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What Comes Next: The Jewish/Palestinian Diaspora

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This post is part of “What Comes Next?: A forum on the end of the two-state paradigm.” This series was initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace as an investigation into the current state of thinking about one state and two state solutions, and the collection has been further expanded by Mondoweiss to mark 20 years since the Oslo process. The entire series can be found here.

There is no doubt in my mind that any resolution of the Israel/Palestine imbroglio will involve Israel as a state and a Jewish one at that – whatever that means beyond a Jewish majority or empowered minority within the boundaries of Israel.

I’m not saying such a resolution is right or just.  Still, the search for a way out of a “Jewish” state is misguided.  Put simply, it’s a waste of time.

Israel isn’t going down and it won’t be abandoned.  No political player in the Middle East wants Israel to cease to exist.  The Western world won’t allow it.  The desire of these two regions for Israel’s continued existence has similar and different rationales.  Nonetheless, they have come together in a bond unlikely to break apart for the foreseeable future.

Where Israel’s borders will be remains indeterminate and, as even John Kerry has pointed out, that’s a problem for Israel to maintain a Jewish majority. But Israel could cease to have a Jewish majority and still control the political and economic system. Nonetheless, the nub of Israel’s expansionist problems resides with demographics.  As with any state, Israel’s ethical concerns are confined to thinkers and activists without power.

No doubt Israel will keep the issue of final borders open as long as it can.  This means that Palestine will continue to disappear.  In this scenario what comes next is impossible to predict.  What may be next will partially be determined by when “next” is.  The longer the various peace processes drag on the less Palestine there will be.

Though Palestine is disappearing, Palestinians remain.  This means that Palestine Without Borders is coming into existence.  In a Palestine without borders the Palestinian population continues to increase within an expanded Israel.  If there is already one state, Israel stretching from Tel Aviv to the Jordan River, there are more Palestinians than ever before under Israeli control and living, however unjustly, with Jewish Israelis.

This non-separation is disguised for now by a policy of apartheid, one that continues to gain strength and reach in Israeli politics.  But the seeds of non-separation were there from the beginning – within the recognized borders of Israel.   Extending them now is foolhardy for those who want apartheid to be permanent.  Nonetheless, Israel continues to forge forward.  Israel believes that the future is hers.

Nadia Hajib’s take on things, is important.  She leaves the overt political and nation-state arena for the moment and concentrates on grassroots foundations for social change:  keeping Palestinians on the land, the continuing critique of Zionism, placing a cost on occupation and discrimination and educating around the One State option.  On the One State option, she makes an important observation:  “While much is known about what a two-state solution would look like, if it could be achieved, less is known about one-state. It would be important to address fears that one-state would lead to the elimination of Israel – it wouldn’t. But it would challenge ethno-religious privilege, which has no place in either one or two states.  Whichever one supports as the hoped for solution, that is a vital point to make.”

Working without a political framework – the title and theme of her reflection – is crucial.  But what binds the framework people are working with?  What is that framework?   Does it evolve or need to be constructed? What will keep people committed to the framework over the long haul and in the face of intense criticism and physical actions against it?

Over the past months many theories about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been floated.  All come up short.  The deficiencies are palpable, especially when they rely on overt political formula.  The ones that seem reasonable and have the least possibility of success feature “common interests” themes.  The common interests of Israelis and Palestinians – ecology, liberal politics and religious fundamentalism – can go either way.  They’re more likely to go nowhere.  Projecting common interest themes into political reality, would Israel/Palestine be more likely to end up as a liberal secular society or a regressive fundamentalist bulwark?

There are no easy answers but one possible framework to work on is the linkage between Jews and Palestinians in Israel/Palestine and Jews and Palestinians in their respective Diasporas.  What might evolve is a Jewish/Palestinian Diaspora that features Jews and Palestinians all over the world who seek a more just and equal way of life in whatever political framework Israel/Palestine moves toward.  Thus today’s political framework is bypassed but the possibility of influencing a future political framework is preserved.  In any case, in the Jewish/Palestinian Diaspora, Jewish and Palestinian concerns, values and ethics can be spoken and enacted in the face of the violence and oppression of the present political reality.

