Over 800 deaths in Gaza and counting. Just to put it in perspective, in a land mass half the size of Bangalore, one child has been killed every hour in the past 3 days. Long after the end of colonial era, the Palestinians are one of the few national entities denied basic human rights and the right to establish an independent sovereign state in their homeland – which suffers 47 year-long Israeli occupation, where millions suffer brutal military oppression.
Historically, the Levant has always been a disputed land mass, primarily due to its geographic uniqueness and the numerous civilizations that have flourished in and around it. While the problem is too long and complicated and has been told and retold many times, the solutions are rarely discussed, at-least in the public discourse. Well, there are two known and well-discussed solutions to the situation. First is the two-state solution, based on the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel; and second, the one-state solution based on universal citizenship of both Jews and Palestinian Arabs.
After defeating the Arab world in 1967, Israel did not lose too much time in lining up with the major imperialist powers. Simultaneously, Israel continued to make constant efforts to annex larger and important sections of Palestinian territories with an eye to further territorial aggregation. The ruling circles in Israel traditionally fall into three camps, the first two being the largest – Labor Zionism (social democrat), Revisionist Zionism (conservative) and Religious Zionism. All the three parties are strictly Zionist in nature. The left opposition, mainly the Communist Party of Israel, fought government’s Zionist policies, carefully distinguishing between the question of Israel’s legitimacy, which was never challenged, and Israel’s policies which were condemned as being inimical to the interest of the country and peace and prosperity of the region in general.
Israel, over the past four decades, both on an ideological basis and to enhance their strength over the Palestinians and the Arab world, has forged a strategic military, political and economic alliance with the United States. This alliance is the kingpin of US hegemony in the Middle East. The US, in return protects Israel from the wrath of international public and prevents its total isolation. The class significance of this alliance, however, is much more complex, broader and deeper. It is a major strategic factor in safeguarding US driven neoliberalization in the area, as Naomi Klein puts it – ‘disaster capitalism’. US unilateral support for Israeli aggression and expansionism is a vital factor in the Middle East status quo.
There is a nearly universal consensus that the status quo based on the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories acquired in the 1967 war is unacceptable, immoral and illegal in terms of international law. With an exception of the Islamic forces like Hamas, the Palestinian leadership along with the international community and public opinion overwhelmingly support the two-state solution. 134 of the 193 member states of the United Nations, including India, recognize the State of Palestine. Many of the countries that do not recognize the State of Palestine nevertheless recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
The two-state solution has been worked out for years over numerous negotiation treaties. It includes the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state, and Israel’s retreat to the 1967 borders, except a few mutually agreed land swaps. Jerusalem will be the capital of both states. This solution takes into account the rights of the Palestinian refugees, including material compensation for all refugees, the right to settlement in the new Palestinian state, citizenship rights for those who remain in their country of exile and immigration opportunities. This proposal has been rejected by the ruling Zionist circles of Israel and their US backers. The proposal was accepted by the leadership of the Palestine and the Arab world; until the Fatah movement failed, and Hamas came to power in Gaza. So when it comes to rejecting the two-state solution, Hamas is only as bad as the Zionist Israeli leadership.
It must here be understood that Hamas is not Palestine. Hamas is a right-wing political party whose aim is to make an Islamic Palestinian state. A latest poll said that only about 15 percent of Gaza’s Palestinians support Hamas. Hamas came to power, due to the fragmentation among Fatah’s leaders, many of whom broke off as independents. In contrast, Hamas was able to provide food, clothing, and other essentials to Palestinians in the area. Other organizations, like the UNRWA, performed feebly in comparison. Hamas’ policies after its unexpected rise to power have been as extremist as the Zionists on the other side of the wall. The rise of Hamas has however proven that, if unresolved, it will become still harder to keep the Palestinian question in deep freeze.
The recently debated one-state solution attempts the creation of a unitary, federal or confederate Israeli-Palestinian state, which would encompass all of the present territory of Israel, the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. In this case, Israel would no longer remain a Jewish state and the Palestinians would fail to achieve their national independence within a two-state solution. Support for a one-state solution is increasing, as Palestinians are frustrated by the lack of progress in reaching a solution to the conflict. The advocates of the one-state solution argue that with the passage of time, Israel will find it harder to resist the adoption of voting rights for the entire population, which would bring equality among the masses. On the other hand, Israelis fear that they would end up in another holocaust-like-situation, this time led by the Arabs.
Whatever may be the solution, it is wrong to see victory in any concrete political struggle as the end of history and a final resolution of historical processes. Just as it would be a serious political mistake to ignore the urgency and importance of the given situation. Progressive public opinion has justly and understandably rallied around the cause of the Palestinian people. In the broadest of terms this solidarity is an expression of opposition to the suffering of the Palestinians under occupation, and against the war crimes and atrocities Israel has continued on the Palestinian refugees. The recent killings are just another example.
In the present circumstances, the battle for an end to the occupation and the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state along side of Israel is the best way to expose the workings of the US-Israel ‘special relation’. This progressive battle plan claims the widest international support and is possibly the only peaceful way ahead. May it be the Zionist Israeli majority, or Hamas in Gaza, the extremist forces on both sides have only worsened the situation. Extremism in both states must be marginalized and steps should be taken to eliminate political and economic gain that any group might have from continuing or escalating the conflict. As a matter of thumb-rule, peace should be given the highest priority and lives of people should not be compromised with. Peace is non-negotiable.