By Roger Tucker
What are the real options remaining for resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? The time has long since passed when the Zionists could contemplate driving out all non-Jews, or the Palestinians could seriously contemplate sending the Jews back where they came from. The Israeli people are here to stay, and it has become crystal clear that the Palestinians are not going to go meekly into exile or accept being permanently consigned to powerless reservations existing at the pleasure of their Israeli masters.
Despite the conventional and cynical nonsense about a two-state solution, that door closed years ago with the construction of the Israeli Matrix of Control over the West Bank and the permanent occupation, within what prior to 1967 were the Palestinian Territories, by 450,000 Israeli settlers. This much is obvious to all keen observers of the situation who are not blinded by ethnic or religious ideologies.
All that remains is the reality of a land in which reside both Israelis and Palestinians, some of the latter living as second-class citizens within Israel proper and the rest separated by the apartheid wall and imprisoned in the West Bank, and in Gaza. This situation cannot continue indefinitely. Somehow or other, one single state must emerge. The only question is what kind of state.
What exists now is actually a form of that state – and it closely conforms to the ethnic cleansing strategy worked out by the political Zionists from the very beginning. Most of the land now lies within the borders of the Jewish State proper, with the non-Jewish minority marginalized within those borders, and the rest of the area populated by a powerless majority of Palestinians carved up into half a dozen Bantustans completely at the mercy of the settler colonists dispersed throughout, and the IDF backing them up and always at the ready for yet another bloody incursion. It’s not quite the Final Solution envisaged by the most radical and bloodthirsty of the early Zionists, but it represents a stunning, albeit pyrrhic, victory.
It is not, however, a “solution,” as it can never be consummated, not as long as the Palestinians are able to sustain an opposition and put their case before the world. In the meantime, the demographic clock is ticking. Even Ehud Olmert has admitted that if Israel and its allies (the US and the Quisling PA) are unable to fabricate some sort of mock “Palestinian State,” then the one state solution will inexorably emerge as the only alternative. Barring a last ditch, successful Zionist attempt at mass expulsion or total genocide, it is indeed inevitable.
The alternative to the extreme Zionist dream of a “final solution” is the establishment of a democratic, multi-ethnic, pluralistic state consisting of all the residents of the entire area. This scenario mirrors what the world has long established as the preferred model for resolving such disputes. And if, as we have demonstrated, partition is not a viable option (if it ever was), there is really no other choice. What then, are the obstacles to a realistic resolution of the conflict?
I would contend that there are two major obstacles: Zionist intransigence both within Israel and from its supporters in Europe and North America, and, second, lingering Palestinian attachment to the notion of having their own state, and the willingness of their supporters abroad to go along with this fantasy. The remainder of this article will consist of an analysis of these two obstacles, with the emphasis on how the Palestinians and their friends could break the stalemate, as this is so much more easily accomplished than trying to break the monopoly, head on, of the Zionist discourse in the Western world. This latter task will resolve itself into a fait accompli if the suggested Palestinian strategy is successfully pursued.
Articles similar to this one, supporting justice for the Palestinians, exposing the evils of Zionism, detailing how Israel’s survival depends on the overwhelming political, military and economic support of the Western powers, particularly the US, and so on and so forth, are ubiquitous in the alternative press and on the Internet. And there have been more than a dozen excellent books. But they have little practical effect, as the Zionist narrative and Israeli propaganda have total dominance within the mainstream media and among the politicians, and therefore constitute the entire conventional wisdom in the West.
Israel’s survival as a Jewish state depends on maintaining the dominance of their narrative, both among their own people and in the West. Continued belief in it is based on fear, ignorance and arrogance; the constant harping on “existential threats” such as “terrorism,” (their own State terrorism is ignored) and neighbors out to destroy them (Iran is the boogeyman du jour), at the same time perpetuating the absurd image of the Israeli David against Goliath (the 4th most powerful military in the world pitted against ragged bands of stone throwers and primitive rockets), the brave and intrepid Maccabees against overwhelming odds.
Although, by and large, the Israeli people are actually indifferent, if not hostile, to Zionism (it reminds them of where they came from, which they’d rather forget), it is Zionism which gave the Jewish state its birth, and remains the justification for its continued existence in the eyes of the Western world and its sycophants elsewhere. While Zionism is the ideological underpinning of the state and its outside support, its religion is the Holocaust. And there is the same ambivalence among Israelis regarding the Holocaust as there is about Zionism.
It is important to consider this background in formulating a strategy for resolving the problem in a peaceful and pragmatic way. The most important point is that, in spite of all the Jewish related mythology, Israelis prefer to see their state as a modern Western democracy, a member in good standing of the First World, and it is in this respect, oddly enough, where it is most vulnerable.
