A two-state solution, with both Israel and the newly formed nation of Palestine getting automatic membership of the European Union. Plus, a Marshall Plan-like initiative funded by the US, UK and the Arab states.
Far-fetched, madly impossible, unfeasible? True, it does sound a lot like that.
So does the idea that the world should continue to witness the most horrific crimes against humanity, war crimes and even attempted genocide by Israel and Palestinian groups battling each other. Or to watch children bombed to death and crushed under the rubble of collapsing cement and steel structures. Or that this ongoing conflict could potentially lead to a global conflagration that will make the two World Wars look like a tea party.
Let us face the truth – only a radically new proposal, that takes into account historical injustices and moves forward with generosity and wisdom, can bring any lasting resolution to this intractable conflict. A conflict that has put all of humanity to deep shame and threatens its very existence too.
Is it not time the world asked itself some very fundamental and honest questions? Like for example, why nobody talks about the fact that both the Jews in the nation of Israel and the stateless Palestinians are historical victims of European colonialism, racism and fascism? Or, how does anyone expects these two warring parties to resolve their differences entirely on their own, without any reference to the sinful moral failure of Europe in modern history? Or why every conventional discussion about the current crisis conveniently overlook or distort the culpability of Europe, and indeed the entire West?
The Original Sin
It was the economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Yaroufakis who had the courage to speak this truth recently, in an interview to Al Jazeera.
“This problem was created entirely by Europeans. First we carried out centuries of persecution of the Jews. Then we subjected them to the Holocaust,” he asserted unambiguously. And, “after the Holocaust, we Europeans got rid of our remaining Jews by supporting their migration to Palestine and we are still assuaging our guilt by supporting Israelis against the Palestinians.”
And let no one be fooled – it is indeed Europe and not just Germany – that bears the guilt of the original sin of anti-Semitism. The evidence of European collaboration with Nazi genocide against Jews is incontrovertible and extensively documented:
– in occupied countries like France, Denmark and the Netherlands where local governments actively provided details of Jews in order to facilitate arrests, transportation to camps and mass deportations;
– in places like Lithuanian, Latvia and Ukraine where militia, police and paramilitary actively participated in the summary execution of hundreds of thousands of Jewish civilians;
– through ordinary citizens who, either through latent anti-Semitism or the promise of loot, informed on hidden Jews in order save their own skins, remaining as passive bystanders or benefiting from expropriated wealth;
Of course, there were others who courageously resisted and helped Jews in profound ways, despite lethal threat to their own lives from the fascist regimes. But the overall extent of European civilian and government complicity, tacit acceptance of state-sponsored anti-Semitic persecution or wilful ignorance of unfolding totalitarian oppression and extermination–what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil”– has few parallels in modern history.
It led to the destruction of an entire civilization and created an unprecedented refugee crisis for Holocaust survivors seeking safe-haven after Germany’s defeat in 1945. Post-war Europe was physically devastated and claimed to be in no position to absorb the influx, despite its direct culpability.
This cemented the argument peddled by Zionist organizations and the US of Palestine being handed over for large-scale Jewish settlement. The horrific tragedy that had befallen European Jewry generated enormous sympathy across the West and Zionist propaganda leveraged that to full advantage, pushing the case for Israel as moral restitution.
The colonial settler mythology of “an empty land without people for a land without people” in Palestine, was used to justify the mass occupation and creation of the Israeli state, violently booting out the Palestinian population already living there. Decades of conflict, violent oppression, dispossession and rights abuses against the stateless Palestinians have followed.
And, through it all, the US and European political leadership, media and its influential pro-Israeli constituencies have largely turned a blind eye, justifying horrible crimes by Israel’s armed forces under the garb of “self-defence.”
The only logical conclusion that follows from Yaroufakis’ bold identification of Europe and the West’s historic culpability is that that it is they who should bear the greatest responsibility for finding a just solution to the seemingly intractable Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Welcoming both Israel and Palestine into the European Union, buttressed by a Marshall Plan-scale economic reboot would of course be very radical, but also very elegant. Firstly, it is framed against the bloody backdrop of European history that led to Israel’s founding from the ashes of genocide – facts nobody can deny. So admitting Israel and Palestine into the EU is logical restitution.
Secondly, binding these two states economically while securing rights and protections can align interests that fences and guards never can. Israel would get unimpeachable legitimacy as an equal member of the international community. Palestine will finally attain meaningful sovereignty and agency as an independent nation no longer enduring apartheid domination. Both would gain access to European markets, frictionless movement across borders, and the coveted benefits of shared EU citizenship allowing free migration rights across the continent.
This arrangement should be financially underwritten, in a Marshall Plan scale effort, by the US, Great Britain, France and the Arab states, all of whom have played dubious geopolitical games over the last eight decades with the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. These investments could rapidly develop infrastructure, employment and human capital within Palestine to meaningfully improves the lives of its long-suffering citizens. It will also liberate Israel from the misery of living in a high-security prison of its own making, ostracised by much of the world and fearful of its neighbours.
Of course such an arrangement would be very hard for Western nations to accept. One can point easily to the political resistance from racist political factions within European countries towards giving Israel and Palestine EU membership. Anti-Arab or anti-Semitic racism in the West must however be confronted wherever it emerges, not used as excuses for inaction.
What these forces should also be reminded of is that the EU itself was midwifed through radical imagination shortly after WWII, with former bitter foes like France and Germany binding themselves together through cooperative institutions. More recently, if South Africa’s transition could turn the page on apartheid, the allegedly ‘impossible’ certainly has precedent.
The situation in Gaza today demands something bigger than crisis management through transitory ceasefires. It needs visionary leadership, which is often the missing ingredient when politics and diplomacy hit dead-ends.
Tragic histories cannot be erased, but new histories of friendship based on universal rights can still be written. Therein lies the promise of a shared regional future within the EU. Difficult yet essential. The alternative is perpetual dystopia.
Such a radical proposal though would demand that the West stop pretending to be the ‘peacemaker’ in the Middle-East and honestly accept its historical role as the true villain in the conflict. Healing can only begin by accepting the West’s original sin and creating structures for lasting repentance and redemption.
And what better way to do it than by showing the courage and compassion needed to stop the unholy shedding of blood in the Holy Land. Indeed, it may be time for the people of the West, the Jews and Arabs, to delve deep into their own religious roots and make the Biblical vision of ‘beating swords into ploughshares’ a living reality.
It is only then that the land of Palestine will become truly Holy.
Satya Sagar is a journalist and public health worker who can be reached at [email protected]