Israel at Sixty

EDITORIAL, 12 May 2008

#8 | Johan Galtung

Casalmonferrato 09 May 2008

The synagogue in this rather remote little town, in the middle of the Milano-Genova-Torino triangle, dates from 1735. They came here, Spanish Jews, expelled by that primordial ethnic cleansing, at the hands of the Spanish reyes católicos Ferdinand and Isabella, from 1492 onwards. Moros, Jews, heretics, or all those suspected thereof; expelled, killed, burnt. The synagogue survived the Nazis 450 years later; not most of the Jews however, except for two families. The shoa. Unspeakable.

Israel is celebrating its 60th anniversary of David Ben Gurion’s unilateral declaration of independence. And the bill for shoa is increasingly placed at the feet of Arabs in general, the Palestinians in particular, starting with al naqba, the horror of 711,000 chased out of their homes in Palestine, to camps, diasporas. To death. The bill is not placed at the feet of the Germans in the shape of, say, a Jewish Baden-Würtenberg.

Not much to celebrate. AND YET: as I say to an attentive, well filled synagogue: I argue in favor of the recognition of the Israel of the 1947 General Assembly Resolution, the only recognition there is. Not on the basis of shoa, see above. Not on the basis of “facts on the ground”, a militarist argument rewarding aggressors. Besides, facts are fictitious. What, then?

On the basis of the myths of the past. The promised land, not the Chosen People, PLEASE! we are all chosen peoples. There is a deep sense of belonging, as for the Palestinians, deeply rooted in the crevices of histories vying with each other for the rights of presence and future. Give it to them both, for Heaven’s sake. And be attentive to other peoples’ roots in the past, like the victims of 1492, and its aftermath. They have Andalucian roots, like Mexicans have in major parts of the USA.

So I present the Middle East Community of Israel with its five Arab neighbors–indeed including Palestine fully recognized according to international law–modeled on the European Community of the Treaty of Rome (from 1 January 1958). An incredible success, accommodating Germany with neighbors it had brutalized. Yes, there are some differences but they are minor. For more details see 50 Years 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives just out from TRANSCEND University Press, soon available from Israel-Palestine is No. 16. See 16d.

44 years of dialogues and mediation work behind that one. Israel gets its state with a Jewish character and the only possible secure borders: open peace borders, between countries at peace. Palestine gets its state, like Israel with a capital in its Jerusalem. With a non-negotiable right of return to, say, two Palestinians cantons in Northwest Israel; numbers being negotiable, like for Jews returning (but there is a difference between being forced out by al naqba 60 years ago, and by the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago). And two cantons for Jews on the West Bank in particularly sacred areas might be a part of it.

All in the spirit of finding a peaceful and sustainable equilibrium where all parties can feel reasonably at home. A guess: do this, and ten years later the free flow of people and ideas, goods and services will be a natural part of life for the citizens of all those six countries. Rights of settlement and investment might come later. At the borders between Israel and Lebanon and Israel and Egypt there are giant desalination works by solar energy and mirrors, providing water for everybody. The Commission of the Middle East Community operates grids based on solar and wind energy rather than fossil fuels. There is a resettlement regime. A border regime. And so on.

For Israelis wedded to further expansion and security by military means, and for Palestinians to the Two states solution (an outcome of the PNC resolution of 15 November 1988), a Middle East Community does not fit, perhaps intellectually more than politically. Time may heal those deficits.

In the meantime let us see, what are the alternatives.

Continue with occupation and expansion? The counterforces have already been considerable, and unexpected: like Intifada, suicide bombs, rockets. Think of the seven next escalating steps, down the road, spelling increasing disaster, for all.

For Israel to get NATO membership, invoking Article 5 whenever something
happens? Look at Afghanistan for the answer.

For Israel to get European Union membership? As the police says in New York: Don’t even think of parking here! Imagine how that would speed up the formation of the Islamic Community, IC, from Morocco to Mindanao, combining a clash of regions with a clash of civilizations along a tense, heavily armed border with incidents by the hour.

Of course, some will still try to pacify Arab regimes like they do now, counting Jordan, Egypt, West Bank as successes and Syria, Gaza as failures with Lebanon undecided. Yesaiah 2:1-9. Look, whatever is done there will be counterforces–and particularly strong ones with an EU-IC direct confrontation.

No, let us get hundreds, thousands civil society groups in the Middle East getting a Middle East Community off the ground, like once happened for the European Community. The burden of proof is actually on those against–not on the silent majority who could well imagine this to happen, but haven’t quite come around to it. If you have a better plan for sustainable Middle East peace, please tell. The world is listening.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 May 2008.

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