Last September, just a few weeks before the eruption of the second Palestinian intifadah, I wandered over to Cinemateque square in the upscale area of Tel Aviv. In the cool breeze of late afternoon, a few dozen retirees with their families were having a nice outing. The old ladies knitted, while kids drew flags on big sheets of paper. This peaceful gathering was the commemoration by the Israeli peace camp of the seventh anniversary of the Oslo accords. The keynote speaker was Uri Avneri.
This handsome man with a noble head of white hair invoked, as he always does, his vision of two states coexisting in the Holy Land, an independent Palestine next to the Jewish state. Every word sounded right, but it was as stimulating as yesterday’s news and as entertaining as a rerun of an old TV serial. Not surprisingly, there were no young activists, as the traditional peace camp no longer attracts new dynamic blood. Mr. Avneri is recycling the same tired speech over the Net these days, focusing on the latest Israeli bogeyman, the return of the Palestinian refugees.
Please don’t misunderstand me, Uri Avneri is a man of good intentions, a brave supporter of Palestinian rights, an activist doing more than his share and an efficient organizer. It’s just that his political agenda is deader than a dodo bird.
Let us face the hard facts on the ground: the idea of two states in Palestine is, and always has been, a con job. After being partitioned for only 19 years, Palestine has been united for 33 years. No Israeli or Palestinian under the age of 40 even remembers the “partition years” from 1948-1967. It is a period of time that Mr. Avneri latches onto as some kind of Paradise Lost. No Israeli politician, including the late lamented Mr. Rabin, has ever seriously considered relinquishing any part of historical Palestine. The endless negotiations have been a sideshow designed to mollify the public. Thirty years ago, Arik Einstein was assuring us that “The talks will be resumed soon.” They are still singing the same old song.
In the meantime, behind the smoke screen of a ‘temporary military occupation’, the hard-nosed Israeli leadership has confiscated Palestinian fields and houses to make room for Jewish settlements and imprisoned and killed thousands of Palestinians. A succession of leftist and rightist Israeli regimes perpetuated this legal fiction in order to deny the civic rights of the conquered population. It was a brilliant idea, worthy of the Jewish genius: to carry on the negotiations forever, while giving only lip service to the idea of two states.
Honesty forces me to vigorously proclaim to both my Palestinian and Israeli friends: you were duped. They played a cruel game with you, teasing you with the empty promises like the stale old “tale of two states” narrated by Mr. Avneri.
There has always been only two paths for the Palestinians to emerge from serfdom. One is to beat Israel. The second one is to join it. The third way, of a new partition, is just an illusion; a juicy carrot tied in front of the donkey.
If I were into conspiracy theories, I could well imagine that these good people of the Israeli peace movement intentionally supplied the left leg to our shaky apartheid structure. By continually repainting the [old armistice] Green Line, they have endorsed the non-citizen status of the Palestinians in their own land. By calling the lands “occupied territories”, they exempted themselves from having to battle against the exclusion of the Palestinians from the country’s political life. By combating the annexation of the territories, they have assisted in legitimizing the joke of independent Palestinian Bantustans.
But the idea of such a conspiracy is just too mind-boggling. I do not think Mr. Avneri and the peace camp received their briefings in the offices of the Shabak. They were just too keen to believe that the Israeli generals would conclude a fair peace with the Palestinians.
Even a kid watching James Bond movies eventually understands that the hero won’t be eaten by crocodiles and won’t die in the flames. There is even less reason to expect that an Israeli government would sign a just peace with the Palestinians. They will always find an exit strategy out of the “peace process”.
Exactly what sort of ‘peace’ might Israel offer? In an article published in that popular keeper of the Zionist faith, the New York Times, (15.12.2000), a good American Jew named Richard Bernstein recommended to President-elect Bush a recent book by another pundit of that ilk, Robert Kaplan. He discloses the real Israeli peace plan:
“For decades I have heard that there would be either a Greater Israel, or a Palestinian state. It turns out there will be both: a Palestinian mini-state, without control over its skies or main highways, situated within a dynamic Israel that will continue to attract workers from across the border, making it the stabilizing force of Greater Syria.”
We should offer thanks to Bernstein and Kaplan for clarifying that Israel and its American Zionist allies intend to keep the Palestinians forever locked in the reservations, competing for work in the Jewish state with their brethren from Jordan and Syria. That is the peace that Israeli doves have been cooing about.
Should it work, perhaps the US could adopt the idea, granting independence to the Afro-Hispanic US population with a capital in the South Bronx. The new state would consist of five hundred enclaves circled by superhighways and miles of reinforced concrete walls, and would contain all of the US’s non-whites. If that is peace, I choose war.
The more I think about it, the less inclined I become to giving the Israeli peace camp the benefit of doubt as to their bona fides. Too often, they keep using that pesky phrase, ‘the Jewish state’. It’s easy enough to understand why. Consider that Mr. Avneri and his comrades came of age in the years of the crude biological racism that was part and parcel of the ideologies promoted by Weininger, Nordau, Chamberlain and Hitler. They actually believe that a person belongs to a nation by a virtue of blood. For them, a Jew is always and forever a Jew, thus the notion of ‘two states for two nations’. So the peace movement is, first and foremost, still about creating a “Jewish state”. The second of these two states, the remnants of Palestine, is just an incidental byproduct of the process of creating the coveted “Jewish State”.
