Les crimes dont [un peuple] a honte font son histoire réelle.
The crimes of which a people is ashamed constitute its real history.
― Jean Genet
And surely the crimes of which a people is not ashamed even more so.
― dikf (a few days ago, after finding the genet quote someone, i forget who, posted on facebook)
Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.
― Isabel Paterson
Unsurprisingly, the recent round of negotiations has gone the way of previous ones, with no resolution of the conflict. & it doesn’t seem likely that any future negotiations can have a different result. I’ve read several fine but gloomy analyses, in particular those by Dahlia Scheindlin, Richard Silverstein, & Rona Moran & Hana Amour, & all of them seem to be saying that what will happen will be the result of evolution, not negotiation. I think&feel it’s time to put the question I ask in my title.
I can only (& I do, a lot) muse about this (not yet able yet to just sit here watching the wheels go round & round) – as a Diaspora Jew who doesn’t live there & vote there it’s not my place to take a position on positions those who live there will have to live with the consequences of if they adopt them.
But also, as a Diaspora Jew who now more than ever finds himself implicated in the Hebrew Israeli state’s newly-rearticulated demand (insisted on in the recently recollapsed ‘negotiations’ & now being put forward as a new ‘basic law’ of that state) that it be internationally recognized as “the national state of the Jewish people”, I feel a need to relate to this & also to the fact that whatever the Israeli state decides to do or not to do about the continuing conflict & occupation, as long as it continues to do so in the name of the Jewish people, Jews everywhere will also have to live with some consequence of those decisions…
& as someone who until almost 13 years ago lived for several decades in Israel as a citizen & who feels connected to Israel in many ways every day (for more details see some of my earlier posts, especially “A Post: The Days Go By…”) & who also finds himself obsessing about these things almost every day, often enough with some passion, & almost everyday being moved & stirred again by posts I read on Facebook about them, my friends’ expressions of their thoughts&feelings about it, by daily reports of new atrocities & inhumane actions perpetrated upon Falastini children, young people, older people, by opinion pieces, I feel a strong need to publish my musings on them, which lately have been converging on the question I’m asking, & I would love to be able to put it to everyone inside or outside IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين, be she or he Jew or Palestinian or concerned other who thinks & feels about these things – perhaps as an opening for an alternative, hopefully constructive & nonadversarial, direction of discourse. For surely an alternative direction is needed.
What’s been done in all of IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين, by Israelis, & by Falastinis, has been done there, & what’s still being done there is still being done there, & while some of all of it is good & sometimes even marvelous, much of it is terrible & intolerable, & not only for the direct & indirect victims & those close to them but also for the direct & indirect perpetrators & those close to them, dehumanizing & demeaning them all & the generations they are educating, destructive of social & individual values, harmful & stressful for many who are not there but who care & have feelings about those who are, & lamentably wasteful at a time when the human population of our entire planet faces imminent dangers that require the constructive energies of its best minds & hearts & souls.
So, mightn’t Two States for Two Nations (instead of Two States for Two Peoples) be a (truer &) more workable formula towards a resolution of the IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين conflict?
After all, it is not & can never be the Jewish people & the Palestinian people in their various diasporas who can decide whether to seek agreement or to continue or even to escalate the conflict.
Only the representatives elected by voters of the two nations (the Israeli nation & the Falastini nation) now living in IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين can & do & will decide on this. & it’s up to them to decide if they want two national states, or one bi-national state that somehow manages to grant full autonomy & fair resources to the two national entities that comprise this state, or a modern or postmodern or postpostmodern state that is merely the state of all its citizens.
Nor is there any conflict or a dispute between the Jewish people & the Palestinian people. It is not the Jewish people that is responsible for the exiling of the Palestinian people or for the Israeli occupation suffered for many decades by Falastinis inside IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين, & it is not the Palestinian people that is responsible for the sufferings experienced during the same period by Israelis as a consequence of Falastini resistance to the occupation. Also, the Jewish people & the Palestinian people have no vote in this conflict. The Jewish people & the Palestinian people are not nations. If the term ‘the Jewish people’ means anything it means all the individuals in the world who identify themselves or are identified by others as Jews, just as the term ‘the Palestinian people’ can only mean all those who identify themselves or are identified by others as Palestinians. Diaspora peoples cannot have true representation: community organizations in various diasporas can claim to speak for their peoples, but these organizations can represent only majorities of their own members, & most individuals in both peoples are most probably not members of such organizations.
