Posted by Joshua on Monday, January 19th, 2009
[Comment by Landis] Increasingly, educated Palestinians and some Arabs are calling for a one state solution to the Jewish-Palestinian problem. I have never given much thought to this because it strikes me as impractical. Jewish Israelis have no reason to want it and the vast majority of Palestinians are nationalists who want a Palestinian state and not one that would surely be dominated by Jews, who are better organized, educated, plugged in, and richer than Palestinians. All the same, Elie Elhadj articulates an important argument.
“Why the Only Solution for Jews and Palestinians is a One State Solution”
by Elie Elhadj, author of The Islamic Shield
January 2009 for Syria Comment
For a durable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Bible and the Quran must be de-politicized. In political terms, de-politicization means a single secular democratic state for Jews and Palestinians.
De-politicize the Bible and the Quran
The Arab Israeli conflict has become a religious war. Politicizing the Bible’s Genesis 15:18 politicized the Quran. Genesis 15:18 declares: “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.”
Defeated in 1948, powerless and humiliated in every war since that time, Arabs took refuge in Islam. They invoked hostile Quranic Verses (such as chapter 2: verse 65, 2:120, 5:51, 5:60, 5:78), recounted purported stories of the Prophet Muhammad’s troubled relationship with the Jewish tribes in Medina (Banu Qurayza, Banu Al-Nadir, and Banu Qainuqa), and drew lessons from the symbolism of substituting Friday for the Sabbath and of changing the direction during prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. Other Quranic verses urge jihad against Muslims enemies (2:191, 2:193, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29) and promise (2:82) the martyred the delights of paradise; wine (47:15), beautiful women (44:54), silk, brocade, and gold (18:31), etc… Combined, these verses made a jihadist’s career worthwhile. In the hands of jihadist leaders, these verses transformed political frustrations into religious crusades and the jihadists into walking bombs.
For thirteen centuries, however, these were non-issues. Hundreds of thousands of Jews lived harmoniously among Muslims in Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.
Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Britain’s first and thus far the only person of Jewish parentage to reach the premiership (1868 and 1874-1880), described in his novel Coningsby the “halcyon centuries” during the golden age of Muslim Spain in which the “children of Ishmael rewarded the children of Israel with equal rights and privileges with themselves.” Disraeli described glowingly how Muslims and Jews alike “built palaces, gardens and fountains; filled equally the highest offices of the state, competed in an extensive and enlightened commerce, and rivaled each other in renowned universities.”
In 1492 the Muslim Ottoman Sultan Bayezid-II (1481-1512) encouraged great numbers of Jews to settle in the Ottoman Empire following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal.
Islam venerates Judaism. Arabs believe they share a common ancestry with the Jewish people going back to the sons of Abraham, Ismail and Ishaq. The Quran praises Abraham as the first Muslim, describing Islam as the Religion of Abraham. The Quranic Chapter 14, with its 52 Verses is named after Abraham and to Joseph the Quran names Chapter 12, with its 111 Verses. Muslim men are allowed to marry Jewish women, without the need to convert them to Islam (the children must be Muslims). Today, Jewish-derived Arabic names like Daoud, Ibrahim, Ishaq, Mousa, Sara, Sulaiman, Yacoub, Yousef, Zakariyya are common in every Arab society.
Politicizing the Bible politicized the Quran. A vexing religious confrontation has been created pushing the moderates among Arab Muslims into orthodoxy and the orthodox into Islamism and Jihadism. The victory of Hamas in the January 25, 2006 parliamentary elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the popularity of Islamic Jihad, are reminders that this conflict has been delivering the Muslim masses into the hands of the Islamists. History suggests that this religious war could go on for a20thousand years. Military action alone against the Jihadists will breed more Jihadists. Experience suggests that, like its previous victories, Israel’s latest battle against Hamas in the Gaza strip that started on December 27, 2008 will strengthen jihadism.
Unless the Arab Israeli conflict is resolved politically and quickly, Islamism and Jihadism will continue on their march. Avraham Berg, speaker of Israel’s Knesset in 1999-2003 and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, articulated in sobering terms what Israel should do in order to bring peaceful coexistence between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples.
