on the jewish state

the other night kamal santamaria hosted a discussion of “obstacles to peace” in al jazeera’s “inside story” with david mack, mustafa bargouthi, and israeli terrorist shmuel sandler. the discussion is an interesting one, though i wish al jazeera would change the framework of their discussions to include concepts like justice and ideas like the one-state solution or liberating all of historic palestine. in any case, the program does a good job unpacking some of the basic bulls*&^ issues that show once again how the zionist entity has never wanted peace, justice, or anything other than the theft of more land.

i was surprised the other night when marwan bishara spoke about those of us fighting for a single state which would enable all palestinian refugees to return home. i’ve never heard him discuss such things before, tough, of course, his brother azmi bishara has been fighting for this for years. oftentimes when people write about or speak about one-state solutions (as opposed to two-state disasters) they fixate on the impossibility of one-state, when in reality anyone who thinks two-states is feasible must be smoking some serious crack cocaine.

in the conclusion of jonathan cook’s brilliant new book disappearing palestine he addresses some of these issues in his chapter that is beautifully titled “two-state dreamers.” here is what cook argues:

In fact, the division of land demanded by the real two-staters, however equitable, would be the very moment when the struggle for Israel to remain a Jewish state would enter its most critical and difficult phase. Which is precisely why Israel has blocked any meaningful division of the land so far and will continue to do so. In the unimaginable event that Israel were to divide the land, a Jewish state would not be able to live with the consequences of such a division for long. Eventually, the maintenance of an ethnic Israeli state would (and will) prove unsustainable: environmentally, demographically, and ultimately physically. Division of the land simply “fast-forwards” the self-destructiveness inherent in a Jewish state.

Let us examine just a few of the consequences for the Jewish state of a genuine two-state solution.

First, Israel inside its recognized, shrunken borders would face an immediate and very serious water shortage. That is because, in returning the West Bank to the Palestinians, Israel would lose control of the large mountain aquifers that currently supply most of its water not only to Israel proper but also to the Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied territories. Israel would no longer be able to steal the water, but would be expected to negotiate for it on the open market. Given the politics of water in the Middle East that would be no simple matter. However, impoverished the new sovereign Palestinian state was, it would lose all legitimacy in the eyes of its own population were it to sell more than a trickle of water to the Israelis….

Second, with the labour-intensive occupation at an end, much of the Jewish state’s huge citizen army would become surplus to defence requirements. In addition to the massive social and economic disruptions, the dismantling of the country’s military complex would fundamentally change Israel’s role in the region, damage its relationship with the only global superpower and sever of its financial ties to Diaspora Jews. Israel would no longer have the laboratories of the occupied territories for testing its military hardware, its battlefield strategies and its booming surveillance and crowd-control industries. If Israel chose to fight the Palestinians, it would have to do so in a proper war, even if one between very unequal sides. Doubtless the Palestinians, like Hezbollah, would quickly find regional sponsors to arm and train their army or militias.

The experience and the reputation Israel has acquired–at least among the US military–in running an occupation and devising new and supposedly sophisticated ways to control the “Arab mind” would rapidly be lost, and with it Israel’s usefulness to the US in managing its own long-term occupation of Iraq and assisting the booming “homeland security” industry. Also, Israel’s vital strategic alliance with the US in dividing the Arab world, over the issue of the occupation and by signing peace treaties with some states and living in a state of permanent war with others, would start to unravel. With the waning of Israel’s special relationship with Washington and the influence of its lobby groups, as well as the loss of billions of dollars in annual subsidies, the Jewish Diaspora would begin to lose interest in Israel. Its money and power ebbing away, Israel might eventually slip into Middle Eastern anonymity, another Jordan. In such circumstances it would rapidly see a large exodus of privileged Ashkenazi Jews, many of whom hold second passports.

Third, the Jewish state would not be as Jewish as some might think: currently one in five Israelis is not Jewish but Palestinian. Although in order to realize a two-state vision all the Jewish settlers would probably need to leave the occupied territories and return to Israel, what would be done with the Palestinians with Israeli citizenship? These Palestinians have been citizens for six decades and live legally on land that has belonged to their families for many generations. They are also growing in number at a rate faster than the Jewish population, the reason they are popularly referred to in Israel as a “demographic timebomb.” Were these 1.3 million citizens to be removed from Israel by force under a two-state arrangement, it would be a violation of international law by a democratic state on a scale unprecedented int he modern era, and an act of ethnic cleansing even larger than the 1948 war that established Israel. The question would be: why even bother advocating two states if it has to be achieved on such appalling terms?

