By Elie Elhadj
Image: Courtesy of : http://sabbah.biz
For a long-term durable solution to the Arab Israeli conflict, a single democratic and secular state for Jews and Palestinians needs to evolve. Other solutions are like band-aid treatment to cancer. The dream of an exclusive Jewish state in Palestine is unsustainable, unless the Palestinians vanish.
Muslim and Jew can live together in peace. History is the proof. Hundreds of thousands of Jews lived in Arab countries peaceably for centuries. In his Coningsby, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1868 and 1874-1880), the first and thus far the only person of Jewish parentage to reach the premiership, described the “halcyon centuries” in Muslim Spain where the “children of Ishmael rewarded the children of Israel with equal rights and privileges with themselves.” Sultan Bayezid-II (1481-1512) encouraged thousands of Jews to settle in the Muslim Ottoman Empire following their expulsion from Spain.
Around the time of Israel’s creation, more than 850,000 Jews migrated from Arab countries, 600,000 going to Israel. The charge that the Jews migrated because of Arab maltreatment is an unfair political expediency. The migration happened in the course of Israel’s creation. During this period, 531 Palestinian villages were depopulated and 805,000 refugees lost their homes, according to Palestinian sources (650,000 to 700,000 refugees, according to Jewish sources).
Islam venerates Judaism. The Quran made Abraham as the first Muslim. Islam is the Religion of Abraham. Quran’s Chapter 14 is named after Abraham and, to Joseph Chapter 12 is named. Today, Jewish derived Arabic proper names are common. Feeling powerless, the Arab masses invoked hostile Quranic Verses, recounted stories of the Prophet’s troubles with the Jewish tribes in Medina, drew lessons from substituting Friday for the Sabbath and the prayer’s direction from Jerusalem to Mecca. For thirteen centuries, however, these were non-issues.
Politicizing the Bible’s Genesis 15:18: “The Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” politicized the Quran.
Politicizing the Bible pushed frustrated moderate Arabs into orthodoxy and the orthodox into Jihadism. The Arab Israeli conflict has degenerated to a religious war that could last for a thousand years. In provoking the enmity of their age-old Muslim friends, Zionism has radicalized Arab Muslims into Islamist extremism. In doing so, it disserved the long-term interests of the Jewish people.
Had Zionism adhered to the stipulation in the 1917 Balfour declaration: “Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” this conflict would not have developed. The Bible and the Quran must be de-politicized.
The two-state solution is capricious:
First, demographically, a purely Jewish state is impossible to attain. The Zionist dream of creating an exclusive state for the Jewish people in Palestine is unsustainable in the long-term. Presently, about 1.3 million Palestinians are citizens of Israel, or just under 25 percent of Israel’s 5.5 million Jews. Due to their high population’s growth rate the Palestinian-Israelis will eventually become the majority. The number of Palestinians in Israel in 1948 was about 150,000. The Palestinian-Israelis are in addition to the 4.2 million Palestinians who live under Israel’s occupation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Outside Palestine, 2.6 millions are registered in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, plus 1.5 million scattered worldwide.
Secondly, Jerusalem, borders, security, water, settlements, and the refugees’ right-of-return are intractable.
When Clinton, Barak, and Arafat attempted in July 2000 to tackle these issues at Camp David, the negotiations collapsed, leading to the second intifada. Thirdly, even if a miracle patches up a two-state agreement, the extremists on both sides would undermine it.
Fourthly, the Arab masses will shun a Zionist state. Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) have failed to develop beyond small diplomatic missions.
Western secular democratic ideals should inspire a single secular democratic state:
First, the intractable obstacles would disappear. Secondly, a single state will commingle Palestinians and Jews into an inseparable mix. Arabs would no longer have an excuse to boycott their Jewish “cousins.” Economic, cultural, educational, and social interaction would follow.
Thirdly, a single state would allow Arabs and Jews access to all Palestine. The Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are instruments of integration between Palestinians and Jews, not segregation, a mixture as difficult to unscramble today as removing the Palestinian Israelis from Israel.
Durable peace requires the genuine welcome of the Arab masses of the Jewish people. The Jews who had lived among Arabs could be helpful. They share customs, habits, values, food, music, dance, and, for the older generation, the Arabic language.
Whether it would be a good bargain to exchange a partial and declining Jewish exclusivity in an unstable two-state solution for a durable single state embracing Jews and Muslims is a question Israel’s Jewish people alone can answer.