Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Thoughtful commentary from Israeli commentator

The great escape | By Daniel Gavron

Ha’aretz | 17 September 2006
There is something obsessive about our current compulsion to tinker with the framework of our governing bodies: a state commission of inquiry, a restructuring of our governance, the merging of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry, the creation of a war room, the mobilization of our best minds and talents – all these are being put forward in the hope that they will provide the magic formula for solving our national problems in the wake of the recent war.

Furthermore, hardly anyone is asking whether the recent conflict should have been launched at all. Everyone wants to investigate how it was conducted, to zero in on the lack of food, water and other equipment to focus on the last two days, to concentrate on the lack of preparedness, to apportion blame or at least assign responsibility. Above all, we must prepare for the “next round.”

And now, from the so-called “left,” the latest “hit”: Ladies and gentlemen, following its triumphant appearance in southern Lebanon, we have the honor to present the deployment of an International Force in Gaza and the West Bank! Let the soldiers of France and Italy defend us from terrorist attacks; let the troops of Turkey and Indonesia govern the Palestinians; let everybody else carry out our tasks.

In short, we are prepared to do anything that enables us to avoid dealing with our existential problem. Once again we Israelis are determined to escape from the most important question that faces us: the relationship between Jews and Arabs in the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

The appeal to others to pull our chestnuts out of the fire, the flight from responsibility, the refusal to make decisions is a repudiation of our national self-respect. It is obvious that we ourselves should confront the Palestinians face-to-face and solve the problem – or at least embark on a long-term process toward a solution.

Unfortunately, however, we are determined to go on evading the issue. We never miss an opportunity to trumpet our view that there are no grounds for negotiations with the Palestinians. We are prepared to consider anything that will save us from direct contact with them. A wall or an international force can do the job – or better still – a wall and an international force. As regards our own Palestinians, the Arab citizens of Israel, we Jews can simply ignore their existence. If we shut our eyes, maybe they will disappear. That is the meaning of the continuing refusal to implement the recommendations of the Or Commission.

It is tedious to restate this time after time, but sadly it has to be pointed out yet again: Two peoples inhabit this land, we have lived here in the past, and we will continue to live here in the future. We have to work out some way of living together. We have to work out a formula for sharing our territory. We have to establish a means of cooperating to preserve our environment. We have to find a way to govern our population.

We all know that basically there are three possible solutions to the problem. I am on record as proposing the creation of a single, democratic, multicultural state for Jews, Arabs and others, but I am keenly aware that only a tiny minority supports this aspiration. I think it will eventually happen, but I realize it may take a few more generations. I am utterly opposed to the opposite proposal, which we may call “the Land of Israel Solution.” The establishment of a Jewish state in Israel and the territories, while leaving a large proportion of the population effectively disenfranchised, seems to be immoral and difficult to implement, although even that would be an attempt to settle the problem. Meanwhile, I have no objection to the two-state solution, but even that will not implement itself. It has to be negotiated with the other side.

There is no way of evading this issue. There is simply no alternative. Nobody is going to do it for us. We have to take our fate into our own hands. That is the consequence of self-determination. That is the significance of national sovereignty. That is the meaning of Zionism.

Daniel Gavron is writing a book on Jewish-Arab cooperation and coexistence projects.

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

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