Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Palestinian version of Brit Shalom

There are a few palestinian intellectuals who have carried out the same analysis as I did, and have reached the same conclusions . This is very encouraging. It means that a mouvement can be created by Arabs and Jews together. The simple fact of its very existence could have a profound impact in establishing an atmosphere of trust between the two sides.

Here is an article of Baruch Kimmerling from Brit Shalom website, originally published in Haaretz (emphasis mine):

The Palestinian version of Brit Shalom

For some time now, a group of Palestinian intellectuals, including Assad Ganem, MK Azmi Bishara, Adel Mena'a and Nadim Ruhna, has been trying to change Palestinian national strategic goals.The members of the group are convinced that instead of working to establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, and to turn Israel into a state for all its citizens, the Palestinians should aspire to establish a Palestinian-Jewish binational state.

This state would arise within the borders of mandatory Palestine, and realize the national hopes and needs of both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples.

The idea is not only a profound conceptual revolution and a new trend in Palestinian political thought, it also requires much political and intellectual courage on the part of those suggesting it.

Although some might attribute the idea to a hidden manipulative motive -just another, more sophisticated way to destroy the "Zionist entity" - the efforts appear to be a genuine attempt to find political solutions to real problems that seem to have no reasonable solution acceptable to both sides, while maintaining a consistent moral position respecting the universality of human rights.

These problems have been shown to be all the more salient and thorny with the first serious attempt by both sides to find an answer to the Jewish-Palestinian conflict: the Oslo agreements, the mutual declaration of recognition of the other side's right to exist as a legitimate political entity.

Oslo was also accompanied by far-reaching territorial concessions by
both Jews and Palestinians, in an attempt to create some kind of
"separation" between the two peoples. But on the ideological-emotional plane, there is an enormous collective difficulty on both sides in conceding essential parts of the homeland, sanctified both religiously and secularly. And on the practical level (the physical and political), there are real difficulties in implementing the separation, because Eretz Israel-Palestine is not only a small piece of land, it is also very poor in resources relative to the number of people who are expected to utilize them.

Furthermore, those areas suitable for settlement include joint material assets (water sources and reservoirs, sewage, beaches, green areas, airspace, etc.), which in effect cannot be separated. And even if a fair division of the resources could be devised, the existence of settlements in the territories intended for the Palestinian state, and the existence of a Palestinian-Arab minority inside Israel - which does not enjoy full equality as citizens - further complicates the ideal of a "pure" separation.

Even more serious for Palestinian intellectuals is that, were a Palestinian state to be established, it would be a very sorry one, split territorially into two geographical parts, with Israel controlling passage between the truncated country. It would be dependent on Israel for everything.

Another area of deep disappointment among most Arab intellectuals - at least those not employed by the Palestinian Authority - is the authoritarian and manifestly undemocratic nature of the Palestinian Authority. This was not what they imagined the Palestinian state would be. Neither do they expect the Palestinian government to undergo
democratization in the foreseeable future. They view with growing concern the increasing strength of the Islamic elements within the Palestinian society.

Indeed, on both sides of the equation, just as there are those who
regard the entire land as exclusively theirs (and those ready for its
division are defeatist, unpatriotic, immoral or blasphemously
sacreligious), so are there those who regard redividing the country a
pragmatic neccessity resulting from a given historical reality.

What the Palestinian intellectuals want is the de jure recognition of a situation that in any case exists de facto, with all the implications that may be involved concerning the attainment of equal rights for the two nations in a binational reality.

If it is impossible to separate the two nations, and impossible to divide the land, which each nation considers entirely its own, then perhaps they can be fused.

Azmi Bishara has presented a fascinating conceptual innovation (which his critics did not understand at all); he wants to separate national territorial affiliation from citizenship of a country.

Thus, even without territorial division, the two nations could each belong to its own exclusive country, to vote and be elected within it and to be subject to its government, and take pride in its national symbols.

This suggestion is a fascinating intellectual attempt to square the circle. The idea is that within the same borders and the same territorial receptacle, two political and symbolic entities would coexist.

The suggestion should not be dismissed summarily by routine thinking; it should be discussed and debated as part of the public dialogue between and among Palestinians and Israelis if only because as a logical model, it can help us develop new channels of thinking.

For much of the Jewish public in Israel, dropping the idea of binationalism into the public debate is perceived as more threatening than dropping the Islamic nuclear bomb. But because of the deadlock in our relations with the Palestinians, and the profound moral ramifications inherent to the idea of binationalism, the concept threatens the existing collective identity, undermining it on both sides.

The ideological opposition to the binational solution is perhaps the only common denominator which can still create a unified front among the varies factions in Jewish society.

In 1925, the Jews in Israel were a tiny majority of the population and Zionism was not perceived as a movement capable of drawing masses of Jewry to come to settle in Eretz Israel. At the time, it seemed that the presence of Jews in Eretz Israel would be dependent on the good will of the Arab population, while the binational concept suggested by the Brit Shalom [Peace Alliance] movement unified the entire Jewish population against it. Now, after Israel has become a regional power it is unlikely that the Palestinian version of Brit Shalom will any more successful that its Jewish counterpart - not even among Palestinians.

However, the very existence of the group is an important political and cultural development, because its appearance may yet contribute to the revival of the political and intellectual dialogue, which otherwise is dying out day by day.

Baruch Kimmerling
© copyright 2000 Ha'aretz

No comments:

Post a Comment