States Or One State”
By Uri Avnery &
11 June, 2007
A debate between former Knesset Member Uri Avnery and Doctor Ilan
Pappe .moderator: Professor Zalman Amit
Zalman Amit: Greetings
to you all, and thanks for coming to be with us this evening.
First of all, I would like
to thank Teddy Katz, who initiated this event and did a large part of
the logistics involved.
I would not be exaggerating
in stating that the subject we discuss today is the most important and
most difficult question facing people on the left side of the political
spectrum, and those whom we could broadly call the people of the peace
movement. I also think we are lucky in having tonight two speakers who
are perhaps the most clear representatives, respectively, of the two
approaches and worldviews to whose debate this evening is devoted.
To my right is Dr. Ilan Pappe,
historian of Exeter University, formerly of Haifa University. [Pappe
corrects: Not yet formerly]. To my left is Uri Avnery, former Knesset
Member, former editor of Haolam Hazeh Weekly, and present activist in
As agreed, the debate will be conducted as follows: First, Pappe will
speak for twenty minutes and Uri Avnery will answer in a similar period
Then, both will speak again
for ten minutes each. Then will come the time for questions and answers,
and I as moderator promise to exercise no censorship. Finally, Ilan
and Uri will have five minutes each for summation.
I now ask Ilan to start the
Ilan Pappe: I
would like to thank Gush Shalom for this event, for the initiative and
the willingness to discuss such an important subject in such an open
forum. I hope that this is just the beginning of discussing this subject,
not a one time event – since the subjects with which we will deal
tonight are vital to us, and clearly a single evening would not be enough
to thoroughly discuss them, reach personal and collective decisions
and develop our strategy as a Peace Camp. Whatever the differences between
us, we all belong to the Peace Camp, the camp which believes in reconciliation
between the Palestinian People and Israel, and we all want to work together
to promote that cause.
Zionism was born out of impulses.
Fair impulses, natural impulses, impulses which can be understood against
the background of the period when this movement was born, the reality
of East and Central Europe at the end of the Nineteenth Century.
The first impulse was the
desire to try to confront the waves of anti-Semitic persecutions and
harassment - and possibly also a premonition that there was even worse
to come. Therefore, there started a search for a safe haven where European
Jews could live without fear for their lives, property and dignity.
The second impulse was influenced
by "The Spring of the Peoples" in the mid-Nineteenth Century.
The leaders of the Zionist Movement thought that it was possible to
redefine Judaism as a nationality rather than only a religion. That,
too, was an idea widely circulating at the time, and more than a few
ethnic or religious groups re-defined themselves as nations. When the
decision was taken - for reasons which into which there is no time to
go into here – to implement these two impulses on the soil of
Palestine, where nearly a million people already lived, this reply to
impulses turned into a colonial project.
The moment it was decided
that the only territory where Jews could be assured of a safe haven,
the only territory where a Jewish nation state could be created was
in Palestine, this humanistic national movement turned into a colonial
project. Its colonial character became all the more pronounced after
the country was conquered by the British in the First World War.
As a colonial project, Zionism
was not a big success story. When the British Mandate came to its end,
no more than six percent of the territory of Palestine were in Jewish
hands. Zionism also succeeded in bringing here only a relatively small
number of Jewish immigrants. In 1948, Jews constituted no more than
a third of the population of Palestine.
Therefore, as a colonial
project, a project of settling and displacing another people, it was
was not a success story. But the problem - and the source of the Palestinian
tragedy - was that the leaders of Zionism did not want only to create
a colonial project, they also wanted to create a democratic state. And
why was it a Palestinian tragedy that Zionism at its early career wanted
to be democratic? Because it still wants to be democratic. Because if
you put together Zionist colonialism, Zionist nationalism and the impulse
for democracy, you get a need which still dictates political positions
in Israel up to the present - from Meretz in the Zionist Left to the
National Union party on the Extreme Right. It is the need to have an
overlapping between the democratic majority and the Jewish majority.
Every means is fair to ensure that there will be a Jewish majority,
because without a Jewish majority we will not be a democracy. It is
even permissible to expel Arabs in order to make us a democracy. Because
the most important is to have here a majority of Jews. Because otherwise
the project will not be a democratic project.
It is not surprising that
not far from here, in the Red House on the seashore of Tel Aviv, eleven
of the leaders of Zionism gathered in 1948 and decided that if you want
to create a democratic state and also to complete the Zionist project,
i.e. to take over as much as possible of the land of Palestine, and
if you have no majority and you are only a third - than the only choice
is to implement an ethnic cleansing, remove the Arab population from
the territory you intend for a Jewish State.
In March 1948, under the
leadership of Ben Gurion, the Zionist leadership decided that in order
to have here a democratic Jewish state it was necessary to expel a million
Palestinians. Immediately after the decision was taken, they have embarked
on systematically expelling the Palestinians. Cruelly they passed from
from house to house, from village to village, from neighborhood to neighborhood.
When they were done, nine months later, they left behind them 530 empty
villages and eleven destroyed towns. Half the population of Palestine
had been expelled from its homes, fields and sources of livelihood -
more than 80 percent of the population in the territory they conquered.
Half of the cities and villages of Palestine were destroyed, and their
ruins planted with forests or settled with Jews.
This was the only way in which a demographic Jewish state could have
been created - the kind of state which is the common rallying call of
the Zionist consensus, from then until the present.
Had this act of the Zionist movement taken place now, no international
body would have hesitated to label it a Crime Against Humanity. The
eleven Zionist leaders who took the decision were, indeed, criminals
according to the criteria of International Law. Sixty years later it
is a bit difficult to prosecute them, all the more as none of them is
among us any more.
The UN Partition Resolution
of November 1947 and the attempts to effect a division of the land after
the 1948 War were not based on the ideals of Justice - i.e., there is
justice and rights to the indigenous people, most of whom had been expelled,
and there is justice to the new settlers. No. The basis for the impulse
to effect a Two State Solution then, as at the basis of this impulse
now, there was the idea that the Zionist Minotaur could be satisfied
by letting the Jewish state have control over only part of Palestine
- not the whole.
The UN had proposed giving
50 percent of Palestine. For the Zionists that was not enough and they
took 80 percent of Palestine, and there was a feeling that that would
be enough for them.
But we know that this territorial
hunger did not end in 1948. When the historic opportunity came, a hundred
percent of Palestine came under the rule of the Jewish State.
But here the great Palestinian
tragedy manifests itself once again. Even after 100 percent of Palestine
became the Jewish state, there is still a real impulse to create and
preserve a democratic state. This is the background for the creation
of a special kind of peace process, a peace process based on the assumption
that the Zionist territorial hunger and democratic wishes can be assuaged
by leaving part of Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - out of Israeli
This gives a double profit: on the one hand, the demographic balance
between Jews and Arabs is not disturbed; on the other hand, the Palestinians
are imprisoned where they would no longer threaten the Zionist project.
But as we know, the situation
on the ground became increasingly complicated. Perhaps this is the time
to mention Meron Benvenishti, one of the first to point out to us the
facts on the ground which made this, too, into a pipedream.
Already in the 1980s, the
mantra of the Palestinian State beside the Israeli State - as a good
solution to the conflict or as a way to assuage the territorial hunger
of the Zionist movement and preserve Israel as a Jewish state - this
mantra was encountering increasing difficulties.
One factor was that the 'facts on the ground' were steadily reducing
the Palestinian territory, by creating and extending settlements. And
from a different direction, there was the natural wish of the political
movements to extend the ranks of those who supported the Two States
Solution. Gradually, they found new partners, and these new partners
gave new meanings to the term 'A Palestinian State'. In fact, the connection
gradually disappeared between the Two States idea on the one hand and
the idea of solving the conflict on the other.
Suddenly, the Two States
Solution became a way of arranging some kind of separation between occupier
and occupied, rather than a permanent solution which should have dealt
with the crime committed by Israel in 1948, with the problems of the
twenty percent of Palestinians inside Israel, and with the refugee population
which has steadily increased since 1948.
In the 1990s, and since the
beginning of the present century, the Two States idea has become common
currency. The respectable list of its supporters finally came to include,
among others, Ariel Sharon, Binyamin Netanyahu and George W. Bush.
When your idea gains such
adherents, that is far from a bad historical moment to rethink the entire
idea. When the Two States idea became the basis for the Peace Proces,
it gave an umbrella to the Israeli occupation to continue its operation
without any apprehension. That was because official Israel, regardless
of who was Prime Minister, was supposed to be involved in a Peace Process
- and you can't make criticism of a country which is involved in a Peace
Under cover of the Peace
Process, you can say under the cover of the slogan of Two States for
Two Peoples, the settlements were extended, and the harassment and oppression
of the Palestinians were deepened. So far so that the `facts on the
ground' have reduced to nothing the area intended for the Palestinians.
The Zionist racist and ethnic hunger got legitimacy to extend itself
into nearly half of the West Bank.
