Liberal Zionism

Setting aside for a moment the argument of whether dividing historic Palestine into two states was ever a good idea, clearly forty years ago it was a viable solution. Today as liberal Zionist Jews and others call for this solution, it is a sad and pathetic sight.
In 1967, after the IDF completed the conquest of Palestine, great men like Dr. Nahum Goldman, Dr. Yishayahu Leibovitch, General Dr. Matti Peled and other prominent Jews called for the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. However, Jews in Israel, America and elsewhere around the world were basking in the messianic glow of the conquest of historic Israel, bewitched by the sounds of biblical names now made accessible.  Names like Hebron and Bethlehem, Shilo and Bet El, all of which who were now within reach drove everyone, including secular liberal Jews to believe that there is a God and that he was really on their side.
Never mind that a solution whereby half of the population receives barely 20 percent of its historic homeland while the remaining half receives the rest had little chance of success to begin with. Now the West Bank is riddled with towns and malls and highways built on Palestinian land for Jews only and Israeli cabinet members openly discuss population transfers, or rather transfer of its non-Jewish population.  The level of oppression and the intensity of the violence against Palestinians has reached new heights and so the questions that begs to be asked are: who exactly will allow Palestinians to establish their mini state? and where will this state exist? If there is any doubt in anyone’s mind, Israel has no intentions of ever letting go of any part of historic Israel.
Discussing the two state solution now under these conditions shows an acute inability to accept reality. As one learns about the history of the Zionist movement and the early years of the state of Israel one will understand that parting with any portion of historic Israel is not something Israel will ever do.  Liberal Jews in the US (see J Street) and in Israel (see the Zionist liberals like David Grossman who recently received a peace award in Germany) all of a sudden realized that there was a problem. They all claim that the solution is partition and segregation via the creation of a tiny and impotent state for the Arabs of Palestine.  They do claim that Israel must be reprimanded for its treatment of Palestinians and they even condemn the siege on Gaza.  These are commendable statements coming from Zionists anywhere particularly in the US where criticizing Israel is a mortal sin, but this is just talk.
There is an illusion that a liberal, forward thinking government can rise in Israel and then everything will be just as liberal Zionists wish it to be.  They will pick up where Rabin and Arafat left off and we will have the pie in sky Jewish democracy liberal Jews want so much to see in Israel. This illusion is shared by American Jews, liberal Zionists in Israel and around the world and in the West where guilt of two millennia of persecuting Jews still haunts the conscience of many.  If only there were better leaders and if only this and if only that… But alas, reality continues to slap everyone in the face: Zionism and peace are incompatible. I will say it again: Zionism is incompatible with peace.
A serious study of the history of modern Israel will show that the emergence of Netanyahu and Lieberman was perfectly predictable. They are the natural successors of David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin.  As one looks at the political map in Israel one can see that future Zionist leaders, be they from Labor, Likud, Meretz or the religious nationals, will be no different and offer no change.  The problem is Zionism and the solution is dismantling the Zionist framework and instituting a secular democracy that does not discriminate between Israelis and Palestinians. In other words, no one nation will rule over the other but the rule of law will govern everyone equally.
Zionism has created a state that wants nothing to do with peace or reconciliation.  The problem is not Benjamin Netanyahu and Lieberman and the solution is not Yossi Beilin or David Grossman who represent the Zionist liberals.  The problem is that the basic premise on which the Jewish state was founded, Zionism, is flawed.

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THE ANSWERS HAVE CHANGED by Miko Peled

It is said of Albert Einstein that he gave a particular exam to a class that had already been given that exam.  Alarmed at what he saw and thinking it to be the result of the professor’s absent-mindedness, an assistant warned Einstein of what he was about to do.  The Professor just smiled and said: It’s alright the answers have changed. The same thing goes for the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the questions remain the same but now sixty years after the establishment of the Jewish State, the answers have changed.