If the Palestinians were to take this cardinal myth at face value, that of Israel being a democracy in the classic Western tradition, then they could call their bluff. This is precisely what Gandhi did in India, Mandela in South Africa, and Martin Luther King in the U.S. Never mind that underlying all the pretensions of the Western democracies is the threat and use of force to ensure hegemony – there is a moral force that trumps material power, because it can enlist the hearts and minds not only of the oppressed, but the populations of the countries doing the oppressing, at which point all the impressive weaponry is rendered irrelevant. Just ask the Vietnamese or the former subjects of the Soviet Union. This is particularly true in the case of Israel/Palestine, because the Jewish State is so utterly dependent on popular support within the Western world.
There is a natural order to the events that would have to transpire to reconfigure Palestine. First, a popular movement for the full civil rights of the “Israeli Arabs.” Without this precondition, the second piece, an effective, internationally supported movement for the human and civil rights of the Palestinians within the Occupied Territories, as equal citizens under the law, cannot be mounted successfully. The final piece of the puzzle would be the realization of the Right of Return in fact as well as in International Law.
The first step addresses the condition of segregation, second class citizenship and apartheid faced by those Palestinians who neither left nor were driven out during the Nakba. Barely tolerated, at best treated with a benign ignorance but also subject to virulent Israeli racism, these people are faced with numerous restrictions, most importantly having to do with land ownership and residence. They haven’t been driven out, yet, for two reasons. First, they provide a convenient cover for the fanciful notion that Israel is a typical, Western style democracy. Secondly, their numbers have, until now, remained low enough (under 20%) for the Israeli Jews to effectively emasculate them politically, while at the same time being able to pretend that they are fully represented.
Only recently, led by Azmi Bishara, MK, these Palestinians have begun to speak out. The immediate Israeli response was to prepare criminal charges against Dr. Bishara for treason (not surprisingly, he has contacts in Arab countries, some of them technically at war with Israel). Acting on the principle that discretion is the better part of valor, he left the country, perhaps feeling that he could be more effective as a free agent in exile rather than in an Israeli prison. But it was an opportunity missed, as Gandhi or Mandela could have told him – or Marwan Barghouti, for that matter, currently languishing in an Israeli prison, and, largely as a result, the most popular political leader on the West Bank. Dr. Bishara, if he were to choose to be a hero, would return to Israel. Or perhaps someone else will step up in his place.
If one imagines that such a civil rights movement meets with some success, at least in terms of energizing widespread support, only then could the same principles and tactics be applied within the OPT. To emphasize, we are speaking of a non-violent campaign of protest and civil disobedience, coupled with the existing international campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [www.bds-palestine.net]. But the aim would not be the chimera of a Palestinian State, but universal acceptance of the idea that all of the people of the land are entitled to share it, based on the principles of one person one vote, equality before the law, and impartial respect for human dignity. These are not controversial notions. They are unassailable, self-evident and therefore cannot be defeated.
It must be emphasized that one of the keys to success is cleaving to the principle of non-violence. Leaving the moral question aside, it must be widely understood by now that the use of lethal force by the Palestinians serves no useful purpose, other than providing the transient emotional satisfaction of hitting back. But the cost is far too high. Every act of violence against Israelis provides them with cover to commit far greater violence against Palestinians without paying any political price whatsoever. It is ironic that the Palestinian use of violence has been one of Israeli’s most powerful weapons.
From a purely practical point of view, it is futile to attempt to gain any political leverage in this conflict through the use of force against an enemy that has a virtual monopoly on military ways and means. Nor does it make any sense to split hairs and distinguish between military and civilian targets. It is simply counter-productive, and is completely incompatible with the suggested strategy of demanding one’s rights as equal citizens in a modern democracy through a campaign of civil disobedience, respect for international law and moral suasion. The best weapon that a Palestinian or one of their friends can aim is the video camera. It is only by revealing the reality behind the mirage that will change perception, the most vital step in winning over public opinion both in Israel and in the West.
The strategy is simple. Mount the aforementioned campaign, following the sequence as described, leading to the inevitable establishment of a single, democratic state in Palestine. As for tactics, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The principles of such a struggle are engraved in the histories of Gandhi and M.L. King. It is up to the Palestinians and their supporters, and everyone everywhere who is devoted to the principles of peace, justice and compassion to apply these lessons to the current circumstances in Israel/Palestine. This program may appear idealistic, but it is not particularly utopian. On the contrary, it is eminently pragmatic and doable. The alternative is the continuation of the appalling suffering of the Palestinians, further instability and conflict in the whole area, and the very real likelihood of a nuclear conflagration.
It is up to the Palestinians, in concert with their Israeli friends, to do whatever needs to be done. Those of us looking on from the outside can only offer support and counsel, but we are all connected, and it will eventually require a concerted international effort to bring about a just and workable solution.
-Roger Tucker is a One-State activist. He contributed this article to odsg.org, where this article was originally published. Read more of Mr. Tucker’s articles on the one state solution at: http://one-state.net