israel and palestine conflict
I love Uri Avnery, but this defense of the two-state solution functions more to undermine any hopes for a ‘one-state solution’ than it does to foster hope for the traditional vision of two sovereign states, living peaceably side by side.
Avnery asks what a ‘one-state solution’ would look like? I think most ‘one-staters’ see three basic ingredients:
- The end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
- Equal rights for Arabs in Israel
- The right of return for Palestinian refugees.
These, of course, are the three goals of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, but if these three are met, surely a one-state solution has been achieved!
The Donkey of the Messiah
“THE TWO-STATE solution is dead!” This mantra has been repeated so often lately, by so many authoritative commentators, that it must be true.
Well, it ain‘t.
It reminds one of Mark Twain’s oft quoted words: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
BY NOW this has become an intellectual fad. To advocate the two-state solution means that you are ancient, old-fashioned, stale, stodgy, a fossil from a bygone era. Hoisting the flag of the “one-state solution” means that you are young, forward-looking, “cool”.
Actually, this only shows how ideas move in circles. When we declared in early 1949, just after the end of the first Israeli-Arab war, that the only answer to the new situation was the establishment of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, the “one-state solution” was already old.
The idea of a “bi-national state” was in vogue in the 1930s. Its main advocates were well-meaning intellectuals, many of them luminaries of the new Hebrew University, like Judah Leon Magnes and Martin Buber. They were reinforced by the Hashomer Hatza’ir kibbutz movement, which later became the Mapam party.
It never gained any traction. The Arabs believed that it was a Jewish trick. Bi-nationalism was built on the principle of parity between the two populations in Palestine – 50% Jews, 50% Arabs. Since the Jews at that time were much less than half the population, Arab suspicions were reasonable.
On the Jewish side, the idea looked ridiculous. The very essence of Zionism was to have a state where Jews would be masters of their fate, preferably in all of Palestine.
At the time, no one called it the “one-state solution” because there was already one state – the State of Palestine, ruled by the British. The “solution” was called “the bi-national state” and died, unmourned, in the war of 1948.
WHAT HAS caused the miraculous resurrection of this idea?
Not the birth of a new love between the two peoples. Such a phenomenon would have been wonderful, even miraculous. If Israelis and Palestinians had discovered their common values, the common roots of their history and languages, their common love for this country – why, wouldn’t that have been absolutely splendid?
But, alas, the renewed “one-state solution” was not born of another immaculate conception. Its father is the occupation, its mother despair.
The occupation has already created a de facto One State – an evil state of oppression and brutality, in which half the population (or slightly less than half) deprives the other half of almost all rights – human rights, economic rights and political rights. The Jewish settlements proliferate, and every day brings new stories of woe.
Good people on both sides have lost hope. But hopelessness does not stir to action. It fosters resignation.
LET’S GO back to the starting point. “The two-state solution is dead”. How come? Who says? In accordance with what scientific criteria has death been certified?
Generally, the spread of the settlements is cited as the sign of death. In the 1980s the respected Israeli historian Meron Benvenisti pronounced that the situation had now become “irreversible”. At the time, there were hardly 100 thousand settlers in the occupied territories (apart from East Jerusalem, which by common consent is a separate issue). Now they claim to be 300 thousand, but who is counting? How many settlers mean irreversibility? 100, 300, 500, 800 thousand?
History is a hothouse of reversibility. Empires grow and collapse. Cultures flourish and wither. So do social and economic patterns. Only death is irreversible.
I can think of a dozen different ways to solve the settlement problem, from forcible removal to exchange of territories to Palestinian citizenship. Who believed that the settlements in North Sinai would be removed so easily? That the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements would become a national farce?
In the end, there will probably be a mixture of several ways, according to circumstances.
All the Herculean problems of the conflict can be resolved – if there is a will. It’s the will that is the real problem.
THE ONE-STATERS like to base themselves on the South African experience. For them, Israel is an apartheid state, like the former South Africa, and therefore the solution must be South African-like.
The situation in the occupied territories, and to some extent in Israel proper, does indeed strongly resemble the apartheid regime. The apartheid example may be justly cited in political debate. But in reality, there is very little deeper resemblance – if any – between the two countries.
David Ben-Gurion once gave the South African leaders a piece of advice: partition. Concentrate the white population in the south, in the Cape region, and cede the other parts of the country to the blacks. Both sides in South Africa rejected this idea furiously, because both sides believed in a single, united country.
They largely spoke the same languages, adhered to the same religion, were integrated in the same economy. The fight was about the master-slave relationship, with a small minority lording it over a massive majority.
Nothing of this is true in our country. Here we have two different nations, two populations of nearly equal size, two languages, two (or rather, three) religions, two cultures, two totally different economies.
