Saturday, March 27, 2004

Israel, Palestine, and Everythings Ruined

Over at Everythings Ruined (swiftly becoming one of my favorite blogs) I managed to get into it with some people over Israel-Palestine, and I threw down this particular gauntlet: the conflict is not resolvable. What do we do now?

John Paul, dropped the following science, as they say:

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In response to Parabasis' question, I can think of three possible answers, all of which need serious reconsideration and exploration--
1) Let them fight it out and whoever wins, wins. Intervention only delays the inevitable.
2) Make it two states with two separate governments. Neither can have an army or police force. The UN handles all security and settles all disputes with finality.
3) Make everyone leave. Most of the problems are in Jerusalem, so just evacuate the whole city. Make arrangements for everybody and pay for their transport. The Palestinians can go wherever they want--another Islamic country, or Europe, or somewhere where people claim to be interested in their well-being. The Israelis can go somewhere else, like New York, where many current residents of Jerusalem came from in the last few decades anyway. (A Palestinian woman I knew in Brooklyn loved to point out that any one of her Jewish neighbors could buy her old house in Jerusalem but she couldn't. She still had the keys.) So everybody has to leave--no one is allowed to live in Jerusalem, never again. It becomes a city-size museum of religion, with representatives from all Abrahamic faiths, each who care for their own holy sites but nobody owns any kind of property in the city, anywhere. You can visit but only to pray and see the sites.

As you might guess, I'm sympathetic to (3). Of course none of these will work--nothing will work. But I like them better than any of the recently-proposed solutions. People toy around with (2) but that's only a way of delaying (1).
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I agree with John Paul that the two-state solution is only a way of delaying an all-out war, one which the Palestinians will definitely lose. And this doesn’t begin to discuss the other real problems with the “two state solution” What happens to the Israeli Arabs? Isn’t this really just codifying ethnic cleansing by keeping the Palestinian refugees from returning to their land on the other side of the border? How is two racist states that hate each other better than one? You begin to see why there’s no solution to this thing.

Three is a really interesting idea. I remember at one point advocating very simply that Jerusalem become a UN protectorate. Hell, why not make in the official Seat of the UN (sorry, New York) and have the UN there to ensure anyone can go anywhere without fear of molestation.

My problem with all three of these things, is that they feel like real solutions. In other words, they violate the thesis of the argument (no solution can work). In my mind, absent any long-lasting solution to the problem, we should pursue other more quotidian goals. If we can’t get peace (and I think it’s pretty clear we can't, at least right now) why not pursue the goal of human rights? I think it’s pretty safe to say that (for example), on a human rights front, the Israeli government is a near-total disaster. They have democracy, sure, but they put people in camps indefinitely without trial, practice torture regularly, and do all sorts of other things in their supposed zeal for peace. Here are some things that could be addressed immediately (and not just by the Israeli government), and would immediately improve the situation:

(0) Eliminate job and other kinds of non-State discrimination against Israeli Arabs

(0) Palestinians get, on average, one tenth the water provided to Israelis (thanks to the Kibbutz program) much of this water comes from land in the West Bank, which is occupied by the Israeli state. Fixing this would be, well, a good thing.

(0) An immediate dismantling of all settlements built after the Oslo Accords specifically made them illegal.

(0) Stricter regulation of the Right of Return for Jews, which has led to, amongst other things, a high presence of the Russian Mafia, believed to be responsible for some incidents of anti-Semetic violence and graffiti within Israel (I believe in eliminating it all-together, but that'll never happen, here's something that can happen and will improve the daily life of the Jewish people in Israel)

(0) Cease assassination and collective punishment against the Palestinian people. These are clearly illegal under international law, and do nothing but foment greater hatred. Simply put: If the policies worked, they would have worked by now. Sharon’s government’s “defense” policies are a massive failure. The U.S. arms deals with Israel specifically stipulate that the weapons sold (including those helicopter gunships) can only be used for "defense", so I think the ball's really in our court on this one.

(0) The surrounding nations (especially Jordan) need to start treating their Palestinian refugees as human beings. The life of a Palestinian refugee in Jordan may not suffer from the same threat of violence, but there could be greater integration into society and a greater humanitarianism to the way the refugees are treated.

These are just some examples of little things that could be done to make the situation better over there. Right now the Palestinian people live in some of the poorest, densely-populated areas of the world. There are no jobs, there is nothing worthwhile to the land of the Gaza Strip, there are attacks from settlers, the IDF, militant crazies and all sorts of other pressures to deal with. On top of this, they have very few recognized rights.

Okay, this post has gotten incredibly long. Later on I’ll try to talk about ways to build good faith between the Israeli and Palestinian people. Just a hint: their governments get in the way!

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