It was impossible to remain
unimpressed by the impressive presence of the Peace Camp in the demonstration
in support of Ariel Sharon, at the time of the Gaza Disengagement.
The connection between the
Two States for Two Peoples formula and the Peace Process logically led
to peace activists who believe in Two States would cry out in the city
square - How is that Square called? The Rabin Square? - that they would
gather in the Rabin Squaare and cry out: Long Live Sharon, Long Live
Disengagement, which means "long live the imprisonment of Gaza
in the biggest concentration camp of the Twenty-First Century!"
That is what they would cry out, that is the concern of the Sharon-supporting
On the one hand, this formula
makes it possible to continue the occupation by other means, in order
to silence the outside criticism of the acts of the occupation. On the
other hand, it enabled the State of Israel to create facts on the ground.
In any case, by 2007 you
can admit: there is not a single stone visible, in what is now called
the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which can serve in the construction of
a Palestinian state.
How do you choose to look
If the principle of Justice
be the basis for those who support the partition of this country, there
is no formula more cynical than the Two States Solution, as it is now
presented in the Peace Camp. 80 percent of the country to the occupier,
and twenty percent to the occupied. That is, 20 percent in the best
and utopian case. More likely, no more than 10 percent, a dispersed
and surrounded ten percent, to the occupied.
Moreover, where in this solution
do you find a solution for the refugee problem, to where will return
those who were the victims of the ethnic cleansing of 1948?
Where will their second and
third generation return to, if indeed Justice is the guiding principle?
On the other hand, if pragmatism and "Realpolitik" be our
guiding lights, and all that we wish is to assuage the Zionist State's
territorial hunger with a demographic efficiency, why offer only 80
percent? If brute force alone is to determine the solution, God Almighty,
there is no need today to offer the Palestinians even half a percent.
You can move Wadi Ara [Arab-inhabited region of Israel] to the West
Bank, you can annex half the West Bank to [the settlement of] Ma'aleh
Adumim and give the Palestinian in exchange some sandbags from [the
Negev desert region of] Halutza, you can do a lot, lot more. If we trust
in the international and regional balance of forces as the decisive
factor we would give the Palestinians a tiny piece of land, hermetically
enclosed with barriers and walls. Because we are not guided by moral
principles, we are pragmatic people.
It's true, there are Palestinians
in Ramallah who are willing to rest content with that. We know there
are, and they deserve to have their voice heard - but it is utterly
unacceptable to silence the voices of the Palestinian majority in the
refugee camps, in the diasporas, in the Occupied Territories and among
the internal refugees in Israel who want to be part of a state - not
a state erected on 20 percent of the land, but of a future state which
will include the whole of the country which was once Palestine. There
will be neither reconciliation here, nor justice or a permanent solution,
if we don't let these Palestinians have a share in solving the questions
referring to reconciliation and to defining the sovereignty, the identity
and the future of this country.
Unlike many other groups
in the Western World, and possible against the historical logic of those
who were the victims of a hundred years of Zionist disregard, these
Palestinians surprisingly want to include in defining the future state
a recognition of the right of the Jews living here to take part in that
Even the Jews who came yesterday
from St. Petersburg and who pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
even the presence of these Jews is acceptable to the Palestinians. So
we are not willing to let these Palestinians return? They, who are willing
to let Lieberman stay?
Let's involve them. Let's
respect their aspirations. Let's not say: "It's we who decide,
we in Tel Aviv and Ramallah. No. They decide, too.
Let's at least check the
applicability of the idea. At least try out two ideas and give both
a chance, the Two States Idea side by side with the One State Idea.
Let's give some respect to
the new idea. The old idea, the idea of partition, we have tried for
sixty years. The result was exile, occupation, oppression, discrimination.
Peace it did not bring. Let's give something else a chance.
Let's not offer drafts of
a democratic constitution which would be applicable only to Western
Bak'ah [Arab town inside Israel] and say that we don't care about the
future of Eastern Bak'ah [originally part of the same town, which is
across the line in the West Bank]. Eastern Bak'ah could be imprisoned
in an enclave, as far as we are concerned, or languish under a dictatorship.
We want Western Bak'ah as part of the State of All it Citizens which
we want Israel to become, but Eastern Bak'ah we will leave outside the
fence, perhaps under a continuing occupation. How can we?
We have relations of blood,
relations of blood and relations of common tragedy which cannot be divided.
We are all in one political imbroglio.
The one who expelled and
his sons and grandsons, and the one who was expelled with sons and grandsons
and granddaughters, all of them together must take part in the negotiations
on the future of the entire country.
Our political elites are
incompetent in the best case and corrupt in the worst, in all that pertains
to finding a solution to the conflict. The elites which accompany us
in the Western World and the Arab World are just as bad. When these
elites masquerade as Civil Society, simply because there are some politicians
who happen not to hold office at a certain moment, the Geneva bubble
is floated and the situation becomes even worse and peace even more
We will find an alternative
model. All of us, including the old settlers and the new - even those
who got here yesterday - including the expellees with all their generations
and those who were left after the expulsions. We will ask all of them
what political structure fits all of them, which would include the principles
of justice, reconciliation and coexistence.
Let's offer them at least
one more model, in addition to the one which failed. In Bil'in we are
fighting shoulder to shoulder against the occupation - can we not live
together with Bil'in in the same state? Who do we want more as our neighbors,
Bil'in or Matityahu Mizrah? [The settlement expanding at the expanse
of Bil'in lands].
In conclusion: in order for
this dialogue to start and flourish, let's admit one more thing. Let's
admit that the occupation which they are increasing daily, we - with
all our important efforts - can't stop from here. The occupation is
part of the same ideological infrastructure on which the ethnic cleansing
of 1948 was built, for which the Arabs of Kufr Qassem were massacred
[in 1956], for which lands are confiscated in both the Galilee and the
West Bank, for which detentions and killings without trial are committed.
The most murderous manifestation of this ideology occurs now in Greater
Jerusalem and the West Bank. In order to stop the extension of these
war crimes, the extension of this criminal behavior, let's admit that
we need external pressure on the State of Israel. Let's thank the associations
of journalists, physicians and academics who call for a boycott on Israel
as long as this criminal policy continues. Let us use the help of civil
society in order to make the State of Israel a pariah state, as long
as this behavior continues. So that we here, everybody who belongs and
who wants to belong to this country, could conduct a constructive and
The aim should be to create
a political structure which will once and for all absolve us from the
need to live under a conflict, and make it possible to build a better
future. Thank you.
I give the floor to Uri Avnery.
It is a great privilege to speak to such an audience, in which there
are many veterans of the struggle for peace.
This is not a gladiatorial
fight to the death in a Roman arena. Ilan Pappe and me are partners
in the struggle against the occupation. I respect his courage. We are
in a common struggle but we have a sharp debate about the way to win
it. What do we debate about?
We have no debate about the
past. I am wholeheartedly willing to sign everything Ilan said on that.
There can be no dispute that Zionism, which had implemented a historical
project, had also caused a historical injustice to the Palestinian People.
There can be no dispute that ethnic cleansing took place in 1948 - though
allow me to remark, in parenthesis, that the ethnic cleansing was on
both sides, and that there was not a single Jew left residing in whatever
territory was conquered by the Arab side.
Occupation is a despicable
condition which must be terminated. There is certainly no debate about
that. We might have no debate about the far future, either, about what
we would like to see happening a hundred years from now. Perhaps we
will have a chance to talk about that, too, later this evening.
We do have a debate about
the forseeable future. About the solution of the bleeding conflict,
within a of range twenty, thirty or fifty years. This is not a theoretical
debate. You can't just say "Live and let live, each according to
their beliefs, and let the Peace Movement live in peace." There
can be no compromise between these alternatives, because each of them
dictates a different strategy and different tactics. Not the day after
tommorow, not tommorow, but here and now.
The difference is important.
It is crucial. For example: should we concentrate our efforts in the
struggle for the Israeli public opinion, or give up the struggle inside
the country and struggle abroad, instead?
I am an Israeli. I stand
with both legs on the ground of the Israeli reality. I want to change
this reality from one side to the other, but I want this state to exist.
Those who deny the existence
of the state of Israel, as an entity expressing our Israeli identity,
deny themselves the possibilty of being active here. All their activity
here is foredoomed to failure.
A person might despair and
say that there is nothing to do, everything is lost, we have passed
the point of no return. As Meron Benvenishti said many years ago, the
situation is irreversible, we have nothing more to do in this state.
It happens that you sometimes
despair. Each one of us had such moments. Despair destroys any chance
of action. Despair must not be made into an ideology. I say: there is
no place for despair, nothing is lost. Nothing is irreversible, except
for life itself. There is no such thing as a point of no return.
I am 83 years old. In my
lifetime I have seen the rise of the Nazis and their fall, the peak
of the Soviet Union's power and its sudden collapse. One day before
the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was not a single German believing
this would happen in his lifetime. The experts did not forsee it - none
of them. Because there are subterranean currents which act below the
surface, and which nobody sees in real time. That's why theoretical
analyses come true so rarely.
