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


Richard Witty said...

Well, I'm going to take the bait and speak of democracy.

There are two components to democracy

1. Majority rule in a jurisdiction
2. Equal due process under the law

Any that advocate for democracy without both criteria, are advocating for a rationalization of democracy (looks good), rather than the realization of democracy (is good).

To my mind, the only just political arrangement is the two-state, as there is a super majority west of the green line that desire to self-govern as a Jewish state, and a super-majority east of the green line that desire to self-govern as a Palestinian state.

The proof of the pudding of any argument is in the polls. IF in Israel non-Zionist parties received 20% of the vote in elections, that would say something.

As true as the sentiment may be, the ridiculing argument alone says nothing. It is self-talk and/or worse. Us/them talk.

If there is work to do, do it already. Organize. Campaign. Test your theory. Test your capacity.

Specifically on the refugee question. If the two-state approach is firm, with a definitively Jewish state next to a definitively Palestinian state, then the right of return for those born in Israel, one generation of direct descendents, and those that have demonstrable title to property would disrupt nothing.

It is only the vague political formulation, the maximalist formulation, of any claimed descendant of any former Palestinian resident to anywhere in former Palestine, that is disruptive.

Clear criteria, or vague. Activists like vague. It affords a larger solidarity net. Advocates of law like clear, it affords a basis of confidence.

A key distinction politically, is on the extent that threat rather than persuasion controls.

BDS is meant at some range between communication to warning to threat to siege. The right of return is meant at some range between civil justice to opportunism to threat to subsequent suppression.

I regard the application of threat to be a moral pendulum swing. Never getting better, less abusive of someone on the planet, unless clearly and confidently structured to.

Where is the better mousetrap? The better pendulum?

In activism? In elections? In cooperative color-blind social/economic organizing? On blogs?

Larry Derfner said...

Jerry, if Israel stops being a Jewish state, will Arab citizens have the same relationship to the new state's military apparatus as the Jews? Will Arabs be drafted alongside Jews to train to fight (and at some point or another no doubt actually fight) the likely enemy, who, given geography, is going to be Arab or at any rate Muslim?

calisson said...

Um, so this Modest Proposal is satire? I really hope so.

shmuel said...

This modest proposal ought to be swiftly rejected.
It didn't work for the poor people of Ireland and certainly won't work here!
What next? Selling Palestinian babies to rich sheiks?

John Welch said...

(1) Compare old Jim Crow with the new -- post Voting Rights Act Jim Crow -- in the totalitarian sounthern section of the US. Is this a good model? Israel can make everyone a citizen, although some are more equal than others. Don't let Arabs vote for the Knesset.

(2) Curiosity: has an Arab Israili MK ever held a position in a government? Why hsould they want to vote if their votes don't count?]