My sources of information are limited. Of newspapers, I read New York Times, Washington Post, Haaretz daily. I don’t have a television hookup, so never see any commercial TV. Of blogs, I read 972, Open Zion, and Mondoweiss (even though I was banned from posting) to gain a sense of the tenor of the dissenting community.
Among the dissenting community, many consider the prospect of a two-state solution comprised of a healthy and accepted Israel and Palestine, as practically dead. The left authors that conclude that the two-state is dead don’t often distinguish their reasons. I wish they would clarify whether they regard it as undesirable in its own right, whether they conclude that the physical extent of the settlements prohibit the feasibility of a viable Palestine, or that they believe that the two-state is politically infeasible, that no ratifiable agreement is forthcoming.
Some of the prominent dissenting authors privately convey that they originally hoped for a two-state solution, that it was the most rational solution optimizing self-governance, but that they fear (more than fear, observe) that the likelihood of two states is growing difficult, remote, impossible.
So, if the two-state approach is stressed, potentially failing, dead even, what is the best response?
Absent a two-state solution there are really only two other political options. One option is the current status quo of Israeli control over a marginally independent Palestinian Authority, Palestinian community and West Bank land. The second is some form of federated or bi-national single state.
Internationally, both flavors abandoning the two-state solution, is a repudiation of dozens of UN resolutions, dozens of international court decisions, an utter revolution in the relations between Israel (and the PA) and all individual states that recognize them, rendering also dozens of bi-lateral agreements void. It does imply a comprehensive reinvention of every wheel, with inevitably odd bedfellows.
In the few polls conducted in Israel and in the West Bank on the question of the status quo vs two-state vs single state, the majorities all describe a preference for two separate self-governing states. (I haven’t read of published polls originating from either Gaza, or the Palestinian refugee/diaspora communities.)
I can’t then conclude that the two-state solution is “dead”, but that it is definitely ill, and worse, prohibited by a road-block from getting medicine in a timely manner.
I won’t bury a breathing child, however sick.
My instincts are to attempt to save the child, to work hard to if I can muster the energy and support.
So my next question is two-fold
1. How can change occur? What methods of action can I take that will facilitate the realization of two healthy, accepted self-governing states? What is likely to be effective?
2. What methods of action can I participate in without fundamental moral ambiguity or hypocrisy?
So, I look at the possible actions that I can do myself, enc0urage with words, and/or can facilitate with money and/or time.
1. Communication on behalf of community organizations and direct communication to Congress, and/or President. It seems insignificant, but it remains a good idea to support the efforts of J Street and other similar organizations to convey that there are in fact people that consider Palestinians in formation of US policy, will vote and contribute partially on that basis. But, as Israeli policy is so independent of US influence currently, that is unlikely to change much.
2. BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions efforts) – As much as the South African BDS campaign is promoted as a model of non-violent path to write the wrong of discrimination and suppression, I don’t find BDS likely to be successful, nor benign. (It’s not non-harming, nor non-punitive. It’s just not harming through guns.)
Given that the Israeli populace lives in a state of low-level trauma, it is more likely that BDS will be perceived as an ethnically defined shunning, reminiscent of the law and “non-violent” support accompanying pogroms, holocaust, terror campaigns. The likely response to a “successful” BDS campaign will be for Israel to hunker down, accompanied by expanded efforts at suppression of Palestinians that won’t break under pressure. The darkness before the dawn, will really be the darkness before the deeper darkness. The slogans of “power can only be transformed by resistance” is a falsehood.
In contrast to the appearance of unanimous and unequivocal support for anti-South Africa apartheid BDS, I regard BDS as ultimately a wrong. It is an action of harming, a punishment, a shunning.
Sometimes wrongs are temporarily necessary to achieve a greater good, so long as the criteria for ending the wrong is clear and there is a path to end the wrong. BDS though is not constructed of clear demands, clear criteria, but instead comprise a set of principles deliberately left vague enough to attract a coalition of Palestinian solidarity support, a coalition of resistance, not of peace.
