Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The One State Solution
Israel Shahak reckons, and probably accurately, that no Israeli government will ever agree to a two state solution due to the influence of religion on Israeli politics. He has noted that an extreme religious party holds the balance of power in the Knesset and Rabbis are ministers. According to religionists and the government, Israel is redeeming the land. They cannot countenance agreeing to Palestinians having sovereignty in any part--no matter how small--of the promised land. So a two state solution will probably not come about through negotiations. Israel will continue to rule the OT without annexing them. The Palestinians will demand "one person, one vote" and eventually the rest of the world will support them. Israel will be faced with two choices - the only way out is for it to ethnically cleanse the OT or to become a secular democratic state.
But Israel is certainly not the only side in this conflict, and considering the interests of Israel exclusively is revealing itself to be a behaviour that the international community has a harder and harder time substantiating. Since the point is not to second guess what will be acceptable to only one party, those who are in this case the occupiers, let's just stick to the facts:There really is no paradigm of thousands of complications because there is actually only one solution, a very simple, yet drastic solution: Israel aims at annexing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The prospected partial Gaza withdrawal does not alter this state of affairs both for the continued control that Israel will have over borders, air space and many infrastructures as well as for the lengthy timetable which is always open to modification.
The complicated interweaving of Israelis and Palestinians is supported by geographic maps that demonstrate settlements, military outposts and restricted zones in vast areas of the Occupied Territories. Since this appears to be true, one is required to recognize the facts created "manu militarti", that is, facts on the ground created by Israel to make the division of Palestine unrealisable. Taking account of the reality, the solution is to officially declare the annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, that way there exists the basis for the single possible solution of the conflict: the declaration of a single State in the confines of historical Palestine (British Mandate for those who like that terminology) - from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean.
It would be a revolutionary step, an act that will require the Israelis to adopt the paradigm of equal treatment before the law, something which is unfortunately not likely. Ideally, within the annexed State, all discriminations on ethnic and religious basis must be abolished.
The United Nations had already indicated the solution - which is quite simple: when in 1947 they sanctioned the division of Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab, they in no way sanctioned the expulsion of the Palestinians from the part assigned to the new Jewish State and, following the expulsion, in 1948 they explicitly declared the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their villages and towns of origin as well as the restitution of their property. The adhesion to this Resolution on the part of Israel, is the only solution that is compatible with principles of international legality and Human Rights.
Someone may have the kneejerk reaction of: "with the return of the Palestinians, you are working towards the extermination of the Jews". Yet... what has been spoken of, and what is on the table now in many cross sections of Israeli public opinion? It is a State of Rights, with a constitution that is meant to guarantee equal rights to all of its citizens, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or anything outside of those, in order to achieve democracy in Palestine-Israel or whatever name the State would assume. Make note that even to this day, no constitution exists in Israel. The right of return of the Palestinians to their homeland would mark a step towards progress and true reforms - and the creation of a multi-faith, multi-ethnic society based upon a constitution, which is long overdue, that will reunite all of historical Palestine around the principle of equality of rights for all citizens. In essence, it is a progressive reform. The hinderance, in Israel's way of viewing, is of course the presence of the Arabs in the area. But, despite any wishful thinking, these people will not just vanish in the night, and they will not let themselves be deported. The options are killing them or living with them. I think the choice is clear of the only action that can be taken.
Right of Return is not a deterrent from the solution, the very solution lies therein, and by now, all know this, Palestinians and Israelis alike. That is why it is so important to keep it in the forefront, for it is the ONLY aspect of which Palestinians will not make concessions. Why should they?! It is their right that they are demanding! It is vital to understand something about what the Fourth Geneva Convention dictates in matters pertaining to Rights of Refugees. It is an inalienable and non-negotiable right. That means that is can not be exchanged for different rights without surrendering the initial right which is precisely what the refugees are asking. Of course, no one does much of anything but violate these rules, yet, seeing as though they do exist, the long suffering Palestinians are waiting until the tide turns and some world leaders get in there and act upon enforcing the laws.
