Sunday, September 30, 2007

In Between the Improbable and Impossible

Blockading the One-State and Two-State Solutions
By Joshua Alzona

In the wake of the Six-Day War, the blueprint of two states living side-by-side has been the accepted solution to effectively settle the Israel/Palestine conflict and begin a rapprochement between the two. It is also the solution dictated by the mainstream Middle Eastern policy players and amongst most intellectuals today. Israel's intransigence, an occupation that is ubiquitous to Palestinians, its violation of human rights and chronic defiance of international law, is accelerating the downfall of the Two-State Solution. But the potentiality, or lack there of, that Israel would concede anything to implement a Palestinian state has left many to abandon the Two-State Solution in favour of the idealistic One-State Solution, a binational state for all citizens regardless of ethnicity.

The left is fragmented on which solution to support. Some are adamant that the Two-State Solution is the more pragmatic approach. Others are fixed that Israel will not ever grant the Palestinians a state of their own. Both sides make compelling cases. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, they are left stuck in the middle. So which one should we advocate?

Two States for One People

The Two-State Solution (TSS) is a more sober presentation between the two to be realised in the distant future. Dating back to the aftermath of the 1967 War, the commitment to Zionism had blocked any proposal to have a state called Palestine consisting of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (22% of original Palestine, instead of 45% under the UN Partition). The window of opportunity for a genuine peace based on territorial swap for recognition of existence was shut quickly as Israel proceeded to pursue what they felt was not completed back in 1948: the imposition of Eretz Israel. Plundering villages and plains in the area meant for a Palestinian state and erecting Jewish settlements in its place has frozen the possibility of a genuine peace which may have actualised after the debilitating loss on the Arab Nation forty years ago. Israel persisted to encroach the most arable lands; the few water resources in the region; designed the encirclement of East Jerusalem which effectively severed the economic hub of a viable Palestinian state, the desired capital for the future nation, along with its numerous religious importance to Islam; organised the ghettoisation of the Palestinians; and the construction of the monolithic wall, 730 km in length, close to 8 metres in height and 3 metres in width, while at some sections it reaches 100 metres in width, dwarfing the Berlin Wall. The separation barrier in combination with the expanded settlements that pockmark the West Bank, littered with military checkpoints and closures, has dissected what was left of the TSS and to the reality of something resembling the Gaza strip, only into six separate versions.

You need not be an expert on the topic to know that the TSS is nearing its own extinction. A brief glance at a map of the West Bank only typifies how unreasonable things are for the Palestinians. According to the UN's latest map, 40% of the area reserved for a Palestinian state, "which is roughly the size of the US state of Delaware or the English county of Norfolk, off-limits to Palestinians."

Life for a Palestinian in the occupied territories has exemplified complete hopelessness. For instance, Palestinians are forbidden to enter East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and residents of Jerusalem are forbidden movement into area A. No one is allowed entry into the region between the Green Line and the separation wall representing 10 % of the West Bank. Gazans are sealed off from the West Bank and are subjected to closed borders manned by the military. Only a smidgen of aid allowed to cross into the Gaza Strip. The major routes are not accessible for the Palestinians, reserved for Jews to speed across the occupied territories from settlement to settlement. Based on B'Tselem's data from June 2007, there are 93 manned checkpoints and 467 permanent roadblocks, epitomising Israeli dominance over Palestinian daily movement. A journey from Nablus to Ramallah, a distance of 47 km and a travel time of an hour, is extended by another 1-2 hours courtesy of three checkpoints and a number of roadblocks.

Fatah's inability to provide the Palestinians with some relief from the decay of occupation, exemplified above, helped along with Arafat's ineptitude, culminated with the Hamas election victory. Isolation of the Islamists was immediate, and recent developments in Gaza, backed by a man entrusted by the US to overthrow the party the Palestinians voted for, only reinforced the improbability of the TSS. Without a unified authority, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are deliberated as two lone entities, impeding any movement between the two unless through the occupier. As long as the Palestinian Authority is split, there can be no Palestinian state under the TSS. (The impasse is such a concern that some proposed the outrageous Three-State Solution.)

