Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Brit Shalom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Brit Shalom (Hebrew: ברית שלום‎, lit. "covenant of peace"; Arabic: تحالف ألسلام‎, Tahalof Essalam; also called the Jewish-Palestinian Peace Alliance) was a group of Jewish intellectuals, founded in 1925.
The original "Brit Shalom" sought a peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews, achieved by a Jewish renunciation of the Balfour Declaration. It supported the establishment of a bi-national regime under the British Mandate, where both Jews and Arabs would enjoy equality.
Among its supporters and founders: Arthur Ruppin, Martin Buber, Hugo Bergmann, Gershom Scholem, Henrietta Szold. Others, such as Albert Einstein have also voiced their support.
Most Palestinian Jews and Arabs rejected the proposed solution and the movement became a marginal element in the politics of the region.

In the past few years, a new organisation has taken up the name. The contemporary Brit Shalom is an Israeli organisation of Jewish and Palestinian peace activists working towards reconciliation, peace and equal rights in the region. It generally favors binational confederation or two-state coexistence, drawing upon fringe historical and contemporary movements as varied as Uri Avneri's pan-Semitism, Buberian Zionism, and even aspects of rightist Canaanism for inspiration. Contributors to its website include Gideon Levy, Doron Rosenblum, Avraham Burg, Batya Gur, Meron Benvenisti, Shahar Smooha, Yossi Sarid, David Grossman, Yitzhak Frankenthal, Tony Judt, Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights, Gilad Atzmon, and Baruch Kimmerling.

Zionism and Israel - Encyclopedic Dictionary
Brit Shalom - (Hebrew,  ברית שלום, Meaning "Covenant of Peace) Jewish peace group founded in 1925, primarily inspired by German Zionists, to seek coexistence with the Arabs of Palestine by advocating a binational state rather than a Zionist state. The idea arose primarily in opposition to the Iron Wall concept and seemingly uncompromising stance of Ze'ev (Valdimir) Jabotinsky and in an effort to head off Arab opposition that was evident in the riots of 1921.

Martin Buber, Robert Weltsch, Hans Kohn and Hugo Bergmann are credited with being the originators of the idea. They were followers of Achad Haam and stressed the spiritual importance of a Jewish national home and the effect of Zionism on renewal of individuals. They found an ideological home in Hapoel Hatzair. In these circles, the idea for a binational state had been discussed long before the foundation of Brit Shalom, They did not consider it practical to oust Arabs by force, and did not believe Arabs would agree to live in a Jewish state. They discounted the importance of political power and amassing of material possessions and land.

Their credo was already formulated in 1921 if not before. "Palestine cannot be a nation state, not only because this is not a step forward, but also because it is impracticable. It must be bi-national rather than Eretz Yisrael." (1921 letter from Kohn to Weltch, quoted in Lavsky p. 652). Supposedly, Chaim Weizmann agreed with this idea as well, at least at one time in his career. The formation of the Brit Shalom movement in 1925 was catalyzed by Jabotinzky's formation of the Revisionist party in that year. The issues at stake were not only the question of relation with Arabs, but also the means of development of Palestine. The Fourth Aliya peaked in 1925, and brought with it a large number of people opposed to workers ownership and public development, who wished to develop the land based on private enterprise.

An open split occurred at the Fourteenth Zionist Congress between the confrontational approach of Jabotinsky and the conciliatory approach of mainstream Zionism to the Arabs. Chaim Weizmann said:

In true friendship and partnership with the Arabs we must open the Near East to Jewish enterprise... Palestine must be built in such a way that legitimate Arab interests are not impinged upon in the slightest...- we must take Palestine as it is, with its sands and stones, Arabs and Jews as they are. That is our work. Anything else would be deception.,,, We shall rise or fall by our work alone. (Protocols of Fourteenth Zionist Congress pp 328-329, translated by Lavsky, and cited in Lavsky, p. 664)

Arthur Ruppin agreed:

... there is the possibility... to establish in Palestine a community where both nations, with no ruling advantage (Vorherrshcaft) to the one, nor oppression of the other, shall work shoulder to shoulder in full equality of rights towards the economic and cultural development of the country. (Protocols of Fourteenth Zionist Congress p 438, translated by Lavsky, and cited in Lavsky, p. 664)

Brit Shalom was organized at an initial meeting in Ruppin's house in mid-November of 1925. The founders, especially Weltsch, believed they had the support of Weizmann, but that perhaps Weizmann found himself unable to speak out because of the duties of office.