The Bible and the Quran Must be De-politicized
For a durable solution to the Arab Israeli conflict, a single democratic and secular state for Jews and Palestinians needs to evolve. A single state promises a more durable long-term solution than the two-state solution, currently in vogue. The two-state solution is inherently unstable for four reasons:
1. First, demographically, a purely Jewish state is impossible to attain. Had Palestine been uninhabited at the time of Israel’s creation a refugee problem would not have arisen and a purely Jewish state could have been possible. However, around the time of Israel’s creation Palestine was a home to around 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs.
The Zionist dream of creating an exclusive state for the Jewish people in Palestine is unsustainable in the long-term. Presently, 1.4 million Palestinians are estimated to be citizens of Israel, or a quarter of Israel’s Jewish population. Due to their high population growth rates the Palestinian-Israelis will eventually become the majority. 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.
Unless the Palestinian-Israelis somehow vanish, Israel’s Jewish population will eventually become the minority and the Palestinian-Israelis the majority; the population growth rate of the Palestinian-Israelis is much greater than that of Israeli Jews. The number of Palestinians in Israel in 1948 was about 150,000. If Israel would allow the future Palestinian-Israeli majority full citizenship rights, they’ll control the government. If Israel subjects the majority to an apartheid regime, the system will eventually unravel. Apartheid regimes have short lives: Witness Rhodesia and South Africa.
2. Secondly, intractable issues stand in the way of a two-state solution: Jerusalem, borders, security for Israel and for Palestine, water rights, settlements, and the refugees’ right-of-return. Since the signing of the Oslo Agreement on September 13, 1993, none of the thorny issues has been resolved. When Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak, and Yasser Arafat attempted in July 2000 to tackle these issues at Camp David, the negotiations collapsed, leading to the second intifada and to Hamas’ gains in the 2006 parliamentary elections, which culminated by the take-over by Hamas of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, and Israel’s devastating war against Hamas eighteen months later.
3. Thirdly, even if a miracle patches up a two-state agreement the extremists on both sides would undermine the agreement. The extremists believe that they are divinely ordained to keep-up the struggle until they control the entirety of the land.
4. Fourthly, the Arab masses w ill shun a Zionist state. Judging from Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt (March 26, 1979) and Jordan (October 26, 1994), relations among the Egyptian and Jordanian masses and Israelis failed to develop beyond small diplomatic missions.
Western democratic and secular ideals should inspire the development of a single, democratic, and secular state for Palestinians and Jews. There are three reasons in support of such a development:
1. First, the intractable obstacles that have bedeviled the two-state solution would disappear.
2. Secondly, a single state will commingle Palestinians and Jews into an inseparable mix. The Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, estimated at about half a million in more than 125 settlements, could become instruments of integration between Palestinians and Jews, not segregation; a mixture of Jews among Arabs as difficult to unscramble as removing the Palestinian Israelis from Israel. A single state would lead the Arab governments to recognize the new state. Muslims everywhere, Arabs especially, would no longer have an excuse to boycott their Jewish “cousins.” Economic, cultural, educational, and social interaction would follow. The two sides would quickly learn=2 0how much they could benefit from one other.
3. Thirdly, a single state solution would allow Arabs and Jews full access to the entirety of Palestine.
The secular democratic one-state solution has been gathering pace. A well attended conference by Arabs and Israelis at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was held on November 17-18, 2007 to address the various aspects of this concept.
Arab and Jew Can Live Together in Peace
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).
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,” the Muslim/Jewish conflict would not have developed.
Durable peace and the long-term prosperity of the Jewish people in the Arab World require the genuine welcome of the Arab masses. Smart bombs and nuclear weapons cannot force Arab peoples’ acceptance of a Zionist Israel. The 600,000 Jews, who had lived in Arab countries for centuries and are today a major proportion of Israel’s Jewish population, could become a positive link with the Arab World. They share with the Arab peoples many 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.
In provoking the enmity of their age-old Muslim friends, Zionism has disserved the long-term interests of the Jewish people.
* Elhadj is the author of Elie Elhadj, author of The Islamic Shield: Arab Resistance to Democratic and Religious Reforms, and many articles which can be read here:www.daringopinion.com