As a long-time advocate for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with people who seem to think that “two states for two peoples” is code for “the Jews don’t really belong here but since they’re here already and have cities and whatnot, I suppose we’ll have to figure something out.”
Which is not what I mean. I mean “two states for two peoples.”
Part and parcel of the “Zionists are foreign colonists who should be consigned to the age imperialism” meme is the notion that Jews have no actual stake in Jerusalem and to the extent that Palestinians are willing to recognize reality and share the city with them, that’s an act of real politik on their part. Nothing to do with history, or facts, or actual Jews and their actual lives.
Which, you know, despite my personal dislike for Jerusalem? Is also not true. When I advocate for “a shared Jerusalem as the capital of two states living side-by-side in peace and security,” I mean that, too.
I bring this up because Lara Friedman, American for Peace Now’s Director of Policy and Government Relations, is currently in Doha at the Arab League conference, where she ran straight into the fact that for many supporters of Palestinian rights, the notion of a Jewish claim to Jerusalem is laughable.
If representatives of the organization that sponsored the Arab Peace Initiative cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the legitimacy of Jewish equities in Jerusalem, they should know that they discredit their own professed interest in peace. Their framing of the future of Jerusalem as a zero-sum game only makes it more likely that Israel will continue asserting its current power over East Jerusalem to hinder the vision of two states living in peace with a Jerusalem as a shared capital.
All throughout the day [of the opening session], it was unfortunately the same story. Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians.
Addressing the same conference, the ever-excellent Dahlia Scheindlin at +972 Magazine wrote in a similar vein:
It’s time to stop this absurd belief that ancient historical facts are at issue. Peoplehood, the weight of history, emotional bonds to a cultural, spiritual and yes, religious axis mundi are at issue and I believe passionately in the need for Jews to accept those aspects of Palestinian life. It is fair to desire the same understanding from the people with whom I hope to live peacefully, when they are un-occupied, under any form of just political solution that will be reached.
I can already hear the voices saying that Israeli Jews have no right to criticize as long as the asymmetrical occupation makes life intolerable for the Palestinian population; that it’s just too bad if the occupier doesn’t like how its victims resist. Why should the oppressed care?
But that’s just it. We are on the same side, and we need each other. Let’s cast off the notion of a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians already, which I sometimes feel is a brilliant decoy of the far right. The truth is, we have long been in a conflict between extremists and moderates, between hateful and compassionates, between exclusivists and inclusivists. A genuine liberal universalist approach must accept that even those who believe in universal rights have a national, religious, cultural and spiritual identity they cherish….
Whether we end with one, two or twenty states, we’ll be together in Jerusalem for eternity. That should be something to look forward to, and I do not accept that it has to be an ongoing source of conflict
What can I say? Word.