Preventing ‘Palestine’: Part II – The humanitarian paradigm
By MARTIN SHERMAN
Into the Fray: Formula for an alternative to two-state-solution requires policy that depoliticizes the context and ‘atomizes’ the implementation.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? – Hillel the Elder, Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14
In Part 1 of this three-part series I set out the essential preconditions for implementation of a viable alternative to a “two-state-solution” (TSS) approach consistent with the long-term survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
I emphasized that, given how ingrained the TSS-approach has become in the culture of the discourse on the Arab-Israeli conflict, generating any conceptual space for the consideration of alternative, Zionist-compliant proposals requires a dramatic restructuring of Israel’s diplomatic apparatus.
However, judging from some of the talk-backs received, the centrality of Israeli diplomacy – particularly public diplomacy – was not fully appreciated.
So to reiterate this point, allow me to quote one of the country’s foremost experts on the role of public diplomacy, Prof. Eytan Gilboa, who, in an article aptly titled “Public Diplomacy: The Missing Component in Israel’s Foreign Policy,” warned: “The lack of an adequate PD program has significantly affected Israel’s strategic outlook and freedom of action... Any further neglect of PD would not only restrict Israel’s strategic options, it would be detrimental to its ability to survive in an increasingly intolerant and hostile world...”
Gilboa is right. In the absence of a well-financed and well-formulated public diplomacy offensive, Israel will find not only that its strategic options are restricted, but that its very survival is threatened. Among the survival- threatening strategic restrictions that Israel will be subjected to, is the inability to break out of the stranglehold the TSS has on its perceived range of actionable alternatives.
Instrument of what policy?
Furthermore, in Part I, I underscored that diplomacy must be an instrument of policy designed to achieve national goals, rather than diplomatic pressures being a determinate of policy that dictates those goals.
So to what goals should such reconstituted and reinvigorated diplomatic machinery be directed in order to facilitate the repudiation and replacement of the TSS? To answer this question in an operationally useful manner, it is first necessary to identify the fuel that drives the TSS-compliant perspectives.
In this regard, there is little room for ambiguity. Clearly, sustaining the TSS mythology is what is commonly known as the “Palestinian narrative” – the notion that the Palestinian Arabs are a distinct people that comprise a coherent and cohesive national entity, with a clear vision of a “homeland,” in which they aspire to exercise national sovereignty.
If this claim can be disproven in a manner that is not only substantively persuasive, but that can be pertinently packaged politically, the foundations upon which the edifice of the TSS is erected will no longer be tenable.
Conversely, as long as the perceived legitimacy of the Palestinian narrative persists – or more accurately, is allowed to persist – it will continue to fuel the myths and the misperceptions that perpetuate the TSS.
TSS-opponents must be forced to acknowledge the bitter truth. If the contention that the Palestinian Arabs are indeed a distinct people that comprise a coherent, cohesive national entity with a clear vision of a homeland in which they aspire to exercise national sovereignty cannot be repudiated, then there is little ground – moral or practical – for opposing the TSS.
Deconstructing the narrative
Accordingly, the overriding aim of an adequately endowed and appropriately energized Israeli diplomatic drive, on which all subsequent endeavor is predicated and to which all subsequent effort is harnessed, must be the deconstruction of the Palestinian narrative.
This assault on the pervasive but unmerited legitimacy of the narrative must be directed both at its factual veracity and it moral validity – i.e. both at the empirical elements on which it is founded and the objectives it is being used to promote.
Delegitimizing the Palestinian narrative will be a daunting task, but the difficulty should not be overstated. We should take heart from the accomplishments of the TSS-advocates themselves. Imagine how hopeless the situation of any pro-TSS Palestinian activist must have seemed in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the wake of Israel’s dramatic Six Day War victory.
Faced with the perception of invincible Israeli military might on the one hand, and resolute US rejection on the other, any realistic pundit could well have been excused for considering the TSS dead in the water.
Will and wherewithal
By way of illustration, the 1980 Republican platform that brought Ronald Reagan to the White House stated: “We believe the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank would be destabilizing and harmful to the peace process.” Moreover, in Israel, up until the late 1980s, successive opinion polls found that 80 percent or more of the electorate opposed any significant territorial withdrawal in Judea/Samaria.
Yet despite the bleak prospects, TSS-advocates did not despair. With commendable resolve and resourcefulness they managed, against all odds, to convert the status of their highly improbable political paradigm from marginal to mainstream – eventually even monopolistic. For almost a quarter of a century, it has dominated and dictated the discourse as the preferred mode of ending the Mideast conflict.
This, then, is the example that must be emulated – in reverse. The opponents of the TSS need to marshal the will and the wherewithal to achieve what the proponents of TSS did: dislodge a dominant paradigm and replace it with their own.
Without wishing to understate the difficulties entailed in this, in some important aspects this reverse endeavor is – or could be – easier.
For those seeking to debunk the Palestinian narrative, and hence the fundamental rationale of the TSS, have an important ally on their side – the truth. After all, to strip the wafer-thin veneer of legitimacy off this narrative, all one needs is to echo what the Palestinians themselves do and say.
A contrived people
The Palestinian Arabs are a contrived people and their professed national identity is bogus not because Newt Gingrich designated them as “invented,” or because some right-wing religious radical dismisses their claim on the basis of a divine dictate, allocating all of “Greater Israel” to the Jews. They are a contrived people and their professed national identity is bogus because they – and their Arab patrons – openly admit it.
