massive ethnic cleansing operations of 1948. The paradigm differentiates between the desires of, and the practical planning by Zionism—a classical settler-colonial movement aiming at the ‘land without the people’. The quality of the Palestinian leadership, the inability or in some cases unwillingness of the Arab world to assist the Palestinians and the wish of the Western world to compensate the European Jews for the Holocaust all created a convenient historical movement for implementing the Zionist settler-colonial project in Palestine. The settler-colonial paradigm provides an effective argument for the usual pro-Israeli Western narrative which places the blame on the Palestinians for their catastrophe. In this respect the Palestinian acceptance or rejection of the UN Partition Plan of 1947 was also less crucial in determining the fate of Palestine and its people in 1948. With or without their consent to the UN Partition Plan, the Palestinians faced in 1948 a settler-colonial ideology that had the unconditional support of the Western World. In fact, long before the Holocaust the Zionist settlers were set on ‘the logic of the elimination of the native’ and the particular circumstances of 1948 provided the opportunity for substantial realisation of the vision of a de-Arabised Palestine (Salamanca, Qato). However, in 1948, the Israeli forces expelled ‘only’ half of the indigenous population and took over ‘only’ 78% of Mandatory Palestine. The inability to get rid of all the Palestinians and the takeover of most, but not all, of the land was seen as an incomplete achievement and explains aspects of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians since 1948.

This incomplete achievement of Zionism also left a Palestinian minority within the newly-created Jewish state. The settler-colonial logic informed the harsh Israeli policies towards those Palestinians within the Green Line—the ‘1948 Arabs’ as they are occasionally referred to by Palestinians or the ‘Israeli Arabs’ as they are often referred to by Israelis. Until 1956, this community was subjected to further ethnic cleansing operations—this time against Palestinians who were citizens of the Jewish state and against those whom the 1949 Declaration of Independence promised to protect; yet many were expelled and dozens of villages were depopulated during this period. This community was also placed under a punitive military rule that robbed many of its members of any form of normal life; Israeli soldiers could arrest, shoot or banish people at will from 1948 to 1966. The Zionist settler-colonial state saw its Arab citizens as ‘aliens’ with the potential of becoming hostile aliens at any given moment.

The settler-colonial paradigm also explains the Israeli policies leading to the June 1967 War as well its policies in the early years of the military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In my recent book, The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Israeli Occupation, I discuss the decision to occupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June 1967 not as a defensive response to an all-Arab threat—which is the common narrative—but rather as an Israeli solution to the unfinished 1948 expansion objectives and operations (Pappe 2017). The incomplete geographical implementation of the settler-colonial project in 1948 frustrated powerful sections of the Israeli political and military elite; and the completion of these objectives were contemplated ever since 1948. The expansionist plans moved into a practical stage when in 1963 the dominant politician at the time, David Ben-Gurion, was removed from a significant role in Israel’s political life. In that year, a group of senior officers and officials drew up an expansionist plan, called the Schaham Plan, which would later be implemented in 1966-1967. This plan included the abolition of the military rule imposed on the Palestinians inside Israel and moving this military apparatus to the Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza strip whose occupation was planned (Pappe 2017: xiv-xvii).

Military rule in the West Bank and Gaza strip was only one method employed by Israel in the post-1967 period, in an attempt to complete the unfinished 1948 operations. The Israeli state used a mixture of legal and practical methods for policing the unwanted Palestinian population. The 2018 Nationality Law should be seen as an additional tool in a long chain of Israeli methods dealing with what the Israeli leaders constantly described as ‘the demographic problem’ of the Jewish State.

Practicing Settler-Colonialism in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007

Already four years before the actual takeover in 1967, it was clear to Israeli leaders that with the coveted new territory of the West Bank and Gaza, the settler state would be facing new demographic problems. Like all settler-colonial movements before them, the Zionist movement was troubled by how to balance space/territory and people on the path of turning a colony (the Yishuv) into a state. The more territory they could acquire the more natives they would have to rule. How to eliminate the natives as a demographic problem was a key question (the ‘Arab problem’), and the answer to, and methods towards dealing with this problem, depended on the Zionist capacity and circumstances, and the ability of the indigenous population to resist Zionism. In this respect, the Nationality Law of 2018 is the culmination of the settler-colonial processes that began in 1967.

