Ramallah-based Palestinian-American writer, activist, and businessman Sam Bahour was at the Center for Regional and International Studies (CIRS) at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) recently to give a presentation titled “New Paradigms for a Palestine in Perpetual Limbo?” in which he reviewed the long and failed history of the Israel-Palestine peace process, and presented his opinions on the need for a shift in strategy and an end to the two-state solution.
“Why are we addressing this issue of Palestine and Israel yet again?” said Mr. Bahour in reference to the topic of his speech. “My simple answer is that because it persists and that we have all invested so much time and energy to understand the intricate details and dynamics of this conflict, that if we didn't meet and discuss it, we'd be at a loss for what to do. The more difficult answer, the one I believe is more accurate is that the issue of Palestine reflects a historical injustice so large and so blatant that its flame refuses to extinguish.”
Dr. Mehran Kamrava, the director of CIRS, met the prolific activist while pursuing research in Ramallah for an upcoming book on the ongoing conflict. “For our students studying the ongoing crisis, Sam’s insights into the complexities, challenges, and ultimately, hope for a resolution, are invaluable to understanding a topic that is very emotionally charged and often difficult to deconstruct.”
Reviewing “One hundred years of foreign interference in the region”, which Mr. Bahour says, “resulted in sixty six years of colonization and ethnic cleansing” in order to create the state of Israel “that has no resemblance whatsoever to that of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the partition plan”, and citing two decades of failed bilateral negotiations, he concluded that “Today's Israeli position rests on the assumption that procrastination will continue to tilt the strategic balance increasingly in Israel’s favor. In short, Israel is not a serious negotiating partner.”
However, says the U.S.-born Palestinian, Israel’s strategic calculation is wrong, because “they overestimate their own strength, and underestimate Palestinians’ strength.” He described the possible outcomes of the current peace process as “totally unacceptable to Palestinians because they do not take into consideration national aspirations and they all undermine Palestinian national identity and rights altogether.”
Bahour suggests new “paradigms under consideration” that will block these outcomes using non-violent means, such as through the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, to create a “shift from a two-state outcome to a binational, single state” as a preferred Palestinian strategic goal. The two-state offer, he says, has been sitting on the table for two decades, and should be rejected by the newest generation of Palestinians struggling for equality.
“At first, we accepted two states as the paradigm for the end of the conflict. After twenty years of failed negotiations, my daughters are at a different crossroads,” Mr. Bahour concluded, saying: “Either we continue on a failing statehood path, or we drop the call for statehood, and instead call for civil rights. Israel knows that if Palestinians make such a declaration, the model of the game is over.”
Sam Bahour is a Director at the Arab Islamic Bank and serves in various capacities in several community organizations. He writes frequently on Palestinian affairs and has been widely published. Sam is co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians and may be reached at email@example.com . He blogs atwww.epalestine.com .