Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hello, I'm Israeli-Palestinian

Ali Jarbawi has long seen the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, as the best solution to the Middle East conflict. But the professor of political science from Bir Zeit university in the West Bank is not sure any more.

Jarbawi believes the two-state solution is on the verge of extinction, leaving Israelis and Palestinians facing a new reality – the prospect of life in a single binational state.

Jewish settlements, built in the West Bank, have entangled the people, making a solution based on two states look increasingly unlikely. Now, says Jarbawi, the separation barrier Israel is building deep inside the West Bank and which Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu wants to turn into a boundary between Israelis and Palestinians is final evidence that Israel is not interested in allowing the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

"Most Palestinians prefer the idea of separation because they want their own state," Jarbawi told IPS. "But Nethanyahu's idea of a two-state solution is to squeeze us into cantons in the West Bank. Given the choice between cantonisation and a one-state solution, Palestinians will go for the latter. We are at the edge of the two-state solution closing down."

The apparent collapse of yet another U.S. peace initiative in the Middle East, the seemingly unending Israeli-Palestinian bloodletting, and the approach of demographic parity between Jews and Arabs living in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea have all raised questions about the future and longevity of the two-state solution. These questions are being raised among Palestinians and Israelis, and on the pages of the world's leading newspapers and journals.

Jarbawi is not the only Palestinian warning about the imminent death of the two-state solution, which has long been supported by the international community as the preferred model for ending the conflict. Palestinian Prime Minister cautioned recently that if Nethanyahu took unilateral steps that included absorbing large chunks of the West Bank into Israel, the Palestinians would abandon their demand for their own, separate state and call for a single state with Israelis.

Pointing to Israel's settlement policy and the West Bank separation barrier, Palestinian Authority Chairman has warned that "time is running out for the two-state solution."

Some in Israel have dismissed these comments as a tactical ploy by Palestinian leaders to scare Israeli Jews. The threat: if Israelis do not agree to the creation of a Palestinian state, then higher Palestinian birth rates will ensure that in a decade Jews will be a minority in the area west of the Jordan River. There are currently 5.2 million Jews living in Israel, and 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, and a further 1.2 million Arabs who are citizens in Israel.

The Israeli left has long warned of what it calls the "demographic threat," arguing that if settlement construction does not cease and Israel fails to relinquish its control over the West Bank, it will ultimately slide into an apartheid-like reality.

Israel, they contend, might survive for some time, but it will cease to be a democracy, and like South Africa will become increasingly isolated and will ultimately crumble. The death of the two-state solution, therefore, effectively means the death of the Jewish state.

Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the Oslo peace accords – an unofficial peace plan unveiled last year that is based on the idea of two states – has warned that his latest plan is "perhaps the last chance for a fair division of the land between Jews and Palestinians before the creation of a Palestinian majority west of Jordan that will effectively make the country binational."

But this thinking has now also begun to penetrate right-wing ranks in Israel. Ehud Olmert of Kadima party said in an interview that "more and more Palestinians are uninterested in a negotiated, two-state solution."

Olmert said this meant a change from a struggle against occupation as they see it to a struggle for one-man-one-vote. "That is of course a much cleaner struggle, a much more popular struggle – and ultimately a much more powerful one," he said. "For us it would mean the end of the Jewish state." 

Some on the far right in Israel propose transferring Palestinians to Jordan, but they are a small minority. Jewish settler leaders, not unaware of demographics, have been suggesting various solutions, including giving Palestinians voting rights in Jordan.

That is a non-starter, given Palestinian demands for self-determination, Jordan's fear that it could become a Palestinian state – 60 percent of Jordanians are Palestinian – and the international community's backing for an independent Palestinian state. 

Some commentators have suggested that the demographic fear is now driving Sharon's latest plan announced last week to unilaterally dismantle Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

In making his decision, Nethanyahu might have read a recent poll that indicated Israeli Jews' fear of a binational scenario. The survey conducted at Tel Aviv University found that 67 percent of respondents feared a binational reality. Seventy-eight percent of Jews said they favoured a two-state solution; only 6 percent said they support a binational state. 

Not surprisingly, support for a binational state among Palestinians is higher, at around 30 percent. With demography on their side – Palestinian birth rates are higher than Jewish ones – they would ultimately become a majority in a single state. 

Arafat was also on record saying that "the womb of the Arab woman is my best weapon." Some Israelis point to this as proof that he had never been committed to the idea of two states.

Some Palestinian intellectuals and Israelis on the far left actually espouse a one-state solution, arguing it is preferable to separation. With the two peoples merged into a single entity, they contend, many of the vexing problems that now make the conflict seemingly insoluble would melt away. There would be no reason to argue over delineation of borders, or over control of Jerusalem, and it would not even be necessary to remove settlements. 

This is not Ali Jerbawi's preferred route to statehood and to solving the conflict. Since Israelis would not agree to a single state, he says. It would mean an "apartheid-like struggle" in which Palestinians substitute their demand for national self-determination with a demand for one-person-one-vote in a single state. "This type of struggle will take many years," he says. "We want to end Palestinian suffering." 

But in the absence of Israeli agreement to the creation of a viable Palestinian state – in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank – he is prepared to go the one-state route. "If that happens, then we will say to the Israelis, 'We will meet you in 10 to 15 years time with the demand for one-person-one vote in a single state'." 

By Peter Hirschberg

Will the One-State Solution become the Only Solution?

Tony Judt’s deliberately provocative 2003 New York Review of Books essay, “Israel: the Alternative,” is a lesson in the limits of American Jewry’s allowable discourse when it comes to Israel. Writing explicitly in the tradition of thought experiment, rather than policy proposal, about what he called an “alternative future,” Judt suggests that Jews and Arabs alike might be better off as citizens of a secular democratic state that encompassed both Israel and Palestine, in which all citizens had equal rights regardless of religion or national origin. For this, as his editor, Robert Silvers, recalled at a Paris conference in June, dedicated to Judt’s memory, Judt “was denounced as a traitor by the powers of the American Jewish establishment” and barred from publication by places like The New Republic.

The great and terrible irony of Judt’s suggestion is that while it was, in many respects, utopian — bi-nationalism does not work well in promising situations, much less between warring tribes with unequal power — the only alternative to it that can save the State of Israel from devolving into a form of apartheid is being purposely closed off by Israel’s current leadership.

While it is true that history offered no alternative to statehood in 1948 — there was no Arab equivalent to the brave and brilliant (albeit naive) “Ihud Group,” of the likes of Judah Magnes, Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt, willing to embrace bi-nationalism — neither side ever really adapted well to the new situation resulting from the creation of the State of Israel. For Palestinians who were forced from their homes by Israeli soldiers, or instructed to leave by their own leaders in anticipation of a quick return, the difficulty of accepting their dispossession from their ancestral homes is certainly understandable. What is required on their part is, simply, recognition of a painful reality. Those olive groves, those villages, those stone huts are gone forever and have been replaced by schools, factories, apartment complexes and concert halls.