Nothing is lost until the
fighters raise their hands in surrender. Hands up is not a solution,
nor is it moral. In our situation, a despairing person has three choices:
(A) Emigration; (B) Internal Emigration, that is to sit at home and
do nothing; or (C) Run away to an ideal world of messianic solutions.
The third possibility is the most dangerous, because the situation is
critical - especially to the Palestinians. There is no time for a solution
which will be implemented in a hundred years. There is needed an urgent
solution, a solution which could be implemented within a few years -
even if it is not ideal.
I heard people say: Avnery
is old, he sticks to old ideas and cannot absorb a new one. And I wonder:
A new idea? The idea of a Single Joint State of Jews and Arabs was old
when I was a boy. It flourished in the 1930s. Among others, it was inscribed
on the banner of the movement whose headquarters we meet in today, Hakibbutz
Ha'artzi Movement. But that idea went bankrupt and it was the idea of
the Two States which flourished in the new reality.
If I may make a personal
remark: I am no historian. I have seen things with my own eyes, heard
them with my own ears, felt them as they were happening. As a soldier
in the 1948 war, as a newspaper editor for forty years, as a Knesset
Member for ten years, as an activist of Gush Shalom. I am in the thick
of things, from different and changing points of view. I have my hand
on the public pulse.
There are three basic questions
about the One State Idea.
First: Is it possible at
Second: If it were possible, is it a good idea.
Third: Will it bring a just peace.
About the first question,
my answer is clear and unequivocal: No, it is not possible.
Anybody who is rooted in
the Israeli-Jewish public knows that this public's deepest aspiration
- and here it is permissable to make a genralization - the far far deepest
aspiration is to maintain a state with a Jewish majority, a state where
Jews will be masters of their fate. This takes precedence over any other
wish and aspitaration, it takes precedence even over wanting to have
a Greater Israel.
You can talk of a Single
State from the Meditteranean to the Jordan River, define it as bi-national
or supra-national - whatever the term used, in practice it means the
dismantling of the State of Israel, destruction of all that was built
for five generations. This must be said out loud, without any evasions.
That is exactly how the Jewish public sees it, and certainly also a
large part of the Palestinian public. This means the dismantling of
the State of Israel. I am a bit disturbed by the fact that these words
are not said explicitly.
We want to change very many
things in this country. We want to change its historical narrative,
its commonly held definition as "Jewish and democratic." We
want to end occupation outside and discrimination inside. We want to
build a new framework in the relations between the state and its Arab-Palestinian
citizens. But you cannot ignore the basic ethos of the vast majority
of the citizens of Israel. 99.99% of the Jewish public do not want to
dismantle the state.
There is an illsusion that
you can achieve this by outside pressure. Would outside pressure force
this people to give up their state? I suggest a very simple test. Think
for a moment about your neightbors at home, colleagues at work, fellow
students. Would any of them give up the state because somebody outside
demands it? Pressure from Europe, even pressure from the White House?
Short of a decisive military defeat on the battlefield, nothing will
induce Israelis to give up their state. And if Israel is militarily
defeated, our debate will become irrelevant anyway.
The Palestinian People want
a state of their own, too. This is needed in order to satisfy their
most basic aspirations, the restoration of their national pride and
the healing of their trauma. Even the Hamas leaders with whom we spoke
want it. Those who think otherwise engage in daydreams. There are Palestinians
who speak of a Single State, but for most of them this is simply a code
word for the dismantling of Israel. And even they know it is an utopia.
There are those who delude
themselves that if they speak of a bi-national state, that would frighten
the Isralis so much that they will immediately consent to the creation
of a Palestinian State at the side of Israel. But the result will be
the opposite. This frightens the Israelis, that's true - and pushes
them into the arms of the right-wing. This arouses the sleeping dog
of ethnic cleansing. About this I agree with Ilan: this dog is sleeping,
but it is still there.
All over the world, the trend
is opposite: not the creation of multi-national states but on the contrary
the division of states into national units. This week the elections
in Scotland were won by a party seeking to separate from Britain. The
French-speaking minority in Canada is always hovering on the point of
secession. Kosovo is about to become independent of Serbia. The Soviet
Union broke into pieces, and Chechnia seeks to separate from Russia.
Yugoslavia fell apart. Cyprus fell apart. The Basques want independence.
In Sri Lanka there is a civil war, as in Sudan. In Indonesia the seams
are coming apart in a dozen places.
There is no example in the
world of two different peoples voluntarily agreeing to live in one state.
There is no example in the world, except for Switzerland, of a really
functioning bi-national or multi-national state. And the example of
Switzerland, which has grown for hundreds of years in a unique process,
is the exception which proves the rule.
After 120 years of conflict,
after a fifth generation was born into this conflict on both sides,
to move from total war to total peace in a Single Joint State, with
a total renunciation of national independence? This is total illusion.
How is this supposed to be implemted in practice? Ilan did not talk
about it. This worries me. I suppose it should look like this: The Palestinans
will give up their independence struggle and their wish for a national
state of their own. They will announce that they want to live in a Single
Joint State. After that state is created, they would have to struggle
in its framework for their civil rights. Many good people around the
world will support that struggle, as they did in the case of South Africa.
Israel will be boycotted. Israel will be isolated. Millions of refugees
will return to the country, until the wheel turns a full circle and
the Palestinians assume power.
If that was possible at all,
how much time would it take? Two generations? Three genrations? Four
generations? Can anybody imagine how such a state would function in
practice? An inhabitant of Bil'in paying the same taxes as an inhabitant
of Kfar Sava? Inhabitants of Jenin and of Netanya together formulating
a constitution for the state? The inhabitants of Hebron and the Hebron
settlers serving side by side in the same army, the same police, obey
the same laws? Is this realistic? This is not realistic today, nor would
it be realistic tomorrow.
There are those who say:
It already exists. Israel alreay rules one state from the sea to the
river, you only need to change the regime. So, first of all: Tthere
is no such thing. There is an occupying state and an occupied territory.
It is far easier to dismantle a settlement, to dismantle settlements,
to dismantle ALL the settlements - far easier than to force six million
Jewish Israelis to dismantle their state.
No, the Single State would
not come about. But let us ask ourselves - should it somehow be erected,
would that be a good thing? My answer is: absolutely not.
Let's try to imagine this
state - not as ideal creation of the imagination, but as it might be
in reality. In this state the Israelis will be dominant. They have an
enormous dominance in nearly all spheres: standard of living, military
power, level of education, thechnological capacity. Israeli per capita
income is 25 times - 25 times! - that of the Palestinians, 20,000 dollars
per year compared to 800 Dollars a year. In such a state the Palestinians
will be "cutters of wood and hewers of water" for a long,
It will be occupation by
other means, a disguised occupation. It will not end the historical
conflict, but just move it to a new stage. Would this solution bring
about a just peace? In my view, exactly the opposite. This state would
be a battlefield. Each side will try to take over a maximum of land.
Bring in a maximum number of people. The Jews would fight by all possible
means in order to prevent the Palestinians from gaining a majority and
taking power. In practice, it would be an Apartheid state. And if the
Arabs do become a majority and seek to gain power democratically, there
would start a struggle which might reach the scale of a civil war. A
new version of 1948.
Also those who support this
solution know that this struggle would last several generations, that
a lot of blood might be shed and that there is no knowing the result.
It is an utopia. In order to achieve it, you need to replace the people
- perhaps the two peoples. To produce a new kind of human being. This
is what the Communists tried to do, in the early years of the Soviet
Union. Also the founders of the Kibbutz. Unfortunately, you can change
many things, but humans don't change their basic nature.
Precisely a beautiful utopia
can bring about terrible results. In the vision of "The Wolf lying
down with the Sheep" there would be needed a new sheep every day.
The Two State Solution is the only practical solution, the only one
which is within the bounds of reality. It is ridiculous to say that
this idea was defeated. In the most important sphere, the sphere of
consciousness, it is growing ever stronger.
After the war of 1948, when
we raised that banner, we were a small handful, which could be counted
on the fingers of a single hand. Everybody denied the very existence
of a Palestinian People. I remmeber how, in the 1960s, I was running
around Washington, talking with people in the White House and the National
Security Council. Nobody wanted to hear of it. Now, there is a world-wide
concensus that this is the only solution. The United States, Russia,
Europe, the Israeli public opinion, the Palestinian public opinion,
the Arab League. You should grasp what this means: the entire Arab World
now supports this solution. This has enormous importance for the future.
Why did it happen? Not becauase we are so clever and talented that we
convinced the whole world. No. The internal logic of this solution is
what conquered the world. True, some of the declared adherents are only
paying lip service. It is quite possible that they use it to distract
attention from their true purposes. Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert pretended
to be supporters of this idea, while their true intention was to prevent
the abolition of the occupation. But precisely the fact that such people
need to resort to such a pretence, that they are now outwardly committed
to it, exactly that proves that they realize it would be futile to go
on fighting it. When all peoples, the whole world, recognize that this
is the practical solution, it would finally be implemented.
