Why I Want Israel to Break Away From Those 'Other' Arabs - the Palestinians

Do I wish for the occupation to end only so I can feel less guilty about enjoying the meager freedom the Israeli city offers Arab citizens who adopt its values?

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An illustration depicting Sayed Kashua on a hill between an Israeli city and an Arab town.
Illustration. Credit: Amos Biderman

Sometimes I think I’m a racist; in fact I’m often sure of it. A victim of racism and an adopter of its doctrine, which was imparted to me via every possible channel of mediation. Sometimes, hope returns to my heart, after I have read about the French initiative, a Quartet report or an international summit that will discuss the Israeli occupation, condemn the settlement policy and impose an agreement based on a division into two states, one Israeli and the other Palestinian. Does the hope for separation stem from the discourse of the sane left in Israel? From a desire to remove the burden of the occupation and the burden of coping with the Palestinians from the shoulders of a conscience fashioned by historical forgetfulness, and urges a division according to the best tradition of the clash of civilizations?

Am I, too, following the path of the Israeli separation camp for reasons of selfish convenience? Do I still wish for the end of the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and for establishment of a Palestinian state, in order to be able to address the issues of my citizenship as a minority in Israel? So as to feel more comfortable when I hide in the shadow of the Israeli city and enjoy the meager freedom it can offer an Arab who has adopted its values, when the sense of betrayal accompanying the establishment of a Palestinian state has been dulled by that entity of national self-determination to which I physically belong?

Am I glad of the possibility, however hopeless, of the partition plan from a sense of superiority – in light of the understanding that “there’s nothing to be done, they are not like us,” mentally and culturally?

Sometimes I try to persuade myself that the conscious or unconscious motive for the aspiration toward a division into two states makes no difference, and that what’s important is the result, and if that result is a kind of justice involving the end of the occupation and the achievement of civil rights for the Palestinians in the territories, then to hell with the motive. And if I’m already talking about my feelings, then of course I will be happy if democracy, human and civil rights and even economic prosperity prevail there – but if that doesn’t happen, it would no longer be my problem. I’ve done my part, I signed treaties with the whole world and its sister, I came out moral, and what’s truly important to me is my security.

After an agreement is signed within an Arab-Saudi-Egyptian-international framework, every violation of Israeli sovereignty or attempt to threaten its citizens will be answered with an iron fist and be supported by the whole world and its sister. If under the shadow of a cruel occupation, the Western world thinks that the killing of thousands in Gaza falls within the category of Israel’s right to self-defense, then just imagine what a celebration it will be for the Israel Defense Forces and its air force after an agreement is signed under international auspices.

So, is it possible that the adoption of the approach that the only real option is a two-state division is based on a desire to ignore the true situation? And no, I am not referring to the notion of ignoring reality, which is evoked by those who count the number of settlers and settlements and tell us that it’s no longer rational to talk about evacuating settlers, because the reality on the ground says otherwise. The reality on the ground is one of theft and criminality, for which those who are responsible will have to face punishment irrespective of division or non-division. (Though, of course, the likelihood is that no one will be punished, not in this world and not in the world-to-come; in the end, I succeed in suppressing the nave view that justice will ultimately triumph, even if the definition of justice rests on international law.)

Ignoring reality – and by reality I’m referring solely to my inner feelings – leads to the thinking that it’s not feasible to establish a Palestinian state even within the full 1967 borders and according to international law, because the infrastructure simply does not exist that would make its establishment possible. Not an interior infrastructure within the hearts of the Palestinians, and not an industrial-economic infrastructure that could ensure sustainability and survival. True, Palestine can be perceived by the Palestinians, and especially by the refugees, as nostalgia for a tranquil village life – though it’s doubtful that it existed even back then – but Palestine cannot be established without a shoreline, without coastal cities, without industrialization and urbanization, and a struggle between mountain and coast and between village and city.

No, I’m sorry, but I’m not saying that it’s necessary to destroy what exists or to throw anyone into the sea. Nor am I saying that I am able to overcome the hope that the division into two states can be implemented in the near future. All I’m saying is that I sometimes wonder whether I want that solution out of a terrible sense of arrogance and a selfish wish to make my life a little simpler, and not only because of national identity. I’m only asking whether it would be a sin if, after 68 years, the Palestinians were to seek to base themselves on the Israeli industrial infrastructure – not as menial laborers but as full partners.

I wonder about definitions of a justice that does not offer the fruits of profits and interest from stolen property. And what would a different partition suggestion sound like: one in which the Palestinians are an integral part of the Israeli urban landscape, and the Jews are part of the Palestinian urban landscape, this time voluntarily and not by coercion?

But really? Am I serious? After all, I myself do not believe in that end-of-days vision; after all we are not like them, and if we give them civil rights and they become a democratic state – with their mentality and their culture and their religion. Look what they’re doing all around. And tell me, when was the last time they held elections? And Hamas and Fatah? What, am I crazy? Not to mention settlers and religious people and “Kahane was right” – it’s a recipe for disaster. You know, within a few years they will be the majority, and after everything we’ve done to them, it’s as clear as day that they will screw us one by one. Are you off your rocker – do you really think it can work?

That could be the case, and I like you will undoubtedly be the first to be punished for adopting your path, even though I was never offered partnership. All I’m actually saying is that we really might be punished, and I only wonder whether we haven’t earned that possible punishment honestly.