Mr. Gideon Levy … I’m disappointed.
What happened on Tuesday in a discussion between the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy and Dr. Mamdouh al-Aker about the “One-State Solution”; proved to me how naive I am.
On Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. in one of the American Colony Hotel meeting rooms (this hotel really needs to change its name to anything other than the word “colony”!); an event by the Bookshop of the hotel has been held.
Ha'aretz Journalist Gideon Levy joined Dr. Mamdouh al-Aker to discuss the “One-State Solution”; is it possible or impossible? And what other options do we have?
Dr. Mamdouh al-Aker started off by explaining how this whole “Two-State” or “One-State” solution came about; it all started with the Oslo Accords. With these agreements, the Two-State Solution (illusion) has been represented and these agreements have been signed in order to reach this solution; but alas, all in vain.
Ever since 1967 till this very day, instead of implementing what the PLO and Israel have agreed upon; which will basically give the Palestinians in the end the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem; Israel has done the complete opposite.
For over 20 years (since the Oslo Accords) Israel never stopped its settlements colonial movement, or the continuous theft of natural recourses and land in the Occupied Territories, or racist procedures against Palestinians in comparison to Israelis, whether it was the Separation\Annexation\Apartheid Wall, checkpoints (hellpoints), house demolitions and so on. So with circumstances like these –according to Dr. al-Aker- it’s impossible to implement the two-state solution, therefore maybe we should work more towards a one-state solution with federal government and a bi-national state.
Then it was Mr. Levy’s turn, he made several important points as well. He pointed out that as long as Israel keeps going with this “Occupation” system it’s been following for years; it’s completely eliminating the two-state solution and causing serious damage to “peace negotiations”. He also kept emphasizing the 1967 occupation and how it’s breaking international law and so on, and that it’s really difficult to go beyond the 1967 borders and that we can’t really go back to what happened in 1948 (Palestinian Nakba\Catastrophe).
These are bits and pieces of what has been discussed, what I got out of everything they’ve said was the following:
1. Mr. al-Aker is a federal one-state solution advocate, while Mr. Levy is a two-state advocate if Israel stops its occupation of Palestinian land in 1967.
2. 1948 Nakba is not something we should go back to, it’s too late (according to Mr. Levy).
3. The Oslo Accords are a huge part of why we’re in this situation today; since it was built on false terms. The refugee case was delayed, Jerusalem case was delayed, and boundaries were delayed… etc. “Palestinian State”, self-determination, and compensations weren't even mentioned. So what state are we going to create exactly under terms like these?
Of course listening to every single word they've said, I had tons of questions to ask but had to minimize them since a lot of people wanted to ask questions as well. So when my turn came to ask, I asked the following:
1. As to the two-state solution, Dr. al-Aker kept repeating several times how impossible it is right now; especially under such circumstances. But my question was, how realistic was it in the first place? And bear with me here, maybe I have no depth in my vision into the future but this is what I’m thinking; when looking at the map you can clearly see that the Gaza Strip is on one side of the country, the West Bank on the other, and East Jerusalem –which is cut in half between the West Bank and what is now called Israel; noting that East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem are ONE CITY! So with this vision in mind, how realistic is this solution? Let’s say it happened, if I wanted to get from East Jerusalem in Palestine to West Jerusalem in Israel am I going to need a travel visa?
2. My second question was about the One-state solution. I’m one of the people who advocate the one-state solution, of course as a kid the one-state to me was a Palestinian state but now I know this is much more difficult than I dreamed of as a kid. But one of the issues related to the one-state solution is the question of the Jewish identity. We all know that what defines Israel is its Jewish identity; after all it does introduce itself to the world as the Jewish homeland, and as the Jewish-Democratic State. So how will Israel deal with that when it comes to a one state?
3. My third question was about the word “occupation”. Mr. Levy used the word occupation several times in his speech, my question or request of him was to clarify which occupation exactly, 1948 occupation or 1967? Because as a Palestinian who’s reading history and trying to learn as much as possible about everything that has happened since 1948, the way I see it, both 1948 and 1967 fall under the “occupation” category. Back in 1948 it was ethnic cleansing and genocides and the same thing happened in 1967; which is still happening till this very day; a little bit more sophisticated though. So we shouldn't forget about 1948, if we want to go anywhere hopeful in the future and do change the situation ;we should start from 1948.
So after the questions, time for answers has come, and boy was I disappointed. Mr. Levy started answering the questions:
- When it came to the Jewish Identity question, he said he didn't quite understand what I meant. What does it really mean for Israel to have a Jewish character? Most Israelis don’t even know what it’s like to even be Jewish. They keep repeating the words “Israel is Jewish and Democratic” but they don’t quite understand it, so what emphasis will that have on Israel? Not much.
