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The Nation Considers Palestine

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    Endless Occupation? By Meron Benveniste The Nation It will not escape readers notice that the three writers who reflect on the occasion in this issue,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2007
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      Endless Occupation?
      By Meron Benveniste
      The Nation

      It will not escape readers' notice that the three writers who reflect
      on the occasion in this issue, although coming from widely different
      backgrounds and perspectives--Meron Benvenisti is a native-born
      Israeli and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Saree Makdisi is a
      Palestinian-American academic and Brian Klug is a British (and Jewish)
      Oxford philosopher--express a similar pessimism regarding the
      two-state solution. Each of them favorably discusses some form of
      binational or democratic state in all of Israel-Palestine, whose
      citizens would have equal rights or shared sovereignty.

      Nation editors didn't seek out these conclusions, nor do they
      represent a change in our policy. For many years this magazine has
      supported a two-state solution in which Israel would fully withdraw
      from the territories occupied in 1967, in accordance with UN
      resolutions, and a State of Palestine would be formed in those
      territories, with its capital in East Jerusalem. But we recognize that
      as realities on the ground shift, so must our thinking.

      Many have begun to wonder whether partition is still possible, given
      the growing settlements in the West Bank; the collapse of the peace
      process; the hardening of Israeli attitudes in the face of a second,
      bloody intifada; the descent of the Palestinian national camp into
      fratricide; and the unwillingness or inability of the Bush
      Administration to re-engage in serious peace talks or even to
      recognize the democratically elected Palestinian government.

      But to abandon the two-state solution, as a way out of today's
      seemingly insuperable barriers, doesn't so much answer questions as
      raise new ones. The chief difficulty is perhaps in popular reception,
      from both Israelis and Palestinians: While a large percentage of
      Israelis--anywhere from 40 to 60 percent, depending on when and how
      they're asked--support a two-state solution, 95 percent or more
      viscerally, emphatically oppose both the binational and secular
      democratic models. The mainstream of the Palestinian liberation
      movement, for its part, has for three decades supported the two-state
      solution, and even the Islamist Hamas has indicated that it would
      acquiesce. As with the Israelis, there's no real political
      constituency in the Palestinian community for the binational or
      democratic model, just support from a certain, if growing, number of
      intellectuals. Also, the Palestinian case for a separate, independent
      state is supported by a vast body of international law and many UN
      resolutions. If the movement were to abandon that model of national
      liberation in favor of participation as equal citizens in one state or
      a binational polity, it would weaken these legal and diplomatic
      defenses, and the overwhelming consensus of the international
      community, in favor of the unknown.

      And while the chances for a two-state solution look particularly bleak
      now, circumstances can change rapidly. Witness the 2005 disengagement
      from Gaza: Apocalyptic settler resistance was predicted, and yet it
      came off without a hitch. Disengagement might have been a cynical ploy
      on Ariel Sharon's part to forestall negotiations, but it did seem to
      break the back of the Greater Israel movement. In its wake, some 50
      percent of West Bank settlers have indicated their willingness to
      return to Israel. Furthermore, there is, despite the current
      diplomatic stasis, a living model for a fair two-state solution that
      could lead to peace not only between Israel and Palestine but between
      Israel and the entire Arab world: the recently reiterated Arab League
      proposal. The offer is there, if Israel and Washington have the
      courage to act on it.

      From the Palestinian point of view--and from that of anyone who
      supports minimal standards of human rights--it's inevitable that if
      the two-state solution fades, the calls for inclusion on fully equal
      terms in one state will grow. And from the Israeli perspective, every
      "defeat" of Palestinian resistance, every new settlement, will only
      hasten the day when two populations of roughly equal size, one Jewish
      and one Palestinian, will be seen by the international community as
      functioning in essentially one state, under an apartheid system. The
      "separation wall," which divides the two populations while imprisoning
      one under the control of the other, will only accelerate that
      perception. In other words, the Jewish state, qua Jewish state, will
      in the long run be just as threatened by continuation along the
      present unilateralist path as by a major shift toward negotiations and

      All Americans, whatever their ethnicity or religion, are deeply
      implicated in what happens in Israel/Palestine, given our government's
      identification with and massive aid to Israel. The conflict is a
      Middle East crisis, but whether we like it or not, it is very much an
      American dilemma. No issue inflames opinion against the United States
      more than its support for Israel's policies toward the Palestinians,
      which has put us on a collision course with the Arab and Muslim world.
      We must therefore continually rethink our assumptions. We at The
      Nation see it as our task to further the debate by providing a forum
      for it and by exploring all creative solutions. As in the past, we
      adhere to a general principle that's more important than any
      particular state formation: The two peoples must be afforded the right
      to live in peace and dignity, on fully equal terms, whether in one
      state or two.


