'Recognising' Palestine: gestures and solutions

By Michael Marten
October 10, 2014

Both the Guardian and the Telegraph have this week carried articles urging the House of Commons to “recognise” Palestine when it debates the issue on Monday 13th October 2014. It is possible the motion will be successful. While I support it, I do so in a qualified way. Why only in a qualified way?

The idea of “recognising” Palestine is seen by many establishment figures as a way of supporting the “peace process” and, in Vincent Fean’s words in the Guardian, it “would help to preserve the two-state solution which is, after all, the policy of the three main political parties” (I presume he means the Westminster parties, though the SNP also supports the two-state solution).

This is well-intentioned, but pretty meaningless, as Fean will know. There is no “peace process” – and there has not been for a very long time. Britain “recognising” Palestine might have been of significance had it happened at the latest in the early 1990s, but now it has no real meaning (most of the rest of the world already recognises Palestine, with – broadly – Western states the ones who are just catching up on this issue). Recognising Palestine as a state implies a two-state solution, but Israel has de facto created a one-state solution, leading to a situation of apartheid, as Virginia Tilley argues (along with Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and countless others). All we have in the Middle East is 'process' and not 'peace' – an endless meandering of diplomats, the furthering of lucrative careers of apparatchiks in the Palestinian Authority and Israeli government, the bloating of the international NGO sector, and futile 'interventions' from foreign officials.

This 'process' serves to obscure the ongoing illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory, involving violent repression and blatant human rights violations, all with the aim of dispossession and theft of Palestinian land and resources. There can be no peace whilst Israel, the fourth largest military power in the world, is allowed to continue to occupy Palestinian land. Palestinian resistance (even armed resistance) is no match for such a military colossus.

Even before the first intifada began in December 1987, Meron Benvenisti, former (Israeli) deputy mayor of Jerusalem under Teddy Kollek, said that the number of Israeli settlers (better: colonists) in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories made a two-state solution impossible – the infrastructure of the colony-settlements was too tightly bound to Israel’s infrastructure to make a separation of the two possible (note that every single one of the Israeli colonists in the occupied territories is there illegally). In 1987 there were several tens of thousands of illegal Israeli colonists in the occupied territories; now there are over 500,000.

How can a two-state solution work under such circumstances? Even if Benvenisti had been wrong in 1987 – and the so-called “peace process” was ostensibly predicated on this kind of assessment being wrong – there can now be no doubt that Israel will not willingly relinquish the occupied territories; indeed, the illegal occupation has become an integral part of Israeli identity – the colonists need the army, and the army needs the colonists.

So what to do? There are some really creative ideas emerging from a variety of different parties that offer some hope – none of them predicated on a two-state solution as traditionally understood. Many of these are variations of the one-state solution, and I can recommend some interesting reading on this.

Continue to read this article, with links to resources, here: http://inthepublicsphere.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/recognising-palestine-...


© Michael Marten teaches post-colonial studies and religion at the University of Stirling. He plays a leading role in the Critical Religion project, is an Ekklesia associate, and is a member of our new board of directors. This article is adapted from his blog, Thinking in the Public Sphere (http://inthepublicsphere.wordpress.com). Twitter: @MichaelMarten

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