Inherent in any vehement social movement there is vanity of knowledge, the presumption that I/we know, supported by an effort to discipline to conforming political stances, and also underlying political attitudes.
The determination on the part of BDS proponents is a combination of real compassion, combined with false vanity of knowledge, self-censorship in books to quote for example, and a willingness to trash sanctioned trashable people. (It frankly sickens me to hear abusive generalizations about settlers, or ultra-orthodox, by people that have never heard, read, or met one, made by ideologs pretending to be acting for universal justice.)
Criticism makes sense. But there is a difference between criticism and prejudice.
What does that leave? Milquetoast? Wishing only? Unintentionally supporting the status quo, by my silence?
To my mind, it leaves only one option, that is genuinely non-violent in all respects, and affirms and furthers the prospect of two democratic healthy good neighbor states with much interaction.
That is the “as if” option.
The “as if” option has two themes that on the surface seem to contradict each other.
1. To act “as if” there is a separate sovereign Palestine. Absent an actual treaty, the only internationally consented even temporary border, is the green line.
But, on the ground, noone knows exactly where it is. The fence is not at the green line, except in a few areas. The areas that Israel has annexed are undifferentiated, even in some locales buildings straddling the green line.
So long as the green line is not marked, it disappears. Its not just memory. Its just gone.
The primary political “as if” action then is to physically mark the green line. I recommend that it be done with a symbolic green thread, designating its frailty, its human construction requiring reminder. Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, ambassadors, activists, can each mark a section, step by step. I recommend that it be conducted entirely silently, no t-shirt messages even. If done entirely calmly, deliberately, it need not provoke, but nevertheless makes its statement of the continued relevance of the green line, assertively.
Accompanying that knowledge of the green line, the second political “as if” action is to treat the land east of the green line as Palestinian territory, requiring formal permission in some form to enter. I would request then that the PA, or designated NGO (even a sympathetic Israeli NGO) process the voluntary equivalent of visa requests to cross from west of the green line to east of the green line.
The third political “as if” action, also requiring the PA or designated NGO to administer, is to collect voluntary taxes on all sales, income, property, meals for all activity east of the green line. So, if an Israeli or European tourist buys a meal east of the green line, they should then voluntarily pay the PA the simulated sales tax. If an Israeli business doing business east of the green line did so, that would be a stronger statement. If an Israeli export business (say Ahava) did so, that would be a stronger statement still.
The second major theme of “as if” is social. That is to enhance the integration/acceptance of Palestinians to Israeli and of Israelis to Palestinians, humanizing the other.
It takes a change in consciousness on the part of both communities to make substantive change. There are intentional respectful actions that each can do that do not imply any fundamental compromise, instead a fundamental affirmation of the respect of all living beings as the primary religious and philosophical value.
For Israelis, the most effective consciousness changing action that I can imagine is to actively affirm the memory of the Palestinian communities that resided on the land prior to Israeli dominance. They should be remembered, honored, appreciated, not erased even if there is no physical prospect of return to them.
Other actions that can make fundamental change are cooperative efforts in areas of mutual concern. Those that claim to love the land, can only do so by working together to minimally harm it and to restore it where possible. Those that claim to care about public health, must affirm the health of their neighbors. Those that claim to love justice, must evolve means to resolve conflicts inter-personally, and if not resolvable inter-personally, by authoritative inter-communal courts that operate under consented principles, even if solely voluntarily subscribed to.
Cultural interaction should be enhanced, not boycotted. Intellectual and scientific discussion should be enhanced, not boycotted.
They are all doable. I think that these actions will make real change, and quickly.
Leaders will create the paths to. Individuals committed to doing good, will use the paths created to get to know their neighbors, and to honor their neighbors, including by the empowerment to self-determination.
“As if”. Build it and they will come.