      The State of Zionism
      by BRIAN KLUG
      The Nation
      [from the June 18, 2007 issue]

      On June 20, 2006, at the thirty-fifth World Zionist Congress, Israeli
      Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the delegates--representatives of
      Jewish organizations from around the world--to "Jerusalem, which is
      Zion, the beating heart, and the object of yearning and prayers of the
      Jewish people for generations." Recalling the first congress, convened
      by Theodor Herzl in 1897, Olmert said, "There is a straight line
      between Basel and Jerusalem, the line of political Zionism, whose aim
      was the return of the Jewish people to the stage of history as an
      independent and sovereign nation, which takes its fate into its own
      hands, in the Land of Israel, the heritage of our forefathers."

      Herzl's seminal 1896 pamphlet The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat, better
      translated as "The Jews' State" or "The State of the Jews") was
      subtitled "An Attempt at a Modern Solution of the Jewish Question."
      The indefinite article is misleading. Herzl wrote to Bismarck, "I
      believe I have found the solution to the Jewish Question. Not a
      solution, but the solution, the only one." Decades later, Nazi Germany
      pursued its own "final solution" to the Jewish question:
      extermination. This gruesome project and its grisly success--the
      murder of roughly two-thirds of European Jews and the destruction of
      Jewish community life on much of the Continent--propelled Herzl's
      proposal to the foreground of international affairs. Within three
      years of Hitler's defeat, the State of Israel was created. But has
      this settled the question?

      Not according to Olmert. In his address to the World Zionist Congress,
      he declared that the question will not be resolved until "every Jew in
      the world" comes to live in Israel and "all the peoples of the region"
      accept Israel's "right to exist as a Jewish state." Since neither
      condition has yet been met, "we must gather to discuss the 'Jewish
      question' here at the thirty-fifth Zionist Congress as well."

      Must we? Or must we, on the contrary, stop giving legitimacy to the
      question itself, which tends to insinuate that we Jews are a problem
      people, like a problem child? And even if the question was inescapable
      in Herzl's day, even if Europe forced it on Jews by alternately
      offering and withholding emancipation, and promoting or permitting
      anti-Semitism, is this the question that faces us--Jews and
      non-Jews--today? Or is it not Herzl's solution that is in question?

      Every element in Olmert's address to the Zionist Congress is
      questionable, beginning with the slide from Zion, ancient religious
      and poetic heart of Jewish dispersion, to Zionism, modern political
      movement for the liberation of the Jewish people. Could it be that
      Zionism, "whose aim was the return of the Jewish people to the stage
      of history," is caught in a time warp? Could Israel, under its
      influence, be continually undermining itself, while millions of Jews
      who have no say in the matter are implicated in its policies? (Is this
      what is meant by a nation "which takes its fate into its own hands"?)
      What, in short, if our "liberation" entraps us in an illusion?

      Furthermore, contrary to Olmert, the line that leads from Basel to
      Jerusalem has been anything but straight. Since its birth more than a
      century ago, Zionism has veered from secular to religious and from
      left to right, with tangents that have not altogether disappeared.
      It has led, on the one hand, to a fight against British imperial
      power, while it has resulted, on the other hand, in the dispossession
      and dispersion of Palestine's indigenous Arab population. And the
      Jewish state created by the Zionist movement has become increasingly
      woven into the tangled web of Western influence in the Middle East,
      with Israel now serving as a Mediterranean Fort Laramie in America's
      "war on terror."

      Tragically, the same line has led from the walled ghettos of Europe to
      the West Bank barrier, separating Jews from the surrounding Arab
      population; and it has failed to secure Israel's integration into the
      region--to the point where Israel fashions itself as a "villa in the
      middle of the jungle," in Ehud Barak's revealing image. Not that
      integration is entirely within Israel's control. No modern state could
      adapt sufficiently to satisfy the extreme demands of radical Shiite
      fundamentalism, and no prudent state could disregard the bellicose
      pronouncements of Iranian president (and Holocaust denier) Mahmoud
      Ahmadinejad. Nonetheless, Israel's existence has been accepted,
      however grudgingly, by most of its neighbors. In March the Arab League
      reiterated its commitment to peace and normal relations if Israel
      withdraws from the land it has occupied since 1967 and agrees to both
      the creation of a Palestinian state and a "just solution" for
      displaced Palestinians. Yet Israel has largely dismissed the Saudi
      peace initiative since its launch in 2002 and persists in
      behavior--inside and outside its (still undeclared) borders--that
      entrenches its isolation.

