Two terms that are often thrown around today are the "Palestinian Question" and the "Palestinian Solution." The relevancy of these terms depends on the current level of violence that exists between Israel and the Palestinians. Because of Israel's invasion of Gaza, these terms are now very relevant. But for many Americans, the importance of these terms will lessen, as will the urgency to find a solution, once a ceasefire starts.
What is missing here is the ominous ring these terms carry. It was not too long ago when a group of people discussed the "Judenfrage" (Jewish Question) and the "Final Solution" and then carried out the Holocaust. How could any group justify such brutal and inhumane treatment of the Jews? The answer is very simple. In Europe, the Jews were made into scapegoats. Those who blamed the Jews for everything simply hated them and those who believed the lies gave in to fear. Making the Jews into scapegoats had been occurring for centuries; Hitler merely tweaked the sentiments. If persecution serves as a valid reason for establishing a Jewish state, then, even without the Holocaust, there has been more than ample reason for establishing such a state for a long time.
But a not so funny thing occurred on the way to making a Jewish state. An indigenous people stood in the way of the Jews finding a sabbath from persecution. SOME early Zionists, certainly not all, saw the mere presence of Palestinians as a threat to their dreams. Their remedy to this problem was to acquire the land, through various means, and to dispossess the Arabs to the point that the Zionists could become the rulers. In 1885, Theodore Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism, wrote of the need to dispossess Arabs from the land in his diary-something he never said in public. Early Arab resistance to Zionism was because they understood that success for this kind of Zionism meant their dispossession. It was then that the Palestinian Question was born and, what has escaped the attention of many, its parents were European.
So what is the answer to the Palestinian Question? The current wisdom says that there needs to be a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But there are problems with the current wisdom. Supporters of a one state solution argue that what is left of the Occupied Territories has been so fragmented and devastated that a viable state is no longer possible. And when one 1) compares maps of Palestinian land from 1967 with today's maps; 2) sees the current state of Palestine's infrastructure; and 3) notes how Israel controls vital resources such as water, it is easy to see their point. In addition, reducing the solution to the mere existence of a Palestinian state is a demeaning power play that says to Palestinians "beggars can't be choosers." It appears that the Israeli government, which should not be confused with the Israeli people, would allow a state but only if that state is weak, compliant and places a higher priority on Israel's security than on the welfare of its own people.
In addition, this two-state solution, as it is called, overlooks the plight of another important group in the area: Arab citizens of Israel. It is well-documented, such as in David Shipler's book "Arab and Jew", that despite the relative prosperity and enjoyment of rights by this group of Israelis, they are neither regarded nor treated as equals. A recent example of this inequity is the Israeli government's attempt to ban candidates from Arab parties (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054867.html). But perhaps the most telling sign that Arab citizens of Israel are not counted as equals is the definition of Israel as a Jewish state. This definition implies that Jews must be in control of the state through demographics and power. Thus an Arab's rights in Israel are conditional, not inalienable.
So what is the solution and answer to the Palestinian Question? Can we end the turmoil with the mere creation of a "Palestinian state?" Probably not. Because settling for just any state leaves just reason for anger and bitterness which all too easily leads to unjust violence and mayhem. Rather, the only moral solution to the Palestinian Question is found in our own Declaration of Independence. There it is clearly stated that "all men are created equal." A two-state solution that does not work for and recognize a Palestinian state that is equal to Israel will only bring disillusionment along with more violence and carnage.
Only equality, not mere statehood, can bring peace to the Middle East. This is because equality cuts two ways. Equality not only brings us opportunities and a sense of significance, it gives us responsibilities. Equality tells both Israelis and Palestinians that what is wrong for others to do to you is just as wrong for you to do to them. Thus equality brings a measure of self-restraint which, in turn, brings people a greater sense of security. Without equality, Israel and its neighbors will forever be locked in a life threatening game of King of the Hill which places Israel's existence on remaining undefeated. Only fighters who retire in time remain undefeated.
But equality does not give responsibilities to just the lead actors, it gives jobs to the supporting cast. Both supporters of Israel and the supporters of the Palestinians must trade their personal loyalties for an unconditional commitment to principle. When Arabs demonstrate their sincere concern for the suffering of the Palestinians, equality demands that they would not only show the same compassion for Israeli victims of terrorism, they would acknowledge a human responsibility for caring about the past suffering of the Jews.
In similar fashion, equality demands that the supporters of Israel, like the U.S., must oppose the state terrorism practiced by the Israeli government as much as it rightfully opposes the terrorism committed by Palestinian terrorists. This opposition would not only include the cutting off of funds that are used by Israel to commit state terrorism, the U.S. must also seek the prosecution of the appropriate Israeli and Palestinian leaders for war crimes.
Certainly proposing such a simple minded solution that Israelis and Palestinians must be treated as equals can, in the light of history, be regarded as naïve and unrealistic. That is true until one considers the alternative. History also teaches us that no country wins all of its wars. In addition, technology is making the proliferation of WMDs inevitable. Are we really that delusional to think that we can survive by depending on domination and violence?