For the Jews, however, the situation is more complicated. Until statehood became a reality, Zionism was never required to define its goals. Was it a national liberation movement for the Jewish people, allowing them to create a society where they could be free of persecution and in control of their own destiny in their biblical homeland? Or was it a movement to liberate — or, more accurately, conquer — the land itself, regardless of the cost not only to its previous inhabitants, but also to all the other values that modern Jews hold dear, including, most particularly, democracy and human and civil rights?

The refusal of the Palestinian leadership to get serious about a negotiated end to the conflict allowed these two versions of Zionism to co-exist without that conflict. But those days are over, and the tragedy of recent history is the fact that just as a majority of Palestinians have finally come to recognize that they must accept the inevitable and bargain from their position of relative weakness, the ascendant Zionist right has no interest whatsoever in peace, whatever the costs to Israel or to world Jewry, if it means parting with even an acre of “holy” land.

The Paris panel featured Sari Nusseibeh, the soft-spoken but quietly heroic Palestinian philosopher and president of East Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University. Nusseibeh saw Judt’s article as relevant, if only because it was becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how to implement a two-state solution given the aggressive land grabs by the Israel government in the West Bank, with its 300,000 settlers, and East Jerusalem, with its 200,000 more. The irony, as his fellow panelist, distinguished Israeli historian and peace activist Zeev Sternhell, wryly noted at about 11:45 a.m., was that if all that was necessary were to work out the details of the end of the occupation and the creation of two states based on the finality of the 1947 borders — that is, of the Zionism that liberates people rather than real estate —“Sari and I could conclude a peace agreement before lunch.”

And yes, while the complications arising from the power and influence of Hamas are real and worrisome, the fact is that recent revelations from documents known as the “Palestine Papers” reveal a remarkable willingness of the Palestinian leadership to compromise on fundamental questions once considered unthinkable. Three years ago, former Israeli diplomat and political philosopher Shlomo Avineri told me that one reason he was pessimistic about peace was the fact that for all the secret meetings and contacts between the two sides, “only one Palestinian” he knew had ever been willing to say aloud what everyone knows to be true: that for peace to come about, the Palestinians must accept a “token” right of return rather than the real thing. That one Palestinian was Nusseibeh.

I asked Nusseibeh over dinner how he had managed to stay alive and healthy while saying the unsayable in a society where the frequent penalty is not the petulance of Abraham Foxman and Marty Peretz, but a bullet to the brain. He told me that he had been asked to account for his words inside a refugee camp, where, though he understood that he might be putting his life on the line, he felt he had no choice lest he live a life of fear and shame. At the meeting, the assembled young militants told him that while they were furious for what he said, and while they, personally, did not share his views, they admired his courage “in saying aloud what we know our leaders say every day in private.”

Now that this Palestinian willingness to compromise on so fundamental a goal has been made public — and nobody has been shot — Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and millions of right-wing Zionists are demonstrating that they never really had any interest in compromise in the first place. It’s the land they want, pure and simple, democracy and human rights be dammed. And for that reason, given current trends, Tony Judt’s 2003 article now stands less as a “utopian” alternative future for pro-Zionist Jews worldwide than as the warning of the potentially dystopian one in a not-so-distant horizon.

By Eric Alterman – A distinguished Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and also writes a column for The Nation.

The Case for bi-nationalism

Why one state — liberal and constitutionalist — may be the key to peace in the Middle East

Gradually, some might say predictably, our attention is being drawn back to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This renewed focus is understandable. In response to the tragic events of September 11, the United States has tried to build and sustain a broad anti-terrorism coalition, and Israel's status is problematic for many of the countries in the coalition. Moreover, the Bush administration has made a series of statements since September 11 indicating a plan in the works for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. While the details of the plan have not been revealed, and Palestinians are skeptical, the idea of an independent Palestinian state—what is commonly referred to as the two-state solution—seems to be back, at least for now.  

And yet for many Palestinians, myself included, the two-state solution has already lost a great deal of its historic appeal. The political events and institutions subsequent to the Oslo Accords of 1993—all the painful renegotiation and implementation leading to the second intifada—are to my mind responsible for the shifting enthusiasm. The period since Oslo has revealed the "unrepresentativeness" of the Palestinian Authority; it has not generated meaningful territorial gains; and it has not resulted in any progress on the crucial question of the return of refugees. Moreover, developments since Oslo have raised serious questions about the attractions of a separate state as a vehicle for expressing Palestinian aspirations and advancing Palestinian interests. Thus we have seen the development of social and economic "structural dependency" between Israel and the Palestinian regions; the emergence of "overlapping domains of national consciousness" due to factors such as daily labor movement to and from Israel; and the emergence of a new Palestinian national elite that shares economic interests with the Israeli state apparatus.

All of this—both the political dead-ends of the Oslo process as well as greater economic integration and associated changes in consciousness—makes it worth our while, it seems to me, to reconsider the idea of bi-nationalism in Palestine. Bi-nationalism in this context expresses the idea that the land of Mandate Palestine should be transformed into a secular state—a constitutional-liberal state, with Arabs and Jews as its national citizens. Its famous maxim is "One Land for Two Peoples" and its most famous proponents are the Palestinian American writer Edward Said and Azmi Bishara, a Palestinian-Israeli member of the Israeli Knesset. The advocates of bi-nationalism typically distinguish it from the more familiar two-state solution, according to which two states, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, are imagined to coexist next to each other. It is also, of course, sharply distinguished from the current situation, in which a recognizable Israeli state coexists with disparate, partially autonomous, Palestinian areas within the West Bank and Gaza strip, while the remainder of the latter areas remains under the control of the Israeli army, whether its inhabitants are Palestinians, or Jews living in the largely isolated colonies commonly known as settlements.

With the failure of Oslo, and in the face of the post-September 11 conflict, bi-nationalism has garnered increasing support among Palestinians, but that increase thus far has been marginal. In a recent discussion of bi-nationalism, Salim Tamari argues that bi-nationalism has failed to attract broad Palestinian support because, as a political posture, it does not offer a "programmatic position but [is] simply the expression of a desired outcome": an ideal, not a plan. In addition, he argues that proponents of bi-nationalism do not address the problem of overcoming institutionalized Zionism, nor, on the other side, the difficulty of overcoming the general Palestinian resistance to being incorporated in a Europeanized and industrialized society. Moreover Tamari says, the bi-nationalist alternative involves giving up the struggle for military withdrawal from the occupied territories and the dismantling of colonial settlements. Even an independent Palestinian state of limited scope, Tamari says, has a better chance of launching these struggles through continual efforts to consolidate its territory and future re-negotiations of agreements that had been signed. And lastly, he says, bi-nationalism would weaken the bonds and trappings of Palestinian identity and force Palestinians to reconsider their Arab ties.

