The world will support a campaign for Palestinian citizenship in Israel

The Palestinian liberation movement finds itself in an impossible situation.  Their goal  of the past 20 years for an economically viable and sovereign Palestinian state appears to have no chance of becoming a reality.  To transcend their present stalemate, they must embark on a path toward Palestinian citizenship in Israel.

Present Situation

Despite the current efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the possibility of an economically viable and sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel is nil.  This is because the ever growing settlement movement has “captured” all of Area C that makes up almost 60% of the West Bank.  The remaining Areas A & B exclude East Jerusalem; they are broken into more than 100 disconnected islands surrounded by Israeli controlled Area C.  The result is an area too small and isolated to form an economically viable state.  This situation exists because of a deliberate Israeli policy, stated and unstated since 1958, to block a Palestinian state.  The Oslo peace process has led to failure, frustration and anger with renewed violence and diminished prospects for a Palestinian state.

Some Palestinians, especially in the Diaspora, call for a single, democratic or bi-national state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.  While it is unlikely that a Palestinian state alongside Israel will emerge, it is also unlikely that Israel, an internationally recognized state, would reconstitute itself as a bi-national state that includes all Palestinians as citizens.  The majority of Israelis would oppose this because it would fly in the face of the oft-stated “need” of Israeli Jews to maintain Israel as a Jewish state. 

The official position of many Western governments is to support Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. This is true of the United States government, its people and the mainstream media. They deplore Palestinian violent resistance which includes airplane hijackings in the 1970s, suicide bombings that emerged after repudiation of the Oslo Accords in 2001-2003, and rockets being fired into southern Israel from Gaza.  Palestinians are not unified in portraying themselves as non-violent.  Palestinian unification is absent because of a split between the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Hamas in Gaza, and the Palestinian Diaspora.  They all claim to speak for the Palestinians. 

The Oslo Accords recognized the PLO as the international representative of the Palestinian people.  But the PLO lost its independence when it morphed into the PA that is under the iron fist and control of Israel.  Palestinians themselves are still bleeding from the Second Intifada which only brought them disaster.  They lack a fighting spirit and have no real leadership.  The suffering of the Palestinians no longer grabs world headlines.  The Israeli occupation is entrenched with the Israeli army in complete control.  We are left with Palestinians with no unity and no coherent Palestinian message.

Disband the Palestinian Authority

The PA justifies its feeble existence by providing jobs from tax money and international donations, and perpetuating the illusion of an eventual Palestinian state.  But a significant fraction of PA resources is lost to corruption and never reaches the people.  This adds to Palestinian suffering.  Palestinians must face that dual reality that the PA is corrupt and that its goal of a Palestinian state is an illusion.

Because the PA is corrupt and advocates something untenable, it must be dissolved. While this sounds outrageous, it is quite realistic.  The PA was formed by the 1993 Oslo Accords and was designed to exist for five years.  But the PA has existed for twenty years, and has not helped the Palestinian people to attain their freedom.  Once the PA is gone, the tasks it now performs will fall on the shoulders of Israel, the Occupier.  Israel already controls Palestinian lives working through the PA.  Let Israel assume direct control and not hide behind the fig leaf of the PA.  Most important, with the PA gone, the Palestinian people will be free to seek a new path to freedom.

Israeli Citizenship, A Path to Freedom

Taking into consideration the above analysis, we must agree that Palestinians need to replace the goal of a Palestinian state or a democratic bi-national state to achieve freedom.  Palestinians have unsuccessfully worked toward those goals for at least 75 years, from long before the UN partition resolution of 1947.  Perhaps it is time to abandon that quest.  Perhaps it is time to accept that Israel controls all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Realistically, the Palestinians have only two alternatives: either remain stateless or join Israel.  Clearly, joining Israel is the better option, even though it means that the Palestinians will have to swallow the defeat of the one- and two-state options.    This means transforming the struggle for Palestinian national identity to a struggle for Israeli citizenship with the accompanying civil, human, and economic rights that will come with citizenship. 

Palestinians should demand admission into the state of Israel as full citizens.  Israel already controls Palestinian lives, but denies them human and civil rights.  As citizens, Palestinians will be in a position to demand full human and civil rights.  Those rights will take some time to emerge – in the beginning the new Palestinian citizens of Israel will be more or less equivalent to present-day Palestinian citizens of Israel who we know suffer some discrimination.  But with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ended, and Palestinians assimilating into Israeli society, difference in privilege based on religion can fade away. 