Yehuda Magnes, President of the Hebrew University, was a friend and mentor of the Brit Shalom movement but was not a founder or member. Though initially successful and long influential in German Zionist circles, Brit Shalom lost the support of Ruppin and many others who were disillusioned by the brutal Arab riots and massacres of 1929.

Brit Shalom apparently never had more than a hundred members, but its binational State state platform was adopted by Mapam, the leftist "United Workers Party in the 1940s.

Byt he time of the Arab uprising of 1936, it became obvious to at least some in Brit Shalom that the binational state was impractical.

Arthur Ruppin admitted on May 16, 1936:

“The peace will not be established in this land by an ‘agreement’ with the Arabs, rather it will come in due time, when we are strong enough so the Arabs will not be so certain in the results of the struggle and be forced to accept us as an existing fact.” ref

That was not so different from the original thesis of Jabotinsky in The Iron Wall . In August, Levi Billig, a member of Brit Shalom was brutally murdered. ref The movement lost most of its adherents.

However, in 1942, perhaps in reaction to the Biltmore Program, Brit Shalom adherents and sympathizers including Yehuda Magnes, Martin Buber, Ernst Simon and Henrietta Szold founded the small IHUD (Union) party that advocated a binational state. They presented their case to various international commissions and continued to function until 1948.

A different version of Brit Shalom was created recently. It seems to have little relation to the former group. Brit Tsedek VeShalom, an American non-Zionist Jewish peace group also based on the original name evidently.

Ami Isseroff
September 7, 2009

Lavsky, Hagit, German Zionists and the Emergence of Brit Shalom, translated from the Hebrew, reprinted in Reinharz, Jehuda and Shapira, Anita eds. Essential Papers on Zionism, New York University Press, 1996, pp. 648-670.

From the Brith shalom website:
(This organisation seems not to exist anymore).
Why Brit Shalom?
March 17, 2001