      In his speech to the Zionist Congress, Olmert affirmed "the
      unification of the Jewish people with the State of Israel." This is
      the nub of Zionism: a Gordian knot of seamless identity. But with the
      fortieth anniversary of the occupation this month, and one year after
      a landmark war in which Hezbollah fought the Israel Defense Forces
      (IDF) to a standstill, not only is Olmert waging a desperate battle
      for his political future but Zionism, the official ideology of the
      Jewish state, is in crisis. The crisis threatens the future of Israel
      as a "normal" state, deepens the oppression of the Palestinians, fuels
      conflict in the region, feeds Muslim-Jewish tensions abroad and (as
      recent controversies in the United States, Britain and elsewhere
      demonstrate) rancorously divides Jew against Jew. For all these
      reasons, we need to understand the trajectory of this movement. Where
      did it begin? What has it become? And can the Gordian knot at its
      heart be untied?

      In the early days of Zionism, two different trends, cultural and
      political, jostled with each other, as Bernard Avishai reminds us in
      The Tragedy of Zionism, his magisterial retelling of the movement's
      development, now available in its second edition. On the one hand,
      "Zionist theories, institutions, and language...were meant to advance
      a wide-spectrum revolution: against Rabbinic scholasticism,
      anti-Semitism, Yiddishkeit, softness." Like Communism and other
      ideologies to which European Jews flocked, Zionism sought, for better
      or worse, to transform the whole character of Jewish life. On the
      other hand, there was the aspiration for a homeland. But on the most
      basic constitutional question--to be or not to be a Jewish state-
      -opinion was divided.

      Thus, in the 1930s, the radical Labor Zionist party Ha'Shomer Ha'Tzair
      (The Young Guardians) supported a binational state with Palestinian
      Arabs. Among other Zionists who shared this view were Judah Magnes,
      first chancellor of Hebrew University, and philosopher Martin Buber.
      Even David Ben-Gurion, the key figure in Labor Zionism, the man who
      was to become Israel's first prime minister, "did not at first reject
      the idea."

      With the creation of the State of Israel, proclaimed on May 14, 1948,
      the die was cast. But it was a crucially ambiguous moment: Was this
      the culmination of Zionism or its reinvention as a state? It turned
      out to be the latter. "It would be wrong," says Avishai, "to confuse
      Israel with the movement that produced it." Indeed, he describes Labor
      Zionism as "a good revolution that long ago ran its course" and
      believes that "historic Zionism" has "radically, and for the better,"
      changed Jewish culture. Be that as it may, this confusion between
      movement and state, in my view, is precisely the "tragedy" to which
      Avishai's title refers.

      The confusion goes both ways. On the one hand, the State of Israel is
      not just a state; it is the focal point of a movement. Any normal
      country should be a home for its citizens, enabling them to get on
      with their lives. But Israel is something more than this for many Jews
      around the world (and something less for millions of Palestinians who
      live within its extended borders): It is a transcendent ideal, the
      "state of the Jewish people," an object of their unqualified love.

      On the other hand, the movement turned into a state. Zionist concepts
      and principles were incorporated into national institutions, public
      policy and basic laws, notably the Law of Return, which allows any Jew
      in the world to make aliyah (immigrate; literally "ascend") and
      automatically become a citizen. This has driven a sharp wedge between
      Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, creating, according to Israeli
      academic Oren Yiftachel and others, an "ethnocracy": a country that
      effectively belongs to one ethnic group. Others describe Israel
      as an "ethnic democracy." For Palestinian citizens of the Jewish
      state, it comes to the same thing: They are second-class citizens,
      subject, as novelist David Grossman said at the Rabin memorial in Tel
      Aviv in November 2006, to a "deeply ingrained institutionalized
      racism." Some steps have been taken in recent years to mitigate these
      inequalities. Nevertheless, Israel remains "the state of the Jewish

      Because of this confusion (or fusion) between movement and state,
      Zionism was reinvigorated when, after the 1967 war, Israel suddenly
      found itself in control of new territories, the so-called Jewish
      heartland of biblical Judea and Samaria. The capture of these
      territories and the "unification" of Jerusalem were understood as
      national restitution by many secular Zionists for whom the Bible is a
      national epic. And as Avishai observes, many religious Jews, such as
      the leaders of Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful), "young men with
      gleaming eyes," believed that "the Promised Land was united and the
      Messiah was at hand." Within a short time, settlements were being
      established by religious Jews who viewed themselves as heirs of the
      original chalutzim (Jewish pioneers)--with a wink and a nod from
      Israel's Labor government. It was a turning point in the history of
      the movement and of the state.

      I remember the period well. It was as if all of Jewry had linked arms
      and was dancing the hora together. (For a while I, too, was part of
      the joyful circle.) But this embrace between the religious and the
      secular was not merely a marriage of convenience. The bonds were more
      than skin-deep; they were inscribed in the flesh of the movement by
      the circumstances of its birth and by the language in which it told
      its own story.