Not A New Idea

Palestinian citizenship in Israel is not a new idea.  It was considered by Israeli leaders in the first year after the June 1967 war.  And it was considered by some Palestinian leaders in the same time frame.  More recently it was suggested by Sari Nusseibeh, the renowned Palestinian philosopher and activist and president of Al-Quds University in a book published in 2011 (What is a Palestinian State Worth?) and analyzed in a symposium of the same name

Annexation Will Be A Struggle

Before Palestinians can demand citizenship in Israel, they must be residents of Israel.  That is already the case for East Jerusalem Palestinians who were offered Israeli citizenship just after the 1967 war.  They rejected Israeli citizenship then because they hoped that Israeli control of what they referred to as “Arab” Jerusalem was temporary.  But 25 years later it is obvious that there is no force that will remove Israel from East Jerusalem.  Recognizing that, East Jerusalem Palestinians can and should demand Israeli citizenship now.

The situation is quite different for West Bank Palestinians.  Even though Israel controls their lives, Israel has not annexed the West Bank which means West Bank Palestinians are not Israeli residents.  They are “citizens” of the PA.  This is worthless because the PA has not achieved Palestinian freedom, cannot guarantee and protect Palestinian civic and human rights. The PA is corrupt, and should be dissolved.

Before West Bank Palestinians can achieve Israeli citizenship, Israel must annex all of the West Bank and make them Israeli residents; not just Area C with 4% of the Palestinians, over 60% of the land, and most of the water and other resources.  Israel must also annex Areas A & B where 96% of the Palestinians live and not leave them in limbo.  Palestinians in all areas of the West Bank, Areas A, B & C, must demand with a single voice that all areas be annexed and Palestinians must come together to demand that all areas be annexed, and receive a path to Israeli citizenship.

Israelis fear that taking on direct responsibility for the 2.6 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank (CIA 2012 population estimate) will threaten a Jewish majority in Israel.  But such fears are being challenged.  Naftali Bennett, the Minister of Industry and Trade has joined other Israeli conservatives who have long urged the Israeli government to annex Area C.  Just last month, Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Transportation Minister, suggested that Israel annex all of the West Bank.  She acknowledges the demographic threat but says it will be worth it to end the international criticism of … Israel for its continuing occupation of the West Bank.  She wants to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict end.  Minister Hotovely’s suggestion seems to emanate from a fear of continuing boycotts of the settlements and of Israel itself.

Ultimately, the Palestinians must lead the way.  They can do this by uniting under the idea of a non-violent campaign to demand that Israel annex the West Bank and offers the Palestinians a direct path to Israeli citizenship.

Conclusion

If, or when the Palestinians launch a campaign for citizenship in Israel, they will be win support of the international community, including the United States and Europe. How can the developed democracies not support a campaign for civil rights? If they are to remain true to their values, they must  favor and support Palestinian citizenship.

Thus we see that a campaign for Palestinian citizenship in Israel is the best way for the Palestinians to overcome their present stalemate.

Once Israel provides a route to citizenship for its Palestinian residents, it will mean the end of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state.  Israel must not allow itself to evolve into a full apartheid state similar to the “Jim Crow” American South.  Israel must become an inclusive democratic state where Palestinians eventually have equal rights because this is the right thing to do and it will provide Israel the peace it so desperately needs.

Lillian Laskin is a long-time community activist in Los Angeles.  She is founding member of L.A Jews for Peace, and of the Westside Progressives.

About Jeff Warner and Lillian Laskin

Jeff Warner is a Jewish peace activist in Los Angeles. He is active in LA Jews for Peace, Jews for Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians, Americans for Peace Now, and Cousins Club of Orange County. He organized street demonstrations against the Israeli siege of Gaza since late 2007, and against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza during the December-January massacre. Warner is a retired geologist.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 16 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Citizen says:

    Beneath this article (way beneath it some would say, but I don’t agree), is the distinction between “Never Again!” as interpreted by the Nuremberg Court in 1945-1946, and as interpreted by The Trial Of Eichmann, in 1961 (if memory serves): link to counterpunch.org

    Can you say, “Hannah Arendt?”

    Growing up in the USA, my experience is that the US population has been educated with Arendt’s
    universal interpretation of “Never Again,”yet our government has funded, and diplomatically serviced
    Israel’s tribal interpretation.

  2. RE: “…How can the developed democracies not support a campaign for civil rights? If they are to remain true to their values, they must favor and support Palestinian citizenship.” ~ Jeff Warner and Lillian Laskin

    MY COMMENT: I’m afraid they have answered their own ostensibly hypothetical question. Examples of “the developed democracies” not remaining “true to their values” (self-professed and/or otherwise) are far too numerous to list!

    SEE: “Notes on Nationalism”, by George Orwell, 1945

    [EXCERPTS] . . . All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . .

    . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. And those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps are often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia. Huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English russophiles. Many English people have heard almost nothing about the extermination of German and Polish Jews during the present war. Their own antisemitism has caused this vast crime to bounce off their consciousness. In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one’s own mind. . .

    SOURCE (“Notes on Nationalism”, by George Orwell, 1945) – link to orwell.ru

  3. just says:

    Thought provoking. My gut reaction is no.

    I just finished reading Phil’s post about the segregated rows in cemeteries………… I guess I’ll think about your proposal….

  4. FreddyV says:

    This is all very simple and will end one of two ways.

    1: One state

    2: Anyone past the Green Line gets a Palestinian passport.

    We can talk about maintaining the status quo, which is what Israel is currently doing, but eventually they’ll lose US support, the UN will get called in and it’ll all be over.

  5. American says:

    “…How can the developed democracies not support a campaign for civil rights? If they are to remain true to their values, they must favor and support Palestinian citizenship.” ~ Jeff Warner and Lillian Laskin

    Developed democracies have watched Israel kill Palestines for their land for 65 years and done nothing about it.
    And you think they’re gonna give a damn about Palestines having “voting rights’ once Israel swallows all of Palestine?
    I doubt it.

  6. I agree that the most logical move for the West Bank Palestinians is to ask for annexation into Israel. Because this will win the world onto its side, advocacy of this position will lead either to an Israeli annexation or alternatively to an Israeli realization that they must withdraw from the West Bank.

    The obstacles are Fatah, Hamas and the West Bank Palestinians. Fatah and Hamas’s position on this are well known and understandable that they don’t wish to give up on international law which (more or less) views the West Bank as their territory. But the W. Bank Palestinians themselves are the ones that need to be won over. A poll published in reaction to Kerry’s visit yielded this:

    Both sides were even more critical of a proposed one-state solution in which Arabs and Jews enjoy equality: 63% of Israelis and 69% of Palestinians reject such a result.

    Here’s the link:
    link to jpost.com

  7. Sibiriak says:

    The result is an area too small and isolated to form an economically viable state.

    This conventional wisdom must be proved, not simply asserted. A sovereign Palestinian state, even if small and/0r discontiguous, can link economically with other states, via confederation or other legal arrangements. It’s the occupation and oppression which are making Palestinian life so difficult at the moment, not a lack of territory.

    Before West Bank Palestinians can achieve Israeli citizenship, Israel must annex all of the West Bank and make them Israeli residents

    Forcing Israel to annex all of the West Bank would, imo, be far more difficult than forcing Israel to abandon some settlements (not all would need to be abandoned for a two-state settlement, and I’m not arguing such a settlement would be perfectly just.)

    In my view, Israeli, despite some politicians’ statements, will never voluntarily annex the West Bank for fear of enfranchising the Palestinians there and thereby undermining the “Jewishness” of Israel.

    As Jeff Halper argued:

    (Area C of the West Bank) contains less than 5 per cent of the Palestinian population. In 1967 the Jordan valley contained about 250,000 people. Today it’s less than 50,000. So the Palestinians have either been driven out of the country, especially the middle class, or they have been driven to areas A and B. That’s where 96 or 97 per cent of them are. The Palestinian population has been brought down low enough, there is probably somewhere around 125,000 Palestinians in area C, so Israel could annex area C and give them full citizenship.

    Basically, Israel can absorb 125,000 Palestinians without upsetting the demographic balance.

    link to rabbibrant.com

  8. Activists supporting Palestinian rights are certainly feeling frustrated by this intractable struggle — by the brutality of the occupier, by the incessant collaboration of the US and other western governments, and by the political and moral collapse of the PA — but it is vital to remember that it is a Palestinian struggle. Palestinians must decide how and what to fight for. If they want the annexation of their land and Israeli citizenship, I’m sure we will hear about it from them. Meanwhile, the only people who are calling for annexation are the Israeli settlers and their rabid supporters.

    What we have heard from Palestinians is that they ask their supporters to fight, via an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, for an end to the occupation, equal rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and for the right of return for the Palestinian diaspora. That’s pretty clear.

    Americans particularly need to practice a little self-restraint when it comes to organizing or even imagining the political lives of others. That humility might help us reign in our own over-reaching government.

    • RoHa says:

      “and for the right of return for the Palestinian diaspora.”

      Let us be precise here. The Right of Return is the right of Palestinians who were driven out of the territory that is now Israel to return to that territory, and is conventionally extended to the direct descendants of such people.

      The term “the Palestinian diaspora” usually refers to Palestinians living outside Palestine, and sometimes to non-Palestinians of Palestinian ancestry. The Right of Return will not apply to all of these people.

