Edward Said’s One-State Solution
by Palestinian and Jewish Unity on 13 Jan 2018 1 Comment

Israel Shamir and the Palestinian and Jewish Group (PAJU) in Montreal, Canada have brought to the world’s attention the brilliant ideas by Edward Said in his January 10, 1999 article in New York Times Magazine, proposing “The One-State Solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over control of what members of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have called “The Holy Land.”


The recent statement by Donald Trump on the status of Jerusalem appears to have finally disposed of the theory of the Two-State solution, a theory more rhetorical in nature than the true reflection of the reality on the ground. We present excerpts from Edward Said’s letter, “The One State Solution” published in The New York Times Magazine in 1999.


Given the collapse of the Netanyahu Government over the Wye peace agreement, it is time to question whether the entire process begun in Oslo in 1993 is the right instrument for bringing peace between Palestinians and Israelis. It is my view that the peace process has in fact put off the real reconciliation that must occur if the hundred-year war between Zionism and the Palestinian people is to end. Oslo set the stage for separation, but real peace can come only with a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state.


This is not easy to imagine. The Zionist-Israeli official narrative and the Palestinian one are irreconcilable. Israelis say they waged a war of liberation and so achieved independence; Palestinians say their society was destroyed, most of the population evicted…


Vastly outnumbering the Jews, Palestinian Arabs during the period after the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate always refused anything that would compromise their dominance. It’s unfair to berate the Palestinians retrospectively for not accepting partition in 1947. Until 1948, Jews held only about 7 percent of the land. Why, the Arabs said when the partition resolution was proposed, should we concede 55 percent of Palestine to the Jews, who were a minority in Palestine? Neither the Balfour Declaration nor the mandate ever specifically conceded that Palestinians had political, as opposed to civil and religious, rights in Palestine. The idea of inequality between Jews and Arabs was therefore built into British, and subsequently Israeli and United States, policy from the start.


The conflict appears intractable because it is a contest over the same land by two peoples who always believed they had valid title to it and who hoped that the other side would in time give up or go away. One side won the war, the other lost, but the contest is as alive as ever. We Palestinians ask why a Jew born in Warsaw or New York has the right to settle here (according to Israel’s Law of Return), whereas we, the people who lived here for centuries, cannot. After 1967, the conflict between us was exacerbated. Years of military occupation have created in the weaker party anger, humiliation and hostility.


To its discredit, Oslo did little to change the situation. Arafat and his dwindling number of supporters were turned into enforcers of Israeli security, while Palestinians were made to endure the humiliation of dreadful and non-contiguous ‘‘homelands’’ that make up about 10 percent of the West Bank and 60 percent of Gaza. Oslo required us to forget and renounce our history of loss, dispossessed by the very people who taught everyone the importance of not forgetting the past. Thus we are the victims of the victims, the refugees of the refugees.


Israel’s “raison d’être” as a state has always been that there should be a separate country, a refuge, exclusively for Jews. Oslo itself was based on the principle of separation between Jews and others, as Yitzhak Rabin tirelessly repeated. Yet over the past 50 years, especially since Israeli settlements were first implanted on the occupied territories in 1967, the lives of Jews have become more and more enmeshed with those of non-Jews.


The effort to separate has occurred simultaneously and paradoxically with the effort to take more and more land, which has in turn meant that Israel has acquired more and more Palestinians. In Israel proper, Palestinians number about one million, almost 20 percent of the population… But so tiny is the land area of historical Palestine, so closely intertwined are Israelis and Palestinians, despite their inequality and antipathy, that clean separation simply won’t, can’t really, occur or work. It is estimated that by 2010 there will be demographic parity. What then?


For all this, the problem is that Palestinian self-determination in a separate state is unworkable, just as unworkable as the principle of separation between a demographically mixed, irreversibly connected Arab population without sovereignty and a Jewish population with it. The question, I believe, is not how to devise means for persisting in trying to separate them but to see whether it is possible for them to live together as fairly and peacefully as possible… There can be no reconciliation unless both peoples, two communities of suffering, resolve that their existence is a secular fact, and that it has to be dealt with as such.


This does not mean a diminishing of Jewish life as Jewish life or a surrendering of Palestinian Arab aspirations and political existence. On the contrary, it means self-determination for both peoples. But it does mean being willing to soften, lessen and finally give up special status for one people at the expense of the other. The Law of Return for Jews and the right of return for Palestinian refugees have to be considered and trimmed together. Both the notions of Greater Israel as the land of the Jewish people given to them by God and of Palestine as an Arab land that cannot be alienated from the Arab homeland need to be reduced in scale and exclusivity.


The beginning is to develop something entirely missing from both Israeli and Palestinian realities today: the idea and practice of citizenship, not of ethnic or racial community, as the main vehicle for coexistence. In a modern state, all its members are citizens by virtue of their presence and the sharing of rights and responsibilities. Citizenship therefore entitles an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Arab to the same privileges and resources.


A constitution and a bill of rights thus become necessary for getting beyond Square 1 of the conflict because each group would have the same right to self-determination; that is, the right to practice communal life in its own (Jewish or Palestinian) way, perhaps in federated cantons, with a joint capital in Jerusalem, equal access to land and inalienable secular and juridical rights. Neither side should be held hostage to religious extremists…


To read Edward Said’s complete letter: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/01/10/magazine/the-one-state-solution.html

Distributed by PAJU (Palestinian and Jewish Unity)


Courtesy shamireaders 

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top