This distinction, between a nation & a people, is only really meaningful when we speak of a diaspora people, a people the majority of which live in various dispersions throughout the world. & then it’s really very meaningful, & it oppresses me & irks me that this meaningful distinction is constantly, by some deliberately & by many unthinkingly, being blurred in the discourse – not only by the protagonists in the conflict, but by the world’s media & on social networks & everywhere all the time.
A nation has a national state, a national government (elected by its citizens if the state is democratic), national institutions, a national economy, a (or, in some nations, two, or several) national language(s) & culture(s), national symbols, a national anthem, a national flag, annual ceremonial national events & customs, & much more, & beneath (if not also above) all this, a national habitus, in a defined national territory, &, if the nation is not under another nation’s occupation in its own national habitus, sovereignty within its national borders.
All this is much much more than a diaspora people can have (or can want?), even if some among the Jewish people & the Palestinian people adopt &/or practice some of the cultural &/or ceremonial national creations or customs of Israel or Falastin.
Hebrew Israel & Arabic Falastin are distinct nations, distinct parts, within their respective peoples. They are distinguished from all others of their people by their habitus (where they live), their collective national lived experience, their collective national narrative, the nation-building that has been the identity-building of every individual born within either of these two national states (for the purposes of this discussion I think it’s still permissible to think of the two separated & divided mini-states of Falastin as one national [if as yet not ‘officially’ recognized] state). Much of the everyday cultures & experience of Falastin & Israel are not lived parts (at least not in the sense of actually beingthere & living it) of the lives of other Palestinians & Jews.
& although in one sense i think Dalhlia Scheindlin is right, & there is already only one state in IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين & “Israel is the one sovereign between the river and the sea”, the state that rules it all directly or indirectly as it does, this is true only in terms of physical, political & economic power & sovereignty, not in terms of essence. As i see it there already are two nation states in IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين, & they are currently represented by the elected leaderships of these unequal-in-power&sovereignty national states: the Palestine Authority & the State of Israel.
As I wrote above: only the representatives elected by voters of the two nations (the Israeli nation & the Falastini nation) now living (unequally) in IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين can & do & will decide on if, & if yes, how, to resolve the conflict.
& it is the lives & the wellbeing of the citizens & their dependents, their children & their grandchildren, of these two nations that are continuously on the line & most at stake.
Yet until today, so it seems to me, all negotiations have collapsed for deeper reasons than the ones alleged at each collapse: they have collapsed because the representatives of these two nations, expressing what are probably the profound (& noble) feelings of the majorities of the citizens who elected them continue to decide that their responsibility to ensure a sovereign & viable national state with sufficient & defensible living space for the rest of their people now & in the future living in all their dispersions has priority over a possible peaceful resolution between themselves & their neighboring national state in IsraelandPalestineארצישראלفلسطين.
Their nobility is worthy of respect, & of empathy. They are willing to pay a heavy price for their care & concern for their dispossessed (in the case of the Falastinis) or always potentially endangered by virulent antiJewism (in the case of the Hebrew Israelis) fellowpeople.
I don’t know if these two nations recognize this nobility in each other. I doubt if it has ever been stated so over the negotiations table. “Both our nations have this problem, this need. How can we help one another to best resolve it for both?”
& if it were (so stated)? could it be?
I hope to publish more musings on all this in my next posts, & in the meantime would appreciate any comments, shares or likes.
Also, here’s an initial list with links (to which i hope to add in future) to sources in which I’ve found some light on these matters & of some more pages or sites of individuals, organizations, or forums whose concern with the issues at stake I have noted & whose authors may find my question of interest: Sol Salbe, whose pointed comments I appreciated & whose unrelenting provisions of updates (& translations from the Hebrew for those who aren’t like me bi-lingual) have long kept me (with many others) informed about much I would have missed, including the interesting recent analysis (so far only in Hebrew) by Shemuel Meir; Howard Adelman; Richard Falk; Emily Hauser; Norman Finkelstein; Antony Loewenstein (even if some of the latter are often more adversial than not); The Palestine-Israel Journal; Jewish Voice for Peace; Haokets; Al-Monitor; Mondoweiss; BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; One Voice; Breaking the Silence; Rabbis for Human Rights; Independent Australian Jewish Voices; The Coalition of Women for Peace.