Wednesday, 30 May 2007

There's more than one way to resist an occupier

By Khaled Diab
Hamas's political leader Khaled Mashal must have a death wish. His uncompromising discourse is certainly hurting - even fatally wounding - the Palestinian struggle.

In an interview with The Guardian, he said: "Under occupation people don't ask whether their means are effective in hurting the enemy." When I read this, I did a double-take. Surely, that's the first question they should ask! After all, the overwhelming goal of any people under occupation is to find the most effective means of ending the occupation and alleviating their own suffering.

And, in the case of the Israelis and Palestinians, violence has proven itself entirely ineffective - on both sides. Palestinians attacks do not bring them any nearer to statehood and even result in Israel tightening its stranglehold on Gaza and the West Bank, as well as the further international isolation of the Palestinians. As for Israeli attacks, they do nothing to make the country any securer (particularly in the long term), just more reviled.

As I have argued in previous articles, non-violence is the most powerful weapon the Palestinians can and do deploy. However, its effectiveness is neutralised by the factions that insist on using violent means.

"What caused Sharon to leave Gaza, Barak to leave Lebanon in 2000? And look what's going on in Iraq where the greatest power in the world is facing confusion because of Iraqi resistance. Time is on the side of the Palestinian people," Mashal commented.

Violence may have had some part to play, but many complex factors led to these situations, and each was very different in its nature. In Lebanon, non-violence even had a part to play, with the Israeli peace movement lobbying hard to end the bloody 18-year occupation. In fact, in the case of Gaza, I would argue that the violence delayed an Israeli withdrawal. A hardliner like 'bulldozer' Sharon may never have been elected had Israelis not felt so insecure, and the situation in Gaza and the West Bank would've been a lot better.

"The Palestinians are steadfast and there are many ways of resisting according to opportunities and conditions," Mashal said. Palestinians 'sumoud' (steadfastness) has been admirable, particularly in the face of the unfair and counterproductive collective punishment being meted out on the hapless population.

And, Mr Mashal, there may be many ways of resisting but, in my humble opinion, there is only one effective way for the Palestinians - and that is to lay down their weapons and win hearts and minds. The last two weeks of violence have seen Palestinian rocket attacks kill two Israelis, while Israeli rocket attacks have killed 50 Palestinians. Is this the kind of balance sheet the Hamas leader wants on his conscience?

It is selfish of you living comfortably - if under constant threat - to demand of your people to make such huge and unnecessary sacrifices. Your first priority should be the dignity of your people, not some foolish notion of pride.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Middle East sans frontières

By Khaled Diab

The first days after my return home to Belgium were like a period of decompression following a deep-sea dive. Going from a situation in which even the air I breathed felt politicised and charged with conflicting passions to the more temperate and mild air of Belgium required some readjustment.

After all those days during which I tickled the curiosity of everyone I met, it was welcome to be back in the land of cultivated disinterest, in which privacy is so holy that people turn their eyes away rather than trespass on the sacred space that encircles each one of us. Riding the morning commuter train to Brussels was an opportunity to revel in obscurity, although, after all the intensely passionate issues I had been dealing with, it was a bit of a slog refocusing my mind on obscure EU issues.

It was great to see Katleen again and talk about all those things I had been dying to discuss with her during my trip. Next time I go, she hopes she has the time to join me. We were also careful to spend quality apolitical time together, i.e. make room for rest, relaxation and romance.

But the world insisted on intruding. While I was in Israel, Katleen had been in Geneva talking landmines and had spent the last three months or so working inhumane hours to shed light on the human cost of cluster bombs - on a personal level, I was concerned about the human cost it was exacting on her.

Weekend escape and unwelcome intrusions

The first weekend after my return, my father-in-law invited us on a weekend away to Doornik/Tournai to celebrate his 60th and Katleen's 30th birthday. Interestingly, my last birthday also made me, at 33, exactly half the age of my own father.

The setting was idyllic: gentle rolling hills (quite rare in flat Belgium); beautiful country houses; cows chewing lazily on grass (or human-imposed bovine gender segregation and forced mating programmes!).

My conflict sensors being on such high alert, I quickly spotted another possible reality hidden behind the picturesque scene. Doornik lies somewhere along Belgium's language faultline. It is a city with, historically, a strong Flemish influence but is today part of Wallonia. I recalled that when I mentioned that Belgium had quite a few parallels with Israel-Palestine, Tzachi had quipped: "What have Belgians got to fight over except for chocolate?"

But there is a lot to fight over, if the wrong dynamic ever took over and Belgians took the Flemish-Walloon struggle out of the political process and abandoned their famous ability to compromise. As we wondered around the town and its environs and admired its distinct Flemish architecture, spectacular cathedral and belfry (the oldest in Belgium), we speculated about how different it could be. We even imagined what if the quaint hilltop houses were actually to become 'settlements' taken over by aggressive Flemish nationalists wishing to reassert their ancient claim to their entire fatherland.

Doornik is the oldest city in Belgium and started life as a Frankish settlement and was actually the capital of the Frankish empire until that was moved to Paris in 486AD. Over the years, it has been ruled by the French, Spanish, and others - it was even the only Belgian city to have ever been ruled by the English and King Henry VIII built a castle there which we saw.

For hundreds of years, Doornik and much of northern France was part of the county of Flanders as can still be seen in the names of towns and cities: 'Lille Flandres' (Rijsel, in Dutch), Dunkirk, or Duinkerken, i.e. Dune Churches, etc.

We also ventured across the 'border' into France, to Lille Flandres. Of course, even for a practiced eye, it is very difficult to work out where Belgium ends and France begins. The same Flemish architectural heritage could be seen in Lille's town centre, mixed in amid the more recent French elements. We were there on the Sunday the French went to the polls to choose their new president.

Even though they choose the intolerant and divisive Sarkozy, our little escapade across the frontier drove home to me what I love about Europe: its head-spinning mix of cultures and languages and its absence of borders. If only the same could happen elsewhere. I look forward to a Middle East sans frontières.

©Khaled Diab. Text and images.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Extinguishing the campfire

By Khaled Diab
The violence in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam fighters raises serious worries about the short-term stability of Lebanon and has been yet another sad episode in the desperation and violence engulfing Palestinians. The fighting also resonates with worrying echoes of 1982.

