Monday, October 10, 2011

Mira Sucharov Nails Some Hard Truths

Longtime readers may remember Mira Sucharov, the Canadian professor I laid into here and here.  My impression of her is she is a typical foreign critic of Israel, willing to make proclamations from far away about all the things Israel is doing wrong without suffering any of the consequences if she turns out to be wrong. But in her most recent essay What's At Stake for Recognizing A Jewish State?, she moves away from her normal stance of "criticize Israel" and offers a real, comprehensive solution of which I agree with a lot. Let's take a look.

Sucharov starts by responding to an article in Al Jazeera that challenges Israel's request to be recognized as a Jewish state. Sucharov writes,
"There,[the article's author] Nusseibeh contends that Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish state is unreasonable. Nusseibeh argues not only that it would prejudice the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return, but that it would negate the rights of Christians and Muslims to share control over Jerusalem; it would reduce Israel's Arab minority to second-class status; and it would undermine Israel's democratic character."
 So the typical (double standard based) criticism of Israel as a Jewish state. I expected Sucharov to agree with this view 100% and leave it at that. But instead she continues,
"Nusseibeh concludes that "rather than demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a 'Jewish State'...we [suggest] that Israeli leaders ask instead that Palestinians recognize Israel (proper) as a civil, democratic, and pluralistic state whose official religion is Judaism, and whose majority is Jewish.""
This solution sounds very reasonable. But I don't see the difference between a Jewish state and a state whose official religion is Judaism. However, if this semantic difference will satisfy the Palestinians and their apologists, who am I to complain?

Sucharov takes this request to maintain Israel's Jewish character at face value and offers real solutions to keep it while making peace with the Palestinians:

"It follows that the most predictable outcome (limited return to inside Israel but unlimited migration to a nascent Palestinian state) is also the most pragmatic: Palestinian refugees get repatriated within their own state of Palestine, even if not exactly to their original homes, and Israel maintains its core identity, along with having to no doubt share Jerusalem and uproot tens of thousands of settlers.
The Palestinians may not be ready to acknowledge this likely outcome yet. That will be for the negotiations themselves to reveal."
 The outcome Sucharov is indeed the most predictable and pragmatic, I could not agree with her more. You can hear Palestinians and their supporters complain and whine and demand the so called "right of return" all day long, but Israel simply will never let it happen. That is a fact. The question now is whether that is a big enough issue that the Palestinians will continue to refuse to negotiate and keep "suffering", or if they will give up their dream of a Palestine "from the river to the sea" and get to work building their new state.

Sucharov points out some hard truths as well for the pro-Israel camp, which I agree with as well:
"By demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a "Jewish state" at this juncture, Netanyahu is decidedly advancing an unfair process. However impractical it is to expect refugee return, the PA can't be expected to give up on the issue even before reaching the table.
The upshot? Israel should stop demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel's Jewishness before actually negotiating the refugee issue (even though everyone knows what the solution will be). The Palestinians should stop attacking Israel's Law of Return (which is really a domestic Israeli issue) in terms of fairness. And Israel should cease and desist from the most unfair action of all -- the building of settlements, as it changes the rules of the game -- creating "facts on the ground" in Likud parlance -- even as it is being played."
 While I would disagree with Sucharov's blaming the lack of negotiations on Israel, the rest looks good. To anyone watching, it is clear Netanyahu is ready to negotiate at any time (but whether he wants to negotiate in good faith is a matter of opinion). But that readiness is hurt by the building of settlements, which may help Netanyahu domestically but hurts him abroad.

But then Sucharov nails it with the second to last paragraph:
"Ultimately, states decide the nature of their own identity and their own immigration policies. Identities will end up being declared and recognized, once the material issues are worked out -- including what will happen to the refugees, who will control Jerusalem, and what final borders will look like."
 That first sentence cannot be said enough, especially to Israel haters. Israel (and Palestine and any other state) is allowed to decide its own identity and immigration policies. Israel is no more "racist" and "apartheid" than any other state, and every accusation thrown at Israel just shows the accuser's double standards and bigotry. If the Palestinians really want to live in peace with Israel (a question that is still very much up for debate) they need to stop attacking Israel's identity. Such attacks are bigoted and unfair.

So let's give Prof. Sucharov props when props are due. She has written a tough, well reasoned article about the realities of reaching MidEast peace, and while the article is still new as I write this post, we'll see what the HPers have to say about it.

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