"If there are other inhabitants there," Menachem Usshiskin said of Jewish plans for Palestine in 1930, "they must be transferred to some other place. We must take over the land." The occupation of Palestine is not so much an existential threat as an existential fait accompli. The state of Israel was created through ethnic cleansing. It was created as a state to privilege one religious group, something that states should not be.
But two wrongs cannot make a right. Evicting Israelis from their homes, inside or outside the Green Line, is not a solution. Much less is killing them a solution or anything that Ahmadinejad is proposing.
Yehouda Shenhav's new book, "Beyond the Two State Solution: A Jewish Political Essay" tells the story of Israel's creation. The language of the Green Line, Shenhav writes, is "a language through which Israel is described as a liberal democracy, while the Arabs (and Mizrahi and religious Jews to boot) are described as inferior and undemocratic. This is the language of someone who came to the Middle East for a short while, not to integrate but to exist here as a guest. The position it expresses is not only immoral with regard to the Palestinians, but also potentially disastrous for the Jews. It commits them to life in a ghetto with a limited idea of democracy based on racial laws and a perpetual state of emergency."
This is an Israeli suggesting that the worldview of Israel agrees with Ahmadinejad's prediction for Israel. Israel is not behaving as if it means to settle down and become part of the region it inhabits. Shenhav wants to restore awareness of 1948, but not to try to reconstruct the world of 1948. He does not propose eliminating Israel. He does not propose uniting the people of Israel and Palestine into a single nation. He does propose allowing Palestinians to return to their homes in a manner least disturbing to Israelis already living in those villages or buildings, including with compensation paid to residents evicted by an agreement with returning refugees. He proposes a bilingual society, with a fragmented political federation. He expects this to be very difficult, while preferable to any other approach. And he rightly sees the first step as recovering honesty with regards to not-so-distant history.
Another book just released by Brant Rosen, a Rabbi in the United States, is called "Wrestling in Daylight: A Rabbi's Path to Palestinian Solidarity." Here we have a brand new genre: the transformation of a website, including blog posts and the comments under them, into a work of literature on the printed page. Here we have an example of civil discourse, of diplomacy, of people with the views of the New York Daily News and the views of the Iranian government ceasing to speak past each other, coming to understand each other, realizing that neither wants to destroy the other. I highly recommend reading it and emulating it.
A Mennonite speaking at Tuesday's meeting with Ahmadinejad said he wished others could travel to Iran, and that more Iranians could visit the United States. He said that after decades of visiting Iran frequently, he not only viewed Iranians as friends but understood the source of tension to be the Iranian government's insistence on remaining independent of U.S. control. As if to prove the value of his recommendation for personal interaction, the next person to speak, an evangelical pastor from Texas named Bob Roberts said that he used to be afraid of Muslims. Then he met some in Afghanistan, and they became his friends.
Exiled critic of the Iranian government Shirin Ebadi released a message on Tuesday worth reading and signing on in support of.
I discussed these matters on New York's WBAI on Tuesday. Here's that audio.
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