by Moriel Rothman
Middlebury, Vermont - The sun of the two-state solution is setting. The window for the only solution I believe has any chance of bringing about meaningful, sustainable peace for Israelis and Palestinians is closing, and with it Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic homeland.
People have been saying it for years. In fact, people have been saying, "the window is closing" before it had even opened. But I have always objected to cynicism. Cynicism is easy. Cynicism often leads to passivity. And justice will not be wrought by the passive.
It is thus with great hesitancy that I write: "The window is closing." But I do not write it as a call to give up. To the contrary, I write it as a call to action. I write it as an urgent appeal for understanding that a two-state solution which would bring justice to the Palestinian people is also the only viable way to safeguard Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
On the regional political front, the revolution in Egypt should certainly come as a reminder that political status-quos cannot be sustained indefinitely. But the Egyptian revolution aside, it is the current internal politics in Israel that I fear are pushing the window closed at an alarming and unprecedented rate.
Let me explain.
A number of recent, anti-democratic legislative proposals have made their way into central political discussion over the past year, including one last week when an Israeli parliamentary committee approved the establishment of a McCarthyesque panel of inquiry into Israeli human rights and social justice NGOs.
The inquiry would target incredibly courageous and professional groups, such as B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, who work tirelessly to uphold the vision of democracy and equality as envisaged by Israel’s own Declaration of Independence. For years these groups have been struggling to expose the horrible realities of the Occupation to the broader Israeli public, and thus to build a consensus around the urgent need to end it.
In any democratic country, flagrantly undemocratic legislation – such as a governmental inquiry into human rights organisations – would be cause for concern. But in Israel, these laws are not only alarming on a case-by-case basis, but indeed pose a threat to the two-state solution itself.
If these groups are investigated and their voices stifled, who will lead the charge for peace and justice? Who will ensure that this 43-year Occupation finally comes to an end? And once the two-state solution is off the table, Israel will very likely cease to be a democracy at all.
The formula is strikingly simple. Without an end to the Occupation, there will be no independent Palestine, and without an independent Palestine, Israel's occupation of the West Bank will become permanent, and once Israel's occupation of the West Bank becomes permanent, Israel will cease to be a democracy, unless it gives all the Palestinians living in the West Bank full voting rights in Israel, which would inevitably mean the end of Israel as a Jewish homeland. The latter situation is so far from any mainstream, moderate Israeli position (my own included), let alone the current right-wing government’s, that Israeli democracy is in grave danger.
In the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (explaining his opposition to the Vietnam War): "We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late."
I am both an Israeli and American citizen but address this particular plea to the American Jewish community. Speak. Speak loudly. It is your place to challenge, for your challenge comes from a place of love and concern. It is your place to challenge, for your failure to do so could mean the end of our democratic, Jewish homeland in the land of Israel. So challenge this panel of inquiry. Challenge the Occupation.
Tell President Obama not to give up. Tell him to quickly set forth a bold, viable, creative and detailed US peace initiative. The Middle East is changing. Now is the time for bold action on the part of the United States to do all that it can to ensure that this change is towards peace and justice.
Let us not allow this window to close. Let us raise our voices before it is actually too late.
* Moriel Rothman was born in Jerusalem and is a senior at Middlebury College, where he studies Arabic and Political Science. He is President of the J Street U National Student Board, a North American student-driven network of activists organising for peace, security and social justice in Israel.
February 11, 2011