Staying under idiots’ rule – or the courage to make our own peace
For Part 1 of Faysal Mikdadi’s essay, see So who did God the estate agent give the land to?
Right of return: the remains of Beit Jibrin near Hebron. Under the British mandate, this was the district center for surrounding villages. In the 1947 UN Partition Plan, it was designated as part of the Arab state, but was captured by Israeli forces during the 1948 War, causing its inhabitants to flee east. Today, many of these refugees and their descendants live in the ‘Azza and Fawwar camps in the southern West Bank. The kibbutz of Beit Guvrin was established here in 1949. Most former Arab villages have been razed and turned into forest/agricultural land, incorporated into settlements, or converted into Israeli artists’ colonies.
Palestine and Israel: A Modest Suggestion for Peace (Part 2)
By Faysal Mikdadi, London Progressive Journal
November 29, 2012
I sometimes wonder who are the idiots who advise Bush and Obama or Blair and Brown or that wonderful of all things to all men, David Cameron. Do these people know anything about the Arab World? Do these persons know anything about Israel? About Islam? About Judaism? Do these persons read their history books? Do they know anything about the issues that they are advising their bosses on?
I rather doubt it.
Let us, just for a little while, put aside the insidious and venomous unChristian Evangelicals in their huge misguided numbers. Let us put aside the cruelty of Israel dispossessing my people and, as well as getting away with it, being supported by the most powerful nation on earth. Let us put aside the treachery of the Arab States that have stood aside for sixty four years whilst the Palestinian Diaspora withered on the poisoned vine. Let us put aside the Palestinians ourselves with our internal divisions, our phenomenal stupidity in missing endless opportunities for peace and our corrupt politics. Let us put aside the horrors of the past and ghastly behaviour of our dispossessors the Israelis. Let us put aside the fact that most of the world’s problems today spring from the horrific injustice done to the Palestinian people with the
sanction of the so called Christian West.
Let us focus on one thing and one thing only: peace.
Is it possible?
Without any shadow of a doubt.
Let us look at the present and the future. Not the past.
There is one land. Palestine. There are now two people in it. Israelis and Palestinians. Notice I do not name religions. As a Palestinian I do not want to live a State that defines itself by its faith. Our Christian Zionist friend Mr. Hunt talks of Palestinian Christians as being sympathisers with Islam. We can’t win. Even when we fortuitously find our faith in Christ, Mr. Hunt denies us our innate right to be Christians since we are, as I said above, part of “the Palestinian myth” or Catholics who have lost their way…etc….
Apparently, once a Muslim – well, you know what it is like, those “evil Muslims can not change”. “Islamic scriptures and their interpretation [are] a little too late. Abraham is for the Jews and the Christians” as an American Army Chaplain said in Iraq. He added, standing as a conqueror of a Muslim country and as an oppressor of its people, “From my perspective as a Christian, I believe that Abraham is, first of all, the Jewish father through Isaac, the son of promise. And I believe that through an extension Jesus Christ was the ‘seed’ [of Abraham]”. So, it is apparently too late for Muslims. I did not know that there was a deadline on faith. Next time someone tells me that Jesus entered their heart, I will have to inform them that He couldn’t have done so, because His entry ticket had expired – according to a higher authority than Him. An authority so high that it runs the world today: The United States of America. God bless America.
And we are supposed to take what this so-called Christian Chaplain says seriously? Surely, as a man of the cloth he has learnt inclusive forgiveness and love from the Lord Jesus. What sheer nonsense! The Arab-Israeli wars have cost billions of dollars. The real figure is not agreed upon and differs widely depending on whom you ask. Actually, Israel could have bought Palestine on the real estate property market several times over. And this is only the money side of things. The cost gets even higher when we look at the Arab World with its abominable dictators justifying their very existence on the back of the Palestinian problem. I was brought up in a world where whatever we asked for, we were reminded that we could not have it because, it may have escaped our notice, but every effort and every material resource available had to go to regaining Palestine. Even when we asked for some freedom, we were told that liberating Palestine came first. So we shut up and grew in bondage awaiting the liberation that never came. We as Palestinians in particular, and Arabs in general, handed Israel its victories by our incompetence, missed opportunities, lack of freedom, the absence of any even elementary civil liberties, utter disrespect for human values and vicious self centred regimes that cared little about the people that they allegedly were there to look after. Meanwhile, Israelis worked hard, fought hard, prospered and lived in freedom. Also aided by the unconditional financial, military and moral support of the most powerful nation on earth.
The Palestinian-Israeli problem has caused sixty five years of sheer misery on both sides. Sixty five years of vicious injustice on both sides. Sixty five years of suffering on both sides. And it is still causing problems today. It must stop. Now. How?
Let me make a modest suggestion for peace.