A false proposition leads to false conclusions. One of them is that Israel, like Apartheid South Africa, can be brought to its knees by an international boycott. About South Africa, this is a patronizing imperialist illusion. The boycott, moral and important as it was, did not do the job. It was the Africans themselves, aided by some local white idealists, who did it by their courageous strikes and uprisings.
I am an optimist, and I do hope that eventually Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs will become sister nations, living side by side in harmony. But to come to that point, there must be a period of living peacefully in two adjoining states, hopefully with open borders.
THE PEOPLE who speak now of the “one-state solution” are idealists. But they do a lot of harm. And not only because they remove themselves and others from the struggle for the only solution that is realistic.
If we are going to live together in one state, it makes no sense to fight against the settlements. If Haifa and Ramallah will be in the same state, what is the difference between a settlement near Haifa and one near Ramallah? But the fight against the settlements is absolutely essential, it is the main battlefield in the struggle for peace.
Indeed, the one-state solution is the common aim of the extreme Zionist right and the extreme anti-Zionist left. And since the right is incomparably stronger, it is the left that is aiding the right, and not the other way round.
In theory, that is as it should be. Because the one-staters believe that the rightists are only preparing the ground for their future paradise. The right is uniting the country and putting an end to the possibility of creating an independent State of Palestine. They will subject the Palestinians to all the horrors of apartheid and much more, since the South African racists did not aim at displacing and replacing the blacks. But in due course – perhaps in a mere few decades, or half a century – the world will compel Greater Israel to grant the Palestinians full rights, and Israel will become Palestine.
According to this ultra-leftist theory, the right, which is now creating the racist one state, is in reality the Donkey of the Messiah, the legendary animal on which the Messiah will ride to triumph.
It’s a beautiful theory, but what is the assurance that this will actually happen? And before the final stage arrives, what will happen to the Palestinian people? Who will compel the rulers of Greater Israel to accept the diktat of world public opinion?
If Israel now refuses to bow to world opinion and enable the Palestinians to have their own state in 28% of historical Palestine, why would they bow to world opinion in the future and dismantle Israel altogether?
Speaking about a process that will surely last 50 years and more, who knows what will happen? What changes will take place in the world in the meantime? What wars and other catastrophes will take the world’s mind off the “Palestinian issue”?
Would one really gamble the fate of one’s nation on a far-fetched theory like this?
ASSUMING FOR a moment that the one-state solution would really come about, how would it function?
Will Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs serve in the same army, pay the same taxes, obey the same laws, work together in the same political parties? Will there be social intercourse between them? Or will the state sink into an interminable civil war?
Other peoples have found it impossible to live together in one state. Take the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia. Serbia. Czechoslovakia. Cyprus. Sudan. The Scots want to secede from the United Kingdom. So do the Basques and the Catalans from Spain. The French in Canada and the Flemish in Belgium are uneasy. As far as I know, nowhere in the entire world have two different peoples agreed to form a joint state for decades.
NO, THE two-state solution is not dead. It cannot die, because it is the only solution there is.
Despair may be convenient and tempting. But despair is no solution at all.
Read more Avnery wisdom on the Gush Shalom website
What exactly was going on outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Easter Sunday? I’m not sure. Even so, I know some of the signatories to this declaration, and I know that they are not brash or inflammatory people. Further, this list seems comprehensive! It seems that all the Christian leaders of Jerusalem are united over this!
It would appear that the Israeli government is trying to make life in the ‘Holy Land’ as uncomfortable as possible for Christians. This makes sense in terms of the goal of maintaining Israel as a Jewish state. The problem is that such actions potentially do enormous damage to the country’s traditional religious support base – American Evangelical Christians!
A Statement from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches inJerusalem, concerning the Israeli police measures on Holy Saturday- May 2013
We, the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, watched withsorrowful hearts the horrific scenes of the brutal treatment of our clergy,people, and pilgrims in the Old City of Jerusalem during Holy Saturday lastweek. A day of joy and celebration was turned to great sorrow and pain for someof our faithful because they were ill-treated by some Israeli policemen whowere present around the gates of the Old City and passages that lead to theHoly Sepulcher.
We understand the necessity and the importance of thepresence of security forces to ensure order and stability, and for organizingthe celebration of the Holy Fire at the Church of the Resurrection. Yet, it isnot acceptable that under pretext of security and order, our clergy and peopleare indiscriminately and brutally beaten, and prevented from entering theirchurches, monasteries and convents.
We urge the Israeli authorities especially the Ministry ofInterior and the police department in Jerusalem, to seriously consider ourcomplaints, to hold responsibility and to condemn all acts of violence againstour faithful and the clergy who were ill-treated by the police. We deplore thatevery year, the police measures are becoming tougher, and we expect that theseaccidents will not be repeated and the police should be more sensitive andrespectful if they seek to protect and serve.
