An Exhibition , "Beit Ha'Am"
A Fifty Year Long Monologue
The events of the current Palestinian uprising ('Intifada') acutely emonstrate how the want of rigorous Israeli self-critique prevents any serious attempt at negotiation with the other, the Palestinian. Turning a critical gaze inwardly has to be the starting point for an understanding of the other. Blocking that gaze prevents a dialogue.
The crux of Ehud Barak's failure was his assertion that he can single-handedly concoct a 'final' peace agreement, which will be dictated to the Palestinians. His rhetoric, in other words, was that of a monologue, not a dialogue. This has been the blind spot of Israeli policy over the years. The monologue was its presupposition, even as it bespoke its will to turn every stone' on the way towards peace.
True peace cannot be founded on inequality. A dialogue stems from the
will to listen, not from deafness and disavowal. This is the fundamental
problem of the Oslo agreement, as it will be the fundamental problem of
attempt to melt and cast the Palestinian into a prescribed Israeli mold.
Israeli political discourse habitually anchors its stances on fear of the Palestinian Other, and on existential anxiety regarding the future of the Jewish State of Israel. We do not dismiss or disavow these concerns.
However, faced with the events of the Haram Al-Sharif uprising, we feel that concerns from within are no less frightening. Moreover - one has to look in if one's gaze out is to be of any value. Looking in evokes harsh questions: What kind of an identity will be constituted in a place where, for thirty three years, people are born and bred under occupation as political non-entities, holding no passport, having no elementary civil rights?
What kind of an identity will be constituted in a State that persists in its attempt to deny its Palestinian citizens their self-determination and aspirations?
What will become of a national democracy that constituted its identity on the basis of racial bias and religious discrimination?
Where would the Jewish citizens of such a State draw their ethical red lines?
Israeli Atrocities During the Haram Al- Sharif Uprising
The measures Israel has taken during the Intifada are horrendous. Killing became a daily routine. This killing - hundreds of people within a few weeks - was termed as a policy of "moderation" and "self-restraint". Such abuse of language and emotional numbness surface on a daily basis. The age old "we have no choice" demagoguery served all too well to anesthetize and blind an entire population, regardless of political leanings.
The events of the Intifada unveiled the sweeping, venomous passion with which the Israeli press, that supposed "watchdog of democracy", called for the end of "self-restraint" policy, a call whose only meaning is the heartless demand to shed more blood.
The events of the Intifada revealed the results of the persistent racial discrimination against the Israeli Palestinian citizen, declared as a traitor once he or she acts upon the civil right to demonstrate, thus legitimating their killing by the police.
We denounce the murder of Israeli Palestinian demonstrators by the Israeli police, and the persecution they suffer because of their solidarity with their relatives and friends in the occupied territories.
The events of the Intifada demonstrated the shocking capacity of an Israeli mob to do violence against people and destroy property on the sheer basis of ethnicity.
The events of the Intifada cast a glum doubt on the ability of the Israeli Jew to acknowledge the fact that the Other will not give up his or her identity, aspirations, claims and rights simply to accommodate Israeli expectations.
In view of all this, in the thirty- third year of the occupation, we
understand the rage, the despair, the distrust and the frustration of Palestinians,
both in Israel and in the occupied territories.
The subjection of others corrupts. The occupation corrupts. The legitimation of killing corrupts.
Dismantling the Settlements in the Occupied Territories
Israel must bid farewell to the territories. We call for a complete and immediate withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the territories.
We call for an immediate evacuation of Jewish settlements in the occupied
The presence of the settlements in the territories compels the I.D.F to bring murder, siege, famine, and other measures of policing and humiliation to the daily life of over a million and a half people.
Two hundred thousand Jewish settlers will have to come back home. It can be done, and must be done.
Jerusalem - Al Quds
East Jerusalem -Al Quds -is not, has never been and never will be, a part of the State of Israel.
Israeli occupation of the City must cease.
No doubt can be shed on the fact that the City is sacred to worshippers of three religions. A search for solutions which will secure the safety and well-being of worshippers throughout the City should be the key issue of negotiations regarding Jerusalem - after the evacuation of all Israeli forces from East Jerusalem.
The Right of Return and the Law of Return - A Revision of Values
If the state of Israel aspires to perceive itself as a democracy, it should abandon, once and for all, any legal and ideological foundation of religious, ethnic and demographic discrimination. We strive for a community defined by a complete separation of religion and state.
The profound repercussion of the Palestinian demand for the Right of
the Refugees to Return has to be a reconsideration of the Israeli Law of
Return (which secures immediate citizenship for Jewish immigrants). This
problematic is yet to be acknowledged and tackled.
The State of Israel should strive to become the State of all its citizens.
We call for annulment of all laws that make Israel an apartheid state, including the Jewish Law of Return in its present form. The phrase 'a State of all its citizens' is a primal cornerstone in the establishment of a democracy. This is not analogous in any way to a call to dismantle the Jewish State, as is so often argued in the current political discourse in Israel. Between 'everything' and 'nothing' stretches a wide zone of potential reforms, within which reconsideration and a revision of the meaning of the 'Jewishness' of the State should ensue.
If we choose to continue to live here, we must find the courage to draw lessons from the Jewish ethnic discrimination and bias that were part of Israel's recent past. This process cannot be disavowed if we are to live in the reality of the Middle East: side by side and mingled with our neighbors. Hence, the Palestinian right to return, and the strive for peace must be anchored with a persistent attempt to redefine the local cultural-political community.
In Israel, it has been the merit of Ehud Barak to break the age-old taboo against the very mention of the Right of Return. At the crux of this debate are confiscated Palestinian property and lands by the Jewish State. We maintain that beyond the issue of compensations, this problematic penetrates deep to the heart of Israel's internal debate regarding its democratic identity in the Twenty First century. Ignoring this problem will not make it disappear. A serious consideration of this problem can neither be delayed, nor obfuscated by 'symbolic gestures' patronizingly extended to the Palestinians by Israel. It is self deceptive to believe one genuinely strives for a peace agreement while refusing in advance to negotiate the other side's essential claims.
Regarding with the Israeli Palestinian citizens: monetary compensations and amendments would not suffice to truly change their immanent status as second rate citizens. Regarding the residents of the Palestinian Authority, and the people of the Palestinian Diaspora: De-legitimization of the Other's identity is not a possible foundation for peace.
The Palestinian Diaspora deserves the attention and support of the Zionist State.
Talking on The Right of Return is not destructive for the State, but constr.
* The Art and Culture community is not a political party, and this document
is not to be signed by members. The purpose of this paper is to mark the
problems that the Israeli public ought not ignore or evade further. After
Thirty Three years, these stones remain to be turned.
15 December 2000
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