Where there are no options forward, keeping hope alive is crucial.  In Israel/Palestine there will be another day.  The Jewish/Palestinian Diaspora has to be ready for that day.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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7 Responses

  1. HarryLaw
    October 16, 2013, 1:53 pm

    “Nonetheless, the nub of Israel’s expansionist problems resides with demographics”.
    Well, yes and no, since Israel administers 60% of the West Bank known as area C, and since only 150,000 Palestinians live in area C, 5% of Palestinians compared with 300,000 settlers it is not hard to envisage Israel trying to annex as much of area C as they can, those Palestinians in area C could easily be absorbed into a greater Israel thereby leaving the “fried chicken” solution as advocated by a former Israeli official ,When David Bar-Illan, then director of communications and policy planning in Netanyahu’s office, was asked about statehood, he answered “Semantics don’t matter. If Palestinian sovereignty is limited enough so that we feel safe, call it fried chicken.” Even this would only be an interim solution, because Israel would still claim [as Jacobinsky did] the whole of Judea and Samaria as sovereign Israeli territory, and that the Palestinians could live there, as long as they kept their heads down.

  2. braciole
    October 16, 2013, 5:44 pm

    When I read the headline of this article, I thought about the latest in news in archaeogenetic research:

    Long-standing controversy settled – DNA shows Ashkenazim female line descended from southern and western Europe, NOT the Near East

    How ironic that the Palestinians are probably more ethnically Jewish than all of the Ashkenazi Jews who settled in Palestine from Europe. Obviously they are not religiously Jewish.

  3. Mayhem
    October 16, 2013, 8:31 pm

    Israel will eventually prove conclusively that it is the best place for an Arab to live in the Middle East. Then we will have to wait for the rest of the Arabs in the region to wake up to this awkward reality.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      October 17, 2013, 8:31 am

      LMAO. Yeah, and the just as the slaveholders said of the slaves, they really liked slavery, too.

  4. Tex Tradd
    Tex Tradd
    October 17, 2013, 2:13 am

    There is no doubt in my mind that any resolution of the Israel/Palestine imbroglio will involve Israel as a state and a Jewish one at that – whatever that means beyond a Jewish majority or empowered minority within the boundaries of Israel.

    I’m not saying such a resolution is right or just. Still, the search for a way out of a “Jewish” state is misguided. Put simply, it’s a waste of time.

    This idea that a just solution is compatible with a Jewish majority seems a good place for justice-seekers and critics of the occupation to start from. It is grounded in what seems to more than a few of us to be a prudent, realistic take on a tragic situation. Given all the history of violence on both sides, the idea of an empowered minority however strikes me as unwise. Let’s move on especially from the more extreme ideas of some BDSers who insist a Jewish minority in a one state solution is incompatible with social justice in the region.

    For what it’s worth, I remain a two-stater, but admit to increasing doubts about it’s viability, especially after reading some of the challenging critiques of post-Zionists and others I have encountered here and elsewhere. I’m no expert, but overall, my reading of history leads me to agree with Norman Finkelstein’s rejection of a one-state solution scenario with a Jewish minority as a utopian and very impractical suggestion.

  5. mcohen
    October 18, 2013, 8:02 am

    tribal state before 1948,and eventually tribal state aftet 1948,after the socialist experiment runs its course,one or two states makes no difference.beyond the bloom of perfect red desert flowers,the rain bringing the desert to life

    an owl watches over the darkened desert landscape,keeper of mysteries once inscribed in the book prophets,it speaks to me in my dreams.

    blessed are you,G-d,king of the universe,who reigns in the seven realms.
    in the north and in the south
    in the east and in the west
    in the earth below,in the heavens above
    in the soul eternally

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