Let's examine this state, not as an imaginary creature, the epitome of perfection, but as it would be in reality.
In this state, the Israelis will be dominant. They have a complete superiority in practically all spheres - quality of life, military power, technological capabilities. The average per annum income of an Israeli is 25 times (25 times!) higher than that of an average Palestinian - $ 20,000 as against $ 800. The Israelis will see to it that the Palestinians will be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for a long, long time.It will be an occupation by other means. A disguised occupation. It will not end the conflict, but open another phase.
Ilan Pappe and I are partners in the battle against the occupation. I respect his courage. We stand side by side in a joint struggle...
Ilan Pappe and I are partners in the battle against the occupation. I respect his courage. We stand side by side in a joint struggle, but we advocate two sharply opposing goals.
WHAT IS the disagreement about?
We have no disagreement about the past. We agree that Zionism, which has made its mark on history and created the State of Israel, also brought a historic injustice upon the Palestinian people. The occupation is an abominable situation, and it must be ended. No debate about that.
Perhaps we also have no disagreement about the distant future. About what should happen in a hundred years. We shall touch upon that later in the evening.
But we have a sharp disagreement about the foreseeable future - the solution for the bleeding conflict during the next 20, 30, 50 years.
This is not a theoretical debate. We cannot say, as the Hebrew expression goes, "May every man live with his own faith", and may peace reign in the peace movement. Between these two alternatives there can be no compromise - we have to decide, we have to choose, because they dictate quite different strategies and different tactics - not tomorrow, but today, here and now. The difference is fateful.
A person can despair and say: There's nothing to be done. Everything is lost. We have passed the "point of no return". The situation is "irreversible". We have nothing more to do in this country.
Everyone can despair for a moment. Perhaps each of us has despaired at one time or other. But one should not turn despair into an ideology. Despair destroys the ability to act.
I say: There is no reason at all for despair. Nothing is lost. Nothing in life is "irreversible", except life itself. There is no such thing as a "point of no return".
Nothing is lost until the fighters raise their hands and say that all is lost. Raising hands is no solution. Neither is it moral.
In our situation, a person who despairs has three alternatives: (a) emigration, (b) inner emigration, which means to stay at home and do nothing, or (c) escape to the world of ideal solutions for the days of the Messiah.
The third alternative is the most dangerous at the moment, because the situation is critical, especially for the Palestinians. There is no time for a solution in 100 years. We need an urgent solution, a solution that can be realized within a few years.
It has been said that Avnery is old, he sticks to old solutions, he is unable to absorb a new idea. And I wonder: a new idea?
The idea of One Joint State was old when I was a boy. It flourished in the 30s of the last century. But it went bankrupt. The idea of the Two State solution grew in the soil of the new reality.
If I may be permitted to make a personal remark: I am not a historian. I was alive when it happened. I am an eye witness, an ear witness, a feeling witness. As a soldier in the 1948 war, as the editor of a news magazine for 40 years, as a Knesset member for 10 years, as an activist of Gush Shalom - I have seen the events from different angles. My hand is on the public pulse.
THERE ARE three questions concerning the One State idea: (1) Is it at all possible? (2) If it is possible - is it good? (3) Will it bring a just peace?
AS TO the first question, my absolutely unequivocal answer is: No, it is not possible.
Anyone connected with the Israeli-Jewish public knows that its innermost desire is the existence of a state with a Jewish majority. A state where the Jews are masters of their fate. That desire trumps all other aims, even the desire for a state in All of Eretz-Israel.
One can talk about One State from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, a bi-national or non-national state - in practice what it means is the dismantling of the State of Israel. The negation of all the nation-building that has been carried out by five generations. That must be said clearly, without mumbling and equivocation, and that's what the public - the Jewish, and certainly the Palestinian - quite rightly thinks it is. What we are talking about is the dismantling of the State of Israel.
We want to change many things in this state, its historical narrative, its accepted definition as a "Jewish and democratic" state. We want to put an end to the occupation outside and the discrimination inside. We want to create a new basis for the relationship between the state and its Arab-Palestinian citizens. But it is impossible to
99.99% of the Jewish public do not want to dismantle the state. And that's quite natural.
