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Beyond allegiances: Striving for a united Israel-Palestine

By striving for a solution which would allow for mutual access to holy sites, family, friends and water for all residents of this land, we can shed our allegiances to this-many-states or that-many-states and place our allegiance with self-determination for all peoples. 

By A. Daniel Roth

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts an Iftar for Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 29, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Twenty, 10 or even five years ago I would have counted myself among those genuinely optimistic about the prospects of Kerry’s “peace” talks. These days I am not quite as optimistic, but nevertheless, there is a chance for these talks to lead to something positive. This is an opportunity to organize toward an end to the occupation and a just peace.

To be sure, there is much reason to be negative. In recent days the Israeli government chose to release 104 prisoners but simultaneously announced thousands of new settlement homes, digging its heels deeper into the region that is supposedly the basis of a new Palestinian state.

So how these talks can be anything more than an opportunity for Israel to grab more land? The best answer mustered by some optimists is that perhaps economic incentives being offered to Palestinians will be enticing enough for them to make “the necessary compromises.” Or perhaps that Netanyahu finally understands this is the way he can create for himself a legacy as a “great” leader.

The prospects aren’t great. Still, something has been kicked loose on the political level.

Perhaps now is the time for the grassroots to push that something toward a just peace – and away from the usually inequitable proposals that inevitably end in continued occupation and conflict.

The movement I grew up in believed that a bi-national state was the best way to facilitate freedom and self-determination for all the peoples that called this land home up until 1948. The idea was to build a state that emphasized two equal national identities.

That movement, my community and my family all moved toward supporting two-states not because of the xenophobic idea that there is a demographic time bomb in play, but because it could (have) be(en) the best way toward liberation for both peoples given the obvious need for a necessary calming space after years of occupation and conflict.

Given the reality that there are half a million settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the evident intention to make room for more in the coming months, that solution may not be the best one even if it once was.

So what would be an acceptable outcome of the next nine months of peace talks?

Two-state solutions that might be fair aim at creating sovereign space for the two peoples to develop as national cultures. The shortfall of any two-state solution is that it severely limits where both Jews and Palestinians can (re)set down roots and perhaps even visit, such as holy places. Indeed, a fair two-state solution would allow for access to holy sites, family, friends and water.

The actual proposals that have been put on the table over the last 20 years all included provisions that limit sovereignty for Palestinians over borders, military and airspace.

At the same time, the missing element in many one-state plans is that most of the people here (both Palestinians and Jews) feel good about individual rights being high on the list of requirements for any sustainable future, but also emphasize the need for collective self-determination and rights: cultural and religious practices, holidays, language rights, and rights of return.

While a bi-national state, as it was envisioned once upon a time, is probably not in the cards for the near future, it is becoming more and more apparent that a two-state solution that allows for maximal access to homelands and the best chance for enshrining culture into national institutions lies in some iteration of a union of states.

There are 99 problems facing these talks, including, but not limited to, the questionable intentions of the United States, the lack of actual power that Palestinians have under occupation, Israeli settlement expansion – and let’s not forget that all of this is taking place under the oppressive boot of neoliberal capitalism. Still, there is hope.

Twenty, ten or five years ago you might have said that a union of two states was a fantasy a century away and I might have agreed. Today, it might just be the best hope for a just peace. Today we can shed our allegiances to this-many-states or that-many-states and place our allegiance with self-determination for all peoples.

Even if the current situation is good for some, an end to the status quo is possible. We have less than nine months to organize, educate, lobby, get involved in nonviolent direct action and push the diplomatic process toward the demand that any agreement, at the very least, must ensure an end to the occupation and guaranteeing civil and human rights in any and all states that come out of the process.

A. Daniel Roth is an educator and journalist living in South Tel Aviv. He was born and raised in Toronto and lived in a commune of the Hashomer Hatzair movement in New York City. Daniel is a member of the All That’s Left collective. You can find more of his writing and photography at allthesedays.org. Follow him on Twitter @adanielroth.

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    1. The Trespasser

      >There are 99 problems facing these talks, including, but not limited to, the questionable intentions of the United States, the lack of actual power that Palestinians have under occupation, Israeli settlement expansion – and let’s not forget that all of this is taking place under the oppressive boot of neoliberal capitalism. Still, there is hope.

      There is no hope.

