By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Oct. 20, 2023)
I stumbled on a thought in my Plain Talk segment on Boom FM last Monday. Asked by “Bing” Joseph what I perceived to be the solution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel, I said the creation of a single state for Palestinians and Israelis. I make no claim to originality. I must have read it somewhere. Since then, I was forced to find support for my idea because a few people met me and claimed I was a dreamer.
Patrick Lawrence, the brilliant independent journalist argues “Among the Western democracies countless unsayables, the greatest of these is that the state of Israel, founded on injustice 75 years ago, is a failed experiment. Instead of jubilee celebrations, it is ethnic-cleansing a helpless population — a monstrous memorial to the six million whose names it was intended to honour. In the same way, no one in Washington or among the European vassals can say what needs to be said about the long record of America’s ‘unconditional support’ for Israel: It is the gravest foreign policy failure — among many, of course — in the post-war period.”
These thoughts ran through my mind when Bing asked about solutions last Monday. Evidently, we cannot continue this way. The cycle of violence, pain and suffering is too raw, too frequent and far too great. How do you lie about babies being beheaded in the demonisation of your Palestinian “Enemy” and then turn around and bomb a hospital, killing over 500 people?
A friend asked me last Tuesday what happened to the two-state solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and I told him that idea never has a chance. The ‘solution’ was to give Israel a state and regularise a splintered existence for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Interestingly, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, knew there were problems with his idea of the Jewish state. “There is no example in history of a people saying we agree to renounce our country, let another people come and settle here and outnumber us.” He went ahead anyway. Between 1947 and 1949, over 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes. Thousands were killed as they were chased from hundreds of towns and villages to make way for Jewish settlers. Today, the children and grandchildren of many of these refugees live in Gaza.
Edward Said, the erudite Palestinian intellectual, wrote a piece for the New York Times titled, “The One-State Solution.” He opined, “It is time to question whether the entire process begun in Oslo in 1993 is the right instrument for bringing peace between Palestinians and Israelis. It is my view that the peace process has, in fact, put off the real reconciliation that must occur if the hundred-year war between Zionism and the Palestinian people is to end. Oslo set the stage for separation, but real peace can come only with a binational Israeli–Palestinian state.”
I had read Said before and went in search of his ideas. The Oslo Accords sprung the idea of a two-state solution. Edward Said was not impressed. “Oslo—to its great discredit, made the inevitable mess worse. It consigned the Palestinians to non-contiguous specks of land, about 10 percent of the West Bank and 60 percent of the Gaza Strip. The more that current patterns of Israeli settlement, Palestinian confinement, and resistance persist, the less likely there will be real security for either side.”
Said continued: “Palestine is and has always been a land of many histories; it is a radical simplification to think of it as principally or exclusively Jewish or Arab. While the Jewish presence is longstanding, it is by no means the main one. Other tenants have included Canaanites, Moabites, Jebusites and Philistines in ancient times, and Romans, Ottomans, Byzantines and Crusaders in the modern ages. Palestine is multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multireligious. There is as little historical justification for homogeneity as for notions of national or, ethnic and religious purity today….”
“The initial step is a very difficult one to take. Israeli Jews are insulated from the Palestinian reality; most of them say that it does not really concern them…. My generation of Palestinians, still reeling from the shock of losing everything in 1948, find it nearly impossible to accept that another people took over their homes and farms…”
“I see no other way than to begin to speak about sharing the land that has thrust us together in a truly democratic way, with equal rights for each citizen. There can be no reconciliation unless both peoples, two communities of suffering, resolve that their existence is a secular fact, and that it has to be dealt with as such…”
“The beginning is to develop something entirely missing from both Israeli and Palestinian realities today: the idea and practice of citizenship, not of ethnic or racial community, as the main vehicle for coexistence. In a modern state, all its members are citizens by virtue of their presence and the sharing of rights and responsibilities. Citizenship, therefore, entitles an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Arab to the same privileges and resources. A constitution and a bill of rights thus become necessary for getting beyond Square 1 of the conflict because each group would have the same right to self-determination; that is, the right to practice communal life in its own (Jewish or Palestinian) way, with a joint capital in Jerusalem, equal access to land and inalienable secular and juridical rights. Neither side should be held hostage to religious extremists.”
There is wisdom in these ideas, but no one wants to accept their fundamental truths. This sad reality is reflected in the fact that in the aftermath of the most recent Palestinian uprising, the West mindlessly lines up with Israel’s murderous assault on Palestinians, offering proof to their benighted thought that Israeli life is worth more than that of a Palestinian.
But alas, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict offers palpable proof that there can be no lasting peace without meaningful justice. Equal human rights are the only antidote to war. Only a single democratic state can end the violence.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].