Until about ten years ago the answer to the question of how to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East was clear: Allowing the Palestinians to establish a free, independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel. But this answer known as the “Two State Solution” belongs to a reality that no longer exists. Today, after 40 years of occupation the West Bank is riddled with settlements and highways designated for Jews only; Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza are imprisoned within a wall, impoverished and starved and there is no political will within Israel to partition the land of Israel and allow Palestinian independence – all of which indicate that clearly the answers have changed.

So what is the answer to this very difficult question? Ten million people reside between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  Approximately 5.5 million Jewish Israelis and 4.5 million Palestinians, all ruled by the state of Israel, the Jewish State.  The conditions under which Palestinians live range between being third class citizens within Israel, and living under a military occupation with no representation, no human rights and no civil rights.  Clearly this cannot go on forever and at some point Israel will be forced to grant the Palestinians equal rights. What remains to be seen is whether this will come as a result of intense violence and bloodshed or a negotiated agreement.

Two books that have come out in recent months are relevant to this conflict and both of them demonstrate that there is a tremendous amount of change in the air. The first book that has received a great deal of attention is “Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid” by former US President and staunch Israel supporter, Jimmy Carter.  This book has opened the door for the first time for a serious debate in the US regarding the Palestinian tragedy. In a development that is almost unparalleled, a former US President characterizes Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza as apartheid. Since the book came out the debate has indeed been intense and there are no signs that this will change any time soon.

The second book is “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Israeli historian Illan Pappe. Categorizing the destruction of Palestine in the years 1947-1949 as ethnic cleansing is not new perhaps but it is worthy of mention because it is becoming more widely accepted. Pappe’s book, difficult though it is due to its detailed accounts, provides an opportunity for an in-depth study of the destruction of the Palestinian people and their homeland at the hands of the Jewish forces during the Israeli War of Independence.  What might come as news to many Jewish people around the world and to many non Jewish Israel supporters is that it was in the aftermath of this campaign of ethnic cleansing that the State of Israel was established upon the ruins of Palestine.

What becomes apparent from reading the two books is that what Carter describes is congruent with what is described in Pappe’s book. In other words, current Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is an extension of the ethnic cleansing policies of the early years of the conflict.

One may argue over details in both Carter’s book and Pappe’s book, but one cannot argue with the facts that the books describe:  Between the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1949, a time that Israel calls the War of Independence, close to 800,000 Palestinians were forced into exile and Palestinian identity in Palestine was almost entirely wiped out.  Today, Israel continues to deny Palestinian identity, not to mention Palestinian independence both within the boundaries of the State of Israel and within the occupied territories.

One possible answer to the difficult question of the Israeli Palestinian conflict could be drawn from the fact that Israel, by ruling over two nations is already a bi-national state.  The solution could be to replace the current system whereby only Israeli Jews enjoy the freedoms and rights of full citizenry, with one that will allow Palestinians to enjoy those rights as well.  This will create a fully democratic state in which both Israelis and Palestinians live as equals, protected by a constitution that allows both people to express their national, religious and cultural identities.

This option of a constitutional democracy that includes both Israeli Jews and Palestinians under one state is without a doubt one of the more difficult answers. After 2000 years in exile and having survived the Nazi holocaust, the Jewish people rose from the ashes like the phoenix to create a state they can call their own. Now it seems that securing the future of the people of Israel in the land of Israel will require not only vision but also genuine political compromise.

Bringing an end to the Israeli Palestinian conflict demands a serious look into the events that took place between the years 1947 and 2007:  The State of Israel was created at the expense of another nation.  The choice today is to fight until the last drop of blood has been shed, or to recognize the need to establish a political framework that will allow both people to live together in peace.

Miko Peled is an Israeli living in San Diego. He is the son of Israeli General Matityahu Peled.