In the immediate aftermath of the June 1967 war, the decision of how to engage with the new territory and deal with the new demographic challenge to the settler state rested with the 13th government of Israel. It was the most consensual government Israel ever had or will have. Every shade of Zionism and Jewish orthodox anti-Zionism was represented in this unity government. This explains its ability to carve out a strategy that is still adhered to today.

In 1967 the decision was not to annex the new territories officially, but also to vow never giving them up as part of the expanding ‘living space’ of the Jewish state. In 1967 the settler state took over the remaining 22 percent of Mandatory Palestine (‘the Land of Israel’), under the pretext that the borders of 1948 were deemed indefensible and that the ancient biblical sites in the West Bank were sanctified as the heart of the ancient ‘Land of Israel’ without which the ‘nation state’ of Israel would not thrive. This is how in Zionist terms the geography (space) issue was dealt with ideologically.

There was also a Zionist debate as to how much of the new territory should be annexed officially and ruled directly—a debate that has not been completely resolved until this day. However, a Zionist consensus—still intact today—has evolved. Its guiding principle was ‘partition’, or the ‘partitioning’ of the West Bank; namely that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip could be best controlled if they were divided into Jewish and non-Jewish areas—or in the discourse of the new Nationality Law to areas of the ‘State of Israel’ and those of the ‘Land of Israel’. The right-wing parties in Israel are still striving to turn most of the Land of Israel (today areas A and B of the West Bank under the Oslo accord) into the State of Israel. The de-facto annexed area C of the West Bank would also be turned into de jure annexation at the moment. At the same time, the shrinking Zionist left-wing and centre parties seek to exclude the densely populated Palestinian areas (areas A and B) from the state of Israel, while hoping to annex parts of area C. It is important to mention that area C is more than 60 percent of the West Bank.

The first post 1967 ‘partition’ map was offered by Yigal Allon, one of the leaders of the Labour government. The ‘Jewish space’ in the West Bank would be determined, Allon stated in June 1967, by ‘facts of settler-colonisation’ (‘uvdot hityashvoyot‘). The same idea is found in the 2018 Nationality Law. In the post-1967 period Allon drew up a strategic map that left only densely populated Palestinian areas out of the ‘Jewish’ West Bank and Gaza Strip. The problem for then the Labour government and the ones that followed, led by Golda Meir and Rabin, was that the new messianic settler movement, Gush Emunim, had a different map of settler-colonisation, a map based on the Bible and the nationalistic imagination of Israeli archaeologists. Gush Emunim wanted to settle Jews precisely on densely populated Palestinian areas—areas allegedly including the ancient biblical places. This twin effort from above (by the Labour government) and from below (by Gush Emunim) had already by 1974 defined the West Bank in particular as a ‘partitioned’ space between a ‘Jewish’ West Bank and a Palestinian one. According to this Israeli logic, ‘a Jewish West Bank’ is growing all the time, and ‘a Palestinian West Bank’ is shrinking all the time.

The Israeli state had to decide how to incorporate the territory without changing the demographic balance inside the Jewish state. The solution in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, and long after this time, was to surround the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza strip with mega prisons. Today a third generation of hundreds of thousands of Israelis is involved in policing and maintaining these mega prisons—enclaves which, despite the wide international condemnation of this reality, seen to Israelis as perfectly normal and acceptable,

The same government that decided to ‘partition’ the 1967 occupied territories to ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’ also made the first and crucial decisions on the fate of the indigenous people living in the land. After some initial hesitations and substantial forced ‘transfer’ of population, it was decided not to cleanse ethically the whole population. The status of the Palestinian population would be to maintain some form of official connection with the previous powers in charge of the West Bank and Gaza, namely Jordan and Egypt. Nonetheless the Palestinian population remained disenfranchised citizens. The Nationality Law of 2018 goes some way to clarifying how this status could change when the areas were annexed by Israel officially. At best some Palestinians would become (second class) Israeli citizens, but within the framework of the Nationality Law which mandates that only Jews have the right to national self-determination. Interestingly, quite a few of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, due to the formal annexation of East Jerusalem, became Israeli citizens, yet they face a precarious legal situation and their status is worse than that of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. This precarious situation could also be the fate of those Palestinians in the future in a de jure annexed area C. It is also possible that they would not be granted Israeli citizenship and would remain residents—toshavim—or subjects—netinim—of the Palestinian Authority if the latter continued to be in charge of what would remain of areas A and B in the West Bank.

