Beyond rage in Mideast
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
Boston Globe 8/22/02
Those who think the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is intractable have failed to read history. Britain and France fought many wars, including the Hundred Years War (which actually lasted over 120 years), and are at peace. The Berlin Wall tumbled, Europe is being unified, and apartheid South Africa is no more.
Many seem to take for granted that the only way out of the Mideast conflict is a two-state solution: a Jewish state on 78 percent of historic Palestine and a new state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza. However, a partition into two sovereign and viable states is impossible given the area's limited resources, Israel's security demands, and the region's population and economic realities.
Israeli Jews number 4.5 million. Palestinians within Israel number over 1 million. In the proposed Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza live more than 3.5 million Palestinians. Add to that the more than 400,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza and the 3 to 4 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere and you will see why a two-state solution has been rendered obsolete.
Israel has barred the return of Palestinians because it would alter the Jewish character of the state. Palestinians in Israel demand removal of laws that discriminates against them based on religion and denies their relatives the right to rejoin them and reclaim their lands. With the West Bank and Gaza already crowded with refugees (the Palestinian territories have a population density four times that of Israel), will it be possible for them to accommodate more refugees?
As proven at Camp David in July 2000, Palestinians would reject anything less than sovereignty on the areas occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and a resolution to the refugee question. Israel rejected this even before the new wave of violence.
Palestinians, in turn, cannot accept offers that limit Palestinian sovereignty regarding borders, air space, and water resources as they are inherently unequal and unfair. Israel's insistence on not giving up sovereignty of the the ancient site of the Temple Mount, while emotional more than practical, is also a stumbling block. The two-state scenario is untenable against this wall of contradictions pitting Israel's security and emotional needs against Palestinian freedom and self-determination.
It is thus understandable that recent polls among Israelis and Palestinians reveal a growing disillusionment about the two-state solution as a viable means of stabilizing the situation, let alone achieving a long-lasting peace.
Histories of this and similar struggles prove the futility of: (1) acquisition of territory by force, (2) separation and bantustanization for the native populations by colonial powers, (3) solutions based on perceived religious rights, and (4) violence, destruction, and abrogation of human rights to maintain domination. By thinking outside the boxes of tribalism and ideological nationalism, we start to consider the incredible opportunity offered by coexistence. In the age of weapons
of mass destuction, only justice and equality are a guarantee of safety and security.
The incredible economic possibilities in multiethnic, multireligious, and multicultural societies with basic human rights protected are now internationally recognized.
Israelis and Palestinians alike would do well to divert their resources from war and building fences to peaceful coexistence and development in a pluralistic democracy with equality and human rights for all. Considering the ingenuity and high level of education of Israelis and Palestinians, such a democracy would become a technology and service Mecca of the Middle East. It would also be a bridge between the West and the Orient. It could truly become a light unto the nations.
All other alternatives have already proven to be dismal failures.
-The author is an associate professor at Yale University and a spokesperson for the Palestine Right to Return Coalition