Sorry if this hurts anyone’s feelings, but the notion of ‘a Jew’ is a fiction, a phantom created by Nazi ideologues and perpetuated by Zionist mythology. The real Jewish people of the Pale and ghetto are long gone. They have disappeared. They have been assimilated in America, Russia, France and elsewhere. Today we are something quite different – Americans, Russians and Palestinians of Jewish origin. Whatever our grandfathers had in the way of a national culture, we have lost. A Cohen from San Francisco is no more a member of the Jewish tribe, than a Jones from Atlanta is a Welshman, or a Mazzoni from New York is a Sicilian. The small, religious Jewish residual minority of Bne Brak and Brooklyn has no need for the Zionist state. They do not even consider Israel “Jewish”.
This phantom of a Jew survives on an external life-supporting machine. This Zionist fantasy is perpetuated by a strange and formidable coalition of American Jews burning with nostalgia for the lost Jewish life, functionaries of the Jewish organizations, Shoah businessmen, the machinery pumping cash out of Germany, charity collectors, Jewish Mafiosi seeking a safe haven, right-wing Christian nutcases, believers in the Elders of Zion and pragmatic military industrial salesmen.
While their joint forces failed to resurrect the Jewish people of old, they did manage to create an international Zionist super-Mafia, a materialized world plot, like in the Umberto Eco novel. However, this monster has nothing to do with the real people in Israel, where the word ‘Jew’ has little meaning.
Mr. Avneri, have you visited Maalot or Ophakim lately? In those towns you hardly encounter anyone that you would consider to be a ‘Jew’. If you speak Ukrainian or Amharic, you might get by. The fact is we do not have two nations, but rather, a variety of communities. The Moroccans of Ramle, the Russians of Ashdod, the software wiz kids of Hertzliya Pituah, the millionaires of Caesarea, the settlers of Tapuah, the scholars of Mea Shearim, the Ethiopians of Ophakim. These wildly diverse communities constitute a Jewish nation only in the imagination of the Zionist establishment, the pre-’48 settlers and their aging children. ‘The first Israel’ has good reason for clinging onto this flight of fantasy, as this minority still monopolizes power over the other communities and retains all its perks.
No outsider has ever succeeded in getting anywhere close to the Israeli power center. There is hardly a Russian (20% of voters), or a Moroccan (30% of voters) in an independent position of power and influence in Israel. When an Oriental Jew was elected to a ceremonial post of President, the ‘first Israel’ went into mourning.
An unfortunate problem for the dominant elite is that they have run out of talent and ideas. They have insisted on extreme exclusivity and their adoration of the military is akin to idolatry. The farce of general Sharon battling for power with his second-in-command general Barak, with the ancient murderer of Kana, Shimon Peres as a Great White Hope, is surely adequate proof of the bankruptcy of ‘The First Israel’. The Zionist idea has collapsed; only blood and war keeps the Golem in motion.
Behind the smoke of racist illusions, we already live in a united Palestine. The Green line exists only in our minds. It is in everyone’s common interest to abolish it completely and establish equality before the law for everybody in all of Palestine (Israel), from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Then we can enjoy one law for both the native son of the land and the newcomer, as the Bible commands us. One law for a kibbutznik from Afikim, and for a fellah from Yatta.
It could have happened years ago, if the Israeli left had not nurtured the illusions of partition. Jerusalem is the good case to consider. The Palestinian population of the city – one third of United Jerusalem – is entitled to participate in the municipal elections and can send their deputies to the City Council. But they accepted the silly advise of the Israeli peace camp and their Palestinian friends and boycotted the elections in order to sustain the Green Line. It was a ruinous decision and one they should rethink. Remember that Israel would not have demolished houses in Jerusalem, the Palestinians of the East Jerusalem would liveed better had they participated in the elections. They may and they should vote.
Without the Green Line, the horrors of occupation would have ended long ago, in the same fashion that the military rule in the Palestinian Galilee was ended in 1966. The 40% of the Knesset elected by the Palestinians would have been able to cancel all discriminatory laws including the Law of Absentee Property and the present Law of Citizenship.
In a representative state, the return of Palestinian refugees does not have to be traumatic. If the refugees from Deheishe were to return to Sataf and Suba, it would be a short 10 mile relocation. By allowing the peasants of Deir Yassin to return to their ancient homes, we would be atoning for their suffering. The peasants of Sheich Munis will have to settle for hefty compensation, at the expense of Tel Aviv University, which is built on their land. Maybe they will use their compensation to build new houses next to the university, or just buy flats in Ramat Aviv Gimel. We can borrow a leaf from the Polish book of law: Poland restored the property to Jewish refugees, but did not permit the expulsion of the current tenants.
The removal of the Green line will actually be good for all of us, even for the settlers. They should be able to remain and live like equals in our commonwealth. Without the army to enforce their superiority, they will have to either mend their evil ways and become good neighbors, or go back to Brooklyn.
So how do we get to the Promised Land? We’re already there! We already have one state. Historical Palestine is unified. Stop the empty rhetoric of occupation and two states. We need no tricks, no ‘creative solutions’, just the good old universal suffrage, the “One Man -One Vote”. We demanded it for our grandfathers in Eastern Europe. They received it from the Gentiles 150 years ago; it is the right time to pass this most basic of rights to the Palestinian natives of this land.
“It is useless for a drowning man to implore the moneylender to “Give me your hand!” He has never given, and he never will. Instead, shout: “Take my hand!” and he will clutch at it”.
This was the advise of the Sufi sage, Haji Nasr ad-Din. The Israeli establishment will never give anything. The Palestinians and their Jewish allies have to say, “Lets just Take it!” and demand that the Holy Land never be divided again.
(Mr. Israel Shamir, is one of best-known and most respected Russian Israeli writer and journalist. He wrote for Haaretz, BBC, Pravda and translated Agnon, Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Tel Aviv and writes a weekly column in the Vesti, the biggest Russian-language paper in Israel.)