Monday, September 16, 2013

Dialogue Among Stake-holders

Here is what I first sent to a group of 20 "on the ground" in I/P and the US:


I wanted to be sure you read this op-ed by Ian Lustick (THE TWO STATE ILLUSION, NY Times, Sept. 15, 2013), the most convincing (recent) articulation of what we have known for a long, long time: Two States is dead. Its time has past.

This will disappoint many of my (especially Palestinian) friends who are still holding out for the Two State resolution for the two peoples.

I have long sensed that one, pluralistic, democratic State is the goal, NOT beating the dead horse of the Kerry/Obama "talks". That "race" is over. Not that this outcome will be easy. Or without pain. But come it must.

I invite your comments. Click on "Reply to All" for a general discussion among us.

How is it that the NY Times allowed this in their space?!

Peace, justice and love, JRK for FPI

The first response I got is worth sharing. It is from a Shadia Kanaan, a dear Muslim friend in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who has family in Ramallah, the West Bank.

Here is her response, followed up with comments that I sent to the group of 20. You may want to enter the dialogue in the "comments" section.

As the two-state solution in Palestine/Israel turns increasingly into an illusion, the author proposes yet another version of the one-state solution that has been circulating during the past few years. This proposition has been gaining traction within some Palestinian circles and among a few western dreamers who have rightly come to the conclusion that the two-state solution has been pre-empted by the Zionist settlement enterprise. I believe The New York Times published the article out of recognition that the two-state solution is dying, and that a solution based on a unitary state is a possible alternative.

Noble as the idea of a democratic state where Palestinians and Israelis live as equals may be, it is bound to face formidable hurdles mainly because the balance of power tilts against it. Naturally, Israelis and their worldwide supporters have not come so far in the implementation of the Zionist dream/Palestnian nightmare in the whole of Palestine to have it come crashing down by the proposition of one state for Israelis and Palestinians. They will be united in fighting it with all the power they can muster both in the region and globally. I doubt if one can find many Israelis, even among the most liberal on the left who would support the one state solution. If one goes through the comments of readers of the article, one will discern the overwhelming opposition of Israelis and other jews to the idea.

Palestinians on the other hand may fall into the trap of adopting this idea, just like they adopted the two state solution before it, armed only with the notion of justice but without backing it with the elements of power required to make it a serious proposition. The call for justice on its own becomes a mere mantra, a slogan that provides false hopes to idle dreamers.

And yet, the powerful never seem to learn the lessons of the past. Israel has yet to learn that its best options have always been to seize the moment and accept genuine compromise while it is ahead. History goes in cycles: empires and powerful nations grow old and weak and are replaced by others. Israel will be no exception. There will come a time when Israel will have to face a not so pleasing configuration of power around it, hence would have to swallow the bitter pill and seek compromises that may then escape it. The same compromises it now dismisses with impunity.

Dear Shadia (and Others),

Friends, Shadia is a dear Muslim friend of mine with lots of family in Ramallah, the West Bank. She lives in Kalamazoo with her husband Azzam, has a family here in the US and has helped get the Palestinian point of view across to classes I have taught in Holland, Michigan, the USA.

Thank you Shadia, for your contribution to this discussion. What a measured, realistic, thoughtful word of caution in your response!

It is true. Israel is fighting mightily to maintain the Status Quo, of One, Jewish, Democratic State to the exclusion of equal rights for Palestinians.

They have zero tolerance for:

1) an autonomous Palestinian State alongside of their state, (fear of not being accepted and in fact overthrown)

2) or One State, pluralist, secular, with equal rights for all citizens, (the loss of a Jewish majority is unthinkable)

Back in 1947, the "international community - UN" thought that partitioning the land was fair, One State for each of the two peoples, side by side. Both sides mightily resisted it even then, as today.

In 1948, most Arab Palestinians wanted all the Jews to be kicked out and the land given back to them. Yet, in the early days of Arafat, there seemed a willingness to opt for the One, Pluralist, Secular State (equal rights for all).

But following the 1967 "six-day war", the US (and others) persuaded the Palestinians to (again) opt for the Two State solution. This was predicated on the false assumption that Israel was willing to share the land with their Palestinian neighbors. The Two State "solution" is still the official view of the UN, the US, Israel and the Palestinians. The Kerry "talks" are still predicated on this view which has been "talked" to death (while the settlement enterprise moves forward full speed).

Shadia, you are so correct in stating that Israel wants neither the One Pluralistic State, NOR the One State for the Palestinians, side by side with them. They don't ever want to give up their Jewish majority in the "land" (conceived as completely theirs).

The "talks" are a complete sham. Israel, as always, is very willing to "talk". They always are willing to talk; and continue to colonize historic Palestinians land, demolishing homes and villages, etc., etc. without making the "compromises" as you call them, to bring equality to the people of the land.

You call the One, Pluralist, Secular State a tempting "trap" that we in the West (and some Palestinians) might fall into. On the face of it, it seems a "just" solution. It is the goal for most of the persons to whom I sent this Lustick op-ed (with the exception of some very bright, young Palestinian leaders I met will on the study tour in June of this year. They are still holding out for the Two State "solution").

Israel is feeling the pressure from both the US and the European Union (EU) to "compromise" or face further sanctions, disapproval and isolation from the rest of the "world community". They seem willing to enter these latest talks because the US (through Sec. Kerry) has said nothing about ending the settlement advances. Obama, during his earlier visit, promised to give virtual unqualified support to the "Jewish Democratic State". What does Israel have to lose, in entering the talks? Nothing. Keep talking. Keep the colonial enterprise firing on all cylinders. While we "progressives" keep prattling away about "justice" for the Palestinians. (You call it a mantra, yes, a toothless, worthless mantra).

I personally have long come to the conclusion that the BDS movement (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) is the only language that Israel understands. So many Americans are just not there yet, I know that, even among my own constituency (The Reformed Church in America, who helped lead the boycott movement against our Dutch brothers in S. Africa in the 1980s). I too, used to think it was an extremist stance to take. No more. It is nonviolent, powerful and able to get "results", but only in the long run. The letter of the 15 denominational leaders was a great opening salvo to the Congress of the US, to restrict US funds if terms of their use is not adhered to (support for human rights). We need to build on that initiative.

The powerful do not give up their power willingly. Not unless they are seized by what Thomas Chalmers called "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection"-- power-sharing with the oppressed. Yes, in truth, there is One State now, and the present coalition will continue to pillage and fight to maintain the Status Quo, at the expense of the Palestinians.

I'm attaching a three-column Three Visions statement (which I sent out many months ago). It still accurately summarizes the current mixed up stew of visions that are in competition. The only view I left out is the view of Hamas, which is totally committed to the One State, with a Muslim majority that excludes "Jews" and runs the country by Sharia law. With the Brotherhood out of power in Egypt, that vision has grown dimmer of late. [Write me at for a copy]

I'm picking up discontent with the Palestinian Authority (PA) from highly respected people like Mazin Qumsiyeh, Estephan Salameh and others; and, of course one can find much criticism of the present Israeli ruling coalition among many Jews.

Again Shadia, thank you for sharing your views with all of us. We all agonize with you and the wretched state of affairs in your native land. We want things to change, for the better, with liberty and justice for all. John Kleinheksel for FPI