Saturday, March 14, 2009

will Israel reject the colonial project?

Not that long ago, I visited a Palestinian blog where a woman named Yasmine wrote a very heart-rending post of feeling hopelessness and abandonment because of the destruction incurred by the Israeli military and public apathy to her/their predicament in Gaza, and in the comment section, the one comment posted was written by an Israeli Jew that was so soul-crushing in its rudeness, racism and denial of any human connection that I was saddened by the writer's heartlessness and meanness. I left the following comment to this hate-filled Israeli:

We all have things to learn from each other, and to teach each other. No "side" or nation or person owns the 'truth'; however, having said that, it is very important in all of our deliberations to look at the issue of justice. It is also very important to keep dialogue open and not slam doors with our words, not close our eyes or hearts to other peoples' ways of being and thinking. A question I often ask myself: is my language making a space for others to enter? or am I silencing others? shutting them out?

Multiculturalism, an experiment which Canada has been undergoing for many decades is a wonderful exercise in living amongst difference, in speaking across differences. Canada's multiculturalism is, of course, flawed, as flawed as the people who attempt to make it work. Some Canadians deride new immigrants (especially those who have brown skin or the Islamic faith) and tell them publicly to "do it the Canadian way or go home". Of course, by this they mean the white, middle-class, Christian way.

They forget that their families came as colonizers to Canada and displaced the First Nations peoples.

Israeli policy and law, sadly, is against multiculturalism. In 2005 a university course on multiculturalism was proposed, instead, your Ministry of Education cancelled it. Israel is an exclusive nation, not an inclusive one. That is in your laws. Your closing of doors is codified.

Like Israel, Canada is a nation built by colonizers, and like Israel's suppression of the rights of Palestinians, Canada, too, continues to discriminate against the people it subjected--and subject--to its rule (First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples). We have 75- 100 land claims still in court, many of them decades old. The Canadian government is slow to redress the wrongs it did and continues to do to the First Nations peoples.

Is the answer then not to address these wrongs? Many Canadians and the Canadian government wish that the First Nations peoples would just give up these land claims. Many white Canadians (of all immigrant backgrounds, and including some brown Canadians too who have not informed themselves) think the "the natives" (as they call them) have everything given to them and enough is enough.

Meanwhile, First Nations health indicators, poverty, suicide levels, housing, etc. are all atrocious and worsening as true justice and the elimination of racism remain illusive, cloaked in the legal language of Canadian equality and multiculturalism. Theft of resources continues. The reserve system Canada created as a solution to "the Indian problem" is no solution.

Is repatriation, returning of lands, and financial restitution feasible? Yes. Is it a difficult process? Yes. Will there be some obstinate people on both sides who say no to everything? Yes. Will those who have benefited from the stolen lands feel the most effect and pain to return those lands or provide financial restitution? Yes. Will those who are the colonizers have to recognize that they collectively as a nation have colonized and that they have been on the upperhand side of an unequal power relation that has benefited them at the expense of First Nations? Yes.

Canada's flawed system of multiculturalism and its sorely small and deficient beginnings of attempting to redress wrongs against its Indigenous inhabitants have some things that other nations, other peoples, can learn from. From what we did wrong and continue to do wrong, too. The First Nations in Canada can fill you in on that, on our failings. Our government and our image in the world as peacemakers show only Canada the good, but that image is just an image--it's a fiction.

So, to my Israeli friends: it is our responsibility as privileged members of our nations to inform ourselves of the perspectives of the people we have displaced and colonized. It is our responsibility as citizens who enjoy more rights than others to really listen to those with less rights. That may make us uncomfortable. Well, the truth is we have made others suffer pain because of our comfort.

Perhaps your government and the Israeli people can learn from multiculturalism, its successes AND ITS FAILURES and then perhaps teach us Canadians how we can do it better.

I wrote that response because I believe that while Canadian colonization and Israeli colonization are different, we share the fact that we are colonial nations. I also think that multiculturalism, although it has its problems, is a viable way to live together on one land as long as we redress past wrongs.

When we held our Palestine Awareness Night, I responded to a question from the audience that I favour a one-state solution for the question of Palestine / Israel. A 2-state solution would continue militarism, policing, apartheid and racism. How, for example, would Gaza and the West Bank be linked? Through a tunnel that is is encased in barb wire and cement and sniper towers? Should the walls and barriers and checkpoints around the West Bank and Gaza continue to exist? No. Should the 1.2 million Palestinians who currently live within the borders of nation known as Israel be expelled to Gaza and the West Bank? No. What about the right of return and reparations for those Palestinians whose lands and homes still lie inside the state that is called Israel? Will they not get justice? A 2-state solution is no solution because it would continue with injustices, racism, and separation.

