Friday, September 03, 2010

Fairies, unicorns and a peaceful bi-national state

George Bisharat, writing in the Washington Post, paints a lovely picture of how well a bi-national state in Palestine would work:

The answer is for Israelis and Palestinians to formalize their de facto one-state reality but on principles of equal rights rather than ethnic privilege. A carefully crafted multiyear transition including mechanisms for reconciliation would be mandatory. Israel/Palestine should have a secular, bilingual government elected on the basis of one person, one vote as well as strong constitutional guarantees of equality and protection of minorities, bolstered by international guarantees. Immigration should follow nondiscriminatory criteria. Civil marriage between members of different ethnic or religious groups should be permitted. Citizens should be free to reside in any part of the country, and public symbols, education and holidays should reflect the population's diversity.

Although the one-state option is sometimes dismissed as utopian, it overcomes major obstacles bedeviling the two-state solution. Borders need not be drawn, Jerusalem would remain undivided and Jewish settlers could stay in the West Bank. Moreover, a single state could better accommodate the return of Palestinian refugees. A state based on principles of equality and inclusion would be more morally compelling than two states based on narrow ethnic nationalism. Furthermore, it would be more consistent with antidiscrimination provisions of international law. Israelis would enjoy the international acceptance that has long eluded them and the associated benefits of friendship, commerce and travel in the Arab world.

It sounds so lovely! Palestinian Arabs from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan can move into this new binational Palestine by the millions, but don't worry: they won't do anything to hurt their treasured Jewish minority.

Once upon a time, not too terribly long ago, there was an Arab majority in Palestine. How well did they treat the minority population? Here are the news briefs for a single day, September 4, 1938, in the Palestine Post:

Wasn't life just grand then? Didn't everyone live together in peace and harmony? No need for a state for Jews - that would be racist. No, they can live in peace among the Arabs, in full safety and security, knowing that they are protected as dhimmis by force of Koranic law.

Bisharat couches his dream in multicultural terms:
The main obstacle to a single-state solution is the belief that Israel must be a Jewish state. Jim Crow laws and South African apartheid were similarly entrenched virtually until the eves of their demise. History suggests that no version of ethnic privilege can ultimately persist in a multiethnic society.
The idea that there are 22 or so states that define themselves as "Arab" - and discriminate against non-Arabs - is not a problem at all for Bisharat. The fact that the constitutions of many of those states proclaim that their state religion is Islam, and that the Koran is the source for their laws, is also just peachy for oh-so-cultured Bisharat. No, the only evil is a Jewish national home - that is racist! Jewish self-determination is inherently evil, while the addition of another de-facto Arab state is supremely moral.

His plan recalls another Arab plan.

In 1947, on the eve of the partition, Arabs put forth another single-state plan in a desperate effort to avert the possibility of a Jewish state, however tiny, in Palestine.

Notice how they stressed so much that the state would have equal rights, free access to holy places, and they would even deign to let Hebrew be spoken in certain ghettos where Jews would be the majority.

This plan was just as utopian-sounding as Bisharat's plan today, and its purpose was exactly the same: to destroy Israel.

Yet one only has to look at what happened a mere ten days after this transparent Arab plan couched in liberal terms of equality and tolerance and co-existence was offered. Jews were attacked mercilessly by the very people who were supposedly ready to display tolerance towards them.

And what happened when the relatively liberal kingdom of Transjordan took over the Jewish areas? Jews were forbidden to visit their holy places. Every Jew in the country was expelled. The Jewish Quarter was destroyed; the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives gutted, dozens of synagogues burned down in the course of a few weeks.

This is the reason why a Jewish state is needed. To have a tiny area in the world where Jews can live as Jews, without fear. The morality of a Jewish state where Jews can live safely and securely far outweighs the pseudo-morality of Bisharat's vision where the clock would go back to the days of Jews being bombed in markets because of a never-ending series of perceived injustices and affronts.

When the Arab world shows that it can treat its minorities with the sensitivity that Israel treats hers, then maybe Bisharat can make a valid point. When Jews can buy land in Jordan and Lebanon and Syria and Saudi Arabia and move there without fear, then maybe we can talk about how Israel discriminates against parts of its population. When that day occurs, and Jews can live anywhere in the world with as little fear as Muslims can today, then the raison d'etre of a Jewish state would melt away.

However, today, it is Arabs themselves who show by their actions exactly why a Jewish state, in the Jewish homeland, is not only  necessary but moral.

(H/t bc. I have linked to the two articles previously, here and here.)