These criticisms of bi-nationalism all have some force. But despite the current limits on support for bi-nationalism — not only on the Palestinian side, but even more so on the Israeli side — I propose that we take it up seriously as a political project. While it now has the status of a "utopian" political proposal, talking about bi-nationalism in practical terms may force people to confront more seriously the limits of alternative approaches, and their own denial about those limits. Everyone agrees that circumstances are now disastrous. Moreover, there is considerable pressure to find a solution to the conflict, and much disquiet, not all of it publicly expressed, about the two-state solution. If bi-nationalism is a desirable outcome — as even its critics sometimes acknowledge — then it may have some chance of crystallizing opinion and emerging as a serious alternative.


Objections to bi-nationalism reflect an attachment to a particular understanding of de-colonization and colonial struggle. But this trajectory is neither necessary nor even, in the case of the Palestinians, strategically wise.

The standard model of de-colonization reflects the anti-colonial struggles of the twentieth century that culminated in the formal independence of many British and French colonies such as India, Egypt, and Algeria. The nationalist elites of the colony wrest a set of formal, governmental powers from the elites of the colonizer power, and exercise those powers over a formally delineated territory (the ex-colony). This shift in the locus of political authority typically follows a period of mass resistance to colonialism. The new territory then becomes the depository of the national identity of the newly de-colonized people, who are now "subject" to the authority of the new national elites (whose newly acquired formal powers are defined by international law).

On a substantive level, de-colonization is understood as a symbolic and material shift of colonized resources from the colonizers to the colonized. The new national elites of the ex-colony undertake to salvage what the anti-colonial movement had constructed as the "culture" of the colonized from the ravages of the colonizers, and to release the economic wealth of the ex-colony from the colonial grip and transfer it to its true owners, the citizens of the new nation-state. This usually takes place through pursuit of combined strategies of economic growth and redistribution by the new elites, with the post-colonial state playing a large role — as in Egypt and India — in developing and implementing these strategies.

While the transfer of powers to the new nationalist elites has sometimes created a margin of improvement in the lives of the citizens of the new nation-state (in income, health, and education), these improvements have historically proven to be neither lasting nor as substantial as one might have hoped. Some analysts argue that the ability of the new elites to create a more dignified life for their citizens was seriously curtailed by the continuing intervention in these territories by the imperial powers of the day: that de-colonization simply meant a shift from official political subordination to unofficial subordination to an outside power (neo-colonialism). Moreover, nationalist elites often proved to be either unwilling or unable or simply too corrupt to pursue a serious project of development and modernization in these new states. Such projects often required the ability to resist or circumvent the demands and needs of the imperial centers (imposed in the form of international trade treaties, military deployments, oil interests, and so on). But the skill and resolve required for such maneuvering have often been lacking.

These limitations by themselves do not condemn the nationalist project. For Palestinians to have a state — to enjoy the trappings of national independence over a formally delineated territory (that occupied by Israel in 1967) with East Jerusalem as their capital — would undoubtedly be a substantial achievement. They would have the experience of being equal in their national destiny (and consequently humanity) to that of other previously colonized people: no trifling matter. And they would also conceivably see the same margin of improvement in their circumstances—greater income, improved health, better education and housing. Again nothing that should be dismissed too lightly.

But for Palestinians, the national solution now seems to have reached a dead end. Oslo proved the nationalist goal unattainable. The Oslo accords of 1993 were signed by the PLO and Israel, and were designed to be implemented over time. The terms of the accords suggested a progressive liberation of Palestinians from Israeli colonial control through a piecemeal withdrawal of the Israeli army from the areas occupied by Israel in 1967. Negotiation over issues deemed too controversial, such as the status of Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian refugees to return home (from exile in Lebanon, for example), were deferred to a future time.

The period since Oslo has repeatedly revealed that the Israeli political and military class has no serious intention of conceding to their Palestinian counterparts any set of powers, nor any stretch of a decently contiguous territory that would allow that nationalist project to succeed, even on a modest scale. The eruption of the second intifada has simply, to my mind, called the bluff of the Israelis. It has both revealed and put an end to the Israeli elites' strategy in Oslo of what I would call neo-dominance — from direct military occupation and economic hegemony before Oslo, to partial withdrawal from population centers and economic siege after Oslo. The withdrawal would never be more than partial. What distinguishes the Israeli response to the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle at this particular historical juncture from its French or British historic colonial equivalent is its unwillingness to permit a historic shift to neo-colonialism to occur, via the route of Palestinian formal national independence. Similarities in the way Likud and Labor conducted themselves in the Oslo negotiations and subsequent discussions about implementation show that it would be a mistake to attribute this policy to one party (Likud) rather the other (Labor). Indeed, the political migration to the right of many members of the Israeli peace movement as the second intifada broke out, and the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister, indicate the breadth of opposition to Palestinian independence outside the political class. Israel has yet to create its post-colonizer liberal elite.

So even if the two-state strategy succeeded, its payoff would be limited. Moreover, that strategy no longer shows much promise. But is bi-nationalism a more promising alternative given the contemporary structure of the Israeli military and political class?

Why a bi-national state?

Endorsing bi-nationalism would mean a fundamental shift in the Palestinian political agenda. Rather than basing their claims on a right to national self-determination and appealing to international law to arbitrate their relationship with the Israelis, Palestinians would appeal to constitutional liberalism with its conception of individuals — whatever their race, religion, or ethnicity — as equal, rights-bearing members of a single political society. Rather than attaching their claims to a contiguous territory — as national subjects, over which their own elites could exercise authority as national elites — Palestinians would attach their claims to Israeli resources as national citizens of the state of Israel (as a historically persecuted minority).

Several considerations suggest that the shift to bi-nationalism holds greater promise for Palestinians than an independent state:

Generals or Judges?

A change in Palestinian political discourse would carry with it a fundamental shift in the institutional focus of Palestinian politics. When Palestinians try to establish their existence as independent national subjects of an independent state, Israeli military generals emerge as the primary players in the negotiations. If they set out to negotiate their lives within the state of Israel as national citizens, Israeli judges would play the primary role. Palestinians would present their legal claims (constitutional rights) before a judicial forum. Judges are better than generals for Palestinians, for several reasons.

The Israeli military establishment is very effective in mobilizing Israelis around exaggerated concerns about state security. The appetite of Israel's security interests has proven to be insatiable. Israeli demands for crippling security arrangements and land (and water) concessions would likely render a so-called independent Palestinian state neither independent nor truly Palestinian.