Why, one may ask, is there any reason to propose a "Union" or "Federation" in Israel/Palestine? Why on earth is there any reason to believe that this solution will be successful? There is not even sufficient goodwill on either side to ensure a separation, why propose such an intimate approach between these two mutually repellent populations?
There are three main reasons why it is appropriate to take up and modify at this time, the ideas presented by the original group of people of Brit Shalom.
The first reason is that the Oslo process, after more than a decade of negotiations, has failed. Oslo, and its ideological carry-on baggage, was evidently suffering at Camp David in 2000 and was clearly dead already at Taba some months after. Oslo is dead, not because there is no willingness to concede, but because there is a fundamental inability of either side to partition the land of Palestine/Israel. The reasons underlying this stubborness are different for the two sides.
For the Israelis, partition clearly means the uprooting of over 100 settlements beyond the green line. It means adjusting to a rapid and irrevocable deterioration in geographical deterrent capabilities. In order to face the problems raised by this scenario, successive Israeli governments have proposed to keep Israeli settlements across the green line, and they have devised drafts that would ensure Israeli access to roads and military installations all over the West Bank.
These demands are, it now seems, wholly unacceptable to the Palestinians, who would then be left with administrating not so much a country, but a collection of pieces of land, disjointed and interrupted. So neither side really is able to accept a straight partition.
The second reason is that, no matter what happens there will have to be erected channels of cooperation anyway. Issues such as defense, resources, particularly water resources, economic and regional development, pollution, know no boundaries. No matter what happens, cooperation will need to be sought on these and other issues of pressing concern.
The question is only whether the discussions will take the form of dictates from the powerful to the powerless or whether they should be agreed upon through mutual cooperation. If the situation is one of unilateral dictates and selfish demands, as has been the case since 1967, a co-existence will simply not last. This is what we are precisely what we are experiencing now, with the Second Intifada.
The third reason is more emotional perhaps, a political factor that should not be underestimated. The emotional ties that each people have to the land are to the whole land. Neither Palestinians nor Jews harbour feelings of national pride to a half of Palestine. Both parties are equally adamant that their country is 'really' the whole of Israel/Palestine. The concession of partition is equally big in both minds.
The map that the Prime Minister of Israel, as well as most Israeli homes, have on their wall, is the map of Israel and the territories, and this is of course true for both Arafat and the Palestinian population as well. Slowly, it becomes clear for those who want to see it, that the other population is there to stay. By the year 2012 there will be demographic parity between the two nations in Palestine/Israel.
That is to say, that in a decade or so, there will be as many Palestians as there will be Jews West of the Jordan river. It will have become evident then, that a population of eight or nine millions cannot be denied basic human rights.
So a solution must be based on these three assumptions, whose strength have been tested over the course of the last 100 years: First, there cannot be an absolute physical separation because it would entail a compromise too large to bear for the Israelis. Second, cooperation must be undertaken between two equal parties, it cannot take the form of dictates from the more powerful part as lack of empowerment breeds violence. Third, the emotional and national-mythological needs of either party need to be addressed.
Finally, it is necessary to point out the fact that, although the union solution clearly suffers from a plethora of practical difficulties, of which the drawing of borders and legislation land areas and populations are just two examples, that is not to say that there is a perfect solution out there somewhere waiting to be discovered. There is none. There is no easy, foolproof solution to the existential battle between the two rivaling national entities over the real estate of Palestine.
If it is clear now that there is no satisfactory way in which partition of Palestine/Israel can be effectuated while ensuring Israel's security needs as well as Palestinian national ambitions, then some other solution must be proposed. There is no good 'proposing' to perennially wage war one against the other. As the hawks would have it, because that does not constitute a solution but rather a breakdown of solutions.
Given the explosive demography of the two countries and the sharp geographical constraints which prevail, it will eventually become clear that either party is unable to delegitimise the other and cooperation will, at the end of the day, become inevitable. Eventually, the country will not bear partition, as Yehudah Amichai wrote once in his poems: "…the fields must have it." Any solution that does not respect the organic nature of the country, its indivisibility in the hearts and minds of its inhabitants will prove itself unworkable.
Daniel Reisel

A view of the task of Brit Shalom
April 21, 2001

The original Brit Shalom and its IHUD Party were on the whole remarkably unsuccessful in obtaining their goals. This was perhaps due to the fact that their goals were indeed too lofty and that they failed to take into account the geopolitical reality and the national aspirations of both nations. So what are the differences between our approach and theirs?
The first and perhaps most radical revision is that we do not propose a bi-national state. This is not a solution that is desirable in the eyes of the Palestinians or the Jews. To make Palestine/Israel simply into a country for all its citizens will in the short term mean that the Palestinians will be in a minority and in the long run, due to the more rapid population growth of the Palestinians in the West Bank and especially in Gaza, that the Jews will be in minority. This may be a solution favoured by some liberal minded Palestinians today, but for the Jewish majority, it would clearly spell disaster. No political entity will ever accede to what is seen as a national suicide. The Brit Shalom of 2001, therefore will have to amend the initial outlook of Buber, Magnes et al. They tried also to find a solution to
Second, we do not propose the establishment of cantons or self governed municipalities. The events of 1948 and subsequent wars have, tragically, made the populations geographically more separate. The process of separation that started through the Oslo process, when completed, should mean that the West Bank and Gaza will be Palestinian territories. We envisage that it be possible to establish internal borders according to the green line and in addition to allocate several pockets on either side to the other entity. This flexible solution has been implemented without inordinate problems in Switzerland. There are also villages beyond the Belgian border that belongs to The Netherlands, passports and all, and similarly there are pockets of German speaking, European Nations passport wielding Germans inside Switzerland. In our case, it would be possible to link the Palestinian villages in the Galilee with the Palestinian state and some of the settlement blocks in the West Bank to the Israeli state. Inadvertently, this would ensure ethnic minorities in both camps, should this be of prime importance in the coming generations.
Third, the new Brit Shalom differs from the original organisation in that we have, from the beginning had not only Palestinian members but that the leadership of the organisation is from the start been shared. In Brit Shalom there are Palestinian members from both Israel and the territories. This is perhaps the strongest point of difference between Brit Shalom and similar "peace organisations" in Israel. With very few exceptions they are composed exclusively of well meaning Jewish members. The way we see it is that if we are to arrive at a point from which it will be possible to build a future, that is a process that must be undertaken together.