      Author failed to mention few, apparently somewhat important, obstacles to a peace agreement, such as Hamas government in Gaza, which refuses any normalization with the Zionist entity and Palestinian Arab refugees, who are misrepresented and might have a whole different opinion because neither Israel, nor PA are willing to resettle them.

      Also, should Abbas forfeit the RoR, which is necessary from Israel point of view, he will be called a traitor and eventually executed by one of progressive organizations such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

      So no, there is no hope for peace in this region.

      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      This column is certainly well-meaning but totally disconnected from reality. Doesn’t he see what is going on in the Middle East?

      Unfortunately, the Arab-Israeli relationship is a zero-sum game BECAUSE THE ARABS DEFINE IT AS SUCH. Not only do the Arabs object to the existence of any Jewish state within any borders, ,no matter how restricted, but even a bi-national state or 1-state solution would be in a state of permanent civil conflict if not civil war-Lebanon-style. A large Jewish population would ALWAYS be viewed with suspicion by the Arab population, as was the case before 1948 and was the reason for the failure of anti-Zionist groups like the Brit Shalom of Judah Magnes who was never taken seriously by the Arabs.
      I am sorry, but this is the situation.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      Oy. where do you find these people?

      25 years ago I might have said that a vision of a binational state within 100 years was an unlikely but not impossible scenario. That was when Israel and the territories were intertwined with real day-to-day interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. Now, after going through the second intifada where the entire Palestinian society lined up in support of the deliberate murder of Israeli women and children, I would say it is a dangerous delusional fantasy. There is no common ground whatsoever to build any kind of united polity between Israeli society and Palestinian society. The narratives are conflicting, the land itself, all of it, is disputed, the symbols are all hostile to the other, the political cultures are incompatible, there is a recent history of violence and bloodshed and there isn’t even a possible basic agreement on the identity or orientation of such a polity. It doesn’t take imagination or ‘courage’ to promote such a vision. It takes drugs, alcohol and insanity to think it has any chance whatsoever. If this is your best hope for peace you might as well get started on finding a way out of this dreary existence you find yourself in.

      While speaking of entirely hypothetical scenarios you might as well answer some related questions. Which model do you prefer – Lebanon, Iraq or Syria? Who do you think would win the inevitable civil war between our crazies and their crazies in which we will have little choice but to take sides?

      Reply to Comment
      • “after going through the second intifada where the entire Palestinian society lined up in support of the deliberate murder of Israeli women and children, I would say it is a dangerous delusional fantasy”

        Yes, and every German of the 1930’s wanted every Jew eradicated. There were no dissenters, no underground network helping Jews survive to escape, no executions of who refused the Nazi program. Rather, every single German acted in unison. Such is also fantasy, easy slippage in national/racial discourse. To find a way out we must recognize that as not all Israeli Jews are identical, nor are West Bank Palestinians, nor Gazans. Yes, risk and fear there will be–but not simple identity statements.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Well that is a brilliant analogy. The presence of Germans that opposed the eradication of Jewry didn’t really do much to prevent the genocide of 6 million Jews. On the basis of that analogy are you suggesting that we ignore the overwhelming support for the genocidal murder of Jewish civilians among the Palestinians because there are some that are opposed? And that support is overwhelming which explains why the perpetrators of the deliberate murders of Israeli civilians are considered national heroes among the Palestinians and receive financial support from their government while they rot in prison, at least until the next time the Palestinians manage to get their ‘heroes’ released.

          Reply to Comment
          • No, I’m saying that the identity you are forcing is false, as it was false back then. Some Germans died in opposition to what was happening; the false analogy is asserting the Bank will be as Germany was back then. The blood liable of 6 million Jews will get us nowhere; I cannot see how it supports, e.g., your support of how that 5 year old Palestinian boy and his father were treated, and I now see IDF command agrees more with me than you on that.

            The first step towards inquiring whether (some) structures in the Bank would resist the emergence of suicide bombing (let us pass over rocks) is to admit not all Palestinians are identical. This is an empirical issue.

            You will find that not all Palestinians are evil, nor all Israelis innocent. At every turn you tell us not to consider diversity among the opponent. This is a form of thought control. Racial ontology is very simple and pure of outcome; empiricism is messy–and it risks error. Nor will empiricism allow one to sum all casualties and hardship on the other side as deserved blood liable and guilt. I have yet to see you acknowledge a single case of harm induced by the State and its actors which was unnecessary.