There is an illusion that this can be changed through pressure from outside. Will outside pressure compel this people to give up the state?
I propose to you a simple test: think for a moment about your neighbors at home, at work or at the university. Would any one of them give up the state because somebody abroad wants them to? Because of pressure from Europe? Even pressure from the White House? No, nothing but a crushing military defeat on the battlefield will compel the Israelis to give up their state. And if that happens, our debate will become irrelevant anyhow.
The majority of the Palestinian people, too, want a state of their own. It is needed to satisfy their most basic aspirations, to restore their national pride, to heal their trauma. Even the chiefs of Hamas, with whom we have talked, want it. Anyone who thinks otherwise is laboring under an illusion. There are Palestinians who talk about One State, but for most of those, it is just a code-word for the dismantling of the State of Israel. They, too, know that it is utopian.
There are also some Palestinians who delude themselves into thinking that if they talk about One State, it will frighten the Israelis so much that they will agree to the establishment of the Palestinian state next to Israel. But the result of this Machiavellian thinking is quite the opposite: it frightens the Israelis and pushes them into the arms of the Right. It arouses the fearful dog of ethnic cleansing, which is sleeping in the corner. That dog must not be forgotten for a moment.
ALL OVER the world, the tendency is going the other way: not the creation of new multi-national states, but on the contrary, the breaking up of states into national components. In Scotland, this week, victory was achieved by a party that wants to split from England. The French-speaking minority in Canada is always wavering on the brink of secession. Kosovo is about to gain independence from Serbia. The Soviet Union has broken up into its component parts, Chechnya wants to separate from Russia, Yugoslavia has broken apart, Cyprus has broken apart, the Basques want independence, Corsicans want independence, in Sri Lanka a civil war is raging, the same as in the Sudan. In Indonesia, the stitches are coming loose in a dozen different places. Belgium has endless problems.
In the entire world there is no example of two different nations deciding of their own free will to live together in one state. There is no example - except Switzerland - of a bi-national or multi-national state really functioning. (And the example of Switzerland, which has grown for centuries in a unique process, is the proverbial exception that proves the rule.)
To hope that after 120 years of conflict, into which a fifth generation has already been born, there could be a transition from total war to total peace in a joint state, giving up all aspiration to independence - that is a complete illusion.
HOW IS this idea to be realized? The advocates of the One State never go into this in detail.
It is supposed, so it seems, to come about something like this: the Palestinians will give up their Struggle for Liberation and their aspiration for a national state of their own. They will announce that they want to live in a joint state with the Israelis. After the establishment of this state, they will have to fight for their civil rights. People of goodwill around the world will support their struggle, as they once did in South Africa. They will impose a boycott. They will isolate the state. Millions of refugees will come back to the country. Thus the wheel will turn back and the Palestinian majority will attain power.
How much time will that take? Two generations? Three generations? Four generations?
Does anyone imagine how such a state will function in practice? The inhabitant of Bil'in will pay the same taxes as the inhabitant of Kfar-Sava? The inhabitants of Jenin will enact a constitution together with the inhabitants of Netanya? The inhabitants of Hebron and the settlers will serve in the same army and the same police force, shoulder to shoulder, and will be subject to the same laws? Is that realistic?
Some say: but that situation already exists. Israel is already governing one state from the sea to the river. One has only to change the regime. But nothing of the sort exists. What does exist are an occupying state and an occupied territory.
It is far, far easier to dismantle settlements than to compel six million Jewish Israelis to dismantle the state.
NO, THE ONE STATE will not come into being. But let's ask ourselves - if it did come into being, would that be a good thing?
My answer is: absolutely not.
In this state, the Israelis will be dominant. They have a complete superiority in practically all spheres - quality of life, military power, technological capabilities. The average per annum income of an Israeli is 25 times (25 times!) higher than that of an average Palestinian - $ 20,000 as against $ 800. The Israelis will see to it that the Palestinians will be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for a long, long time.
