A note from Jeff:
Nahed Habiballah, a Ph.D. student at the New School, works on the sociology of religion in the public sphere. We first met in Jerusalem at a conference on the politics of small things in Israel and Palestine. After the conference, she took me, and also Elzbieta Matynia, to visit the city of Ramallah and her family home (on the other side of the Wall); the wall built by Israel under the pretext of security that appropriates more Palestinian land. She is a Palestinian holding Israeli citizenship. Her father came from a small town near Nazareth, but she was born and raised in Jerusalem. She later spent her undergraduate years at the University of Haifa, working as an archeologist after graduation with the “Israeli Authorities of Antiquities.” The paranoid politics of Israel-Palestine insists upon clarity, where complexity such as hers is the general rule. I asked her what she thinks about recent events, particularly about a recent op.ed. piece in The New York Times.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren, recently published an op-ed piece in The New York Times arguing that the failure of the peace negotiations is a result of the Palestinians and/or the Palestinians Authorities’ refusal to recognize the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Oren backs his argument by saying that the United Nation created a Jewish state in Palestine in 1947. He failed to mention, though, that the resolution to which he refers, Resolution 181, the Partition of Palestine, created at the same time an Arab state in Palestine, more over that Palestine was divided almost equally between the two states, and Jerusalem was to be under International jurisdiction. Now Israel occupies 78% of Palestine, and Oren is only interested in one half of the resolution, ignoring the other.
To be sure, the Palestinians have already made significant concessions in the pursuit of a peaceful settlement. The Palestinians have recognized the existence of the state of Israel as mandated by the Oslo agreement signed in 1993 within 1967 borders, which means that the Palestinians have recognized Israel in 150% of the land allocated to it by the resolution 181. Not only that, Israel keeps building settlement on the 22% of the land left for the Palestinians.
An interesting question that was raised by the Palestinian leaders lately is “What are the borders of the State of Israel that Natenyahu wants us to recognize as a Jewish state?” Does anybody know the answer to this question? Israel is the only country in the world that does not define its borders. So before we talk about recognition of a state, let Oren tell us the exact borders of this state.
The Palestinian minority in Israel has responded to the ongoing discriminatory actions with obedience to the state and has used the democratic means available to them to object to such actions. Clearly Oren and the current Israeli government do not acknowledge the injustices that are inflicted on this group because to them those Palestinians are guests in their homeland, recognizing the Jewishness of the State will only reinforce this. The UN Partition Plan mentions that the state of Israel is the land for the Jews; it did not endorse an ethnocratic state which discriminates against its Palestinian minority. By demanding the recognition of the Jewishness of the state, the rights of the Palestinians who are living in that country is under attack.
The Palestinian Authority and people do not deny that Jews have lived in the land of Canaan throughout history. But we also understand that the region is the cradle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and know that people from all religions have lived there. What we question is exclusive Jewish sovereignty.
Peace is threatened by the new political culture within Israel which has allowed for the dwindling of the democratic character of the State for an ethnocratic one.