Book review : A Common State between the River Jordan and the Sea, by Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan

by François Lazar (May 30, 2012)

The book A Common State between the River Jordan and the Sea, co-written by Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan, published by La Fabrique (in French only), is yet another contribution to the necessary critical discussion on the future of the State of Israel and Palestine. The two authors, one a writer and the other an Israeli filmmaker, have long been known for their serious and highly relevant work. Eric Hazan, the director of La Fabrique publishers, introduced French readers to fundamental critical works on Zionism, the authors of which (the names Norman Finkelstein, Amira Hass, Tanya Reinhart, Joseph Massad, Ilan Pappe and Edward Said come to mind),might not have been translated into French otherwise.

The book is concise, controversial and accompanied by a documentary film by Eyal Sivan entitled A Common State – a Potential Conversation. The work can but retain our attention, as much for the arguments it presents as for the serious issues posed by some of those arguments, which we will examine.

The Palestinian question, and more particularly its outcome, is the subject of a debate that is older than the proclamation of the State of Israel itself on May 14, 1948, which had been preceded several months earlier by the vote on the partitioning of Palestine by the General Assembly of the United Nations (November 29, 1947). The work briefly summarizes the conditions of the creation of the State of Israel.

The title of the first chapter, Sharing instead of Partitioning takes us into a semantic debate on words and their meaning. The authors defend the idea of sharing, arguing that the term defines a placing in common, contrary to the principal of partitioning which, according to them designates a cutting, a division. The definition given for to share in dictionaries, however, is not so categorical. Among different definitions for share can be found to make a share; to share a field (= dividing up, splitting up) of a country by its invaders (= breaking up); the sharing of booty, of stolen money Elsewhere in the dictionary, the term partition is defined as : the sharing of a country, of land or of territory (=the partitioning of Cyprus) Why should two terms that can be considered as synonyms be presented as being contrary/different? It is true that Palestinian activists often use the word sharing. Need the ambiguity be emphasized, or should it be left as is? The struggle for political freedom here has been a fight for the unification of rights, of assembly, of the reunification of the territories. Isn’t fighting against the partitioning - which is at the origin of all the ills that the populations living on the historical territory of Palestine are up against today, beginning with the Palestinian people themselves – in fact the same as demanding re-unification (implying the re-unification of families) rather than a sharing? This question will be the subject of a discussion at the end of the book; we shall come back to it.

The two authors then remind us, in detail, of the declarations that have been made by so many (from Netanyahu to Sharon, including the Zionist pacifist Uri Avneri and the leaders of Hamas and of the Palestinian Authority), claiming that the creation of a Palestinian State would be a necessity for there to be a common future for two free peoples. Going back over the history of this demand, Hazan and Sivan ask the predictable question: How can a consensus that is so general not come to be realized? The succession of dozens of peace plans has indeed come to nothing, except the steady worsening of the precariousness of the existence for the Palestinians, and the strengthening of the Israeli control over Palestinian land. In that sense, can we still today speak of partitioning, given the fact that the Israeli control is total? When they assert the two-State discourse, while convenient, cannot and will never lead to a real solution because (…) the partitioning of Palestine is simply not possible the two authors state the obvious. Let us pause to consider an odd evaluation. Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan consider that the partitioning (…) is not a solution but discourse. It is war-like discourse… Discourse? Yet Eric Hazan, the impassioned author of Notes sur l’occupation, knows the raw, physical reality, empressed in the flesh of a whole people, of the consequences of separation/segregation. It is no a democratic solution, but it is the solution that the Zionists have come up with to attempt to eradicate the entire Palestinian presence. We have got a deep divide in Palestine, and the reality of the Zionists, their solution – which endeavours towards a terrible impasse – is for a Palestine without Palestinians.

In clarifying their point of view on the inanity of partition, Hazan and Sivan develop the idea that can be found in many authors treating the question. Therefore, a single State does exist on the historical land of Palestine. What is called “occupied territory is actually a region of this State where military law rules over a majority of the (non-Jewish) population. This single State is not a common State because it defines itself as a Jewish State and not the State of all its citizens. It maintains the inequality and legal discrimination not only in the zones that it calls occupied territories but also over all the non-Jews inhabiting the country. This situation cannot be resolved by partitioning. The realistic solution is to change the present single State into a State common to all these citizens, free and equal before the law.”Pursuing, the authors note, through practical examples that separation and partitioning founded on ethnic and religious criteria are tantamount to arbitrary racism (although this term is not used to describe Zionism).

