Palestineflags.jpgI’ve been searching for words to express what I see as a fault in much of the current criticism or campaigning against the occupation and other actions of Israel, because it offers no positive, detailed option for the future that brings all communities forward. This seems to be the case, for example, in the websites and publicity in Australia produced by Palestinian advocates.
Of course, it’s almost impossible to know what the future holds in terms of what the “final” make up will be: two states (Zionist Israel + Palestine, one combined state, two new states (a non-Zionist Israel, as a ‘state for all its people’ + Palestine or a different sort of condominium). But in all the rhetoric from both Palestinians and Israelis, it is rare to see a open discussion of how demonization of Israelis is actually destructive to Palestinian interests.
One way I have put it in the past, was by analogy with the old anti-apartheid movement, which tried to bring along white South Africans (and other communities) in a movement to liberate all communities from previous ideologies and practices. Instead, the critique of Israelis/Zionists is full of a replete essentialism that leads to a complete rejection by the other side because of the unilateralism and utter non-reality of the position that is presented. Or more bluntly, most Israelis don’t have another passport, and don’t have anywhere else to go to. This problem can only be solve politically.
I’d like readers to consider this long quote below from a Palestinian-American organization’s report that I have just discovered. The position of the ATFP has been heavily criticized by other Palestinians, but I think it is honest about the problem, which is a mirror image of the drivel that comes out of many Zionist critiques of the Palestinian position.
Thus, the long report from the American Task Force on Palestine, which appears to be very much an American ‘establishment’ Palestinian organization with close links to the PLO, offers some no-holds barred critique of the uncompromising, angry and sometimes ignorant positioning taken by strong one-state /pro-Palestinian advocates (the paper argues for two states, but that is off less direct interest of what I wish to quote below), as well as reasons for supporting a just two-state solution. The paper should be read by people in the BDS/One State Movement if they are interested in making a serious contribution to conflict resolution as distinct from just campaigning and engaging in the culture wars or aligning themselves with violent and dangerous rejectionism.
I have broken relevant up the extract into new paragraphs (part 3, chapter 6, for easier reading)
Since it is characterized by deep-seated attitudes that do not fit with its professed aims, most one-state advocacy suffers from a profound and debilitating contradiction between its ostensible goals and its actual rhetoric. Given their stated aim of creating an equitable, mutual and pluralistic democratic state that would incorporate both Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs in a single state that does not favor either community, one would expect one-state advocates to spend most of their time constructing a vision of a viable, coherent and post-ethnic political identity.
Almost none of them have spent any time whatsoever on this issue, reaching out to mainstream Jewish Israelis, or explicating and promoting exactly how Israelis would benefit from such a total transformation of their political order and society. Instead, almost all the activities of many leading one-state proponents seem to be devoted to criticizing Israeli policies, critiquing Israeli society, lambasting Palestinians and other Arabs who continue to work for a two-state solution and an end to occupation, and insisting that nothing useful can ever come out of negotiation, diplomacy and engagement with the international community at the state level.
Even the most generous and accommodating Arab and Palestinian one-state advocates seem to be falling into the same error regarding Jewish Israelis that the Zionist movement made in its early phases in Palestine in the 1920s and 30s with regard to the Palestinians: primarily viewing the other side as essentially a collection of individuals, with individual rights, rather than a national community with national interests and rights. A number of leading one-state advocates have taken to referring to Israel only as “the usurping entity” or even “the temporary racist usurping entity.”
The attitudes of most one-state advocates regarding dialogue are exceptionally problematic.
These advocates are generally opposed, usually stridently and passionately, to negotiations with Israel and many of them support blanket boycotts against dealing with Israeli officials and even Israeli academics. Yet, they have not explained at all how, if they are absolutely opposed to negotiations, they intend to realize their project. If this is going to be a campaign based entirely on coercion, they certainly have yet to outline what the necessary force could be that would compel Israel to capitulate or how that could be mobilized. There would appear to be a striking dissonance between an idea that could only conceivably be realized through dialogue and mutual understanding and an attitude that generally eschews not only negotiations but also most forms of contact and certainly anything that smacks of the “normalization” of Israel and mainstream Jewish Israelis.
