War is a failure of imagination. Let's try this instead.
To end this war once and for all, we'll need a vision that both Palestinians and Israelis can be happy with. But there is none. Or is there?
Join the Yes Men, the Center for Artistic Activism, and Palestinian and Israeli activists Feb. 20 at noon EST to learn of a vision that could spell peace forever, and to brainstorm how we can spread it using creative techniques.
Have you noticed how Berlin is overrun by French hipsters? Crazy! Not only have they adopted Berlin as their city, now more and more German aesthetes are adopting Paris as theirs! How could this possibly be?
Today, no one bats an eye when young Froschfresser party till daybreak in the Berghain, or Boche connoisseurs swarm Paris galleries. And woe to the landlord who refuses to rent to them! But in 1943, you would have been considered insane to suggest that a day like this could ever come. Today there's still French and German nationalism, but way less than at any time since "France" and "Germany" became a thing.
But what does all this have to do with Israel/Palestine? Maybe it's obvious.
The news has started filling up with musings about “the day after” — about what will come when the violence that exploded October 7 subsides.
Sadly, the two options we're hearing about are both terrible.
Netanyahu and his fundamentalist government just want more of the same — guaranteeing that the violence continues, and most likely gets worse.
Despite the regime’s security-speak, the extremists who prop up Netanyahu don't care at all about security, stability or anything like that. Rather, they see this war as an opportunity to annex more Palestinian land, which their radical rabbis claim is God's plan for Israel — a plan that leaves no room for Palestine.
And Netanyahu knows who he's answering to. After nine months of protests against his authoritarian policies, plus his historical failures before, on, and since October 7, he knows he's extremely unpopular, and that without the support of his zealots, he'll be kicked out of office and most likely end up in jail for massive corruption.
Besides the extremist, annexationist vision of an apartheid Jewish state with less and less room for Palestinians, the only other option we're hearing about is what the US and Europe are pressuring Netanyahu to accept: a carceral "two-state solution" in which Jews and Palestinians are restricted to their own bunkered territories by an increasingly reinforced border wall — like today, but with "autonomy" for the Palestinians. And they don't seem to have any vision beyond that.
A carceral Palestinian state may be better than nothing, but it won't stop either Jews or Palestinians from considering the land beyond the wall as their home too.
From the Jordan River in the East to the Mediterranean Sea in the West, from the forests of the Galilee in the North to the Red Sea resorts in the South, there is only one homeland for both peoples. Many Palestinians yearn not only for Nablus, Hebron, Gaza and Ramallah, but for Haifa and Jaffa and Acra and the many other places they were mostly kicked out of in the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948. At the same time, many Jews want to live in the West Bank, either because Biblical events took place there, in what some of them call Judea and Samaria, or because it's been the only home they've known for the past three generations.
Solidly dividing the Jews' and Palestinians' mutual homeland will only lead to further displacement, and will provide ample fuel for extremists to escalate conflict.
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Could we in the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, and on the American Left more broadly, propose and champion a workable, achievable, and bilaterally acceptable alternative? Could we rally behind something better than the two sucky options — more annexation and apartheid, or two carceral states — that fill up the news?
We haven't done so yet.
Overall, most of us on the Left seems to want Jews and Palestinans to magically form one secular, democratic state like the ones that we already know — one big copy-and-paste.
Unfortunately, neither Palestinians nor Jews want that.
Palestinians, for their part, really don't want (p. 15) to share a joint state, perhaps because they rightly don't trust Israeli Jews to share power equally — and perhaps partly because Palestine’s indigenous Arab communities haven't yet, in three quarters of a millennium, ever been ruled by Arabs, let alone had their own state.
As for Jewish Israelis — secular and religious, Left and Right — it's unthinkable to not have recourse to a Jewish state in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure. You can call that paranoia, historical memory, "Jewish supremacism," "settler-colonialism," or whatever you like — it doesn't change the fact that very few Jewish Israelis would willingly give up a country that's fully theirs.
In order to have any say in what comes next, and to be real allies to the Palestinian and Israeli Left, we on the American Left need to champion a constructive vision for the future of Israel/Palestine — a vision that's possible, acceptable to both sides, ideally beautiful, and that has a clear path forward.
Fortunately, we don’t need to parachute in such a vision, as a local one already exists. A Land for All / Two States One Homeland is a growing Palestinian/Israeli movement that aims for two autonomous states, with separate citizenship, with clear borders and each with its own institutions — but whose citizens will have full access to live, work, travel and worship anywhere in their mutual homeland, with non-discrimination in housing enforced by a mutual judicial institution.
"Palestinians deserve to find out who they are when they're not occupied and oppressed, and Israeli Jews deserve to find out who they are when they're not occupying and oppressing," says Mushon Zer-Aviv, a member of A Land for All.
A future in which Israel and Palestine live side by side with only a nominal border between them might feel impractical, impossible, or even insane to some, especially now.
Like, what about terrorism? What about hatred?
But two million Palestinians already live within Israel, as Israeli citizens — with no walls to keep them apart, obviously.
Also, remember France and Germany?
The vision of two states in one homeland won't be easy to implement, nor even to get on the table. For one thing, the annexationist zealots who prop up Netanyahu won't let go without a big fight.
There's plenty of opposition within Israel to those zealots. The Supreme Court, for example, has often ruled against fundamentalists, which is why Netanyahu wanted to cripple it, and why hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets for nine months to stop him from doing so.
But any deep change for the better — after decades of oppression and violence, and against the desires of Jewish fundamentalists on the one side and Muslim fundamentalists on the other — will require the informed, reality-based, and imaginative help of the American Left.
With our energetic and creative support, a miracle can indeed happen.
Join the Yes Men, the Center for Artistic Activism, and Palestinian and Israeli activists to learn of a vision that could spell peace forever, and to brainstorm how we can spread it using creative techniques. Register here for the zoom info/brainstorming session, Feb. 20 at noon EST. Sign up here to receive updates directly from A Land For All.