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Monday, December 31, 2007


Comments on "Democracy: an existential threat?"

Comments in response to comments on Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti's story, "Democracy: an existential threat?" in the Guardian's Comment is Free today.

The comment, typical of the dehumanisation and demonisation that proliferates the I/P stories was written by Michael Bournemouth:

"Just one question to the authors. And to all the other noble people who 'cannot understand' why this solution [one state] is not going to work.
I am a Jewish Israeli. What will happen if I now go to Ramalla for a private visit ? I want a straightforward and honest answer."

In order to allay Michael Bournemouth's fears I offered the following:

Michael Bournemouth:

My late father, Baseel, was born in Ramallah in 1922. Until 1948, Ramallah was almost one hundred percent Christian. Its original inhabitants migrated to Ramallah from east of the Jordan River in the sixteenth century and we are all related; the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine is the largest Arab-American organization in the US. Today it is about fifty percent Christian and its mayor is Janet Michael, a Christian Palestinian. I believe that the mayor must be Christian.

It pains me very much that Ramallah, which because of its mild climate was a well-known vacation resort before the Nakba, is almost exclusively associated with the lynching that occurred there. Not to excuse it; I remember my father condemning it, but it was believed by some of the Palestinians there that the two belonged to the IDF death squads that frequent Palestinian towns and extrajudicially kill Palestinian young men.

If you came to Ramallah in peace you would be treated well and with typical Palestinian hospitality. There are any number of Israeli peace activists who would attest to this. My father recalls before the Nakba playing bridge with Jews in Ramallah. And the man who visited my father most frequently when he was dying of cancer was Sa'eb Dajani, a Muslim from Jerusalem.

It saddens me to see Palestinians demonised on these I/P boards. We are not all the same, but a diverse group of people.

And then there was this obtuse comment from the German immigrant, PetraMB (not a woman of few words):

Thanks for reminding me of the very relevant piece of Yossi Klein Halevi; I haven't thought of it in this context, but you are absolutely right that it is very pertinent, as is of course his book of 2001

I definitely agree with all those who noted here that articles advocating the so-called "one-state solution" seem to become a regular fixture on CIF; and indeed, much of what can be said about this "solution" has been said.

However, one thing that continues to amaze me is the fact that the advocates of the "one-state solution" are so eagerly accepted as leftist progressives. It should be obvious that the kind of "equality" and "coexistence" supposedly championed by the one-staters is indistinguishable from the ideas of coexistence that Azzam Tamimi so memorably advocated a year ago on CIF as part of the launch of the "Independent Jewish Voices"...


All the talk about "democracy" and "equality" cannot obscure that the project is about one thing, and one thing only: to do away with Israel and to turn the Jews who would be willing to stay and risk finding themselves ruled by Hamas into a minority. Of course, the fate of Israel's Jewish citizens is of no interest to the one-staters; their, in principle legitimate, concern is about the Palestinians, and they claim that their approach is "rights-based". But the core right they really claim for the Palestinians is the right to forego the right to self-determination in a state of their own in favor of the "right" to demand the dissolution of an existing state, thus also denying the vast majority of the population of this to-be-dissolved state the right to self-determination.

Essentially, this objective is to be achieved not so much by democracy, but rather by demography. Another crucial premise of this "rights-based" approach is the notion that the "right" to claim a specific place of residence is more important than all other rights, and trumps the rights of the current residents in this specific location.

Now where have I heard this before?

Right, on the far right of the settler movement you find a very similar "rights-based" approach, which, ironically enough, also rests on the premise that the Palestinians never really wanted a state of their own...

Since indeed every official Palestinian document emphasizes that the Palestinians are an integral part of the "Arab nation", the logical conclusion then would seem to be, as Armaros has already noted, that the Palestinians should pursue the goal of becoming part of Jordan, which already has a Palestinian majority. That is the "one-state solution" of which the Israeli right is dreaming, and they argue for it in terms that are stunningly similar to many of the arguments presented by people like Abunimah and Barghouti, who, BTW, having studied in Tel Aviv, is probably an Israeli citizen.

The other fascinating thing about the "one-state" campaign is that it produces article after article penned by activists who merrily confirm what Israelis (particularly on the right) have been saying for decades: "The main Palestinian impetus after [...] 1948 was that of 'return'; it was more about reversing the loss of Arab land and patrimony, than the fulfillment of classical post-colonial self-determination, via statehood. [..]It was only after [...1967] that a new Palestinian national identity began to take shape. At its core was the notion of the armed struggle as a galvanizing force. Armed struggle, according to Fatah, restored Palestinian dignity and gave the Palestinians a say in determining their future. Statehood and state building had no real place in this scheme. Indeed, the first tentative proposals to establish a state [...] were rejected as defeatist and a betrayal of the national cause."


In other words: it is Palestinian intransigence, the unwillingness to compromise, that has prevented a resolution of the I-P conflict for decades. Keep that in mind for the next CIF piece on the issue...

And my response:

Petra, you have a lot to say in defiance of Article 13, Section 2, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

So tell me why you, an immigrant from Germany, have more right to live in, let's say Jaffa, than my friends from Jaffa, who were born there, and whose families lived their there for hundreds of years, and who are now in forced exile?

Would you really find it so unpleasant to live next door to one of my friends from Jaffa, a rather well known Palestinian artist?

Or as Ali Abunimeh said to Yossi Beilin at the Doha Debate on right of return:

"[I] have no objection, in fact I'm very glad that Yossi Beilin and his family and his ancestors live in the country. They're there, the compromise is that they live there with us together in peace. The thing I can't understand is why he finds it so horrifying that my mother should live in the country with him, that's the thing I can't understand."


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