To address for a moment the practical aspect of a Palestinian State comprised of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.... It is important to recognise that States without geographical continuity are practically doomed to failure for logistic, burocratic and economic reasons. Not to mention, have any of you even SEEN these fabled maps of the proposed Palestinian State? Of course not, because it is impossible to decide exactly where to place geographic borders. If the settlements are englobed into the Palestinian State, which is bound to occur even for some very populated ones, the settlers must renounce Israeli citizenship, for they cannot continue to utilize the services of a foreign armed guard, private roads, etc. If they are included into an Israeli State, densely populated Arab villages and areas which are well beyond the Green line and therefore beyond the scope of the Roadmap and difficult to maintain in eternum, will of course make demands upon Israel that Israel may not be willing to concede, such as development of infrastructures. Ask any Jew living in a so-called Development Town what sort of service they get and then hear them laugh if you say that the Palestinians will get infrastructures. So, at the start, whatever solution is arrived at, will be the cause of a multitude of problems that neither side has the tools to resolve. The very prospect of a fragmented State is relatively difficult to foresee a long-term positive outcome. Perhaps the only solution would be to permit the Negev to be assigned to Palestine, but for reasons that have to do with not wanting to permit territorial continuity to the Palestinians, even this largely barren area is seen as being impossible to permit as Palestinian land.
To insist upon the dichotomy between Jews and non-Jews is simply to emphasise the precise opposite points that the One State supporters are stressing. It is obvious that we are endorsing the overcoming of divisions based upon ethnic character, and it is a substantial negation of the counterposition between the various groups. We are insisting upon the recognition of individual rights, to take precedence over group rights. The individuals who have the internationally recognized right to live in their homeland should be permitted to do so, should be granted political rights and should be recognized as members of a democratic society. If the society excludes them upon basis of race, creed, color, political beliefs, that society is sick, and should be reformed.
There is no shortage throughout history of various "ethnic decongestions". The creation of communities based not on the principles of citizenship, but strictly on those of ethnic membership is the common trait of totalitarian and far right wing societies and governments. Supporting such a system, one must have better arguments than "they won't like it! You don't mess with them!" In the long term, these ethnic decongestions are not morally sustainable, nor are they politically viable. There is a residual element of instability and a legacy of injustice that can not leave these communities unstained.
What is to be gained for Israeli society if they decide to adhere to UN resolutions regarding them? I would say many things. Principally, if they wish for their economy to recover, they need peace. Peace can come about only if there is justice and justice can happen only if there is respect for international law. In a single State solution, they can maintain the settlements, which seem to be so important to them. All of the land would be territory of citizens, and not colonies, occupied territories and refugee camps.
The refugees and exiles, based upon studies by Abu Sitta, are not likely to settle into largely Jewish areas, which are heavily concentrated and occupy small areas. The Palestinians were basically, before they were cancelled from having a social role, involved in agriculture, and it is likely that this trend would continue, so cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa would remain largely Jewish in character. Many villages where Palestinians were expelled from have remained barren, for "security" reasons, and these would be re-occupied by Palestinians. Many Palestinians (at least the many of my acquaintance) are not placing Self-Rule as the primary political demand, but rather, equal rights in the enlarged society and a place in society, expressed by representation in whatever government they are ruled by. They have been occupied by foreigners for over 54 years now, and have made much more progess in compromise than the Israeli, in spite of the fact that they are the oppressed, and not the oppressor.
It must be admitted that a land without territorial integrity has absolutely no possibility of success, and this is clear and evident to almost everyone by now. That is the very reason that Israel at the end accepted such a proposal, because it is unworkable. Add to that the leopard skin nature of the settlements and it is a recipe for eternal disaster. One may not like South Africa, but they made the choice of territorial integrity, one man = one vote and economically, socially and culturally, it has been a vast improvement upon previous governments. They are still overcoming the damage caused by decades of racist separation, but rapproachment can be done, and it certainly is being done. This is another nation which has nuclear weapons, which has the total economic domination in the hands of one ethnic group. But, that sort of system, in the long run is unsustainable, morally, economically, socially and legally it is bankrupt. Sooner or later Israel will come to terms with this fact. It will probably be a relief to not feel so detested once they begin to adhere to legality, and they will quite possibly have a renaissance. I would say that in addition, the knowledge that they were acting according to the tenets of Human Rights would be good for the moral fabric of the Israeli as citizens. Not to mention, the reduction of so-called Defense spending, as well as the reduction of collective paranoia will be beneficial in education, and other important areas of Israeli society. They can't possibly believe that the Palestinians are out to drive them into the sea. The Palestinians have a lot of anger, yes, and this will be reduced when the oppression against them is reduced. This is logical. Arab culture in general places a very high value on respect, and once the rights of these people are respected, there isn't space for vendetta, as the Palestinians are progressive people and desire to get on with developing their society.