I will not engage in the speculation and finger-pointing as to who is behind the violece - plenty of others have done that. My question is: why have these refugee camps, breeding grounds for frustration and extremism, been allowed to exist for so long? Would it not be to the advantage of both the Palestinians refugees and Lebanon that these ugly and depressing camps are dismantled and the Palestinians living there given Lebanese residencies?

I know Lebanon is sensitive to maintaining a balance in its delicate and fragile sectarian mix, but concentrating so many poor Palestinians for so many generations in one place and marginalising them is, in my view, far more destabilising than allowing them to integrate better into Lebanese society.

Some will raise the issue of keeping the memory of the Palestinian national struggle alive. But allowing Palestinians to live in dignity will not erase memories of their struggle. Some will argue Israel has to take responsibility for the refugees. Well, until it does, Palestinians deserve a better life and it is in Lebanons interest to help them gain it.

©Khaled Diab

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Small bombs, big trouble

By Katleen Maes

There are renewed hopes of an international treaty on cluster munitions - although the only way forward is to ban them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

A war on error

It is time to dispel the myths surrounding Muslims - namely, that we are all terrorist anti-feminist teetotallers.
Read more:

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Borat: cultural leanings of Jerkmenistan

By Khaled Diab
I finally got round to watching the film version of Borat at the weekend. While the original sketch version was often pretty hilarious, the format did not transfer well to a full-length feature film.

The reason I mention it in a blog about Israel and Palestine is that Sasha Baron Cohen purports to have made the film partly to touch upon the issue of anti-Semitism in the West.

Interestingly, I found, was that the film’s only episodes of explicit anti-Semitism were those played out by Baron Cohen himself: the Jew chase in Kazakhstan; the incident where Borat is terrified that he’ll be eaten alive by the Jewish proprietors of a guesthouse; or when he walks into a gun shop to ask the bewildered shop keeper for a gun that can kill Jews.

In contrast, there are explicit examples of bigoted behaviour, racism and discrimination targeted at blacks, homosexuals and Muslims. One memorable example is when a southern gentleman at the rodeo advises Borat to shave off his moustache because it makes him look like a Muslim and that was not welcome around those there parts.

Of course, given their history of being persecuted, Jewish sensitivity to anti-Semitism is understandable, but attempts to make a major issue out of it in the contemporary western context are misplaced. Ironically, the real Kazakhstan has many problems, but anti-Semitism is not really one of them, according to the Union of Council of Jews in the Former Soviet Union. Baron Cohen would’ve been better off choosing Russia or the Ukraine where neo-Nazism is alive and kicking.

Today, the worst forms of discrimination are targeted against other minorities, such as blacks, Arabs and Muslims. However, even in these cases, it would still be a stretch to label it persecution, since, fortunately, there are plenty of checks and balances in place to protect minorities, and most people are more enlightened than they were a few decades ago.

That doesn’t mean we should not be vigilant – we must be. But that doesn’t mean we should cry wolf when what we mean is barking Chihuahua. In addition, minorities should stick together and defend their collective rights. That’s why I find it shocking that, for instance, the Jewish community of Antwerp has weighed in behind the far-right Vlaams Belang. Do they not realise that, given half the chance, the party would turn on them, too, and this is only an alliance of convenience? Or how about the stories of certain extremists Islamic groups aligning themselves with neo-Nazis? Don’t they realise that in the Nazi order of things Arabs feature lower down the pecking order than Jews?

Proud to be Kazakh?
The film also raises the question of how quasi-racist or culturally chauvinistic one is allowed to be in their attempts to highlight bigotry. In other words, can you be a bigot when trying to reveal bigotry? I mean, with this film and the hype surrounding it, aren’t you glad you’re not Kazakh? I certainly am glad Baron Cohen passed over the Egyptians and decided to portray another Johnny Foreigner as incestuous, lascivious, macho, uncultured and perverted!

In his own defence, Baron Cohen has said that his depiction of Kazakhstan is not meant to bear any resemblance to the real country. And his ignorance of the mineral-rich Central Asian state which is actually the size of western Europe shines through. For instance, Borat comes complete with his own Orthodox cross, even though the vast majority of Kazakhs are Muslims or follow one of the indigenous religions, referred to locally as nanim, or beliefs.

The question also begs itself, if Baron Cohen had wanted a country that few in the west had heard of or knew about, why not go the full hog and really make fun of people’s ignorance by creating a fully fictional ‘-stan’? My suggestion is Jerkmenistan.

Here are some facts about the real Kazakhstan:
* It is 2.7 million km2 which is bigger than western Europe
* Horses are believed to have been first domesticated here
* In medieval times, the Kazakh Khanate was located on the Great Skill Road and attained a decent level of prosperity until infighting between the different tribes weekend the Khanate
During the so-called Great Game between the major European powers, the Khanate fell under the control of the Russian empire, which later became the Soviet empire
* Kazakhstan declared its independence in December 1991 and strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been president ever since. In fact, in 2000, the parliament ‘granted’ him lifetime powers and privileges.
* Kazakhstan is a semi-authoritarian country whose vast oil and mineral reserves mean that the government can afford not to be accountable to the people

©Khaled Diab.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

My son, the peace broker!

By Khaled Diab

My mother worries about her kids. Despite her commitment to independence, personal choice and individual freedom, she sometimes cannot help herself. Part of the problem is that she’s the proud owner of a fully functioning, top-of-the-range, active imagination (anyone who thinks my solutions to the world’s ills are quirky ain’t met me ol’ mam!).

Then, there’s the Egyptian in her. She may have travelled quite widely and lived in three different countries but, like most Egyptians, the idea of venturing too far away from the beloved embraces of the Nile Valley is seen as an adventure, a grand voyage into the strange.

So, you can image my trepidation about telling her that I, son of one of the most grounded and placid countries on Earth, was trekking off to the volatile land of the dispossessed. Although I’d mentioned, during my last visit to Egypt, a vague desire to go to Israel and Palestine to see for myself the situation on the ground, I was still not entirely sure how she’d react to an actual visit.
With all the other challenges of the trip, I decided it was best not to have a worrying, or worse, potentially disapproving mother to deal with. So, I phoned her before I left on the pretext of some family business but did not mention my trip.

The day I returned, I called her. “Mama, do you know where I’ve been?”

“No, where?” she asked with curiosity.