      Zionism is a hope born of despair. Taking ethnic nationalism as its
      rubric, it is a child of its times. But fundamentally, it is the
      stepchild of anti-Semitism. As Jacqueline Rose observes in The
      Question of Zion, "no discussion of Zionism can make sense" if it does
      not start here. Only then can we begin to understand the hold that
      Zionism has over its adherents and its resistance to any whisper of
      self-doubt. As Rose writes: "How do you begin to address...the
      problem of a political identity whose strength in the world...relies
      on its not being able, or willing, to question itself?" The title of
      her book (an homage to Edward Said's The Question of Palestine) can be
      heard as an elliptical expression of a wish: Would that Zionism could
      become a question! The question of Zion is a desideratum.

      Rose's conundrum can be put this way: How do you address an identity
      when people fear they will fall apart without it? How do you ask them
      to be uncertain about something they affirm precisely because it
      relieves them of uncertainty: the predicaments and insecurities of
      existence as a Jew? "We are a nation now, and there's an end to it!"
      says the collective voice. How do you get a hearing when this voice is
      so insistent and when you are unsettling an idea that was supposed to
      have settled the issue once and for all, an idea that is practically
      sacred: Israel, seen not merely as the "solution" to "the Jewish
      question" but (recall Olmert's opening words to the Zionist Congress)
      as the answer to a Jewish prayer?

      I say "prayer." Call it a hope, if you will; but when hope is
      conceived in the midst of despair, then it amounts to prayer, even if
      it is not addressed to heaven. It becomes, in Rose's phrase, "a
      secular prayer." "I am totally secular," said David Grossman in his
      Rabin memorial speech, "and yet in my eyes the establishment and the
      very existence of the State of Israel is a miracle of sorts." A
      miracle (of sorts) in answer to a prayer (of sorts): The hold of
      Zionism, with Israel as its expression, is not intelligible unless it
      is seen in this light.

      Zionism arose from disillusionment with European modernity, or more
      precisely, with Europe as the site of the modern. (In a way, when
      Herzl spoke of a modern solution, what he meant was this: "If we Jews
      cannot have Europe in Europe then we shall have it in another place.")
      The foundations for despair had been laid for centuries. But the sense
      of betrayal had become unbearably acute by the late nineteenth
      century, with the intensification of pogroms and the rise of
      anti-Jewish legislation in Eastern Europe; the formation of openly
      anti-Semitic political parties in Western Europe; and the Dreyfus case
      in France. And none felt more betrayed than secular, assimilated Jews
      such as Herzl.

      On the face of it, the ambitions of early Zionism could hardly be more
      different from--even opposed to--the age-old messianic hope in Judaism
      for divine intervention. The "wide- spectrum revolution" of which
      Avishai speaks was, by and large, aggressively secular. This implied
      not only rejection of religion in general but also a specific quarrel
      with Jewish particularism: the idea of the Jews as a people apart,
      quietly existing as am hasefer (people of the book), patiently
      suffering until the coming of the Messiah in God's good time.

      For this reason, as Yakov Rabkin explains in A Threat From Within,
      rabbis generally spurned the new movement. (Some strands, especially
      among the ultra-Orthodox, still do, as Rabkin meticulously documents:
      a useful reminder at a time when it almost seems as if Judaism has
      converted to Zionism.) It is true that, virtually from the outset,
      there was a small religious presence within the Zionist movement in
      the form of the Mizrachi Organization, and that Rabbi Abraham Kook,
      the spiritual ancestor of the post-1967 religious settlers, gave the
      movement his blessing. But the aim of the Zionist revolution was, in
      large part, to put an end to the old way of life, not just to create a
      new future for Jews but to craft a "new Jew" for the future. The new
      Jews would not speak Yiddish, much less Arabic or Ladino, but Hebrew,
      a properly "national" language, the language of the ancestors. Jews
      would be like other people; they would be normal. This sounds like a
      Jewish joke. But normalization was the hope that animated the
      mainstream of the Zionist movement.

      However, as Rose perceptively points out, "messianism colors Zionism,
      including secular Zionism, at every turn." This coloring affects its
      most basic vocabulary. In the Bible "Zion," initially the name of one
      of the hills of Jerusalem, refers poetically to the city itself and by
      extension to the whole of the Promised Land--indeed, to the land as
      promised in the context of an eschatological narrative of return. "The
      very name of the movement," the late liberal rabbi and scholar Arthur
      Hertzberg observed in The Zionist Idea, "evoked the dream of an
      end of days, of an ultimate release from the exile and a coming to
      rest in the land of Jewry's heroic age." So, too, did "the very name
      of the nation," as Rose points out. Calling it Israel (rather than,
      say, Western Palestine) conjures up the eternal hope of an eternal
      people in an everlasting covenant with God. Moreover, the rhetoric of
      messianism--"ingathering of the exiles," "redemption of the land"--is
      part and parcel of the political lexicon of this movement-cum-state.

