Edward Said, the late great Palestinian fighter for the liberation of his people, was entirely too charitable when he criticized Israel’s ‘generous offer’ of Bantustans for the native people of the Holy Land. The tiniest proposed Bantustan by the former Apartheid regime in South Africa was larger than the entire land area of Gaza. And larger than the 42% of the West Bank that make up the barbed wire enclaves and walled ghettos Sharon is offering as his version of a ‘Palestinian State’.
The monstrosity that is the Apartheid wall speaks volumes about how far Israelis have strayed from even the most minimal notions of liberty and justice. Even as you read this, an ugly concrete wall is being constructed to prevent a Palestinian farmer from reaching the fields where his ancestors planted the family’s olive trees. In many cases, his family will literally be deprived from even embracing the rays of the sun. Sharon’s Apartheid wall will cast an all day shadow like a permanent fog to suffocate entire neighborhoods.
Extended families will have to make choices on which side of the wall to reside. Ailing parents will not be visited for evening coffee. Local schools, hospitals, churches and mosques will be on the ‘other side’ of an eighteen-foot barricade. Virtually, the entire occupied population will be within walking distance of the wall. These are not Bantustans by any stretch of the imagination, more like large walled compounds. In America they call them prisons. The open spaces outside your front door are jail yards. Passes will be required to move from one barbed wire enclave to another.
Within these claustrophobic ghettos, the Palestinians will be left with what little infrastructure the Israelis have not yet converted into rubble.
This wall is the ultimate manifestation of Zionism. It stands for dispossession of native people from native lands, collective punishment, land grabbing, racism and racial venality and the complete absence of any kind of moral standard.
The two-state solution was designed to accommodate the institutional bigotry of Israeli society. It was a ‘separate and unequal’ solution, granting the native Palestinian population independence on a fifth of the land, even though they account for nearly half the population currently residing between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. That was the substance of Oslo, an agreement that would have ignored the plight of millions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.
I have long championed an Oslo style agreement, to alleviate the sufferings of two generations of Palestinians and shield them from living under the thumbs of a vicious and brutal land thieving military occupation. But if this be the two-state solution, onward to a single indivisible bi-national state. As Israel Shamir has often pointed out, Palestine was divided for only nineteen years, between 1948 and 1967. The Green line is a useful bit of Israeli fiction that has served to keep the Palestinians chasing a phantom carrot called an ‘independent state’ ruled by the senile ‘Yes Sir’ Arafat. The current Palestinian leadership appears willing to consider any Israeli ‘peace proposal’ and accepting any serial Israeli war criminal as a negotiating partner. If Sharon wants a Greater Israel, let him have it. Except let him and every Israeli understand that a Greater Israel will have a much larger Palestinian population.
The Palestinians should now turn this ugly wall into a path to a binational democracy where those who would dare cage in an entire nation like animals will be held in contempt and treated like common criminals. It is time for both Israelis and Palestinians to move on beyond the boundaries of Oslo. The mantra of ‘two states for two people’ was yesterday’s vision. The Apartheid wall has permanently altered that vision and rendered it blindness. For the Palestinians, there remains only one other course to take; the path to liberty and justice for all. One man, one vote, from the river to the sea.
Even if the Palestinians were to settle for a few Bantustans, what would prevent the Israelis from invading at some future date on the flimsiest of reasons? All they need as an excuse is ‘security’, their one word apology for land grabbing adventures since they first landed on the sacred soil of Palestine with the declared intent of pushing aside the natives to make way for an exclusive Jewish state. The Israelis had their chance at Oslo. They refused a generous Palestinian offer to permanently write off 80% of the land for the sake of peace and co-existence.
The writing on the wall is clear. It echoes the current trend in Israel among ‘progressives’ like Benny Morris who advocate ‘caging in the Palestinian barbarians’. The choices now are not between a single secular state and two states. The only remaining option is between justice for all or cages for half, the Palestinian half.
There is no time to waste. The Palestinians must engineer an immediate change in strategy with or without Arafat and his cronies, who wasted ten years negotiating to establish their feeble authority as a political clone of surrounding Arab dictatorships.
The first step should be a campaign to get broad international support and security guarantees for the Palestinian right to remain. Israelis must immediately grasp the need to educate their citizenry on how to properly behave in a ‘one man one vote’ bi-national environment. While they clear their ugly Likudnik minds, areas with Palestinian majorities, in Israel as well as the occupied territories, would be provided with international peace forces to prevent a repeat of the ethnic cleansing in 1948. A vote would be held at the end of an appropriate interim period on constitutional provisions to guarantee basic liberties, including freedom of religion.
All we need is a paradigm shift by both Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis will only need a massive dose of communal therapy to get over what their racist daddy taught them growing up. It will be the Palestinians who will be obliged to do the heavy lifting in formulating a consensus for the simplest most elegant solution, one state for all those born on the sweet soil of the Holy Land. They need to distance themselves from the worthless Arab League and just ask for the vote, plead for democracy and keep the focus on individual justice and personal liberty. Abandon the Arabs and be assured that they long ago abandoned you. Find the space in you big beautiful Holy Land hearts to forgive the Israelis for the wall and the thousand other crimes they have committed against your people. Remind the world that this is not just a struggle for cultural survival but a fight for the most basic values of liberty and justice for all. Do not negotiate over the location or size of the wall. Make the wall the path to your salvation.
One man, one vote. Get out the pots and pans and start making some noise the whole world will hear. One out of ten Israelis will stand by you today. Tomorrow another eight will quickly acquire similar rational sentiments. When Sharon is dead and gone, let him turn like a spinning top in a grave below the fertile land of a modern and progressive single state for all the people of the Holy Land. When the time comes to tear down that wall, leave a few meters of his wall standing as a monument to praise the instrument of your deliverance. Long may you dance on the rubble of Sharon’s abomination.