For the TSS to come into fruition, both nations must undertake some versions of "voluntary transfer". This is the issue that is the biggest hurdle. It may seem to make perfect sense to remove the "Israeli Arabs" so that Zionism is rid of its "demographic bomb", for a swap of the dismantlement of the illegal settlements that has pockmarked the West Bank, "transfer" is one that is met with fierce opposition. The settlers refuse to be moved, and it remains to be seen that the Arabs in Israel would be "encouraged" to be expelled and suffer the fate of their brethren. Israel maintains the these outposts are not illegal despite the fact that they are not recognised by international law.

In addition, a new type of refusenik emerged, objecting to orders to evacuate the disputed settlements. Majority opinion may lie with the "two states for two peoples", but the reality is that common Israelis would rather continue with things the way they are than see a Palestinian state exist. Olmert is following their lead, despite the "niceties" with Abu Mazen.

A New Hope(lessness)?

The One-State Solution (OSS) has gained steam since the fallout of Oslo, whose total failure led to the malaise. Fundamentally sound, the core of the OSS is difficult to argue with. Israel with all its fervour of being the only democracy in a region of autocrats trapped itself by encouraging questions on its own basis as an exclusive Jewish nation. Zionism is in danger because it is the antithesis to authentic democracy: political and social equality amongst all of its citizens. The principles of Zionism propels Israel to achieve a demographic that is unrealistic unless drastic actions are (re)introduced. The slow and methodical brooming of unwanted non-Jews is not going to be enough. Zionism needs a clear majority to exist and anything that could prevent this is distinguished as an existential threat to Israel. And being in a region that is dominated by Muslims, this cannot happen.

Israel only has itself to blame for the arising call for the OSS. All factors that discredited any leader of the PA as a negotiating partner resulted in the disaffection towards the TSS. Ordinary Palestinians bearing the brunt of the futility of Arafat witnessed Fatah's concessions amount to nil. The chicanery of peace proposals was simply PR to increment the policy of a Greater Israel that sees the West Bank split into enclaves. Settlements and construction only reiterated to an already skeptical Palestine that Israel had no intention of conceding anything. Dispossessions and house demolitions only increased during the Oslo period and rose even higher after the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Is this what Palestinians had to look forward to by giving up what little they have to negotiate with?

We need not go into too much analysis of the OSS. Even though it is a desired denouement, the OSS has two blatant snags: Israelis and their settlements. Former Knesset member and Gush Shalom member Uri Avnery puts the percentage at "99.99% Jewish Public do not want to dismantle the state." It is highly optimistic that such attitudes that afflict elite opinion could be reversed in the near future. Leaders past and present have done their best to deny the Palestinians under the TSS; the deconstruction of Israel in its current form today is only questioned by a tiny few inside Israel. There are certain parts that still want to make a compelling case that Israel won the war against Hezbollah. This is a population that wants to drop bombs on Iran, a demonised existential "threat". You can only imagine what a truthful objection to Zionism would trigger (pun intended), supported by the international community, on the Jewish Public: the propagation of universal Jewish victimhood.

The settlements also poses, in my opinion, the biggest problem under the OSS. Philosophy professor at Trent University Michael Neumann averred the settler obstacle as one that absolves the most odious parts of the occupation today. "If the settlements are something to be legitimated... [it] means a great big pat on the back for the very worst, least conciliatory, most violent political forces in Israel, the spoilt, fanatic racial supremacists who conceived the settler movement and made it into the formidable force it is today." We should not forget that these outposts are illegal and have no basis to continue. If these settlements remain, it would exculpate the occupier and those who have supported it. It would result in a victory for Israel's policy of annexing what is Palestinian property. The protests and demands to remove the settlements that "squeeze out" Palestinian life, hijack the water resources, destroy agriculture and turn their villages into a wasteland, is now void of purpose if they are left untouched. Occupied Palestinian soil would immediately be Israel's dividends under the proposed OSS.

Neumann states that these settlers can be expelled, but only if we can get the "Israeli government to stop supporting them". He cites Gaza as an example of the potentiality of withdrawal.