Benjamin Netanyahou, premier ministre d’Israël déclarait ces derniers temps, « Ce qu’il nous faut pour résoudre ces problèmes complexes [pour aboutir à la paix], c’est une façon de penser nouvelle et créatrice ». Netanyahou n’a jamais eu autant raison.

Les pourparlers de paix dans le Moyen Orient sont voués à l’échec tout comme ceux qui les ont précédés, car ils prennent pour point de départ le même principe de base faussé qui empêche d’apporter une solution au conflit. La proposition de solution se fonde sur un partage inégal de la terre. Les juifs israéliens qui forment 50% de la population, recevraient au moins 78 pour cent du territoire – probablement plus – alors que les Palestiniens qui forment l’autre moitié de la population se verraient alloués ce qui reste.

Durant les 100 années qui viennent de s’écouler, d’innombrables tentatives ont été faites pour résoudre le conflit Israélo-Palestinien par les voies du partage du territoire. Elles ont toutes échoué. Actuellement, avec les Israéliens qui vivent à leur aise sur l’ensemble du territoire, y compris dans la majeure partie de la Cisjordanie, il n’y a pas de raison d’espérer que la tentative en cours aura plus de succès. Au contraire, on peut s’attendre à ce que toute nouvelle tentative de partage du territoire soit vouée à l’échec.

Cette solution des deux États, considérée à tort comme la seule possible, est fondée sur le discours sioniste qui veut que les Juifs d’Israël ont davantage droit à cette terre que les Palestiniens. L’état de choses actuel en Palestine/Israël est le suivant: il y a 10 millions de personnes administrées par l’Etat d’Israël mais les lois qui les régissent sont différentes. Les Juifs d’Israël jouissent de la démocratie et de la liberté, les Palestiniens, citoyens d’Israël, doivent se contenter de droits restreints à l’intérieur d’Israël, les Palestiniens de Cisjordanie souffrent d’un système de dualité de pouvoirs alors que ceux de Gaza sont enfermés dans une prison à ciel ouvert qui est totalement contrôlée par Israël.

Les soldats israéliens ont le droit d’emprisonner ou de tuer les Palestiniens selon leur bon vouloir et cela sans jugement. De plus, Israël peut facilement confisquer les terres et les autres biens des Palestiniens. Pour tout recours, les Palestiniens dépouillés de leurs biens ou de leurs droits fondamentaux ne peuvent s’adresser qu’à un tribunal irrégulier qui, dans l’ensemble, se contente d’approuver les actions des militaires et du gouvernement. Le droit international est inopérant.

Israël a de nombreuses fois fait clairement connaître sa position sur les principaux problèmes du conflit : non, non, non et non. Israël ne cessera jamais d’implanter des colonies, Israël ne partagera jamais Jérusalem, Israël ne permettra jamais aux réfugiés palestiniens de revenir dans leur patrie et Israël ne reviendra jamais aux frontières d’avant 1967. En d’autres termes, Israël rejette les demandes palestiniennes – ainsi que les obligations du droit international – sans lesquelles un État libre et indépendant ne peut s’instaurer.

Les dirigeants arabes qui soutiennent les pourparlers en cours et qui se sont rendus à Washington la semaine dernière reçoivent des milliards de dollars des fonds d’aide américains aux pays étrangers. Assurément, ils ne peuvent se permettre de contredire le Président des Etats Unis. De même, le Président palestinien Mahmoud Abbas, qui était aux premières loges pour voir la manière dont son prédécesseur a été trainé dans la boue et ensuite assiégé alors que les tanks israéliens s’emparaient du siège du gouvernement palestinien à Ramallah, ne peut qu’accepter les lourdes exigences d’Israël et des Etats Unis.

On assimile souvent l’Autorité Palestinienne à un gouvernement – il y a un Premier Ministre, un parlement et un Président – mais en fait, son autorité se borne à celle que peut avoir un conseil municipal. L’Autorité Palestinienne exerce un pouvoir très limité et on lui permet de gouverner de manière très restreinte. C’est Israël qui essentiellement exerce son pouvoir de véto.

