Last week Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said that if Israel were to unilaterally impose a new boundary with the Palestinian occupied territories, he would respond by pushing for a single Arab-Jewish state. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell did not waste any time respondingÂ and immediately rejected the idea.
So, what is wrong with a democratic, united, non-sectarian, multi-racial state comprisingÂ all of Palestine, in which everyÂ citizen would share equal rights, irrespective of religion, language or ethnic origin?
The citizens of thisÂ new state would coexist peacefully and include Arabs now livingÂ in Israel, and all those living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, including the Jews among them. There are currentlyÂ about 3.5 million Palestinians livingÂ in the West Bank and Gaza and aboutÂ 1.2 million Arabs living as citizens inÂ Israel. By comparison, about 5.5 million Jews live in Israel.
TheÂ new state’s constitution (Israel itself still does not have a constitution) couldÂ divide keyÂ positions of power amongÂ Jews and the Arabs. For example, Jews could be in chargeÂ of the army andÂ Arabs look after the police. The positions of President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of the Parliament couldÂ be held in alternating terms by Arabs and Jews. Â Â Â
Now if you’re thinking thatÂ this seemingly common-sense single state solutionÂ perfectly fits the criteria and traditions of Western-styleÂ liberty and natural justice, you are quite right. But, as good as it looks on paper, this solution first of allÂ does not fulfillÂ the 100-year-old Zionist ideology of having an exclusive Jewish state, with an exclusive Jewish army, in Palestine.
Nor would it allow the continuance ofÂ historic right-of-returnÂ lawsÂ which consider only Jews to be entitled to return to Israel and Palestine from anywhere in the world, at any time, whileÂ denying the same right toÂ Palestinians, no matter how close theirÂ family ties with the land.
The single state solution will never happen in the foreseeable future, of course,Â because the U.S. is pledged to maintain not only a secure Jewish state, but an expanding Jewish mini-empire carved out of its illegallyÂ occupied Palestinian territories.
A continuous expansion ofÂ Jewish settlements in theÂ Palestinian territories over the pastÂ 36 years, and the recent airliftÂ of 18,000Â "lost" African Jews into Israel are ongoing chapters of the same old ideology; that is, to keep Palestine Jewish by any means necessary. Even the traditional criteria ofÂ who is trulyÂ Jewish are regularly waived orÂ relaxed so thatÂ the maximum number of immigrants can be persuaded toÂ populate the occupied Palestinian territories.
Meanwhile, what is this doing toÂ the human rights ofÂ millions of Palestinians whose only "crime" was to beÂ native to the area long before any 20th-centuryÂ Jews settled there? Why must PalestinianÂ children have to live with no hope for a better future? Why are their housesÂ blown up daily by Israeli soldiers? Why are their parentsÂ killed every day — by guns, deprivation, or neglect — by the Jewish state? And why is a massive concrete and steelÂ wall being built, on PalestinianÂ land, toÂ separate these men, women, and childrenÂ from their loved ones, from their schools, from their jobs, andÂ from their farms on the other side of the wall?
Why are Palestinians forced toÂ pay such a heavy price so thatÂ Jews living in faraway countriesÂ (like Canada) might some day want to emigrateÂ to aÂ place whereÂ only the Jewish state can decide who is a Jew and who is not?
Shouldn’t it be theÂ Palestinians who leave Palestine to the Jews, argue some pro-Israel voices,Â and settle inÂ other Arab countries where they might be more welcome?Â Such logic makes no more sense than telling someone whose house has been destroyed to go and live permanently with their in-laws!
Israel’s criteria forÂ its own security needs areÂ often extremely short-sighted and insensitive to human rights and needs.Â Such criteriaÂ ignore the fact that there is no security as sure as the goodwill of one’s neighbours.Â Israel’s greatestÂ mistake has beenÂ (and still is)Â that it consistentlyÂ underestimates the strength and determination ofÂ Palestinian nationalism.
Unless Israel makes serious efforts toÂ seek acceptance from itsÂ Palestinian and Arab neighbours, rather than domination over them, this modern Jewish state will most likely go the way of short-livedÂ Crusader kingdoms ofÂ the Middle Ages, whose history was in some ways so similar.
Alternatively, of course, Israelis could keep onÂ building a greater and greater expanding Israel for all the world’s Jews, with ampleÂ American financial, political, economic and military backing, but this would inevitably be atÂ the expense of all hopes forÂ lasting peace in the region.
AÂ better solution for the immediate future is clearly to encourageÂ Israelis andÂ Palestinians to reach a practicalÂ accommodation with one another’s interests. Such an accommodation would only work if integrated withÂ policiesÂ of reconciliation andÂ healing. And I believeÂ it is onlyÂ possible ifÂ Israelis can liberate themselves from the dead hand of last century’sÂ Zionist ideology. Is it aÂ possible dream?Â I think it just might be.