Moreover, in the two-state world, Israeli generals would be governed in their bargaining with the Palestinians by "the rules of war" (informed by the background fact of Israel's military superiority). Such rules would allow Israel to utilize its superior power to extract concessions from the Palestinians in a way that the international community would find acceptable and typical of the relationship between two states at war, as distinct from two communities in conflict within a single state.

In contrast, Israeli judges — while historically preoccupied with balancing liberalism (committed to equality) with Zionism (a nationalist movement the historic expression of which has often been racist/anti-Arab2) — are constrained by Israel's international reputation as the only "democracy" in the Middle East. Israeli elite judges tend to look to their Western, primarily American, counterparts as models, and have become concerned with the latter's judgment of their performance. For example, in the Qa'dan case, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that regulations and laws that allowed only Jews to live in land administered by the Jewish National Fund were discriminatory. Qa'dan himself was a Palestinian citizen of Israel who was prohibited from leasing a house in such an area; the bi-nationalist Palestinian legal posture would be modeled on the position of Palestinian Israeli citizens, who insist that liberalism trump Zionism. Indeed, Palestinian Israelis have made some headway in overturning the Israeli judicial rationalization that allowed them to be treated as extra-state citizens—an argument based, as ever, on state security.

In a nutshell, bi-nationalism would be better for Palestinians, because dealing with Barak the judge (head of the Israeli Supreme Court) is better than dealing with Barak the Army General/Prime Minister. A diffuse liberalism exercises some constraint on the former and none on the latter. And while some constraint is not enough, it is better than no constraint at all.

Material Gains

Palestinians would be far better off economically, in my view, if they attached their legal claims directly to the resources of the state of Israel as national budget (to be distributed, after a struggle, equally and justly among its national subjects, Jews and non-Jews alike) — rather than hoping to benefit from the pursuit of national economic development within the boundaries of a nominally independent Palestinian state.

Israel is, after all, a very wealthy country with a gross national product close to a post-industrial European state. For Palestinians to be partial beneficiaries of these resources — even with the disadvantage of being historically disenfranchised and territorially dispossessed within Israel —would likely be materially better than to be citizens of a poor and thirsty state, bound in economically dependent and hostile relations with a very powerful neighbor. The pursuit by many Palestinian Jerusalemites of an Israeli identity that would allow them access to the resources of a rich welfare state is a case in point. In other words, in the new dispensation, Palestinians would be like immigrants to a wealthy metropolis rather than nationals of a poor third-world country. Not that I idealize the status of immigrants. I am perfectly aware that "racism" is the organizing principle of the life of the dark immigrant to the metropolitan center (as is the case now with Palestinian Israelis). Still, life for the average Palestinian stands to improve.

Matters look similar when we shift attention from distribution to growth. The pursuit of economic growth by a newly independent Palestinian state would be seriously curtailed by the neoliberal development projects of the World Bank and the IMF, not to mention the International trade treaties, all of which would eventually be imposed on the new state. Economic growth in the post-colonial context often, though not always, involves a significant role for the state. But the professional representatives of neo-liberalism and international trade are usually antagonistic to substantial state involvement in regulating and protecting the economy. In contrast, Israel already has in place a developed and sufficiently regulated economy (admittedly in the process of being deregulated) that would prove to be of great benefit to the national newcomers, the Palestinians.

An independent state would also be less advantageous when it comes to labor market regulation. A Palestinian state would most likely promote employment for Palestinian citizens by continuing to export a mass of cheap and unprotected labor for the Israeli economy; as citizens of an independent Palestinian state, Palestinian workers would continue to earn their income by crossing the border. Indeed, at the moment, the interests of Israeli military generals in setting up checkpoints and sieges converge with the interests of Israeli employers who benefit from cheap and unprotected Palestinian labor. The military blockades create borders, and borders make labor cheap. This labor pool is now — and under a two-state solution would remain — outside the scope of Israeli labor regulation because of its foreign status. It seems unlikely that the Palestinian elite of a new state would be able to extract a protective regulatory regime for these workers in Israel: they would be too afraid of losing the "leverage" that comes from supplying cheap labor.

Bi-nationalism, in contrast, would offer the possibility of labor alliances inside of Israel with other groups of unprotected workers and would allow Palestinians to acquire in time the same benefits and protections as Israel's current domestic labor force. Instead of having Palestinian ministers negotiate trade deals and protective arrangements (from a position of weakness) across national borders, Palestinian political representatives, in shifting political alliances, would press for labor market regulations, and for new programs of education and training to upgrade the skills of Palestinian workers.

Finally, a bi-national state would foster alliances between Palestinians currently under occupation and Palestinian Israelis to combat discriminatory Israeli land and housing policies. The Israeli state's policies of land expropriation, control of water resources, and distribution of land and housing benefits within its boundaries (undefined as they are) strikingly correspond to those pursued in its capacity as an occupying force in the West Bank and Gaza. The latter is a simple continuation of the former, though in Israel proper there are greater efforts to rationalize land, water, and housing polices through legislation. Such policies have consistently favored Ashkenazi Jews at the primary expense of Palestinians (who have historically owned much of the land and the water) and Mizrahi Jews (who have historically received a smaller share of the Jewish Israeli pie). A civil rights agenda within a bi-national state would condemn Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza as forms of discrimination in the distribution of land and water resources, rather than as invasions of national territory. Reconfiguring the complex schemes of benefit distribution that these settlements are based on (in terms of the ethnicity of the users, the nature of land and water use, transportation benefits, access to benefits of Israeli welfare state, etc.) to remedy Palestinian historic dispossession is conceivable through a discourse of civil rights. Obvious allies in this movement would be Mizrahi Jews.

American Appeal

Bi-nationalism is more promising for Palestinians because the mobilizing agenda for political activism would appeal to "civil rights" rather than the current "anti-colonial struggle to achieve national independence." And that appeal would, I expect, be met with greater sympathy and support in the United States.

The United States greatly matters in this Israel-Palestine context not only because it is the world's only superpower, but also because it has been so receptive to Zionist mobilization in support of Israel at all societal levels: the elite (political and economic class), the intelligentsia and mass culture. (The official two billion dollars of annual aid is only part of a larger package — financial, military and otherwise — that Israel receives from the U.S. on a regular basis). Indeed, Israel-identified American Jews are established members of the American elite and intelligentsia.

The mobilizing agenda of "civil rights" for Palestinians as nationals of Israel would have greater resonance in the United States than an agenda of "national independence," in part because Americans in general lack a firm grip on such concepts as "colonialism" and "anti-colonial struggle." Not possessing a national consciousness as a colonial power (in contrast to the contemporary British and French), while at the same time thinking of their nation as an ex-colony (of Britain) that has done very well despite having been a colony, most Americans don't quite grasp the racialized and dehumanizing bond between colonizer and colonized. In particular, they find it hard to understand the bloodiness of anti-colonial resistance. I spend a lot of classroom time explaining to my American students that colonialism is bad, and that colonial powers fight to keep their colonies.