There is an additional wrinkle, in that an exception is made for that small group of Israelis who already agree with a one-state agenda. So the attitude is not so much that we will not talk to Israelis, but rather that we will only talk with Israelis who already agree with us. This attitude mirrors that of the Israeli ultra-right, and seems an impossible contradiction: as a practical matter it prevents any serious program of outreach to mainstream Jewish Israelis and rejects the concept of negotiations with its national institutions and leadership as unacceptable “normalization,” but does not propose any serious alternative for advancing its program.
A representative example of the striking dissonance between the professed aims and the actual rhetoric of most one-state advocacy can be found in the “One-State Declaration” adopted in London and Madrid at the end of 2007.27 Written mainly by Palestinian academics living in the United States and Britain, along with a very small number of sympathetic Israelis, the document reflects the most far-reaching Palestinian nationalist concerns, but includes nothing whatever that could be seriously intended to appeal to Jewish Israeli interests, national identity, or narratives. The document begins by declaring that a two-state agreement is neither feasible nor desirable. It focuses mainly on accusations that a two-state arrangement would not resolve discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel, realize the right of return for refugees, or correct other “fundamental injustices,” and would necessarily be premised on a false equivalency between Israeli and Palestinian “moral claims.”
The principles enunciated begin by describing the territory as “the historic land of Palestine,” which is perfectly accurate, but again demonstrates a puzzling lack of interest in accommodating Jewish Israeli interests and perspectives. In several passages, it asserts that this territory “belongs” equally to everyone living in it and to all Palestinian refugees as well, regardless of everything including “current citizenship status.” It demands, “just redress for the devastating effects of decades of Zionist colonization,” and the unrestricted and unconditional implementation of the right of return for all Palestinians. It also calls for “a central role” in “decision-making” for “the Palestinian Diaspora and its refugees, and Palestinians inside Israel,” as well as emphasizing the themes of “justice and liberation.” It does not even attempt to provide an argument as to what Jewish Israelis could hope to gain from such a single-state, let alone elaborate any safeguards beyond equality and nondiscrimination to protect the interests of that society. It is steeped in the Palestinian national narrative, and explicitly and strongly repudiates the Israeli national narrative.
Even though one or two Jewish Israelis were involved in drafting the document and several more endorsed it, it is impossible not to read the “One-State Declaration” as reflecting a very hard line version of Palestinian nationalist perceptions and ambitions. For a group of people whose ultimate aim must be to convince a majority of Jewish Israelis to voluntarily enter into an arrangement based on these principles, their document is strikingly devoid of anything that might serve that purpose in any way. On the contrary, it could hardly be better designed, unless it openly proposed the expulsion or disenfranchisement of Jewish Israelis, to appeal less to that constituency.
Not only do many of the most prominent Palestinian one-state proponents make their antipathy towards the Israeli state and Jewish Israeli society crystal-clear, they seem to take particular delight in denouncing other Palestinians, especially those associated with the PLO and other secular nationalists, with the most inflammatory and dangerous pejoratives available. The frequency and ease with some of the leading, although by no means all, one-state advocates toss terms like “traitor,” “quisling,” and “collaborator” at other Palestinians and Arabs with whom they do not agree further undermines any prospect that such rhetoric could be the vanguard of a successful outreach effort that produces, or even lays the building blocks of, an innovative new ideology that would eventually result in a new national community joining Jewish Israelis and Palestinians as mutually respectful equals. This problematic element of much one-state rhetoric is compounded by the fact that many, if not all, of its most enthusiastic advocates were themselves until very recently proponents of ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state.
That they have changed their minds and adopted a new approach is not objectionable, but their evident anger against those fellow Palestinians and Arabs who continue to work towards independence and an end to the occupation is difficult to explain or justify. This may not be exactly an instance of the narcissism of minor differences, but it certainly does not reflect an attitude of tolerance and pluralism even towards compatriots and former allies. If Palestinians who persist in seeking an agreement with Israel to end the occupation are to be subjected to this kind of vitriol for simply continuing an agenda which most, if not all, of the accusers used to endorse and which is supported by a huge majority of Palestinians, what can Jewish Israelis expect from the same parties?
Now that’s a lot to ponder.