The much-trumpeted diplomatic effort that went into high gear around this time three years ago, when President Barack Obama made the Palestinian-Israel two-state solution his administration’s first foreign policy priority in the Middle East, has ground to a pathetic halt, its hollow promise now preserved in the archives like an insect in amber.
It is obvious that Palestinians, and other Arabs to whom the Palestine question has historically been of paramount significance, owe themselves some hard thinking on the issue. What now? What is to be done now after a military occupation that has lasted 45 years and a colonial enterprise that has foisted 400,000 Jewish colonists on Arab land? Is the two-state solution still viable, or were Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) folks in the old days, who had called for a one-state solution in the late 1960s (“a secular, democratic state”) for both Jews and Arabs in the land that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, on to a prescient idea? How possible, how probable, indeed how inevitable, is that outcome?
Columnists are meddlesome creatures who see themselves engaged in the business of leaving no question unanswered, no answer in doubt, an annoying habit similar to that of someone offering gratuitous advice at a card game. Yet sometimes we score. Consider those few of us who called on the Palestinian movement as early as 1972 to accept the idea of a “separate state” in the West Bank and Gaza, when a mere handful of Jewish colonists were ensconced there, an idea though that PLO officials at the time saw as anathema and close to an act of treason.
Now we are at an impasse. The 1948 Green Line, separating Israel from Palestine, has virtually disappeared. Israel’s colonial expansion over the last 45 years has cracked the mirror and blurred the image. Historical Palestine has morphed into a latter day South Africa under apartheid where Palestinians, effectively disenfranchised citizens with no say in determining their political destiny, no control over their natural resources and no sway over their daily lives, are governed by laws ‘apart’ from those that govern Israelis.
Bigoted view
No less than former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have both warned recently about how Israel one day soon “may descend into apartheid and xenophobia”. I beg to differ: Israel has already descended into that mould. The 400,000 colonists in the West Bank, along with their substantial number of supporters among Israeli and American Jews, have established what amounts to an ethnocracy, a political culture that celebrates a bigoted view of Palestinians as the “other” — much in the manner that white Americans in the Deep South had viewed their black counterparts in the 1940s and 1950s — and sees the West Bank, in its entirety, as the new and permanent frontier of “Eretz Israel”.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, who has not concealed his disdain for the American president and his administration, has agreed to go with the two-state solution only on paper. No further. As the prime minister’s own father, a reactionary right-wing historian was reported to have said gleefully about his son’s putative consent to the Palestinians’ call for a separate state: “He supports it under conditions that they will never accept”.
But there is more: The United States, the “honest peace broker”, has given up on the idea of putting its foot down and instead knuckled under to Israel’s pernicious practices, having decided to form an alliance with Netanyahu and his cohorts, of brisk vulgarisation of the Palestine question. It is all evident in the diplomatic language used by the White House and the State Department — gobbledygook such as “settlement [colony] expansion is unhelpful to the peace process” — a language governed by a law of etymology that hinges on dissembling, or polysemy, where words are twisted around to mean different, even opposite, things. To us humble mortals, who string words together for a living, a statement where land-grabbing, a violation of international law, could be dismissed merely as “unhelpful”, is known as cant, or at best as jargon. I have met people who flunked out of Hopkinsville University, in Kentucky, with better semantic skills than that.
All the more unfortunate, since Washington has constantly hammered into us the notion, at least since president Jimmy Carter occupied the White House, that human rights are the lodestar by which America guided its conduct of foreign affairs. And why not? While it is true that America did not invent human rights, let’s face it, human rights invented America. Thus by its decision to go along with Israel’s excesses, the United States has no less than subverted the American political compact, and the very value of universal human rights. So who is to blame independent Palestinians and their supporters around the world — the Palestinian National Authority is so immobilised that it does not know whether it’s coming or going — for initiating a campaign to convince the international community, and along with it progressive Israelis, that since the two-state solution has become barren, the only other option is the one state solution in the whole of historic Palestine, where the right of citizenship, regardless of ethnicity, faith and ideology, is enjoyed by all. We are, at any rate, inching willy-nilly in that direction. Otherwise a generation of Palestinians will in time come of age in a miasma of uncontrolled rage.
Oh, yes, the next time, for those you cannot convince by force of reason, you will convince by force of arms.
Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile. – Gulf News