Israel’s tripartite moral dilemma


At a time when the prospects for peace in the Holy Land seem to have suddenly acquired impetus (consider the Quartet-backed roadmap peace plan, for example), especially seen in light of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s recent profession that the “occupation is bad for everyone” (slightly paraphrased), the “contentious” issues characterizing the consistent fiascoes of successive peace initiatives are resurfacing, again. Since these “contentious” issues are a direct result of Israel’s refusal to heed international law, they amount to a one-sided gestalt of moral dilemmas for the Jewish State.

The first of these dilemmas is the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza (naturally non-contiguous regions, further disharmonized with Jewish colonies, suggested for the future state of Palestine). Should secular Israel abandon patriarchal “Judea and Samaria”? The ideas is that if, at least, most of these Jewish settlements were “de-Judaized,” Palestinians would attain a quasi-coherent state. Contrary to what many people have been conditioned to believe, however, the settlements in themselves were never the problem. The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly said that the Jews of the settlements can remain in the future Palestine and be given Palestinian citizenship. The real dilemma is whether Jews are willing to concede Jewish hegemony over the territories.

The second dilemma is the right of return, guaranteed for Palestinians under international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The obfuscation happens when the dilemma is posed in the context of the legitimacy of Israel’s “right to exist.” For example, by arguing that Israel has a right to exist (“as a Jewish state” is automatically implied). It is then purported as a case of one people’s right to exist should not override another’s, thus, mischaracterizing the essence of the dilemma, which is a moral one: should a Jewish state surmount international law and human rights?

Such discourse also misinterprets the rule of law as one meaning the negation of the Jewish people’s right to exist (which is not tantamount to Israel’s right to exist). Thirdly, it misrepresents the conflict as one being between two adversaries having equal responsibilities, each side expected to give up something in order to reach a compromise, when really it is only the Palestinians who are giving up their lands as well as their inalienable rights to them. Finally, it creates a muzzling scarecrow with the connotation that you’d better not deny Jews their “right” to a homeland and thus be an anti-Semite.

The third moral dilemma is Jerusalem: should Jews share it with its Palestinians inhabitants (or appropriate it as the “indivisible” capital of Israel)? Given its religious, psychological and historical significance to everyone, it will be inevitable to maintain this city as bi-national.

In conclusion, Israel’s tripartite moral dilemma boils down to two choices. Either, uphold international law (for example, UN resolution 194, which guarantees the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their original homes in what is now Israel) and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (for example, article 13 which states that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”) and thus do what is just and fair, but compromise the Jewish character of Israel, or, vice versa.

If the two parties transcend their ethno-centric nationalistic aspirations, they could do just as well sharing all of Palestine and not just Jerusalem.

Mr. Baha Abushaqra is a Media Activist with Palestine Media Watch.