From the river to the sea,
Palestine will be free!

Monday, July 06, 2009

"The Israeli Idea of a 'Palestinian State'" -- Saree Makdisi

Part of article below; whole thing: http://www.palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=15260

But this latest demand is too much for any Palestinian leader—even one as endlessly obsequious as Abbas—to accept.

For to recognize Israel as a Jewish state would be not only to renounce (which no leader and indeed no individual Palestinian has the authority to do) the right of return of those Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes during the creation of Israel in 1948. It would also be to abandon to their fate the remaining million or so Palestinians (including their descendants) who survived the nakba and have been living as second class citizens of Israel, and perhaps even to give Israel license to expel them all and complete the “job” (as Benny Morris puts it) of 1948.

Israel today is no more Jewish than America is white or Christian. The big difference, though, is that, whereas America (for the most part) embraces its own multiculturalism, Israel still desperately wants to be Jewish. Its absurd demand to be recognized as such (no other state goes around impetuously demanding that others accept its own sense of its national character) is an expression of its own profound insecurity: not its military insecurity—the only serious military threat Israel faces on its own territory is imaginary—but rather its anxious awareness of its status as a botched, and hence forever incomplete, settler-colonial enterprise. Unlike Australia, there were too many aboriginals left standing when the smoke cleared over the ruins of Palestine in 1948. And to this day the Palestinians have refused to simply give up, go away or somehow annul themselves.

That fact—and its attendant anxiety among Zionists—poses a real problem for the million Palestinians inside Israel, whose fate is far from settled.

Western liberals consider Avigdor Lieberman to be right wing because he says openly that he wants the indigenous Palestinians removed from what he considers to be the Jewish land of Israel (to which he came as a Russian-speaking immigrant). What they fail to acknowledge is that Tzipi Livni, who ran in the recent Israeli elections as the voice of peace and moderation—the darling of Western liberals—hinted at exactly the same dark fate (“Once a Palestinian state is established, I can come to the Palestinian citizens, whom we call Israeli Arabs, and say to them ‘you are citizens with equal rights, but the national solution for you is elsewhere,’” she said during the electoral campaign—i.e., you are equal, but not really, and ultimately you must look elsewhere for a sense of home). And Netanyahu has long espoused a similar position.

How could he not? This is not rocket science or linear algebra: it is what it means for a state to insist on having a single cultural identity irrespective of who happens to actually be living on the territory it considers its own. It is all too rarely thought of in the same terms, but the violent insistence on monoculture is just as ugly in Israel as it is in Iran, Saudi Arabia, among the cadres of the British National Party, the followers of Jean-Marie le Pen, the hoodlums of Aryan Nation or the hooded posses of the KKK. The drive to obliterate or expunge cultural difference from a homeland conceived of as an exclusive space will always be inherently ugly.

And the fact of the matter is that the expulsion or “transfer” of Palestinians has been a core feature of Zionism as it has been practiced since 1948. It is inherent in Zionism as a political program—from right to left—because, if the idea behind Zionism is to establish an exclusively Jewish state (which it is), the only way for a would-be Jewish state to have been established on land that began the twentieth century with a population that was overwhelmingly (93 percent) non-Jewish was through the removal of the land’s non-Jewish population. The sense that there is an inherently Jewish land inconveniently cluttered up with a non-Jewish population that needs to be dealt with somehow or other drove Zionist planning all through the 1930s (the “transfer” of the Palestinians was planned more than a decade before the 1948 war). And, as grotesque as ever, it was on full view in Netanyahu’s speech.

The key moment in the speech came when he said that “the truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians.” This attitude comes straight out of the primitive racialism and imaginary civilizational hierarchies of the nineteenth century. The Jews are a people with a homeland and hence they have a right to a state; the Palestinians are not a people at all, or certainly not one of the same order. They are merely a collection of vagabonds and trespassers intruding on the Jewish Homeland. They have no rights, let alone a centuries-old competing narrative of home attached to the same land, a narrative worthy of recognition by Israel.

On the contrary: the Palestinians must accept that Israel is the state of the Jewish people, and they must do so on the understanding that they are not entitled to the same rights. “We” are a people, Netanyahu was saying; “they” are merely a “population.” “We” have a right to a state—a real state. “They” do not. “They” have to recognize “our” rights; “we” owe “them” nothing in return, except, possibly, a curt nod of dismissal from “our” view into the walled-off ghettoes and cantons which we might (perhaps, if “they” behave well) be persuaded to build for “them” on “our” land—and “they” had better be grateful even for that.

This racialized sense of inherent entitlement and unique superiority—fuelled (in just the way that a child is spoiled by over-indulgent parents) by over $100 billion of our tax dollars, the endless deference of our elected representatives, the open-ended diplomatic cover provided on demand by all our presidents after Eisenhower—is what allows Israelis like Netanyahu (and Lieberman, and Livni, and Olmert, and Sharon, and Rabin, etc.) to threaten, bellow at and admonish the Palestinians. It is also what allows Israel to occupy Palestinian land, demolish Palestinian homes, starve Palestinian children, imprison and shoot Palestinian youths, tear up Palestinian olive trees, crush Palestinian aspirations, while believing—really sincerely believing—that Israel is the real victim of everything that has happened. And, unbelievable as it is, that idea too (that Israel is the real victim of Palestinian aggression) was repeatedly expressed in Netanyahu’s speech. Make no mistake that he really believes it; it’s astonishing to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history, but most Israelis, and most of their supporters in this country, really do believe in this totally inverted—and perverted—view of history.

Such attitudes, such views, are the inevitable products of endless indulgence.

No matter what the best way forward is—two states or one—it is absolutely vital for the American people to call their leaders to account and to demand that this indulgence must end, for the sake of everyone involved. And until our politicians learn (or are persuaded) to do the right thing, it falls on each of us to do what we can to end the indulgence and to bring pressure to bear on Israel. Heeding the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions is the obvious place to begin.

- Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA and author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation. This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com by The Institute for Middle East Understanding (http://imeu.net)


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

i never understood why there are so many islamic states in Middle East but it's not conceivable to have 1 jewish state? over 50% of Israel's jewish population are refugees from Arab countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yewmen, etc.

LJansen said...

Sure -- have your state. Just make room for the Palestinians to have one next to it. Also don't make Palestine into a "toy" state, which is the only thing Israel seems to want.

Israel, surely you can take care of yourself beside Palestine?

Let Palestine live!

Personally, I think everyone should live there together in one state with equal rights for all. We can cut down on the millions of $$ we send to Israel for weapons then.