Quote of the day – (7th in our series)

Today’s Quote of the day – the 7th in our series –
Ami Kaufman, Israeli journalist and blogger (Half and Half, here), wrote last week that “Israel is still a state where millions of people live without equal rights. Sometimes that’s also hard for me to grasp: I actually live in a country where millions of people have not had equal rights for over 40 years. Millions of people are second class, without citizenship” … This remark is in a post published here.

This statement is made as part of an argument about the necessity of pursuing a two-state solution (and its converse, of taking the one-state “option” off the table, which is in fact the title of Kaufman’s article).

Kaufman writes: “Two main solutions have been discussed over the years to change this status quo [i.e., the occupation]: The two-state solution and the one-state solution, with the former apparently turning into an impossible mission. Since the Olso accords were signed the settler population has tripled, and the chances for a viable Palestinian state are getting slimmer by the minute. The latter option has been sitting on the back burner for a long time until just recently, when it began to get more and more media attention in Israel. Unfortunately, this talk – now labeled almost in every op-ed or essay as ‘thinking out of the box’ or ‘constructive debate’ – is doing nothing but harm to the national aspirations of Palestinians and will further delay the implementation of an agreement between the sides”.

Kaufman writes that “one of the reasons the left has long promoted the two-state solution is its yearning for that ‘golden era’ before 1967” He is speaking, of course, about the Israeli left. Summarizing the views of others, Kaufman writes: “the Israeli left is ‘bogged down in nostalgia for a mythically pure pre-1967 Israel’.”

But now, he notes, the Israeli right-wing is suddenly on board, with a new-found fondness for a one-state solution as well — though, Kaufman states, “a slight problem might arise from the right wingers’ plan to exclude Gaza from the equation. Gazans simply don’t exist for them”.

Then, Kaufman cites former Mossad chief Yossi Alpher (a regular analyst in, and listed as co-editor of, Ghassan Khatib’s weekly Bitterlemons thematic mini-publication) as saying that the new proponents of a one-state solution on the right “assert in a roundabout way that Palestinians, if just given a chance, would like nothing more than to be productive citizens of Israel as currently constituted–a Jewish and democratic state. Rivlin allows that this may take a generation or that perhaps the West Bank Palestinians will suffice with a condominium setup inside Israel; Arens wants first to ‘tame’ Israel’s own Palestinian Arab population of 1.2 million and make them good citizens in order to ‘prove’ the same can be done with the West Bankers. Likud Member of Knesset Tzipi Hotobely also wants to wait a generation and anchor the country’s Jewish status constitutionally so that Arabs can’t challenge it. But to be on the safe side, she refuses to recognize Palestinian national rights–only individual rights. All, in short, fall back on patronizing, colonialist thinking that characterized Moshe Dayan’s and Menachem Begin’s ill-fated experiments in autonomy several decades ago. All these ‘solutions’ smell of condescension, ignorance about Palestinian national aspirations and a refusal to recognize that demography would sooner or later bring about the Palestinization of Israel. Nor, under present circumstances, would even the most egalitarian offer of Israeli citizenship to West Bank Palestinians”… This was published in an Alpher essay entitled “Panic”, and published on Bitterlemons on 30 August here.

The original essay on Bitterlemons, Alpher precedes these words by noting that “Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and former minister of defense and foreign affairs Moshe Arens both suggest that Israel can somehow swallow up the West Bank and award citizenship rights to the Palestinian population there and in East Jerusalem, yet remain a Jewish state. This does not sell easily to skeptical Israelis”. As he wraps up his essay, Alpher writes: “There is only one persuasive explanation for the timing of these bizarre proposals. As they confront the cumulative weight of both Israeli and international opinion regarding a two-state solution, Israeli right-wing circles are also beginning to confront the inevitability of ‘losing’ the West Bank, and consequently to panic. Hence some are dressing up old and discredited autonomy schemes as one-state ideas. In stark contrast, a few prominent West Bank settlers are beginning seriously to contemplate the possibility of remaining in a Palestinian state”.

What bothers me about this discussion is that some on the Palestinian side, where a certain, mainly Ramallah-based, elite — and some in the Palestinian diaspora — actually think they have a choice.

However, unlike the Israelis who are toying with this idea, the Palestinians who espouse a one-state fantasy are not thinking about the golden pre-’67 era, when many Palestinians were still cut off from each other by regimes which often viewed normal contacts between separated families as potentially treasonous, the Palestinians are dreaming of the golden years between the early 1970s and the first Palestinian Intifada in the late 1980s, when Palestinians in the West Bank, East, Jerusalem, Gaza and within Israel itself were suddenly reunited and — for this brief golden age — allowed to move freely everywhere within the boundaries of the former Palestine Mandate.

They were still cut off from Palestinians in the diaspora abroad, however, but that is of minor consideration by comparison with the wonderful freedom of movement they briefly had in Palestine…

Writing in the same issue of Bitterlemons as Alpher, Diana Butto (her contribution is entitled “A State of Equality) noted that “For settlers and other right-wing Israelis espousing the ‘one-state’ concept, the issue is about how to expand Israel. Period. Among settlers, the ideology of superiority still pervades. Palestinians will not automatically be granted rights but afforded rights on the basis of their behavior toward a racist state that has dispossessed and occupied them. What settlers are not talking about is the very essence of a single state: equality”.

She continues: “A Ramallah-based ‘one-state’ movement is also now popping up that seems to be capitalizing on the eventual failure of the two-state solution. Under the banner, ‘two states are impossible’, this group espouses the one-state solution, but only because its preferred outcome, a two-state solution, is no longer ‘practical’ owing to the presence of over 500,000 settlers. Support for the ‘one-state’ concept must not simply be a default outcome resulting from failure of the two-state approach, but rather an outcome that strives for equality. Equality, while not a foolproof guarantee of bliss, is certainly a good start. Advocates are cognizant that it may involve an uneasy Israeli integration into Palestinian lives and Palestinian integration into Israeli lives–from education to culture to lifestyle–and that equality will not necessarily recreate pre-1948 Palestine. But it does require abolishing the laws, system and bureaucracy that make up the discriminatory apartheid regime that Palestinians live under today and from which Israelis benefit … The only honest way forward is to work toward true equality for all”. On the Bitterlemons site, Diana Buttu is described as “a human rights lawyer and a former legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team”. Her article can be read in full here.

What bothers me about this discussion is that some on the Palestinian side, where a certain, mainly Ramallah-based, elite — and some in the Palestinian diaspora — actually think they have a choice.

However, unlike the Israelis who are toying with this idea, the Palestinians who espouse a one-state fantasy are not thinking about the golden pre-’67 era, when many Palestinians were still cut off from each other by regimes which often viewed normal contacts between separated families as potentially treasonous, the Palestinians are dreaming of the golden years between the early 1970s and the first Palestinian Intifada in the late 1980s, when Palestinians in the West Bank, East, Jerusalem, Gaza and within Israel itself were suddenly reunited and — for this brief golden age — allowed to move freely everywhere within the boundaries of the former Palestine Mandate.

They were still cut off from Palestinians in the diaspora abroad, however, but that is of minor consideration by comparison with the wonderful freedom of movement they briefly had in Palestine…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *