As If

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.

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12 Responses to As If

  1. Observer says:

    It’s a useless cause. One does not have to be madly in love with the Palestinians, to see the writings on the wall. The Middle East is a highly volatile region, and the locals will never accept a self defined jewish state within their midst. US support only alienates those in the region Israel and the US are becoming increasingly The American Jewish Establishment beetter invest in some hard core damage control because the the tide is going to turn and the backlash will be severe, and (Gen Xers and Millenials will inherit the mess), considering the amount spent on propping up Israel. As long as US is expected to bear the burden, you can not expect to improve Israel’s image.

    The Best you can hope for is to relocate Israel to another continent. There are uninhabited regions in Western Australia (where a jewish state should have been created in 1939) and Northern South America, Birobidzhan or a sparsely populated state of German and keep a low profile in world affairs. I might consider immigrating if the backlash is too much to bear. I wouldn’t mind living in a Haredi dominated state, and adopting a more feminine role.

    I agree with you that the commenters on Mondoweiss are pretty juvenile and counterproductive.

    • I had hoped that I would get much more enthusiastic response to the proposal from both the Palestinian solidarity left and the liberal left.

      My sense is that many have just given up on peace, that the cost to their intellectual consistency is just too high.

      People that have been involved with Israel/Palestine (and the dozen or so other conflicts) for decades, know that this is not the worst of times, nor will things stay the same (they will change), as frustrating as all efforts seem.

      Respectful approaches to the “other”, will inevitably bear some fruit. Even if after a war, the memory of “that person was respectful to me”, will remain, which can multiply.

      Human relations are tides, if allowed to be.

      The choice to give up also plants seeds.

      There is no chance that Israelis will move elsewhere. Reconciliation is the only path. Its like getting born, only one way out.

      • Observer says:

        The Palestinians are never going to stop fighting for their land. It was a mistake to place a jewish state in the most hotly contested spot in the world. It just forces us on an international stage. And getting the West involved and requesting emotional and financial is a recipe for disaster. The political and economic elite may claim to still be on board, but you’re losing a lot of goyim “on the ground.” If there is a populist revolution during the coming economic crisis, there could be a major bloodbath. Even without a revolution, the
        Israel and the American Jewish Establishment will never be able to shake their association with the plutocrats, and will ultimately receive a disproportionate share of blame when the US goes down.

      • I also have some fears that things will spin out, and a new wave of anti-semitism will emerge.

        I don’t have a clue if Palestinians are going to adopt an either/or approach, or whether they would accept an integrated single state, or if they would accept a partitioned two-state.

        There is a permanent danger in using the language “the Palestinians”, or “the Israelis”, or “the anything”.

        That is that in each of the communities there is a great diversity of opinion, perspective, willingness.

        There is no question in my mind that unnecessary suppression (almost all, and none permanently) shifts hearts and minds away from acceptance, away from conditional acceptance, to unconditional rejection.

        The very same phenomena occurs in the relation of Palestinian militants to Israelis, that terror firms unconditional rejection, whereas dialog and even genuinely non-violent demonstration at least has the possibility of communication and then change in policies.

        The West is involved. Its not a question of whether or not. The only question is of how, to what extent, for what purpose, and with what contingency.

        Whether it was a mistake for Jews to desire and then to settle in Israel is a mute question. Its long past.

        The questions are present ones, not past.

        You have to pick from the menu. There are no magical options.

      • Observer says:

        Sorry about speaking about the Palestinians in blanket terms. I was only parroting the typical zionist talking points. Phil Weiss travelled to the terrirtories and he said this is the general consensus among Palestinians. They are too angry to accept a jewish state at this point, and possibly with good reason.

        Why should relocating Israel be considered a “magical” option? The jewish establishment and fortune 500 jewish billionaires are not exactly strapped for cash. The world is a different place than it was 65 years ago, and Western states with vast amounts of unused land might be open to the idea of a jewish state within their midst. Some residents of Western Australia have even expressed regret that the Kimberley Plan did not go through. Brian Holden of the Vision Institute in Sydney wrote an op-ed about it. Imagine the possibilities if Israel did not have to spend so much of its budget on military expenses.

  2. Peace is 100,000 times more likely than Israelis migrating to Western Australia.

    Israel is there to stay.

    Palestinians only hope for self-governance is in the two-state, achieved by civil and entirely non-violent means.

    ANY violent approach will result in them more suppressed (as dangerous terrorists) or removed (from a warzone, repeating 1948, but to the extent that Israel will annex the West Bank and leave a 30% non-Jewish minority from river to sea).

    The single state will result in open purchasing season on the entire West Bank, which will be Judaized within a decade to a slightly less extent than Israel was twenty years ago. There might be a non-Zionist polity, but not a non-Zionist economy or society.

    Only non-violent approaches will work at all. They will if the Palestinian solidarity movement utterly renounces Iranian, Syrian, Hezbollah support, and enlists Jewish support.

    In 1993, half a million Israelis attended a Peace Now rally in Tel Aviv. That was 1/10 of the whole population of the country, physically attending a peace rally. Any that tell you that Israelis are racists ignore that fact and ignore the significance of that (both past and prospects for future change of hearts and minds).

    “As if” is the best way for Israelis to express their sympathy without requiring radicalization into a very confused politically correct mindset.

    • Observer says:

      Then Israel can do so on its own dollar and at its own risk. The West has too many problems of its own to take care of, once the cat gets out of the bag, and the Jewish Establishment is charged with dual loyalty and older generations of more committed jews retire and die off, Israel will stop receiving the amount of support it has enjoyed in the past.

      • The US/Israel will change, but not grossly.

        Israel will not disappear. And, the closeness of the US to Israel will also likely not disappear.

        The best outcome is peace. Israel accepted, Palestine accepted.

        If Israel is not to be accepted, then there will be war, and the US will be more drawn into that, than the fantasy that somehow Israelis will move.

        The most prudent political pressure that the US can do, is to revive the Arab League proposal, and to urge the Arab League to move forward in diplomatic relations with Israel, incrementally if needed, not to withhold relations.

      • Observer says:

        What was that quote about optimism being beneficial during the morning and the mid afternoon, but as the sky darkens, one has to step back and adopt a more practical and pragmatic approach and mindset?

        You have to recognize that supporting Israel puts us in a very dangerous place
        Lieberman, Podhoretz, Wolfowitz, Perle etc have all lived their lives and can conk out to avoid the backlash, your children and their peers are going to have to deal with the consequences their short sighted misdeeds.

  3. There is very wide diversity of ways to support Israel.

    As you can tell by my other blog posts, I would have preferred that the US provided a more assertive mediation that would have made the Palestinian state a reality.

    What was/is needed is some recognition on the part of Israel that it will happen, and that its next steps should be in relationship-building, preparation, assistance, collaboration of peers. The US could have facilitated that preparation, rather than delaying until some vaguely stated conditions of attitude among the Palestinian populace, are confident.

    I consider that a form of supporting Israel, the preparation for the plane landing.

    I do not see support for Israel as an either/or formula, either support Israel or support Palestine. I support both.

    I don’t see your proposal, your moving forward.

  4. Observer says:

    The ditch keeps getting deeper. I just can’t see the current leadership changing their ways. Obviously I’m not in a position to do anything about it, and I shouldn’t bother you with it any more.

  5. Observer says:

    Relocating Israel in the near future would be preferable to the long term alternative: a new diaspora, as Israeli jews get crowded out.

    I’ve said previously that I am not particularly in love with the Palestinians and one particular fear is that if Israel and the jewish elite become too cozy with the plutocrats and the war machine, the Palestinians will emerge with flying colors (that’s what I gather from reading the opinions among the anti zionist blogosphere)-they will become immune to criticism, become immune to criticism and automatically be associated with poplists or progressive politics, whether they subscribe to them or not.

    The best thing Beinart can do right now is convince the current jewish establishment to invest in some serious damage control, because the backlash is coming and it ain’t gonna be pretty.

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