Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Israeli Settler's Facepalm Column

For reasons I'm not sure that I want them to explain, the New York Times editorial board thought it would be a good idea to publish a whinge from an Israeli settler, Dani Dayan, who, after sharing with us a self-serving history of the conflict and complaining how unfair it would be to make settlers leave the occupied Palestinian territories, sputters about a "two state solution". That he, an immigrant from Argentina, has a greater legal and moral claim to the land upon which he lives than those whose families have been on that same land, without interruption, for thousands of years.
Moreover, the Palestinians have repeatedly refused to implement a negotiated two-state solution. The American government and its European allies should abandon this failed formula once and for all and accept that the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are not going anywhere.
It's entirely the fault of the Palestinians, you see, that they have not implemented a settlement that does not exist and has never existed. One wonders, was Dayan chuckling when he wrote that line? He has to know that the primary purpose of constructing settlements throughout the occupied West Bank was to frustrate the peace process and to prevent a two-state solution. Dayan admits, "In the areas targeted for evacuation most of us are ideologically motivated and do not live here for economic reasons." Yet now he purports that a one-state outcome he has actively pursued for decades is somehow the "fault" of the Palestinians and gloat that the settlement enterprise he helps lead is now so entrenched and enormous that it's functionally impossible to remove? Yes, he does, and the New York Times blithely publishes his calumny.

Worse, the author feigns ignorance about why pretty much everybody other than his community of settlers prefers a two-state solution. While he has fevered dreams of "The influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere [that] would convert the new state into a hotbed of extremism", with the dismally poor and underdeveloped West Bank imagined to be a huge magnet for immigration, paranoia is not a good substitute for common sense.

Why look to how Palestinians live in Jordan, next door to the West Bank, when out from under the thumb of occupation, when you can instead paint a video game fantasy. And as always, a fair retort to "We would have to reoccupy", rather unlikely given the terms and placement of peacekeepers in association with any settlement, is "If that were to actually become true, no one will be able to question the legitimacy of Israel's action." A Palestinian land would be no more dangerous to Israel than is Lebanon, which isn't to say that such a situation would be ideal but it would be manageable.

There are two good reasons to support a two-state solution, and they're interrelated. The first is that we are talking about two people with two different cultures, different religions and very different interpretations of the same modern history. The logistics of integrating those two populations into a single nation state are complicated. Sorry Robert Frost, good fences don't always make good neighbors. It's reasonable to infer that Dayan has no interest in having Palestinian neighbors, at least living any closer than the ones he might see through the scope on a sniper's rifle.

Second, the complexity of a one-state solution that preserves a good outcome for both peoples cannot be underestimated. Israel would combine itself with the occupied territories into a state that has a significant demographic problem - an inevitable Palestinian Muslim majority. If peace brings the immediate right of return to Palestinian refugees - a right that advocates of the two-state solution would limit to the new Palestinian state, the demographic shift from Jewish majority to Palestinian majority could be almost immediate.

Demographics were the impetus for Ariel Sharon's withdrawal of settlements from the Gaza Strip - he hoped to be able to argue that Gaza was no longer under Israeli occupation such that he could subtract its population from the number of Palestinians living under occupation. But once you declare a single state, you can no longer resort to the conceit that "They're on their own lands." You're stuck with either making the Palestinian people citizens, somehow forcing them to leave or formally adopting a system of Apartheid.

The strongest arguments against a one state solution come from people who are concerned for the future of Israel - who don't want it to cease being a Jewish State, but who see that as inevitable under a one state solution that does not actively embrace Apartheid, either refusing citizenship to Palestinians or giving them a second class status that amounts to the same thing.

Opponents of a peaceful settlement and two state solution, including those behind the settlement of the occupied territories, have a point. They have created facts on the ground that will make it extremely difficult to implement a two state solution. It's not unreasonable for Dayan to declare victory. But rather than pointing fingers at the Palestinians and trying to make it their fault that he moved onto their land, as part of an admitted effort to keep them from having a state of their own, it's time for him to acknowledge the price of that victory.

Once you accept Dayan's declaration of victory, the road by which we reached this point becomes a distraction. If we are to drop all pretense that the two lands and peoples can be separated, we must create a plan for their integration. What type of single state does Dayan want Israel to become? The three choices for Dayan are ethnic cleansing, Apartheid and democracy.

The question to Dayan becomes, "Now that you've declared victory, what's your plan for physically integrating Israel and the occupied territories, and for creating a democratic system which protects the religious rights and freedoms of both peoples once they have all been granted the right to vote and be represented in the Knesset? If he doesn't have an answer, it surely cannot be because the issue has never occurred to him. It's a front and center concern for those who advocate and oppose the one-state solution. If he's unwilling to explain how he would integrate the state, the reasonable inference is that he opposes a democratic solution.

1 comment:

  1. I know it doesn't need to be said, but I'll say it anyway. The settler is just fine with Apartheid. He would call it something else, but it's his end goal.