Netanyahou avait raison quand il disait que le temps était venu de penser de façon nouvelle et créatrice, mais ses mises en garde contre un État palestinien réduisent tout cela à néant dès le départ. Il est temps de rejeter le principe des deux États.

Puisque les deux peuples ont en commun une terre que tous deux revendiquent comme leur patrie, leurs destins sont liés. Il faut qu’ils envisagent leur avenir comme des égaux. Comme les Israéliens et les Palestiniens sont déjà dans une large mesure administrés par un gouvernement et un État, il est temps que leurs voix puissent se faire entendre à égalité dans ce gouvernement et qu’ils puissent parler à égalité pour décider de leur avenir commun. Un État commun qui donnerait des droits égaux et une protection égale devant la loi à tous ceux qui vivent à l’intérieur de ses frontières est la seule façon pour les deux peuples d’avoir la paix et la prospérité.

La solution des deux États est dépassée, tuée par des décennies d’une activité visant à installer des colonies inamovibles. Une démocratie pluraliste, laïque sur toute le territoire d’Israël/Palestine, sans partition ni ségrégation, sera source de créativité et de coopération et permettra aux Israéliens et aux Palestiniens d’avancer vers un meilleur avenir. Ce qui a fonctionné en Afrique du Sud et dans le Sud de l’Amérique où la ségrégation a pris fin peut fonctionner aussi bien en Israël/Palestine.

THEY LIKE TO CALL IT A WAR

By Miko Peled

48 hours after I landed the reality of this land, a land that people like to call holy, began taking its toll on me. The movie “Boy In Stripped Pajamas” came to mind as I played with my kids in the pool of Kibbutz Zikkim, a beautiful pastoral little kibbutz or agricultural commune, is on the Mediterranean coast just a stone’s throw from Gaza to the north. The narrative in the movie describes the innocent German boy by the name of Bruno growing up across the fence from concentration camp. The German boy whose father is the commander of the camp is completely oblivious to the reality beyond the fence and is forbidden by his mother from exploring the backyard. But while Bruno’s mother naïvely believes the “farm” to be an internment camp, her husband has sworn under oath never to reveal that it is in fact an extermination camp specifically designed to help the Nazis achieve their horrific “Final Solution.” Eventually defying his mother’s rules and venturing out beyond the backyard, Bruno arrives at a barbed wire fence to find a young boy just his age emptying rubble from a wheel barrel. That boy, obviously a prisoner at the camp was wears a stripped pajama.

For israelis this narrative is a frightening one, but sadly they have plunged themselves into a reality where this narrative is being re played but with a new cast. This time Israelis are living across the fence from Gaza, but unlike the German family in the movie they are not oblivious to what goes on in the camp. For the most part Israelis are not only aware of the horrors that take place in the concentration camp near them, they see it as justified.

It’s only been about six months since my last visit here, just as Israel was preparing to launch its latest sadistic terror attack on the civilian population of Gaza, a population whose average age is 15.5, a population of innocent children. I visited Zikkim then because after all, it is the home of my in-laws, the place where my wife was born and raised.

In this chauvinistic state created by my forefathers the terror attack on Gaza is called a war. It is much easier that way for the consciences to bear. After all, fighting an enemy that possess tanks and war planes, artillery and sophisticated weapons, smart bombs and air to air missiles, along with anti aircraft and anti tank weapons is a great deal more heroic than to massacre innocent children, women and men who are defenseless, have no means of escape and no means of fighting back. But of course the reality is that the Israeli army, that sadistic military force that has made a name for itself over the last sixty years as a force to be reckoned with, is in fact no more than a shameless army of cowards lead by a junta of brutal, sadistic racists.

