Saturday, July 20, 2013

Peace Talks Regardless of BDS and BDS Regardless of Peace Talks

Rather than write up my take on the Kerry announcement (I’m basically with Harvard’s Steve Walt and Jewish Voice for Peace’s Sydney Levy ), I would rather answer the question, “Why will this round of peace talks be different from previous rounds – if they actually take place?”

The answer is that we have now entered into era of governmental BDS against Israel, I mean the European Union’s decision not to advance funding, grants, and financial instruments to Israeli individuals or institutions that have locations on territories captured by Israel in 1967. (I was told that Hebrew University, which has a campus on Mt. Scopus on territory that it owned (at least some of it) in the pre-state period is exempt. But I didn’t see that in the EU’s guidelines)

Some have suggested that the EU’s guidelines weighed heavily on Israel’s decision to join the peace talks, or that it emboldened the PA. I really have no way to determine whether that is true. I can say, as somebody who followed Israel’s rather hysterical reaction to the EU’s statement, that we now have a rather big governmental entity – the European Union – that has jumped on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions bandwagon – without the US as so much offering a peep of protest.

I should make it clear that neither the EU, much less its member statements, are formally boycotting Israel. As Daniel Levy correctly pointed out in the New York  Times, the actual financial impact of the guidelines will be probably rather small.  But the psychological impact has been huge. For one thing the EU guidelines bring back the Green Line, without any talk of settlement blocs, greater Jerusalem, or land swaps. The Jerusalem suburbs of Gilo and much of Ramot are over the Green Line – so an Israeli company with branches in those Jerusalem suburbs are potentially affected. For another, I haven’t heard anybody object to the EU guidelines outside of Israel, certainly nobody in the US government seems upset about them.

For years the US brokered peace process not only failed – it served the interests of Israeli expansionism.  Many reasons can be given for this failure, but surely one of the most important has been the failure of the US to act as anything but, in Aaron David Miller’s oft-quoted phrase, Israel’s lawyer.  He was referring to Dennis Ross, whose way of encouraging the Israelis was throwing at them huge military hardware, which they often turned down. Ross’s motto appears to have been “All carrots, all the time.” Now, perhaps, there will be a division of labor with the Europeans playing the Bad Cop and the US the Good Cop (for the Israelis, of course.)

Will there be progress? That depends on what you think progress consists of. I hope the US peace process fails  because the Clinton parameters on which it has been based represent a rotten compromise that sacrifices the Palestinian people’s legitimate dreams and aspirations to be a free people in their land. But the peace process, if it gets off the ground, will give the BDS movement needed time to continue to gather steam.  It brings the Israel-Palestine issue back into the public spotlight, exactly where the criminals who steal Palestinian land don’t want it to be.  The era of the governmental sanctions against  Israel  settlements has begun. As an American, I am sorry that the US didn’t take  the lead. But at least the US, because of its interest in the peace process, is smart enough to let the bad cop Europe do its work.

Rabin famously said that Israel should fight terror as if there was no peace process, and continue the peace process as if there were no terror.  We will now have BDS as if there is no peace process and the peace process as if there is no BDS. Much to Israel’s chagrin, the linkage between the peace process and protection from BDS has been broken. Or perhaps the linkage between the peace process and BDS has been established. Call me an optimist, but that’s got to be good news.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Modest Proposal for the Solution of the Palestinian Refugee Problem

These days all eyes are focused on Egypt. Over the last few months all eyes have been focused on Syria. Wherever the next Arab crisis will be, you can be sure that all eyes will not be focused on the Palestinians.  I just heard MK Naftali Benet (Jewish Home) say on the radio that he was in China, and while he was asked repeatedly about Israeli hi-tech, nobody asked him about the Palestinians. 

Yet this doesn’t mean that Israelis themselves aren’t talking about Palestinians. MK Tzipi Hotoveli (Likud) has recently come out in favor of annexing the West Bank and giving the Palestinians full citizen rights, provided that the demographic balance is not tilted in their favor. How will she ensure that? Her answer is that the Palestinians will be allowed to become citizens only after there is massive aliyah of Jews. I am not sure how massive; she accepts the rightwing dogma that there are “only” 1 1/2 million Palestinians on the West Bank. Keeping the demographic balance at 80 per cent Jewish to 20 per cent Arab would require the aliyah of around six million Jews. And the likelihood of that is…? I shudder to think what  Israel would have to do to the Palestinians in order to raise the level of anti-Semitic attacks in the world  to a level that would convince that many Jews to make aliyah.  And what, according to Hotoveli, would happen to the Israeli Palestinians within Israel if the demographic balance is altered by continuing Israeli Jewish emigration. Would she be in favor of forced expulsion to keep the current Jewish/Arab balance within Israel? Sterilization?  Incentives for smaller families?

On the moderate right, the Haifa U. geographer Arnon Sofer laments that in 2020 the Negev will be Bedouin, the Galilee will be predominantly Arab, the West Bank will be in a state of apartheid, Jerusalem will be 50% Arab and 80% non- and anti-Zionist, and the State of Israel will be, in effect, the State of Greater Tel Aviv, an ecological (and traffic) nightmare.  I resist the opportunity to say that this is the best news I have heard for a long time, but pessimist that I am, I am sticking with Benet.

And what about the liberal Zionists? Most still argue for a two-state solution, claiming  that Israel can’t be a Jewish state and democratic with so many Palestinians. 

So here’s my “modest proposal”:  Israel should say to the Palestinians, “We will repatriate up to 1 million refugees over the next ten years as permanent residents without citizen rights.”  If that sounds too harsh, we can adopt a nineteenth century curial approach that will reduce Palestinian  political power by denying them “one man – one vote.” Palestinians would be restored to their lands, or when that it is not possible, they would receive generous compensation and vocational training.  The peril-to-democracy argument won’t apply since they won’t vote.

I can already hear the objections. Who knows if these permanent residents won’t one day clamor for citizenship rights? Why should Palestinian non-citizens be given financial compensation and job training when there are so many Israelis – Jews and Palestinians – unemployed?   What sort of democracy rules over so many people with out giving them real voting rights?

Uh…next question?

Look at it this way.  Supporters of Israel are always talking about the demographic threat. Yet with 20% of the population within Israel Palestine, do the Palestinians have any real political power?  Have they ever been part of a government coalition?  Arab participation in the 2013 elections went up 3%…to 56%, much lower than the Jewish sector. What would be so bad if they were 30% or 40% of the population but without voting rights, or unable to alter the Jewish character of the country?

In fact, the more Jewish the country is by constitutional law, the less one has to fear the “demographic threat.”  Some settlers have realized this, and they have no problem with the massive return of Palestinians, since they don’t mind living in apartheid land anyway.

Why won’t this happen? Very simple. Israelis won’t let Palestinians in because they don’t want more Arabs, or because they don’t want to admit responsibility for the Nakbah, not because they believe in democracy.  Democracy is another one of the many weapons used by the liberal Zionists against the Palestinians. It allows them to argue for the law of return for Jewish foreigners and against the right of return for Palestinian natives.  In fact, I know at least one liberal Zionist who desperately wants to see the creation of a Palestinian state with the same sort of illiberal citizenship laws that Israel has  – so she can feel better about compromising her own liberalism.

How many Palestinians living in refugee camps for the last sixty-five years -- without citizenship -- wouldn’t jump to return to their homeland – without citizenship.

Please, liberal Zionists – don’t use the “democracy argument” against the return of Palestinians to their homeland.

And, for those of you are not familiar with the phrase, “A Modest Proposal,” please read here