The parameters are well-known,
and about them too there is a worldwide agreement.
One: A Palestinian State
will be created, side by side with Israel.
Two: The border between them
will be based on the Green Line [pre-1967 border], possibly with agreed
excahnges of territory.
Three: Jerusalem will be
the capital of both states.
Four: There will be an agreed solution to the refugee problem - meaning
that an agreed number will return to Israel, and the others will be
absorbed in the Palestinian State or in the present places of habitation
while getting generous compensations, for example like what the Germans
I am not against asking the
refugees. Let us put on the table the solution which will be agreed
upon - a detailed, clear solution, so that each of the refugees would
know the choices they could make - and ask them. Neither Ilan nor me
can speak authoritatively in the name of the refugees. (I did talk with
some refugees in Lebanon when I was there, at the time of Sharon's previous
In my view the great majority
of refugees, if you give them the compensations they truly deserve,
the great majority would prefer to stay where they are. Because they
live there for sixty years already, their sons and dughters got married
there, they have opened businesses there.
I think there will remain
a problem of some hundreds of thousands for whom a solution will have
to be found, and I am in favor of us being full partners and finding
a solution. I also don't think it would be so difficult. When everything
else is solved and only the Refugee Problem is left on the table, the
public wil agree to a compromise. I think that is a country which already
has a million and quarter Arab Palestinian citizens - and I think it
is good that there are - some addition will not make a big difference.
Five: There will be an economic
partnership between the two states, in whose framework the Palestinian
Government will be able to defend the interests of the Palestinian People,
unlike the present situation. The very existence of two states will
to some degree diminish the gap in the imbalance between the two sides.
This imbalance exists. We can complain about it, we can cry salty tears
about it, but this balance exists - and we need to find a solution in
the real existing world, not in an imaginary world which we would have
liked to come into existence. We have to find a solution in the real
Six: In the longer range,
there should be a Middle-Eastern Union on the European model, which
might eventually include also Turkey and Iran.
There are big obstacles.
They are real. Real obstacles can be overcome. They are as nothing -
I want to emphasize this - they are as nothing compared with the obstacles
on the way to a Single State. I would say that it is in the order of
one to thousand. Opting for the One State since it is diffcult to gain
the Two States is like being unable to beat a lightweigt boxer and therefore
choosing to contend with a heavyweight; or failing to run a hundred
metres, and therefore shifting to the marathon; or being unable to attain
the peak of Mont Blanc, and therefore trying the Everest instead.
There can be no doubt that the One State Idea gives its holders a moral
satisfaction. Somebody told me: OK, perhaps it is not realistic but
it is moral. This is where I want to stand. I respect this, but I say:
this is a luxury we can't afford. When we deal with the fate of so many
people, a moral position which is not realistic is immoral. It is important
to repeat this: a moral stance which is not realistic in immoral. Because
the final result of such a stance is to perpetuate the existing situation
Ilan Pappe: The One State
idea does not proceed from despair. There is indeed despair of the political
elites, that is true - but no despair of human nature or of civil society.
The despair is felt from politicians who sell and commercialize and
resell again and again the Two State Solution for sixty years already
- and the results are visible on the ground: more occupation, more injustice,
greater and ever more systematic violation of human rights and civil
There is hope. You can see it, for example, in the Galilee - where Jews
and Arabs live in a region relatively free from state interference.
It is interesting to note
that exactly where there is a demographic balance between Jews and Arabs,
there are also business partnerships, joint schools, suddenly there
is a budding common life of the two nationalities. It turns out that
you can fight segregation.
Why is it possible to fight
it? Do you know why? Because the idea that nationalism is bound to win
around here is the result of manipulation and education - not of human
nature. You can educate otherwise.
It's true - there is an enormous
difference between the Two State Solution and the One State Solution.
For two states you need politicians, for one state you need educators.
Educators are people who don't expect to see results within a year or
two. It can also happen that the educators will not see the results
within their lifetime. What Yossi Beilin can't afford, I can: to die
without knowing whether or not the seeds of education for one common
state of Jews and Arabs would bear fruit. A politician can't afford
such a thing - not because he wants the conflict to end, but because
he does not want his political career to end.
If this unrealistic Two State
formula which says that settlements can be dismantled is indeed realizable,
who is going to dismantle Gilo? Is anybody going to dismantle Gilo?
What are we talking about? And who is going to dismantle Ma'ale Adumim?
What are we talking about? What settlements are going to be dismantled?
These are not "settlements" in the Israeli public mind which
Uri is talking about. Deep, deep in the public consciousness Gilo is
an inseparable part of the state of Israel - and if Gilo is not dismantled,
it's no use to talk about two states at all.
If somebody could tell me
under which conditions Gilo could be dismantled, I am willing to start
again talking of two states. Without that, there is nothing to talk
about. An exchange of territory is an invention of Israeli diplomats.
No sane Palestinian could accept that, on such a small territory.
The real Two States formula
- not the utopian one in which Gilo becomes part of the Palestinian
state, but the real Two States formula - is the one which we see being
implemented in front of our eyes. It means fifty percent of the West
Bank annexed to Israel, and the other fifty percent as a Bantustan surrounded
by walls and fences, but with a Palestinian flag. That is the state,
with apparently some kind of tunnel connecting it to the other concentration
camp which is called the Gaza Strip.
This is what will be signed
in a ceremony on the White House lawn, about which the Zionist Peace
Camp will come and say: nevertheless, this is a bit better than what
we had until now.
We have already seen the
results of this kind of thinking .
There is a need for persons
who struggle with their society. The kind of person who says to his
society: I am sorry, the collective ideological identity which you have
chosen is despicable and impossible to maintain. It does not stand the
test of Judaism or of common morality.
This idea that Jews have
an ethnic preference, ethnic majority, ethnic superiority - for a state
which is supposed to represent the victims of the Holocaust. Am I supposed
to accept all this because the majority thinks so? Because this is the
result of past education? Even if I am left as the only Israeli who
thinks otherwise, I will go on saying it!
What are you trying to say?
That in the name of the collective consciousness as it was under the
Apartheid Regime, it was forbidden for a white person to come and say
out loud what certainly did not sound realistic in the 1960s and 1970s
- that Apartheid was a despicable ideology?
Zionism is not the ideology
of a national movement. It is an ethnic ideology of dispossessing the
indigenous people and denying them the possibility of going on living
here. If we do not start changing the discourse, the general public
certainly will not.
There ARE points of no return
in history. Yes, there are points of no return in history. I am sorry
to say, Uri, that genocide is a point of no return, an irreversible
act. There is no lack of examples.
Let me tell it to you as
a historian, there is no lack of historical examples where ethnic cleansing
turned into genocide. You should give a thought to the depths of this
national consciousness, this Jewish consciousness from which you draw
such hope for the implementation of the Two State solution. I don’t
like to contemplate these depths, the possible transition from ethnic
cleansing to ethnic extermination.
From the audience: Where
does it not exist? It is like this all over the world?
I want to tell you the worst of all. If within twenty years we will
not come up with an alternative solution, and indeed the Israeli balance
of power will stabilize a situation where half of the West Bank will
be annexed to Israel and in the other half the people just could not
go on sustaining themselves, it is quite possible that we will wipe
the Palestinians out of history. It is possible that we will wipe them
out of all consciousness - but then the Arab and Muslim World will wipe
us out, even if it takes a hundred or two hundred years.
We have to think of a long-term
solution, not only in order to end the occupation, not only in order
to find a solution for Jews and Arabs in this country, but because the
entire future of the Jewish people will be in danger if the Zionist
Project will succeed to get itself completed. The Zionist Project will
only be completed if the majority of this country will be Jewish, and
there will be as few Palestinians as possible.
As to what the refugees want,
there is - by the way - a project which tries to check their political
will. It is called CIVITAS. If you look at the results, Uri, you will
see uncomfortable things. Most of the refugees want to return. Most
of the refugees don't want money.
But perhaps the most important
thing which we can see in the process of democratization which is now
beginning in the refugee community is that the most important question
where they are concerned is not to return or not return, to take compensations
or not to take compensations.
The most important question
that they ask themselves is: why are we not allowed to take part in
defining the future of out homeland.
Not if we return, even if
we don’t return - let us take part in the decision! Not only the
inhabitants of Jenin and the inhabitants of Jaffa, let us also take
part in defining the future of the country!
Ten minutes have passed,
so I will say two more sentences.
Is it possible? It is not
possible tomorrow, nor is it possible the day after tomorrow. I am sorry
to say that it is far more possible that the Zionist Project will succeed
to create here a state without Arabs. This is far more possible. It
is on the cards, among other things because of the mistake of the peace
camp and the support for "Two States for Two Peoples". Because
with the help of the slogan of "Two States for Two Peoples"
it is possible to start talking of a transfer of population, it is possible
to talk of reducing the Palestinian territory, it is possible to cleanse
the Israeli territory of Palestinians. "We are here and they are
there" said Ehud Barak. They can also cleanse the Palestinian minority
in Israel, in the name of the sublime idea of Two States.
