I was asked last summer by a friend what was my reaction to the Two States in One Homeland initiative. My short answer was that it had some positive elements but it read like a very liberal Zionist document. I went through the proposal and sent the friend comments, mostly my reservations. Since the initiative may or may not have a conference next week – people are dropping out like flies – I will repeat what I wrote my friend. Here are my comments.
1. The implicit acceptance of Zionism by Palestinians. I cannot see many Palestinians accepting the notion that Jews have an attachment to the land by “profound historical, religious, and cultural ties,” that in any way provides them with a claim or even an interest in it being a homeland, certainly not in the way that this is expressed. I note with satisfaction the use of the weak term “ties”. But, frankly, this seems to be a (weak) recognition of the legitimacy of Zionism, and I don’t think it is reasonable to expect most Palestinians to accept this, and they should not be considered unreasonable or intolerant for not doing so. Of course, if some wish to do so, fine but that’s not a great basis for shared dialogue. I think it is perfectly reasonable for Palestinians to say, “We understand that the longing for residence in “Eretz Yisrael” has played different roles in the Jewish religious tradition over the centuries, and that traditional Judaism teaches that “Eretz Yisrael” is the patrimony of the Jewish people, that Jerusalem is holy to the Jews, that the Temple was built on the Haram as-Sharif,“ etc. But that is in no way an admission of the truth, much less legitimacy, of any of these claims. Again, if some Palestinians want to do so, that’s their business.
2. The parity between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. There is no parity in the eyes of most Palestinians; there is certainly no parity between the Zionists and the Palestinians. In the document there is no mention of Zionist as a settler colonialism, of the forced displacement of the majority of the Palestinians and the importing of Westerners with the national consciousness (of some) that they are returning to their imagined homeland. Perhaps it is best not to go down that road, but then there is no reason to accept the liberal Zionist narrative of “two peoples struggling over one land” – unless the two peoples are the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples, not the Jewish and Palestinians peoples. I could see using “Israeli Jews” rather than “Jews” in many places in the document; that would be less objectionable.
3. Immigration and Naturalization: Here the proposal is intriguing, more so than I thought at first reading. It may be possible to implement the right of return based on the acceptance of 900,000 Palestinian refugees and their families, and the acceptance of proportional number of permanent residents. For instance, according to the proposals, Palestinian refugees can be naturalized in Palestine and then can reside in Israel, as permanent residents, and with compensation by Israel. Let us assume that there are around 4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, and around 600,000 Israeli Jews living over the green line (not counting the Golan Heights). That’s about 15 percent. That means up to 900,000 Palestinians (including refugees) can live as permanent residents within the State of Israel, presumably on lands close to their native landscapes, or other strategic parts. For example, several hundred thousand Palestinians can be settled on lands to the West of Jerusalem, in what are now JNF forests, thus providing a demographic balance to the West of Israeli Jewish settlement to the North, South, and East of Jerusalem over the green line. But all this is only after the right of return is recognized by Israel and refugees are given the choice of returning to their native landscapes and families, as guaranteed by international law.
4. Jerusalem. No mention is made here about sovereignty. Who does Jerusalem belong to? To God? To the world?
5. Security. I take it, then, that there will be two modern armies of more or less equal capacity, or at least acting in coordination. Does this mean decreasing the size and power of the IDF? Am I right here? If so, this is a vast improvement to the Geneva Initiative, where the Palestinians had to farm out their security to a multi-national force.
6. Joint Institutions. Nothing to add; all good ideas.
7. Palestinians with Israeli citizenships. Here again the parity breaks down and betrays the liberal Zionist spirit of the document. Why give a Jewish minority within Palestine rights as a national minority, and not give, say, the Christian minority those same rights? Because Jews are members of a nation and not a religion? But that’s the view of Zionism! Moreover, why would Palestine agree to naturalize any Jews as part of a national minority, especially those with outspoken irredentist aims who are in their land illegally? There are over a half-million Palestinian Israeli citizens and their numbers have been artificially kept at 20 percent in order to preserve a Jewish state that is democratic, what I call ethnic cleansing in the “service” of democracy. Will they have rights as a national minority? Where is the parity because settling Jews illegally in occupied territory and resettling Palestinians legally, according to their legal and recognized rights?
None of the above would be necessary if Israel and Palestine were to become states of all their citizens, in which all disadvantaged minorities would expect affirmative action to improve their representation in society, etc. Of course, as predominantly Jewish, Israel’s culture, language, calendar, would be predominantly Jewish, a “Jewish America”, as it were. But as I oppose the State of Israel that is an ethnocracy with some trappings of democracy, that would be alleviated, to be sure, by granting minority ethnic rights, so I oppose the State of Palestine as an ethnocracy with some trappings of democracy. As the document says, one does not correct injustice with injustice.
8. Reparations. I do believe that reparations should be paid both individually and collectively to Arabs and Jewish refugees from 48 and 67, not just for loss of property, but for much more. However, realistically speaking, close to a 100 percent of this burden will be placed on Israel, and it is hardly reasonable to expect Israel to be fair in determining the nature and amount of the compensation. This can only be done as a result of internationalization of this question, for which, see below.
I object on principle of including mention of the flight of Jews from Arab lands within this document. The flight of Jews from Arab lands is not the affair of the Palestinians, and they are under no obligation to mention this in connection with the Palestinian refugees, Arab and Jewish, internal and external. I understand that there is no official connection – but the reference in the document I find insulting insofar as it singles out the Palestinians. Moreover, why are Palestinians expected to call for the return of Jews, if possible, to their native lands, but they are not expected to call for the return of their own refugees to their own land, if possible, in the same document?
9. The international dimension. Under the present circumstances, the notion that Israel will allow any matter of internationalization strikes me as odd. If this is put in there in order to sweeten the bill, it will clearly be rejected. But of course, Israel will reject everything.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on June 5, 2015, on The Magnes Zionist, a website featuring commentary by Jewish studies and philosophy professor, Jerry Haber (a nom de plume). It was reproduced here with the consent of Professor Haber.
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