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Yalla Peace: Can Jews live in a Palestinian state?

By Ray Hanania, November 18, 2010

[Ray Hanania is a Palestinian living in Chicago]

That we even have to ask the question “can Jews live in a Palestinian state” tells you how bad relations between Israelis and Palestinians have become. It explains what the real problem is – bad attitude, exaggerated fear.

Of course Jews can live in a Palestinian state. I would argue that they would be better treated than the Arab citizens of Israel who did not flee or were not forced out by the Hagana and Irgun in 1948.

But it comes up now in the context of a possible, though reluctant, effort to achieve a peace accord.

Why not allow some of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to remain but as a part of a Palestinian state, with the settlers living under Palestinian rule? Could it be worse than Palestinians living under Israeli rule?

The only issue is one of land, of course. Israelis who object to compromise and therefore reject peace argue that the conflict is not about land but about Palestinian and Arab refusal to recognize Israel. The Arabs have recognized Israel. The real question is, have Israelis recognized Palestine?

Do Palestinians have a right to govern themselves in historic Palestine? And please don’t throw in that racist argument (yes, it is racist) that Jordan is Palestine. No one called Jordan Palestine, except European Jews. And have Jews recognized Palestine enough that some might want to live there as “Jewish citizens of Palestine”? Some Jewish settlements can be annexed into Israel in the context of a final peace, with an exchange of lands: Israel trades one dunam of Israeli land for every dunam of settlements in the West Bank retained, including settlements around Jerusalem like Gilo.

Jewish settlements not traded to Israel could and should remain in Palestine. And they deserve the protection and equality that everyone should strive to achieve, not just in Palestine but in Israel.

A POST-CONFLICT Israel will eventually change. It won’t be run by extremists using fear mongering to pump up the fight. Palestinians will join Israelis to impose justice and the rule of law, and they will work together to fight crime and terrorism. And the terrorism won’t just be coming from the small handful of remaining Palestinian extremists. I hope and believe a Palestinian state will also overcome the same obstacles that will confront a final peace.

The issue of who owned the land will have to be addressed. Settlements built on land expropriated from Palestinians will have to be resolved in the form of compensation and other trade-offs.

I know many Palestinians will object to all of this. Of course they would. They are like Israelis, whipped up into a frenzy by political leaders who fear monger, too. But peace will be like a soothing balm on a wound. As the pain goes away, almost all the anger and anger-driven hate will go with it.

Israelis will come to accept the non-Jews, the Palestinian Arabs, who now live in their country. And eventually, Palestinians will come to accept the Jews living in their country.

What about the issue of Jews immigrating to Palestine? Palestine presumably would be open to settlement by anyone, including Jews, as long as they live under Palestinian laws. Would they be treated the same as Israel treats its Arab citizens? Maybe that is why some Israelis fear living in Palestine.

Palestine, though, should not become Israel. It should not become a state based on one religion – Palestinians should repeal the law declaring Islam the official religion of Palestine. That law isolates non-Muslims and insults Christian Palestinians and Christians throughout the Arab world. (How could Palestinians complain about Israel being a Jewish state when Palestine would become a Muslim state?) Palestine can offer a right of return to every Palestinian in the diaspora, especially to those refugees living in camps.

Every Palestinian not living in Palestine or Israel is essentially a refugee in my mind. The success of assimilation does not deny refugee status.

It would be no different than what Israel does – allowing anyone Jewish to come to the State of Israel while requiring non-Jews to apply for immigration. Palestine could do the same.

One day, we will have peace. I just wonder how Palestinians and Israelis will spend their time when they don’t have to wake up in the morning and deal with all this conflict, fear, debate and anger?

The writer is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com

 
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