Thinking beyond boundaries

Since the Palestinian application for membership at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) late September, the United States, Israel and the Quartet have been pushing for a return to peace negotiations. Supporters of the U.S. and Israeli position on returning to the peace talks advocate punishing Palestine by cutting aid for their refusal to negotiate without certain preconditions. However, no one seems to be questioning how determining boundaries for two states would translate into actual peace on the ground between the Arabs and the Jewish people. With the increase in violence directed at the Arabs living in Israel, most of which goes unnoticed in the mainstream U.S. media, declaring Israel the Jewish state would only legitimize further marginalization of the non-Jewish Israelis.

More importantly, a single group of people cannot lay exclusive claim to a land that historically belonged to Christians, Muslims and Jewish people alike. Commentators in mainstream media chastise Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of excluding the Jewish people from the history of the Palestinian-Israeli land during his speech at UNGA. “Abbas’s deliberate refusal to acknowledge that before either Christianity or Islam ever appeared on the historical or theological scene, Judaism had been firmly ensconced in what is today the State of Israel, speaks volumes”, wrote Menachem Rosensaft in Huffington Post. Isn’t that what Israel would be doing by becoming a “Jewish state”? Wouldn’t the Israeli government be denying the Muslims and the Christians their ancestral connection to the land deemed holy by billions of non-Jewish people around the world?

“A permanent, eternal Jewish sovereignty”, continues Rosensaft, “in the State of Israel is not only non-negotiable but must be, especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust, one of the cornerstones of any authentic and hopefully lasting peace.” But the Jewish are not being persecuted any more. If anything, they are the occupying power in the territory that should be Palestinian according to the 1967 borders. While I’m not certain if a two-state solution is the best option, recognizing a Palestinian state, might in fact help Israel make more friends among its Arab neighbors.

A better resolution would be to reconsider all previous assumptions underlying the negotiation process. If the attempts at resolving the conflict have failed miserably in the past 60 years, isn’t it about time the international community approached this issue with more creative solutions to finding peace among the people in this region? Not only do the calls for returning to peace negotiations maintain the status quo, Israeli demands for being recognized as the Jewish state do not resonate with all the Jewish people of the world. By setting the conflict up as strictly between Arab population vs. the Jewish population, people’s identities are greatly simplified and so is their connection to the land. The reality of the Arab-Jewish-Israeli-Palestinian identity is far more complex as people such as Edward Said, Sandy Tolan, Udi Aloni, Scanadar Copti, Yaron Shani and others have expressed. Drawing borders on a map doesn’t just separate sections of land, it also imposes restrictions on people in terms of how they are allowed to identify themselves.




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