Then, I dropped the bombshell. “I’ve been doing my bit to try and solve the Middle East conflict,” I began sheepishly. “I was in Palestine and Israel.”

“Weren’t you afraid?” she asked predictably, although her tone was surprisingly light.

When I explained to her the purpose of my visit, she responded proudly: “My son, the peace broker!” Luckily, it sounded more tongue-in-cheek than her normal proud pronouncements about her children and so didn’t wind me up.

“Are Israelis as frightening as we’re led to believe?” she queried.

“No, they’re not. They’re actually a lot like us. May be half of them are originally from Arab countries.”

“That was the biggest mistake the Arab countries made in this conflict: expelling their Jewish populations,” she reflected melancholically. “Do you think any of them want to come back and live here?” she asked in the naïve innocence she sometimes displays.

Some of the older ones might be interested in returning to their former homes and others might want to visit, but a couple of generations have been born there and their home is Israel, I ventured.

She asked me about my impressions of Israelis. “Most ordinary Israelis just want peace and to get on with their lives,” I said.

“That’s one of the troubles with the world: ordinary people get on just fine, but their leaders spoil it,” she reflected.

“The Arabs have been begging the Israelis to sign a peace agreement for years. Why haven’t they then?” she asked more soberly.

We talked about Israel’s fractured, fragmented and factionalised political landscape and other factors holding back peace. To be fair to the Israelis, I also pointed out that the Arabs have missed opportunities to reach peace with Israel over the decades.

“But we were concerned with questions of justice back then. What kind of modern world would we have built had we just approved of a country that was created on the dispossession and displacement of an entire people? We dreamt of a better world than that,” she said, revealing the pan-Arab idealism of her youth.

She had grown up at a time when the charismatic Gamal Abdel-Nasser was the first indigenous Egyptian leader (apart from Mohamed Neguib, who was actually a Nasserite figurehead) in some 2,300 years. The last native Egyptian pharoah was King Nectanebo II, who ruled from 360-343 BC!

Jews talk of the two-millennium long exile. Well, Egyptians had their own version: an internal banishment. For more than two millennia, a continuous string of foreign rulers took over the Egyptian mantle and the natives were deprived of their right to self-determination, second-class citizens in their own country. Sometimes there were periods of great prosperity’ at others, there was persecution; but at all times, Egyptians were not masters of their own destiny.

Nasser had appeared like a saviour and promised to change all that; to return pride to the Egyptian people – a message he later extended to the whole Arab people. My mum had grown up in those optimistic, idealistic times. But the domestic and regional failures kept coming in thick and fast and the Egyptian nationalist and pan-Arab dream gradually faded until it was dealt a killer blow by the comprehensive military humiliation of 1967.

“No modern country should be founded on religion,” my mum remarked. “The answer is a secular society for Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

©Khaled Diab.

Please open your political baggage

By Khaled Diab

With the long farewell discussion still buzzing in my head, I sat on the drowsy late-night train to the airport wondering whether my exit would be as tricky as my entry. I had already been warned by some to expect an interrogation on the way out, which was a new policy.

Partly to catch the last train and partly to give myself plenty of time for potential delays, I had decided not to go to bed and get to the airport more than three hours before my flight was due to depart.

While the passport control officer was checking my documents and asking me the by now routine questions – the purpose of my visit, whether I knew anyone in Israel, where I had been, etc. – a senior officer appeared over my shoulder and took the passport out of his subordinate’s hands. “Hi,” he said to me in a more friendly tone than I had become accustomed to. “You must be getting used to this,” he said cheerfully. I nodded my ascent. “I’ll have this back to you in a few minutes,” he promised.

In the long, long check-in queue, there were young men and women interviewing the passengers. The first interviewer to reached took one look in my passport and became somewhat nervous. Deciding that she wasn’t senior enough to handle a VIP like me, she asked me to wait a minute and called her boss over. Her boss asked me some pre-formulated questions and then stuck red stickers all over my bag – most of the people around had green stickers on theirs – which I presume signified my security level.

Next, on the paranoia conveyor belt, was the thorough checking of my bags. At a quadrangle of desks, I was asked to open my rucksack, shoulder bag and laptop case. While the two staff members were going through everything, including my dirty boxers and socks, with a fine-tooth comb (well, actually some sort of detector to identify explosive residue, I assume), I took the opportunity to admire my surrounding.

In an expression of Middle Eastern political hospitality, my red stickers had afforded me not only one searcher, like the rest of the passengers, but two. The book I’d received as a gift came in for special attention because I had unwisely answered in the affirmative when they asked me whether I had received any gifts. Honesty isn’t always the best policy! Luckily, I hadn’t mentioned the CDs!!

After my bags, it was my turn. The Yemeni Jew who had led the search took me to the same back room I had visited on my arrival for the X-raying of my luggage. There he patted me down and scanned me with a hand-held metal detector. “We apologise for the delay,” he told. “But I’ll take you through check in,” he offered as compensation.

We returned to collect my baggage and then he whisked me through the airline check in, led me to a special lift for my rucksack and led me to the customs area, making me feel oddly like a celebrity.

With a cappuccino to prop up my sleepy frame, I spent the last hour before my flight reflecting on my trip and all the intense experiences I had gained. I was glad to be returning ‘home’ to the mildness of northern Europe and the Katleen’s warm embrace.
©Khaled Diab. Text and photos.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Behind the 'Zion Curtain'

Just as Arabs do not realise just how 'Middle Eastern' Israelis are, Israelis don't realise how 'western' millions of Arabs are.
Read the rest of this Guardian comment I wrote at:

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Final shaloms, debriefings and debates for the road

By Khaled Diab

After an all-night writing spree, in Jerusalem cafes and then in my hotel room, I woke up with a serious intellectual hangover on Sunday morning, so I decided to treat myself to a nice brunch. Before I left, I said goodbye to the incredibly earnest brother of the owner of the hotel, who turned out to be Palestinian.

I then caught one of the private minibuses to Tel Aviv. After engaging me in conversation in English, the guy sitting next to me switched to Arabic when he discovered that I was an Egyptian. It turned out that he was a Palestinian, but I'd kind of supsected that from how he was dressed.

Although nowhere near as overbearing, he came across vaguely as the Palestinian version of Ricky Gervais' character in The Office or one of the pretentious wannabes in the BBC's The Apprentice! He was an apprentice yuppie. Within about 10 minutes, he'd told me that he was a marble and granite subcontractor, how much he earned, and his future business aspirations. Thankfully, a long telephone call in Hebrew with a business contact kept him busy until he had to get off.