As I have documented in detail in previous columns, the Palestinians characterize themselves not as a distinct people, but as part of the Arab nation, indistinguishable from other components of it. They openly confess that their national identity is neither authentic nor permanent, but merely a temporary contrivance to help the Arabs eliminate Israel. No less a figure than the spokesman of the Arab League revealed that pan-Arab policy is to refuse Palestinians wishing to acquire citizenship of Arab countries in which they have been resident for decades, so as to artificially preserve their identity – lest there be no “reason for them to return to Palestine.”
Even more tellingly, the Palestinians have no clear vision of a “homeland” in which they aspire to exercise their national sovereignty. They have put forward wildly divergent – even mutually exclusive – delineations of what comprises that “homeland.”
Significantly, until 1968, they not only explicitly eschewed any sovereign claims to the “West Bank,” but conceded that it was part of a another sovereign country, the Hashemite Kingdom, which up until 1988 claimed the territory for itself.
Clearly then, the Palestinians do not genuinely see themselves as a distinct people with an authentic national identity, striving to exercise sovereign rule in a defined territory. Rather their claim to nationhood is a thinly disguised device to thwart the exercise of Jewish national sovereignty and to undermine the Jewish nation-state.
Conveying this message assertively and articulately must be the primary mission of the nation’s diplomatic offensive and the vital precondition for the foundation of a viable TSS-alternative.
Depoliticizing the context
Deconstructing the Palestinian narrative and debunking the authenticity of Palestinian national claims are crucially important stages in terms of practical policy formulation. They comprise an indispensable step toward devising a comprehensive policy paradigm to replace the TSS that furnishes a valid rationale for ceasing to relate to the Palestinian Arabs as a cohesive political entity.
This “depoliticizing” of the context of the problem has huge consequences on two complementary levels.
On the one hand, it directs energies away from searching for solutions that require agreement with one, or more, Arab polity(ies). Since the express purpose of the contrived Palestinian national identity is to undermine the foundations of the Jewish state, the pursuit of such a genuine, sustainable accord with some Arab political entity is so implausible as to be irrelevant as an element of policy, as the experience of the past 100 years demonstrates.
On the other hand, it directs energies toward solutions that address the Palestinian Arabs, not as a coherent national collective, but rather as an amalgam of unfortunate individuals that has been continually mislead and misinformed by cruel, corrupt cliques whose overriding objectives were anything but the communal well-being of those whose fate they strove to control.
Atomizing the implementation
But depoliticizing the context of the predicament of the Palestinian Arabs will not, in itself, dissipate that predicament, or render the need to do so any less pressing.
What it will do, however, is open the door to solutions that circumvent the ruling cliques and directly engage the households, family heads and breadwinners in the wider Palestinian Arab public, without the agreement of any intervening Arab organization which might – and probably will – have a vested interest in preventing a peaceable resolution of the predicament.
Indeed, recognizing the futility of seeking a political solution underscores the need for a humanitarian one.
Accordingly, these notions of depoliticizing the conceptual context and “atomizing” the implementation of practical measures lead inexorably to a policy prescription based on the eminently liberal (as opposed to “illiberal” rather than “conservative”) doctrinal principles of: (a) eliminating ethnic discrimination toward the Palestinian Arabs – first as refugees and second as residents in the Arab world, and (b) providing individual Palestinian-Arabs the freedom of choice to determine their future and that of their families.
‘Hillelian’ humanitarian rationale
These doctrinal elements translate into a comprehensive tripartite proposal, based on a humanitarian “Hillelian” rationale, set out in the introductory excerpt, of sober recognition of the need to look after one’s own interest without descending into callous disregard for the fate of the “other.”
The three components should be seen as a mutually interactive, integrative whole:
• Dissolution or radical restructuring of UNRWA to bring the treatment of Palestinian refugees into line with that of all other refugees on the face of the globe.
• Resolute insistence on the cessation of ethnic discrimination against Palestinian Arabs in the Arab world and of the prohibition on their acquiring citizenship of the countries in which they have resided for decades.
• Generous relocation loans provided directly to individual Palestinian Arab breadwinners and family heads, resident in Judea/Samaria (and eventually Gaza) to allow them to build better futures for themselves and their dependents, in other countries of their choice.
Why these three components do, indeed, comprise an effective, interactive and integrative TSS-alternative mechanism that complies with the Hillelian prescription of preserving self-interest while displaying sensitivity to the fate of other actors – indeed, even antagonists – will have to wait until next week.
For despite the allure of discussing the nitty-gritty, I believe that elucidating how proposed practical measures are moored to their intellectual foundations is essential for comprehending the proposal itself and for convincing others to accept it.
A persuasive enunciation of a comprehensive formula for the replacement of a dominant paradigm to a conflict that has proved intractable for over a century cannot be adequately conveyed in pithy sound bites. Out of the box proposals inevitably provoke a maelstrom of queries and critiques.
Indeed, previous columns have induced much animated responses – not all in the most courteous of terms.
Clearly the presentation hitherto has left much as yet unexplained. This should not be interpreted as an attempt at evading thorny questions.
In the final piece in this series I will deal with the major points that have remained unaddressed and questions/ reservations/criticisms that readers have raised in past weeks including topics such as:
• control of the decision variables;
• accusations of racism;
• fear of fratricide;
• allegations of ethnic cleansing;
• diplomatic and economic feasibility;
• identity of prospective host countries; and
• evidence of acceptability in Israeli and Palestinian societies.
Until then, allow me to leave you with this thought: If there is nothing reprehensible in advocating funding the voluntary relocation of Jews from Judea/Samaria to facilitate the establishment of what, in all probability, would be a failed micro-state and a haven for radical extremists on the fringes of Europe, what possible objection could there be for funding the voluntary relocation of Arabs from Judea/Samaria to prevent the establishment of such a forbidding entity?