The "disengagement" of the Gaza Strip was a clever deception. Gaza was only disengaged to pre-empt any kind of concession in the West Bank, that it was a slick move to prolong Israel's presence. The Gaza Strip was a price the Israelis were willing to pay in order to prevent negotiations over the coveted areas of Judea and Sumaria. Not even President Bush could withstand the pressure from Israel's apologists of telling Sharon to stop the accelerating settlement activity. Dov Weisglass, a spokesperson for Ariel Sharon, said the "significance of the plan is the freezing of the peace process." Sharon himself codified his plan to impede a "Palestinian state in a unilateral move." It leaves the Palestinians into a paradox that the only way they could gain a state is to give up their rights for a state: total submission to the coloniser.

What the OSS leaves for the Palestinians and their supporters is a long battle that could expand generations waiting for the Israeli ball to drop. Some can argue that under the TSS we're at the same dilemma facing the OSS: waiting for the Israelis and the international community to speak out against the oppression. But surely the TSS is the option that is more pragmatic to halt the Palestinian suffering as soon as possible, and isn't that our direct aim? Although it has its flaws, the TSS is the probable choice considering that the Western powers are backing every decision that only incapacitates any discussion that would make Israel relent their stranglehold on the Palestinian people.

The Right To Remain

UN General Assembly Resolution 194 - the Right of Return - has been conveniently left out of the equation. Israel is insistent that such a demand by any Palestinian leader is not a moderate position, and is not negotiable for any chance of a Palestinian state. It had been removed from the Oslo Accords, and since then it is been left off the table (only to re-emerge at Camp David) for any settlement scheme with the TSS serving as a basis.

What Israel did at Oslo, by omitting the Right of Return from the negotiations for peace, had set the precedent for future proposals for any Palestinian state: the demand of the refugees to return home or be compensated was erased. Arafat brought back what was deemed "extremist": there was no possibility that Resolution 194 could ever be considered. And almost immediately, the second intifada erupted, thanks mainly to the fallout at Camp David.

For the Palestinians the result was calamitous; for the Israelis, it was a success. The temerity of Arafat to even attempt to suggest the Right of Return showed in clear view that the Palestinians were unwilling partners in the negotiating process; that they were still stuck in the past intent on Israel's destruction; and that the Right of Return must not be entertained because it poses a threat to Zionism, that it was not practical, that the "facts on the ground" states that it was an impossibility. Brutality ensued. Despair followed. The world took no notice.

All the talk about peace and ceasefires and settlements is hollow unless the Right of Return is recognised. To the Palestinians, the Right of Return is the root cause of the conflict, the heart of the matter, and the fire that still burns to this day, alive amongst the Diaspora that now number in the millions, languishing in neighbouring countries, most not recognised by their host states. In his latest book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe describes how "the Palestine question needed to be reminded that this conflict was not just about the future of the Occupied Territories, but that at its heart are the refugees Israel had cleansed from Palestine in 1948."

It is also a memory of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that was perpetrated on the Palestinians by armed immigrants who claimed they had rights to a land that was not their own. It is a denial that is still existent to this day and happens before our very eyes when we see more houses bulldozed , farms being grazed and Palestinians dispossessed from their ancient homeland.

Saifedean Ammous, a Palestinian student at Columbia University, reveals the Palestinian resolve, how "the right of return remains vital, and we as Palestinians should continue to cling to this inalienable right after almost 60 years, since it is the only commendable and honorable thing to do, and it is the only path to achieve a true and comprehensive peace." The sentiment demonstrated by Ammous still pulses throughout the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and amongst the Diaspora, that they continue to maintain the hope that one day they will be allowed to return home. Overlooking the Palestinians right to return is to maintain the illusion that there was no crime committed upon the birth of Israel and the calculated extirpation Palestine was a total 'necessity' for the greater good to occur, as explained by another Israeli historian Benny Morris. To quote Pappe,

"to recognise the Palestinians as the victims of Israeli actions is deeply calls into question the very foundational myths of the State of Israel... For the Israeli Jews to accept this [Palestinian victimhood] would naturally mean undermining their own status of victimhood... Israeli Jews would have to recognise that they have become the mirror image of their own worst nightmare."