A taste of Jaffa

Having heard and read so much about Jaffa, I decided to stay there and checked into a small hotel which was housed inside a beautiful old Ottoman building. The establishment was the kind of Bohemian place where smeared and torn clothing is worn as a badge of pride and the women aren't too bothered if their moustaches are longer than the men's.

Despite the rather low ceilings, my room was cosy, with wooden floors, Bedouin embroideries and a divan. Lying on my bed, I could look out of the low-slung window at the antique market. With my intellectual hangover to nurse, I decided to take it easy for the rest of my penultimate day - except, that is, for my encounter with Uri Avnery in the early evening.

I explored Jaffa's markets and walked around the atmospheric streets of the Old Town and wandered a little in the newer parts, too. Large sections of the market looked like a typical souq or bazaar from anywhere in the Middle East, except for the kippas.

From the Jaffa clocktower and beach, you can see the encroaching Tel Aviv skyline advancing towards s this old Palestinian town and threatening to subsume it. I decided that I would take a leisurely stroll along the beachfront to the centre of town.

Although it did not take more than an hour and a half to reach, Tel Aviv is a world away from the solemn piety of Jerusalem and the heavy chains of history and conflicting ideologies it bears. With its carefree ways, one would almost be forgiven in thinking there was no conflict, except for the odd soldier walking around. Tel Aviv's liberal ways and beautiful people puts me in mind a lot of Beirut, which is only 220km or so further up the beach - an impossible distance in this troubled spot. Although it is not all gleaming, modern and liberal, and I witnessed quite a few cracks and run down areas on the bus in, particularly the Yemeni quarter.

After meeting Uri Avnery (an encounter which made Alex very jealous), I had some time on my hands before my evening appointment, so I sat at a streetside cafe with a too-large coffee, watching the city groove by.

Alex and Max had suggested we meet at a place called Fish and Chips. "Typical Londoners," I'd thought to myself, "arranging to meet at a chippy's!" I'd also suggested to a couple of American students of Arabic at Tel Aviv University who'd wanted to hook up that they meet us there. The road on which this 'chippy' was located reminded me a lot of Gamet el-Dewal el-Arabiya or Abbas el-Aqqad in Cairo, the busy roads where young people hang out and cruise.

Over completely un-English chips and beers, we chatted about Egypt, Arabic, building bridges, Middle Eastern politics, and more. Afterwards, Alex, Max, Hagay and I went to a Tel Aviv bar which was designed to look like someone's front room, where we were joined by another friend from Haaretz. There, we talked more politics, music, culture, and they wanted to know my impressions of Israel.

Familial debriefing
On the morning of my final day, Monday, I had breakfast in Jaffa and then decided to buy a gift for Katleen (well, the both of us, actually!). I bought a beautiful, cobalt-blue Bedouin embroidered hanging. The merchant was a little surprised by my haggling skills - he'd assumed I was just a naive tourist - and appeared somewhat peeved by the final price we reached after I refused to budge from my offer. It's not only Israelis who can be intransigent, you know!

I took the train to Pardes Hana but got off at one station and Tzachi was waiting for me at another! After much consulting of maps and colleagues, a taxi-driver found the address and took me there.

Anat and Tzachi were keen to hear about my journey and 'debrief' me, particularly my trip through the Palestinian territories. Zipora was in Tenerife and Amos had hoped I'd get there earlier so I could join him. He'd gone to see a Samaritan ceremony on the holy Mount Gerizim. As there are only 700 or so of them, and they claim to be the only true Jews, having lived uninterrupted and unconverted in Palestine since ancient times, I was disappointed to have missed the opportunity to see them in action and hear their liturgical Aramaic.
There was some excitement about a snake Tzachi's brother had seen and the family called in a local 'snake catcher' to find it, but to no avail. Anat told me that Dan, her son, had asked whether I would be returning, which really touched her, especially since he couldn't understand any of my 'gibberish' as he called it, until she discovered that he wanted more Belgian chocolate!

In the evening, we had one last political debate for the road. One of Tzachi's friends, an IT consultant and semi-professional computer game player, towed a pretty hardline and the discussion with him got pretty animated, particularly when it reverted to history. But I was pleased to see that my visit and the months of communicating beforehand had helped converge the views of Anat, Tzachi, Debby and myself. There are still a lot of differences in perception, but the gap is much narrower now.

Amos returned from the Samaritans all excited and full of stories to tell. Apparently, he'd grown bored of the ceremony but was fenced in by the railings on one side and the crowd on the other. So, being 80, he thought it would be clever to fake a heart attack or a fainting spell! However, he got more than he bargained for, as the person who came to attend to him shouted out that he couldn't find his pulse and began to push down on his chest to resuscitate him.

"He almost killed me!" the eccentric and fit old man complained.

Amos told me that I should weigh up carefully what I advocate. He warned me that promoting the idea of a binational state, instead of two states, could have dangerous consequences and may actually lead to more conflict. I wasn't entirely convinced by his line of argument - he sounded more like a man who had spent most of his long life committed to a Zionist vision and saw a federal state as a threat to the ideals he had grown up with. But times move on and identities evolve.

Besides, I do not advocate a federal state here and now. I believe that it will probably be a consequence of peace, as the two sides discover the impracticalities of trying to maintain two separate states on such a small plot of land, and the synergy closer ties would create. Alternatively, I fear that the hardliners who have built settlements left, right and centre and sabotage every attempt to reach a final settlement may have made a single state, without the interim two-state period I envision, all but inevitable, particularly if no courageous and visionary leadership emerges soon to reach peace.

With time, as this reality dawns on everyone, the Palestinian struggle may evolve away from demands for nationhoood and become a civil rights movement, demanding equal rights and opportunities and autonomy.

And the future, historic and contemporary discussions - 1967, 1948, etc; - continued on late into the night, until we realised the time and had to dash so that I could catch the last train to the airport. Debby gave me a lift and, at the station, I had to run and leap over a fence to get to the platform in time.

Next, 'Please open your political baggage'.

