This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Cornel West recently called Barack Obama the George Zimmerman of the world. Does that make Benjamin Netanyahu the George Zimmerman of the Middle East?
There are so many George Zimmerman’s in our world. When we move from the individual to the state violence there’s another level of culpability. Or is individual and collective behavior bound together, like the Jewish settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the policies of the state of Israel?
So if Jews of Conscience speak like Cornel West, stridently, without apology, about the upcoming Washington pow-wow which may or not happen, but also beyond the John Kerry mirage or subterfuge, what should Jews of Conscience say? Do we concentrate on the negotiating politics at hand or do we go Cornel West on Israel?
Complaint has become a way of life for Israel/Palestine activists. That’s why we’re afraid of speaking too bluntly about the hopelessness of a negotiation that lacks foundational equality. It might appear that we’re more or less stuck complaining rather than offering a way forward. What to do when there isn’t a way forward? The result is that too often we become assertive about a future we envision – the end of the occupation, one state better than two – even though neither appear on the horizon.
Talks or no talks, agreement or no agreement, the occupation will continue one way or another. What might be on the Washington table is some loosening of the occupation’s grip. Two real states are far from happening. That train left the station decades ago. One state, dominated by Israel, is the immediate future.
The opposite, the inclusive One State option hardly guarantees justice for Palestinians. A secular democratic state where Jews and Palestinians live together as citizens does hold out that possibility – without guarantees. Economic, political and social equality are far from given in a society, even in those societies where apartheid has been overturned – witness the United States and South Africa.
Elites, favoritism and corruption don’t disappear simply because a more attractive and a more just society are enshrined in law. One has to suppose that if Jewish elites fail to dominate the one state of Israel/Palestine they will come together with Palestinian elites to control both populations. At least they will give it a try. In other words, it would be a constant struggle in one state to make sure that the dream of justice and equality is achieved. To think otherwise is naïve.
Does a (real) Two State option guarantee injustice for Palestinians? The argument that Palestinians have the right to regain what they lost in the creation of Israel and beyond is forceful. Nonetheless, the reality before Palestinians is much like the reality before other displaced populations. What Palestinians need is a negotiated settlement that allows a future where more and more justice can be struggled for.
In the Palestine of the Two State solution a battle for equality within the state will be ongoing. There is already a dominating class in Palestinian society. It is foolish to think they will hand over their power to the Palestinian people just because a real Palestinian state is achieved.
And we haven’t even talked about the corruption that is rampant in Palestinian – and Israeli – political life. This raises the question of exactly who is at the negotiating table for Israel and the Palestinians and who exactly these leaders represent.
So, the question is at hand. If the Washington talks go ahead, should Jews of Conscience – and Palestinian activists – enter the political fray within the parameters of the talks themselves? Or should Jews of Conscience – and Palestinian activists – boycott the talks and go on as if nothing of substance is happening?