In whose interest is it to maintain the myth of two States?

The second chapter poses an essential question: In whose interest is it to maintain the myth of two States? The authors answer that there is a pragmatic, practical interest for the State of Israel to maintain a situation of temporary status quo where the discourse on the creation of a Palestinian State makes the military occupation, and thus the status of war, acceptable, which is a social and national cement indispensable to the cohesion of the Jewish State. Note the use of the expression Jewish State without inverted commas, as if it were a recognized fact. Many authors (Arno J. Mayer, Baruch Kimmerling, Ilan Pappe, etc.) have written on the incredibly large place occupied by the army in the Israeli society, noting, the Israeli military establishment is barely subject to civilian control(Arno J. Mayer). It should be emphasized here that what greatly dominates the leading circles of the Hebrew State is the Zionist ideology that is called revisionist – but which is actually but the logical evolution of Zionism.

After the State of Israel itself, the other party that also has an interest in maintaining the idea of two States is the Palestinian Authority. Can we consider – as do the authors – that the Oslo Agreement was supposed to be the beginning of the path to a Palestinian State? That agreement wrought the carving up of the West Bank into three zones of which one, essentially populated by Palestinians, saw the Israeli occupation forces replaced by Palestinian police – working on behalf of the Israelis. For the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, published by La Fabrique, the Oslo Accords were nothing more than a political and military arrangement meant to replace the Israeli occupation by another form of control. In 1991 – 1993, the two State idea, which would be further developed by George W. Bush’s Road Map in 2004, was not yet officially on the agenda and the Oslo Agreement does not refer to it. Shimon Peres, in the last decade, often recalled that neither he himself, as one of the negotiator’s of the accords, nor then-Prime Minister Rabin had committed to a possible Palestinian State. What was important then for the proponents of world order was to stop the first Intifada (which began in September 1987) and its popular committees. That said, the facts put together by Hazan and Sivan call up an undeniable consequence: For the Palestinian Authority, the myth of two States is (…) financial manna.

The book then expands on the interest that the western countries have in maintaining the two-State myth. First at stake is the issue of relations with the Arab and Muslim countries. The two authors note in the countries where there is a significant Arab minority, open support for the creation of a Palestinian State plays a role in the keeping of domestic peace. Would it not especially be a question of creating and maintaining a communitarianist division in order to ghetto-ize, to prevent the junction between all the components of a same social class… precisely on the Israeli model? That is something that need be discussed. The third element, the two-State discourse allows for the supporting of Israel as a country attached to peace in the region… Coming back to the idea that the Israelis share western values, Hazan and Sivan use a quotation from Netanyahu, speaking before the president of the European Parliament, to great effect: We are at the extreme point of European and western values, all the way to the Himalayan mountains. We are you! Just what these western values are – values that are thus opposed to the universal value of equality of rights – remains to be defined.

Chapter 3 then, logically, goes on to define what a State is. We will quickly see that the State proposed for the Palestinians is not a State like the others. For example, it would only regroup one-third of the Palestinian people; the other two-thirds remain outside… From a territorial point of view, Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan remind us that the negotiations only concern the 22% of historical Palestine occupied by the State of Israel since 1967. The authors specify that the Israeli colonies set up in the West Bank have already gnawed away 46% of the previously defined 22%. Furthermore, the West Bank has been divided into three cantons, themselves also split up. (Three cantons; we shall come back on this later.) All the descriptions of the West Bank, be they from the Zionists or their critics, show a territory integrated, used and in fact annexed, which the book tasks to demonstrate in the following pages. Finally, a State – even at the head of a string of territories – would be nothing without armed forces and the better part of the attributes of sovereignty… To conclude this chapter, Hazan and Sivan correctly point out that an ersatz Palestinian State is possible and it is even probable that such will come about. But even with all the gold in the world, even with the backing of the UN General Assembly, without the implementing of the right of return for the refugees – impracticable in the micro-State – such a constitution could not be made without the support of the broadest masses of the Palestinians. Everyone knows this. So, once again, there remains the option of repression.