The other key decision after the 1967 occupation was not to reveal these internal annexationist designs and engage in a ‘peace process’, with the assistance of the Americans, the aim of which was to obtain international, and if possible an Arab, legitimisation, The Israel wishes remained to incorporate the new occupied territory without incorporating the ‘indigenous people’. The hope was that this peace process would legitimise annexation and would turn the Israeli plan into the end game of the peace process. It was taken for granted that there would be genuine public debate in Israel about the future of the ‘territories’ and some friction with the USA, but in the end, the Israeli interpretation of the peace would prevail. Nothing that happened in the last 52 years would indicate that these Israeli politicians did not get it right: Palestinian fragmentation, a feeble Arab world, American protection and general global indifference.

The other constituent element of the settler-colonial policy after 1967 was how to rule and police the disenfranchised population of the West Bank and Gaza. In the last 52 years the settler state employed two models for controlling millions of disenfranchised Palestinians. Both models led to the creation of mega prisons, with only one difference: you can leave the open prison and become a refugee with no right of return (Pappe 2017: xiv-xvii).

The open prison model is based on allowing freedom of movement inside the Palestinian areas and a controlled movement outside the Palestinian areas and between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. No spatial growth for the Palestinians, no new villages or towns built on any land coveted for present and future Jewish settlements. The settler state did not tolerate any resistance to the geopolitical reality it had created on the ground—but the Palestinians were allowed a certain level of autonomy, especially in running their own municipal affairs. The first open prison was run between 1967 and 1987. Palestinian life was constantly monitored by the Israeli army and, since 1981, by an outfit called the ‘Civil Administration’. The latter was governed by a set of regulations that gave the Israeli military unlimited power over the life of the disenfranchised Palestinians. Palestinians were arrested without trial, deported, their houses and businesses demolished, wounded and killed at the discretion of Israeli soldiers, quite often by low ranking soldiers.

These policies were pursued between 1967 and 1987 initially and continued between 1993 (Oslo Accords) and 2000 (Second Intifada). The open prison model is on offer for areas A and B in the West Bank, especially since 2004. Since then every new version of the open prison model has made life worse for ‘the inmates’. Privileges granted initially are reduced later as punishment for resisting the model. Thus, the second version of the open prison, what one can call the open prison model of the Oslo accord, which created ‘mini prisons’ in areas A, B and C and the Gaza Strip, is far less open than the initial one instituted until the Oslo Accords. This form of control is deeply ingrained in Israeli consciousness. Supported by Israeli Orientalists and academics, it is also designed to teach the Palestinians lessons on how to be docile; it is designed to disempower the Palestinians and force them into submission.

The first major Palestinian resistance to the open prison model was in the First Intifada of 1987-1992. The punishment was to replace the open prison model with a maximum-security prison. Between 1987 and 1993, the methods included punitive actions—mass arrests without trial, wounding and killing demonstrators, massive demolition of houses, shutting down of business and the education system and, most importantly, further expropriation of land for the sake of expanding Jewish settlements.

The Palestinians were offered a sophisticated open prison model in Oslo—this is regardless of the way Palestinians and the world treated the Oslo Accords. This is why the ending of the occupation was not mentioned in the Oslo Accords; the Accords did not promise any end to direct Israeli involvement in the lives of the Palestinians—although the Palestinian Authority would implement every other demand by Israel within the Oslo Accords. Moreover, since 1994 there was no freedom of movement any more inside the Palestinian areas, let alone outside the Palestinian areas and the Judaisation of the West Bank intensified. The Gaza Strip had already been encircled in 1994 with a barbed wire and the privileges granted in the first model of the open prison for the Gazans to work in Israel were withdrawn. Another punishment was the allocation of more water to the Gush Qafif settlements and cutting the Gaza Strip into two parts controlled by Israel.

If life under the first model of open prison was unacceptable to the Palestinians, the second version of the open prison was worse, both in objective terms but even more importantly as it was presented as part of the ‘peace process’. The years devoted to the Oslo process and its implementation created life conditions which were far worse than those in the (pre-Oslo) first open prison.