By the way, I don't think
that pressure from the outside is what will finally bring about the
creation of one state. That is not what I said. I said that pressure
from outside can bring about the end of Israeli military presence in
the lives of the Palestinians. But the end of this military presence
would not be the end of the conflict.
That was the pipedream of
Camp David 2000, that an end to the occupation would be the end of the
conflict. No. The end of the occupation would just make possible a real,
full, just discussion of the end of the conflict. The end of the conflict
in this small country could be brought about on the basis of one joint
Historical examples can be
cited against it, but contrary historical examples can be also be cited.
The same is true for contemporary examples, some can be cited on the
one side and others on the contrary side. What is most important is
the questions which we ask ourselves - exactly we, who are partners
for a joint struggle with the Palestinians. Do we have no partners on
the Palestinian side for building here a joint state? Are there no Palestinians
in Israel with whom we want to build a joint state? Are there no Jews
in Israel with whom we DON'T want to build a joint state? So let us
already make the division as between normal Jews and Arabs on the one
hand and Jews and Arabs who are bastards on the other side. Let us stop
dealing with the nationalist discourse which perpetuates occupation,
alienation and oppression. Thank you.
Zalman Amit: Second
round, Uri Avnery has ten minutes for a reaction.
Uri Avnery: I am in a bit embarrassing situation -
because in the debate between emotion and logic, it is always emotion
which gets the applause. In the debate between absolute morality and
relative morality, absolute morality gets - and rightly so - the applause.
I have listened attentively
to what you said, Ilan, but I also listened attentively to what you
did NOT say. You did not say how you can bring about the dismantling
of the State of Israel. You did not say how the one state will come
about. You did not describe how it will look in reality.
You have described ideal
things. Excuse me for making such a comparison,
but you reminded me a little
bit of the utopian book "Altneuland" by the Founding Father
of Zionism. But we live in reality, and we know how things look in reality.
How they can be in reality and what can be created in reality - and
that is what counts.
There are many good people
in Israel. Many, who do good things. There are a hundred peace organizations
and more, each one of which does important things in its own way. There
are teachers who educate for Jewish-Arab coexistence, there are kindergartens
which start this even earlier in life, all true. But you yourself said
that the solution which you propose will not come about in their lifetime.
You propose planting an almond tree of which your grandchildren will
get to eat.
But God Almighty, all this
frightens me terribly. You talk of ethnic cleansing, of the terrible
danger of ethnic cleansing. You talk of the terrible dangers which threaten
the Palestinian people in the present reality, and I see this situation
as darkly as you see it. I am even more somber than you. In this reality,
we have no fifty years to wait for a solution!
I said that there can be no compromise between out positions. But let's
offer you a compromise anyway: work with us for the creation of the
two states. After the two states will be there, after these dangers
would be averted, go on struggling to get them united into a single
I say this seriously. Struggle
for it that the two states will become one, voluntarily. I personally
hope very much - and I talked about that with Arafat, more than once
or twice - that between the Israeli state and the Palestinian state
there will a kind of federation, a partnership between two states with
an open border and a joint economy - of course, with safeguards for
the Palestinian economy.
The first time that I met
Arafat, during the Siege of Beirut, he talked of a "Benelux"
style solution (the older among you would remember Benelux, the united
framework of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg).
Arafat meant a triangular
alliance of Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and possibly including Lebanon
too. During our last meeting, he still talked of that.
This is, indeed, an important
and worthy vision. But meanwhile, we have a patient lying in front of
us, a severely wounded and bleeding patient. The most urgent thing is
to stop the bleeding, to find a solution which is not ideal, which is
real and can be implemented.
To end this part of the debate:
I don’t think that the Peace Camp was defeated, nor that it failed.
There is a far more complicated process going on here. There are things
which happen on the ground, and things which happen below the surface.
It is absolutely true: On
the ground we see that reality is terrible, that it is even getting
worse - if that is possible, and we know that it is always possible.
We deal with all that every day.
But below the surface other
things are happening.
There was a time when 99%
of the Jewish-Israeli public denied the very existence of the Palestinian
People - now, nobody speaks like that any more. Once, the big majority
opposed the idea of creating a Palestinian state. Now, according to
all opinion polls, the great majority in Israel accepts this idea as
part of the solution.
When we said that Israel
should talk with the PLO, they said we were traitors. Afterwards, the
government made an agreement with the PLO. Now we say that there should
be talks with Hamas. I am sure that Israel is going to talk with Hamas,
and that it will not even take too long before that happens.
We said that Jerusalem was
going to be the capital of two states. That was terrible, unacceptable.
Jerusalem is the Eternal Undivided Capital of Israel, blah, blah, blah.
But when Ehud Barak proposed a kind of partition of Jerusalem - and
it does not matter whether he meant iit or not, and precisely what he
meant - what was the public reaction? The public was silent.
Something is changing in
this country. The changes in the depth of public opinion are vital on
the way to the solution. I think we are winning, I think that the historical
development is leading in our direction.
It is not easy, the obstacles
are enormous. But I am not mindlessly optimistic. I am optimistic on
the basis of reality. I think that we will get to the creation of a
Palestinian state, side by side with Israel. And I think that Palestine
will be a proud national state.
I know that for many people
the word "National", the word "Nationalism", are
dirty words. You can open a big additional debate on that, and take
up a whole new evening with it, but I will say only this: anybody who
ignores the enormous power of national feeling lives in an unreal world.
Reality is nationalist.
National feeling is far too
deep to be uprooted from people's hearts. It will not take a month,
nor a year or two. It is a matter for centuries. Even in Europe, sixty
years after European unification has started, look at what is happening
in the football stadiums. See what happens when national feeling is
hurt - even in Europe. Nationalism is an existing fact, which must be
taken into consideration.
Ignoring the irrational element
in politics is not a rational behavior. Irrationality exists. It is
rational to take the irrational into account. We need to think how,
despite this irrationality, we can reach a solution which can be lived
Zalman Amit: Now we get to
the part where I start earning my bread as moderator. I tell you in
advance that not all questions can be presented, that would take far
more than the fifty minutes allotted to questions and answers, but I
will try my best and hope for your help.
The first question is for
Ilan, from Moshe Bokai: "UN Resolution 181 is the document on whose
basis the State of Israel was declared. That resolution also defined
borders for two states. Can anybody but the United Nations abolish that
Ilan Pappe: Can anyone but
the UN abolish that resolution? Certainly. The Israelis and the Palestinians
can abolish this resolution through any joint historical process, if
they just want to.
There is no problem. There
is nothing sacred about that resolution, nothing - unless you repeat
the mistake which was in the base of that resolution. The mistaken idea
that, though the country's original population, 66% of the whole, did
not accept a certain solution - nevertheless the International Community
and the United Nations felt justified in imposing on the indigenous
population a solution which they found unacceptable. Therefore, of course
this solution can be abolished. It has no legally-binding status, it
has no special status. What will ultimately decide is what the inhabitants
who were here and the inhabitants who are here will decide.
Another question to you - you talk of a criminal colonialism of the
Jewish People, in the form of Zionism. Does that not mean that you deny
the rights of the Jewish People in the past, and naturally also today?
Does this not mean that there should be no talk of One State for Two
Peoples, but just of one state for a single people, the Palestinian
I do not deny the right of the Jewish People to a state, as I do not
deny the right of the Palestinian People to a state. I do deny the the
right of the Jewish People to dispossess the Palestinian People of their
homeland. If the political solution which is being proposed would enable
the Jewish People to continue dispossessing the Palestinian People,
this is not only morally unacceptable - it also means that the conflict
would be perpetuated. Therefore, what I seek is a solution which in
the final account will enable everybody who lives here to feel that
their historical rights are respected, and that their civil and human
rights are respected, too. If this sounds like absolute morality, I
shudder to think what relative morality would consist of.
Zalman Amit: The next question
is for Uri Avnery. Considering that Jews had been persecuted all along
their history, does the existence of a state with a Jewish majority
not invite a new Holocaust, under the shadow of the Iranian threat?
We cannot in this evening devote the time for a detailed discussion
of what happened in this country in the past hundred and twenty years.
It is a long story, a complicated story, a difficult story, a tragic
story - and not one story but two stories, two narratives, an Israeli
one and a Palestinian one. Thoroughly analysing it requires a whole
evening to itself, or perhaps a week or a month.
We in Gush Shalom, in the
brochure which is on the table outside, entitled "Truth against
Truth ", have made an effort to write a draft for a joint Israeli-Palestinian
narrative about how the conflict was born and developed up to the present.
Whoever wants can read it.
About the Iranian Bomb: well, when part of the Jews decided that they
want to be a nation and create a state, they took a very grave risk.
There had been a traditional Jewish way of life, and it was very simple
- when Jews were in danger, they packed their belongings and ran away
to another country. They have survived very well that way - perhaps
not very well, but they survived that way for two thousand years.