The next chapter deals with the long term viability of a Jewish State, holding such a perspective as improbable, due to the extreme diversity of the populations living in this territory. The Jewish populations, whose culture, rites and traditions are very different, are only held together by the existence of a common enemy. The authors insist on this point: the state of war is the guarantor of national cohesion in Israel and, it should be added, of the economic prosperity that is a product of the security and weapons industries. It would moreover be more correct, according to us, to define the State of Israel negatively as a non-Arab State, founded notably on the discrimination against and the rejection of the Palestinian people, of which only a small fraction escaped the massive expulsions of 1948. The historian Benny Morris, known worldwide for having been the first – amongst the Israelis – to prove the existence of the massacres of 1948 – stated in the January 8, 2004 issue of Haaretz (corroborating that reality), In certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don’t think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands. (…)If he (Ben-Gurion) was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job. I know that this stuns the Arabs and the liberals and the politically correct types. But my feeling is that this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country – the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake. If he had carried out a full expulsion – rather than a partial one – he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations. Does this definition of the State of Israel need commenting?

In presenting the great diversity of its populations, Hazan and Sivan more than once characterize the Palestinians of the inside as Arabs or Israeli Palestinians, noting further on in arguments that are controversial their national belonging is of the Arab nation. There is not the least commentary on that expression, which allows for accepting that if there is an Arab nation then there can be a Jewish nation, whereas the arguments developed previously demonstrate the contrary. So here we see the progressive acceptance of the idea that the common State under discussion would be bi-national, i.e. founded on an ethnic recognition, based on the origins of each, the psychological problems of the other - and not on the equality of rights. Given the partition, given Zionist ideology, given the daily practice of Zionism in Palestine, how can the State of Israel not be defined as being colonial racist, gorged with powerful economic interests, which our authors – and it is indeed their right – do not do? A last element on the diversity of Israel: in the army, half of the officers are religious and of colonial origin, and the proportion is even higher amongst the commandos and the combat units (…) for them, the enemy is the Palestinian. The Jewish State – without the inverted commas has recently taken a content rarely evoked, through the voice of the former head of Israel secret services, Yval Diskin: explaining that he has no confidence in either the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister, he specified I give no credence to leaders who base their decisions on messianic sentiments. We shall leave Diskin to manage his own contradictions, and come back to the book. In this chapter, Sivan and Hazan emphasize the impossibility of an enduring Jewish State, all the while considering it could remain in force for the middle term. Thus today there is indeed a Jewish State? Doesn’t saying that make the authoritative amalgamation between Judaism and Zionism and recognize a national legitimacy of that State? The Jewish State is but a denomination usurped by the State of Israel, an artificial construction that has used the suffering of the European Jewish populations surviving the Nazi terror to respond to the convergent interests of American imperialism and Stalinist bureaucracy, carried by Zionism.

The two next chapters, entitled The arguments against the common State: truth and fiction and The idea of a common State was not pulled out of a hat exhaustively review the arguments developed by those who oppose an end to partitioning. (Again, the idea that in reality there has been no partitioning since 1967 should be developed). Hazan and Sivan dismiss out of hand that the term destruction, which obviously refers to the destruction of Jews in Europe, is to be eliminated as it implicitly establishes a lumping together of the Jewish State and the Jews. The assertion of the right of return is itself frequently taxed with being anti-Semitic. Need it then necessarily be withdrawn? Can there be a solution to the problem of the refugees in the framework of the State of Israel? And what is it that is shocking in the challenging of the institutions of that State? There is a shameful lumping together of the Jewish people and the Zionist State. We know – heavily, oppressively, threateningly – that any criticism of Israeli policy may be called anti-Semitism – in short, Nazism! Must this intellectual diktat really be accepted? How does the destruction of reactionary and racist institutions mean the destruction of populations who live in this country? The destruction of the Salazar State in Portugal and the combat to destroy the Apartheid State in South Africa do not mean the destruction of the populations. As much as it is admitted that this amalgamating in the State of Israel is oppressive, can’t we admit to what extent the destruction of such institutions would be a liberation for the Jewish populations of the whole world, prisoners that they are of this yoke – both physical and intellectual – that has turned the victims of yesterday into the guarantors, in spite of themselves, of the oppressors?