      This is not to deny that Zionism gives this vocabulary "a radically
      new meaning," as Hertzberg insisted. Of course it does. But the
      phrases have a life of their own. The genius of Zionism is that it
      speaks the familiar language of tradition with a revolutionary accent.
      This makes its message ineluctably poetic: It constantly stirs the
      waters beneath the surface of its words, arousing emotions that, in
      their ambiguity and volatility, unite left and right, religious and
      secular--even when, like mishpocheh (an extended family), they are at
      each other's throats. In unison, all rise to sing the national anthem,
      whose title, "Hatikvah," means precisely "the hope." In short, Zionism
      at heart is, as Rose writes, a "collective passion," an authentic
      reaction (one among several) to anti-Semitism, one whose flexible
      language has enabled it to evolve after 1967 from secular left to
      religious right. Its variety has not disappeared, nor are the
      differences between the various camps immaterial. But they are apt
      to merge with or adapt to each other as circumstances change and as
      passion dictates.

      Just as Zionist concepts and principles were translated into Israeli
      law and institutions, so its passion--its "prayer"--persists as a
      dominant mindset, shaping national policy and systematically deforming
      Israel's dealings with the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states.
      For who are the Palestinians--who are the Arabs?--in a worldview
      transplanted from the Jewish historical experience in Europe to a
      region that, for reasons having nothing to do with European
      anti-Semitism, is hostile to the presence of a Jewish state?
      Certainly, as neighbors and enemies, the Arabs are real. But
      simultaneously they are demonic characters in a recurring nightmare:
      cossacks on horseback attacking the shtetl, jackbooted Nazis enacting
      another Kristallnacht. It is difficult enough to make peace with
      flesh-and-blood enemies. But how do you negotiate with ghosts? How can
      a phantom be a partner for peace?

      And what is Israel in this phantasmagorical landscape? Not merely a
      state at odds with its neighbors but the persecuted "Jew among
      nations," as Alan Dershowitz and others argue. The trouble with their
      argument is that the more it succeeds as a defense of Israel, the more
      it fails as a defense of Zionism; for if Israel is the old Jew writ
      large, an eternal victim of an eternal anti-Semitism, then the
      movement has failed its own test. Herzl's vision was not to export the
      so-called Jewish question from Europe to the Middle East but (as
      Olmert reminded the Zionist Congress) to solve it.

      There are, to be sure, critics of Israel who are motivated by hatred
      of Jews, just as there are Arab and Muslim opponents of the state who
      have embraced The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Holocaust
      revisionism to underwrite their hostility. But by and large, both the
      fate of the state and its reputation are more in its own hands than we
      are led to think by "defenders" of Israel who, lovingly polishing its
      image as if this were its very being, cannot bear to hear that Israel
      is ever culpable. Not that they view the Jewish state as powerless in
      its own defense; on the contrary, the critical difference between the
      "new" Jew and "old" (as they see it) is that tough Israel does not go
      like a lamb to the slaughter. But nor (they insist) does it go like
      the slaughterer to the lamb; not even when the IDF launches airstrikes
      against targets in densely populated civilian neighborhoods in Gaza or
      invades Lebanon and lays waste its infrastructure. In the dominant
      mindset that I am describing, Israel's hand is forced by hate-filled
      enemies, and nothing it can do will assuage that hate.

      Thus, paradoxically, the reliance that Israel places on power derives
      from its sense of powerlessness: the conviction that it is condemned
      to be hated, that every apparent thaw in its relations with its
      neighbors is a cunning Arab stratagem and that the Palestinians are
      simply waiting to throw the Jews into the sea. This, mutatis mutandis,
      is the same conviction about Europe that gave rise to Zionism in the
      first place. Sticking to its stock narrative of the Jewish past, this
      state-cum-movement is frozen in time on the shifting "stage of
      history," in Olmert's phrase.

      In his recent account of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Scars of War,
      Wounds of Peace, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami
      observes, "Israel could never really decide whether she was an
      intimidating regional superpower or just an isolated and frightened
      Jewish ghetto waiting for the next pogrom to happen." Deep down it is
      both: the "old" Jew within the "new," the implacable despair coiled
      like an incubus inside the Zionist hope.

      Yet according to the Zionist script, it is hope triumphant: The
      wandering Jews have come home, and the Citadel of David has fallen
      into their hands. In Booking Passage, a study of the "poetics of exile
      and return" in the modern Jewish imagination, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi
      locates Zionism on the mental map of a people who, for 2,000 years,
      have seen themselves as "on the road," forever longing for Jerusalem.
      What happens when spiritual longing is replaced by material
      fulfillment? What becomes of Zion, "the beating heart" (Olmert) of the
      Jewish people, when it is possessed, when its status changes from
      poetic center to capital city? Can its heart continue to beat? Or does
      it atrophy into a trophy that must not, at any cost, be surrendered?
      The Zion of the Psalms lies on the horizon, where heaven and earth
      appear to meet. "When this poetic image denies its status as poetry,"
      writes Ezrahi, "it makes such claims on the political imagination that
      the 'final status' of Jerusalem becomes non-negotiable."

