Thursday, October 18, 2012

A 1931 Zionist Proposal for a Federal State in Palestine

A 1931 Zionist Proposal for a Federal State in Palestine

Rather than listen to Bibi's speech about his vision for an emasculated Palestinian quasi-"state" (maybe), I thought that I would tell my readers of a bold plan for a federal state proposed by an important Zionist leader of the Yishuv in 1931. This is dedicated to those of you who think that the Zionists believed that the Balfour Declaration guaranteed the Jews an independent state.

I. General Prologue…It is important to determine just relations between Jews and Arabs that are not dependent upon the relation of a majority and a minority. The regime in the country must in all periods ensure both to Jews and Arabs the possibility of undisturbed development and full national sovereignty, such that in no period will there arise the rule of Arabs over Jews or Jews over Arabs. The regime must also aid rapprochement, agreement, and joint action between the Jewish people and the Arabs in the Land of Israel.

V. The changes during the third period.

When the building of the National Home is complete, the Mandate will expire. A national constitution will be determined in a Founding Assembly that will be called by the High Commissioner and will be approved by the Mandate Government and the League of Nations. In place of the High Commissioner, an Emissary of England will remain in the country as an agent for the League of Nations, whose authority will be that of a General Governour in British dominions. Of the powers of the High Commissioner, the only thing that will remain will be the guardianship over the Holy Places in the country.

The municipal government will be free of all external supervision, and will possess independent authority by virtue of the constitution to be ratified. The autonomous provinces will become cantons that are entirely independent with authority granted by the constitution to be ratified.

The Land of Israel will become a Federal State whose governing bodies will consist of

1. The municipal government in the city and village which will be self-governing.

2. The cantons will constitute autonomous states in the Federal Country of the Land of Israel. Each contiguous settlement of no less than 25,000 people will be able to organize into a free canton. Each canton can arrange its own constitution. […]

3. The National Autonomy will have absolute authority in all matters of education, culture, language, in the framework of the constitution to be approved by the Founding Assembly. Religious matters will be handed over to autonomous religious communities which will be organized as voluntary associations, ratified by law.

4. The Council of the Federal Alliance, which will be composed of two houses:

    a. The House of the Peoples, in which Jews and Arabs will participate in equal numbers.

    b. The House of the Inhabitants, in which the delegates of the cantons will participate in proportion to their respective populations therein.
Every federal law and every change in the federal constitution will be ratified only with the approval of both houses.

[…] Arabic and Hebrew will be completely equal in all their rights throughout the Land of Israel and in all its institutions […] The international status of the State of the Land of Israel will be determined by a reciprocal agreement of the Council of the Federal Alliance from one side, and the Mandate government and the League of Nations on the other.

And who was this Zionist leader, who, four years after the formation of the Brit Shalom of Buber and Simon, proposed his own vision of a binational state?

None other than David Ben Gurion, writing in HaPoel haTza'ir , May 20 1931. The text is from the a Hebrew book published in 2008, entitled "Brit Shalom" and Binationalist Zionism: The Arab Question as a Jewish Question, ed. Adi Gordon (Carmel), pp. 311-12. Ben-Gurion's proposal certainly gave the Palestinian Arabs as much national rights as it did the Jews. In fact, his proposal gave much more rights to the Arabs than did the Adalah Proposal of several years ago.

Which just goes to show how easy it is to offer power-sharing when you have no power yourself; or binationalism, when you are a tiny minority.

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