Hazan and Sivan beat around this question and yet manage to carefully avoid it. Page 38 of the book marks the place where our disagreement is fundamental, particularly with the assertion: the end of Jewish State sovereignty (…) does not in the least imply the end of the Judeo-Israeli civilization, an undisputable reality which was built all throughout the 20th century. The surprised reader will find here no definition of that Judeo-Israeli civilization and even less a demonstration that it is an undisputable reality. How to describe this civilization, which has not even led to the creation of a culture all its own? Again, this is the underlying idea of the book coming back in the front door; here, the term State is no longer in vogue, there it is the word nation (we will come back to that) and yet again, long live civilization! The State of Israel is impregnated with American culture, ideology of western origin and… eastern food. A recent Israeli film, Policeman by Nadav Lapid is a bleak illustration of the dead-end that a society that is supposed to be civilized has come to. The first scene of the movie shows a group of Israeli policemen, mountain-biking up a hill in the West Bank and stopping to overlook a magnificent view of the Dead Sea. One of them exclaims: We really do have the most beautiful country in the world. The last scene is a young Jewish Israeli lying on the ground, shot in the head by a policeman who is standing looking down on her. You can see on-coming death in the fear in her eyes. A young woman who was lost and floundering, she had committed a terrorist act against a group of Israeli businessmen. She symbolizes the complete dead-end of a society without hope, without a future… in the most beautiful country in the world

confusing right of return and return.

On another point of disagreement, the next paragraph brings up a second ambiguity, that of confusing right of return and return. Here we are. Hazan and Sivan specify: Recognition the right of return does not mean the physical return of all the refugees, but recognition of the wrong suffered in 1948, acceptance of Zionism’s responsibility in the Palestinian exodus (…). Let us stop there. Who said that recognition of the right of return does not mean return? Not the 4,000,000 refugees who have been living in camps for two or three generations. The text goes on: (…) For sixty years, a great part of the Palestinians live outside the country: for them, the right of return is important but it does not mean that all of them wish to go back (…). The right of return is important? Isn’t it the basic element, the crucible of the national Palestinian movement that has always been the fundamental movement organized by the refugees who wish to go home? If they don’t want to go back, as proclaim their self-designated spokespersons, what do they want? To become Jordanians, to become Lebanese, to become Syrians? And the 700,000 refugees living in the West Bank, and the million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, what do they want? Concluding this paragraph, the authors specify, to follow up that previous quotation: – no more than the law of return for the Jewish made all the Jews of the diaspora come back to Israel. Is that supposed to be second-degree? How can anyone claim to defend the democratic rights of the Palestinian people and make an equal comparison between the refugees right of return and the Jewish right of return which was simply invented by Zionism in contrast with the historical movement of the Jewish people throughout the world seeking to benefit from the same rights as the populations of the countries where they are living? Demanding the right of return of the Palestinians is a profoundly national and democratic demand. The right of return of the Jewish people is a product of colonialism. Go tell the American Jewish that they are refugees. So, Palestinian refugees who demand their right of return would be the problem. Like haunting ghosts, they prevent peace and tranquillity to the State of Israel, who asks for nothing more.

Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan have broadly demonstrated that there already exist, in all the aspects of day-to-day life, – in a more or less in embryotic form– the elements of a future society founded on the equality of rights. But the book is hard reading, given that, as we mentioned earlier the quality critical analysis keeps coming up against questionable affirmations and dubious shortcuts. Thus it is asserted it was the policy of separation established by the Oslo Accords that turned the Israelis into settlers and soldiers, in the eyes of a part of the Palestinian youth. The policy of separation was not established by the Oslo Agreement but voted by the Assembly General of the UN in 1947! And we could go all the way back to the Balfour Declaration on this point. The Israelis, and the Zionist before them, have been settlers, not since 1967 but since the foundation of the Hebrew State. And what is to be said of the First Intifada? Wasn’t its breaking out in September of 1987 already triggered by the settlement policy? Later on, the authors refer to the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war, claiming, the presence of a national liberation army, using Lebanon as the base of resistance against Israel, destabilized the country (…). There were no massive worker strikes in Lebanon in 1975, no provocation from Christian Fascist militia backed by France? Palestinian organizations took up the cause of the Lebanese working class and they were punished for it. They were pro-western militia and Syria who intervened militarily at the joint request of the USSR and the USA, who destabilized Lebanon (unless a counter-revolutionary action can be considered as re-establishing stability)! The authors then speak of separating religion and politics once and for all, but the term secular is never mentioned. The chapter finishes with quotations from Zionist leaders aware of the narrow link between maintaining the perspective of a two-State solution and the very existence of the State of Israel.