In her latest article, former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison defines the Right of Return as the primary issue toward progress because "justice will not be served, nor peace achieved, until this issue is resolved equitably and democratically, in a manner satisfactory to the human rights and the national aspirations of both Palestinians, including those living in refugee camps outside Palestine, and Israeli Jews." For blocking any conciliation on the Right of Return, "neither Palestinians nor Israelis will ever enjoy true peace and stability." Only an Israeli version of peace can occur, ie the current form of occupation and annexation, at the cost of "grave injustice" to the Palestinian people.

While it is widely accepted that the Right of Return is an immediate non-starter to negotiations, it is the very core of Palestinian disposition and its neglect from any talk along with the future of the Occupied Territories is inadmissible.

Israel's track record is certainly not one to be confident in but the TSS is the one that is likely to be agreed upon in the near future by all parties that have a stake in the conflict. Not long ago, the US pulpit Mohammed Dahlan let it slip that Israel was not planning on giving up anything. This sequence of events is atypical of the Israel-Palestine conflict and further exposed that subservience to the occupier is not the way to gain statehood.

Visions (of Granduer) For Tomorrow

I cannot blame anyone who is pessimistic about the chances of the TSS and I'm not alone, I'm positive of that. What I do believe, however, is that the longer the occupation continues , we can kiss the TSS goodbye. Some would say that it is dead already and I can sympathise with that opinion: the wall is near its completion and with it the hopes of a viable Palestinian state. With the separation barrier in place, the fight for two states will no longer be appropriate. In its place will be a unified battle against an Israeli-version of apartheid and with it, more proponents of the OSS with the addition of the call to disband Zionism.

Palestinians are helpless and their fate is sealed amongst the ordinary people in the West, the US especially. It is a sordid affair when you are left to count on the ones who not only exonerate themselves from the Iraq blunder but are more than willing to drop some nuclear bombs on Iran. We're still far from progress when Dennis Ross is still considered an expert in the field, the architect of Sabra and Shatilla is inculcated as a "man of peace" 25 years after the massacre and the ones who are meant to speak out against the "security wall" are busy advocating a xenophobic wall on their own border. I'm afraid that actions akin to Jenin refugee massacre in 2002 or the appalling siege of Lebanon last year might be needed before the international community can rethink their perceptions that Israel is not the David they assume to be. It could be a long time coming considering how embedded the media is with an Israeli-centred thinking.

A rare victory occurred at Bi'lin not long ago. Many will point to this sequence that there is still hope that Israel can be stopped before it's too late. I wish fervently that they are correct and that the historic judgement at against the wall won't be a Pyrrhic victory (after all, didn't the same Israel Supreme Court ratify the wall's legality in the first place?). However, the decision at Bi'lin may have only prolonged the inevitable (as the verdict did not prevent construction of the wall, only its redirection that did not fall along the Green Line). The Berlin Wall may have come crashing down, but it was in place for a long, long time. Apartheid may have fallen, but it had plenty of casualties on the way.

But it is important NOT to give in to pessimism, especially in these times. There is quite a ruckus going about right now and a major backlash has alerted Tony Karon, a senior editor at TIME magazine and a South African Jew, that a Jewish Glasnost is in the making; more and more condemnation of Israel is piercing the mainstream; Walt and Mearsheimer continue to press the Lobby issue and receive the typical reaction; the taboo of criticising Israel is no longer taboo in many places and the Boycott campaign seems to be getting stronger and stronger. Another reason for optimism is a recent survey that showed that less and less American Jews were identifying themselves with Israel and is also wilting amongst the Diaspora.

It seems the more the zealots push, the more the truth bleeds out about the Jewish State. The apartheid analogy is reiterated by many who suffered the odious regime. Those who saw it fall down enunciate that things were very similar then to what we face today, that South Africa had the support of all of the power players and that it collapsed on its own. It is a danger that stares Zionism in the eyes. It will eventually destroy Israel, and the sooner it is realised then more lives can be saved from the occupation's brutality.

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