About the debate on "solutions"

By François Lazar

In a recent analysis, after a series of comments that are on the whole relevant, the French journalist Alain Gresh[1], editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, draws the following conclusions:

"Some people claim that the only solution left is the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. Others argue that the massive colonization of the West Bank and Jerusalem make such an outcome unrealistic and advocate a bi-national state in which the two nationalities, Palestinian-Arab and Israeli-Jewish,  enjoy equal rights. Others also refer to the South African model, a state in which all are citizens: one man, one woman, one vote. Anyhow it is hard to imagine a solution which does not receive the support of the majority of the people who are present today on the territory of historic Palestine. It should be remembered that it was possible to put an end to Apartheid only because the African national Congress (ANC) was able to work out a project for all the citizens of South Africa and to unite them, whether blacks, white or "coloured" in this fight."

This synthesis of the various "solutions" raises a problem in so far as it is presented as encompassing all the democratic solutions on discussion as to the way out of the conflict engaged by Israel against the Palestinian people. There is in fact a fourth solution not mentioned in the list compiled by the author, i.e. that of a single secular and democratic state in which all citizens would enjoy the same rights.

Whether it has been forgotten or mixed up with another "solution", or omitted as the result of a deliberate political decision, is not at this point in discussion a vital question. In a way, Alain Gresh is expounding here official doctrine that sets in stone the authorised "solutions" aimed at putting an end to the Naqba.

Let us deal quickly with the question of the two-state solution, in other words "a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel." This is the proposal promoted by George Bush's roadmap, also put forward by Obama not long ago and supported by the "international community" and the political parties that are part of it. Such a solution, conform to so-called "international law", is already included in the 1947 partition plan. It means — and everybody is well aware of the fact — that the right of return is called into question and that, following official recognition of such a state, the refugees would de facto lose their refugee status in their host country. In this respect, the well-known Greater Middle East Plan, which for the moment has been put on the back burner, involved a similar solution to the "refugee question".

There is today on the historic territory of Palestine an Israeli state which, in order to further enforce the expropriation of Palestinian land, maintains the mass of Jewish workers in an ideological sphere which from early childhood instils ignorance and fear of another "genocide." For many people, and that is true of Shimon Peres or Barack Obama, the perpetuation of this situation entails the creation — alongside the state of Israel — of a Palestinian entity called a "state" out of derision, whose main responsibility would be to keep order within that "state".

What is first and foremost being undermined by international policies through the possible implementation of two States (whatever the form and the content, they will name a State a patchwork of Palestinian ghettos) is the right of peoples to self-determination, the right to a nation, and not only for Palestinian Arabs. What is attacked by the advocates of two States is the demand for a nation that, with the right of return for Palestinians, would allow Arabs and Jews to live together in peace with equal rights for all.

Let us now deal with the question of the bi-national state "in which the two nationalities, Palestinian-Arab and Israeli-Jewish, would enjoy equal rights". Before we proceed further, let us point out once more the systematic need to ethnicize the conflict by adding, in a clearly antithetical manner, the words "Arab" and "Jewish" to what is supposed to be a national entity! The bi-national State is in a way a continuation to the "two-state" solution, since the latter implies the recognition of a bi-national territory. As Alain Gresh explains, the bi-national state is based on the alleged principle that there are two nationalities, a "Palestinian-Arab" nationality, in other words linked to a historic presence on the Palestinian territory, and an "Israeli-Jewish" nationality, in other words linked to the — recent — existence of the state of Israel and a notion of religious faith. The word "Jewish" is a complex one in so far as it refers to populations who throughout the world identify with Judaism or practise the Jewish faith, and on the other hand to individuals who because of their personal and family history have chosen either to adopt this identity or discard it. As a result there would be a sort of extraterritorial nationality and for a not insignificant number of the individuals concerned, a nationality that is imposed on them. It must be added that while the Palestinian people really constitutes a homogeneous territorial and cultural entity it is much harder to refer to a Jewish people that would include Yemenis and Poles, who have very different customs, languages, ways of practising Judaism, diet, habits … In France there are French Jews, in the United States there are American Jews, in Morocco there are Moroccan Jews, etc. who do not claim double nationality. In this respect, it is the notion of "Jewish populations" that reflects reality, unlike the notion of "Jewish people."

