A lost cause?

Published : Jun 01, 2012 00:00 IST

Ilan Pappe asserts the immorality of imposing a Jewish state on an Arab country; the American academics advocate a two-state solution.

ISRAEL is in no hurry to settle with the Palestinians in respect of their lands. It occupied them nearly half a century ago in 1967. Nor will it even alleviate the humiliating conditions in which the Palestinians live. It is wholly indifferent to the time bomb ticking away within its own frontiers its Palestinian Arab minority, who live in a professed Jewish state.

Ilan Pappe has few peers in courage and integrity in the world of scholars on history. Born in Haifa in Israel, he taught at the University of Haifa and wrote substantial works such as The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and A History of Modern Palestine: One Land Two Peoples. He was obliged to leave his country for political reasons and is now Professor of History at Exeter University.

Ilan Pappe had no hesitation in asserting the sheer immorality of imposing a Jewish state on an Arab country or of the Jewish massacre of its Arab inhabitants to establish a Jewish state. He should shame our academics and media men who cannot bring themselves to face historical truths, whether on Kashmir or on the boundary dispute with China, to this day.

Right from the beginning, when the Arabs welcomed the early Jewish settlers, they received no reciprocity. The settlers imagined that they were the owners and the Arabs usurpers. The perception of the Palestinians as unwanted and unwelcome has remained a potent part of Zionist discourse and attitude in what became Israel in 1948. More than a century later, the descendants of some of these Palestinians are citizens of the Jewish state, but this status does not protect them from being regarded and treated as a dangerous threat in their own homeland. This attitude permeates the Israeli establishment and is expressed in various different ways.

Journalists bat for their own country in international affairs. So do most scholars.

Mainstream historians who write nostalgically about Israel's first decade read the takeover of Arab land' as the most important national mission to be executed by early governments. A century-old ideology holds that the land of Israel belongs exclusively to the Jewish people and that Judaising those parts which are still owned by Arabs, and preventing Arabs from buying more land, is a sacred, national and existential task for the survival of the Jewish people. In 2010, the Arabs' own about 2.5 per cent of the land and they have been unable to increase their numbers which Israeli newspaper headlines like to describe as the demographic time bomb'.

Their lot is described in meticulous and well-documented detail. Let alone curbs on purchasing land, which were absent in the case of Jewish settlers before 1948, Arab women from the occupied areas cannot marry Arab citizens of Israel. They are arrested and deported back even after they had raised a family. Amany Dayif, a Palestinian Israeli scholar, wrote: The new law reflects the Israeli desire for a quiet transfer' of the Palestinians from Israel or in other words the expulsion of the Palestinians from the state to the enclaved West Bank.

The policy against the couples with spouses from the Occupied Territories was initiated by Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister, who claimed such marriages constituted a demographic existential threat to Israel. As a result of a long process of legislation beginning in 2003 and ending in 2007, spouses were forced to leave or separate. The government was authorised by the courts to enforce this expulsion.

These laws reflect a wider wave of legislation on related issues, beginning in 2007 and fully endorsed by the Israeli Minister of Justice and the intra-ministerial committee for legislation. They include a law of loyalty which requires citizens to express full recognition of Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state; the banning of the commemoration of the Nakbah the 1948 catastrophe in public events or school curricula and textbooks; the right of communities in Jewish suburbia not to accept Palestinians as residents; the right of the state to discriminate by law against Arabs in the privatisation of land (known as the 2007 Jewish National Fund Law) and many similar ones.

Interests of the state, as perceived by New Delhi, drive it to forge closer links with Tel Aviv. But advocates of a state policy should not shut their eyes to the truth. John Pilger calls Ilan Pappe Israel's bravest, most principled, most incisive historian. His work should serve as an eye-opener. The title of the book is very apt. The world has truly forgotten the Palestinians.

Lasting solution

Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman are American academics who are concerned with the depressing situation. They argue that a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict depends on a resolution of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict within Israel as much as it does on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. There is growing conflict between Israel's Jewish majority and its Palestinian-Arab minority. If their relations continue to deteriorate, this will pose a serious threat to the stability of Israel, to the quality of Israeli democracy such as it is and to the potential for peace. They examine the attitudes of both sides, as well as Israel's approach to its Arab citizens. The authors put forward proposals for safeguarding and enhancing the rights of the Palestinian minority while maintaining the country's Jewish identity. Be a little generous to the Arabs, is their theme.

Their pro-Israeli tilt notwithstanding, they are realistic enough to take note of some realities. Unfortunately, we do not believe that a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian problem is likely to happen in the foreseeable future. There are many reasons for this, chief among them the fact that the Palestinians are too politically divided at present and the current Israeli government too hard-line. At most, a weak, geographically fragmented, nominal Palestinian state' may be established. Rather than peace, conflict is likely to continue between Israel and Palestinians in the territories, as well as within Israel between Jews and Arabs. The great danger with this is that these conflicts may eventually merge. Until, now, the campaigns of Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have remained separate and distinct, with the former seeking equality and the latter statehood. If neither is successful, however, they may well unite and both demand the so-called one-state solution. Thus, if Palestinians in the territories abandon their demand for an independent state and instead demand equal rights within Israel, Palestinians in Israel could easily join them in demanding a single bi-national state covering the entire territory of Israel/Palestine.

Hence, their advocacy of a two-state solution with respect for the rights of the minorities.

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