The recent pro-Palestinian marches in various U.S. cities were reminiscent of the 1960s movement against U.S. aid for South Vietnam. The U.S. is the main provider of money and weaponry to the Israeli state, and one can easily imagine the pro-Palestinian movement growing until that aid stops and Zionism comes to an end. The parallel with the Vietnam demonstrations is not entirely accurate, of course: North Vietnam’s cause was not just. It is a great pity that the demonstrators of the 1960s chose to support a tyranny in the conquest of a democracy rather than an oppressed and exiled people trying to get home. Communism and Zionism are both works of the Devil, who, I suppose, used support for one to avert opposition to the other. But now the pseudoliberals of the U.S. are taking the morally right side. Europeans are now predominantly pro-Palestinian, but U.S.Americans, who have the financial and armament power to end Zionism, have somewhat less competent news media and also tend to identify the Israelis with the Biblical Israelites, who in the Bible have the assumption of being on the right side.
This linguistic confusion is addressed in a chapter of my book Albatross ISBN 0-595-19418-4. The great irony here is that those making this linguistic error are predominantly Christian, and , as I point out in another chapter of Albatross, a prime motive for Zionism is to punish the Palestinians, national descendants of the Biblical Israelites, the first Jewish nation, for following the false Messiah Jesus of Nazareth. Also, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has wielded tremendous clout from 1957 on, and there was no equivalent lobby for South Vietnam.
These problems will be overcome, as far juster arguments were overcome when the pseudoliberals opposed democracy in South Vietnam; after all, the pseudoliberals will not have to lie this time. In a decade or two, unless better solutions are found, the Zionists will be violently defeated. North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam to replace liberalism and democracy with Communism and despotism; also, perhaps, to pay off some scores from the quarrel between Bao Dai’s people and the Viet Minh and from the later quarrel which split the Viet Minh. It was natural that victory led to horror and poverty. It is not natural that Palestinian vindication lead to horror or poverty, but it is very likely: the Zionists have taught the Palestinians to hate Jews, something new in their history; on the other hand, the Zionists have always hated Palestinians, and have nukes to wreak that hate in their last days of power: the victory is likely to be violent and pyrrhic, leading to bad karma on all sides, with consequences for another century or so. Furthermore, since the June War there has, initially at Zionist prompting, been a tendency to identify Palestinian patriotism and Islamic Fundamentalism, so it is possible that a “liberated” Palestine would be some kind of despotism. Iran has shown that an Islamic state can be a democracy, but the other omens are not good; furthermore, it would be preferable that the democracy be more or less secular, and not only because of the Christians and Rabbinical Jews in the country. There can be no doubt that Christian support of Zionism has been one of the components in the rise of Islamic Theocratic movements. There is a real danger that Palestinian victory may act like a tonic on these dangerous movements, hindering democracy worldwide, and even leading to interstate wars and further atrocities like September 11. We certainly do not want the Holy Land ruled by some Taliban-like group, with resurgent Zionists from abroad attacking them and thus strengthening both ideologies for decades on end.
What then is to be done to end the succession of bad karma? How can we help the Palestinians emerge from Hell with empty hands? As often in politics, the answer is to concentrate on commutative justice. The U.S., as chief beweaponer of the Zionists, is in a position to insist on progress here. If the U.S. were to demand that the Israeli state cede its sovereignty to the PLO the state would refuse and try to carry on without U.S. weaponry and money, nuking Jerusalem rather than lose it, but if the demands were such as to keep the Israeli state itself working, without sudden changes, there is a good chance that the Israeli leaders would acquiesce, with the result of a comparatively peaceful transition without loss of whatever good Zionism has done(Museum of the Diaspora, Yad vaShem Archive, kibbutz idea).
313,000 people own homes and farms and orchards in the 1948 territories, property stolen from them or their parents in the Nakba – and on some later occasions. There are also many people who have been robbed of their property in the 1967 territories. I am not talking here about sovereignty, but about personal property rights, protected by the Seventh Commandment. The Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property is in charge of these properties, although in fact some of the dispossessed live in the 1948 territories and so are not absent, being recognized as Israeli citizens. He delegates his authority to the Jewish National Fund Qeren Qayemeth leIsrael, which rents the property out to immigrants. The Israeli state has an absolute moral obligation to arrange the return of these properties to their owners, with the payment(by the JNF, which has had the profit) of back rent with interest for the time of dispossession. Each returning owner should be given a note from the JNF(or, in some cases, the state) for the back rent with interest, at least the accruing interest to be paid each month, with no reduction in payment until the last payment. Those whose property is in the 1948 territories must also, of course, be given Israeli citizenship without naturalization oaths, because they should never have been expelled from their property or country.