I DO believe that the task of peace lies firmly in the hands of Israel. They are the ones who are the military aggressors, they are the ones who are the occupiers. They are the ones who have the political might, the enormous funding, the unconditional US support. They have all the tools to obtain whatever it is they want. Have you ever stopped to think that perhaps they WANT the random terrorist acts that an extreme minority of Palestinians perform? It seems as though they do everything in their power to provoke at precisely the "right" moments to deflect attention away from the wall, from house destruction in Rafah and other of the operations that they are just waiting to put into action? The terrorist acts against Israeli citizens unfailingly creates a tidal wave of indignation in the mass media of the West, who so a-critically sees it as one-sided and without cause. It is useful to maintain a level of "insecurity" and "enhanced security needs", carried out by repression and collective punishment and targeted assassinations of presumed terrorists in the Palestinian population, and propaganda instilling fear and mistrust of the Arab and Palestinian people in the Israeli one.
If there weren't suicide bombers, the Israeli government may have to had invented them, because they gain so much for so little. That may scandalize some of you, who will read this in some way to suit your ideologies. But, think about it. Read the statistics about strikes and retaliations. (Oh, always in THAT order, although logic says, provocation, reaction). It is evident that the greatest quantity of civilian losses is caused by the Israeli State terrorism against the people of Palestine. The number is much greater than the civilian Israeli losses, although by what the US mass media writes, one is lead to believe the opposite. And one is lead to hate Arabs and classify them as barbarians who deserve collective punishment.
As for electing leaders, one was elected, and he was too secular for Israel. With the actions Israel has taken, it appears that they want a fanatic or a puppet so that the task of manipulation is simplified. Real leaders are possibly on the rise, but these things take time, and most importantly, they need outside support since they will be viewed as a danger to Israel if they serve the interests of their people. Like it or not, their primary interest should not be "Israel's security" but rather the well-being and the rights of Palestinians.
The decontextualization of terrorism, and the emphasis it is given in the mass media, far outweigh its true scope or effect. It has really become a cost-effective tool for the Israeli government to implement long-range plans of territorial occupation, (land grabbing walls, blocking of water supplies to Arab territory), political manipulation of adversaries (Arafat was flawed, but he was essentially a secular leader and that was not something that Israel wanted to deal with. Much better to allow radical factions to form so that they can be promoted as terrorist groups with murder on their agenda for reasons of revenge). Overplaying the "security" card, is a common subterfuge, in order to gain consensus from largely uninformed public who don't know what is going on from the media bias and the creation of the "Arab monster". This card is used to carry out State terrorism that will force the Palestinians into further surrender or play right into Sharon's game of becoming the enemy. How do they KNOW someone is a terrorist? How is a pilot who drops a Hellfire bomb any less of a terrorist than a man who straps a homemade one on his belt?
It seems that Israel never tires of asking for concessions when it is obviously Israel that has got to start conforming to international law if it simply won't conform to laws of ordinary decency. I personally believe that the Palestinians have given all there is to give. If Israel won't stop short of the Palestinian's total capitulation, that speaks volumes about Israel's dedication to peace.
Israel, like the US, each claiming to be idealistic States, basically functions on the concept of utilitarism. That which "gets the job done" (or is perceived as such) is the action which is undertaken. Therefore, in the unlikelihood of reversing the Occupation, with the impossibility of annexation, the only solution that can somehow bring practical benefit to Israeli society is the cessation of hostility and this can only be achieved with the "historical compromise" that is starting to be spoken of in Israeli circles and elsewhere. Many of the common worries are basically based on misperceptions of events and on fears accountable for stereotypes and things repeated so often they are just taken as truth, for example, the "need" for a Jewish national homeland in modern society and the belief that Palestinians would prefer being deported (some call it compensated) in some far-off land rather than returning to their own.
We must not forget the importance of considering the apprehensions that the Palestinians would feel, to give up part of their aspirations of having total control over their own future as a people, and that is something which must be more carefully investigated. Since most of those who I have spoken with in the past four or five years, since I came into contact with this proposal, are Palestinian, and practically all of them are favorable to implementing it, I had assumed that this was a representative thought. There will have to be a lot of forgiving done, and there will be moments that are of course difficult for us to come to understand, given that many of us are not the protagonists of this. Yet, we must be aware that the idea of one single, unified State is gaining ground very rapidly. Is it because it has the utilitaristic aspect, or is it because so much damage has been done, and there really IS no other solution if one is hoping to end the stalemate and stop the suffering on both sides?