  9. MSeveral says:

    I would reverse the process. Instead of Palestinians asking for Israeli citizenship, I would advocate that Israel annex the occupied Palestinian Territory at the end of a process of change in Israel. Before the annexation takes place, I believe Israel should eliminate its segregated and unequal education system; it should eliminate its segregated housing, which would include the encouragement of Israeli Arabs to move to what are the settlements; it should eliminate segregated buses and all forms of segregation; and it should draft Arabs into the Israel Defense Force. Essentially, I believe Israel should abandon Zionism, which privileges Jews over others, and become like the United States. When this takes place, Israel should then annex the oPT.

    • JLWarner says:

      MSeveral

      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with all the things you suggest that Israel must do to really be a democracy of all its people. The problem is that Israel is doing none of those things. In fact, Israel may be going in the wrong direction be increasing discrimination of its Arab citizens.

      Underlying our suggestion is the idea that by annexing all of the West Bank, and putting Gaza aside, Israel will essentially end the I-P conflict. As Gershon Baskin has argued, with the conflict ended, Israel will turn its attention and use the resources forally used for the conflict, to improving life for all its people and expanding its democracy. In other words, annexation leads to end of conflict, and end of conflict leads to improved democracy.

      That is Lillian and my idea. But your order, or ours, we agree on what should happen.

  10. kayq says:

    I don’t understand why Palestinians must have Israeli citizenship? Can’t they still be Palestinians? I think everybody should receive civil rights regardless of citizenship. That way, we can vote in a left wing Israeli-Palestinian party.

    Although, screw the demographic threat, and just move in towards a binational state.

    • MSeveral says:

      What do you mean by a bi-national state? Will it have one army? Will the army be divided so the number of officers at the various levels equals the population percentage in the area? Please outline the nature of the executive, the legislative, and the judicial elements of the government. I am totally mystified by what people mean when they say they want a bi-national state. Without spelling out the details, the objective of a bi-national state is just a lot of hot air.

  11. I agree that the most logical move for the West Bank Palestinians is to ask for annexation into Israel. Because this will win the world onto its side, advocacy of this position will lead either to an Israeli annexation or alternatively to an Israeli realization that they must withdraw from the West Bank.

    The obstacles are Fatah, Hamas and the West Bank Palestinians. Fatah and Hamas’s position on this are well known and understandable that they don’t wish to give up on international law which (more or less) views the West Bank as their territory. But the W. Bank Palestinians themselves are the ones that need to be won over. A poll published in reaction to Kerry’s visit yielded this:

    Both sides were even more critical of a proposed one-state solution in which Arabs and Jews enjoy equality: 63% of Israelis and 69% of Palestinians reject such a result.

    Here’s the link:
    link to jpost.com

  12. W.Jones says:

    Despite the news reports and events being hot daily, it seems that you are really dealing with longterm forces.

    In the short term you have a nuclear State dedicated to a people defined as a religion with total military and political control over its territory, and an extremely close political, strategic, economic, societal alliance with the world’s #1 superpower. It can colonize the West Bank and call it what they want, blockade tiny Gaza, and given an excuse perhaps even expel those populations.

    One of the main obstacles would be the P.A. going to the ICC or other international bodies, but those can be manipulated as can the P.A. which can be repressed. International bodies have already issued statements, which are ignored. Another, less likely possibility is for Palestinians worldwide to mount a popular campaign like Ghandhi and MLK, but it’s asking alot of such a disenchranchised, impoverished, exiled, alienated, politically targeted, and disempowered group.

    I can hardly predict the future, but the possibility for a big change is more longterm. The thing is, when it inflicts so much repression, it is hard to see how that gives it longterm security. Granted, Turkey genocided the Armenians and Turkey is still around. On the other hand, it is hard to see how millions of Israelis would just go away. And doesn’t the religion focus a lot on the idea of having a certain kind of society in that part of the world, as well as seeing its idea of society to be separate? So the conflict or dispute with a drive to have alot of influence over the area would continue. It’s been fought over by so many groups over the centuries, being at the crossing of the main continents like a cultural faultline, that the area is prone to this.

    You would need some kind of epoch development, like world society overcoming nationalism, figuring out which religion (or none) is correct, or the Second Coming, etc., to solve the perennial drive and consequential resistance to domination of the territory. Naturally that looks a very long way off, unfortunately.

  13. W.Jones says:

    Lilian,

    You asked:
    How can the developed democracies not support a campaign for civil rights? If they are to remain true to their values, they must favor and support Palestinian citizenship.

    Palestinians have been campaigning for rights for a long time already. No, they are in some cases not true to their values. The PEPs are an example of this dichotomy.

    Regards.