Bill Pfaff's current thoughts on the situation in Israel/Palestine
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below are Bill Pfaff's current thoughts on the situation in Israel/Palestine.
Bill sees not the slightest glimmer of hope -- and it is difficult to argue that this is not an entirely rational way to view the situation. However, exceptionally, I do not agree with all aspects of what Bill has written here. Specifically, he suggests that the "only hope" for the Palestinians if they were to choose to pursue, by non-violent means, full democratic rights in a unitary state in all of historical Palestine "would be that Israel would actually impose a regime of national discrimination and apartheid". I would argue that this is, in fact, an accurate description of the current regime -- and has been for almost 60 years in the portion of the country conquered in 1947/1948 and for over 40 years in the portion of the country conquered in 1967. Post-Oslo, this reality has been effectively camouflaged (albeit increasingly less effectively so) by subcontracting out certain functions of repression (and the provision of certain basic services which cost money) to a "Palestinian Authority" which, while it was initially launched with good intentions and genuine hope (at least among most Palestinians, including those who served in it), has become thoroughly corrupt, collaborationist and capitulationist, the effective servant of the enemies of the Palestinian people rather than of the Palestinian people it purports to serve.
Bill also appears to assume, at least implicitly (as does Uri Avnery, another old friend whom I also respect immensely), that, even if democratic, non-racist states with equal rights for all are the ideal everywhere else, it is pure folly to even think of such a thing in Israel/Palestine because Israeli Jews would never, ever, not-in-a-million-years tolerate living in such a state, which would be the antithesis and negation of political Zionism. Of course, they may be right. However, one can certainly recall other "isms" in which many people believed passionately during the 20th century which are now recognized to have been tragic mistakes -- not simply for those who found themselves in their paths but also for those who embraced them. Furthermore, it must surely be morally and ethically depressing to argue that racism and the need for racial supremacy are irremediably hardwired into the genes of Israeli Jews, to the point of being more important than life itself, and that nothing, not even evident self-interest, could ever produce a constructive evolution in such attitudes and worldviews.
In this context, I concluded an article of mine published in December as follows: " Israelis might wish to talk to some white South Africans. The transformation of South Africa's racial-supremicist ideology and political system into a fully democratic one has transformed them, personally, from pariahs into people welcomed throughout the region and the world. It has also ensured the permanence of a strong and vital white presence in southern Africa in a way that prolonging the flagrant injustice of a racial-supremicist ideology and political system and imposing fragmented and dependent 'independent states' on the natives could never have achieved. This is not a precedent to dismiss. It could and should inspire."
I certainly would agree with Bill that things can always get worse -- and, in Israel/Palestine, usually do -- but I do not see this as a reason to abandon all hope that things could ever be much, much better -- and not even to try to make them so.
I would also argue that there is another, alternative hope as to how Israelis might react if the Palestinians were to return to seeking a unitary democratic state --a sudden, desperate embrace, as the only viable way to avoid a democratic nightmare, of precisely the course of action which Bill characterizes, in the concluding paragraph of his article, as an "unthinkable solution" and might equally well have characterized, along with democracy, as an "impossible dream".
At least in my view, perpetuation of the apartheid status quo is a virtual certainty if "business as usual" (the illusory "peace process" on Israeli/American terms) continues to be the "only game in town" -- and nothing better will ever be achieved unless the Palestinians dare to seek something better. Both a decent two-state solution and a democratic one-state solution may seem -- and may be -- impossible dreams, but I believe strongly that it is time for the Palestinian people to seize the initiative, to set a new agenda and to make a determined effort to achieve one or the other -- and that the road to both is the same: demanding democracy and pursuing that demand by non-violent means.
Given the assymetry of power, the choice will be Israel's. So be it. Let Israel make it. It is time.
'Neversink River Catskill Mountains