“The days go by”, & “A two-state solution for Israel/Palestine?”

The days go by

The days go by, or maybe it’s I who go by, mostly with other things on & in my mind than the things I blog about: life things, family things, health things, home maintenance things, things I read in books or online, things we see on TV, things we talk about, things we don’t talk about, things I remember, things I forget – &, beyond & beneath these, things I feel that I know I’m feeling & others that I don’t even know I’m feeling… Same as everyone, I suppose, everyone has their own mix of things they think about & feel & know they feel & don’t know they feel, only a fraction of which gets expressed…

Autumn’s begun, & even though the rainy season hasn’t ended there’s a cooler crispness in the air some days amid the last many days of high humidity. I’m feeling better today after a difficult few days… In the northern hemisphere it’s spring that has started. In the three weeks since my last post the Hebrew Feast of Spring, aka Passover, aka the Feast of Freedom has come & gone, seven days in Israel, eight days in the Diaspora, beginning the Monday night before last with the traditional Seder held in many Jewish homes. We didn’t have one at home, and didn’t go to one, we were invited but didn’t want to go, both of us weary of the repeated ritual & the constrained socializing, happy to be free of the obligation which we had fulfilled for so many years “for the children” or “for the family” or even “for our friends” (the several times over the decades when we had either edited or rewritten the texts to be read). We just raised a glass and said the one Passovery thing we could affirm as a wish & a choice for ourselves, including the choice we had made not to be at a Seder this evening: “Mi-avdut le-herut!”  (“From slavery to freedom!”)…

I have thoughts about the traditional texts too, but won’t go there now, perhaps another time. I began something in my last post, & have had several responses, not all of them directly. D, a friend in Israel who is a close friend of Nitza’s since their childhood, emailed her that it was difficult for her to read what I’d written. This is my home, she wrote, my whole life is here. & I think I understand: like so many Jewish Israelis of her and Nitza’s generation, their parents came to post-Balfour-Declaration British Mandatory Palestine/Eretz-Israel carrying the Zionist dream of a life in a country where Jews could live with dignity & one day have their own state & be free of foreign oppression. They joined the earlier generations of Zionist and Hebraist colonizers who had come and settled and worked to build a “national” economy & society & culture, to revive and structure the ancient & sacred Hebrew language into a modern vernacular, & to  create a Jewish public sphere in the land they believed was their historical homeland & which most of them related to almost as a terra nullius, a “land belonging to no one” (in spite of the presence, always understood as temporary, of the occupying British forces & administration, & of the not so clearly temporary presence of the indigenous Palestinian population,  much as many of the earlier colonizers of Australia had done here), & gave their all to raise a generation of native Israeli-Jews who could live good lives & be proud of who they were – as Jews in the countries they had come from had never been able to be.

We can’t know how many really believed in these things, or how many merely accepted the myth & the ideologies that drove the forces acting for the creation of this entity that was known as the Yishuv (I think the best translation of this word is the Settling, because although yishuv is a substantive that in other contexts should be translated simply as settlement, the plural being yishuvim, it is also a gerund that expresses an ongoing process, that of settling) until it became, in 1948, the State of Israel. We also can’t know how many considered the possible consequences – moral, political, psychological, sociological, economic, military, etc. etc., for their own & for future generations – of ignoring the effects of their basic disregard & subsequent treatment of the Palestinian inhabitants of this land, which has many parallels to attitudes of pioneering European colonizers to the indigenes of many countries of what for them (the Europeans) became the “Second World”. How much compassion can one have for people who resent your incursion (which you believe is somehow yours by “right”) & also sometimes resort to violence to express their resentment & try to make you move away?

Raised by parents who saw the future in their children & did what they could to give their children a good life in this “Old New Land”, Nitza’s generation (as a whole, of course this is a generalization and there would have been exceptions) had a childhood & youth that gave them a deep identification with the country of their birth. They imbibed this at home, at school, in youth movements (a vibrant social environment in comradeship groups that were a focus of their social lives through their high school years & into the years of national service in the IDF, & for some continued into kibbutzim).  Most of them have built their lives in Israel, they’ve built families & raised children & many now have grandchildren; they’ve established relationships, neighbourhood connections, & cultural associations that are linked indissolubly to the place they live in & love; they have lived through several wars, survived the Scud attacks during the Gulf War of 1991; many of them & their children have fought in this country’s wars. They have grieved together for the many casualties of battles & of terrorist attacks, have commemorated the fallen in these wars on many Remembrance Days, & celebrated the military & other achievements of their state on many Independence Days.