Assuming instead that the new Jewish state is supposed to maintain, as Israel currently does, the pretense of being a liberal democracy, these citizens would be entitled to continue living on their land and exercising their rights. Inside a Jewish state that had officially ended its conflict with the Palestinians, demands would grow from Palestinian citizens for equal rights and an end to their second-class status. Most significantly, they would insist on two rights that challenge the very basis of a Jewish state. They would expect the right, backed by international law, to be able to marry Palestinians from outside Israel and bring them to live with them; and they would want a Right of Return for their exiled relatives on a similar basis to the Law of Return for Jews. Israel’s Jewishness would be at stake, even more so than it is today from its Palestinian minority. It can be assumed that Israel’s leaders would react with great ferocity to protect the state’s Jewishness. Eventually Israel’s democratic pretensions would have to be jettisoned and the full-scale ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens implemented.

Still, do these arguments against the genuine two-state arrangement win the day for the one-state solution? Would Israel’s leaders not put up an equally vicious fight to protect their ethnic privileges by preventing, as they are dong now, the emergence of a single state? Yes, they would and they will. But that misses my larger point. As long as Israel is an ethnic state, it will be forced to deepen the occupation and intensify its ethnic cleansing policies to prevent the emergence of genuine Palestinian political influence–for the reasons I cite above and for many others I don’t. In truth, both a one-state and a genuine two-state arrangement are impossible given Israel’s determination to remain a Jewish state.

The obstacle to a solution, then, is not the division of the land but Zionism itself, the ideology of ethnic supremacism that is the current orthodoxy in Israel. As long as Israel is a Zionist state, its leaders will allow neither one state nor two real states. There can be no hope of a solution until the question of how to defeat Zionism is addressed. It just so happens that the best way this can be achieved is by confronting the illusions of the two-state dreamers and explaining why Israel is in permanent bad faith about seeking peace.

In other words, if we stopped distracting ourselves with the Holy Grail of the two-state solution, we might channel our energies into something more useful: discrediting Israel as a Jewish state, and the ideology of Zionism that upholds it. Eventually the respectable facade of Zionism might crumble. And without Zionism, the obstacle to creating either one or two states will finally be removed. If that is the case, then why not also campaign for the solution that will best bring justice to both Israelis and Palestinians? (247-251)

the issues that cook lays out above are necessary for those of us who wish to bring justice to palestinians. (of course i could care less about justice for israeli terrorists and would not be quite as even-handed as cook on that front.) but the core issue is that the discourse of two states is and has always been a distraction. it is just as much a distraction as the zionist entity’s demand that palestinians recognize that they are a “jewish state.” jerrold kessel and pierre klochendler reported on this very issue in ips today:

At their meeting Thursday night, Netanyahu told Mitchell that he would be ready to discuss a Palestinian state only if Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state. A senior official in the Israeli leader’s bureau quoted the prime minister as saying: “Israel expects the Palestinians first to recognise Israel as a Jewish state before there could be talking about two states for two peoples.”

abu yusef writing for palestine monitor explains precisely why he objects to this new demand by the zionist entity for recognition as a jewish state:

To those unfamiliar with the conflict or the numerous attempts at its resolution, the idea of recognizing Israel as a Jewish State seems uncontroversial, even logical. Israel is seen, at home and abroad, as a home for Jews and a place where they enjoy universal citizenship. ‘What is wrong with recognizing that?’ people ask.

A much better question to ask is, ‘Hasn’t the Palestinian leadership, through the PLO, already recognized Israel’s right to exist for fifteen years? If so, why should they now be demanded to recognize a specific nature of the state?’

For its part, Israel is hoping the international community focuses on the first question while ignoring the second. The real consequences of recognizing Israel’s Jewish character are far more important than attaching a name or a word to the description of the state. Recognizing Israel as Jewish, in fact, has a major role to play in shaping the ongoing negotiations for a two state settlement.

To show you how, we have broken up the Palestinians who will be affected by such a move into four groups. Each of these will be asked to forsake or concede certain rights and capacities prior to returning to the negotiating table with a Jewish state of Israel.

1. Palestinians in the occupied Territories.

Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state will insure that race and ethnicity will be the main determinants of a future border – one which will inevitably legitimize Israel’s ‘facts on the ground’ in the form of the wall and settlements. The new border will not be drawn upon the internationally recognized ‘Green Line’, rather it will try to include as much of one group as possible while excluding the other. All of the land stolen for the wall and settlements will become Israel’s, most likely in exchange for a land in the Negev – or perhaps even land within Israel populated by Israeli-Palestinian citizens.

