Velveteen Rabbi on her visit to West Bank

Velveteen Rabbi on her visit to West Bank October 5, 2008

The Velveteen Rabbi blogged a few months ago about her visit to the West Bank as part of a progressive tour. It’s a sensitive and thoughtful report about the contradictions and dilemmas she encountered, and includes some striking pictures.

She makes an interesting observation:

Someone in our group asked him [a young Palestinian they encountered in a camp] what he thinks the future may hold, or what he hopes it may hold. “Palestinians today want a one-state solution,” he said immediately. “Two states is an American idea.” (As a longtime supporter of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and Jewish Voice for Peace, which advocate for the two-state solution, I’ve been startled by encountering this viewpoint here. I don’t have a clear sense for how mainstream it is.) He went on to say:

The new generation longs for a single state. We want to live normal, like anyone in this world. The conflict is no longer religious; it’s political. We want elections, to choose who represents us. The settlers come from Europe, from Russia, with no relationship to this country — and they get water, power, swimming pools. Children here [in the camp] play in the streets because we have no gardens…. And still the real dream is one world where we all understand that we’re connected.

The settlers, of course, would dispute his claim that they have “no relationship” to this country. (I imagine that anyone who makes aliyah feels a relationship with the land.) But what I hear him saying is that as an Arab native he feels cheated when outsiders homestead in the West Bank, because they’re getting beautiful homes and government support and he’s living in a refugee camp. (If you’re interested, B’tselem offers an exploration of settlement policy and its implications in a document called Land Grab. They write: “Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality…”)

I’m quite torn on this question, veering between doubt that these two populations could be integrated into a single polity and concern that anything except a single state will lead to gross neglect of Palestinian rights and needs. (The old “Separate but Equal” principle certainly seems to have been been proven inherently unjust in American life, so I find it hard to imagine it working equitably in Israel/Palestine.)

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