This state will be a battlefield. Each side will try to take over as much land as possible and bring in as many persons as possible. The Jews will fight by all means to prevent the Arabs from becoming the majority and coming to power. In practice, this will be an apartheid state. If the Arabs become the majority and try to assume power, there will be a struggle that may become a civil war. A new edition of 1948.
Even an advocate of the One State solution must admit that the struggle will go on for several generations. Much blood may flow, and the results are far from assured.
The idea is utopian. To realize it, one has to change the people, perhaps the two peoples. One has to create a new human being. That's what the Communists tried to do at the start of the Soviet Union. That's what the founders of the kibbutz tried to do. Unfortunately, the human being has not changed.
Utopianism can bring about terrible consequences. The vision of "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb" requires the provision of a new lamb every day.
There are some who cite the model of South Africa. A beautiful and encouraging example. Unfortunately, there is hardly any similarity between the problem there and the problem here.
In South Africa, there were no two nations , each with a tradition, a language and a religion that go back for more than a thousand years. Neither the whites not the blacks wanted a separate state of their own, nor did they ever live in two separate states. The one state had already existed for a long time, and the struggle was over power in this one state.
The bosses of South Africa were racists, who admired the Nazis and were incarcerated during World War II because of that. It was easy to boycott their state in all fields of activity. Israel, on the other hand, is accepted by the world as the State of the Holocaust Survivors, and apart from small groups, nobody will boycott it. It is enough for the Israelis to point out that the first step on the way to Auschwitz was the Nazi slogan "Kauft nicht bei Juden" - Don't buy from Jews.
Furthermore, a world-wide boycott will arouse in the hearts of many Jews all over the world the deepest fears of Anti-Semitism, and will push them into the arms of the extreme Right.
A quite different thing is a focused boycott against specific elements of the occupation. We were the pioneers of this approach, when, more than ten years ago, we started a boycott of the products of the settlements and pulled the European Union along with us.
By the way, experts on South Africa tell me that the effects of the boycott are much overrated. The boycott was not the main factor that brought the apartheid regime down, but the international situation. The United States supported the regime as a bastion in the fight against Communism. Once the Soviet Union had collapsed, the Americans just dropped South Africa.
The relationship between the US and Israel is immeasurably more profound and complex. It has deep
A Palestinian state will come into being next to Israel.
IT IS not enough to point out that the One State solution cannot be realized. This "solution" is also very dangerous.
It diverts the efforts into a mistaken direction. We see this already happening. It both results from despair and produces despair. It causes people to desert the battlefield in Israel and creates the illusion that the real battlefield is abroad. That is escapism.
1. It causes the loss of irreplaceable time. Tens of years, in which terrible things can happen to the Palestinians, and also to us. Anyone who is afraid of ethnic cleansing (and rightly so) must be conscious of this danger and this urgency.
2. It divides the peace camp and deepens the gap between it and the public. It strengthens the Right, because it frightens the sane public and causes it to lose sight of a sensible solution.
Let us be clear: there will be no end to the occupation as long as there is no peace agreement.
AS FOR the distant future, perhaps we shall meet at unexpected places.
(At our very first meeting in 1982, Yasser Arafat spoke with me about a Benelux solution, like the one that existed for some time between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg) - Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and perhaps even Lebanon. He continued to talk about this until the end.)
(By the way, when the idea of uniting Europe was first aired, many people wanted to create the United States of Europe, on the American model. Charles de Gaulle warned against ignoring national feelings. He called for a "Europe des patries", a Europe based on national states. Fortunately, his view prevailed, and now life does the rest.)
SUMMING UP, this is my opinion:
We have never heard answers to the two decisive questions about the One State solution: how will it come about and how will it function in practice? But without clear answers to these questions, this is not a plan but a
I, anyhow, have decided to stay alive until this happens.
[Translated text of Avnery's opening remarks during the public debate in Tel-Aviv between Uri Avnery and Ilan Pappe organized by Gush Shalom - on May 8, 2000. The full transcription will be there soon. This is based on Avnery's own notes.]
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