Next September, on the 17th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Agreement, the mass media mavens will dust off ancient news clips from last century’s White House signing ceremony and go through the ritual of bemoaning the lack of progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With Netanyahu and his extremist pro-settlement coalition at the helm, there is very little prospect that the interminable peace process will deliver the goods.
With seventeen years wasted on the illusive quest for a two-state compromise, a little historic math is in order. If you break down the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into three broad time tranches, you’d want to start with the British occupation of Palestine in 1917 which allowed for the mass migration of European Zionist settlers to the Holy Land. That period ended in 1948 with the establishment of an exclusive Jewish State and the exile of nearly a million native Palestinians. If a Palestinian was born in Jaffa on the day the Turks surrendered Jerusalem to Sir Edmund Allenby, there is a good chance he mourned his 21st birthday in a refugee camp.
The period from 1948 to 1967 was characterized by the Arabization of the conflict with Egypt and Syria taking the lead in adopting the Palestinian cause as a national priority and broad support for the Palestinians across the Arab World. This interim period ended with the six-day war, the waning appeal of Pan-Arabism and the dismal failure of the Arab leaders to deliver on the mirage of a united Arab state stretching from the Atlantic coast of Morocco to the Arabian Gulf.
Pan-Arabism has been dead and buried for four decades and you can squeeze the few remaining true believers into a good size elevator. The only relic left of that period is the Arab League headquarters, an architecturally significant building in downtown Cairo that might someday be converted into a museum, a luxury boutique hotel or exclusive condos for the sheikhs of the Arabian Gulf. There is no arguing that the de-Arabization of the Israeli-Palestinian feud is now a fait accompli.
Another thing that distinguished this second period, which lasted for all of 19 years, was that it was the only time since the Crusades that Palestine was divided. Just to get a perspective; until the Berlin Wall was torn down, the Cold War divided Germany into East and West for a total of 45 years and Cyprus has been divided since 1974. Now consider this; since the Israeli invasion and occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, historic Palestine has been intact for 43 years, albeit under the iron fist of a Jewish supremacist state and the Israeli military.
Over the course of the last four decades, The Palestinians have reemerged as a distinct people separate from the mythological Arab world. Not only were they abandoned by their Arab ‘brothers,’ they were slaughtered in the streets of Amman and Beirut, experienced the full wrath of the Syrian army at Tel El-Zaatar and targeted by anti-Palestinian thugs in Baghdad and Kuwait. We now we have them enduring the brutal siege in Gaza that is being jointly enforced by the Egyptian Army and the IDF.
Today, there are over ten million Palestinians – half of them living in their ancestral lands. Remarkably, one out of every two Palestinians continues to live within the borders of historic Palestine either as a citizen of Israel or as a stateless resident of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It’s all very well and good to engage in the never-ending debate on how to preserve and implement the right of return for the six million Palestinians living in exile. There is no arguing that by law and by natural right, the Palestinian refugees should be allowed to return to their ancestral lands. That said – priority should be given to the right of the Palestinians currently living in the Holy Land to remain on their native soil. At this late stage in the conflict, the Palestinian right to remain should trump the Palestinian right to return.
For the last 43 years, the Palestinians have been sold on the false promise of a separate independent state on twenty percent of the land area of historic Palestine and the Israelis have spared no effort to make certain that even this miserly promise went unfulfilled. Even after that promise was sealed in Oslo, the creeping annexation of the West Bank continued unabated and the exclusively Jewish settlements are now home to half a million militant Jewish annexationists.
If you distill the Zionist project down to its core essence, it boils down to affirming the right of Jews from anywhere in the world to live and settle anywhere within the historic boundaries of Palestine. And Zionists, being what they are, are adamantly opposed to extending that very same right to the indigenous population of the Holy Land.
As things now stand, conversion to Judaism is the only path available for a native Palestinian to gain full citizenship rights on equal footing with an off-the-boat Moldavian Jewish immigrant. And for the sake of brevity, let’s just say that most Palestinians, be they Christians or Muslims, are content to worship God in accordance with their own Abrahamic liturgy.
But demographic realities are destiny. A century after launching the Zionist project, the Holy Land remains half Palestinian. Despite the expulsion of most of the native population that lived in the land mass that became Israel, there are now three times as many Palestinians living within the boundaries of British Mandate Palestine as lived there in 1948 and they show no signs of volunteering to follow the path of the last of the Mohicans.
