Sunday, October 29, 2023

The left and Israel/Palestine

The Guardian and other media organizations report today about divisions in the left in Europe and the US about the stance to take on the war in Gaza. Anything we say should start by showing humility and respect for all those who are suffering, and for all those who have opinions that are based on the real experience on the ground. But what happens there affects us all because of the connections between the Middle East and the rest of the world in terms of culture, economics, religion and geopolitics. And because of the spillovers for many other national conflicts. Perhaps these notes may help clarify at least my thoughts on the issue, based on what I believe are progressive principles of common humanity and solidarity.

-Peace and humanitarian aid should now be prioritites. An act of terror followed by hundreds of thousands of people being forced out of their homes, with no prospect of going back to them, is just the current manifestation of a decades long conflict. But people are suffering or dying now, and anyone anywhere with the capacity to help stop this madness deserves support.

-It is the land of both Jews and Arabs. As it has been argued by Jonathan Freedland, these are two peoples (and millions of individuals, all of them different) in deep pain, fated to share the same land. This is not a colonial problem. No one should leave their land.

-The two communities have their worst leaders in decades. The government of Netanyahu took a long time ago an autocratic and xenophobic path that was eroding democracy. Palestian leadership is divided between a terrorist organization in Gaza and a discredited probably corrupt authority in the West Bank. Of course, it is up to the citizenry to choose their leaders, but perhaps the international community should do more to promote a new generation of leadership that can be the protagonists of a renewed and credible peace process (one that learns from the mistakes of previous attempts). The progressive, in many cases inter-ethnic, groups that exist and that promote peace and cooperation, should not be silenced, but strongly subsidized.

-The one state (or club) reality that we have now is that there is one strong power in the area, the state of Israel. It allows the devalued Palestinian leaders to manage a few local public goods to keep a fiction, but essentially, mobility and property rights are controlled by a state (Israel) that is not granting equal rights and dignity to all the population under its control. Only part of the population has access to high quality public goods.

-Equal dignity and cooperation among all individuals in Israel/Palestine should be a priority not ten years from now when a hypothetical peace process is reactivated and delivers some fruits, but today. The US and the EU should have enough leverage to make this happen. Palestinian mothers today perceive a very low opportunity costs of sending their children to suicide missions against Israel. Only shared justice and prosperity will increase this cost.

-Are you sure the solution is more self-determination? Is the two-state solution necessary? Sufficient? Covenient? It looks more like a lazy synonim of reactivating some peace process, because that is what the UN resolutions say. But given that it has not happened since it is the official position of the UN from 1947, while there was a secular leadership in both the Israeli and the Palestinian side, one wonders how it can happen today. Before any “solution” is reached, the emphasis should be on improving the life and security of everybody, equally. And if ever a “two-state solution” is reached, the first thing that the two “states” should do is to start cooperating in a very small territory to manage everything from transport, to water, to a shared capital, to trade…

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