Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Under his vine and under his anthem

Before we arrive at the fulfillment of Isaiah’s utopian vision, even in a small way, it is necessary first of all for the wolf and the lamb to live each of them under his own respective vine and respective national anthem.

Salman Masalha || Under his vine and under his anthem

Some people think the situation in the territories is irreversible and is leading to the vision/nightmare of a bi-national state. Indeed, no one disputes that the continuation of the occupation and above all the continued building in the settlements are exacerbating the situation more and more. However, the bi-national state slogan is an empty slogan. Why? The answer is simple. For the idea of a bi-national state to be justified there must exist some prior conditions from which it will derive its strength. So here’s a scoop: There is still a long way to go for a state where “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid … and the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox,” as in the Prophet Isaiah’s vision.

Looking closely at the state of affairs among all the various and variegated kinds of communities dwelling throughout the land, one can reaches the obvious conclusion: There aren’t two sides here but rather very many sides. In this land there is a huge admixture of tribes that are quarrelling among themselves. In other words, in Israel-Palestine the two nations have not yet sufficiently crystallized to reach a bi-national state.

The religious, cultural and tribal tensions exist within both the “imagined communities” as well as between them. It can also be said that the tensions between the two communities constitute the major, not to say the only, adhesive holding together the fragments of the human mosaic within each of them.

The occupation in the wake of the Six Day War complicated the matter considerably. Despite the transfer plans from the schools of various and sundry Zionist leaders, the Arab demography did not stop. Moreover, the occupation gave impetus and a great deal of help to the formation of the Palestinian identity vis-à-vis the occupying community. On the other side, as the occupation grew deeper a change came about in the identities of the communities called Israeli.

Ironically, this occupation ultimately brought about a halt in the development of the Israeli national identity. Thus, in face of the galloping demography the slogan of “a Jewish and democratic state” came into being, with the emphasis on Jewish. Thus, in place of the national definition the communal-religious definition rose to the surface and in full force.

Since the two communities are intertwined with each other for better or for worse, everything that happens in one of the communities immediately has implications for the other. And when Jewishness superseded Israeliness as a major definer of the Israeli communities, on the other side Islamism arose as a major definer of the Palestinian communities.

Both of the “national” identities – Israeli and Palestinian – are still embryonic and developing and are in need of nurturing. Therefore, in order to attain the utopian bi-national vision it is necessary first to bring the two “nations” back to history for the national embryo to develop in a natural way.

In this history it has to be remembered that Israeli nationalism is an integral part of the definition of Palestinian nationalism and Palestinian nationalism is a very important element in the definition of Israeliness. The one nationalism defines the existence of the other, and in the absence of the existence of one of them, the existence of the other as a crystallized national identity is cancelled.

Before we arrive at the fulfillment of Isaiah’s utopian vision, even in a small way, it is necessary first of all for the wolf and the lamb to live each of them under his own respective vine and respective national anthem. If not, the handwriting is on the wall: Either a South African future or a Balkan future awaits both of them and their descendents.
Published in Hebrew: Opinions-Haaretz, June 27, 2012


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