The U.S., as chief beweaponer of the Israeli state, should credibly threaten the withdrawal of all aid and arms sales unless the enabling act is before Knesseth Israel within a month, it gets signed by the President within another month, the Custodian of Absentee Property issues claim(not petition) forms within another month, the first family has returned to its property within another month and within 6 months the speed of restitution is such that one can reasonably expect all the owners to be home within 5 years. This demand should be independent of any irrelevant matter, such as behavior of the Palestinian Authority or other Arab polities.
The property owners, together with their immediate families, make up more than a tenth of the refugees; also most of the settlements in the 1967 territories would be dismantled. This act of simple commutative justice will therefore at once lessen the refugee problem, Palestinian anger at Zionism, the bigoted “Jewish character” of the Israeli state, and the hatred for the Palestinians which the Israelis nourish in themselves by this robbery. Once the Israelis do what they know is right in this matter, some of them will recognize that the Zionist project is mostly immoral and unJewish.
Disputes as to ownership in the 1948 territories should be resolved primarily in Israeli courts. To ensure justice, there should be the possibility of appeal to a bench of the International Court of Arbitration whose members would be appointed half by the Israeli government, half by the PLO or the Palestinian Authority, and the chairman by those appointees or by the president of the International Court of Justice. Further benches of the ICA can be erected later to deal with other problems.
There arises the problem of those currently living in or working on the stolen property. We might think them unentitled to much sympathy, because they have known all along that they are on stolen property, so they have no claim against the owners, the JNF, the Israeli state, or, indeed, anyone. But that matter of justice will not prevent bitterness. Various solutions are possible. Firstly, some of the property consists of blocks of flats and the like, and the Israelis have a Tenant Protection Law, so no-one will be immediately displaced by the restitution. Similarly, owners may choose not to re-occupy their property at once but rather to live somewhere else in the 1948 territories, renting the property out to the current tenants, perhaps until the termination of the current lease from the JNF(usually for 49 years), perhaps for some other period; this is something on which the owner must decide; some such owners may even choose to ask the JNF to administer the tenancies for a while. Other tenants may have family they can live with, either in Eretz Israel or abroad; many, I imagine, would choose to return to their ancestral countries(Arab states already have the administrative machinery in place for the return of their nationals, with restitution of abandoned property and citizenship; but most Arab states are rather unattractive places to live in) or to third countries. A few may move to wherever the owners were living just prior to the restitution; some tenants in Ein Hawd may move up-hill to Ein Hawd al Jadidah – and so understand at first hand what Zionism has meant to the Palestinians.
Another problem arises from the destruction of property carried out by the Zionists not only in 1948 but also later. What is to be done with the property rights in Emmaeus, which the Israelis dynamited and bulldozed after the June War to make Canada Park? What about the Arafat family home, destroyed not out of Zionist spite but for the more or less legitimate purpose of expanding the worship area in front of the Wailing Wall? Some of these difficulties can be resolved with either state or JNF funding of reconstruction, but that will not always be practicable. Still, these are a minority of the cases.
Once having shown that it means business about peace, the U.S. can one by one make other demands. One is similar to the rights of owners: for some kinds of tenancy from the state, e.g. miri, there was in Ottoman and Mandate times a right of the tenant to continue the tenancy, and those with such rights can at some time be treated like the property owners, although the back rent owed would have to be calculated differently, and would obviously be lower. And there are other angles to work from.
As I write the Israelis are demanding the extradition of the killers of a genocidal maniac hight Zeevi, who was murdered in revenge for the murder of a violent resistance activist hight Zibri. There are many such claims being made by the Israelis, and the Palestinians might make many more. If there are to be two states, as there more or less are at present, there should be an attempt at symmetry. Each state should be able to make extradition petitions in the court of the other, with external appeal to a second bench of the International Court of Arbitration. A third bench should be available to ensure that trials have been conducted in accord with relevant law. This would make many people feel uncomfortable, but it is so obviously the right thing to do that most will be ashamed to object to it; at least, I hope they will. It is conceivable that other kinds of dispute will also be resolvable in this general kind of way.