2. Palestinian citizens of Israel

It is difficult to imagine a state characterizing itself as Jewish when a full fifth of its population are Muslim and Christian – but this is what Israel aims to do. The consequences of this on Israel’s Muslim and Christian population are second citizenship and strict demographic control over their growth and development. They will be living in a state that does not grant them the full rights of citizenship based on their creed and, therefore, in a theocratic dictatorship dressed up as a democracy. This is a best-case scenario for Israeli-Palestinians. In the worst case, as suggested by Avigdor Lieberman and mentioned above, the Israeli government will actually transfer large parts of its ‘unofficial’ population into the future Palestinian state. This transfer, though illegal under international law and inconsistent with the principles of liberal democracy, will be legitimized in the quest to maintain the demographic character of the Jewish state.

3. Palestinians living in the occupied East Jerusalem

Palestinians living in East Jerusalem experience an entirely different reality than their brothers and sisters in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip. They live in the center of the conflict to change the nature and identity of the Holy City while increasingly isolated from the rest of the occupied Territories. As they are not citizens of Israel, nor do they want to be, they do not enjoy the same protections as their Israeli-Palestinian counterparts, and therefore find their rights and dignity much more easily trampled upon. Over the last months for example, dozens of homes have been destroyed and families made into refugees in an effort by the Israeli government and settler organizations to Judaize Jerusalem by changing its demography and architectural identity and heritage so as to change the perception of ownership.

4. Palestinian refugees in the occupied Territories and abroad

Perhaps the most important consequence of Palestinian recognition of Israel as Jewish state would be felt by the millions of Palestinian refugees living in the occupied Territories or abroad. International law calls for these people to return to their homes inside of Israel. Recognition of the Jewish state makes it impossible to endanger the Jewish demographic majority inside of Israel by transplanting millions of Palestinians back into their former homes. In short, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state means giving up the right of return prior to sitting down at the negotiating table. Though this right may some day be surrendered or altered in the final status agreements establishing a Palestinian state, giving it up prior to negotiations severely weakens the Palestinian negotiating team by limiting the amount of tools at their disposal. This is the new reality Israel is hoping to engender before sitting back down at the negotiating table.

The list of consequences in recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is in no way comprehensive, but it does highlight the gravity of this seemingly innocent request. Israel, by returning to the Annapolis process after their initial refusal to do so, is acting as if they are making a concession. By doing so, and fooling the entire international community in the process, they are now asking Palestinians to make the gravest concession of all as a form of perverted reciprocity. Only then will Israel be able to return to a farcical Annapolis process which does not even pretend to lead to anything more than commitments, declarations and endless delay.

It is not a deal that we would accept…

thankfully ma’an news is reporting that the united states will not support this demand of recognizing the zionist entity as a jewish state:

A demand that Palestinians recognize Israel “as the state of the Jewish people” as a condition for resuming peace negotiations is unacceptable to the US, the State Department said this weekend.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, quoting statements from the State Department, indicated that the US would not back Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for this recognition.

of course this demand for being recognized as jewish, and therefore somehow as validating their right to continue their oppression of non-jewish (read: palestinian) citizens living on their land under a brutal colonial regime, is also used to leverage their right to be free of all criticism because it better facilitates their conflation of anti-zionism or critiques of their state to anti-semitism. one example of that is the fact that in spite of removing all of the platform issues on palestine from the world conference against racism, the zionist entity, the united states, canada and now austria, and holland are boycotting the durban 2 conference in geneva this week. fabulous nora barrows-friedman explains the context of the removal of palestine from the conference agenda in electronic intifada:

However, two weeks ago, the UN High Commissioner’s office unilaterally cancelled all side-events pertaining to Palestine issues. Ingrid Jarradat-Gassner, director of the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Bethlehem, one of several Palestine-based organizations attending the Durban Review conference, tells IPS that BADIL and the other NGOs had organized a side-event specifically about how and why they see Israel as a “regime of institutionalized racial discrimination on both sides of the Green Line.”

“As Palestinian NGOs and other NGOs working on the issue of Israel and its violations against the rights of the Palestinian people, we were expecting that there would be a possibility for us to organize these side-events during the official Durban review conference in Geneva,” Jarradat-Gassner says. “We were informed by the UN itself that this would be possible.”

Jarradat-Gassner says that on 3 April, less than three weeks before the Durban Review Conference, the UN High Commissioner’s office called BADIL’s representative in Geneva into a meeting at the UN, and verbally informed her that all side-events pertaining to the specific issue of Palestine and Israel had been banned.

“We were not even informed in any sort of direct of official way. In fact, we have no record of the decision of the UN not to let us work on such side-events,” says Jarradat-Gassner.

According to the UN’s Durban Review Conference agenda, other side-events focusing on indigenous rights, women’s rights and the link between racism and poverty will have an official platform.