©Khaled Diab. Text and images.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Blessed are the peacemongers

By Khaled Diab

Ever since I was introduced to the term ‘peacemonger’ in an article from September last year written by Uri Avnery, Israel’s most famous peacenik, I have quite fancied myself as one of those troublemakers beating courageously on my peace drum.

“A terrible enemy is conspiring to impose peace on us. He is advancing against us from two sides, in a giant pincer movement,” he wrote. “Against this danger of the Arab peacemongers, the Olmert government is calling up all its forces.”

But this official peace cavalry has been cut off at the pass and lacking the ability to win ‘hearts and minds’, it has retreated in silent defeat. That is why individual ‘peacemongers’ and dedicated bands of peace worriers must take up the fight. Lightly armed with compassion, empathy, wit, guile and a willingness to compromise and coexist, they must launch their own stealthy guerrilla offensives against the massed forces of hatred and distrust mobilised by the extremists.

Given my powerful desire to declare peace on the enemy, I decided that it was a good idea to visit Uri Avnery, Israel’s best-known and most controversial ‘peacelord’ to exchange strategies and debate ideas. Having read so much of his writing over the years, the idea of meeting him did fill me with a certain amount of trepidation. This wise old man was once a teenage member of the extremist Jewish militia, the Irgun – branded the ‘terrorists’ of their time.

His colourful career has seen him reinvent himself to become Israel’s leading alternative media publisher in the 1950s and 1960s, one of its most radical politicians and eventual founder of Gush Shalom, the left-wing peace movement. He was the first Israeli to meet Yasser Arafat, during the Battle of Beirut in 1982, and faced accusations of being a ‘traitor’ from fellow Knesset members.

Over the years, Avnery has been Israel’s loud and unrelenting public conscience. Although never part of the Israeli mainstream, the veteran peacenik has had a massive magnifying effect over the years, often occupying a pioneering position that the mainstream would later flow towards – what he calls, the ‘small wheel effect’. As I also suffer from the urge to roam uncharted yet fertile political and social terrain, I thought it would be useful to meet a veteran ‘pioneer’.

Given his visionary’s ability to look beyond the here and, I wanted to hear from him what kind of wheels are currently being set in motion and what the future holds.

Prophet of peace
On my last Sunday in Israel, Uri Avnery ushered me into his Tel Aviv apartment which boasted one incredible view. His brilliant white beard and hair had a faint suggestion of the Biblical prophet about it. He sat me on armchair where I could admire the setting sun as it descended into the Mediterranean. Behind my shoulder was the sky-fawning Tel Aviv skyline.

In his no nonsense and slightly intimidating manner, he got straight down to business: “What is it exactly you wish to talk to me about?”

I asked him what settlement he expected. “The solution is that there will be a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories along the Green Line, with some small exchanges of territory. And Jerusalem will be under joint control,” he predicted.

I asked him how this would come about, given that the Israeli government had turned down the Arab League’s peace overtures – and the other sticking points, such as the status of Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian return.

“There must be push and there must be pull. It is good that the Arab League is offering clearly and unequivocally a fair peace offer. The push must come internally from the peace movement and from the international community.”

I wondered to myself how likely it would be that the peace movement would be able to mobilise enough support in time to salvage this latest bid and whether the international community would be able to take a robust stand, given America’s own stridently militaristic approach in the region and Europe’s inability to agree on a common Middle Eastern policy.

I asked him about the prospect of moving the 400,000 settlers living in the West Bank – or at least most of them – given how difficult it was to pull only 8,000 settlers out of Gaza. “It’s difficult,” he admitted. “But it won’t get any easier. An exchange of territory may partly solve this, but there’s no way to avoid it.”

He went on to explain that: “The Israeli government does not want peace because of the political price of dismantling the settlements. In general, Israeli society does not like the settlers. But they are Israelis, so it is a difficult challenge to face up to.”

“If you want peace, you must remove settlements,” he stressed.

I told him about the remarks I’d heard from numerous Israelis who expressed a fear that if they abandoned the West Bank, the Palestinians would just see it as an opportunity to launch more rocket attacks. “Either you have peace or you don’t have peace. You can’t say ‘I don’t want peace because I’m afraid of war’.” He warned that if no peaceful settlement was reached soon, “the West Bank would be like Gaza in a couple of years.”

When I asked what he thought of Israel’s so-called ‘deterrent posture’, he said he believed it was counterproductive and had to be abandoned but explained that it was a product of the hostility Israel has historically faced in the region, as well as the collective trauma of the Holocaust, after which Jews vowed they would never be so weak again.

Reaching across the divide
I asked Avnery what the Palestinians could do to better manage their cause. He recommended that Palestinian activists should work on creating real co-operation with the peace movement in Israel. “After the death of Arafat, all connections were cut. Now, the need to reach out to Israeli society,” he said.

They also need to work on constructing a unified Palestinian voice and highly organised social structures. “They need social organisations that allow Palestinian resistance to become general and non-violent… Mass action in the spirit of Martin Luther King is very effective, but need strong organisation.”

“Violent resistance has proved ineffective… Non-violence for me is not a question of principle; it is a question of usefulness,” he added.

He then turned his attention to the wider region. “In all this, the Arab World has not played a very glorious role. They have done very little to help the Palestinians. Even today, it is ridiculous that the West can impose an embargo on the PA and the Arabs, like Saudi Arabia, cannot keep the Palestinian struggle alive with their oil wealth.”

I asked him about the prospects of a bi-national federation emerging sometime in the future. “Any independent Israel and Palestine would have very close ties. There can be no truly separate states because the country is too small and their economies are interdependent.”

Whether they simply coordinated everything closely or formalised their relationship in the form of a federal arrangement would depend on the political climate of the time. “Our two peoples are much closer to each other than would appear in the clouds of conflict. What prevents closer co-operation and ties is the occupation.”

He used Belgium as a useful analogy for Israel-Palestine, with two communities, Flanders and Wallonia, and Brussels like Jerusalem. He said that Arafat often spoke of BeNeLux between Israel, Palestine and Jordan. He also said that King Hassan of Morocco had told him that he had proposed in the 1950s that Israel be invited to join the Arab League.

“At least for the foreseeable future, I see the two states as the only sensible solution,” he noted.
I asked him how optimistic he was about the future. He told me that he expected peace in his lifetime. The man is a robust and healthy 83.

©Khaled Diab. All rights reserved.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Pint-sized peace

Here is an opinion piece about my trip that has just been published in The Guardian's Comment is Free section entitled Pint-sized peace.