The book comes back on the history of a demand for a single State. The long quote from Lord Montagu, Jewish and British like the other British, at one time Secretary of State to India, is to be appreciated. After the Balfour Declaration, characterizing the Zionist project as a mischievous political creed, he notably stated I do not know what (a national home for the Jewish people) involves, but I assume that it means that Mohammedans and Christians are to make way for the Jews (…) that Jews will hereafter be treated as foreigners in every country but Palestine ... and that Palestine will become the world's ghetto. Let us appreciate the clairvoyance of a Montagu, British and member of the cabinet. Quoting the Brit Shalom association, which defends the idea of a bi-national State, our authors note “Brit Shalom can be said to be Zionist to the extent that it recognizes the existence of a Jewish national identity. Quite correct. What is to be said of those who recognize a Judeo-Israeli civilization? Let us also note the declaration of the American Jewish Council, published in the New York Times of August 31, 1943 (…) We would like the establishing of a democratic and autonomous government in Palestine, where the Jewish, Muslims and Christians are equally represented; where each person may enjoy equal rights and share equal responsibilities, where our Jewish brothers are free Palestinians whose religion is Judaism, the same as we Americans have Judaism as religion. Describing the Jews of Palestine as Palestinians who are Jewish is interesting. We are far from Zionist exclusivity.

A critical analysis of this part would necessitate yet another article. What separates the Jews and the Arabs is not an acid-filled Grand Canyon. Rather it is something political and heavily ideological. Resolving the conflict would mean recognition of the fact that there are expropriators on one side and the expropriated on the other. Furthermore, as the Palestinian militant Ghassan Kanafani said, the roads to the liberation of Palestinian passes through Cairo and Bagdad, Damascus, Amman, Ryad and, let us add, Washington. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not local because the State of Israel’s taking hostage of those who claim to follow Judaism – as we have seen – is but an instrument of the American Middle East policy… even if this instrument may act in accordance with its own logics of survival. The authors take the time to unravel the historical position of the PLO, demanding a secular and democratic State and they consider that the weak point of this proposition is the considering of the citizens of that State on a religious basis and that renders the Palestinian proposition inaudible, internationally and particularly for the Israelis. That is a curious truncating of the argument. The Palestinian position defends a secular Palestine in which all its components – qualified against their own will as being religious – would have the same rights. Secularity implies that the religious sphere be relegated to the private domain. From this point of view, secularity is a step forward in the political and social emancipation of the populations who demand it. Relegating religion to the private sphere tends among other things to stand in the way of the established order or to seek a new balance of power with that established order. Is that what would render this proposition internationally inaudible – i.e. to the ears of the proponents of world order? The official Palestinian position will evolve, but the foundations are still there. The authors discuss about the correct language: Two-State? Single-State? For them, taking Edward Said as the moral authority, it is therefore the notion of sharing that is essential. Further on, they propose putting aside the idea of “nation which has done harm enough – and moreover we could say the same for State and speak instead of a common country. The above quote does not allow for making a distinction between an oppressed, colonized nation and a nation that oppresses. Furthermore, need it be reminded that the current period in the Middle East has been marked by the American plan for the Greater Middle East, one of the tools for which includes the destruction, breaking up and partitioning of nations (as witnessed in Iraq, Sudan, the Sahel and the projects for Syria). In the same sentence, the authors suggest replacing State with country. Would that be a country without a State? Functioning perhaps on the principle of subsidiarity? In the same vein, Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan mention what is called the Olga Appeal, co-written with Michel Warshawski in June 2004. This appeal states, on one hand, The recognition of the right of return follows from our principles. Very well – unless it is, as we saw earlier, the right of return without real return. Several lines further, the same document reads: Is it necessary to know at this stage what the physical form of the future shared existence will be - Two States or not? Perhaps a confederation, perhaps a federation? What about the canton solution? Without questioning the sincerity of most of the Jewish Israeli endorsers of the Olga Appeal, it only mentions solutions that involve the maintaining of the partitioning: two States, as we have said; a confederation still implying the sovereignty of each of its parties; a federation also implying two state-like entities. As for the canton solution, that conjures up the present reality in the West Bank, it conjures up ex-Yugoslavia torn to pieces by civil war and it, too, results from the recognition of several States. Here is the Olga Appeal bringing us up-to-date: progress or another velvet-lined trap? As Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan remind us, the debate on the solutions and the definition of the State that will end the partitioning of Palestine has never been so rich, so complex and so necessary… and also so – voluntarily? – blurred.