The Israelis reacted to the Second Intifada of 2000 with more punitive measures: the maximum-security prison. The massive use of military power included F-16s and tanks against the civilian population, especially during the 2002 ‘Operation Defence Shield’. An urbanicide which was a prelude for the use of such power in the third version of the maximum security prison imposed on the Gaza Strip after Hamas took over the Strip in 2006.

Since 2006 the two versions of the maximum security prison operated in the way Israel ruled the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while faithful to the main decisions taken in 1967—not to annex these territories formally. The only decision discarded was the need to present these policies as temporary measures pending peace. Even the Israeli public and politicians got tired of this charade and embraced what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called ‘unilateralism’. Where there is a collaboration with the Palestinian Authority there is an open prison model in operation, in areas A and B. This includes punitive actions: hundreds of checkpoints and an Apartheid Wall which is meant to humiliate and bring about the submission of millions of people under the pretext that this would prevent a third Intifada. The checkpoints are also a recruiting ground for a cruel network of local informants; the checkpoints target the dignity and self-respect of a whole nation—a nation that miraculously still maintains human dignity and steadfastness. The open prison includes the closure of whole towns and villages with only one exit controlled day and night by the army and recently by private companies.

Where there is resistance, as in the Gaza Strip, the maximum security prison has turned into a ghetto, with Israel rationing food and calories, undermining the health and economy to the point of creating a human catastrophe (Pappe 2017).

The Next Target: The West Bankisation of Israel

All the Zionist parties of Israel subscribe, in one form or another, to these two models of the open prison. Moreover the dominant political power in Israel wishes to import these models into Israel proper, to be applied against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. They may succeed in doing so, especially with the newly-passed Nationality Law as an indication of this type of thinking. This can also be seen when comparing the attitude to the Palestinian citizens of Israel by the two main parties that competed in the April 2019 elections: the Likud and the Kachol-Lavan (Blue and White) party. Both parties declared they do not view the Palestinian parties as legitimate partners for any future coalition government.

The same oppressive methods employed in the West Bank are used in Israel proper. In the West Bank this modus operandi was a mixture of actions from below (by the messianic movement of Gush Emunim and settler off-shoots) and from above (through government housing and expansion policy). These policies of colonisation (often legitimised in hindsight) and planned Judaisation are also employed within Israel proper. This consists inter alia, of planting zealot settler communities at the seams of the mixed towns in Israel (towns such as Lydda, Acre, Jaffa and Ramle). Also included are archaeological excavations designed to cleanse the old city of Acre and Silwan (occupied East Jerusalem), while the Israeli government backs settler groups such as ELAD, which ousts people from their homes in East Jerusalem. There are also the more old programs of the Judaisaiton (yehud) of the Galilee and the Naqab. The spatial take-over, as in the case of the West Bank, precedes the ultimate definition of the status of the ‘unwanted’ Palestinian population. This has been the method of Zionist settler-colonisation of Palestine from the outset and it is the way many settler-colonial projects evolved.

The right-wing parties in Israel, in power since the late 1990s, like their Labour predecessors, do not particularly wish to leave such ‘national projects’ in the hands of vigilantes—this is why after 1948 the Israeli government preferred a systematic and orderly looting of the possessions left behind by the Palestinian refugees and struggled against individual acts of robbery and pillage. As a national project from above, the only difference between the old Labour establishment and the current centre-right one is the move from de facto actions on the ground to de jure legislations.

The de facto actions taken by Israel are spatial strangulation, ‘partition’ of the West Bank and settlement expansion. The need to move a to de jure policy stems from the wish to determine in a more final way the status of the Palestinian population as this population is constantly perceived as the main strategic challenge to the success of the settler-colonial project of Zionism. This was the main challenge for the settler-colonial project of South Africa and the Apartheid regime; back in 1948 the latter needed its own constitutional Apartheid law to deal with this challenge back. The gradual (slow) rise to power of the centre-right parties in Israel delayed the legislation in full until the 2018 Nationality Law.

After 1967 the Labour party imposed Judaisation and ‘partition’ on both sides of the Green Line and thus obscured the differences in the realities for all the Palestinians living in historical Palestine. Apart from the Gaza Strip, this was done through the construction of ‘pure Jewish spaces’ (from small settlements to major towns) in the West Bank as well as in Jewish settlements of Greater Jerusalem; in the Galilee and the Negev through the maintenance of a discriminatory system in every aspect of life. The centre-right coalition governments of Israel legalised this spatial Apartheid policy with a series of legislation that began in 2011 with a law that allowed Jewish communities and settlements inside Israel to reject any Palestinian citizen of Israel wishing to live there.