Tackling differences
People often ask, when confronted with the ideas that Brit Shalom espouses, what about army service? What about defense? How can each party be willing to rely on the other when it comes to the crucial military and strategic decisions? What about the secret service, the diplomatic corps etc. In answering this question, it is useful to look at the ways similar questions were posed to the Brit Shalom of 1925.
Then, perhaps less than now, the issue that was most burning, at least for the Jewish constituency, was that of immigration. Since the White Paper, issued by the British in 1939, which limited Jewish immigration to 10,000 per year, the Zionist camp had fought hard to expand the limits of immigration. This was crucial for their programme, but also pressing as the Second World War began to unravel. In the discussion between IHUD and the United Nations, the question of immigration was laboured over to a great degree. Magnes asked rhetorically whether this was possible to solve at all.
The IHUD party had as its policy to lobby the British and subsequently the United Nations to allow an immediate immigration of 100,000 Jews from Europe. This request coincided with the Yishuv's policy. But Magnes was not blind to the dangers that such political decisions would have on the proposed binational state. His answer to this challenge was to set out a phased implementation of the Jewish-Arab cooperation.
The phased plan was presented as entailing three separate stages. First he envisaged that there would be some cooperation on immediate issues between the two entities. This would be determined upon by a joint Executive Council that would be made up by both Jews and Arabs. Magnes was writing at the time of the British Mandate and he emphasised the need to diminish and eventually uproot the influence of the British in Palestine. This it is fair to say was fairly non-controversial in the view of the Jews and the Arabs, all of whom were longing for the last British soldier to leave.
The second stage would involve the transfer of Palestine for an agreed period to the custodianship of the United Nations. This stage would also involve the appointment of a Commission of Constitution which should be composed on the same principle of parity in numbers, and that would be faced with the task of writing a joint draft of a constitution for a bi-national Palestine. Magnes envisioned the United Nations drawing on the help of international experts and especially help from member states that were faced with the same multicultural reality in their own countries.
The third stage, after the transitional period of trusteeship, the Palestine/Israel of two equal nationalities would then become a Union. Magnes described this in his statement to the United Nations in June 1947:
We think that a bi-national Palestine based on parity has a great mission to help revive this Semitic world materially and spiritually. The Jews and the Arabs are the only two people remaining from Semitic antiquity. We are related. We have lived and worked together. We have fashioned cultural values together throughout our history. We regard it as the mission of the bi-national Palestine to bring about once again, within the Semitic world, this revival of the spirit which has characterised Semitic history from antiquity.
Were we to read Union of Israel/Palestine of two independent, autonomous poltical entities, instead of Magnes' concept of a bi-national Palestine, it would capture more or less the outlook of Brit Shalom today.
That is the long answer of how one would solve conflicts of interest under the framework of Brit Shalom. The short answer is that differences of political opinion, e.g. in terms of defense and immigration will have to be solved by the joint legislative body of the two states.
There is no simple solution to the challenge of co-existence. There will always be difficulties since the two peoples have different outlook on many things. No matter what will happen, there will have to be accommodation of Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian state and there will have to be made allocations for Israel's security needs towards the East. But the bottom line must be that these issues are best dealt with through cooperation. Only through joint ventures will there be guarantees that calm will prevail in the region.
Daniel Reisel

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