But most Americans do understand well the idea of a civil rights struggle. One of the more important ways in which Americans acquire a national (and nationalist) self-consciousness is by learning about the history of the American civil rights movement. Martin Luther King is a staple of contemporary American political pedagogy, and the distinction between the civilly disobedient King and the nationalist freedom fighter Malcolm X is fundamental. A Palestinian civil rights movement based on a King-like strategy of long-term civil disobedience would have the potential to change the political balance in the United States in several ways: (1) within the community of liberals committed to civil rights, it may create a division between groups more and less strongly identified with Israel; (2) it may force a crisis within the consciousness of many progressive Zionist Jews by bringing to the surface the suppressed tensions between liberalism and Zionism; (3) it could create the possibility of identification with the Palestinians by the American black intelligentsia and middle class; and (4) it could make it more difficult to sustain the current demonization of Palestinians and idealization of Israelis in American mass culture.

To be sure, the circumstances of American blacks at the time of the civil rights movement were different in important ways from the current conditions of Palestinians. Some 10 percent of the soldiers in the Union Army were black, and black soldiers played a similarly large role in World War II. Moreover, despite segregation and the black belt in the South, black Americans were geographically very dispersed. Furthermore, black and white Americans spoke the same language and had broadly similar religious affiliations. And the civil rights movement—as King's "I Have A Dream" speech powerfully underscored—expressed the longstanding identification of blacks as Americans. The differences from the condition of Palestinians are clear. Still, it remains true that a demand to be treated with respect as equal citizens, pursued through civil disobedience, is more likely to resonate in the United States than the forcible insistence on having a separate state.

National Imagination

A bi-national state would allow Palestinians to identify with all of Palestine, whereas an independent state would force a contraction of Palestinian national imagination. While some Israelis have colonially extended their imagined nation to include the West Bank (Judea and Samaria in their discourse) as part of the "rightful" land of Israel, bi-nationalism would allow the Palestinian national imaginary to make a similar but reverse move by reclaiming land they were brutally called upon to dis-identify with after the creation of Israel. Jaffa (in Israel) becomes the fantasized extension of Ramallah (in the West Bank), Haifa (in Israel) the extension of Hebron (in the West Bank) and Galilee the extension of Nablus.

How to make the shift

How can Palestinians make the transition from a political agenda based on national independence to one based on civil rights? The most crucial point in this context is to learn from the language and political strategies of Palestinian Israelis in their movement of protest against the discrimination of the Israeli state. Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel lived under emergency rule from 1948, when Israel was created, until 1964. They suffered all forms of blatant discrimination often rationalized and justified by the Israeli political class and judiciary as required by "national security" considerations. An elaborate alliance with Palestinian Israelis and the advocates for their rights (such as Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) is of paramount importance. All of the following activist strategies would be conducted in collaboration with Palestinian Israelis. Palestinians would:

1. Delete "Right to self-determination" and "Independent State" from the placards and replace them with "Equal Rights for Palestinians and Israelis," "One Land for Two Peoples," "Human Rights Means Equal Rights," and "Occupation = Apartheid = Discrimination."

2. Stop using stones, bullets, and explosives, and instead use their bodies, sitting or standing, as a peaceful mass, unarmed (except for placards), occupying a space in protest, a space they are not supposed to occupy. Example: check points, Jewish settlements, land in the process of confiscation, house in the process of demolition, lines of closure, encircled religious sites, etc.

3. Use their bodies in manual labor to reverse the effects of siege and closure. Walk en masse to the next village where they're not supposed to go, fill en masse the trenches that isolate a village, break down en masse army earth barriers that besiege a Palestinian population, replant en masse olive trees that have been uprooted, etc.

4. Create a new flag modeled along the lines of a pastiche of the current Israeli flag and the Palestinian one to be used by the movement and pitched as the flag of the new democratic state.

5. Organize en masse to fill out fake application forms requesting Israeli citizenship to be mailed to the offices of the Israeli Military Governor in the West Bank and Gaza, and to the Ministry of Interior in Israel. Thousands, tens of thousands, a million!

6. Organize en masse to fill out application forms to be reunited (through the return of the refugees) with family members living in exile, external or internal. A Palestinian shift from an independent state to a bi-national state agenda would self-consciously incorporate Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps outside of the territories of mandatory Palestine as equally entitled to citizenship in the new state. Refugees are in effect severed members of Palestinian families who have been prohibited from reunion with their families through a set of arbitrary and coercive policies pursued by the state of Israel. They are also entitled claimants in what would be a political movement demanding redistribution of land and housing benefits as a remedy for their historic dispossession. Obvious activist strategies for these refugees to pursue from their own exilic sites would be 1,4, and 5 above.

7. Create an organization focused on Palestinians that mimics the work of the Anti-Defamation League. This organization would take on the discourse of the Israeli media, political and military class, intelligentsia, and school curricula in Israel and argue that their representation of the Palestinians and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict amounts to racism.

8. Create forums that would engage and attempt to forge alliances with the Israeli left. One of the enabling aspects of a struggle pitched as "civil rights" (as opposed to "nationalism") is that it raises several possibilities for cross-national alliances. Obvious groups to target would be Israeli human rights advocates who currently demand equal rights for Palestinian Israelis. Others would be activists who advocate human rights for Palestinians under occupation and call for the right of Palestinians to have their own state. Such groups have gone a long way in overcoming the military-induced fear for the "security" of the state by showing willingness to incorporate some Palestinians in their state and to allow the rest to have their own state adjacent to Israel. An attempt should be made to push them to adopt a position that advocates incorporation of all Palestinians within the Israeli state. The ethno-phobia that underlies exaggerated fears about state security must be taken on bluntly and directly.

A brief outline of the new state

What would this new state, this new Israel, look like? I have proposed that constitutional liberalism would provide the political philosophy for a state that includes all Palestinians as equal members. But this philosophy—as we know from comparing constitutional liberal states—can be translated into a relatively wide range of institutional arrangements. Here, I present only one of them, taking the United States as a useful comparative model.

First, concerns over the fate of the cultural identity of the Palestinian community (its Arabness), if its members were incorporated as citizens within the state of Israel, could be accommodated through the conception of the new state as federal in its constitutional structure. The United States would be a conceivable model to emulate.

Today in the area historically know as Mandatory Palestine, regions of Jewish settlement are for the most part distinct and separated from the regions of Palestinian settlement. Each region could be delineated as a separate administrative unit (like the states in the United States). Such Jewish and Palestinian units would enter into a "deal" with the central government according to which they acquire a set of jurisdictional powers allowing them to administer their units relatively independently. For example, they would administer their educational and cultural institutions, allowing Palestinian units to reconstruct their contemporary cultural "identity" in a manner that self-consciously incorporates its unique Arabness, Islamicity, and Christendom. (But also Eastern Jewishness, opening the possibility that some Mizrahi Jews would choose to live in these administrative units rather than in the European Jewish dominated ones). A fundamental right that citizens of the new federal state would acquire is the freedom of movement and the right to reside in the unit of their own choice.