Everybody is aware of these demographic realities, not least the Israelis. The way they’ve dealt with it is to wall off five million Palestinians and keep them out of sight and out of mind. That was the whole idea behind Sharon’s Apartheid wall and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Not only did the state of Israel manage to seal a million and a half Palestinians in an open air penitentiary, they created a legal construct that allowed them to bomb the sprawling concentration camp into rubble and impose a siege to starve the inhabitants into submission.
Oslo was a sham and the two-state solution was a scam and it’s time to call the Israelis out on it and make them pay the ultimate price for their intransigence. The Israelis had their chance to set up an internationally recognized racist state and they blew it. It’s past time to crank up the call for a one-state solution to a deafening roar. With all the efforts the Likudniks put into sabotaging the two-state solution, we should do them the favor of making Israel’s wish come true and confront them with the only workable alternative – One Holy Land United with Liberty and Justice for All.
As a practical matter, the one-state solution is now the only solution on the table. The Israelis will no doubt voice objections based on their delusionary exceptionalism and their entitlement to an ethnically pure Jewish State. In fact, that is the only ‘compelling’ argument offered by the passionate subscribers to the Zionist creed, an ideology that for good and sensible reasons should be consigned to the trash bin of history.
The only barrier that stands against the one-state solution is the inherently racist nature of Zionist ideology which is easy enough to challenge and should be done early and often. The parts of Palestine that are behind the 1967 Green Line have a population that is 20% Palestinian. At the height of the civil rights movement, African-Americans comprised only 12% of the population. It’s just as absurd to call Israel a Jewish state as to call America an eternally white state. If the Israeli-Arab population grows and a million Jews convert to Christianity or Buddhism, will there be a need for a second expulsion to retain the Jewish purity of the nation? Will Zionist mythology survive modern science? All it would take would be a little DNA testing to prove that Israeli claims to ancient Hebrew ancestry are pure malarkey and an affront to the historical record. The only people that can credibly assert lineage from the ancient Hebrews, Canaanites and Philistines are the Palestinians. The notion that Ethiopian Jews and Russian Jews share the same ancestry is an absurdity that can be challenged with the naked eye. Any high school kid versatile in using the internet can trace the genealogical origin of Ashkenazi Jews to the Khazars, a semi-nomadic Turkic people. Even Hitler’s bizarre belief in Germany’s Aryan heritage was more plausible. Aside from anything else, Zionism is preposterous and Israeli Jews should just get over it.
One thing is certain – Israeli ideological delusions have no place at the peace table because an equitable peace is not part of the Zionist vocabulary. So enough with the absurdities – now let’s consider a workable and peaceful resolution of the conflict. To make a quantum leap towards a peace agreement that will stand the test of time, both parties must acquiesce to the most obvious compromise – an accord that would give both Palestinians and Jews full citizenship rights with the right to remain and the right to return. To implement such an agreement would require no more than a few amendments to the Israeli Law of Return and the immediate granting of citizenship and the right of free movement to each and every Palestinian living within the so-called occupied territories and Israel.
Many of the laws that have been used to repress the Palestinians, limit their movements and encroach on their native lands are relics of the two short decades when Palestine was divided. That period ended in 1967. The way that the Israelis managed to implement their draconian racist laws for the last four decades was by having two sets of law books – one for Israel and another for the occupied territories. The first reserved certain exclusive rights for the citizens of Israel – a legal entity which, for the purposes of granting citizenship, was conveniently defined as the land area behind the 1967 green Line. So you basically have an expansionist state that refuses to define its borders while simultaneously claiming the 1967 boundaries just for the purpose of granting citizenship and preferential treatment to individuals of a certain religious persuasion. That’s all it took. It’s this one legal loophole that allows Israelis to settle in the occupied territories and prevents Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from relocating to Jaffa or building settlements in Tel Aviv. The path to a permanent and equitable peace is to dismantle this racist legal construct in favor of a single set of laws that apply to every individual living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River – regardless of their faith tradition.
Once Israelis and Palestinians agree on this imminently fair new legal construct, the international community will have to provide ironclad security guarantees to protect unarmed Palestinians from the irredentist Zionist militias that are sure to oppose the accord. Assuring a tranquil political transition might require a permanent NATO military presence, similar to what we now see in Kosovo and Bosnia.
In addition to providing security guarantees, the neighboring Arab countries will have to live up to their previous commitments and recognize the emerging state as a secular multi-denominational multi-ethnic state. The emerging state will be granted immediate full membership in NATO and the European Union and its constitution will prohibit the state from joining the Arab League or the Organization of the Islamic Conference or have any kind of affiliation with Zionist organizations.
