My Daily Advertiser column for today, 11 July, 2017: Israel Needs a Palestinian Stater

by ray goodlass

Having settled in to my month long volunteer drama project in Palestine, where I’ll be creating and directing a verbatim theatre production with young people in Bethlehem’s Aida Refugee Camp my mind naturally turned to what the future holds for the Palestinian people as they mark the 50th anniversary of Israel’s Six Day War, and the 70th of the Nakba (Catastrophe), Israel’s first war of conquest.

The word count of this column doesn’t allow me to elaborate on the background. There’s only enough room to point out that the Zionist vision of creating a safe haven in Palestine for the Jewish people of Europe created a problem that is still with us, for Palestine was not, as the Zionists claimed, ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’.

As the number of Zionists migrating to Palestine grew the UN opted for partition in 1947. When the British left in 1948 the Zionists seized by military means a larger share of territory than had been allotted by the UN, creating the Palestinian Nakba as hundreds of thousands fled and became refugees. Their descendants still are.

The Israeli victory over the neighbouring Arab armies in its Six Day War of 1967 was overwhelming, but also exacerbated the problem in that the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip brought with it many Palestinians whom Israel could neither expel nor absorb.

For the past 50 years, Israel has tried to have it both ways: taking the land by planting Jewish settlements on it; and keeping the Palestinians unenfranchised under military occupation, denied either their own state or political equality.

Israel’s “temporary” occupation has endured for half a century. The peace process (the Oslo Accords in 1993) that created an “interim” Palestinian autonomy, due to last just five years before a final deal, has dragged on for more than 20. A Palestinian state is long overdue. Rather than resist it, Israel should be the foremost champion of the future Palestine that will be its neighbour. This is not because the intractable conflict is the worst in the Middle East (it isn’t), but rather that Israel must let the Palestinian people go to preserve its own democracy.

But Israel has steadfastly failed to honour the Oslo Accords, building illegal settlements for hundreds of thousands of Israelis on Palestinian land. However, it is my contention that the never-ending subjugation of Palestinians will erode Israel’s standing abroad and damage its democracy at home. Its politics are turning towards ethno-religious chauvinism, seeking to marginalise Arabs and Jewish leftists, including human-rights groups.

As Israel grows wealthier its predicament grows more acute as the Palestinian population grows to outnumber its own population. Israel cannot hold on to all this land, keep its predominantly Jewish identity and remain a proper democracy. To save democracy, and prevent a slide to racism or even apartheid, it must give up the occupied lands.

Israel should let Palestinians move more freely and remove all barriers to their goods (a freer market would make Israel richer, too). It should let the PA expand beyond its isolated bantustans, which is all Israel currently allows the PA. Israel should voluntarily halt all settlements, and demolish its hideous and quite ineffective so called ‘security barrier’.

Israel is too strong for a Palestinian state to threaten its existence. In fact, such a state is vital to its future. Only when the Palestine state is truly born will Israel complete the victory of 1967.