Israel’s renewed slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza after failed peace talks and ethnic slayings by both sides is further proof that the Zionist experiment has failed and that the only reasonable way forward is to recognize the equal rights of all people living in the region, writes John V. Whitbeck.
By John V. Whitbeck
Now that the American-monopolized “peace process” has expired and violence and hate are exploding again across Israel and Palestine Western nations should seize the initiative, join forces and try to do something useful for Israelis, Palestinians and peace.
If Western nations still believe that a decent “two-state solution” is conceivable, several useful initiatives are immediately available. They could support and reinforce the current two-state legality by joining the 134 states which have already extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine. They could also require Israelis seeking visas to visit their countries to produce documentary evidence that they don’t reside in occupied Palestine.
Most constructively, Western nations could impose economic sanctions on Israel and intensify them until Israel complies with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions and ends the 47-year-long occupation.
If Western nations are unwilling to take such initiatives or if they have concluded, not unreasonably, that a decent “two-state solution” is no longer conceivable and that the only issue now is whether the current one-state reality will continue to be an apartheid reality or can be transformed into a democratic one, they should reflect upon their own histories and responsibilities in order to identify the most useful way forward.
The harsh reality is that Zionism is, and has always been, an anti-Semite’s dream come true, offering the hope that Jews in one’s own country can be induced to leave and move elsewhere.
The British politician Arthur J. Balfour, who gave his name to the fateful 1917 declaration endorsing “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” was an earnest supporter of the 1905 Alien Act, which was specifically designed to stem the inflow into Britain of Jews fleeing from persecution in czarist Russia.
Subsequently, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, which was a wholly European abomination, European governments as well as those of the United States, Canada and Australia shamefully brushed aside Arab pleas to treat the resettlement of displaced Jews as a duty and obligation for the whole world.
Western nations refused to relax their immigration restrictions, thereby forcing most of the Jewish refugees to seek to build new lives in Palestine, even though many would have preferred to settle elsewhere.
That approach could be still be reversed now. Western nations, which are no longer anti-Semitic, could and should be opening their doors wide to any and all Israeli Jews who might be tempted to build a new and better life for themselves and their children, with less injustice and less insecurity, by returning to their countries of origin or emigrating to other countries of their choice. They could be offered immediate residency rights, generous resettlement assistance and a fast track to citizenship (if they do not already have it).
Such a policy would be far better than continuing to provide unquestioning support for an ethno-religious-supremacist, settler-colonial experiment in Israel/Palestine that violates principles of justice, human decency and international law.
Offering genuine “Laws of Return” for the descendants of Jews who survived the Holocaust would be profoundly philo-Semitic, pro-Jewish and, yes, anti-Zionist. Such a policy would reflect a moral, ethical and self-interested recognition that political Zionism, like certain other prominent Twentieth Century “isms” which once captured the imaginations of millions, was a tragically bad idea not simply for those innocents caught and trampled in its path but also for those who embraced it.
Even if sustainable with Western support, Zionism does not deserve to be sustained. It has already caused and, if perpetuated, will continue to cause profound problems for the West and its relations with the rest of the world.
Western nations like to call for “confidence-building measures” from Israelis, Palestinians and other Arabs without offering any themselves. A multinational initiative to atone for the West’s past sins against Jews by welcoming Israeli Jews to resettle in Western nations would constitute a hugely constructive confidence-building measure which should, logically, be opposed only by people who are either anti-Semites or Zionists or both.
In the land which, until 1948, was called Palestine, democracy and equal rights in a unitary state should offer more realistic hope for peace with some measure of justice than continued recycling of a partition-based “peace process,” which is widely recognized to have been a cynical exercise in killing time and which, even if “successful,” would simply legitimize, reward and perpetuate ethnic cleansing, racism and apartheid scarcely a recipe for lasting peace, let alone for any measure of justice.
For those who would prefer not to live in a unitary state with democracy and equal rights for all, there would be the freedom of choice and attractive options for resettlement elsewhere.
Old assumptions, including the irreversible “success” of the Zionist experiment, should now be questioned. Even once heretical ideas, including the peaceful rollback of the Zionist experiment at least in its current, aggressively exclusivist, “nation-state of the Jewish people” form and its replacement by democracy through voluntary personal choice rather than through violence, should now be considered.
If Western politicians cared more about the welfare and happiness of individual Jewish human beings than they do about the money from a few wealthy and powerful Zionists who have the ability to inflict political pain (and who mostly live far from the violence and turmoil of the Middle East), then democracy, equal rights and freedom of choice all principles to which Western nations profess devotion might actually come to the “Holy Land.”
John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.