When our ancestors decided
to be a nation and create a state, they took a calculated risk. They
have gone back to the arena of history, and the arena of history is
a dangerous place.
Every people faces dangers.
During the Cold War the United States was at every single moment faced
with the danger that, in case of a nuclear war breaking out, two hundred
million Americans would be killed within five minutes. That is the price
of living in history.
I am not afraid of the Iranian
Bomb. I think this is mostly a fabricated hysteria, part of the demonization
of the Iranian People. Iranians are a normal people, like every other.
The Iranian People are no more insane than the Israeli People.
That's not saying much.
Uri Avnery: True.
The Iranian regime is not crazy, even if their president sometimes behaves
a bit strange. If they gain a nuclear bomb - not that I wish for that
- if they gain a nuclear bomb, they will not use it. They will have
a Bomb and we will have a Bomb. They will not use theirs because they
will know the price, and we will not use ours because we will know the
price. We will live in danger like many other nations live under various
The greatest danger is the
manipulation of the Holocaust. Anybody who mentions the Holocaust in
any political context should be condemned. By the way, if you want a
direct testimony about Iran, read what this guy said who this week landed
by mistake in Teheran and was treated like a prince - though they knew
he was Israeli.
Stay there a moment, there is another question addressed to you - from
Rami Nashef of the Machsom news website - How would you define the status
of Arab citizens in a Jewish state which is part of the Two State Solution.
Would Arab Knesset Members be expecting a future like that of Azmi Bishara
I live in this state from its first day, and from its first day I objected
to its being defined as " A Jewish State". I don't know what
that means. I don't know what is a Jewish state. Nobody ever explained
to me what is a Jewish state. For ten years of being in the Knesset
I never was in any serious discussion defining what is a Jewish state.
What is it? A state expressing
Jewish values? A state based on the Jewish religion? A state in which
there is a Jewish majority? A state belonging to all the Jews in the
world, eleven million people - some of whom are part of the American
nation, while others are part of the French nation (and have voted this
week for Sarcusi)? What is a Jewish state?
Many years ago, when I was
still on speaking terms with Ariel Sharon, we had a very intense debate
on this exact point - is this a Jewish state or an Israeli state. I
am part of a group of citizens who lodges and appeal to the Supreme
Court to remove the definition "Nationality: Jewish" from
our identity cards and replace it with "Nationality: Israeli".
Therefore, for me this question is almost irrelevant.
The Arab document which was
recently published in Nazareth is to a great degree acceptable to me.
I think it is a basis for serious discussion.
Earlier, I said that there
should be set out a new framework for the relations between the state
and its Arab citizens. I think that discussion of this new basis can
start from this document. I can only flatter its authors.
I have two questions for Ilan. The first one in fact consists of three
small questions by Yehezkel Dolev - When did the longing for Zion and
the desire to resettle the country start; are the Arabs in Eretz Yisrael
the descendants of the Philistine People who were three thousands ago
exterminated by King Saul and King David; and does the Koran contain
any mention for the rights of the Jewish People over the Holy Land?
Ilan Pappe: The
ideal of a Jewish longing for Zion, as a national vision, begins in
1882 - with some precursors a few years earlier.
Are the Palestinians of today
descendants of people exterminated by King Saul? Look, I have encountered
two interesting encyclopedias: The Hebrew Encyclopedia and the Palestinian
Encyclopedia. The Palestinian Encyclopedia asserts that the Palestinians
are the descendants of Cana'anites, the Hebrew one holds that the Jews
here are descendants of the ancient Hebrews. Both assertions are utter
About the Koran: no, the
Koran does not recognize the right of the Jewish People for this land,
nor does it recognize the right of the Palestinian People for this land.
The Koran was created in the Seventh Century. At that time there were
no Peoples or national movements - and surprisingly, at that time nobody
was especially interested in Palestine.
The Koran was mainly concerned
with finding a place in the world at the side of two well-established
and quite strong Monotheistic religions. In that it succeeded quite
In the state which will be
established here we will have to take into consideration all these positions:
those who think they are descendants of somebody exterminated here three
thousand years ago, those consider themselves descended from somebody
expelled from here two thousand years ago, and those who think that
the have a Divine Promise denied to everybody else. As is well known,
the Zionist Movement does not believe in the existence of God, but strongly
holds to His having promised this land to the Jews.
Zalman Amit: A
question from our common friend Teddy Katz - what gives Jews, who themselves
have a sovereign state, any moral, or other authority to impose on the
Palestinians a supposedly common state, under conditions defined and
dictated by the Jews themselves?
Ilan Pappe: There
would have been neither hope not meaning for the idea of a joint, common
Jewish-Arab state, if it was solely initiated by a group of Jews. I
completely agree with that. I would not have presented myself here,
to say what I say, if I had not felt certain that I am representing
a common activity of Jews and Palestinians together.
This action must be common,
with its basic idea standing in contradiction to the Two States idea.
The idea in its base is not that in one part of the country - 80 percent
- Jews decide what will happenn, while Palestinians take the decisions
for the other 20 percent. No. I want Palestinians and Jews to take together
the decisions for a hundred percent of the country.
Two questions to Uri Avnery. First, having seen in your lifetime so
many phenomena which nobody predicted and nobody believed could happen,
why can't you accept the possibility that the nationalist ideas - Zionist
as well as Palestinian - will swiftly pass away like smoke?
I do accept the possibility, except for the word "swiftly".
I remember one evening when I sat in a Ramallah restaurant, drank a
bit of good arak, ate and drank while surrounded by the good Palestinian
people of Ramallah. Feeling elated with the arak I thought: what a wonderful
country this could have been, if there was peace. Everybody could have
travelled everywhere in the country. I just think - and that is my main
difference with Ilan - that it will not happen in a single joint state,
because such a single joint state will simply not come into being.
I think that it CAN happen
in two states, with each people having a state and a flag. They will
have their state and their flag, and we will have our - different -
state and flag, and each side will have its own football team, and the
border will be open. The people of Ramallah would be able to swim in
the Mediterranean, and we could - if we want - bath in the Jordan River.
These will not be mutually hostile states. Hostile states would not
come into being, because the Two State solution can only be implemented
with the agreement of both peoples. That, the agreement of both peoples
to the proposed solution, was Ilan's last sentence, and I completely
agree with it.
The solution which you propose
like the solution which I propose have one thing in common: neither
could be implemented except with the common consent of Israelis and
Palestinians. Anything but that would mean either the destruction of
Israel or the perpetuation of Israeli occupation.
This solution or that, the
one you consider realistic and the one I consider to be such - both
need the consent of both peoples. And if you want to include the refugees
in the decision, too, I am certainly not opposed to that. I think that
any reasonable overall solution should provide the refugees with a reasonable
solution for their problem. It would not be an ideal solution, but they
would be able to live with it. We will place on the table the solution
agreed on in negotiations, and they will approve it.
Zalman Amit: Uri, the next question - what if in the
far future the number of Palestinians in Israel will exceed fifty percent,
how will the State of the Jews be preserved then?
When the State of Israel was created, there were in it twenty percent
Arab citizens. Now, after sixty years, there are still twenty percent
Arab citizens. This is a statistical miracle, considering the enormous
birth rate of the Muslim Arab citizens (the Christian Arabs have a lower
birth rate than the Jews).
I think that what you speak
about will not happen, but if it does - God will provide. If it happens
in fifty years, the demographic balance will no longer be so important.
It is not completely indispensable that there will always be four Jewish
citizens for every Arab one. What we need to do now is push the demographic
demon back into the bottle. At this moment it is a national feeling
which cannot be dispensed with, but if after fifty years of common life
in the State of Israel the demographic balance will change, than it
will change. Many things change in the world.
In America, too, there is
such a process. If fifty years ago somebody would have told the Americans:
let's create here a Hispanic majority, an uprising would have broken
out. But later the Hispanics came and slowly increased, and quite soon
there will be more Hispanics than White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. There
are things which change in the course of a lifetime, there are natural
processes, which should not be opposed.
In this debate we are talking
about today, about the present consciousness of both peoples, on the
solution which both peoples must achieve today, tomorrow, or the morning
of the day after tomorrow. So, I am not among the people disturbed by
Zalman Amit: Another question, a bit connected to the
earlier one - if there will be two states, where will the Israeli Arabs
be? In which one of them?
I would like to draw your attention to a very interesting phenomenon,
which is hardly talked about. Some Fascists, Lieberman as well as Effie
Eitam, have come up with a revolutionary proposal, a supposedly humane
proposal. The Arabs in the towns and villages of the "Triangle"
area of Israel will stay where they are, but the entire region will
be transferred to the Palestinian state which will be created - and
in exchange, the settlers will be annexed to Israel. Not a single Arab
citizen of Israel had come forward to support this. Not a single one.
Also not my friend Azmi Bishara.
Think about what this means.
