You say that Palestinians are to blame for failing to stop terror, for not entering negotiations, for not signing a peace treaty with Israel. I cannot buy this argument. Not anymore. Not after 48 years.
By Gil Rimon
“You always oversimplify things,” you say whenever I mention the words “injustice,” “discrimination” or, god forbid, “racism” (not to mention the A-word). “Israel does not meddle with Palestinian rights. It’s not our fault they can’t manage their own people and corruption. They always choose violence, read your history, dude. They always choose the wrong people for their parliament. Don’t be ridiculous: they are the violent side in this story. I wish, but we have no partner for peace.”
And you try to refresh my memory: “Do you even remember they have had their own civilian autonomy since Oslo? Do you even remember buses blowing up while Rabin was trying to grant them autonomy, peace, parts of the holy land? Most Israelis are holding their hand out for peace, but the Arabs just can’t leave us alone. They hate us.
Anyway, we have our own problems. And I almost forgot Gaza — well, let’s not even start.”
My friend, you admit you don’t care too much about human rights in the West Bank when times are peaceful, as it is none of your business. When confrontations start you are all for the IDF to end it abruptly and without too many Israeli casualties. When there are negotiations you are cautious about giving away too much land and not getting any peace in return.
But hey friend, take my other friend, Muhammad, as an example. He is living in Nablus and working in Ramallah where he is an Android developer for American clients.
Muhammad’s control over his life is so much more limited than mine and yours. It is clear that we are much more privileged. Like most Palestinian residents he was never involved in violence — but he can’t have our rights.
A universal view, which I strongly relate to, believes that human rights should be granted unconditionally and equally to all. When a sovereign country takes control over a new territory, especially militarily, the new individuals are now the subjects of that sovereign country.
The new subjects are entitled to a set of human rights. If an individual breaks the law — a terrorist, for example — it should not interfere with the rights of a law-abiding individual. Violent and unlawful individuals can be taken to the same courts as citizens.
Muhammad and his law-abiding friends are de facto living within Israeli borders, at least the way Israel sees it. If Muhammad has a dispute with any of his settler neighbors, the settlers may have to answer to the Israeli police. Muhammad, on the other hand, will have to face the army.
The State of Israel ultimately controls Muhammad’s fate in every way, and is responsible for the fact that he is not entitled to his civil rights the way I am.
Israel has ignored this responsibility for 48 years. Israel tells Muhammad that he should talk to the Palestinian Authority about that — a body controlled by Western powers, which hardly represents anyone, and has no real authority.
When you say Israel will never be a “perfect democracy” because, after all, there is no such thing; and that “Jewish” should always come first in “a Jewish and democratic State,” and that the Law of Return must not be touched; and that Israel is a “villa in the jungle”; and that ISIS is on our borders. There are still limits to what I can live with and call a democracy, but this is where I draw the line.
You say, why talk about Muhammad? He’s not the issue. Let’s talk about people, the Bible, historical hatred between nations and religious wars. Let’s argue that nothing should be done until everything is perfectly thought of and agreed upon. You say there shall be peace when they will be ready— like the Egyptians before the Camp David Accords. We’ll fight a little and at some point reach a “cold peace” anyway.
But Palestinians are Israeli subjects, not the citizens of a neighboring, sovereign country.
The official position of the Israeli government is that Muhammad’s troubles originate in his failure to come up with a brave leader, end all terrorist activities, enter into fruitful negotiations with Israel, persuade everybody that Israel is a serious partner that can be trusted, and sign a treaty that will give him and his friends some amorphous entity in the unknown future, which will enable them to exercise their rights . Until then, they must suffer obediently. I cannot buy this argument. Not anymore. Not after 48 years.
Peace between states and nations can wait. Rights for the people cannot.
Gil Rimon is a screenwriter, journalist and an internet entrepreneur specializing in content technologies. He tweets at @subtext. A version of this article was first published on Medium.