As Israel celebrates 59 years of independence, Palestinians on May 14 commemorate the Nakba, the catastrophe of expulsion and decades of exile that continue to this day.
When my mother was nine years old, she and her family mounted the back of a pickup truck and left their village of Lifta, adjacent to Jerusalem, under threat from Zionist militias. My grandmother covered the furniture in the family home that my grandfather had built. Anticipating a short absence until fighting in the area died down, they took only a few clothes. That was almost six decades ago. Like hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians, they were never allowed to return, and their property was seized by Israel.
My mother remembers her early childhood and the Jewish neighbors who rented the apartment her father owned. She recalls helping them on the Sabbath and playing with their daughter after school. A life such as this is no more than a distant memory for most Palestinian refugees, who, with their descendants, now number more than 5 million.
But a better life needn’t be just a memory. It is feasible for Palestinians to return to their homeland while peace with Israelis is built at the same time. Another diplomatic push will not bring about the fantasy of neat separation of Israelis and Palestinians into two states. This would only perpetuate inequality and division. Instead, international pressure should be put on Israel to drop its insistence on supremacy over Palestinians. Then both parties can come together to begin building a single, multiethnic state where Jews and Palestinians can again live side by side.
One of the hard — but not impossible — tasks will be convincing many Israelis of the viability of a single-state solution. In 2004, for example, Israeli historian Benny Morris, who has written several books documenting the forced expulsion of the Palestinians, said that a “Jewish state would not have come into existence without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them.” But Mr. Morris is no bleeding heart. He added, “There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing.” If Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, could be faulted, Morris said, it was because he “did not complete the transfer in 1948.”
Continue reading ‘A Political Marriage Of Necessity: A Single State Of Palestine-Israel’