Instead of the patronizing call we constantly hear for a “Palestinian Gandhi” one would hope to see the emergence of international support for a Palestinian Patrick Henry. The call “Give me liberty or give me death” awakens strong emotions even today, more than 320 yeas after Patrick Henry gave the speech that crystallized perhaps more than any the American colonies call for independence from the English crown.

There has never been, not is it likely that an occupying power will ever relinquish its domination willingly. Israel is not different. Not only is Israel not likely to end its iron rule over Palestine and its people, it is placing all of its effort to make Greater Israel a permanent and irreversible reality. So while Patrick Henry’s was a call for arms, in the case of the Palestinian struggle the call should be for a more sophisticated and more effective national struggle.

There is nothing Israel likes better than a military confrontation, and the Israeli “security” forces go out of their way to blame Palestinian for initiating violence so as to justify their own brutality. But a violent struggle only helps the oppressor and it is in fact a statement of despair.

Three clear goals struggle on which the struggle would do well to focus could be as follows:

1. Granting all Palestinians full equal rights with Israelis.
2. Granting Palestinians unrestricted freedom of movement within Israel/Palestine.
3. Reigning in the Israeli forces and withdrawing them of from population centers.

Until these conditions are met, Palestinians have no reason to negotiate or cooperate with the Israeli authorities. Until they are met there needs to be a concerted effort to isolate Israel, and to initiate a struggle that defies its laws and undermines it authority. Israel profits greatly from Palestinians who are forced to apply and pay for permits and licenses; Israel profits from Palestinians who are forced to buy Israeli products. Haaretz newspaper recently reported on the huge profits that Israeli farmers and government agents make as a result of the siege imposed on Gaza. An effort can focus on the idea, also made famous during the American Revolution that there can be “no taxation without representation” calling for defiance of the Israeli authorities and boycott of Israeli products and goods.

Those who still believe in a negotiated settlement with Israel on the basis of two states should read the following lines from Patrick Henry’s famous speech: “It is natural for men to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth…Are we disposed to be of the number of those who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not…”

In the long run, the best possible outcome for Israelis and Palestinians is a pluralistic democracy where people’s rights are protected by a constitution and the rule of law. Israelis and Palestinians, by virtue of their sharing a homeland are fellow countrymen. As such they are deserving of the same rights and share the same responsibilities. Their first responsibility is to engage in a struggle to bring an end to the apartheid regime that holds them both in a seemingly endless struggle, and to cooperate as equals for a better future.
Jerusalem, August, 2009.

LESSONS FROM OBAMA’S VICTORY By Miko Peled

 

Besides restoring my faith in humanity, Barak Obama’s victory made me think of one thing: The first Palestinian Prime Minister in a post Zionist, secular, democratic state in Palestine/Israel.   This may sound strange coming from an Israeli living in America, but just as Obama is good for black and white Americans, a Palestinian prime minister in a secular democracy will be good for Israelis as well as Palestinians. If it can happen in the US it can happen in the holy land. On January 20, an African American by the name of Barak Hussein Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States. This is a milestone if ever there was one, and there are many lessons to be learned from it. At the same time, this does not mean that we should expect that an Obama administration will offer anything new as far as US policy towards Israel and the Palestinians.

 

One lesson we need to take from Barak Obama’s victory is this: With razor sharp focus on a single issue, driven home here in America and in our shared homeland, we can achieve equal rights between Israelis and Palestinians in all of Palestine/Israel.  The message has to be: End the apartheid.  The term occupation has become irrelevant because it has come to imply a temporary situation and the Zionist rule of Palestine is clearly not temporary. The message and the effort need no longer focus on a tiny, helpless Palestinian state living peacefully alongside an all-powerful Israel that is armed to its teeth; that possibility has been obliterated for good anyway.  The message and the effort should be focused on ending apartheid and a call for equal rights.