We also denounce all those who are blaming the churches and holdingthem responsible of the Israeli measures during Holy Week celebrations. On thecontrary, the Heads of churches in Jerusalem condemn all of these measures andviolations of Christians’ rights to worship in their churches and Holy Sites.Therefore, we condemn all measures of closing the Old City and urge the Israeliauthorities to allow full access to the Holy sites during Holy Week of bothChurch Calendars.
The Heads of Churches of Jerusalem
- +Patriarch Theophilos III, GreekOrthodox Patriarchate
- +Patriarch Fouad Twal, LatinPatriarchate
- +Patriarch Norhan Manougian,Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
- +Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm,Custos of the Holy Land
- +Archbishop Anba Abraham, CopticOrthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
- +Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad,Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
- +Aba Fissiha Tsion, Locum Tenensof the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
- +Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey,Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
- +Archbishop Moussa El-Hage,Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
- +Bishop Suheil Dawani, EpiscopalChurch of Jerusalem and the Middle East
- +Bishop Munib Younan, EvangelicalLutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
- +Bishop Pierre Melki, SyrianCatholic Patriarchal Exarchate
- +Msgr. Joseph Antoine Kelekian,Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
Here’s a piece of brutal but brilliant satire. Shalom sisters and brothers!
“A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads.”
~ Benny Morris, israeli Historian.
The Western media continues to portray Palestinians as bomb-carrying militants, and yet this is the essence of Palestinian resistance – marches and hunger-strikes. Certainly Israel’s so-called ‘security fence’ functions to keep the protesters out of sight of the Israeli public.
3,000 Palestinian prisoners go on hunger strike to aid Prisoners Day protest
Thousands of Palestinian prisoners have declared a hunger strike to support Prisoners Day, an annual event dedicated to 4,713 prisoners being held in Israeli jails. Fierce rallies demanding their release have reportedly been met with tear gas.
Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza attended marches and rallies on Wednesday, urging the international community to intervene and for pressure to be put on Israel in order to release some of the Palestinian prisoners.
Nearly 600 relatives of prisoners gathered for a sit-in in the rain at Arafat Square in central Ramallah after which some of them marched towards the nearby military prison at Ofer.
As activists reached the Ofer prison perimeter they tore down 50 meters of the prison fence, mounting a Palestinian flag on prison grounds.
“After around four minutes of being at the fence, Israeli soldiers showed up. They fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound bombs at the protesters,” al-Akhbar newspaper quoted spokesman of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, Abdallah Abu Rahmeh as saying.
“It is necessary to pressure Israel to release the Palestinian prisoners and hunger strikers,” he added.
In Gaza, hundreds of people marched from central Gaza City to the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, AFP reported.
Another rally was being held in the northern city of Nablus.
Events to mark Prisoners Day began on Tuesday in Gaza City where youngsters released thousands of balloons into the air, each bearing the name of a prisoner.
Primarily Palestinian activists are calling for the release of those on the hunger strike that has been lasting for more than 250 days. Already dubbed one of the longest strikes in history, it stirred mass outrage and weeks of street protests.
The fates of at least five of the prisoners, including Samer Issawi, are now central to the protesters.
Samer Issawi, a 32-year-old from an Arab suburb of Jerusalem, is said to be in a critical condition with his low heart rate meaning he could die at any time.
As Israel seeks to end the Palestinian prisoner’s hunger strike, Issawi was offered to stop his fast in exchange for commuting his decades-long sentence to one year behind bars, Reuters reported Wednesday citing a Palestinian official.
“We don’t want to see this man commit suicide,” an Israeli official was quoted as saying. “There are elements on the Palestinian side who are eager to exploit a tragedy.”
Earlier an Israeli official said they were ready to deport Palestinian Essawi to an EU or UN country, but allege the prisoner has refused.
Issawi was initially convicted of opening fire on an Israeli bus in 2002. He was released in 2011 along with over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier held hostage by the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza.
But last July, he got re-arrested for what Israel called a violation of the terms of his release by crossing from his native East Jerusalem to the West Bank. Now he might face his original term behind bars and stay in jail until 2029. The prisoner has been struggling to regain his freedom by July this year.
Palestinian officials have called on Israel to send Issawi to Ramallah to receive a year of medical treatment after which Israel would allow him to return to neighboring Jerusalem. However, Jerusalem rejected the offer.
Rights group B’Tselem puts the number of Palestinians held by Israel at 4, 713 with most of them Palestinian men from the West Bank and Gaza convicted of participating in terror attacks. According to the group, 169 of them are held under administrative detention, without formally being charged.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society says more than 215 children and 14 women are in jail.