Federalism would not simply provide a venue for expressing cultural differences. In addition, administrative units would be given, through the federal constitutional arrangement, relatively autonomous powers to develop their own economic strategies with aid from the federal government.

Finally, in order for Israel to transform itself into a federal state that treats its citizens equally, some transfer of resources would have to take place from the rich Jewish "units" to the poor (and thirsty) Palestinian ones. This transfer would help to stabilize the future state and prevent it from disintegrating into conflict (as is the case today). But it is also morally required to do so, to accommodate the claims of the Palestinians who have been unjustly dispossessed and exiled.

The transfer could take place in two stages. At the moment of the founding of the federal state, Palestinian refugees would be given the option of return to "Palestine," now become the federal state of Israel. For those who wish not to do so, a fund would be established to compensate them for properties lost and injuries suffered as a result of decades of dispossession. The Holocaust claims campaign could provide a model. Those who wish to return would live in the unit of their own choosing and enjoy the benefits of Israeli citizenship within the new federal structure. Needless to say, the number of those choosing to return would largely depend on the amount of compensation offered.

Second, a tax system would be worked out within the federal state that would ensure the transfer of resources over time from the rich (Jewish) units to the poor (Palestinian) ones. Again the U.S. state and federal tax structure could provide the model. The federal government would use the taxes it collects, disproportionately paid by the richer units, to assist the poorer units through federal programs. Such money would help the poorer units to overcome their historic disadvantages in areas ranging from infrastructure to educational institutions. Through such a system, a gradual "reimbursement" process would begin to compensate for the historic injuries Israel has inflicted on the Palestinians.

Warrior and citizen

Many readers, especially the Palestinian ones, are likely to find a paradox implicit in my position. On the one hand, I am proposing an almost unforgivably self-indulgent exercise in fantasy. "It would never happen, the Israelis would never accept this," many will say. On the other hand, I am proposing a risky shift in Palestinian political strategy. In essence, I am proposing that the Palestinians give up the "warrior ethic" demanded by the political strategy of national independence: courage that involves staring death in the eye. What the Palestinian kids call martyrdom for Palestine. In its place, I am proposing that Palestinians adopt the ethic of the legal claimant: rights-obsessed, constitution-fixated, friend of the lawyer, unwelcome but tireless visitor to the courtroom.

The shift is profound and the risk is big, it could go wrong in a million ways. But it is a risk worth taking. After all, what do they — we — have now?

I dedicate this piece (peace) to all those kids who died for Palestine. They will forever be my heroes.

By Lama Abu-Odeh - Professor of law at Georgetown University.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Which kind of bi-national State?

In the rush of refreshing statements heard lately, the warnings have come from the length of the political spectrum - from Ami Ayalon to Ehud Olmert and the Geneva accord initiators and Jewish intellectuals in America - Israel faces "a threat that could spell the end of the Jewish state," meaning the danger of the binational state. Within a few years, there will be a Palestinian majority between the Jordan and the Mediterranean and according to Olmert "more and more Palestinians are no longer interested in a solution of two states for two peoples." The result is "a disaster - one state for two people.

"The vast majority of public opinion rejects that option and the academic sector is revolted by the binational concept, "which hasn't solved any conflict in the world and does not work anywhere except in Switzerland." The opposition is so strong and emotional that seemingly there's no need to even define what kind of regime it would be and what the term "one state for two peoples" might mean. Examining various regimes included in the binational model might show perhaps that one or more of the options could actually please some of those who meanwhile so vehemently denounce the binational approach as a disaster.

The connection between losing the Jewish demographic majority and the fear of the demand for equal voting rights for everyone - one man, one vote - that would bring an end to the Jewish state shows that the type of regime identified with binationalism is a classic liberal regime of individual rights in a unitary, centralized state, without any regard for ethnic-collective rights.

That's the kind of regime that replaced the apartheid government in South Africa and it works with relative success. If the Palestinians do indeed force the Israelis to impose such a model, as the blacks did in South Africa, it would indeed spell the end of the Jewish state in the sense of its ethnic dominance and other national privileges.

However, it is difficult to assume that such a situation would evolve in reality because the State of Israel today without the territories seemingly has a liberal democracy, but the Jewish community in it made sure to impose an "ethnic democracy" that gave the Arabs second class citizenship.

The fear of the loss of the majority has already yielded plans for campaigns against the danger, such as the projects for increasing the Jewish birth rate, granting voting rights to expatriates or even to Jews wherever they may be. The chance of fulfilling the unitary model is nil. But the effort to identify binationalism only with that model is deliberate, meant to prevent any debate about other, more attractive alternatives.

One such alternative is a system that recognizes collective ethnic-national rights and maintains power sharing on the national-central level, with defined political rights for the minority and sometimes territorial-cantonal divisions. That model, called "consociational democracy" has not succeeded in many places, but lately has been applied successfully to reach agreements in ancient ethnic-national conflicts such as Bosnia, through the Dayton agreement, and Northern Ireland, with the Good Friday agreement. That should be food for thought for the experts who contemptuously wave off the bi-national option.

Why did arrangements based on one state for two peoples work in various methods and places - South Africa, Bosnia, and Northern Ireland - while the Oslo accords, based on territorial division, achieved at the same time, collapsed?

The option of power sharing and division into federated cantons is closer to the model of the territorial division of two states but it avoids the surgery, so it allows the existence of soft borders, and creates a deliberate blurring that eases dealing with symbolic issues, the status of Jerusalem or the questions of refugees and the settlers. The mutual recognition allows preservation of the national-cultural character on the national level and preservation of the ethnically homogenous regions. Everything depends, of course, on recognition being mutual and symmetric.

Those who don't recognize and accept intercommunal equality propose a third model of binationalism - even though they rise up against the very idea. They suggest cultural and civic local autonomy, but without voting in the Knesset, or alternatively, voting in Jordan, the "real Palestinian state." That is Menachem Begin's original autonomy plan, or the "functional partition" proposed by Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres, a plan being implemented nowadays through the Palestinian Authority. That model has another version in the form of the "Palestinian state" defined by the separation fence: four cantons under Israel's indirect control. That's also a model for binationalism camouflaged by the division into "two states."

And there's a fourth model, which can be called "undeclared binationalism." It's a unitary state controlled by one dominant national group, which leaves the other national group disenfranchised and subject to laws "for natives only," which for the purposes of respectability and international law are known as laws of "belligerent occupation." The convenience of this model of binationalism is that it can be applied over a long period of time, meanwhile debating the threat of the "one state" and the advantages of the "two states," without doing a thing. That's the situation nowadays. But the process is apparently inevitable. Israel and the Palestinians are sinking together into the mud of the "one state." The question is no longer whether it will be binational, but which model to choose.