Watch this space for:
* Uri Avnery: Encounter with a peacemonger
* Final saloms!
* Please open your political baggage
* My son, the peace envoy

Friday, 4 May 2007

Tea at the Resistance Cafe

By Khaled Diab

Hebron, or el-Khalil in Arabic, is one of the most beautiful towns in Palestine and its old city, with its lively kasbah, is first rate… until you get to its latter reaches! Hebron, which began life as a Canaanite royal city, is one of the oldest cities in the world.

Rabie and I hooked up with Al Haq’s man in el-Khalil, Zahi, and a group of NGO workers from the UK for the human rights equivalent of a guided tour of the old town.

After a delicious lunch of falafel, the famous local hummus, baba ghanoug, fuul (fava beans) and other assorted salads, Zahi led us through the teeming throngs in the historic heart of the city – towards the thorn in the side of the locals.

“Normally, settlers occupy the hilltops and, although they may be taking Palestinian land, they and the locals do not usually come into direct contact,” Zahi explained to me. “Here, in Hebron, it’s very different: the settlers live in the town centre, causing massive commercial and social disruption. They also go around provoking the locals.”

And it is all because of a cave where Abraham – who is believed to be the common patriarch of Jews, Christians and Muslims – and his family are supposedly buried. The hardcore, ideological, intolerant settlers who live in the old town are there to be close to the Cave of Patriarchs.

Also known as the Ibrahimi Sanctuary by Muslims, this is a crazed settler from the nearby Kiryat Araba settlement outside Hebron killed 29 Palestinians and wounded 150 who were praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994. Almost seven decades earlier, rioting Palestinians killed 67 Jews and wounded 60 in the 1929 Hebron massacre during the British mandate, as part of a general level of unrest across the country at the increasing Zionist presence and a dispute over access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The first half or so of the souq was teeming, a hive of hustle and bustle similar to any old-fashioned Middle Eastern market. Gradually, the number of shoppers dwindles, the nearer you get to the settlements. The latter reaches of the kasbah are almost completely deserted and most of the shops have been shut. The ones with red paint on their shutters were locked by orders of the army because they are just under the settlements, which loom intimidatingly overhead.

Above our heads, is a metal grid to protect pedestrians against the projectiles sometimes dropped by the settlers. I saw bricks and rocks of various shapes and sizes, as well as water bottles and other debris lying up there. Zahi told me of one incident in which a settler had removed the insulating handle of a screwdriver so that it would fit through the grooves, and dropped it. It hit its target and instantly killed a passer-by, he said.

A handful of shops have remained defiantly open, expressing sumoud (‘fortitude’) against the settlers, even though the have little or no business. Some of these shop owners spoke to me. One said that, a few years ago, any of the leases on the shuttered shops was worth at least 200,000 dinars. Today, they would be like to fetch 1,500 dinars.

Another told us that the door to his upstairs storeroom had been welded shut five years ago by the IDF who have been occupying his rooftop as a watch post ever since. His father complained that just before we arrived a large rock landed just to the side of where they were sitting. When they looked up to complain to the soldier overhead, the soldiers had said it was the wind that blew it over the side. “Where’s the wind?” asked the old man in exacerbation. Indeed, it was a still day.

On a roll, he confided that the grossest thing was how some soldiers would urinate into bottles and pour it over the side or defecate into fast food boxes and chuck it on to the street. “It’s disgusting, but I have to clean it up – what else can I do?”

“No one cares about us here. The Israelis don’t care; the Arabs don’t care; the world doesn’t care,” his son chimed in. “You’re the first Egyptian journalist that has come down this way – and I’m here everyday. Where’s the Arab media; where are the journalists documenting our oppression?”

Stake out and refreshments
Just around the corner from these shops is the gate to the Bet Romano settlement. One lone shop facing the gateway was open for business. Its proprietor waved us over. “Come, come,” he called. “Come and have a drink at the Resistance Café.”

Hisham once worked as a TV news cameraman until he was shot in the leg, but he has not allowed this to get him down – and his big smile and positive attitude were infectious.

“I used to work for the media until a crazy Israeli shot me in my left leg,” he said with a big smile on his face, as if he were retelling a humorous incident involving a vicar and an actress. “We decided to reopen this family café seven months ago as a form of peaceful resistance against the settlers.”

“Others thought we were crazy,” he laughed. “But if all the shops reopen, we will defy the occupation. I don’t sell much, but that doesn’t matter.”

He recalled an incident in which an Israeli soldier, upon being informed about the purpose of the establishment, asked: “What kind of resistance is it opening a café?”

“Would you rather we shot at you guys?” was Hisham’s response to him.

The café’s impressive vantage point means that we spent a ‘lazy’ Saturday afternoon waiting for the camera-shy settlers to come out on their weekly Sabbath ‘tour’ of the old town accompanied by dozens of soldiers.

First came an armoured vehicle, then a small group of nervous-looking soldiers, then more soldiers, who kept going backwards and forwards – but still no settlers. “They don’t usually take this long,” Hisham informed us. “Perhaps all my guests are making them shy.”

Just before the settlers emerged, a nervous and shy young soldier who was probably 18 but looked about 14 came up to us. His baggy uniform and hairless face screamed ‘child soldier’ to me. “Would you mind not taking photos?” he asked apologetically, his voice quivering slightly, his green eyes unable to make eye contact with us.

“Why?” I asked. “And is that an order?”

“It’s just because the settlers don’t like to be photographed on Shabbat; it’s against their beliefs. And we don’t want trouble,” he said. “But it’s only a request.”

We all left our cameras rolling and pretended to be doing other things to show respect to the disrespectful.

If you’re ever down Hebron way, do drop by for a drink at the Resistance Café and show some solidarity with the locals.

©Khaled Diab. Text and photos.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Pints for peace

By Khaled Diab

Going out for a drink is great in and of itself. But boozing for a good cause is a wonderful cocktail of sin and virtue! In fact, I, for one, am willing to pub crawl all the way along the road to peace.

While in Jerusalem, I went out with The Guardian's ‘Comment is Free’ contributors Seth Freedman and Alex Stein. Seth even wrote this article about the encounter. And I've been berated by Alex for not replying to it yet. "Not good enough for yer, were we?" he quizzed in his booming voice.

