Sunday, April 06, 2008

Designer Partners

On the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Creation of Israel …Is it time to reconcile?

The Israeli and the Palestinian peace camps would love the luxury of shaping the agenda of each other; they both yearn for a peace partner who would make their job easy, who would help them sell peace to their war-weary and hate-filled folk. Yet they don't have the luxury of designing the opposite side to appeal to a larger percentage of their respective populations. The Israeli peace camp remains oblivious to the colonialist aspects of Zionism and simply wishes for all the pre 1967 atrocities and suffering to be simply washed away and forgotten, just like what happened with the Native American or African slave trade centuries ago. The Palestinian peace camp wants a far more outspoken Israeli peace camp that is willing to admit the past wrongs.

The Israeli peace camp needs Palestinians who can talk about the Jewish suffering and offers affirmation that Israel has the right to exist. Yet virtually all peace advocates on the Palestinian and Arab side feel to their bones that Israel never HAD the right to come into existence in 1948. They argue Israel HAS the right to exist now but did not have the right to come into existence in Palestine in the first place. Had Zionism opted for a homeland in an alternate place it would have had that right, had it been empty of an indigenous native population. The compromise secular Zionism made to attract the religious elements was Palestine ...that compromise will forever mean the issues of rights of the natives will remain and Zionism dream of a Jewish state forever is threatened. So in short, the basis under which Arab and Palestinian peace advocate support Israel's right to exist now is the historical suffering for both people and practical thinking knowing that any other option will only lead to more needless displacement and suffering. The Palestinians can never buy into Zionism!

Most forward-looking open-minded people have a great deal of trouble with the concept of ethnic democracy. If a US group was to advocate putting a limit on the numbers of Hispanics, Chinese, Arabs or Jews say in California or Florida so that these places remain predominantly Anglo White and Christian we would all be up in arms accusing them of racism, bigotry anti Semitism and what have you. As it happened California is already majority non-white! What moral, legal or other basis would one have for claiming that 1948 Israel has to remain forever predominantly Jewish? I seriously doubt that any sane worldly Israelis who want to think of the world as their oyster really want a large ghetto for a country. It is hard to envision the European treaty that offers Israel membership to the EU restricting the number of gentiles who can live & work in Israel. A good guess is that the Israeli peace camp needs this hallow argument to help to convince others who maybe fearing that they will overwhelmed into a being a minority yet again. It is not difficult to understand this position. The Israeli peace camp clings on to the notion of a Jewish state forever because it still clings on the glories of 1948 and the courage and commitment of the Sabra generations.

Yet, if we look at the other side of the equation, which is how can one help the Palestinians peace camp gain more momentum, it has to be based on a practical way forward NOT principles. A principle like a Jewish State forever makes it hard to recruit people based on practicality and reconciliation. It invites the very logical reaction of rejection; on the grounds of history, morality and future looking multi cultural borderless world. Maybe we can find more willingness to agree guarantees of a Jewish state for the next 50 years just as China guaranteed Hong Kong way of life for 50 years than a guarantee based on a principle enshrined in Zionism.

Yet the Palestinian and Arab peace camp needs to articulate to its own people its views about its support for Israel right to exist. In an Arab world full of maps that show no evidence of Israel and newspapers that continue to shy away from the mere mention of Israel, opting for the “Zionist Entity” instead, the Arab peace camp must talk of the many generations of Jews born and raised in Israel with no other home. It must also articulate its rejection of the often-rampant discrimination against minorities in the Arab World. The Arab and the Palestinian peace camps must be more outspoken in rejecting violence and in offering commitment to genuine peace. It needs to help the Israeli peace camp convince its people that the Palestinians and Arabs want peace because they believe in peace and not because of the strength of Israel, not because of the fear of home demolitions, collective punishment or the long brutal arm of the IDF.

The sad thing about the Middle East conflict is that the extremists on both sides offer each other far more help than the peace advocates do. The Israeli hardliners could not have hoped for a better designed nemesis than Hamas & Islamic Jihad and vice verses; they help each other convince their target audience that peace is not possible and violence is the only way; designer enemies indeed! Shame that the peace advocates struggle with the lack of designer models.


6 April 2008