Unequal Justice of an Unequal World by Mohammad Ataur Rahman (JUNE 17, 2009)


Mohammed Ataur Rahman on Netanyahu’s proposal of a “limited Palestinian state.”

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a “generous” offer to his Palestinian neighbours of a “limited Palestinian state” (his words). This state will not be a state, limited or not. When Jews got their state under the Balfour Declaration and UN sponsorship, it was not a limited state. In fact, it was so unlimited that their leader Ben Gurion was demanding equal treatment from the US and Europe right from the beginning.

Palestinians, too, were promised a similar state side by side Israel. Now, after 61 years of waiting, they get the promise of not a state, but a limited state. The “state” is question will not just be limited, but hobbled. It will be demilitarised and disarmed completely, so that Israeli army can have a free run of the place. Its neighbour Israel is, and will be, armed to the teeth, complete with nuclear weapons, US made missiles and warplanes.

Yes, it will be limited in so many other ways: it will not be a contiguous, sovereign Palestinian territory. It will be pockmarked with Israeli settlements within the limited Palestinian state. Former US President Jimmy Carter, who has called Israeli rule apartheid has rushed to the racist Jewish colonisers of the Palestinian land to assure them that they would be able to retain these Bantustans under the limited state arrangements. One cannot figure out how Mr Carter, who has written a whole book opposing Israeli apartheid, can endorse these settlements under the new dispensation. We must recognise the fact that it is an unequal world and only unequal justice would prevail here.

There are too many limits, obvious and hidden, on this proposed state. One of the most tragic is about the resettlement of the large number of Palestinians who were uprooted from their land and expelled by Jews coming in mostly form Europe. Today these people number in millions, generally living as refugees in different countries for the last three generations. The Israeli prime minister has said that a solution to this problem must be sought outside Israel. This looks especially cruel in the context of every Jew’s right to return to the land of Palestinians. Edward Said, himself of Palestinian origin, had once said that every Israeli farm, orchard and homestead belonged to some Palestinian.

It is interesting to note that the Canaanites (forefathers of today’s Palestinians) never left the land for 4,000 years, and Palestinians were evicted only in 1948 by incoming European Jewish hordes. On the other hand Jews, who had settled the land much after Canaanites, were driven out by the Romans two thousand years ago. Before Jews began to settle in Palestine in the early decades of the 20th century they were only five percent of the population.

Jordan’s King Hussein used to say that Jews, whose forefathers had had been buried for hundreds of years in Europe, had every right to return to the land now called Israel, but the Arabs, whose forefathers were buried there till 1948, had no right to return.

This Israeli proposal has been welcomed by European Union as every Israeli action is endorsed by them. It has also been endorsed by the White House. However, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which has good relations with Israel, has said the proposal has too many preconditions and leaves little room for negotiations.

Unfortunately, Israel has always dictated its terms, never negotiated. With the US and European Union backing, it has done the same again. Meanwhile, as late Yasser Arafat once remarked about a previous idea of a Palestinian state, the Palestinians have been given the authority to run their sewers.

Mr Netanyahu has asked other Arab leaders to visit Israel to discuss economic development of Palestine’s limited state. The first thing Israel should do is to remove the unlimited Israeli-manned barriers and check-posts in what is to be the limited state to allow free movement of goods. That will ensure Palestinian economic wellbeing more than Mr Netanyahu’s proposed parleys with other Arab leaders.

The world has not heard from Arab leaders on this issue so far.


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