            Now, I could talk about our relative brilliances. But I do not see how either your or my issues with the greater world of thought are relevant to the case at hand.

            Empiricism begins by disallowing false categories. You have asserted such to paint Palestinians identically. I stand there.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            You are the one that brought the Germans in, not me so if there is a false analogy here it is one you introduced. Even if there was a minority that opposed the Nazis, the end result is 6 million dead Jews. This isn’t a blood libel, it is a historical fact that appears to complicate your pedantic refusal to accept that the presence of an opposing but powerless minority does not change major historical events or for that matter minor ones.

            In that vein, I am perfectly happy to acknowledge that not all Palestinians are identical. At the same time there was practically no opposition in Palestinian society on moral grounds to the massacres of Jewish civilians on buses and restaurants by Palestinian suicide bombers. This too is a fact. Explicit support for such acts was at 75% and what opposition there was rested on practical grounds of effectiveness as a method in pursuing the war against the Jews. There isn’t even much moral opposition to such acts in retrospect with the people and government treating the perpetrator of such massacres as heroes worthy of admiration.

            You insist that it is different now on the basis of ideological developments you imagine are happening on the ground and then berate me for not embracing your hallucinations. Then you dare to raise the flag of empiricism while choosing to portray historical facts as inconvenient blood libels.

            My point was simple. I have zero desire to live in the same country with a society that would have overwhelmingly celebrated my death on a bus in Jerusalem at the hands of a suicide bomber and still would believe now that the man that sent him on his mission is a hero. Nor, given what is happening in the neighboring countries, do I accept that this is a unique case where the ‘occupation’ is what disfigured that society’s political culture into embracing massacre of civilians as a political tactic. Our political culture and theirs are not compatible. There is no room for them in my polity and will not be for the foreseeable future.

            Reply to Comment
    4. The Olde Grey Wolfe

      With all due respect to Mr. Roth, I would suggest he read the Palestinian National Charter (both the 1964 and 1968 versions) and the Hamas Covenant.

      If at all possible, the kind of state he imagines would not be possible until the two states have at least a couple of generations of de-brainwashing and successful interaction on the commercial, social and cultural levels.

      Dreaming is nice, but reality should come first. Let the two countries function independently with reasonable cooperation for however long it takes to break the distrust of 100 years and build mutual trust… call me again some time around the year 2100.

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        The reaction of the commenters so far is quite revealing. The idea is not that bad, if only …

        Their “education” made them allready forget that Arabs and Jews were living quite peacefully together until the Zionist arrived with the plan to take over Palestine. I wonder why the Arab viewed a large Jewish population with suspicion as long as Zionist wanted to outnumber the Arabs. And why should anybody mention that the Palestinian Jews also rejected the idea of a binational state …

        But why doesn’t Hamas want normalization with Israel? What Israel has done to Palestine and Arab Palestinians is totally “normal”. And they are dying, no actually killing to have normalization with with Hamas, right?

        Of course the main problem is that Palestinian kill innocents. Jews would never do that, at least not since 1939. Keeping a whole nation occupied and under military law doesn’t need violence against innocents at all. And lets be fair. If Jews would hunt Jewish terrorists the amount of killed innocents would be the same. They would not hesitate to blockade Tel Aviv and pound dense residential areas with bombs, rockets and artillery. But they wouldn’t have to, because Jewish terrorists prefer the open field man against tank fight and would never look for cover in urban structures.

        And of course the whole Palestinian society supports the killing of innocents. On paper that is far more than 80% of Israeli Jews which supported Israel’s Gaza massacre.

        And if you still have your doubts read the PNC or Hamas charter. There’s actually noone refering to them but Israel supporters, because they are more relevant to them than Israel’s declaration of independance:

        “We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream – the redemption of Israel.”

        Translation for Nonzionists:
        We respect our declaration within partition borders and peacefully accept to be a minority in historic Palestine.

        If only the Palestinians would want a single democratic state with minority rights like they propoposed in 1947. Zionists can’t wait.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Federated States (of whatever autonomy) will require a common civil law for social and economic transactions. I cannot see the settlers, or their Knesset representatives, agreeing to this. So I see no way around a period of protracted civil resistance under economic growth (rather, for the resistance to be at all effective there must be economic growth–for settler and Palestinian).