Another set of Israeli laws went beyond spatial confinement and strangulation of the Palestinians. Long before the Nationality Law of 2018, the centre-right governments of Israel attempted by law to deny the right of any form of equality and self-determination to the Palestinians in Israel. A 2011 law enabled the state to define any Palestinian citizen identifying with the actions of the Palestinian resistance as a traitor or terrorist. The Israeli Nakba Law of 2011 banned public commemoration of the 1948 events as a catastrophe (Nakba) by anyone connected to funding by the state (such as schools or community centres). According to Palestinian NGO Madar, between 2015 and 2018 the Israeli Knesset passed 185 racist laws meant to consolidate an Apartheid regime on both sides of the Green Line (ALMADAR 2108). Hence the Nationality Law is the summation of these laws and not a new law in itself. Like all the other laws and practices on the ground before 2018, the Nationality Law was a 21st century solution to the conundrum of a settler-colonial project in a state struggling to be recognised as a ‘democratic Jewish state’, while at the same time grappling with the massive Palestinian demography.

Further Implication and Resistance

The Nationality Law is thus both a culmination of a set of legislation which is meant to assist a settler state to adapt to the changing realities; the law is yet another method of dealing with both the incomplete implementation of 1948 and the need to find a balance between ‘Jewish exclusivity’ over space and overcoming the ‘Arab demographic threats’ the Israeli state perceives. The law also signals a future search for new methods for dealing with both Palestinian communities of the West Bank (especially in area C) as well as the Palestinians in Israel.

It is reasonable to assume that the bottom up settlement expansion and top down policies and laws (the Nationality Law included) will continue in the future. From below, further expansion of ‘exclusive Jewish spaces’ (Jewish municipalities such as Afula banned Palestinian citizens from living in the city) will be followed by further policies of outlawing further challenges by the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Delegitimising the Islamic Movement in Israel was a first step that can be followed by outlawing other Palestinian parties, such as Balad (Tajamu). Outlawing Palestinian parties or movements will be part of what one may call the West Bankisation of Israel.

The attempt to redefine ‘who are the Palestinians’ has encountered some unexpected hitches in the law as the law excluded automatically the so-called ‘good Arabs’, such as the Druze, who serve in the Israeli army. The law defined exclusion according to the mother tongue, and not just according to service in the army. But, all in all, the Zionist parties will continue to debate the best tactics for achieving the basic goal of the settler state—having the space without the indigenous people. Hence, in the opinion of this author, there is little hope for change from within the Jewish society in the settler state of Israel.

Palestinian resistance has never ceased from the very beginning of the colonisation of Palestine. The incomplete implementation of the 1948 ethnic cleansing and the continued preoccupation of the settler state of Israel with the ‘Arab demographic issues’ are a testimony to Zionist consistencies as well as to some Zionist demographic failures. The struggle against the Israeli policies of displacement and eviction and the struggle against the overall Zionist ideology of discrimination and future plans are waged daily. But it is often enfeebled and hampered by Palestinian disunity and power asymmetry on the ground.

There are, however, achievements. Over time these achievements will increase the chances of a successful liberation struggle. Recognising the settler-colonial nature of Israel is becoming common among Western civil societies and beyond and, with this, follows the realisation that what is needed is not a hollow peace process but decolonisation, not just of the areas occupied in 1967, but the whole area of historic Palestine—decolonisation which would include the implementation of the Palestinian refugee right of return.

Among civil society groups in the West and by a growing number of Palestinians there is a willingness to revisit the two-state solution which, in reality is predicated on the open prison model. Many individuals and groups began to think of how one can create one democratic state for all. This new thinking will need to take into account two things: first, the continued adherence of the ‘official representative’ of the Palestinians to the two-state solution and second, the existence already of one settler Apartheid Israel all over historical Palestine. There as anticipation of a Palestinian change of mind, and international endorsement of measures such as those offered by BDS movement, as preliminary steps generating a change from within the Jewish society.

The Nationality Law could be a trigger for the invigoration of new definitions and a strategy of liberation or, alternatively, alas, one would have to wait for an even greater exposure of the real nature of Zionism and the state of Israel.