By Meron Benvenisti

Caminho para a Paz

Apesar de não ser nova, a idéia de um Estado bi-nacional volta a ser discutida, mas a região avança mesmo é para um novo apartheid entre judeus e palestinos

Há três anos um ex-prefeito de Jerusalém escreveu que o importante não era saber se um dia haveria um Estado binacional Israel-Palestina, mas que tipo de bi-nacionalismo seria colocado em prática. Diversas obras defendem a proposta. Todas elas partem da mesma constatação: os fracassos de acordos como o de Oslo e o fatiamento dos territórios palestinos ocupados. A idéia de um Estado binacional não é nova. Ela nasceu nos anos 1920, entre um grupo de intelectuais sionistas de esquerda. Eles concebiam o sionismo como a busca de uma redenção judaica espiritual e cultural, sob a mão ferrenha da justiça. Apesar de os defensores da opção binacional terem sido minoritários na política sionista durante o mandato britânico, conseguiram fazer-se ouvir no campo internacional, e em 1947 compareceram diante do comitê especial das Nações Unidas sobre a Palestina, que recomendou a divisão das terras.

Pronunciaram-se enfaticamente contra a divisão e defenderam um Estado binacional na região. Defendiam, como fez a Grã-Bretanha em 1922, a criação de um conselho legislativo baseado na representação proporcional. Pleiteavam especificamente direitos políticos iguais, em oposição aos direitos nacionais, que se recusavam em conceituar em termos territoriais. A idéia de um Estado binacional não saiu do papel.

O plano de divisões das Nações Unidas falou mais alto e só foi ressuscitado em nova forma em 1968, com o apelo da Organização pela Libertação da Palestina (OLP) em favor de um Estado secular democrático para os palestinos. Mas a idéia que trazia a noção de um Estado para todos os seus cidadãos (judeus, cristãos e mulçumanos) foi abandonada por falta de vigor político.

O fracasso da opção do Estado Único foi muitas vezes atribuído ao seu idealismo e à sua inabilidade para lidar com a vida real.

A longa marcha dos palestinos para o reconhecimento e estabelecimento de um Estado culminou com o processo de Paz de 1993, conhecido com o Acordo de Oslo. Talvez a maior e única conquista, como expressou o primeiro-ministro Ytzhak Rabin, que israelenses e palestinos “estão predestinados a viver juntos sobre o mesmo solo, na mesma terra”. Mas não deu certo, e o acordo acabou transformando o sonho da solução de dois Estados no pesadelo de um novo Apartheid.

O que torna o Estado bi-nacional atraente e talvez inevitável, ao contrário do que ocorreu em 1920, quando a proposta foi feita pela primeira vez, é a própria idéia de que a divisão não conseguiu oferecer ao sionismo e ao nacionalismo palestino o que procuravam. Apesar do compromisso histórico de 1993, os palestinos não conseguiram obter um Estado independente viável. 

Diferentemente da situação de antes de 1947, quando a divisão ainda não tinha sido tentada, em 2006 a solução dos dois Estados materializou-se na dominação israelense. O nacionalismo palestino também demonstrou a incapacidade de sua liderança — atingida por incompetência e corrupção —, o que fez com que as lutas internas predominassem nos territórios. No que diz respeito ao sionismo, a divisão parece não ter dado aos judeus a segurança que Israel lhes prometeu. Desde o começo da segunda intifada, em 2000, mais de mil civis israelenses e 4 mil palestinos foram mortos em atentados suicidas e ações do exército de Israel. O principal interesse da proposta binacional é a sua capacidade de redefinir o conceito de Estado e priorizar a democracia em relação ao nacionalismo. Mas é esse justamente o problema. Um grande desafio. Uma vez que esse conflito, como tantos outros, continua a ser territorial. O fator étnico, e mais ainda o religioso, se sobrepõe ainda mais.

O problema, entretanto, está em três atores políticos-chaves que estão longe de se converterem à idéia de Estado Único. Os israelenses, que não vão abrir mão do que já foi conquistado, deixam escancarado que querem a separação.

Prova disso é o muro que separa Israel dos territórios palestinos, e que ao final da construção terá mais de 700 quilômetros de extensão. A comunidade internacional reitera seus planos para uma solução de dois Estados justos. Mas não expressa vontade real de implementá-la ou monitorá-la.

Enquanto isso, as lideranças palestinas lutam internamente para se redefinirem, enquanto Hammas e Fatah continuam se engalfinhando.

Nas condições atuais, a região avança mesmo é para o abismo de um novo apartheid. Entretanto, nada melhor que o tempo para mostrar que o Estado bi-nacional é e sempre será, sob todos os aspectos, a solução ideal para os dois povos.

Por: Herbert Moraes – Correspondente da TV Record em Israel

Can Jews and Arabs Live Together?

The title-question seems to be the greatest doubt formulated against the idea of the bi-national state. The question, then, is raised as a rhetorical one, and implies: “no, they cannot live together. Therefore it is best for them to separate.”
I happen to think this is the wrong question. The real question is “can Jews and Arabs NOT live together?” Can they – not whether they wish it, or what they would prefer, if they could choose anything in the world, but quite simply and directly: is there any possibility for a complete separation of Jews and Arabs?
The answer implied in my own formulated rhetorical question is, of course: no, there is no such possibility whatsoever. Therefore, they are simply going to have to make the best of it.
The riots in Acre (Akko) on Yom Kippur are yet another proof of this. The opponents of the bi-national state argue that separation is the only way. That any attempt of co-existence will only lead to further violence and further bloodshed. Yet no separation plan offers separation between Jews and Palestinians in Acre. Or in Haifa for that matter, or in Jaffa.
If the two-state solution will ever be reached and implemented, a mass of Israelis will be appalled to realize the following day that despite the separation, there is still a considerable minority (approximately 20%) of Palestinians that are full citizens of the Jewish State.
How does one explain that Jews and Arabs must learn to live together in Acre, in the Galilee, in the ill-named municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and are unable to do so in the West Bank? What are the unique traits of the Gaza strip, that Jews had to be evacuated from it for the sake of peace, when 10 or 20 miles away from it Jews and Arabs are compelled to live together as equal citizens, at least by declaration?
The conclusion is inescapable: the separationists and the proponents of the two-state model are not interested in whether or not Jews and Arabs can live together. Their concern is maintaining a Jewish majority, in order to justify Jewish supremacy, which is no longer tenable under current circumstances. For this purpose, they deny that Jews and Arabs can live together, and must live together, and will live together – like it or not – even after a foundation of a Jewish State. For this purpose they deny the self-proclaimed Palestinian identity of Israeli Palestinians, deluding themselves that a blue ID has the power to engender a new identity, a new ethnicity, a source of identification stemming from nowhere, stripped of roots, and going nowhere. For this purpose, they also support a Palestinian state that will not be sustainable financially, militarily, and that will have the strangest borders a country ever has seen.
Indeed, even after this state is formed, it would be wrong to expect Jews and Arabs not to live together. Not only because of the Palestinians who hold an Israeli citizenship, but because these two small countries will need to cooperate in order to prosper. Does it make sense for a Palestinian state to import and export by sea only through Gaza, without making use of Israeli ports, some of which are closer to Palestinian towns? Does it make sense for Palestinians not to use the port of the Red Sea, which will be solely under Israeli sovereignty? Does one imagine that these neighboring nations will not have cultural exchange treaties, joint sport matches, or free road travel between them, as is usually the case in neighboring states?
The question, then, is not whether Jews and Arabs can live together. Under circumstances which neither side chose or would have chosen, Palestinians and Israelis share the same land. In fact, a very small piece of land. Each side has to face reality: that the other side is not going anywhere. A Jewish return to Europe, as some Palestinians fantasize, is not going to happen. A mass deportation of Palestinians, as some Israelis fantasize, is not going to happen. Perhaps it would have been better not to live together. Perhaps this happenstance of history has enriched both nations in more ways than they are willing to admit. But in either case, this is the situation. The question on the table should be: how do we manage it? How do we facilitate co-existence? Separation – by peace treaties, by deportation, by genocide or by unilateral measures such as evacuations or wall-constructions – is not an option. Two-State, bi-national state – these are models, and they can be implemented for better or for worse. The important thing is to generate dialogue and facilitate co-existence. Can Jews and Arabs live together? They have no choice. It is high time they admitted it.

