Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Visions for the Future

I have been entangled in a couple of interesting debates in online forums/groups about the vision for the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict. One person has very eloquently presented us with a picture of future Israel as a bi-national state from the sea to the Jordan, inclusive of all its citizens, Jews and Arabs alike. On another board, an Arab member mentioned he does not see a distinction between Israel before 1967 and after - it is all occupied land for him and he will fight to have it all released and turned into a pluralistic democratic state with equal rights to all.

The idea of the bi-national state is one that has been on my mind since Khaled's visit. I never felt comfortable with it, and had a difficult time pinpointing why. In theory, it has this ring of a wonderful utopian idea. The easy answer to its promoters was, "it's just not going to work". The Israelis aren't ready, the Palestinians aren't ready - no way for it to work on the ground. I have been thinking more about it, and here are some more thoughts - by no means final. They do touch deeper strata though, at least to me.

They go back to what makes this my home.

This is my home because I am part of this unique cultural phenomenon of the Israeli Zionist Jewish State. Lots of adjectives and they all count.

I know that for many Arabs, Zionism (and maybe Israeli too) sounds like a cuss word... to get this out of the way: I am not any more proud of some things done in the name of Zionism, then they are proud of any single thing done in the name of Islam or the Arab nation. Yet, just like they are still proud of their heritage as a whole, I do consider myself a proud Zionist and a proud Israeli.

Values that I hold dear and see as part of Zionism include secularism (even atheism), science, pluralism, socialism (another dirty word to some...), enterprise, improvisation, activism and many more. These represent Zionist Israel to me. This, along with a rich culture of music, writing, art, movies that simply doesn't exist elsewhere. It's not a Jewish culture, although it has strong Jewish roots, obviously. It's a mix of things that I will leave to people like profession Oz Almog to analyse, as he does it so much better than me. I will say that though - it's a non-minority culture, and in that sense it is different from Diaspora Jewish culture.

Granted, there is a constant internal struggle in Israel to maintain that identity. Like many other societies, Israel's is ever changing. I belong to the part that wants to push (back?) towards a secular, science oriented, socialistic, compassionate, humanistic and democratic Zionist State.

In my vision of Israel, essentially the vision of the Israeli Zionist left wing, there will be no racism, no discrimination based on religion or ethnic group. In my vision, Israel withdraws from the West Bank and the Golan Heights and lives alongside with its friendly neighbors, with close ties of cooperation in the fields of science, industry, economy, health and culture. The only question that remains in my mind is, do we have partners for that vision on the other side of the border. The jury is still out on that one, as far as I'm concerned.

My point is, I don't want a bi-national state if it means I lose my identity. I don't want to be "a Jew" in a non-Jewish state either. Judaism is very much part of the national character of my country, and I want to retain that cultural uniqueness. Moreover, as a Jew, I do not want to be a minority in my country. If you offer me a solution which means I become an ethnic minority again, you are in essence indeed throwing me into to the sea, because it will no longer matter whether I live here or in Europe or America.

To be fair to Khaled's idea, he did also talk about a con-federation or EU kind of model, where each part retains its own cultural and ethnic character, but there's economic cooperation, right of passage to all and so on. That solution I can live with, but not the bi-national state one.


Steve said...

I like this post a lot. It seems obvious, in the end, in so many ways. I also believe the two nations need their own identities. The Palestinians because of so many reasons, including national pride and a sense of democratic involvement, regardless of how unused to it they may be. They seem to need to "want it,simply put. I wonder if, when the Palestinians are able to engage, they don't find a good neighbor, willing to concede and even share, but as separate entities. I imagine it would include serious economic considerations. On another board, I saw a proposal to offer fat payments of real money, in exchange for their favors, lol. Not a bad idea!

Khaled Diab said...

Interesting and thoughtful post! Interestingly, a debate between Uri Avnery and myself will appear in The Guardian on the subject next week.

But, basically, the way I see it is that Israel and Palestine are effectively a single state already - albeit a dysfunctional one - and there does not seem to be much hope of establishing a viable two-state model in the foreseeable future. In addition, the vision of the extremists on both sides vision of a single state with the other side living in subjugation is scary. But a binational federal system of two intimately connected autonomous peoples can work very well, if moderates stop burying their heads in the sand and start working towards it.

IsraeliMom said...

I see a clear and glaring distinction between a bi-national federation and a one state solution. It is clear to me that you have to allow each people full autonomy in most aspects of life. What should be joined? well, currency and economy come to mind. Frankly, I can't fathom a joint military force - can you? or for that matter a joint foreign policy. I'm not sure even a joint currency is feasible at this point.

I think the major obstacle will come from the part of the Palestinians who at this point will feel extremely dominated by the Israelis in any combined setting. Perhaps rightly so.

In fact, what's the different between a bi-national federation and the extreme Israeli right-wing solution of unilateral annexation and incorporating the Palestinian entity within Israel? I think the One State solution it too close to that for the Palestinians to feel comfortable with it.

The gaps between the Israeli society and the Palestinian society are too wide at this point, I think.