If I Were a Palestinian

I would learn a lesson from David Ben-Gurion: Take anything you are handed and always ensure the support of a world power.

zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell
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David Ben-Gurion speaking at the Knesset, 1957
David Ben-Gurion speaking at the Knesset, 1957Credit: National Photo Archive/Wikimedia Commons
zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell

If I were a Palestinian I would try to learn from the Jews – first of all from their greatest. What was the principle guiding David Ben-Gurion from the very outset? Take anything you are handed. He accepted the Peel Commission partition proposal of 1937 and the UN partition plan adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 29 1947, out of conviction that something is always preferable to nothing. He wanted to obtain, at any price, some breathing space and a territorial base upon which to establish an independent state and obtain international recognition.

Secondly, I would respond favorably and without hesitation to two main unconditional demands that the Jews are posing, since they are merely symbolic tokens without any substance. I would instantly agree to Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. As far as this concerns the Palestinians this demand is meaningless. This is an internal Israeli affair and if Israel insists on eliminating democracy and equality on its own turf why should it be our concern?

It’s true that such a move would harm the rights of Israeli Arabs, subjugating the concept of citizenship to Jewish nationhood but there may be an advantage to the Palestinians in the formation of such constitutional inequality, with its stench of apartheid, in that it will turn the whole Western world against Israel. At the same time, Israel’s liberal center and its left wing will conduct a campaign against any government espousing such policies. Furthermore, between the old Green Line (1967 borders) and the sea 20 percent of the population are Arabs and they will know how to look after themselves.

At the same time I would loudly declare that I relinquish the right of return of Palestinian refugees, since only delusional people really believe that they will one day return to Haifa, Ramle or Tiberias. What rational person would hesitate in granting the Jews some hot air in exchange for removing the last obstacle standing in the way of resuming serious negotiations over the establishment of a Palestinian state, settlements and final borders?

I would emphasize that I have no demands on lands lost in our Nakba, the catastrophe that befell us with the Jews’ War of Independence, since there is no chance of ever reclaiming these lands. This way I would firmly establish in Israeli and world public opinion the notion that the Green Line is the border agreed upon by all Palestinians, by the entire world, by most Jews in the world and by most Israelis. Only a small violent and vocal minority in Israel is holding us Palestinians by the throat, concomitantly choking Israeli society while trying to convince everyone that we are still fighting the battles of the 1940s.

When Palestinians dream of villages that no longer exist they are only trying to convince themselves that their lives are not worthless. When given a chance to construct meaningful lives the myths will dissipate.

The third thing I would learn from Ben-Gurion is always to ensure the support of a world power. At this point the United States, other than on its campuses, is lost to the Palestinians – right-wing Jews have too much money and influence there.

However, a real opportunity has opened up in Europe. Interestingly, the hostility toward Arabs and Islam there doesn’t benefit Israel’s right wing, and European parliaments are proving this every week. Israel’s colonial rule is becoming increasingly detested in Europe. The Israeli right is ignoring this fact, creating an opportunity for Palestinians embracing a rational policy, moderate yet vigorous, in support of Palestinian statehood, just like the Jews did in earlier times, when they were still sensible and had leaders with long-term vision.

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