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October 15, 2011

Zionism must live with the times

Scott Stockdale

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Watching the torturous peace process drag on for years and years with no end in sight, both a Jewish Zionist journalist and a Palestinian American journalist have concluded that a one-state solution is the only viable alternative to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking recently on the CBC Radio show The Current, Daniel Gavron, an author and journalist who migrated from England in 1961, and has lived in Motza, outside Jerusalem since 2003, said that back in the 1990's he came to the reluctant conclusion that two states just isn't going to happen; and if we look at the last couple of weeks it becomes more and more apparent that it isn't going to happen.

Mr. Gavron vividly remembers coming to that conclusion years ago. “I was participating in a meeting of fellow Israeli Jews who had come to the conclusion that we really must do something about two states, this was back in the 90's. I was talking about how important it was: two states side by side, and I suddenly realized that I didn't believe what I was saying. I realized deep down somewhere that this is not going to happen.”

Ali Abunimnah, a Palestinian American journalist who lives in Chicago, pointed out that Israel is already a single state in every way but name only.

“Neither of these so-called Palestinian governments really controls the fate of Palestinians. The government in Gaza doesn't control whether the lights are on or off or whether the water flows, how much food comes in, whether people can move in and out; that's all in the hands of the Israeli government and the same is very much true in the West Bank where every aspect of life is controlled by Israel and I don't see that situation being untangled any time soon.”

He explained that the current Israeli government is a government of and for half the people while the other half – five million Palestinians – really don't have much say in how the country is run and don't have any democratic means to change the situation which they live in, so it's a matter of transforming the existing state into a democratic state of all its citizens and decolonizing the relationship between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. Because we've seen it happen elsewhere, Mr. Abunimnah said it can also happen in Israel. Moreover, he said that the alternative – partition – has often led to years and years of conflict; for example, in Ireland and India.

Moreover, Mr. Abunimnah said the key thing is that partition would not satisfy the demands of Israeli nationalists - known as Zionists - who want a Jewish state; and any sort of partition along the kind of lines that have been discussed internationally doesn't provide them with that. In response to critics who say his call for a one-state solution is radical, Mr. Abunimnah said he's proposing that people live by something akin to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that we have in Canada; and he asks:  “Is that radical or is that simply where we need to be in the 21st Century?”

Mr. Gavron, an ardent Zionist all his life, still says that Zionism was a just and justifiable movement, but it has to live with the times.

“When Zionism was created it was created in answer to a certain situation and it did disregard the Palestinian rights initially without any doubt whatever, and then it became a raging need at a certain time with the Holocaust and World War II. But you have to try and answer the situation as it exists in each period. We have to be realistic; we have to look at what the situation is. We have to respond to what exists and not what existed 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 years, 100 years ago If we don't make the decisions that are needed to create two states, and we don't show any sign of doing that - us being Israeli Jews - then there's going to be one state.”

He said that if one state is created, initially there's going to be tremendous inequality, but there could be a tremendous burst of creativity if the two sides can get around their suspicions and fears of one another.

“Everybody knows about Israeli high tech, but I don't know if everyone knows that something like 90 per cent of Arabic software is Palestinian designed. Everyone knows that we have some wonderful doctors in Israel. I don't know if everyone knows that many of them are Palestinian.”

He admitted that he's part of a very small minority among his fellow Israelis, but he said in the modern world, more and more countries are multinational, a trend that's becoming increasingly difficult to stop.

“If you go to New York, you sometimes can't find someone to speak English. If you walk around London today, it's multicoloured, multinational, multicultural; and I think that's the way the world is going, and I think we Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Jews are going to have to get there as well.”

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