Israel is now a fact. Most of its population were born in Israel since 1947. Many have arrived since then encouraged by a strong Zionist propaganda machine and attracted by Israel’s successful democracy and prosperous economy. The people who live there would no more be able to go back to where they came from than would most of the population of the United States be able to return to the rest of the world whence they came originally a very short time ago.
So, let us start by accepting the State of Israel. It is there and it is not going away.
We, the Palestinian people, are also not going to go away. When Israel was created, Ben Gurion was reported to have said that “the old will die and the young will forget”. Indeed most of the old have died. In fact I am now one of the new old and I too will soon die. But the young have not forgotten. I have not forgotten. I am a Palestinian and I wish to go home. And we will return. This is the one non-negotiable fact on the ground.
So, having started with accepting Israel, let us now continue with accepting the Palestinians’ right of return to their homeland, a concept incidentally accepted by the United Nations in one of the tens of resolutions utterly ignored by Israel.
How can that happen when the land already has Israeli settlers on it?
The first option, and not one that I would subscribe to, could be a sovereign contiguous State of Palestine occupying Eastern Palestine (the so-called West Bank) and Gaza or approximations thereof based on a negotiated peace. Such a State should be entirely independent, sovereign and self contained. It should not be subject to any Israeli conditions of disarmament or, if it is, such conditions should be reciprocal with both sides abiding by them.
Then, those Palestinians wishing to return could return to the newly established State of Palestine. Those who came originally from what is now Israel should be given an agreed compensation package which would allow them either to settle in Israel or in the newly established State of Palestine or to become citizens of the countries in which they currently reside. It is to be assumed the Palestinians with a little bit of money would be acceptable to countries like Syria or Lebanon.
The second option which I favour is a better alternative for peace, one to which I subscribe fully. I believe that a small Palestinian state occupying some 22% of the historical Palestine would not be a viable State especially as it would be living under strong Israeli hegemony, both economic and political. Such a Palestinian State would constitute a very cheap labour market for the more advanced and successful Israeli economy.
This other and alternative solution is for the whole of historical Palestine to be shared between all of the Israelis and all of the Palestinians which would make a mixed population of something in the region of between eleven and twelve million inhabitants.
Since the creation of Israel there have been some five hundred Palestinian villages left in ruins. They are still in ruins. A few villages were taken over by Jewish settlers for such quaint projects as artists’ colonies and other such rather arrogant developments clearly aimed at mocking any Palestinian national aspirations. These villages should be revived and all those who came from them allowed the immediate right of return. Those from other areas which have now been developed as Jewish homes should be given sufficient compensation to allow them the choice between returning, setting up home in the binational State or opting not to return. Such an option could be time limited to – say – two years during which irrevocable decisions have to be made.
The binational State should be a secular one within which Palestinians and Israelis of any faith may settle and practice their religious faith free from any interference. The name, nature and character of such a State should be left to develop organically over time. In the first instant, the State would have as many official languages as needed (Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and English). Both Arabic and Hebrew would be mandatory in all schools and for all citizens. The State could be made up of Cantons within which there would be a form of autonomy within a federation of Cantons. For example, Haifa may choose to be a secular city whereas Jerusalem may choose to run itself as a Jewish city. Jerusalem would be closed on Saturdays as a Jewish city whereas Haifa would be open if that is what its elected municipal governing body chooses to do. This federation of cantons has worked admirably in Switzerland and could do so again in Israel-Palestine all of whose citizens would be equal before the law and all of whose citizens’ human rights would be respected at all levels.
What about the Jewish nature of Israel? I can not answer that question. It is a very tricky one. But surely, the nature of a state is determined by its democratic processes. I would not wish to live in a Jewish State. However, if I moved to my father’s lands in Netanyah and if the democratic process decreed that the State that I am living in will be Jewish, I have no more problem with that than I would have a problem with Iran being Muslim if I chose to live there or with France being secular or with England being constitutionally Christian with a Christian Monarch and all the trimming of a Christian society. As a citizen of a binational State, I would use the democratic process to remove religion from the organs of the State in every way. If the majority opposed my views, then I would accept the democratic decision and live on to try again at the next election, referendum and other lawful and democratic processes.
Can such a suggestion work? Probably not in the short term. In the long term, we have no other choice.
If we had the courage to forget the past, to forgive each other our awful behaviour towards each other, to accept our differences as enriching rather than dividing us, to reconcile these differences and to take real pleasure in living side by side with each other, to enjoy each other’s culture, art and literature, then this binational State would work.
It will take vision, courage, forgiveness, kindness and decency to do this. And both sides have a great deal of each of these qualities. At least they keep telling us that they do and the many who I know so well on both sides do have these qualities.
It is time that they spoke up for fairness and peace.
We need to give it a try. We need to do this now before our self destructive urges completely submerge us in a continued living hell for further years to come.
The choice is simple.