      If in this triumphalist script Arabs in general are the foil to the
      "miracle" of Israel's birth, then the 1.4 million Israeli citizens who
      are Palestinian (about a fifth of the population) are the remnant
      within. They are "insider outsiders," a phrase with historical
      resonance for Jews. (The nearly 4 million Palestinians in the occupied
      territories and East Jerusalem, neither inside nor outside, are left
      in limbo.) Thus, the national myth divides the Israeli people against
      itself. As do the symbols of state. Hundreds of thousands of Arab
      children in Israeli schools "are expected to sing an anthem that
      ignores their very existence," as veteran peace activist Uri Avnery
      wrote after this year's Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day). There are
      many Israelis for whom "Hatikvah" means despair.

      Yet Palestinian citizens of Israel ("Israeli Arabs") are not just
      figments in another people's narrative. As Ezrahi points out, they are
      themselves "narrating subjects" with a stake in the country they call
      home: Israel. In an eloquent appeal for inclusiveness, she refers to
      "the Arab voices that have begun to be heard." Yet there is reason to
      think that Azmi Bishara, the leader of the Arab Balad Party and a
      former Knesset member who is now in exile to avoid prosecution on
      charges of treason, is being pursued for "aiding the enemy" during the
      most recent Lebanon war primarily because he has promoted the view
      that Israel should become a "state for all its citizens." Yuval
      Diskin, head of the Shin Bet security service, has reportedly gone so
      far as to describe Israeli Palestinians as a "strategic threat" to the
      state. And recent documents calling for recognition and equality, such
      as the "Future Vision" report by the Committee of Arab Mayors in
      Israel, have largely fallen on ears deafened by fear.

      These documents are not the last word on how Israel should reconfigure
      itself. But the fear they inspire inhibits open debate. Au fond, it is
      Israel's fear of abandoning its Zionist script; fear of being a normal
      country, one that is home to all its citizens; fear of equality, of an
      inclusive and open-ended society that evolves into something that is
      and is not Jewish. But if Israel cannot give up this fear, what hope
      is there for the future? A state that does not believe in its own
      possibility, except as a perpetual interloper at odds with its
      neighbors, has no future.

      For forty years, Israel's occupation has dominated the national agenda
      and the international perception of the state. In one way, this has
      been a distraction from the deeper question of the national myth and
      how the state defines itself. But ultimately it concentrates the mind,
      for as Avishai argues, it is "the persistence of Zionist principles--
      or at least over-simplified versions of them--which engendered the
      political climate in which the West Bank settlers took up their cause."

      Zionism is not all of a piece. There are Zionists strongly opposed to
      the settlers and the occupation. But the momentum of the movement has
      brought it to this pass; the line that began in Basel has led to
      Nablus. It is time to cut the cord and begin anew. For the sake of
      everyone concerned, whether there are two states or three states or
      one, Israel needs to shed the burden of Jewish fears and hopes and
      become its own state pursuing its own good for its own people--all of
      them equally.

      Jews around the world need Israel to do this too. They certainly do
      not need the kind of "protection" given by Olmert, who during the
      Lebanon war last summer said, "I believe that this is a war that is
      fought by all the Jews." He implicated the whole of Jewry in a
      military campaign that inflamed the opinion of millions of people
      around the world. Is this the "solution" to "the Jewish question"? Is
      this Israel coming to the rescue of Jews in distress?

      The Zionist doctrine that the State of Israel must be the "center" of
      Jewish life, or that "every Jew in the world" (as Olmert said to the
      World Zionist Congress) must make aliyah, or that Jews are self-hating
      if they do not show "solidarity" with the Jewish state, or that Jewish
      identity in the Diaspora is incomplete--all of this prevents a normal
      conception of life, as a Jew, outside Israel. The very term "diaspora"
      is misleading. Israel certainly has one: At least 350,000 Israelis
      living in the New York area are part of it. But I (a British Jew or
      Jewish Brit), for example, am not.

      At the heart of the crisis of Zionism is the axiom that Israel and the
      Jewish people are central to each other's identity. How do you pry
      apart a knot as closely knit as this--a Gordian knot that has no ends?
      Partly by remembering the venerable idea of the Jewish people as
      centered on a book--the Torah--and not a state; partly by observing
      how Jewish life, secular and religious, is flourishing in ways that
      are not focused on Israel; and partly by looking in an unexpected
      place: The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,
      where the principle of equality, like a shining light, burns a hole
      through the middle of the document.