The great majority of the Arabs in Israel are nationalist Arabs. They
are proud of being part of the Palestinian People, but they want to
go on being citizens of Israel. Even as a minority.
One more question, then I pass the floor to Ilan. What does it mean
a struggle abroad? Is the struggle not here, on the land which we live
on - not for a state abroad. And in continuation, in English: "You
may say I am dreamer, but I am not the only one"? [English in the
Uri Avnery: I am a dreamer
too [English in the original], but I try to dream dreams which can be
My reference to -a struggle
abroad- was not a reaction to something which Ilan said here tonight,
but to something which was said by another activist - also an Israeli
Jew - at a very intense debate which we had on this subject a month
ago, at a conference in Ramallah. He said something like: the struggle
inside the country is lost. Israeli public opinion cannot be influenced.
The entire struggle is redundant, completely without any chance. What
we, the Israeli Peace Movement, should do is to move abroad and influence
the international public opinion to pressure Israel, impose an international
boycott on Israel, and so forth.
I think that our struggle
is here, our battlefield is here. The Peace Movement should wage its
struggle here. All of us, by the very act of conducting a daily activity
here, confirm the fact that our battlefield is here.
I oppose the opinion that
Israelis can, by acting abroad to encourage international pressure,
positively influence the Israeli public opinion.
In one of the debates Adam
Keller asked: The Palestinians live in terrible misery, and the entire
world is monstrously boycotting them to the point of starvation in order
to force them to give up their dreams - and nevertheless they do not
yield. How, then, can you expect the Israeli public, which is a thousandfold
times stronger economically, to yield to outside pressure?
I have yesterday received
an interesting letter from a man who had participated in the struggle
at South Africa. There are those who claim that south Africa can serve
as our model. I think that there is no similarity between the two problems.
This man, evidently an expert on South African issues, is the opinion
that it is wrong to attribute the fall of Apartheid mainly to the effects
of the international sanctions. He considers the boycott as rather marginal,
the decisive factor being the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Simply put, America had for
many years supported the dastardly Apartheid regime, because of regarding
it as a stronghold in the struggle against Communism. With Communism
off the scene, the US had no further interest in propping up such a
regime in South Africa, and it immediately collapsed.
are an important subject in itself, but those who expect the United
States' attitude to Israel to change within a few years do not understand
the ideological depths of the American-Israeli connection.
The American national narrative
is parallel to the Israeli one. There is the Jewish Lobby. There is
the enormous power of the Evangelists, 80 million fanatics who believe
that we are placed here in the Holy Land in order to implement their
Messianic dreams. There is no similarity.
Zalman Amit: Two questions to Ilan, one shorter and
one longer. The first one is in English: "Do you agree that there
is irreversible contradiction between a Jewish state and a democratic
state?" [English in the original].
Ilan Pappe: Yes. I think there is a clear contradiction
between a Jewish State and a Democratic State. I think there is also
an inherent contradiction between democratic ideals and having a Jewish
State at the side of a Palestinian State. I share the position of Uri,
that we would not want to see the [Arab Israeli] communities of Wadi
Ara being forcible annexed to a Palestinian state, we all rightly protest
this idea. But it is very interesting to note the position taken by
the inhabitants of places like Eastern Bak'ah. Read the Palestinian
press about this. They say: look how Zionism had won! Our friends in
Bak'ah Al Garbiya, Western Bak'ah, think that it would be a disaster
to live again in a united town of Bak'ah, because that would mean that
they - Israeli citizens - would become part of the the West Bank [where
eastern Bak'ah is located]. This is what zionism has done. It has created
separated Palestinian identities. As if one type of Palestinians with
one kind of identity can have a place only in the Palestinian state
which Gush Shalom is offering, while another type of Palestinians will
live in democratic Israel.
There is an inherent contradiction between the Two States idea and the
idea of Democracy. Not because there is any possibility of Palestinians
being fifty percent in Israel, Uri. Ethnic cleansing will start long
before they get that far, it could start when they are just 23 percent.
I don't want to rely on the medical miracle which you believe in. You
spoke about how wonderful it is that the Palestinians, though most of
them are Muslims, have not passed the 20 percent level. How will it
go on? Shall we send inspectors to make sure that they never will pass
the 20 percent level? Go into bedrooms? Do you start realizing where
you get when this the basis of your mental structures? We are dealing
with something of which only one other people in history dealt with
concerning the Jewish People.
To start counting how many
Jews there are and how many Arabs. Even with a Two states solution,
we will not for one moment stop counting how many Arabs there are in
this country. Because otherwise, what is the whole idea of having such
a state? If it would not be a Jewish State, why not have already a joint
Dr. Hemi Yehezkel asks if in your view, in the Israeli- Palestinian
conflict all the badness and evil are on the Israeli side. He wants
an answer in one word, if possible.
if he wants one-word answers let him go to a court of law. With all
due respect, I will ignore this request. And for the questions itself:
No, badness and evil are not entirely on the Israeli side. There is
quite a lot of them on the Palestinian side. You might not believe it,
but they are human beings, too. They have perpetrated massacres, they
have hurt innocent civilians, they did many stupid things which hurt
themselves as well as others. The thing is that even they don't deserve
what Zionism did to them.
Therefore, Uri, the story
is not complicated - unlike what you say and what is written in this
brochure prepared by Gush Shalom. The story here is a simple story,
a story of white people who were persecuted in Europe and who drove
away the black people who used to live here. It happened in many places.
The difference is that here the white people stayed, and surprisingly
the black people who are left here are willing to build a single state
together with them. So, we should be grateful to them for that, rather
than start accusing them again and look for ways of locking them into
Ladies and Gentlemen, the time allotted for questions is over, and I
can assure you that if we had wanted to take all the questions posed
we would have needed another another hour and half at least.
There was still left one
question of Dr. Yehezkeli, to Uri Avnery. Also of you he asks a short
answer. He asks you if a Palestinian national Movement really exists
- that is, a movement of people who declare themselves as belonging
to the Palestinian Nation, or who appeal to the Palestinian Nation to
declare itself as being separate from the Arab Nation. He asks for a
In one word, the answer is "perhaps". Look, the issue of Palestinian
Nationalism and its relation to Arab Nationalism is very complicated.
To very much oversimplify: there is a specific Palestinian National
Movement, within the larger, All-Arab National Movement. In the Arab
language there are different words. There is "Watan", which
should be translated as "Nation"; and there is "Umma",
which is linguistically the same word as the Hebrew word for "Nation",
but which actually refers to the entire Arab World, or sometimes to
the entire Muslim World.
How did a Palestinian Nation form here? Golda Meir had said that there
is no such thing as a Palestinian People, and many had said it before.
The specific Arab-Palestinian National Movement took form in this country,
following the Zionist attack on the Arab people who lived in the country
The fate of the Arab People
here was ever since then completely different from that of the Arab
People in Syria, Lebanon or Egypt.
Here, a completely different
problem was created. Here, the Palestinian People found itself faced
with a formidable movement which progressively took over the country.
I define this historic, tragic
and painful conflict (to whose Jewish side I am also sensitive) as a
collision between an unstoppable force and an immoveable mass.
It is, in my view, not a
completely one-sided story. When you, Ilan, show high sensitivity to
the injustice done to the Palestinians, I accept this fully and more
than fully. But when you completely ignore the fact that there is a
Jewish side to that story, I don’t think this is true. And it
is also not useful.
You could not effect the
Jewish-Israeli public if you have no sensitivity to what this public
thinks, to its fears and anxieties. All this exists. It exists, and
you must take it into account, if you want to influence these people.
Also to influence in your direction, also to bring six million Israelis
to dismantle this state and accept a common state with another nation
- a nation which they now hate and fear.
If you want to influence the Israeli public, you must understand these
fears, understand where they come from. Only if we look at both peoples,
see them at every moment of our struggle, see their anxieties and aspirations
- only then do we have a chance of succeeding.
With your permission, I will go over to the final round, five minutes'
summations. Ilan, please.
We said what needed to be said, and there should be no repetitions.
Of course, the solution must contain the anxieties as well as the aspirations
of both Jews and Arabs. I quite agree.
That is precisely what I think that the kind of political structure
which was proposed in the past sixty years is a failure. Because it
does not answer the aspirations of the people on both sides. That is
the reason why the Peace Camp failed. Because its proposed solution
does not answer the fears, does not dissipate the anxieties. Neither
those of the Jews nor those of the Palestinians. Exactly the opposite.
This solution - the only
solution, the only purpose for which the International Community is
willing to pressure the sides, the only one which the Quartet is willing
to go for - this solution only increases the anxieties, drives the fears
deeper and deeper, increases the hatred, causes ever higher waves of
violence. We have no time to try another ten years of this solution,
another Road Map and another Oslo Agreement.
The Palestinians in the Territories
don't have enough people to pay for the continuing failures of the political
elites which lead the Two States move.
It is always the occupier,
the dispossessor, the oppressor who claims that the story is complicated.
