Friday, June 3, 2011

The Antisemitic Aspects of the Two State Solution

The dominant framework for peace between Israel and Palestine calls for the creation of a Palestinian state within the territories Israel gained in the Six Day War, the dismantling of "settlements" and the possibility of Jerusalem being divided and some sort of resettlement of Palestinian Arabs into Israel. Over the last 44 years, we in the West have become convinced that this is the path to peace between Israel and Palestine and that Israel's attempts to deviate from this proposal are the primary cause of continued conflict.

In reality, the very core ideas of the two state solution follow the teachings of Nazi Germany and are rife with antisemitism. I fully understand that this is a very bold claim because the two state solution idea has become such a central part of the way peace in the Middle East is to be achieved. I am not reaching this conclusion by drawing a lot of questionable inferences, but by looking at many of the central aspects of the two state solution that are openly and frankly discussed by European governments and by successive U.S. Administrations.

If I could ask Barack Obama one question after his most recent speeches, it would be this: "How does the presence of Jews in the West Bank preclude the creation of a Palestinian state when the presence of Arabs did not preclude the founding and growth of Israel?" The issue of "settlements," areas where Jews live in the West Bank, is viewed as one of the the crucial issues preventing peaceful settlement between Jews and Arabs. While the Arabs frequently contend that it is the presence of fortified style settlements and the need for military presence that are detrimental to the continuity of the West Bank, the truth is that the Palestinians simply do not want Jews living in their midst. Indeed, Palestine wants to follow the examples of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal for Jews to live. Moreover, the presence of Arabs, who frequently live in their own towns and villages in Israel, is not considered to be so detrimental to Israel's continuity or existence.

Of course, the idea of creating places where Jews were not allowed to live has been around for centuries if not milennia. The Nazis mastered this idea, herding Jews into certain areas where they were allowed to live, frequently in cramped and confined ghettos where they could not defend themselves and were easily killed. They even had a term for it, Judenrein, which referred to areas "clean of Jews" during the Holocaust. The idea that it is improper for Jews to live in certain places has become national policy in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, two countries with whom Israel has no ongoing territorial dispute (Israel shares no borders with Saudi Arabia and never has and Jordan renounced its claim to the West Bank in favor of the PLO in the 1970s). There is no explanation for the exclusion of Jews from those nations except for antisemitism. Indeed, the very creation of Israel, the very exercise of Jewish self-determination, prompted several Arab states to expel 800,000 Jews from their lands after Israel emerged victorious in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The idea that Jews would exercise the same national right in a place the Arab states regarded as exclusively their dominion was so repulsive that it has driven Arab relations with Israel 63 years later. Taken together one cannot but conclude that Arab states want to turn themselves into Judenrein as punishment for Jews exercising their right to self determination in the State of Israel. It has nothing to do with borders or policy, it has everything to do with the belief that Jewish power is illegitimate and must be opposed.

It is one thing for the Arab states to express this antisemitism, they do not pretend to view Jews with any respect or regard. However, for European nations and America to buy into and promote this antisemitism is alarming. That such a viewpoint has become acceptable and infrequently questioned is beyond frightening. We have reached a point where it is absolutely acceptable to say, "I don't believe that Jews should be allowed to live in the West Bank because they are Jews." Indeed, the idea that Jewish people are committing some sin or are hindering peace simply by living in certain places, visiting certain religious sites (such as Joseph's Tomb) or choosing to protect themselves where they live is now widely accepted in the West. A common contention is that Jews living in the West Bank are somehow occupying or stealing "Palestinian" land be seen as lending legitimacy to laws like those in Jordan, which make it a capital offense to sell land to Jews. I sincerely doubt that any Western politician would contend that Arabs buying land or living in Israel are "stealing Jewish land" or "harming Jewish sovereignty." But why not?

The situation is absurd when one considers the life of Israeli Arabs. Arabs form about 20% of Israel's population. Arabs hold 10 seats in the Knesset. There is an Arab justice on Israel's Supreme Court. Arabs in Israel enjoy political and economic rights that their cousins in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt could only dream of. While the situation for Israeli Arabs is not always ideal and the Jewish citizens of Israel are often (sometimes justifiably) suspicious of the Israeli Arabs, they are not subject to the large scale political persecution that, say, a Palestinian in Kuwait faced in the early 1990s or that an advocate of democracy might face in Syria or Iran. Indeed, I could only imagine the outrage in the Western world if Israel demanded that Arabs dismantle their "settlements" in Israel as a precondition to peace negotiations.

This discussion begs another question: why shouldn't Jews live in Palestine like Arabs live in Israel? In theory, shouldn't Jews living in a future Palestinian state receive the same minority rights that Israeli Arabs receive? Why shouldn't they be allowed to live in a reciprocal arrangement? Some might say that the manner in which Jews live in Palestine, living often in tightly secured villages with military protection, is detrimental to Palestinian nationalism. I believe that the Jews living in the West Bank wish they did not have to live the way they do. Sadly, their fear and need for security is quite justified by the antisemitic violence perpetrated by Arabs since before Israel's formation (Jaffa, 1919). Any Jews remaining in Palestine would likely become targets for the Palestinians' frustration with Israel's continued existence even after a state was formed within the 1967 borders. Of course, it is quite ironic to punish Jews in the West Bank for the violence visited upon them by their Arab neighbors. Obviously, those Jews are not blameless and a cycle of violence has become strongly entrenched, but it is interesting to note that the incidents of large scale Arab-Israeli violence in Israel seems to be far less substantial than those in the West Bank.

Taking together Barack Obama's speeches and proclamations on the Middle East, he (and, in fairness, many presidents before him) believes that they way to peace is to evict Jews from the West Bank like they were evicted from Gaza and create a Jew-free Arab state in Palestine. From this, it certainly sounds like the key to making peace with the Arabs is to remove Jews from their lands. This did not create peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors after the Arabs evicted Jews from their lands in 1949. The idea that removing settlements is key to peace has been accepted only because it has been repeated by the PLO so many times that people just believe it. As a Jew, it is quite frightening to hear  others say that the key to peace is for Jews to leave the places where they live and that the only way to achieve peace with the Arabs is to cease living among them.

By endorsing the two state solution that requires Jews to pack up and leave the West Bank the way they left Gaza in 2005, Western nations are promoting antisemitism. They are promoting the blatantly antisemitic policies of nations like Jordan and Saudi Arabia and saying that those types of antisemitic laws are a foundation on which peace can be built. In my opinion, the continued presence of Jews in the West Bank would be a litmus test as to the true intentions of the Palestinians. If the very presence of Jews in their midst is so repulsive to the Arabs, how can we honestly expect them to respect and treat a Jewish state with dignity?

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