Last night Ilan Pappe gave a brilliant speech about the cruel illusion of the peace process to a hall at New York University packed with 200 people of all ages. This afternoon he speaks at Columbia, and if you are in the neighborhood you should go. I cannot think of a more cogent explanation of the political outlines of the conflict in this moment. One can differ with portions of Pappe’s thesis, but his analysis of the service of the peace process to rapacious colonization is inarguable. And his argument was lit by empathy toward Israelis; so it is not a program of violence but of peaceful transformation.
What did the Anglo-Israeli professor say?
For decades, intellectuals tried and failed to explain the root of the conflict as a settler-colonial project. Now at last that paradigm has come into fashion in academia; and it is acute and powerful, and helps explain the relevance of Palestine to the Middle East and the world at large.
The settler colonial understanding replaces a discourse of Israel and Palestine as a hegemonic conflict between two national movements, a “business” problem more than a “human” one. In that understanding negotiators could manage the conflict and presume to offer a fair split of the real estate, tilted to one side because it was the stronger one; but the result of that failed model is what we see in the shrinking Palestine maps: less and less land, now mere crumbs for the indigenous people.