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An Exchange on Israel and the Palestinians

In response to:

Palestine: The Search for a New Golden Age from the October 7, 1971 issue

To the Editors:

Atallah Mansour’s article [NYR, October 7] was written over four years after the 1967 war, when it is clear that the Israeli occupation is there to stay; that the Israeli-Jewish-Zionist establishment has no intention of withdrawing from the occupied territories; that we are witnessing today a repetition on a larger scale of the same process of Judaization as has taken place after 1949 in the territories annexed to Israel by the 1949 armistice agreements; that the Israeli-Jewish-Zionist establishment is consolidating its monopoly over the newly acquired territories, and what is most important, succeeds in just that.

Perhaps the most significant omission in this context is the omission of the fact that the Zionist movement has achieved astounding success. In a period of roughly one hundred years it has succeeded in its basic aim, i.e., the establishment of Israeli-Jewish state monopoly and a priori privileged position in Palestine-Eretz-Israel. However, we should be aware that a significant portion of the Zionist movement would disagree with that, and would contend that until Israeli-Jewish state monopoly and a priori privileged position are established on the promised land in its entirety from the Nile to the Euphrates the contemporary success of the Zionist movement could not be considered to be full and complete. And as Atallah Mansour might know, those sections in the Zionist movement carry far more weight in the present Israeli situation than the Zionist doves (which, in my opinion, is a contradiction in terms) who contend that the Israeli-Jewish people should be satisfied with the establishment of Jewish state monopoly and a priori privileged position in the pre-June 5, 1967, Israeli borders.

In view of the above the Israeli refusal to allow Palestinian West Bank political organization is not surprising nor illogical, as Atallah Mansour would like us to believe. Why the hell should the Israeli government act differently if it has all the chances in succeeding and fully materializing its aim of consolidating Israeli-Jewish state monopoly and a priori privileged position for Jews in the now not so newly acquired territories in the foreseeable future?

And that brings us to the second point quoted above. Now (emphasis by A.M.) he recommends the establishment of two adjacent states, an Israeli-Jewish and a Palestinian-Arab, as a first step toward the federative reunification of Palestine-Eretz-Israel. Since he fails to specify what will be the borders of the Palestinian state he recommends, I can only assume that he would recommend its establishment in the territories where the Palestinians now (my italics) live. In order to indicate the inadequacy (mildly put) of this position, I shall point out the following:

—Since the Israeli government has decided that the Gaza Strip is not negotiable it pursues the policies of forced mass migration of Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip. This is done by offering under-subsistence wages for Palestinians working in the Gaza Strip (approximately $1.50-$2.00 per day) while offering subsistence wages in the West Bank (approximately $4.00-$5.00 per day). The policy, by the way, is successful and fully achieves its explicit aims, i.e., thinning the Gaza Strip of its Palestinian population.

—IUROMAN Consult I.M.C. operates in Israel through its local representative, ASYO Commerce Trust Ltd., P.O. Box Jaffa 8659 (Haifa office: 20, Ha-Nevi’im St., Telephone [04] 66876, manager Yig’al Trifon) as an Arab emigration agency. For the initial registration fee of I£50 for an Arab and I£30 for an inhabitant of the occupied territories the office arranges all necessary immigration requirements (visas, tickets, work abroad, mainly in West Germany and France, etc.). The information published in the Israeli daily Ha-Aretz (6/25/71) is very ambiguous in so far as the right of the Arabs emigrating abroad through ASYO is concerned. It says the client does not by his signature lose his right of return after completing one year of stay abroad, which implies that he does lose it if he chooses to stay more than one year abroad.

This coupled with extremely oppressive occupation policies is expected to contribute meaningfully to the thinning of the total Palestinian population of Greater Israel, and might very well succeed in that.

In other words, supporting the creation of a Palestinian state where they (the Palestinians) now live implies the denial of their right to live en masse in Tel Aviv and, in another ten years, after the plans for the Judaization of the Gaza Strip for instance come to their successful finalization, to live en masse in Gaza.

We should remember that since 1967 probably 500,000 former Gaza and West Bank Palestinian residents are now residing in the East Bank refugee camps, which means that the Palestinian-Arab and Israeli-Arab-Palestinian population of Greater Israel has been reduced from 1.9 million, approximately, to approximately 1.4 million, and the process, as Atallah Mansour probably knows, continues and probably will continue at considerable measure (though not at the record rate registered immediately after June, 1967). Not a bad feat, is it? And, moreover, a blatant refutation to those who contend that it is impossible to establish a predominantly Jewish state in Greater Israel. If Greater Israel is oppressive to a sufficient degree, the project is anything but impossible.

