Palestine: Watching with Disdain
Date: 22nd September 2010
Source: Al Jazzera

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Canto 13:33: Suicide Pier della Vigna

My mind, because of its disdainful temper, believing it could flee disdain through death, made me unjust against my own just self.

[Special thanks to harry lym]

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What Would Recognition Of A Jewish State Achieve?
Date: 20 September 2010
Source: Palestine Monitor

The talks which only America wanted have already run aground on a seemingly trivial issue relative to the core problems of borders, settlements and Jerusalem. The inertia and outright hostility on this point speaks broadly of a lack of faith shared by both parties for this road so travelled. Resentment at being shoehorned into photo opportunities for Hillary Clinton can be divined from high level dissenting talk. Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai declared himself “very sceptical” at the outset. Palestinian Authority (PA) Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat has made plain his willingness to walk away from the table.
The question of a Jewish state should have been rendered irrelevant by Yasser Arafat’s explicit acknowledgement of Israel’s legitimacy in the Oslo Accords of 1993. Beyond that, as Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine (AFTP) puts it: “it is extremely unusual, if not unprecedented, for states to demand other states accept specific ethnic definitions in their diplomatic arrangements, which are almost always regarded as internal matters”. Peace deals with Egypt and Jordan were successfully reached without mention of a Jewish state.

Avigdor Lieberman characterised recognition as a goodwill gesture. Obama suggested it could be the sweetener that prompts Netanyahu to implement a new freeze on settlement construction. But the implications for Palestine go far beyond symbolism. Of all the naïve claims that accompanied the fanfare of new dialogue (‘peace within a year’), the statement that these negotiations would have no pre-conditions has become the first casualty.

Recognising a Jewish state is a way of crippling the talks and the PA itself before the substantive issues are even discussed. Even Arafat knew that to sell the right of return would reduce his standing from messiah to traitor overnight, even when the prospect of a free state was dangled before him. To accept the Jewish state in Lieberman and Netanyahu’s terms would forever sever the connection of the Palestinians displaced in 1948, even if that ambition was always likely to take a battering.

Loyalty to the state is a prominent feature of the recognition demand. Lieberman’s definition of an Israeli as someone who “accepts their citizenship with pride” is wilfully ambiguous and Palestinian politicians are rightly concerned that it would be used to erode the rights of Israel’s Arab community, constituting 18% of the population. Knesset member (MK) Hanin Zouabi of the Balad party told us that during her tenure “almost 80% of new laws have been directed against Arabs in Israel”. While this may be an exaggeration it is now increasingly easy for the state to revoke the residency rights of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, to punish schools that teach Palestinian history and to persecute Palestinian politicians like Zouabi, who became the first MK to lose her diplomatic passport. Against this backdrop, were the PA to officially accept the Jewish state it could be seen as endorsing racism against their former citizens or encouraging their forced conversion.

Neither does such a step advance Israel’s goals. Clinging to the ideals of 1948 Zionism makes no concession to the modern, predominantly secular society it has become. For a country that aspires to EU membership and markets itself as the middle-east’s democratic oasis, Israel’s insistence on hammering Jewish ideals into every sphere of society at the expense of an amorphous, non-Jewish ‘other‘ denies it the progressive, western image it craves.

Even if this and every concern has historically taken a back seat to security interests, these too are poorly served by such a divisive label. Having built physical walls in the West Bank and Rafah, this creates a new separation barrier to all of Israel’s neighbouring Arab states. Lebanon, albeit predominantly Islamic, has remained accommodating enough to other faiths that it includes an influential core of Christians in its government. Why, at a time of reconciliation, must Israel place such a shrill premium on its rejection not just of Palestinian faith, but the entire region’s?

Israel is already a Jewish state in the sense that 75% of its citizens are Jewish, a figure that includes the vast majority of its ruling elite. If it is serious about progress in its own interests as well as with wider security issues in the region it must be as Israel, rather than a nation of Jews. That talks have hit the wall on this narrow-minded, backwards ideal speaks of an inflexible government keen to avoid discussion of its real obligations further down the line; ending the occupation and enabling a Palestinian state. Israel already has its recognition, now is the time for it to facilitate that right for Palestine.

Read details from the Oslo Accords here

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