Jarradat-Gassner says she knows there is a specific apprehension within the political UN body towards Palestine issues. In the draft document for the Durban Review Conference, she points out, there are particular recommendations for victims of HIV/AIDS, for victims of slave trade, Roma people, people of African descent, but, Jarradat-Gassner says, “there is not a single reference to Palestine, Palestinians or Israel in this whole document.”

BADIL, Al-Haq (a Palestinian human rights organization) and Adalah (the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) wrote a joint formal complaint to the UN OHCHR, but have not received any reply. The UN OHCHR did not respond to IPS’s request for a comment either.

Dr. Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, tells IPS he had not known about the disallowance of side-events pertaining to Palestine/Israel by the UN’s OHCHR. “One has to assume it was part of an effort to meet the objections of the United States that the event was discrediting to the extent it engaged in ‘Israel-bashing.'” However, Falk points out, “US leverage is probably greater than it has been because Obama is President and Washington has indicated its intention to rejoin the Human Rights Council.”

Palestinian organizations say that banning these side-events is a significant disappointment in pursuing Israel’s legal responsibility towards its actions in Palestine. Dr. Falk echoes this sentiment. “I believe that the strong evidence of Israeli racism during the recent Gaza attacks makes it strange to refuse NGOs organizing side-events to address the issue,” he tells IPS. “Also, the collective punishment aspects of the occupation seem to qualify the Israeli policy as a form of racism, combined with the rise of the extreme right, with [Avigdor] Lieberman as [Israeli] foreign minister.”

Jarradat-Gassner says that within the framework of the Durban Review Conference, the issue of Palestine and Israel should be prominent. “There is an obvious link between colonization and apartheid [in Palestine-Israel]. If you have a settler-colonial regime that comes here to stay, and codifies into law its relationship of domination over the indigenous population, you are entering the field of apartheid … We are talking about what Israel has been practicing over the last 60 years in Palestine.”

as cook mentioned it is zionism that is the thing that must really be defeated in order to really get to a just solution for palestinians. interestingly, the newly launched boycott campaign in lebanon is a campaign that is dedicated to boycotting zionism. antoun issa blogged about our campaign on global voices and a few israeli terrorists are rather perturbed about this, likely because, although they are not clear or honest about their concerns, the logical conclusion to such a campaign is to the destruction of the jewish state. while i won’t quote the israeli terrorists in question, i will quote the response that rania wrote and that i edited and posted. you can click on the link to read and respond further to this discussion:

(1) A visit by Lisa Goldman (illegal that it was) to Lebanon hardly gives her credibility to discuss what is mainstream and what is radical in the country. One can very confidently say that all those who support resistance in Lebanon, who are at least 50 per cent of the country, support “a radical rejectionist ideology about Israel.” We are not the minority, not according to political polls.

(2) Zionism is not too complex of a political ideology. It is the idea that people who adhere to the Jewish religion have a claim to a particular land. The problem, for Zionism, is that, for centuries, Palestinians – of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths – have lived on that land. The predominant interpretation of Zionism is that that particular plot of land, known to Zionists as the land of Israel, belongs only to Jews, and therefore practicing Zionism involves (1) a unity of government and religion; and, much more importantly, (2) a belief in superior laws for one set of people. It is – as was stated in Durban – that Zionism is a form of racism. And indeed as it is practiced in Palestine it is racism. No different from racism in any other part of the world, except for the fact that the world’s 4th largest army is used to murder people and steal their land as a result of this racist ideology.

(3) The idea of boycotting Zionism rather than boycotting Israel is to stress that it is this ideology of racism and occupation that is opposed. Should Israel cease to be a zionist state, should Israel cease to treat Jews one way and non-Jewish Palestinians another way, then the boycott movement would cease as well. It is a similar concept to boycotting apartheid South Africa and not simply boycotting South Africa, a similar concept to opposing segregationist policies in Jim Crow US and not boycotting US.

(4) Boycotting institutions and companies that invest in and support Israel is one effective means to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, and thus stand in solidarity with the struggle for civil and human rights and liberation. It is not the only way, and alone, it does not suffice, but it is one effective method. It has been proven to be one effective method in the struggle for liberating South Africans from apartheid policies. It has already shown itself to be an effective public voice. [You may go to the link in the original post to see our statement for more on this.] Interestingly, Israeli professors like Tanya Reinhart and Ilan Pappe have publicly called for a boycott of Israel.

(5) Lisa Goldman is right to be concerned about a “respected international news agency is being put in a position of giving wide exposure to the views of a minority of bloggers who promote radical ideologies that are based on dubious information,” but she is incorrect about the bloggers themselves. The bloggers that do promote minority viewpoints are those that pretend to speak for peace while promoting racist policies and military occupation and lies and misinformation. So, we all should be concerned when an international news agency does not give equal and fair coverage and does not present the voices of the oppressed.

One thought on “on the jewish state

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