The One State Declaration

In light of these stark realities, we affirm our commitment to a democratic solution that will offer a just, and thus enduring, peace in a single state based on the following principles:

1. The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status;
2. Any system of government must be founded on the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens. Power must be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all people in the diversity of their identities;
3. There must be just redress for the devastating effects of decades of Zionist colonization in the pre- and post-state period, including the abrogation of all laws, and ending all policies, practices and systems of military and civil control that oppress and discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion or national origin;
4. The recognition of the diverse character of the society, encompassing distinct religious, linguistic and cultural traditions, and national experiences;
5. The creation of a non-sectarian state that does not privilege the rights of one ethnic or religious group over another and that respects the separation of state from all organized religion;
6. The implementation of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194 is a fundamental requirement for justice, and a benchmark of the respect for equality.
7. The creation of a transparent and nondiscriminatory immigration policy;
8. The recognition of the historic connections between the diverse communities inside the new, democratic state and their respective fellow communities outside;
9. In articulating the specific contours of such a solution, those who have been historically excluded from decision-making -- especially the Palestinian Diaspora and its refugees, and Palestinians inside Israel -- must play a central role;
10. The establishment of legal and institutional frameworks for justice and reconciliation.

Ali Abunimah, one of the signers of the above One State Declaration, has written a book The One State Solution:

"Clear-eyed, sharply reasoned, and compassionate, ONE COUNTRY revives an old and neglected idea of sharing the country. Although living together might seem impossible, Abunimah shows how Israelis and Palestinians are by now so intertwined -- geographically and economically -- that no kind of separation can lead to the security Israelis need or the rights Palestinians must have. He reveals the bankruptcy of the two-state approach, takes on the objections and taboos that stand in the way of a binational solution, demonstrates that sharing the territory will bring benefits for all, and asserts that the country can remain a homeland for both Jews and Palestinians. The absence of any other workable option can only lead to ever-greater extremism; it is time, Abunimah suggests, for Palestinians and Israelis to imagine a different future and a different relationship."

In his article "The one state solution is the most visionary and the most suitable," Mark Satin writes:

"Jeff Halper, an Israeli anthropologist, expects that the one state -- seamlessly combining the talents and energies of Israeli Jews and Palestinians -- would become one of the “leading forces for democratization and development” in the world. Gavron couldn’t agree more, claiming that “the integration of all the different peoples . . . into one pluralistic entity will release enormous forces of inventiveness [and] creativity.

In Newsweek, Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, reminds us that:

"It is important to remember that the Palestinian national movement only began to endorse the idea of a two-state solution 20 or 30 years ago, as a practical compromise. Realizing that Israel wasn't going anywhere, moderates decided that their best hope for a state was one alongside Israel, not one that sought to replace it. Yet the 15 years of negotiations that have followed have produced little, and thus it's no surprise that faith in this supposedly pragmatic option is waning. The lack of progress, as well as the unmistakably expansionist reality on the ground and the growth in popularity of Hamas, have left little room for anyone seeking a positive future for Palestine. Except, that is, to rejuvenate the old idea of one binational, secular and democratic state where Jewish and Arab citizens live side by side in equality."

I found the following report from Press TV about a CIA report predicting the demise of Israel as it currently exists interesting:

"A study conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has cast doubt over Israel's survival beyond the next 20 years.

The CIA report predicts "an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region."

The study, which has been made available only to a certain number of individuals, further forecasts the return of all Palestinian refugees to the occupied territories, and the exodus of two million Israeli - who would move to the US in the next fifteen years.

"There is over 500,000 Israelis with American passports and more than 300,000 living in the area of just California," International lawyer Franklin Lamb said in an interview with Press TV on Friday, adding that those who do not have American or western passport, have already applied for them.

"So I think the handwriting at least among the public in Israel is on the wall...[which] suggests history will reject the colonial enterprise sooner or later," Lamb stressed.

He said CIA, in its report, alludes to the unexpectedly quick fall of the apartheid government in South Africa and recalls the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, suggesting the end to the dream of an 'Israeli land' would happen 'way sooner' than later.

The study further predicts the return of over one and a half million Israelis to Russia and other parts of Europe, and denotes a decline in Israeli births whereas a rise in the Palestinian population.

Lamb said given the Israeli conduct toward the Palestinians and the Gaza strip in particular, the American public -- which has been voicing its protest against Tel Aviv's measures in the last 25 years -- may 'not take it anymore'.

Some members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have been informed of the report."


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