We come to the conclusion of the book, contained in seven theses on the common State. They summarize the essential demonstration made by the authors, establishing an insurmountable fact: the profound unity of a land, the interweaving of the populations living there. The denying of that reality will lead to the long-term ruin of any project, no matter how powerful those supporting it. The second thesis of the book returns to the recommendations of the Olga Appeal, presenting four possible choices for the mode of political organization of the common State, be it bi-national, federated, cantonal or confederated. In this referendum, there is no box for a single, democratic, secular State, the choice which is to be made by the people of that State, as the authors specify. It is thus a limited choice. In their 4th thesis, Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan recommend common efforts, as the common State would imply that the Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish Israelis (how far we are from the American Jewish Council declaration of 1943! – ed.) abandon the tired old dream of a Nation-State. Tired old dream? Are the authors speaking for themselves? Wouldn’t the common State imply a common fight for a same State, a same nation in which all the components would have the same rights? Anyone is free to describe a historical process as a tired old dream. Further on, the mention of this common fight makes a direct reference to the necessity of an organization comparable to the South-African ANC where Jews, Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians will fight together in equality. There were few whites in the South African ANC, but that is not the question. The equality we are talking about here is still that same legal equality that, formally, exists in South Africa today, where the blacks – whose poverty has not ceased to increase over the Past 20 years – now have the right to use the same beaches as the whites – who hold the economic reins of the country. We are also far from Ilan Pappe, who concluded his book entitled A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples as follows: For any political peace initiative to succeed, the chapter of Palestine’s dispossession needs to be closed. Recognizing the very act of dispossession – by accepting in principle the Palestinian refugees’ right of return – could be the crucial act that opens the gate to the road out of the conflict. A direct dialogue between the dispossessed and the state that expelled them can refresh the discourse of peace and may lead people and leaderships alike to acknowledge the need to seek a united political structure which, at different historical junctures in this story, has seemed possible.

Thesis number 6 will reassure the liberal democrats: The common State is not meant to resolve all the issues of society, or in particular to put an end to class struggle. In this State, founded on the recognition of a Judeo-Israeli civilization legal equality will thus be engraved above the entrances to public buildings. The common State thus presented will have settled the question of the right of return – which, may we emphasize, is not mentioned in the theses – in each of the countries where the Palestinians of the Diaspora are currently living! The demand for the equality of rights is limited to the legal realm if it is not associated with the demand for the right of return, which carries in itself the question of the expropriation of the expropriators. The Class struggle will therefore go on. But how is the class struggle on the historical territory of Palestine described? The political upheaval that will lead to the reunification of Palestine and the establishing of equal rights will be nothing but an expression of an international class struggle, beginning with that which will develop in the United States itself. Moreover, the exploited Israelis are not exploited in the same conditions as the Palestinians, because they benefit from the profits and advantages of the colonization and the pillage of Palestine. Has the essential framework of the exploitation and the oppression of one class by another nothing to do with the partitioning itself? A common State poses the question of the ownership of the land. In this framework, doesn’t the division of the class struggle pit the partisans of partitioning, in other words, the destruction of the Palestinian nation, against the partisans of reunification?

The last sentence of Eric Hazan and Eyal Sivan’s book is a quotation from Karl Marx’s The Jewish Question: political emancipation is only the first step on the road to human emancipation. Reading what came previously, the human emancipation of the Palestinians would be to recognize their having the equivalent rights of their oppressors. Quoting Marx is indeed useful, but it is necessarily to quote in the full. In his book, Marx develops the conditions for the achieving of human emancipation, considering that political emancipation is a condition for that and that it is the transition of religion into the realm of private law that marks the completion of political emancipation. In the case of the State of Israel, that would mean cantoning religion to the private sphere, i.e. creating a secular State, the incontrovertible prior necessity for any form of social emancipation. Marx emphasizes the point: Political emancipation certainly represents a great progress. It is not, indeed, the final form of human emancipation, but it is the final form of human emancipation within the framework of the prevailing social order. It goes without saying that we are speaking here of real, practical emancipation. This practical point of view necessarily means the affirming of the present-day right of return and the creation of a single secular and democratic State in which all its components - Arabic, Jewish, Christian - will have the same rights.

An expression of the complexity of the debate as well as of its pitfalls, A Common State between the River Jordan and the Sea is a book to be read by all those seeking to forge a critical analysis of the Palestinian issue. As for Eyal Sivan’s film, presenting witness from activists who are either political or members of various associations, from both Jewish and Arab intellectuals, it is excellent.

From DIALOGUE REVIEW ( www.dialogue-review.com )