      This is why I have come to the view that the best option the US could have done would have been to set up an economic development commission facilitating transactions between the Bank, Israel, the settlers, and Jordan. I fear that these talks, going for a final solution (a phrase we should be leery of), may have made such intermediate growth less likely. I want to be wrong in this. Perhaps both sides of the talks will try for such a scheme as booby prize, to show some tangible result. In any case, if the US would tie its aid to the development of such civil law, I think it would be an advance.

      That doesn’t mean the absolute national resisters would go away; nor those working for a return of complete Greater Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    6. I never cease to be amazed, that many commentators in 972 posts appear to assume that Jews in Israel don’t have to function under laws of nature; more amazing, because Jews claim to follow God, who is the source of those laws. There have been many political systems over the years. But the only one that demonstrated it can survive over time is the one that is a secular, multi culture, democracy that promotes and sustains all the universal rights God gave humans.

      So as long as Jews in Israel continue to assume they can have a country that survives where one culture is favored significantly over all other cultures, they will continue to experience a progressively increasing sense of insecurity and chaos.

      The only long term viable solution is to discover how Arabs and Jews can live in harmony and equally in Palestine. That is unavoidable. So why not get with the program already?

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        The Arabs have no problem running their countries that favor one culture and national identity, i.e. Arab (e.g. see the first clause in the Palestinian constitution, note that the official name of Egypt is “The Arab Republic of Egypt”, etc) and they all have Islam as the official religion which inevitably causes discrimination against non-Muslims. If this doesn’t bother them, and it doesn’t bother you, then you should have no problem with Israel being a Jewish state

        Reply to Comment
    7. Baruch B

      Talking about one or two states misses the point that in either case the Occupation must end. The fact that no settlement freeze was put into effect by Israel before the talks began suggests the talks are a farse at best. Otherwise if there is to be a meaningful two-state approach at this point several obvious actions would need to take place:
      1. The settlements would have to be vastly shrunk, giving the Palestians access to their farm land and water. 2. Jews would have to leave the center of Hebron. 3. Jerusalem would need to be a shared capitol with the Arab side not be deprived of muncipal funds. 4. Jewish exlusive claims to the Temple Mount would have to be put on the very back burner. 5. Gaza should have a development plan including active contact with the West Bank. 6. The Palestinians should have free and fair elections without Israeli or US interferance. Of course the fear is that if Israel does not continuing expanding it will lead to the unraveling of the exclusively Jewish State. At least if the moral courage could be found for a serious two-state approach now it would give time under constructive conditions to sort out the possibility of one-state. Otherwise the struggle will turn into a civil rights one-state effort over many years. This long struggle by the Palestinians will not bring security for Jews anywhere if Jewish leadership continues not to seriously engage Palestinians. If Israel wants all, one can only expect more rational and irrational responses from the Palestianians. The key is ending the Occupation.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Steve Benassi

      Full Democracy is Peace, 2 States, 1 Country, Palestine Israel, anything less is Apartheid.

      Reply to Comment
    9. The Trespasser

      Wael Mansour ‏@Wa2elMansour 4 August
      I truly wish #Israel is demolished, I hate Zionism, I have so much hate inside me with every single child they murder or land they seize!


      Peace. Right.

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        I finally understand what you mean by “peace”: Nobody reacts badly when Israelis commit crimes against Palestinians. And if they do it can only be antisemitism, right?

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          >”Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom from fear of violence.”

          To begin with, it would be nice if you’d name 3 (three) Arab state which are living peacefully by this definition.

          >And if they do it can only be antisemitism, right?

          Well, if “they” are reacting “badly” only to crimes perpetrated by Israelis, while ignoring even more horrifying crimes carried out by their own kin, than yes, they are Judeophobes.

          Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “To begin with, it would be nice if you’d name 3 (three) Arab state which are living peacefully by this definition.”

            What does this have to do with your pathetic attempt to paint someone as not willing to live peacefully, because he hates that children are killed and land is seized which are far better example of not being peaceful?

            BTW, name me 1 (one) Jewish state.

            “Well, if “they” are reacting “badly” only to crimes perpetrated by Israelis, while ignoring even more horrifying crimes carried out by their own kin, than yes, they are Judeophobes.”

            If only you would have a rational argument why this amounts to hatred against Jews as such. But your accusation of antisemitism is as irrational as antisemitism itself.

            Reply to Comment