      The text proclaims "complete equality of social and political rights
      to all its inhabitants." If someone wants to say that this is what
      they mean by Zionism, they are welcome to the word. To adapt a remark
      of Wittgenstein's: Say what you choose, so long as it does not prevent
      you from seeing the light. But on the whole, it is better to let go of
      the word along with the illusion. Jewish ethnic nationalism is no
      solution to the problems we face today, while the name "Zionism"
      evokes as much fear and loathing as love and pride. We cannot
      formulate today's questions in yesterday's language.

      It is time to move on. I like to think that forty years from now,
      under the aegis of full civil equality, Arab and Hebrew cultures will
      thrive and mingle together in the area currently called Israel and
      Palestine. It seems like a pipe dream. But a phrase of Herzl's comes
      to mind: "Wenn ihr vollt, Ist es kein Maerchen"--If you will it, it is
      not a dream. His motto gives us hope.


      For a Secular Democratic State
      The Nation
      [from the June 18, 2007 issue]

      This month marks the fortieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of
      the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Four decades of control
      established and maintained by force of arms--in defiance of
      international law, countless UN Security Council resolutions and, most
      recently, the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of
      Justice in The Hague--have enabled Israel to impose its will on the
      occupied territories and, in effect, to remake them in its own image.

      The result is a continuous political space now encompassing all of
      historic Palestine, albeit a space as sharply divided as the colonial
      world ("a world cut in two") famously described by Frantz Fanon in The
      Wretched of the Earth. Indeed, Fanon's 1961 classic still enables an
      analysis of Israel and the occupied territories as fresh, insightful
      and relevant in 2007 as the readings of Cape Town or Algiers that it
      made available when it was first published.

      Israel maintains two separate road systems in the West Bank, for
      example: one for the territory's immigrant population of Jewish
      settlers, one for its indigenous non-Jewish (i.e., Palestinian)

      The roads designated for the Jewish settlers are well maintained, well
      lit, continuous and uninterrupted; they tie the network of Jewish
      "neighborhoods" and "settlements"--all of them in reality colonies
      forbidden by international law--to each other and to Israel. The roads
      for the West Bank's native population, by contrast, are poorly
      maintained, when they are maintained at all (they often consist of
      little more than shepherds' trails); they are continuously blockaded
      and interrupted. A grid of checkpoints and roadblocks (546 at last
      count) strangles the circulation of the West Bank's indigenous
      population, but it is designed to facilitate the free movement of
      Jewish settlers--who are, moreover, allowed to drive their own cars on
      the roads set aside for them, whereas Palestinians are not allowed to
      drive their cars beyond their own towns and villages (the entrances to
      which are all blockaded by the Israeli army).

      The wall that Israel has been constructing in the West Bank and East
      Jerusalem since 2002 makes visible in concrete and barbed wire the
      outlines of the discriminatory regime that structures and defines
      everyday life in the occupied territories, separating Palestinian
      farmers from crops, patients from hospitals, students and teachers
      from schools and, increasingly, even parents from children (it has,
      for example, separated one parent or another from spouses and children
      in 21 percent of Palestinian families living on either side of the
      wall near Jerusalem)--while at the same time enabling the seamless
      incorporation of the Judaized spaces of the occupied territories into
      Israel itself. And a regime of curfews and closures, enforced by the
      Israeli army, has smothered the Palestinian economy, though none of
      its provisions apply to Jewish settlers in the occupied territories.

      There are, in short, two separate legal and administrative systems,
      maintained by the regular use of military force, for two populations
      --settlers and natives--unequally inhabiting the same piece of land:
      exactly as was the case in the colonial countries described by Fanon,
      or in South Africa under apartheid.

      All this has enabled Israel to transplant almost half a million of its
      own citizens into the occupied territories, at the expense of their
      Palestinian population, whose land is confiscated, whose homes are
      demolished, whose orchards and olive groves are razed or burned down,
      and whose social, economic, educational and family lives have been, in
      effect, all but suspended, precisely in order that their land may be
      made available for the use of another people.

      The result has been catastrophic for the Palestinians, as a World Bank
      report published in May makes clear. While the Jewish settlements in
      the West Bank and East Jerusalem enjoy growth rates exceeding those of
      Israel itself, Palestinian towns and villages are slowly being
      strangled. While Jewish settlers move with total freedom, the
      combination of physical obstacles and the bureaucratic pass system
      imposed by the Israeli army on the Palestinian population has not only
      permanently separated the Palestinians of the West Bank from those of
      Gaza, East Jerusalem and Israel (movement among which is forbidden for
      all but a tiny minority) but has also broken up the West Bank into
      three distinct sections and ten enclaves. Half of the West Bank is
      altogether off-limits to most Palestinians; to move from one part of
      the rest of the territory to another, Palestinians must apply for a
      permit from the Israelis. Frequent bans are imposed on movement into
      or out of particular enclaves (the city of Nablus, for example, has
      been under siege for five years), or on whole segments of the
      population (e.g., unmarried men under the age of 45). And all permits
      are summarily invalidated when Israel declares one of its
      comprehensive closures" of the West Bank--there were seventy-eight
      such days in 2006--at which point the entire Palestinian population
      stays home.