 

It would be naïve to assume that an Obama administration will turn away from years of US blind support for Israel.  Sure, it would be ideal for President Obama to ask former President Jimmy Carter to be his special envoy to Israel/Palestine, but that is not likely to happen. In all likelihood there will be a return to the policies of the Clinton years, policies that may have had good intentions but lead to more of the same. The reason these policies failed and will fail again is that they do not recognize the problem for what it really is, namely the existence of an apartheid regime over Israel/Palestine.

 

If the last 40 years have taught us anything it is that as long as the basic premise for a solution remains partition and is not divorced from the Zionist notion of a big Jewish state next to a small Palestinian state, there can be no resolution. At this point there is no reason to expect change in American policy on the basic premise, not even from President Barak Obama.  However, if the point is driven home with enough zeal, an Obama administration and the American public being sensitive to racial, ethnic and religious discrimination will eventually be forced to re examine support for a country that practices discrimination.

 

The issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel is one that needs to be re examined if we strive to move toward democracy and reconciliation.  It is one of the claims Israel used to discredit the leadership of the late Yasser Arafat and uses now to discredit Hammas and interestingly, the US uses this same claim to discredit Iran.  But a close examination will show that on this issue there is little for which Hammas can be blamed.

 

Expecting Palestinians to accept the rights of an exclusively Jewish state is, plain and simple, stupid. The Jewish state has an insatiable appetite for Palestinian land, it imprisons and forces millions of Palestinians to live in exile and poverty, making the demand for acceptance by Palestinians clearly outrageous.   For nearly thirty years Arafat and his successors have bent over backwards to show that they accept the existence of an exclusively Jewish state, even as that very state continued to oppress and imprison Palestinian people and disposes them of their land. Palestinian leaders have done everything they possibly could to appease one Zionist government after another in order to gain some headway, but alas they received little in return for their efforts.

 

Hammas leaders refuse to recognize and accept the existence of the State of Israel, but can one really blame them? Israel has to date refused to define its own borders and its own character (A Jewish State? A Democracy? An ethnocracy? A theocracy?) But however Israel may choose to see itself, it is without a doubt a bi national state that practices discrimination along ethnic and religious lines.  Furthermore, the Jewish state does not recognize Palestinian national rights and aspirations, and it acts with great determination to undermine the basic human and civil rights of Palestinians.

 

In many ways, the comparison between blacks in America and Palestinians is Israel/Palestine is an appropriate one.  The struggle of African Americans to achieve equality under the law and then their struggle to see that the equality is in fact being enacted is inspiring and can be copied; the non violent nature of their struggle, the moral high ground maintained by African American leaders, their spiritualism and their activism are all good models to emulate. 

 

Palestinians in their homeland and abroad have always been educated, hard working and ethically and morally outstanding citizens.  The fine qualities of Palestinians as a community and as a nation have been masked by a campaign that intentionally focuses on a militant minority that has embraced violence and is by no means typical or representative of the Palestinians as a whole.

 

The notion that has been created is that we, Israelis and Palestinians are opposing nations, one just and righteous and the other mean and misguided, fighting for the same land.  God cannot possibly be on both sides so we must choose sides for him and thus we all fall deeper and deeper into a bottomless chasm.

 

We need to take God out of the discourse and accept that we are all His chosen people, and therefore apartheid and human rights abuses cannot be tolerated. These are issues that are very near and dear to people in America, particularly now that Barak Obama was elected and so this is the time to change the discourse.

 

Instead of fighting to end the occupation, we must focus on bringing an end to apartheid.  We all need to believe it is possible and to educate young Palestinians and Israelis that they must not despair but believe in their ability to bring change. In the words of Barak Obama himself, we need to encourage them to have an audacity to hope and to believe that they can indeed make a difference.  This will allow Israelis and Palestinians to achieve equality and establish a society that embraces dignity and mutual respect.

The amusing term ‘coexistence’

By Hisham Nafa’
From Haaretz
Many people have expressed surprise at the recent violence in Acre. Particularly amusing was the mantra that rolled off the tongues of government officials, their eyes wide open: “How could such a thing happen in a city of coexistence?”  