They are for the most part secular Jews, not religious, although most will have the traditional family gatherings on Seder nights (whether they actually read from the Haggadah or not, or, as many do, skip through the part until the meal begins & ignore the part that follows) and Rosh Hashanah (the Hebrew New Year) eve; their sons will be circumcised eight days after they’re born & have a bar-mitzvah when they turn 13, & their daughters will have bat-mitzvahs. They’re secular Jews who feel their Jewhood as an ethnicity, feel themselves part of the Jewish people, & each year on Holocaust Day commemorate those who perished in World War II & the heroism of the ghetto fighters & the partisans who resisted the Nazi machine. Many of them may feel stress & distress about the ongoing conflict, many of them may have participated in rallies & been part of the “peace camp” until it imploded in 2000 after the abortive Camp David summit, & may still wish for peace & be opposed to the occupation & to the current political climate in the country & even feel despair because they’re now a minority in the demographic make-up of the present-day Israeli-Jewish population, which has changed dramatically since the 1967 war & the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – but still they see as Israel as their home, as a Jewish state they want to continue to live in.

So of course it cannot be a solution for them to leave their established lives & homes in Israel, (even if they could get an immigration visa to somewhere like here & had the means to make the move) & to have to try to start a new life in another country, with another language, another culture, other customs, to become foreigners, immigrants, as earlier generations of their ancestors had to do every now and then.

Many of them, I imagine, probably may well support a two-state solution, and would support the ceding of occupied territories now settled by Jews (the “territories for peace” formula) to make this possible. But, as I wrote in my last post, I find the idea that there can be a viable & lasting “two-state solution” very problematic. I’ve now written a page about this, & am publishing it with this post:

 

A two-state solution for Israel/Palestine?

I once really supported the two state idea, participated in several “Peace Now” demonstrations for it in Tel Aviv during the ’90s, & remember  marching  alongside other demonstrators in the middle of the road in Dizengoff Street in on the way to Rabin Square for a protest rally, carrying placards and chanting, in Hebrew, “Yisrael Falastin, shtey medinot leshney amim!  [“Israel Palestine, Two States for Two Peoples!”]. We were a minority then, and encountered not a few hecklers on the sidewalks along the way who angrily berated us as traitors…

Today it seems as though a majority of Jewish Israelis are for it, the government is for it, many Jewish supporters of Israel worldwide are for it, many leaders in the world are for it, & on his recent show-visit to Israel US President Barack Obama reaffirmed it as the goal of the “peace process”, & said “Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land..”

It seems an ideal solution: how wonderful it could be if the two “peoples” who claim this country, known for about two millennia by most of the world as “Palestine”, by Arabs as “Falastin”, by Jews as “Eretz-Israel” (“the Land of Israel”), & called “the Holy Land” by Jews, Christians & Muslims, could amicably agree to a partition that would enable both of these peoples to have viable sovereign states of their own in which they could live & prosper without being subject to the power of an oppressive majority or occupying power, & without constant fear of attack & of attempts to destroy their state. For centuries Jews have known persecution by the majority populations & the regimes of their host countries or their invaders: here at last they would be able to live apart (as Jewish Israelis have for the most part been able to do there since 1948) & at last in true security in their own state; for decades Palestinians have known dispossession, occupation & discrimination at the hands of an invading power: here at last they too would be able to live apart & at last in true security in their own state…

Ideal, idyllic. But not, I think, realistic.

My hopes for it began to fade in 2000, after Barak came back empty-handed from his summit with Arafat and Clinton at Camp David…

& now I find it hard to imagine a Zionist government agreeing to a removal & dismantling of most of the existing Israeli-Jewish settlements in the territories of the biblical Judea and Samaria, traditionally parts of the “historical Land of Israel” – or a Palestinian government agreeing to any proposal a Zionist government could offer it, which would have to be a scattered & divided “homeland”, always contingent on the Israeli military. & why, indeed, should they have to put up with such limitation?  why can they not have the freedoms that people in most modern states take for granted?

Nor can I imagine how any such “solution” could be viable, if in each of these sovereign ethnic/national states there remains a considerable minority population of the other ethnicity: Israeli-Jewish settlers in Palestine, Palestinian Arabs in Israel. First, the majorities in these states would live with constant fear & suspicion of their respective minorities, & the minorities would live with the deprivations & the stigmas of second-class citizenship & the dilemmas of mixed allegiance.

Beyond this, I don’t think any ethnic nation-state with a sizable majority population of a different ethnicity can be a viable or lasting solution for people wanting to live a decent & a humane life. The modern (or perhaps the right word is really postmodern) state is not a nation-state, not an ethnocracy (the rule of one ethnos, one people, one nation) but a pluralistic, multicultural (& thus multiethnic) democracy (the rule of the entire population of its citizens).

Which is also why I can’t see any two-state solution (assuming something approaching a viable form is achieved) as lasting: because I believe nation-states are really a thing of the past, and in a modern (sorry, postmodern) electronically wired world more & more people (if they get a choice) will prefer to live in pluralistic democracies than in ethnocracies. I need to add that the demise of ethnic states does not entail the demise of ethnic cultures, and does not negate or abolish feelings such as love of one’s ethnic culture. Many ethnic cultures flourish in the contemporary diasporas of many ethnicities in postmodern multicultural states), & many wonderful fusions & intermarriages also emerge…

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2 thoughts on ““The days go by”, & “A two-state solution for Israel/Palestine?”

  1. Hi and as always stimulating and moving comments Dick. A dilemma indeed! keep writing and musing. susan and daniel

    Like

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