      The lucky few who are able to obtain passes from the Israelis are
      channeled from one section or enclave to another through a series of
      army checkpoints, where they may be searched, questioned, hassled,
      detained for hours or simply turned back. "The practical effect of
      this shattered economic space," the World Bank report points out, "is
      that on any given day the ability to reach work, school, shopping,
      healthcare facilities and agricultural land is highly uncertain and
      subject to arbitrary restriction and delay." Given the circumstances,
      it is hardly any wonder that two-thirds of the Palestinian population
      has been reduced to absolute poverty (less than $2 a day), and that
      hundreds of thousands are now dependent for day-to-day survival on
      food handouts provided by international relief organizations. Not only
      has the international community refused to intervene; it has actively
      participated in the repression, imposing--for the first time in
      history--sanctions on a people living under military occupation, while
      the occupying and colonizing power goes on violating the international
      community's own laws with total impunity.

      To all of these charges, Israel and its supporters have but one
      response: "security." But as the World Bank report argues, it is
      "often difficult to reconcile the use of movement and access
      restrictions for security purposes from their use to expand and
      protect settlement activity." Moreover, the Bank notes, it seems
      obvious that Israeli security ought to be tied to Palestinian
      prosperity: By disrupting the Palestinian economy and immiserating an
      entire population--pushing almost 4 million people to the edge--the
      Israelis are hardly enhancing their own security.

      Such arguments miss the point, however. No matter how fiercely it is
      contested inside Israel, there remains a very strong sense that the
      country is entitled to retain the land to which it has now stubbornly
      clung for four decades. Even while announcing his scheme to relinquish
      nominal control over a few bits and pieces of the West Bank with heavy
      concentrations of Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
      insisted on his country's inherent right to the territory,
      irrespective of the demands of international law, let alone the rights
      and claims of the Palestinians themselves. ("Every hill in Samaria and
      every valley in Judea is part of our historic homeland," he said last
      year, using Israel's official, biblical terminology for the West Bank.)

      Although some people claim there are fundamental differences between
      the disposition of the territories Israel captured in 1967 and the
      territories it captured during its creation in 1948--or even that
      there are important moral and political differences between Israel
      pre-and post-1967--such sentiments of entitlement, and the use of
      force that necessarily accompanies them, reveal the seamless
      continuity of the Zionist project in Palestine from 1948 to our own
      time. "There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic
      cleansing," argues Israeli historian Benny Morris, with reference to
      the creation of Israel. "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. It was necessary to cleanse
      the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on."

      Israel's post-1967 occupation policies are demonstrably driven by the
      same dispossessive logic. If hundreds of thousands have not literally
      been forced into flight, their existence has been reduced to penury.
      Just as Israel could have come into being in 1948 only by sweeping
      aside hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Israel's ongoing
      colonization of Palestinian territory--its imposition of itself and
      its desires on the land's indigenous population--requires, and will
      always require, the use of force and the continual brutalization of an
      entire people.

      Indeed, the discriminatory practices in the occupied territories
      replicate, albeit in a harsher and more direct form, those inside
      Israel, where the remnant of the Palestinian population that was not
      driven into flight in 1948--today more than a million people --
      continues to endure the systematic inequalities built into the laws
      and institutions of a country that explicitly claims to be the state
      of the Jewish people rather than that of its own actual citizens,
      about a fifth of whom are not Jewish. Recognizing the contradiction
      inherent in such a formulation, various Israeli politicians, including
      Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman, have explicitly called for
      the territorial transfer--if not the outright expulsion--of as much as
      possible of Israel's non-Jewish (that is, Palestinian) minority.
      Although it would be intended to mark the ultimate triumph of the
      dispossessing settler over the dispossessed native (Lieberman is an
      immigrant from Moldova who enjoys rights denied to indigenous
      Palestinians simply because he happens to be Jewish), such a gesture
      would actually amount to a last-ditch measure, an attempt to forestall
      what has become the most likely conclusion to the conflict.

      For, having unified all of what used to be Palestine (albeit into one
      profoundly divided space) without having overcome the Palestinian
      people's will to resist, Zionism has run its course. And in so doing,
      it has terminated any possibility of a two-state solution. There
      remains but one possibility for peace with justice: truth,
      reconciliation--and a single democratic and secular state, a state in
      which there will be no "natives" and "settlers" and all will be equal;
      a state for all its citizens irrespective of their religious
      affiliation. Such a state has always, by definition, been anathema for
      Zionism. But for the people of Israel and Palestine, it is the only
      way out.



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