In his column entitled 'Long live lunacy', Seth described our encounter so:

In a crowded bar in downtown Jerusalem, Khaled joined our crew for a night of heavy drinking and even heavier debate.
What began as a getting-to-know-you exercise soon descended (or ascended, depending on your interpretation) into a heated debate about last summer's war in Lebanon. In the blue corner was Khaled, the Egyptian born Muslim; in the red corner was Max, a boy I grew up with in London and who took part in the ground offensives inside Lebanese territory last year.
Max Terminator, as I was soon to start calling him, describes himself as “hardly a pacifist”. Being a strident, and sometimes aggressive pacifist myself, his Rambo approach to life was guaranteed to provoke me. Our verbal pub brawl did little to bridge our differences of opinion over the Lebanon war – which I perceive as a complete failure no matter how you look at it – but Max and I did discover that we shared some surprisingly similar views about the future, particularly regarding the possible emergence of a federal Israeli-Palestinian state.

One striking thing about our little get-together was the amount of common culture we shared – around the table, there were four Jewish ‘London boys’ and an Egyptian one. And I think the mixing and matching of the global melting pot offers some hope for the future by eroding perceived cultural differences even further. For instance, Alex, who was about to join the IDF, was my cavalry against Max Terminator’s sound offensive.

Although the decision of all these young Londoners to volunteer to join the IDF raises certain moral issues in my mind, I do not doubt their moral rectitude as individuals and I respect Alex and Seth’s attempts to be fair in their judgements and reach out to the other side.

Encounters, both virtual and in the flesh, are crucial to bridging gaps and breaking down misunderstandings and misconceptions. This was illustrated eloquently by our eagerness for a second encounter which I had with Alex and Max in Tel Aviv – where we were also joined by a couple of Haaretz guys and an American couple – and where the debate was less like a pub brawl and more like a debating society.

And we have more opportunities than ever before to do so.

As Seth put it:
And then comes Khaled – a man so keen to dive into the maelstrom that he flies across the world to meet the people on the street, such as my friends and me… and the more encounters like this… the closer we'll come to bridging the chasm and reaching solutions.

As I noted in an earlier post, Palestinians brew a very good micro-brewery beer. Israelis are not allowed into the Palestinian Territories and Palestinians need a permit to enter Israel. Why not set up impromptu tents at the checkpoints where Israelis and Palestinians can knock back a couple of pints for peace. I know a lot of people on both sides don’t drink. They can go for the alcohol-free version and chat over coffee or share a peace water pipe.
©Khaled Diab. Text and images.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

The long road to Hebron

By Khaled Diab

The quickest way to get from Ramallah to el-Khalil (Hebron) is via Jerusalem – a journey that should take just over half an hour.

But the Israeli occupation in all its infinite wisdom provides Palestinians with the unavoidable opportunity to take the scenic route, along secondary roads, via Bethlehem – a journey which takes two hours, assuming you don’t have to stop long at the checkpoint and there is no heightened state of emergency.

While the rest of the world goes about its business at increasingly break-neck speeds – the Maglev train in Japan can go almost as fast as a plane and Paris is now only an hour away from Brussels via a high-speed rail link – the Israeli authorities have enabled the Palestinians to go about their lives at a more leisurely pace.

Who needs a high-octane-rapid-burnout career when they can, instead, simmer slowly in the bubbling frustration of unemployment and poverty? And if you have a job, why overwork yourself dashing from one appointment to the next, when you can stop and smell the flowers, or admire the midday sun as it hangs perpendicular over your sweating brow while you kick your heels at a checkpoint?

And don’t forget the flora and fauna. Look around you and marvel at the growing forest of settlements that have been planted on almost every hilltop and in many valleys, and why not follow the wild growth of the security wall as it cuts through people’s backyards and land?

All this, and much more, you can do, as a Palestinian, on the long roads between Palestinian towns.

The Israelis believe the checkpoints and road blocks are justified because they prevent would-be suicide bombers from crossing into Israel and murdering Israeli citizens - I had lunch at a roadside cafe near Haifa where a large attack had occurred and, while there, Tzachi admitted to me that he sometimes thought about the best place to seat his children so that they would be shielded from a possible attack.

The Palestinians see them as yet another form of collective punishment that may slow but not prevent a determined extremist from getting through, especially since the back ways are often left unguarded. In addition, they are bewildered why, if Israelis are so concerned about their well-being, do they build so many vulnerable settlements on Palestinian land and push more Palestinians to extremes? A couple of Palestinians I met went so far as to suggest that this was part of an elaborate policy to make daily life unbearable for Palestinians, to 'encourage' many of them to leave the land 'voluntarily'.

Splitting the Palestinian atom
For me, the journey was a chance to have a long chat with my companion from a Palestinian NGO. He spent the first part of the drive tracing the course of the settlements which have mushroomed up on much of the available land between the Palestinian towns, penning them in and inhibiting their future growth.

A practical illustration of the atomised nature of the West Bank – which is supposed to represent the heartland of a future Palestinian state – is that every few minutes, my companion would have to switch between his Palestinian and Israeli mobile phones when he needed to talk to his colleagues and the group of European NGO activists we were due to meet in Hebron.

My companion is the third generation of his family to live in the Kalandiya refugee camp, which is home to over 10,000 registered Palestinian refugees and was established in 1949, shortly after the armistice in the first Arab-Israeli war. Israel considers it to be part of ‘Greater Jerusalem’. “The camp still witness clashes with Israeli soldiers and frequent stone throwing incidents,” according to UNRWA.

My companion pointed out the densely populated and walled-off camp as we drove past it. “It’s often hard to sleep,” he confessed to me. “Israeli soldiers regularly patrol under my window late and I hear armoured cars passing all night.”

I realised just how fortunate I am: not only do I have a land (two, in fact); I am also free to travel the world and am more mobile in my Palestinian companion's land than he is.

The Hamas factor
The conversation drifted to Hamas and I asked him whether secular people and Christians were finding life harder in the wake of the gains made by the Islamist group.

“Hamas respects the plurality of Palestinian society. In fact, a lot of Christians voted for them,” was his response. He explained that, despite their Islamic platform, Hamas were less bigoted against Christians than most Fatah members and hangers-on, many of whom were little more than thugs.

The Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians, who voted for Hamas, he said, did so because they were sick and tired of Fatah’s corruption and the criminal gangs that lived off it.

