By Rachel Lever, One Democracy
September 27, 2012
We reported that in June a poll found 28% of Israeli Jews already see one equal state as an option to explore. When an idea is in the mainstream to that extent, it’s a much bigger river with many different fish in it. With millions of people looking at one state as a possibility, we can expect the unexpected: significant opinions and actions in some very surprising places. Two such were in the press in the past week. A definite sign of the times.
1. The zionist assassin who deplores “hatred of Arabs”
The radical magazine +972 published an interview with Hagai Amir, recently released from prison 16 years after he helped his brother to assassinate the country’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin — for which he has no regrets. He sees the state of Israel as disintegrating and thinks a “bi-national” state is essential for Jews to “be able to live here”. Though he and his brother are seen as heroes by the right, he says “If the right is about hatred of Arabs, then we are not right wingers. We never had any issue with Arabs, we see them as a foe or an enemy of war on this land, and we respect them for that.” And as for the secular Left, he notes that “a large portion of seculars live on land stolen from its legal owners, which in turn made them refugees, against UN resolutions” but that they have no “reasonable explanation” for this. Interesting.
2. The Settlement that’s fought for homes for its Palestinian neighbours
“Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in some 70 percent of Area C, while in the remaining 30 percent, a range of restrictions virtually eliminate the possibility of obtaining a building permit.” UN Ocha report
The Gush Etzion settlement bloc comprises some 10% of Jews living beyond the Green Line. It traces a history going back 20 years before its evacuation in the 1948 partition. Twenty years later it was one of the first to be built beyond the Green Line, just three months after the 1967 occupation. Its founders were the originators of the Gush Emmunim settlement movement.
Ynet News, one of Israel’s top ten websites, carries a story of how this Jewish bloc of 22 towns and settlements in the West Bank Area C have supported and lobbied with neighbouring Palestinian villagers to obtain unprecedented building permits for 300 new Palestinian homes. They now speak of sharing their public facilities and sports hall.
This permit has taken more than three years to achieve. It meant winning the support of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, and was spearheaded by the poet Eliaz Cohen, on the left in the photo, with local village leader Muhammad Saad. (Photo by Atta Awisat).
Cohen is a member of the settlers’ umbrella body the Yesha Council and also an initiator of the coexistence group Eretz Shalom. This group started having meetings and conversations with neighbouring Palestinians that could have ended in no more than fine words. But the talking has led to a positive and exemplary action that will benefit five local Palestinian villages, and could become a precedent and a model for Eretz Shalom’s other members to follow on.
Admittedly this action could be seen as a palliative that appears to contradict, but does nothing to change, the big picture of colonisation and ethnic cleansing that’s left Area C, comprising 60% of the West Bank, with just 150,000 Palestinians. As such it could be used by Israel’s propaganda machine, especially in the event that Area C is annexed, as many on the right are pressing for: they would then claim that the area’s Palestinian population are being treated as full citizens of Israel, and these 300 housing permits could be their big alibi.
And maybe some would rather have seen Eliaz Cohen and his co-thinkers challenging the bulldozers that flatten so many homes, water sources and workshops, and we’d also like to ask them to campaign to remove roadblocks, for equal access to Jews-only roads, travel rights, healthcare and other human rights and civil rights. And for the right to vote.
What decides what side of the line this story falls, and what it means, is all about context.
In the context of two states, the “peace process” or an endless status quo, the accelerating and aggressive settlement building for Jews is a central plank of the Zionist land grab, intended either to scupper the two state project or to make it meaningless. So while the winning of Palestinian building expansion by Jewish settlers is an exceptional story, it still falls within the Zionist agenda, which will not be dented or deflected by a few hundred houses in one heavily zionist location.
But if the context changes into the direction of civil rights rather than re-partition borders, this Gush Etzion story could be a signpost towards sharing not just their sports hall but the entire land — a signpost written in Hebrew, that many Israelis will be happier to follow than those they see as hostile or alien.
In the context of two states and Israeli dominance, this story is perhaps about Zionists with a nicer face. In the coming mainstream one state discourse, it could be something else.