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Can the demolition of Shepherd Hotel be good for democracy?

The Israeli government allowed Jewish settlers to take over an abandoned hotel in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem in order to build a Jewish only settlement on Sunday. From Washington to Brussels, diplomatic representatives have raised concern and dismay about the unilateral Israeli decision. The international community has raised questions about the viability of the peace process given the climate of reckless and uncompromising Israeli settlement expansion. Sadly, the destruction of the Shepherd Hotel shows that the two state solution is simply not a reality. Instead of bemoaning Israeli settlement activity and fighting for a two state solution which is almost impossible, it is time to start fighting for democratic rights for all of the residents of the land under Israeli military rule.

Israel destroying the two state solution in East Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo: activestills.org

Israel destroying the two state solution in East Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo: activestills.org

How can we speak of peace talks when Israel is pouring all of her resources into fortifying control over the West Bank, separating Gaza from the West Bank and completely annexing East Jerusalem? Single-handendly, Israel has successfully destroyed the two state solution despite the wishes of many of her cheer leaders across the world.

Israel and Palestine are under full Israeli military control. Everything going in and out of the Palestinian areas, West Bank and Gaza, passes through Israeli control. Every baby born in Gaza is registered in an Israeli controlled census. Instead of thinking about what would be in the future perhaps we should start from what is in the present. We live in one state.

So what does this state look like? It is a state in which eighty percent of the population, the Jewish population, enjoys full democratic, civil and human rights. The remaining residents of Israel within the 1948 green line borders are the Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in a system of institutionalized discrimination much like the Jim Crow South of the 1950′s.

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians live in an apartheid-like system where the term ‘separate and unequal’ reaches its full potential. Different infrastructure, different and unequal court systems, unequal access to resources such as water and lack of freedom of movement constitute their lifestyle. That leaves us with Gaza, which is basically an open air prison, fenced in and controlled by Israel. These are the current parameters of the one state which is known as ‘Israel and Palestine’ or ‘Israel and its occupied territories’.

The Shepard Hotel destruction and Israel’s move to create a new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem is the latest blatant move by the Israeli government to make permanent a one state solution in which the Palestinians live in an apartheid-like system. The reaction of the left in Israel has been outright condemnation. However, there is a new opening from which we can operate. The coming battle in Israel and Palestine should be one of democratic rights for all and the abolition of the apartheid infrastructure. If we want to fight to keep the West Bank for a Palestinian state, we are losing. If we would like to keep Sheikh Jarrah Palestine, we are losing.

The fight which we can, and should, embrace is for the human rights for all the residents of this one state. We have movements from Shiekh Jarrah to Nabi Saleh where Palestinians and Israelis embrace a model of co-existence and resistance. This foundation is a natural platform for a new program of struggle for human rights which does not focus on lost battles. Israel is pushing forward with a one state solution in which control and the systemic stripping of Palestinian human rights is standard practice. Instead of fighting a losing battle, the left must embrace the facts on the ground and fight for democracy.

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    1. the problem is that the cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians today is based on the recognition of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations.
      The situation isn’t truly comparable to South Africa and the Confederacy in the sense that these are a People seeking recognition not as equals in our society, but as an equal nation in the world. And they have been doing it for decades now. These are a people with aspirations to call Jerusalem their own and to allow for the return of their many family members from the refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan back to their land.
      Recognizing them as human-beings should be a given, they shouldn’t have to settle and abandon their national aspirations in order for us to recognize that they are human and deserve equal rights.
      I am a supporter of the one state solution. But, and this is somewhat of a contradiction I admit, now is not the time, because the price the Palestinians will pay is too big, and somewhere down the road it will catch up with all of us.

      Reply to Comment
    2. anti-Israel

      I think the endlessly belabored issue of one state or two states is mostly beside the point.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Harold Kirtz

      The one-state solution is what the Arab nations and then the Palestinians have been fighting for since before 1948. Especially since Israel announced itself as a state in 1948, under the approval of the United Nations, the fight has been initiated time and again by the Arab nations and the Palestinians. The two-state solution is the only one in which both the Jewish residents and the Palestinian residents will ever have a chance for peace. Under the one-state solution, the Palestinians would eventually gain control of the entire area. That scenerio would result in much the same as happened in the West Bank area under Jordanian rule from 1948-1967 — destruction of all Jewish sites and subjugation, death, and expulsion of the Jewish residents. Once the Palestinians realize that Israel as a Jewish state is not going away and accept that they will have to build a Palestinian state in the West Bank, then we can be on the road to peace and the enjoyment of full political rights for everyone between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. That will never happen until the Palestinians stop their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and stop the incessant incitement of the Palestinian people to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a two-state solution. Israel is not the bad guy here; several times, including as far back as 1967, it has offered the Palestinians a negotiated agreement in which the opening offer was 95% of what the Palestinians were seeking. The Palestinians are the ones who have refused to work out a solution.

      Undoubtedly, the military presence of Israel has impacted negatively on the lives of ordinary Palestinians. But that is another reason for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and move forward to resolve the two-state solution.

      Reply to Comment
    4. anti-Israel

      “Israel is not the bad guy here.”

      Good luck with that.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Harold,

      If you statements are true then please tell me why Israel is aggressively pushing for a one state solution by taking over more and more land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The settlers of East Jerusalem have a clear and stated goal which is to make impossible East Jerusalem a capital of a Palestinian state. East Jerusalem as a capital of Palestine is a foundational part of any two state solution. So why is the Israeli government actively helping the settlers achieving their goal which means in concrete terms the death of the two state solution?
      Why is Israel rejecting offers of settlement freeze for even two months time if their intention is a two state settlement? Why pump resources into new settlements and more infrastructure for Jews in the West Bank… if the goal is two states?
      There are no answers to these questions because Israel is creating one state. Talk of two state solution is merely a distraction to keep people busy while the facts on the ground are created. The machine of distraction is so good that even the left in Israel has adopted its rhetoric of two states despite clear evidence that any two state solution is virtually impossible because of the actions of the successive Israeli governments. The takeover of East Jerusalem has happened before our eyes. The question now is what we will do about it.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Martin Sandberger

      I too support a one state solution like Tahel Ilan. True Palestinians get Palestine, israelis go back to their true homelands, such as Minsk or Bagdad

      Reply to Comment
    7. maayan

      “The takeover of East Jerusalem has happened before our eyes. The question now is what we will do about it.”

      You demonstrate daily in Ramallah and in the international press for the Palestinian leadership to accept either the Taba or the Olmert offers extended to them? Make yourselves heard!

      Reply to Comment
    8. Mr. Sandberger,
      I’m in need of a bit of clarification.
      Say we would in fact cleanse palestine of the jews because they were cleansing the arabs and this method is a proven historic success, does my cat get to stay? He is an original Palestinian Feline. True, I named him Jack Kerouac, a French-American name, but that’s because I found him “on the road” and thought I was being super original.
      So, if I change his name to ‘Mr.Darwish’, does he get to stay?

      Reply to Comment
    9. BlightUntoNations


      Given the general contempt for defenseless creatures exhibited by most Israelis, it’s an open question whether they should be permitted to own pets in the first place.

      Reply to Comment