Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Peace Without Religion

Salman Masalha

Peace Without Religion

Nationalism is a disease that has infected mankind ever since it gathered in tribes, color and races. And when mankind invented monotheism, the situation became even worse.

It is not easy to recover from this disease. It is only possible to contain it in the meantime by allowing “national pride” to every nation until it reaches the obvious conclusion: Even though it is a “proud nation,” it is just another social animal in need of the company of other nations.

The continuous wallowing in the “religious-historical” mud in search of justifications for existence is what is driving both peoples in this country out of their minds and launching them beyond the force of historical gravity. There, in the outer space of history they will meet many dead souls.

Nevertheless, there is a way to end the conflict in this all too promised and dangerous land that has known so much blood. In order to arrive at a solution, the first principle guiding the leaders of the tribes, known here as peoples, should be the need to bring both of them back into history. Both the Israeli side and the Palestinian side need courageous and honest leaderships. There is a need for good intentions, not winks and rolling eyes. However, good intentions are not yet evident on either side -- neither among the Jews nor among the Arabs.

To fulfill this vision, it is necessary to clear the landmines of belief in historical right, religious faith and emotional ties from sites and places. To this end, it is necessary to eliminate religion in all its forms and with all its troubles from the equation of the political solution.

The Green Line (pre-Six Day War border) must be established as the border between the two states and declared to be the line demarcating the end of the political demands from the state of Israel on the one hand and the state of Palestine on the other. This end to demands would not be between individual Jews and Palestinians, but rather an agreement between political entities operating in history in the framework of international law. The end of demands would not mean individual Jews do not have a spiritual connection to parts of the land that will be in the state of Palestine, nor would it mean Palestinians as individuals do not have an emotional connection to parts of the land that will be in the state of Israel.

A Jew who prefers to remain beyond the border in the territories of the state of Palestine will be a Palestinian in every respect. A Palestinian in Israel will be an Israeli in every respect. Palestine will be an Arab, not a Muslim, country and Israel will be a Hebrew, not a Jewish country. Both Arabic and Hebrew will be official languages in each of the countries, with all that entails. The two languages will be official not in the context of “know your enemy” and not only as an act of good will, but rather from within the understanding that both these languages are important for knowing, understanding and loving the land.

Those who are amusing themselves with dreams of solutions of reconciliation commissions and a single state as in South Africa have completely misunderstood the difference between the two cases. In South Africa, for the most part both Blacks and Whites are Christians and thus have been able to meet and reconcile under the roof of their shared faith. Here, we have no such church that will accommodate both Jews and Arabs. Therefore in this land reconciliation can happen only outside the places of worship. Religions, and especially the monotheistic religions, do not tend to reconcile; they would lose the basis for their existence if they did.

The handwriting is on the wall, in huge capital letters. The continued occupation and the wallowing in religious-historical mud are drowning both tribes in blood. This will not lead to a South African solution, but rather to a Balkan situation, if not worse.


Published in Hebrew: Haaretz, March 31, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Heritage Lesson

Salman Masalha

Heritage Lesson

Here is a civics lesson about the Zionist heritage, which has recently basked in the limelight of another government decision.

It has often been observed that poetry and lies have much in common, and this also applies to the state of Israel's founding document - the Declaration of Independence. It will "foster," it told me, "the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants... it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants." The document also calls upon "the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel" - not the "members of minorities," so beloved by the Zionist media - "to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions."
However, since its establishment the state has not kept its promise. It continues to conduct itself like a Zionist occupation regime on every inch of the land. True, the military government has been lifted and "the Arab inhabitants" are usually free to move around in their homeland and even send representatives to the Knesset - but this is the sum total of the equality that was formulated and promised.

The alienation between Arabs and Jews can be seen everywhere. It has not arisen solely in the context of the national conflict, but is rather a result of an establishment policy which has expropriated Arabs' lands to build communities "for Jews only" and has pushed the Arab inhabitants into localities under an "ethno-Zionist siege" on all sides.

The Israel Police, which is responsible for maintaining public law and order, provides the most blatant evidence that the Israeli regime behaves as if it is a foreign regime. It abandons the Arab localities to the rule of criminal gangs, intervening only when concern arises that the crime might spill over into Jewish locales. The Arab alienation from the police - a symbol of the regime - is apparent, among other things, in the absence of Arabic writing on police vehicles. How does an Arab citizen feel about a police force that appears in his community, but does not include any writing in his language? Does this not symbolize, more than anything else, that the police represent an occupation regime, a foreign regime? How would the inhabitant of some Jewish locale feel if there were no writing in Hebrew on police vehicles, but only a foreign language?

The alienation is also evident with regard to the central government. This is the only democratic country in the world where one-fifth of the citizens - who are declared to have equal rights, at least on paper - have no representation in the government or in "provisional and permanent institutions." And this is the case even before we start talking about budgetary allocations, master plans, the building of cities and communities, education, culture, industrialization and more.

This national alienation is evident in the apartheid reflected throughout the media. Anyone watching talk shows on television will immediately notice a balance in terms of the guests in the studio: There is a religious person and a secular person, a settler and someone from Peace Now. Only the Arab citizen is absent from every discourse.

Were the Arab Knesset members blessed with any imagination, they would pull the words "on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions" out of the Declaration of Independence and formulate them into a bill. After all, what makes a malicious Jewish populist any better than a malicious Arab populist? There is no dearth of Arab populists who would feel right at home with the Jewish populists in the studios or on ministerial committees. If the proposal is accepted, we will advance the principle of equality. If it is rejected, we will have exposed the lies and deceit of those who take the name of the Declaration of Independence in vain.


Published in: Haaretz, March 3, 2010

For Hebrew, press here

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    المتابع من أبناء جلدتنا لما يجري في هذا العالم الواسع يجد نفسه أمام ظاهرة فريدة. فلو نظرنا إلى ما يحصل من أحداث نرى أنّ القاسم المشترك بينها هو أنّ غالبيّتها هو مواقع وقوعها الجغرافية. إذ نرى أنّها تحدث في الأصقاع التي توصف بانتمائها إلى العالمين العربي والإسلامي.
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