The new state’s boundaries will be the boundaries of the British Mandate. A constitution will provide for equal citizenship to all its inhabitants disregarding religion, race and ethnicity, country of origin or sex. The constitution will provide for non-discriminatory laws in housing, land ownership, immigration and employment and mandate a strict adherence to the separation of the state from the influence of Church, Synagogue and Mosque. There will be a prohibition against the establishment of religious parties, Zionist parties or pan-Arab parties. Establishing sectarian parties will be considered a political crime against the state and a supreme court will have the power to dissolve any party with an anti-Palestinian or anti-Semitic platform.
No civilian will be allowed to bear arms and the armed forces will be integrated. Every officer and soldier will swear allegiance to the non-sectarian constitution. Any officer or soldier espousing sectarian political views will be unceremoniously and dishonorably discharged from service.
The State will provide universal access to integrated secular public schools and all private denominational schools will be closed. The only exception will be religious seminaries for adults and after-school religious instruction for children.
The State will be funded with adequate resources to resolve the problems of Palestinian refugees starting with a pilot program for the immediate repatriation of the refugees in Lebanese camps. An international fund will be set up to compensate Palestinians for expropriated land and resettle and absorb the refugees who choose to return. To assure an orderly absorption process, 400,000 Palestinians will be repatriated each year for a period of five years – with preference give to those reentering from Lebanon. Arab countries will also be obliged to grant Palestinian residents the right to opt for citizenship as is the case in Jordan. The United States, Canada, The European Union, Australia and New Zealand will commit to preferential quotas for Palestinians.
While they wait their turn to be repatriated, all Palestinian refugees will be immediately granted special five year United Nations passports that will allow them to live and work in the Gulf States, The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union. Over and above these quotas, any Palestinian or Jew facing religious or ethnic persecution anywhere in the world will have the right to seek and be granted refuge in the emerging state.
Last but not least, a Truth and Reconciliation Committee needs to be established along the lines of the South African model and under the supervision of the International Court of Justice. The primary objective should not be to punish Israeli war criminals because there are simply too many of them to accommodate at The Hague. Rather, the focus should be on airing a full and objective account of the long history of Zionist crimes against the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine. Like Holocaust denial, Nakba denial should be considered a crime. It’s time for a sanity check on Zionism. Every Israeli must come to terms with the magnitude of the century of depravity his forbearers and contemporaries have unleashed on the innocent natives of the Holy Land. It’s part of the healing process. Call it Chicken Soup for the Zionist tainted Israeli soul.
By now, the Palestinians must realize that the never ending peace process, Oslo, the Road Map and the Proximity talks are dead letters that were scribbled to accommodate Israel’s relentless creeping annexation of the West Bank and the Judiazation of Jerusalem. The only way to thwart the Israeli plans is to abandon the two-state solution in favor of a struggle for full citizenship rights and free movement. That is the natural path to Palestinian liberty and it is a path that will quickly gain support from the international community if only because it’s a no-brainer and the only remaining alternative to an apartheid Israeli state.
To continue to represent this struggle as a tribal feud over boundaries and national rights is a fatal strategic mistake and Gaza has already given us a glimpse of the kind of Palestinian state the Israelis envision. Gaza was designed to be a ghetto under siege and a landlocked state in the West Bank will fare no better. The Palestinians need to wake up and smell the poisoned coffee; there never was going to be a two state solution. The only choice on the table is between a single state that accords full citizenship rights and freedom of movement to every Palestinian from the river to the sea or a state that operates under the current legal construct; a construct that accords Jews extraordinary special rights including the right to do whatever they want to do to the native population.
No doubt, there will be an avalanche of arguments against this solution from the usual quarters – the true believers of the Zionist creed, the Armageddon worshiping dispensationalists, The State Department and the parliament of whores that takes up residence in the US Congress. But it shouldn’t be too difficult to shout down the only remaining rationale against a one state compromise – Jewish exceptionalism and the ‘right’ of Israelis to establish a state with an eternal Jewish majority. Other than that, expediency was the only argument that ever favored a two-state solution – it was supposedly doable. Well, we now have two decades worth of empirical proof that it’s not going to happen.
Keep the Holy Land United, mix in liberty and justice for all and we won’t have to endure another seventeen years of proximity talks.