By Haidar Eid
Racism is the belief that a particular race (or religious group) (my insert) is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races (or religious groups) (my insert) should remain segregated and apart from one another. (as qtd. on ADL website)
Much has been said and written about the Oslo Accords and the Geneva initiative. The signatories claim that these much debated documents in principle opened up new possibilities for ‘cooperation’ between what has for so long seemed to be irreconcilable positions. Yasser Abed Rabo and Youssi Beilin, the signatories of the Geneva Initiative, for example, believe that ‘the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the establishment of two-states.” And, in what sounds like a warning, the latter adds that the window for a two-state solution will not be available indefinitely and Israel will be forced to deal with the “demographic threat” imposed on it by the Palestinians in historic Palestine.
This article, on the contrary, maintains that the two-state solution under present conditions denies the possibility of real coexistence based on equality. This is because both the Geneva document and the Oslo accords accept the Zionist consensus and, for the first time in the history of the conflict, seek to legitimize Israel as a Jewish state in historic Palestine. In both of these documents, therefore, Israel would appear to have been confirmed as the ‘state of all the Jews” and never ‘the state of all of its citizens’. The logic of separation implicit in these documents implies some fundamental contradictions and begs certain serious questions.
The Accord and the Initiative have legitimated apartheid. Both documents include a language that is, euphemistically, reminiscent of the series of laws known collectively as the Group Areas Act (GAA) which forced the relocation of millions of non-white South Africans into racially-specific ghettos. It was created to split racial groups up into different residential areas. Like in Apartheid South Africa, where the most developed areas were reserved for the white people, and 84% of the available land was granted to the same racial group, who made up only 15% of the total population, in Palestine even the 22% of the historic land on which an “independent state” is supposed to be declared is, according to the Oslo accords, “disputed”. In the South African case, the 16% remaining land was then occupied by 80% of the population. But contrary to the Palestinian case, that was never given legitimacy by the leadership of the indigenous population!
How can you call for the implementation of Security Council resolutions asserting the right of return of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees to their lands in Israel, and at the same time maintain the exclusively Jewish nature of the state? To be fair, this contradiction also appears in the literature of the Palestinian Resistance Movement. Both Hamas and the PLO also fail to answer this question. Moreover, how does this solution solve the problem of racism and cultural oppression of the marginalized Palestinian citizens of Israel?
Furthermore, is the establishment of an independent state, as the solution to the Palestinian problem even possible? The argument of Beilin and Abed Rabbo, and even that of the leadership of the PNA, is that only negotiations can solve it. For ten years negotiations have not moved the Israeli position at all; the Camp David negotiations reached the impasse predicted by both the Palestinian Left and the ant-Zionist Israeli Left. Ehud Barak’s red lines, 1999, are now very well known, and Netanyahu’s platform leads to nothing more than a canton for native Palestinians. Of course Avigdor Liberman’s advocacy of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine has won him more seats in the Knesset. Add to this the fact that the establishment of a Palestinian state is not mentioned in any of the clauses of the Oslo agreement, thus leaving the matter to be determined by the balance of power in the region. This balance tilts in favor of Israel, which rejects the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, in spite of its recognition of the PLO. No Israeli party, neither Labour nor Likud, is ready to accept a Palestinian state as the expression of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination as defined by International Law. The Labour Party is prepared to negotiate with the Palestinians in order to give them an advanced form of self-rule that will be called a state, and through which the Palestinians will be enabled to possess certain selected features of “independence,” such as a Palestinian flag, a national anthem, and a police force. Nothing more! This was Barak ‘generous’ offer in Camp David. The Likud Party, on the other hand, is not prepared to give the Palestinians even these semblances self-rule. Their vision of the future is rather that the Palestinians should be allowed to run their own affairs under strict and binding Israeli control.
And lately, in a bizarre, ironic twist, Palestinians have been blamed for killing the two-state solution! Right-wing Israeli historian Benny Morris has given up on finding a solution to “the conflict… mainly due to the Palestinians’ consistent rejection of a solution of two states for two peoples!” This is not unlike saying that blacks of South Africa are to blame for killing the Bantsuatn system. And they should be punished! “In the end, both sides of the Palestinian movement − the fundamentalists led by Hamas and the secular bloc led by Fatah − are interested in Muslim rule over all of Palestine, with no Jewish state and no partition!” And Palestinian leadership, according to Morris, “has no desire or intention of reaching a solution of two states for two peoples”. The two- state solution is dead because “The Palestinian leadership and people will not be satisfied with 20 percent of the territory of Palestine. A state composed of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem will not satisfy them.”
