Refusing to take yes for an answer

Palestinian President Mahmoud (Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency)

Asa Winstanley

Middle East Monitor  /  March 7, 2020

Some of Israel’s most successful strategies are simply its intransigence and extremism.

Even those of us opposed to Israeli war crimes – apartheid and occupation – should be honest enough to recognise the strengths of the enemy. It is only by knowing your enemy that you can work to defeat it.

Refusing to take “yes for an answer has been vital in the survival of the Zionist movement.

Every time I see Israeli officials and propagandists condemn the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a dictatorship, I think of this. The PA does almost everything within its power to help and protect the Israeli state, and yet it is never enough for the occupation. Israel refuses the take the PA’s “yes” for an answer.

“When will you stop pushing for Palestinian refugees to return to their homes?” “Yes, we will,” answers the PA, in the person of the corrupt puppet, Mahmoud Abbas. The long-expired president of the PA, some years ago, announced that he would relinquish his right to return to his home in what is now present-day Israel.

In 1948, when he was a young boy, Abbas and his family were forced out of their home in the Palestinian city of Safed. This was part of the “Nakba, the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist militias.

But, in 2012, Abbas stated that he should only be able to “visit” Safed, and not to live there.

It was a shocking statement to many Palestinians, but nothing really new for Israel’s collaborationist PA. The right of return of all refugees to return to their homes after a war is inalienable, and enshrined in international law. No matter what Abbas’s individual desires are, Palestinian refugees have the right to return.

Yet, as usual, Israel determinedly and stubbornly refused to take Abbas’s “yes” for an answer. The attempted relinquishment of the right of return by Abbas was not enough. Israel insisted on complete and total surrender, demanding a return to “negotiations” before they would even allow Abbas to visit his home town.

As a more recent Israeli election poster put it: “Peace is only made with defeated enemies.” The billboard featured Abbas on his knees wearing a blindfold.

Israel has correctly recognised that Abbas’s abrogation of his right to return is all but useless, as long as the Palestinian people as a whole continue their century-long refusal to accept that they are a defeated people, and their 72-year-long demand for the right to return to their homes in Palestine.

Internationally, too, Israel in its propaganda, black-ops, lobbying and diplomacy, continuously refuses to accept “yes” for an answer.

The sad state of affairs in the Labour Party since 2015, demonstrates this more than ever.

While he was leader, Jeremy Corbyn very timidly encouraged moves towards a minor shift in Labour Party policy towards something approximating solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thanks more to the Labour grassroots, and to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Labour’s manifesto last year did include a commitment to stop allowing British arms to go to Israel.

But all of this came at a cost: a relentless and incessant smear campaign claiming that Corbyn and the party at large were anti-Semitic.

Attempting to get them off his back, Corbyn relented time and time again, making more and more concessions. Good left-wing comrades were thrown under the bus – investigated, suspended, disciplined and expelled.

A totally bogus, pro-Israel mis-definition of anti-Semitism (the IHRA’s so-called working definition, which defends Israel even while failing to protect Jews) was imposed on the Labour Party in 2018.

John McDonnell claimed at the time that it would draw a line under the years of smears. Everyone knew he was wrong, but far too many people complied regardless – reluctantly or otherwise.

Every time another concession was made by the leadership, members were told it was this that would finally bring an end to the issue of the smears.

By the end, Corbyn himself seemed changed. It was a very sorry state of affairs. He gave up so much, but won nothing – he was relentlessly and mercilessly smeared as an anti-Semite, regardless of how many times he condemned anti-Semitism, or lied that Labour had a major  “problem” with anti-Semitism.

In the end, this was a major factor in his electoral defeat.

Throughout it all, Israel and its British propagandists doggedly refused to accept “yes” for an answer. No matter how many times Corbyn backed down, it was never enough. In fact, each and every concession and apology was pocketed and waved around as if it were proof of the “problem”.

And then, they would demand more and more and more.

From Israel’s perspective, this is the correct position to take.

The left should learn from the enemy and start refusing to back down – to start fighting back. It is only when you stop running, that they will stop chasing you.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East