There are two possible explanations for the bizarre logic behind this sentence: stupidity, or a cynicism that insults the public’s intelligence. It is of course difficult to attribute stupidity to the seasoned public servants with wit enough to climb to positions of power, close to the goodies. They also know how to numb the minds of the sheep while arousing their base instincts. Since the fear instinct in these parts is overly combustible, its manifestations appear immediately: arrogance and hatred toward all Arabs. And when all of these combine to form a near-chemical compound, it will be difficult to put out the fires they ignite simply by spraying them with slogans. 

In Acre, as in the rest of the Greater Land of Israel, there is no coexistence. In Acre, there is pain and bitterness, built up over decades. It began not on Yom Kippur of this year, but rather since the ships filled with refugees left the city’s shores; since the residents were placed in the handcuffs of military rule; since tens of thousands of their countrymen became victims of a violent, colonialist occupation; since a conscious, intentional policy of national suppression and racial hostility was instituted against them; and since they, living in their homes facing the city’s beaches and on their land, began to be described as a demographic threat. 

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There are more details to this ugly picture: Acre has poor Jewish neighborhoods, where the ruling establishment sees to it that the building rage of the inhabitants is not turned against it. It is not a conspiracy in the classic sense, the kind found in fiction, but rather the product of all of the governmental interests. Because a thinking public is a public that is dangerous to its rulers. So where does this rage get channeled? To the usual suspect, the Arabs. Here is where racism takes on a very popular expression. The Jewish victims of the regime become a weapon against the ultimate victims of the same regime. There you have it: an explosive vicious circle. 

For years, Acre’s local government officials have been babbling, in the spirit of the times, about the need to Judaize the city. Groups of settlers and of young religious people, who have undergone right-wing nationalization, were brought to the city. And Acre’s Arabs ask themselves what this Judaization means, if not their actual and symbolic removal; have we been disinherited once again? 

In recent years, religious tendencies have grown among significant “non-white” segments of Israeli society. It turns out that the “opiate of the masses” effect has not skipped over the People of Israel. And in a state where hostility regarding matters of identity has spread to every part – social rifts, in sociological lingo – even Yom Kippur has become an opportunity to exercise hatred, in utter contradiction to its religious meaning. Instead of requests for divine forgiveness, there is an increase in violent rituals against anything that moves. Maybe some people need a Yom Kippur II, to ask forgiveness for their actions during Yom Kippur I. 

Acre, of course, is not alone. There is the “coexistence” model of Jaffa. In that city, greedy real-estate developers and pseudo-artists have infiltrated the Old City and live in walled fortresses, because it’s so much fun to live in such an exotic area. With regard to the adjacent areas of poverty, suffering and oppression, however, their eyes – and especially their conscience – have remained sealed. And there are those who are enchanted by the idea of implementing this model in the Old City of Acre, too. The Arab residents and their representatives speak of an accelerated assault in recent years of real estate acquisitions. They are convinced, justifiably, that it is a creeping takeover that will end with in their exclusion and even expulsion from their living space. It is not for nothing that the concept of Nakba appears in their reactions. 

So there is nothing surprising in what happened in Acre. I suggest to all the potentially surprised individuals to get ready for more “surprises” in other locales. Unless, of course, a a practical, sincere, strategic decision is taken to change Israeli policy concerning the “Arab question” – both at home and beyond.

In the meantime, the Arabs of Acre, like all Arab citizens of Israel, have no magic formula for coping. What is available to them is the lesson learned in the shadow of the Israeli regime: It’s called sumud [“steadfastness” in Arabic], holding on to the homeland and waging a stubborn struggle for full civil and national equality. 

Hisham Nafa’ is an author and a journalist.