It is probably not worth while to have the parties go to the International Court of Justice to determine their proper boundaries, because there has been so much change since 1948 as to make it most convenient to have borders decided in some other manner. It is conceivable that the Partition of Palestine was contrary to the United Nations Charter(the U.S. wanted the ICJ to decide that, but the U.K successfully begged the U.S. not to suggest it in open forum), and I know that the Mandate of Palestine was contrary to the League of Nations Covenant, but it might be taking states’ rights, a legal fiction, beyond their legitimate function, the securing of human rights, to try to adjudicate these matters now.
The Holy Land question set includes many problems about religion. The oddity is that a solution to an important part of these problems has been known since 1929. In that year the Holy See, central administration of the Catholic Church, was given a microstate, smaller than many city parks, with juridical sovereignty, thus fulfilling the needs formerly fulfilled by the larger Papal States and allowing the Italian territorial state to develop without ecclesiastical domination. This means that the Pope can condemn politicians without being thought to have his own political motives for doing so. It is surprising that the same solution has not been applied to other churches. One reason is, of course, that not all churches have equivalents of the Holy See, but that can be remedied.
The World Jewish Congress should develop a method of choosing a Chief Rabbinate of All Israel, separate and distinct from the Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Israel, and the Israeli state and the Palestinian Authority should in parallel cede a small piece of land up against the Wailing Wall as Zion City State. Historically the Mount of Olives would be a better location, but modern Rabbinical Jews have forgotten that. Just as the Holy See has some say in holy places outside the Vatican, the Chief Rabbinate might have some rights outside its state, notably the Tomb of Abraham. Many people support Zionism who really want something like the Holy See, as I mention in Albatross, though they may not realize that that is what they want.
The World Muslim Federation, which is separate and distinct from the Organization of the Islamic Conference, should develop a method for electing a Supreme Mufti of the Faithful. He would probably not be accepted by Shias, but the Pope is not accepted by Protestants. The Supreme Mufti should be given a trilocal state including the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Tomb of Muhammad in Medinah and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The last would very much annoy some people, but Rabbinical Jews could have rebuilt their temple in the second century of the Common Era(they had imperial permission) but did not even move the Patriarchate to Jerusalem, instead keeping it at first in Jamnia and then in various places in already Christian Galilee, so I think they have abandoned their rights; as indeed have the Christians, who, during the Christian period of the Roman Empire, did talk about erecting a basilica there but never actually did anything. The Supreme Muftiyyah too might have interests in the Tomb of Abraham, as well as in the Tomb of Moses.
The Christian leaders in Jerusalem are quarreling a lot less than formerly, having even taken the keys of the Holy Sepulchre back from the Moslem families who had been holding them for centuries. They should be able to work out some kind of deal for a Holy Sepulchre City State, with recognized interests in the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Annunciation, and so forth.
For symmetry, any movement for these states would include motions for a Sikh Golden Temple City State and a Buddhist Potala City State.
The three microstates in Jerusalem should over a period of years cool down much of the religion-related anger about the holy city, although obviously a lot of people would be dissatisfied. The Supreme Mufti and his microstates would probably weaken the movements for Islamic theocracy, not because the Supreme Mufti would say anything in particular about it but because the daily working of the Muftiyyah would distinguish church and state in people’s minds.
Somehow, in conjunction with these matters, perhaps, the Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Israel, now appointed by the Israeli state, should become more independent, perhaps following the pattern of the Chief Rabbinate of the British Commonwealth, which too was once state-appointed. Similarly, it is probably a good idea for the Chief Mufti of Jerusalem to be elected by someone other than the Palestinian Authority. For that matter, there should be no more state interference in the appointment of Christian prelates.
There would be a lot more to do to bring peace to the Holy Land. The U.S. can induce this slowly. At present villages formed by people classified as Jews promptly get utilities installed. Other Israeli citizens often have to wait decades; think of Ein Hawd al Jadidah. The U.S. can probably stop this, if the gradually reforming Israeli citizenry does not itself do so. Similarly, public housing, even when administered by the JNF, should be available to citizens regardless of religion. This would go a long way towards transforming Israeli society.
Eventually the Israeli state and the PLO should be merged; not federated. I have ideas of how this might be carried out in stages, but will not go into them here. One can imagine a peaceful, democratic prosperous Palestine as the nucleus of a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Araby, itself the nucleus of a peaceful, democratic, prosperous world. That is not the way I choose to direct my political activity, but I pray God’s blessing on those who do. I do not believe that their next steps can reasonably be very different from what I have described above.
© 2002, John A. Wills