Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Disengaging from reality

It's almost time for the IDF to start using force against those who remain in the Gaza settlements, and I want to comment a bit on some of the comments I've been seeing in Ha'aretz recently (not that they're any different than the norm).

First, those who feel bad for the settlers being "uprooted" from their homes. How does anyone actually feel bad about this? Pretty much none of them have lived there their full lives, and they are probably going to go live about 20 miles away, if they don't join their subsidized brethren in the West Bank stealing land from Palestinians there. They're being ridiculously compensated and lived in their old homes thanks only to the tax and defense burden that fell on ordinary Israel citizens and young conscripts.

Second, those who believe that Gaza somehow "belongs" to Israel. These people are either religious nuts or essentially religious nuts who hide behind a "war" excuse, that is, "Gaza was captured by war so Israel has the right to take over." Well, the religious idea is BS, and the war idea is pretty much the same. If you want to pursue the war idea, then annex Gaza and the West Bank and rule them under Israeli law and grant Israeli citizenship to residents. I don't think many Palestinians would quibble with such a plan.

Finally, I want to point out that the most violent resistance has been carried on by troublemakers from outside the Gaza settlements. They don't belong there and should be treated by the IDF with all the force used on Palestinians (not that they will be).

I sympathize with the Palestinian people and an glad that they will regain the entirety of Gaza's territory, despite those settlers who are destroying greenhouses and residences out of spite and hatred. The settler who whines about how Gaza could be a model for Jewish-Arab cooperation (hey, so could Palestine/Israel if you decided to make it so) just doesn't resonate with me.

I want to make a further point. Those who criticize the Palestinians for terror tactics ignore not only the plentiful state-sanctioned terror carried out by the IDF, but ignore the reality of the situation. In the current state of affairs, with loss of hope, poor living conditions and ongoing oppression (with no credible sponsor), for many Palestinians terror seems a decent option. What if it were the Jewish people who were "losing the war" rather than the Palestinian Arabs? Well, the results were seen in the late '30s-early '40s when Jewish forces felt it necessary to use extralegal means to ensure the establishment of the Jewish state. Forces such as Irgun and Lehi carried out atrocities such as the King David hotel bombing of the British administration and the Deir Yassin massacre of Palestinian civilians. The people committing these atrocities (against civilians) clearly felt they were justified; there was a segment of the population supporting them that would not engage in such action themselves; and there was a segment of the population that condemned the acts. And this in a situation where the Jewish community was much better off than the Palestinian Arabs are today.

My main point is that Jewish people are inherently no morally better or worse than Palestinian Arabs; we all have different conceptions of reality, different mental maps that define our options, but such maps are a result of the situation in which our society and we personally find ourselves. This conception of human action is central to my conception of social democracy: simply put, picture yourself in the other's shoes and think whether or not you might consider certain actions acceptable. That doesn't make actions acceptable in itself--but a key step to combating terror is finding out what will make people stop believing in it. The concept of envisioning the POV of others has universal applicability.

Finally, I will state here (as I have stated elsewhere before) that I believe the inevitable solution will be one binational state for Jews and Palestinian Arabs, not because either side wishes it that way, but because a compromise will not happen in time. As I continue my project to write organic law for a future Israeli/Palestinian state, I will summarize the major points of such a law here:
(1) A secular parliamentary democracy.
(2) Establishment of the two communities as the basis of the state (i.e., federalism based on the person and not geographically).
(3) A bicameral legislature, one chamber using proportional representation and the other representing the two communities.
(4) Division of posts in the security forces, the administration, the courts and the government on a community basis.
(5) As much community self-government as possible: community control over religion, education, culture, etc.
(6) Broad rights guarantees and nondiscrimination.
(7) Rectification of the economic disparities.
(8) A just resolution of property disputes.
(9) Recognition of the state as the homeland of two peoples and the guarantee of the right of "return" for both Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

A constitution incorporating all these features will be necessary for reconciliation in one binational state to occur, and we may as well examine (as some are) what such a structure will look like today, before the solution is forced upon the two sides without preparation.

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