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Tel Aviv University
[TAU] Gadi Algazi and Gerardo Leibner in the Hebron Conference "Resisting the Zionist colonial enterprise"

[TAU, History] Gadi Algazi

[TAU Latin American History] Gerardo Leibner

Hebron Conference

On May 7, 2011, Israeli and Palestinian activists met in Hebron for a conference to launch a common struggle against the occupation.  The conference was organized by the Alternative Information Center (AIC) and the Israeli-Palestinian organization Tarabut-Hithabrut;  the some 300 activists  declared themselves to be partners in the “struggle for a free and democratic Middle East, free of all forms of hegemony and colonialism, especially Zionism.”  The conference was billed as a “historical event,” in the sense that it included a number of unstructured dialogues among groups working on various aspects of “occupation and dispossession.”  Still, all participants declared that they share a common mission of fighting colonialism, racism, and class oppression in the Palestinian and Jewish societies.  A message from a group of pro-Palestinian Mizrahim in Israel proclaimed their belief that the struggle for economic and cultural rights would not be achieved by a political change spurred by Western countries that had oppressed our region for centuries.  Rather change will come from an inter-regional dialogue and in conjunction with struggle of the Palestinians and Arabs.

One of the panels was devoted to the political situation in the territories in the wake of the Fatah –Hamas agreement and the possibility that the United Nations would recognize a Palestinian state in September.  Dr. Gerardo Leibner, professor of Latin American studies at Tel Aviv University and an activist in Tarabut, offered a number of grim scenarios that could follow Palestinian independence.   First, should Israel be forced to withdraw from most of the West Bank, the right wing coalition could act against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.   Leibner did not specify the ways in which government will act, but one theory common in radical circles has raises the possibility of expelling Israeli Arabs to a newly created Palestinian state.  Second, Israel could unilaterally annex the settlement blocks.  Still, Dr. Leibner warned that the “ruling Israeli elite” would face difficulties in trying to shape this” new colonial reality.” “Palestinians who would resist any “solution” that does not allow them full independence and sovereignty are one major challenge. Another difficulty stems from the fact that, while creating a neo-colonial project destined to enshrine the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the “ruling Israeli elite” has also adopted a neo-liberal economic policy that hurt the underprivileged population to the point of alienating it from regime.  Leibner implied that the Left can use the growing loyalty gap between the underprivileged and the regime to work against the neo-colonial project.  In fact, the Tel Aviv professor felt that deepening the loyalty gap should become a major endeavor of the Left, not the least because of its adverse impact on the neo-colonial project of the “ruling elite.” During the Second Intifada Dr. Leibner was among a number of professors who signed a petition urging the United Nations to send a contingent to protect the Palestinians.

Another panel offered a discussion on popular efforts to oppose the Israeli occupation.  Gadi Algazi, professor of history at Tel Aviv University and a member of the coordinating committee of Tarabut, surveyed the process of colonial dispossession and the steps taken by Palestinians to undermine them.  Algazi mentioned two cases in which his group was involved- helping the people of Susya to regain their lands lost 2001 and the Bedouins of al Arakib in the Negev who tried to regain their land.  Algazi noted that, as part of the struggle, his organization tried to undermine the National Israel Fund’s forestation project on the lands.

In summing up, the organizers expressed satisfaction with the format which involved “multi-discourse” rather than a two sides discourse between “representatives of the people” sending a message to each other.  At the same time, there were some misgivings about the splits and tensions that have plagued the Jewish-Palestinians cooperation dating to the Ta’ayushmovement in the early 2000s.   The AIC’s Michael Warschawski contended that the Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and South Hebron Hills group were not represented in strength, robbing the conference of much of the political experience accumulated in these struggles.  Professor Algazi added that much as the discourse was productive, the ultimate test would be in conducting common action.    

The participants issued a declaration stating that the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a result of the Zionist colonial enterprise” and resisting the “Zionist colonial enterprise” is “the only way to build a just and permanent peace for all.”


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