Jimmy Carter and Ilan Pappe

It is said of Albert Einstein that he gave a particular exam to a class that had already been given that exam. Alarmed at what he saw and thinking it to be the result of the professor’s absent-mindedness, an assistant warned Einstein of what he was about to do. The Professor just smiled and said: It’s alright the answers have changed. The same thing goes for the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the questions remain the same but now sixty years after the establishment of the Jewish State, the answers have changed.

Until about ten years ago the answer to the question of how to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East was clear: Allowing the Palestinians to establish a free, independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel. But this answer known as the “Two State Solution” belongs to a reality that no longer exists. Today, after 40 years of occupation the West Bank is riddled with settlements and highways designated for Jews only; Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza are imprisoned within a wall, impoverished and starved and there is no political will within Israel to partition the land of Israel and allow Palestinian independence — all of which indicate that clearly the answers have changed.

So what is the answer to this very difficult question? Ten million people reside between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Approximately 5.5 million Jewish Israelis and 4.5 million Palestinians, all ruled by the state of Israel, the Jewish State. The conditions under which Palestinians live range between being third class citizens within Israel, and living under a military occupation with no representation, no human rights and no civil rights. Clearly this cannot go on forever and at some point Israel will be forced to grant the Palestinians equal rights. What remains to be seen is whether this will come as a result of intense violence and bloodshed or a negotiated agreement.

Two books that have come out in recent months are relevant to this conflict and both of them demonstrate that there is a tremendous amount of change in the air. The first book that has received a great deal of attention is Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid by former US President and staunch Israel supporter, Jimmy Carter. This book has opened the door for the first time for a serious debate in the US regarding the Palestinian tragedy. In a development that is almost unparalleled, a former US President characterizes Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza as apartheid. Since the book came out the debate has indeed been intense and there are no signs that this will change any time soon.

The second book is The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Israeli historian Illan Pappe. Categorizing the destruction of Palestine in the years 1947-1949 as ethnic cleansing is not new perhaps but it is worthy of mention because it is becoming more widely accepted. Pappe’s book, difficult though it is due to its detailed accounts, provides an opportunity for an in-depth study of the destruction of the Palestinian people and their homeland at the hands of the Jewish forces during the Israeli War of Independence. What might come as news to many Jewish people around the world and to many non Jewish Israel supporters is that it was in the aftermath of this campaign of ethnic cleansing that the State of Israel was established upon the ruins of Palestine.

What becomes apparent from reading the two books is that what Carter describes is congruent with what is described in Pappe’s book. In other words, current Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is an extension of the ethnic cleansing policies of the early years of the conflict.

One may argue over details in both Carter’s book and Pappe’s book, but one cannot argue with the facts that the books describe: Between the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1949, a time that Israel calls the War of Independence, close to 800,000 Palestinians were forced into exile and Palestinian identity in Palestine was almost entirely wiped out. Today, Israel continues to deny Palestinian identity, not to mention Palestinian independence both within the boundaries of the State of Israel and within the occupied territories.

One possible answer to the difficult question of the Israeli Palestinian conflict could be drawn from the fact that Israel, by ruling over two nations is already a bi-national state. The solution could be to replace the current system whereby only Israeli Jews enjoy the freedoms and rights of full citizenry, with one that will allow Palestinians to enjoy those rights as well. This will create a fully democratic state in which both Israelis and Palestinians live as equals, protected by a constitution that allows both people to express their national, religious and cultural identities.

This option of a constitutional democracy that includes both Israeli Jews and Palestinians under one state is without a doubt one of the more difficult answers. After 2,000 years in exile and having survived the Nazi holocaust, the Jewish people rose from the ashes like the phoenix to create a state they can call their own. Now it seems that securing the future of the people of Israel in the land of Israel will require not only vision but also genuine political compromise.

Bringing an end to the Israeli Palestinian conflict demands a serious look into the events that took place between the years 1947 and 2007: The State of Israel was created at the expense of another nation. The choice today is to fight until the last drop of blood has been shed, or to recognize the need to establish a political framework that will allow both people to live together in peace.