Sunday 25 May 2014

Being Israeli and Being Palestinian Are Twin Identities, by David Lindsay

When Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas kneel in prayer in Rome alongside Pope Francis, in what capacity will each regard the other as being there?

Being Israeli, as distinct from being Jewish, and being Palestinian, as distinct from being Arab in general and Greater Syrian in particular, are twin identities, created by exactly the same events at exactly the same time, a time which is still within living memory.

Zionism and the modern concept of Filastin (which, like Arab nationalism in general, was and is an expression among the oldest inhabitants of the Land of popular Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Christianity as it organised itself politically among students at American “mainline” Protestant missionary universities) were both new at the time, and each had very few adherents, although of course those believed that huge numbers of other people ought to agree and identify with them.

Now, in both cases, they do. By definition, there were no Israelis before the creation of the State of Israel. But there are now, quite distinct from Jews at large, and not all Jews in any case.

Even leaving aside the large and growing Arab population, which is the majority in half of the land area within the 1948 borders, there are Russians who refuse to eat kosher food and who insist on taking their Israeli Defence Force oaths on the New Testament alone, the Russian Nazis, the East Africans who have invented a religion based on the Old Testament brought by Christian missionaries, and the Peruvian Indians, with even the Pashtun are now classified as a Lost Tribe with a view to airlifting them to Israel in future, since at least they are not Arabs.

If Israel does not want to become a haven for Russian Nazis, then she needs to repeal the Law of Return, declaring that she is now a settled culture and society in her own right, and precluding any wildly impracticable demand for a corresponding right on the part of Palestinian refugees or their descendants.

The people who will do anything for Israel except live there, and who throw their weight around in demanding policies that suit their prejudices expressed from comfortable berths thousands of miles away, could thus be told where to go, or not to bother trying to go.

In any case, Theodor Herzl denied the possibility, once the Zionist State had been founded, that Jews, as such, could then continue to exist anywhere else. They would have lost the right to call themselves Jews, according to the founding father of Zionism.

If Hamas really can never come to terms with the existence of the State of Israel, simply as a fact of life, then with what did it imagine itself to have been negotiating, thereby scoring the significant public relations victory that was the release of hundreds of detainees in 2011?

For that matter, if Israel can never deal with Hamas, then what was she doing in the case of Gilad Shalit, and would she rather that he had been left to rot?

If there cannot be a Palestinian State, contrary to the position of the last Republican President of the United States, then with whom and with what have the Israelis ever been negotiating?

Those interlocutors do not seek recognition of a Muslim state; on the contrary, the Palestinian Authority already operates a Christian quota without parallel in Israel, though corresponding to similar arrangements in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. They do not even seek recognition of an Arab state.

Ever since 1993, they have recognised Israel within her borders before 1967, and, although they ought also to claim the territory to the east that a Palestinian State would rapidly come to include, they seek nothing more than recognition of Palestine within the territory captured in that year, the home of everyone who lives there, and if anything an emerging or emerged Orthodox Jewish refuge from godless Zionism.

The only problem is with recognising Israel as “a Jewish State”, condemning a fifth of the population, including the world's most ancient Christian communities, to the second class citizenship from which the Israeli Constitution theoretically protects them, however different the practice may be.

As things stand, Israel already deals with what can only realistically be described as a Palestinian State on so regular basis and so successful a basis that the President of that entity is openly opposed to the strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

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