He acknowledged that in Gaza, where Hamas rules the roost, things had become a lot more conservative and restrictive than in the West Bank, but this was also down to the religious and social dynamic that has been gaining ground there. And, I would imagine, the desperate economic situation and the fact that Gaza is the most densely populated place on Earth also play a role in making it so stifling.

I asked why then was the Christian population of Palestine dwindling. He said that life under occupation was miserable for all and that masses of Palestinians have fled and are trying to flee the country. He explained that Christian Palestinians, who are generally better-educated than their Muslim compatriots and have more connections with the outside world, find it easier to get out. I found this was a partly satisfactory explanation. But I imagined with the growing politicisation of Islam, it was also becoming more uncomfortable for Christians.

I asked him if he was not afraid of Hamas’ vision of, one day, creating an Islamic nation. “Not really,” he shrugged, expressing his belief that the party was committed to the democratic process and so whatever goals it achieves “will occur in the context of the democratic process”.

He contended that, much like the religious Jewish parties in Israel, Hamas may succeed in pushing through some Islamic elements but Palestinian society will remain secular because Palestinians prefer that system of government.

©Khaled Diab. Text and images.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Where’s the security in that?

By Khaled Diab

Shawan Jabarin, the general director of Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation, spoke to me about the human rights situation and prospects for the future.

He began by stressing the importance of people going out to see what’s going on on the ground and speaking to ordinary people “because they often have better and more sensible ideas than their leaders”.

He believes that 'security' is a catch-all used by Israeli politicians to justify their actions in the eyes of the Israeli public and the international community. "In el-Khalil and Ramallah, there is a lot of misery and hardship," he noted. "Events here are not isolated and temporary - they are part of a grander scheme."

He points to the severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, the economic hardship Israel has inflicted on the Territories and the wall it has built through the West Bank as indications of certain long-term policy objectives: to reduce the Palestinian population living in the West Bank by making life there increasingly unbearable and to grab the parts of the West Bank Israel would like to annex.

"Permits are, at first sight, for security purposes. But they are also used as a tool to frustrate, annoy and plant despair in the hearts of Palestinians," he posited. "The restrictions on movement not only hurt the economic well-being of the Palestinian population, but also hurt their family and social ties - for example, weddings are often cancelled because family and friends from other towns and villages cannot attend."

He also talked about the nearly 11,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, of which 120 are women and 300 are minors. Of these, around 700 are so-called administrative detainees, i.e. they are being held without charge.

"Occupation is not just a question of land possession but also controls every inch of people's lives."

Many Israelis I have spoken to argue that these measure are not part of any systematic policy, but are simply cobbled together responses to the Palestinian 'terror threat'. However, some Israelis do acknowledge that certain cynical political forces might be exploiting the fear and loathing to create certain realities on the ground while everyone's attention is focused on security.
A lot of Israelis find it hard, despite documented violations, to accept the fact that the army is not a benign force. "The IDF is the most moral force in the world," Anat proudly proclaimed several times. "It's just the occupation corrupts." Although it is certainly not the most immoral force in the world, not by a long stretch, I do not share such a high opinion of the Israeli military, although I can understand why Israelis do, since decent Israelis have to serve in the IDF and see any slur on it as a personal attack on them.

Rebranding the occupation
Shawan is sceptical about the wall Israel has constructed and questions how much security it could ever bring to Israel. "The wall is not a 'security fence', but a political boundary. In my opinion, the long-term objective is to keep the occupation in place without actually calling it an occupation. Israel wants the land but does not want the responsibility of the human population."

Quite a few Israelis I have spoken to see this as not contradictory. Security to them does not just mean stopping suicide bombers but also separating themselves from the Palestinians. They argue that the course the wall runs is not fair and it should be rerouted along the Green Line, but they also believe that the biggest settlement blocks in the West Bank should be annexed by Israel because evacuating them would be too difficult.

But given the fact that dismantling even small settlements is seen as 'politically costly' by Israelis, I wonder how successful any attempts to reroute the wall will be in Israel's factionalised political landscape. In addition, any unilateral solution, as the wall is, can only provide temporary respite, since it is carried out without the consent of the other party.

"Israeli leaders do not have the courage to work for peace... Israel is engaged in crisis management not crisis resolution," Shawan argues.

Even when viewed from the perspective of Israel's own self-interest, this policy is incredibly misguided, since Israel is perpetuating the occupation and making the prospects of the emergence of a future Palestinian seem increasingly implausible.

He says that the fragmented nature of a future Palestine and the lack of Palestinian sovereignty over borders and resources, "may lead to the quietening down of the conflict for a while but it will flare up again when its impracticality and unfeasibility become apparent".

And the worsening situation and despair may, he warns, push some Palestinian towards greater extremes than Hamas, such as Al Qaeda-style groups. "Our society used to be pragmatice and well-developed but the continued lack of hope may lead to greater extremism."
Utopic solution
In the more distant future, the ideal solution, according to Shawan's own personal opinion, "would be a single, secular democratic state on all of historic Palestine.. And, in the long term, I'm optimistic this state will emerge."

Such a state would be in everyone's interest, especially the Jews of Israel, he argues. "If Israel refuses to deal with equality and justice and stop the occupation, then if it ever weakens, a future war could destroy it. The best protection for the Jews is not might but justice."

But he does not realistically believe that this could happen directly. "First step could be a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders. Later, the two states could voluntarily build a closer union."

When questioned about the name of this future state, he responded: "They can call it Apeland for all I care. Its name is not important; its nature is."

He dismissed fears that Jews would become second-class citizens in such a state, which they fear would quickly become Islamicised. "Most Palestinians support the idea of a unified, secular state. The PLO, for example, in its charter called for the creation of a single state where Muslims, Christians and Jews live side by side in peace."

He admits that Hamas and other Islamist parties may not share this vision, but he believes that, in times of peace, they will be sidelined.

In order to allay Jewish fears, which given their history of persecution is understandable, he suggested the creation of a triangle of authority in this future binational state: an autonomous Jewish parliament, an autonomous Palestinian parliament and a joint federal parliament where the two meet.

"Of course, Palestinians do not share the identity fears of Israelis because they live in a region of other Arabs," Shawan acknowledged, which makes it easier for them to support the single-state solution.
©Khaled Diab. Text and images.