The reference to an international "Jewish people", bracketed with an "Israeli nation", is a racist concept, whose foundations are political, definitely not historical or cultural. The "Jewish people" is indeed a concept, i.e. an intellectual construction that is today systematically associated with the state of Israel. As is the case with all concepts, the purpose is to enforce it on reality at all costs. A nation is not a phenomenon that has an arbitrary nature; nor is it a psychological, cultural or "racial" reality. It is the product of historical development, of social and political conflicts. It is unquestionably true that religion is one of the many components in the formation of nations. At some stage in the historical development it is part of what constitutes the culture and social life of a people. However because it is the product of that development a nation cannot be founded solely on religion. With regard to the alleged "Jewish nation", as we have just said, the majority of the individuals who all over the world define themselves as Jews do not wish to live in the state of Israel but most often find they are perfectly integrated into the society in which they live.

The idea of the bi-national state founded on the recognition of ethnic origins, based on the alleged existence of two nations, is only a political deception bent on demonstrating that behind the democratic high-flown rhetoric is there are indeed two sides with equal legitimacy. Furthermore the bi-national state, mixed up with the one-state solution, implies that the people living in the territories that have been occupied since 1967 are to become an integral part of a democratic Israel where the right of return would become conditional.

A. Gresh subsequently refers to the South African model which, with the end of Apartheid he says, became "a state in which all are citizens". There are two unquestionable facts. First of all the Hebrew state does indeed implement an Apartheid policy (the word includes both notions of separation and segregation) directed against all Palestinians under its control: whether it be in the form of separate, racist and deeply discriminatory development imposed on Palestinians inside Israel or within the framework of Bantustans surrounded by checkpoints and barbed wire fencing in the occupied territories since 1967. The second undisputable fact is that the international boycott of Apartheid South Africa was a popular campaign because it was supported at the time by labour and democratic organizations.

Another fact, which is not so often mentioned, is that although the Kempton Park Agreements of 1994 — bearing the stamp of the slogan "one man, one vote"— gave Blacks the right to vote, their living conditions have since then deteriorated. The agreements that put an end to institutionalized Apartheid left the infrastructures, the mines, the farmland, and the big means of production in the hands of white people. In South Africa "white businessmen appoint Blacks to their board of directors to make people believe that Blacks are running things, while keeping for themselves all administrative decisions and continuing to exercise power." (Lybon Mabasa, leader of the Socialist Party of Azania). Should that be taken as a model for the bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state-to-be? The right to vote in return for protracted economic and social enslavement?  That is what the “South African model” is about! Anyway if a South African model is needed when it comes to deciding on the future of Palestine why not then refer to the slogan of the Black Consciousness Movement and demand: "One Palestine, One Nation", one nation united in its own diversity, because founded on the recognition of equal rights for all its citizens?

Such a demand implies the end of partition and the foundation of a single secular and democratic state, without which — as everybody knows — the right to return can in no way be implemented. Let us debunk a generally accepted idea: it is not because of the fierce colonization of the West Bank that the formation of a single state can be evoked today. That demand can be found at the very beginning of the national liberation movement. For many Jewish and non Jewish activists and intellectuals it is nothing new. Such a prospect may well arouse the wrath of Zionists and of all the supporters of world order. And this can be easily understood since it amounts to a denial of their very existence.  But is there another solution founded on democracy and equal rights? Some might say disdainfully that a single state is utopian. Could they first make an honest assessment of what 60 years of a "realistic" policy have brought about?



[1] De quoi la Palestine est-elle le nom? [What is Palestine the name of ?] on : http://blog.mondediplo.net/2009-03-23-De-quoi-la-Palestine-est-elle-le-nom

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