- As to my question about 1948, he said that of course 1948 is not to be forgotten; even though it’s not that simple in Israel. If you call 1948 “Nakba” and not “Independence War” it’s a crime in Israel; so it’s better to stick to 1967. He added, “1967 is the best bargain Palestinians could ever get or dream of.”
- His answer to my first question that I've asked about how realistic the two-state solution was, that yes it wasn't really the most convenient solution but it’s the best solution. They can connect the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with a bridge or something, it could happen.
As to Dr. al-Aker – it’s official after this discussion I’m in love with this man- he almost agreed with me on everything; which I highly appreciated. Some of the things he said:
- were reinforcing the importance of going back to 1948, which was completely missing in the Oslo Accords. He added, that it’s true 1967 is basically the same continuous process that’s been going on since 1948. An on-going Nakba.
- As to the two-state solution, he believes that it was a huge mistake to suggest in the first place. Yasser Arafat realized his mistake and when he tried to fix it years later, he was murdered. So yes, the two-state solution is not a solution from the very beginning, but they couldn't see it at the time.
Okay after pointing out what both speakers said, allow me say a couple of things in response since I didn't get any extra time to discuss the answers with them.
As to Mr. Levy, again, I’m utterly disappointed with you.
When I used to read articles for him in Ha'aretz, sometimes he would appear to me as a Palestinian (yes, I'm being dramatic here). I remember this one article about the possibility of a third Intifada, and he was more excited about having a Palestinian uprising than us ourselves! But with the answers he gave me, he simply reminded me of this Zionist professor that taught me at NYU. This professor was acting all "liberal" and nice, but in the end he was a pure Zionist who couldn't care less about Palestinians or their rights.
About Mr. Levy’s answer to the Jewish Identity question I’d like to say: Are you freaking serious? The Jewish identity or character does not have big emphasis? Did you forget about the Law of Return of Israel; that allows Jews from anywhere around the world to come to “Israel”; obtain a citizenship and a nationality to come live in “Israel”; while Palestinian refugees can’t get neither because they are not Jewish!
Also, how about the fact that Palestinians in “Israel” or East Jerusalem have to pay for building permits in cash – which are really expensive- while Jews (especially settlers) can get loans for these permits and pay in several payments over the course of 30 years?
If a well-educated man like yourself thinks about Israel’s Jewish identity in this superficial manner, then we have a problem.
As to your genius solution to overcome the obstacles of the two-state solution.
“Build a bridge between the West Bank and Gaza”, seriously? I used to hear a lot of people say that, like my Zionist professor, that we should build a bridge between them; but think about it? Is this a real solution? Whenever I heard this I thought people were making jokes about it, turns out they’re dead serious like Mr. Levy. With all due respect, I’m 21 and you’re 60 years old, don’t you think this is a bit too childish? Or too naive? This solution should come from someone my age, with no experience in life or depth, not a well-educated and experienced man like yourself.
Now hearing all of this was a bit of a shock to me, since I expected more of him but what made me want to jump off of a building was this statement: “1967 is the best bargain Palestinians could ever get.”
Mr. Levy, how dare you? I got to say, it always surprises me how Israelis dare suggest this in the first place. First of all, you’re not the one who have been ethnically cleansed and murdered over the course of 65 years, so if anyone wants to move on past 1948; it’s Palestinians’ decision not Israel’s. Second of all, NO! 1967 is not our best bargain, its Israel’s best bargain to keep Palestinians silenced about what happened in 1948, no less no more. Not a one-state solution or two-state nonsense will ever be achievable if Israel will not recognize the crimes it has committed against Palestinians in order to implement sanctions over these crimes. In addition, to compensations paid by Israel to Palestinians (whether physical compensations or moral).
Jews got their compensations from Germany for the crime of Holocaust, and they’re still getting paid till this very day. Why is it easy for them to ask for their rights and at the same time deny Palestinians the same legitimate requests?
So in the end I went back home disappointed with Mr. Levy, who I've been interested in meeting and talking to. His speech might've had some good points, but his answers to the questions were – as one guy has told me after the discussion- weren't really answers, because he barely answered them in the first place.
Who are Dr. Mamdouh al-Aker and Mr. Gideon Levy?
- Dr. Mamdouh al-Aker: is a Palestinian urologist, studied in Cairo and was a member of the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation at the Washington-Madrid talks. For the past ten years, he has been the general commissioner of the Palestinian Independent Commission on Human Rights.
- Mr. Gideon Levy: is an Israeli journalist who writes opinion pieces and a weekly column for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that often focus on the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.