By Arieh Amihay

Friday, July 1, 2011

The bi-national state is the only fair solution

Israeli journalist Amira Hass does not consider herself a rebel. But the fact that she lived in the Gaza Strip for three years, and now lives in Ramallah --both Palestinian areas which most Israelis will never set foot in -- doesn't exactly put her in step with her fellow citizens.

And when she says she moved to Gaza because "I fell in love with the Gazans -- how warm and welcoming they are," when the majority of Israelis are unable to count one Palestinian among their friends, it becomes absolutely clear that she does not espouse the standard Israeli party line.

Hass, who was in town recently to speak in conjunction with the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, discussed her work and her views in an interview.

An award-winning correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Hass is the author of "Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land under Siege," which was reissued recently in paperback.

Her decision to move to the place so reviled by Israelis that a common way to say "go to hell" in Hebrew is lech l'Aza -- literally, "go to Gaza" -- was a professional one.

Gaza was her reportorial beat in 1992 when Israel deported some Islamic activists and placed the 147-square-mile strip, home to some 1 million inhabitants, under curfew and a closure. No journalists were allowed in to report on life under the closure. But with her contacts, Hass managed to slip across the border.

After the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, Hass began going to Gaza several times a week. Assigned to cover the transition to Palestinian rule, she realized that her stories would lack the immediacy of those written by someone actually living through the changes.

"How could I understand a society and write about it without actually being in the middle of it?" she writes in the introduction of her book.

"I was, it seemed, like any other journalist sent to cover a foreign country. To most Israelis, though, my move seemed outlandish, even crazy, for they believed I was surely putting my life at risk."

The only child of Holocaust survivors who were active in the Communist Party, Hass said the principles of equality were strong in her household, factors that were a "melange" affecting her upbringing. She was raised on her parents' stories as refugees and survivors -- her mother was at Bergen-Belsen and her father was confined in a ghetto. But she also heard about those who took a stand against injustice, and those who were merely bystanders.

"In the end, my desire to live in Gaza stemmed neither from adventurism nor from insanity, but from that dread of being a bystander, from my need to understand, down to the last detail, a world that is, to the best of my political and historical comprehension, a profoundly Israeli creation," she writes. "To me, Gaza embodies the entire saga of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it represents the central contradiction of the State of Israel -- democracy for some, dispossession for others; it is our exposed nerve."

If Gaza is Israel's "exposed nerve," as Hass writes, she believes in exposing it further still. Even the peace camp, she charges, chooses not to concern itself with just how bad the living conditions there are, and how such misery and desperation fosters more hatred -- not to mention terrorism. Her willingness to confront this unpleasant aspect of the conflict has made her rather controversial in some Israeli circles.

Hass calls what's been in effect since the Oslo accords a "neo-occupation," since Palestinians, in many cases, have less freedom of movement than they did before.

She repeatedly refers to "the so-called peace process," because she believes that any settlement based on pre-existing conditions is "based on our -- meaning Israel's -- demographic and military superiority."

The only way for a true peace to happen, Hass believes, is for the two parties to return to the terms of the U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, calling for a complete return to the pre-1967 borders. Israel cannot be selective when it decides which U.N. resolutions it accepts and rejects, she said.

That is especially true when talking about the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. "The feelings and welfare of a settler is always worth more than a Palestinian who lives nearby," she said. "If we build a peace based on the superiority of the Jews, it will eventually blow up in our faces."

The Law of Return for Jews is problematic as long as there is no similar principle in effect for Palestinians. "Jews from all over the world are still allowed to come here while people born here more than 53 years ago, who still have keys to their homes, cannot come back to live with their relatives," she said.

Hass also warned of a solution based on religion, which she said was evident in the Camp David discussions on Jerusalem.

Departing from the views of most Israelis, Jews and President Clinton, who took Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to task for not being more willing to compromise at Camp David, Hass said this time it was the Jews who missed the opportunity.

Though Hass tries to refrain from making predictions about the future, she believes the only workable solution to the Mideast conflict is not a two-state solution, but a one-state solution. Whether it takes 50 years or 200, whatever entity that will finally exist in the disputed piece of land can no longer be an exclusively Jewish state.

And the Palestinians in the territories are not the only reason why, Hass maintains. There are 1 million Arabs living in Israel who do not have the same rights as Jews, and are therefore second-class citizens. "Any society that is built upon regressive laws toward another people is not Jewish," she said.

Hass envisions a state in which Jews and Palestinians live side by side, both having equal rights, and both respecting the rights and entitlement of the other.

"The binational state is the peaceful solution," she said. "The Palestinians are fighting for their rights. [The desire for] equality is universal, as basic as eating and sleeping."

General wisdom might dictate that as the child of Holocaust survivors, she would feel the necessity for a Jewish state. But in Hass' case, it's the opposite. She says she can relate more to the Palestinians as people because of her own parents' experiences as refugees.

Having the Holocaust in her family has made Hass an outspoken advocate against injustice. The legacy of the Holocaust, she said, "never really goes away."

By Alexandra J. Wall