I would like to conclude that a just solution to the Middle East conflict, and for that matter to any other conflict, is a solution based on equal rights for all:

—equal economic rights (socialism)

—equal cultural and religious rights

—equal rights of residence and immigration (equal rights for Jews to immigrate and live en masse in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Nablus, and equal rights for Palestinians to immigrate and live en masse in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Nablus)

—equal political rights of national self-determination.

If one is truly concerned with the establishment of freedom and justice for all in Palestine-Eretz-Israel, I cannot see how that is compatible with the establishment of any state structure whatever. That it is incompatible with a democratic secular Jewish state as described in the Israeli declaration of independence is well testified by the miserable and abject oppressive conditions of the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab community prior to 1967 (then it was identified and identified itself as Israeli-Arab).

The contention that Jews have no reason to expect better treatment in a democratic secular Palestinian state is correct. Obviously, it is incompatible with the establishment of two oppressive and racist nation-states inhabited by a significant minority of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs respectively. I would contend that freedom and justice can be established equally for both peoples only in terms of an egalitarian (socialist) bi-governmental country wherein Israeli Jews wherever they live are equal participants in the Israeli-Jewish government, and Palestinian Arabs wherever they live, be it Tel Aviv or Nablus, are equal participants in the Palestinian-Arab government.

I would further suspect that Atallah Mansour would disagree with me, since otherwise I cannot explain his omission of the mention that an Israeli-Jewish and Palestinian-Arab joint and/or separate social revolutionary struggle for the above aims is a relevant possibility for both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

Uri Davis

Roxbury, Massachusetts

Atallah Mansour replies:

In Israel, one hears the story of a US delegate to the UN General Assembly who, in 1948, called upon “Moslems and Jews to settle their dispute in a Christian way.” I don’t know if the story is true but I remembered it while reading Uri Davis’s reply to my article. Of course I am in sympathy with Mr. Davis’s sentiments when he advocates that the Palestinian problem (as well as most international problems) be solved by implementing the UN Charter of Human Rights and by the creation of an open egalitarian society not only in Tel Aviv and Nablus but in New York, Moscow, and Tokyo as well. I sympathize with his vision of a pacifist world in which stupid, oppressive, and bureaucratic “state structures” would be abolished under a benign universal government.

So far, however, this view has been no more than a hope, and a dim one indeed. Mr. Davis has every right to continue to struggle for his beliefs. But when I discuss the future of my children, family, and friends, as I did in my article, I have the right not to wait for the triumph of his cause in Israel and Palestine, especially since he apparently has not yet decided whether the revolutionary movement he calls for should be carried on separately or jointly by Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

My own experience of the Jewish Israelis and Arab Palestinians suggests that the egalitarian “socialism” which Mr. Davis advocates, but does not really explain, will not come in my lifetime (to take an optimistic view) and that his vision of a Palestine without “any state structure whatsoever” is hard even to imagine. In fact none of the major forces on either side have shown great tolerance to egalitarian socialism, much less enthusiasm for it; no genuine socialist groups of any kind are making much progress in Israel or Palestine. When Mr. Davis returns to Jerusalem, on the other hand, he will find the young Jews recently arrived from the USSR praying at the wailing wall and many thousands of Moslems praying at El Aqsa mosque.

Since the perspective from which Mr. Davis writes seems to me an unreal one, I will not discuss the rest of his letter in detail. In my article I criticized the Israel government for suppressing the rights of the Palestinians. It should be clear that I would deplore any current effort to establish a Greater Israel including Gaza and the West Bank. I must add, however, that I would support such a Greater Israel on the condition that this state would fully respect the rights of all the Palestinians: the Israelis, the Jordanians, and the refugees. This solution may be acceptable to many Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs but would surely cause renewed racial clashes in the foreseeable future. The Palestinian half of the population would, rightly, demand a total change in the Jewish state structure. Such racial clashes would result, I am afraid, in bloodshed and partition. I am not a pacifist, as Mr. Davis is, but I hate war and want to prevent it.

In my article I made myself clear: creating two separate national states should not be an “eternal” solution. If the Palestinians have a state of their own, Mr. Davis and other citizens in both countries should be able to continue to work toward the dream of a peaceful union of both peoples, one which I share.

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