And when asked about the right of return, Morris claims that it “essentially requires the destruction of the Jewish state… the Palestinian discourse and the Palestinian objectives have not changed, and their actions, i.e. terror…” It is Palestinians that are to blame because “[the] demonization is not equal on the two sides. In the Israeli education system, in general, there is no demonization of the Arab, [whereas,] there, the Jews are completely demonized. The Palestinian authorities are busy deeply implanting the demonization. The Palestinian people think we can be made extinct. We don’t think that about the Palestinians.” The problem for Morris is that “[aside] from revenge, the Palestinians have absolute faith in the justice of their side, which derives in part from religious faith. What God commands, and what his interpreters on Earth say that God commands, is the definite truth. While the Jews are much more skeptical about this sort of interpretation, the Palestinians feel that justice is on their side and that God doesn’t want the Holy Land to be shared with another people. ..” Edwrad Said and Frantz Fanon must be turning in their graves!
But facts on the ground tell another story. Settlement activity in the West Bank continues, as do the confiscation of land and the opening of zigzag roads to service the settlements. Notably, the number of Jewish settlers has risen from 193,000, when the Oslo Accords were signed, to 600.000. (There are separate “Jews only” roads for settlers and other roads for native Palestinians!) No Israeli government has ever been willing to commit itself to the complete evacuation of settlers from the West Bank. Yet this is a basic pre condition for the creation of an “independent Palestinian state,” impossible in light of Israel’s commitment to the settlers. In order to guarantee the security of the settlements and ensure their future development, Israel is bound to control the greater part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, in any future contingency it is certain that Israel will invoke its security needs to justify tightening its control over the Jordan Valley, thus, again, rendering the project of an independent Palestinian state impossible.
Jerusalem has suffered and is still suffering from the continuation of settlement activity, the building and expansion of Jewish neighborhoods, the confiscation of Jerusalem IDs, i.e., ethnic cleansing, and the policy of “facts on the ground” which leaves no room for future Palestinian control over the city.
In addition, Palestinian refugees living outside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are experiencing increasing difficulties especially in places like Lebanon and Syria, and are waiting for the day to return to Palestine and to be compensated for their confiscated property. This is a right guaranteed by UN resolution 194. Meanwhile the Palestinian community in Israel is prevented from coexisting on an equal footing with Israeli Jews. Israel’s state policy against its Palestinian citizens amounts to Apartheid as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, and ratified by United Nations General Assembly resolution 3068 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973. Needless to say, the PNA does not represent either of those two large segments of the Palestinian people.
Defending a two-state solution is, therefore, an insult to the memory of those who fought for equality and justice not only in Palestine, but also in the American South and South Africa!
Thus we come to the inevitable conclusion that a sovereign, independent Palestinian state is, for the reasons mentioned above, unattainable. The question, therefore, is whether there is an alternative solution?
One alternative increasingly to be found in the writings and pronouncements of certain Palestinian intellectuals and activists is the idea of a secular-democratic state in Mandatory Palestine in which all citizens are treated equally regardless of their religion, race or sex.
A secular, democratic state is one inhabited by its citizens and governed on the basis of equality and parity both between the individuals as citizens and between groups which have cultural identities. Inherent in such an arrangement is the condition that the groups living there are enabled to coexist and to develop on an equal basis. This is summed up in Nelson Mandela’s last words at the end of his four- hour statement to the court at the Rivonia Trial: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
This system is proposed here as a long-term solution that will need much nurturing, following the political demise of the project of an “independent Palestinian state” as a result of the Oslo Accords, the siege of the Gaza Strip, and the occupation of the West Bank. The establishment of four Bantustans in South Africa was considered by the International Community to constitute a racist solution that could not and should not be entertained. In order to bring that inhumane solution to an end, the Apartheid regime was boycotted academically, culturally, diplomatically and economically until it succumbed and crumbled into pieces. Nothing remains of the old ethnically cleansed South Africa or the impoverished Bantustans it had created: not the red carpets, nor the national anthems, or the security apparatuses. This is what racist solutions come to: a corner in the dustbin of history — a museum for the gaze of new generations.
– Haidar Eid is an independent political commentator from the Gaza Strip, Palestine. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.