The victim always says: In fact, it is not so complicated. You have
taken my home, you imprison me, you don't let me breath - all this does
not sound complicated to mme. It is hard, it is terrible and horrible,
but it is not complicated. The occupier says: it is complicated, it
is far more complicated, you have to understand also my side. The side
of the occupier is something to which we will show understanding when
the occupation is over - not a minute before.
There is another thing. Do
we decide - and we must decide - what kind of game it is that we are
playing. If as Uri says, we are really out to satisfy national feelings,
then tell me, Uri: what National Movement which you know about would
have concluded that now is the time to lay aside the Kalachnikov gun
and the bomb, to end the struggle, because we have gotten the most realistic
and normal solution which a national movement can ask for: twenty percent
of the homeland. Let's end the struggle, we got twenty percent!
True,these twenty percent
are divided in two. True, ten percent of the twenty percent are divided
again, in five. True, we are not really politically independent, even
less do we have control over our economy, and the refugees have nowhere
to return to. But how lucky it is that we are thinking in nationalist
This, yes this is the Palestinian
Nation State. This is what we fought for, for twenty percent of the
soil. How can anybody speak in nationalist terms and not offer the Palestinians
at least fifty percent of their homeland! What Palestinian will sit
down with you, except the well-fed elites of Ramallah?
Now, you say: let's agree
about creating the Two States, and from there go on to building the
Single State. Except that I, just like you, am afraid for what will
happen within the Israeli State. Because it is clear that if we are
talking not only in national terms but also in pragmatic political terms,
we want - and you say we have a strong chance - to succeed in convincing
the Israeli society of something which it is capable of accepting, not
to talk to Israelis of a version which is beyond their comprehension.
We know what is the element
in the Two States Solution which appeals to Israelis: "We are Here,
They are There". We can't include the Arab in the "Here",
he does not fit in. Because then Yossi Beilin will correctly ask you:
If you speak in nationalistic terms, why should the Palestinians have
a state to themselves "there", while "here" there
would be a state with Arabs as well as Jews? Where is the logic in this?
And the only logic which barely works is the logic of keeping the Palestinian
inhabitants permanently at the twenty percent level.
When they pass above that
level, even the most fanatic supporters of the Two States Solution will
say that the principle of keeping an absolute Jewish demographic majority
takes precedence over any other principle - also over Democracy or Human
Rights or Civil Rights.
Anybody who supports the
Two States Solution would not be able to refute this logic.
In summation, I agree with
you that we have two agendas: a long term, principled agenda, and an
immediate, vital; emergency agenda. I agree to that. The emergency agenda
is to put an end to the Israeli oppression in the Occupied Territories.
But to come and say to achieve
this is a struggle from the inside? To say this, after forty years of
occupation? Are you trying to convince us that the Great Israeli Peace
Camp is the force which would put an end to the daily Israeli crimes
in the Occupied Territories? Or even the Palestinian National Movement?
Is that what you learned from the past forty years?
Did the internal forces succeed
in ending the occupation? Did they avert one day of occupation? Of injustice?
There is no National Movement
which achieved its aim, no injustice to which and end was put, without
a serious involvement of the outside world. There never was. We need
the outside world in order to end the occupation. We need public opinion
in Europe, in the United States. After forty years we have the right
to say that we need an outside pressure on Israel in order to end the
occupation, that we don't want to wait for another forty years.
We have the right to say
this. The inside and the outside - each has its own role to play. International
public opinion has its role to play, and outside government have their
role - just as the internal Israeli struggle and the internal Palestinian
struggle have their own roles.
There is only one way to
deal with a regime like the Israeli regime, which is based on an ideology
which creates a separation between the Jewish population and the local
population - a population whose cleansing started in 1948 and never
stopped for a single day since then. There is only one way of conveying
that the message that this ideology does not pay, that the occupation
is too expensive to sustain. The only way is a clear message from conscientious
people, of peace movements all over the world.
Israel should get the same
message which was delivered to South Africa: "You will stay a pariah
state as along as you continue committing these crimes". This is
an important message, a message which should be supported. It does not
contradict the Palestinian struggle, it does not contradict the peace
struggle. On the contrary, it strengthens these struggles, it gives
it a chance. Without that, the first victims will be the Palestinians
but we too will be victims, everybody in this room.
Uri Avnery: The
issue is not to do one thing and stop doing another thing.
We need to make a simple
strategic choice: where do we direct our main thrust. Nobody is saying:
don’t go to international conferences. I do that all the time.
Nobody says: don’t talk to the international public opinion. I
talk to the international public opinion every week. The question is
where the Israeli Peace Movement should direct its main thrust, its
main effort. Where is its main battlefield. I say, unequivocally: that
is here, in this country.
As to outside pressures: there are pressures which can help, and there
are pressures which might cause damage, even grave damage.
If the outside pressure would
be of such a kind as to make normal, sane Israelis feel that the entire
world is ganging up on us because we are Jews, this pressure will bring
an opposite result. If the pressure will be selective, if the boycott
will be focused on bodies which support the occupation and take part
in it, then it would be excellent. I am all for that. In fact, Gush
Shalom pioneered this way, calling already ten years ago for boycott
of settlement products.
Occupation will not end without
peace. We have to see that in the most clear way possible: there is
no way of putting an end to all this injustice, of ending the occupation,
except in the framework of peace.
This was clear from the first
moment, and is clear also now.
That is why it is so important
to reach peace quickly. It is possible and realistic. Without achieving
peace, the occupation will go on and on and on, and your plan will achieve
the exact opposite of what you hope for.
Therefore, formulating a
clear peace plan, which has a chance to be accepted, is not a theoretical
You should be careful about
the use of words. Sometimes, people throw words whose meaning they don’t
understand. For example, "Bantustan". In South Africa there
were blacks who became agents of the racist regime, who took upon themselves
to manage regions which were nothing but Apartheid concentration camps.
To say that the Palestinians
who seek a state of their own are like the black servants of the racist
regime - that is a terrible insult to the Palestinian People. The Palestinian
People have risen up in two intifadas, they have shown in countless
struggles that they do not yield to the occupation. You can defame Yasser
Arafat as much as you want, but he was the national leader of a fighting
people. Also today I think that signing the Oslo Agreement was a right
decision for the Palestinians to take. That is hotly debated. But to
say that the Palestinians who seek to create a state of their own are
Israeli agents, like the heads of the South African Bantustans, is very
insulting and very incorrect. There might be one person among the Palestinians
today who might take up a role similar to that of the Bantustan leaders
- and even about him I am not sure.
Demographic problems exist
in many countries. Israel is not the only country which wakes up and
rushes to count births. There had been elections in France just now,
of which the main issue was the increase of the Muslim population in
the country. There is in the United states an enormous debate about
the Blacks and Hispanics, with demographic calculations being made all
For myself, I reject any
demographic way of thinking. I would say that politics plus demographics
equals Fascism. Every thinking based on demographic calculations reeks
of Fascism. Let's meet again in a hundred years and see how the composition
of the population in this country has developed.
You should make some plans for a shorter range.
Let me tell you what I find most frightening in your proposal, more
than anything else. You say that the Two States Solution is inherently
bad and should be rejected. Your alternative is a solution which 99
percent of Jewish Israelis do not want, and which has no chance to be
accepted. What does that leave? It leaves the slogan of the Israeli
right wing: that there is no solution to this conflict.
That is what I am afraid
of: of those who say that "There is no solution to the conflict",
the conflict will last forever, that it is our fate to suffer an eternity
of it. This is what I am afraid of, because it can serve as justification
to all horrors, up to and including ethnic cleansing.
To sum up: I am not pessimistic.
I am optimistic. I think that nearly everything is possible. The one
thing which is not possible to convince the Israelis to dismantle the
state of Israel. This simply will not happen, not under any conceivable
set of circumstances, even in situations which go beyond the most wild
imaginations. It will not happen in the forseeable future. Well, it
might happen beyond the forseeable future. For me, personally, that
is not so interesting.
From the audience:
It is the default option. There will be a Single State, whether we like
it or not.
Uri Avnery: A
single state means the dismantling of the State of Israel. The adherents
of this idea should say this loud and clear. You cannot walk around
on a tiptoe and wrap it in a million disguises. What is up for discussion
on the table the existence of the State of Israel. Nothing else. If
anybody here has found the way how to convince six million Israelis
to dismantle the State of Israel for which five generations had fought,
I raise my hat to them.
There is no such way. There
are two things which we did not hear today, and I want to repeat them
in the hope that they will remain engraved on your memories: First,
we did not hear how a Single State will come about. Second, we did not
hear what will be the situation in the Single State. These are two things
for which you need to get a clear answer in order to convince anybody
of this idea.
As I said, I am optimistic.
I believe that the Two States Solution will be implemented. I think
it is a solution for the forseeable future.
In any case, I have promised
myself to stay alive until it happens.
Zalman Amit: This
is not the end of this debate, in the larger sense, but the time has
come to conclude this evening's event. Thank you all for being an excellent
audience. Good Evening.
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