Saturday, October 15, 2011

Drs. Nusseibeh and Avineri - Why I Think You Both Have it Wrong

On the 30th of September this year, Sari Nusseibeh, a professor and the President of Al Quds University wrote an article entitled: Why Israeli can't be a Jewish State. (See Prof. Nusseibeh's article here)

On the 12th of October, Shlomo Avineri, one of Israel's most famous intellectuals, a professor of political science, wrote an article in response to Nusseibeh's article, entitled: We are a People: A response to Sari Nusseibeh. (See Prof. Avineri's article here )

Perhaps we will see round two of this intellectual match that includes recounting and interpretation of historical 'facts', detailed formulation of 'logical arguments', and a further expression of the intractable characteristic of our conflict, albeit a verbal, as opposed to physically violent, one.

These two men, no doubt, are THE symbols of Palestinian and Israeli academia. They've written many books and articles and given many, many lectures to distinguished audiences throughout the world. It's hard to argue with them; it's rather hard for me to argue with them, as I pretty much stand in awe of their knowledge, as well as their excellent abilities to express themselves both orally and in writing.

But I will stick my neck out, as I think that, this time, they have approached this whole issue in the wrong way. I will explain:

Both professors refer to ancient historical events (drawing also on the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Holy Books), as well as more modern ones, to substantiate their claims. Nusseibeh says the Jews did this and that, Avineri says the Palestinians did this and that. Each claim made by Nusseibeh is met with a counter-claim by Avineri, and my feeling is that they could go on and on and on like this for a very long time. This is behavior that mirrors what we Jews and Palestinians have been doing to one another for what seems like time ad nauseum.

There are points where Nusseibeh is right and Avineri is right.
There are other points where Nusseibeh is wrong and Avineri is wrong.
But none of this really matters. Well, it does matter, but for a different reason.

Of course, of course, it is important to know the history (I have a middling to good knowledge of this) and know the holy books (I really don't have good knowledge of these) and understand that both history and holy books play a central role in our current (usually opposite) understandings and perspectives. But at this point, this continual referral re-referral and interpretration and re-re-interpretation of the past events and holy texts, is what is holding us - Israelis and Palestinians - from moving forward to the peace agreement and the life after the war and Occupation - that we all so desperately need.

It is time to really simplify this, after decades of learning and exposing the 'facts', reading interpretation after interpretration, hearing every argument that could possibly be put forward to substantiate the Palestinian claims or the Jewish/Israeli ones.

Here is my proposal for solving this conflict
To begin with, we need to accept points 1, 2 and 3 as axioms:

1. Each people - Palestinians and Jews - have the right to self-definition. It is the Palestinians' rights to define themselves as a people and it is the Jews' rights to define themselves as a people. No one has the right to define who the "Other" is.

2. Both peoples are entitled to equal human rights (see the rights here )

3. Both peoples are deeply connected to the land, and see it as their home

Then we move on to the next critical stage:

4.It is time to SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

And here's the plan:

5. We no longer look to what is written in the Torah, the Bible, the New Testament, the Koran, etc etc in terms of bringing about a true end to this bloody conflict. We accept the fact that we are here today, in 2011, 123 years after the first Jewish Zionist immigrants landed on the shores of the Holy Land, with the understanding that we - Palestinians/Jews - will Never, that's right, NEVER, agree on many of these core issues, understandings, interpretrations, and religious beliefs. In other (harsh) words, it does NOT matter whether Yossi's family lived in Hebron before 1929 or Yusef lived in Majdal before 1948 and now neither live in these cities anymore, due to past events of violence, terrorism, war, eviction, when looking for a solution to the conflict. Both Yusef and Yossi (and all of their peoples) are right in feeling the deep indignation, pain and loss of their home, and neither will be able to reclaim them.

6. When looking to solve the conflict, we let all of these personal and cultural/societal beliefs go, fully knowing and accepting that each person has the right to hold their own perspectives, ethnicities, religions. We fully know and accept that while these different understandings and beliefs may cause us pain at times, this is part of what it means to be human. Change and growth are also part of being human.

7. This new perspective frees us to address the problems facing us today. For example, we can now draw the borders between the two states, or draw the borders of the one state, depending on the agreements made by the sides during the negoatiations. That is, our elected leaders who sit down to negotiate a binding agreement, will decide whether or not we peoples wish to live in one state or in two. We address issues of health, education, housing, freedom of movement, employment, ecology, quality of life (etc. etc). We do not forget issues connected to remembrance, reparations for lost homes and lost loved ones injured or killed. Together we establish mechanisms for remembering the past, honoring those who gave their lives for our two peoples, in order to focus on making life much much much better for us and our children, today in the present, and for our descendants yet to come, in the future.

8. That's it, we're done. Here is the recap: We accept that both peoples are entitled to equal rights, we leave the past in order to move into the present, to solve the problems of the present and hopefully prevent bad problems in the future, and we live in peace.

Dear Profs. Nusseibeh and Avineri - You are two of the most respected men and scholars in our societies. Help us move forward to solving our conflict by using your knowledge, intellect, connections, your good souls.

The past will always remain part of who we are, but we cannot let it continue to bind us to pain, or blind us to possibilities of healthy change.

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