Articles

Kushner’s Scam and the New Palestinian Math

By Ahmed Amr

Two years ago, in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, the Palestinians made the best decision they’ve ever made. Their response was to abandon all delusions that anything good would come out of American mediation.   

Now the Palestinians need to make another strategic decision – to de-Arabize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be a Mediterranean affair. The best mediators for the conflict are the folks that have ancient historical links to Palestine, share the same cultural values and have common Mediterranean DNA. That would be the   Greeks, the Anatolians, the Italians, the Cypriots and the Lebanese. 

Pan-Arabism is as dead as Simon Bolivar and his dream of a United States of Spanish America.  The Arab League is impotent and the Gulf Arabs have their priorities and the Palestinian cause is far down on the list. They are totally focused on the existential threat of Iran and their dependence on the United States for protection against the Mullahs is enough to exclude them from having any role in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Both Iran and the Gulf States are sectarian theocracies whereas the only sectarian state on the Mediterranean is Israel.

Egypt and Syria are consumed by their own problems and have very narrow agendas. Assad is too busy slaughtering his own people and the Egyptians are focused on economic prosperity and erasing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. Cairo’s reliance on the goodwill of the Gulf-Arabs makes Egyptians easy prey for American coercion.  If the Egyptians have any skin in the Palestinian game, it is their obsession with Hamas.    

Simply put, the Palestinians cannot divorce the Americans without breaking their engagement with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.  They don’t need to be confrontational about it. Just give them a deaf ear and forget to return their calls.

As for the United Nations, it might as well be a paper factory churning out resolutions that have no legal effect because they cannot be enforced without American support. Lest we forget, the original sin against the Palestinians was the 1947 ethnic cleansing partition plan. If the Palestinians need anything from the United Nations, they should focus their energies on revoking that barbarous resolution just like the Israelis managed to revoke the “Zionism is Racism” resolution in 1991.

The partition resolution was not issued by the UN Security Council and the Palestinians should have no problem securing a majority vote in the General Assembly where the Americans have no veto power. The revocation of the partition resolution will have the salutary legal effect of undermining the only legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel.

While they’re at it, the Palestinians might as well sponsor a “Zionism is Apartheid” resolution and demand an apology and restitution from every nation that supported the partition resolution.

Moving on, the Palestinians need to establish a government in exile and claim total sovereignty from the river to the sea. After 70 years, it is plainly obvious that any Israeli Jew can identify as Mediterranean and Palestinian but few Palestinians will ever convert to Judaism.  Identifying themselves as Palestinians shouldn’t be a problem for Israeli Jews. To garner legitimacy, the Zionists used to self-identify as Palestinian Jews before 1948 and even considered naming their state Palestine before making a last-minute decision to call it Israel.  Watch Exodus and you’ll see Paul Newman passionately talking about his Palestinian Jewish identity.

There is already a significant and growing minority of Israeli Jews who believe in the one-state solution and they must be included in the leadership of the Palestinian government in exile. Building bridges with Sephardic Israelis is imperative. They are the critical bridge that will allow both Israeli Jews and Palestinians to work towards a common and inclusive Mediterranean identity. 

As far as the right to return, that is an individual right guaranteed by international law. And if individual victims of the Holocaust can reclaim property confiscated by the Nazis in the early thirties, the survivors of the Nakba have legal precedent on their side when they reclaim properties that were lost in the late forties.  Encourage Palestinians to file individual lawsuits in any jurisdiction that will grant them standing starting with the courts of the Palestinian government in exile. 

As things now stand, the Israelis have created arbitrary and untenable legal constructs that ignore the simple fact that since the Balfour Declaration, Palestine was only divided for 19 years. We now have ‘Area A’ Palestinians, ‘Area B’ Palestinians, Jerusalem Palestinians, ‘Area C’ Palestinians, the so-called Israeli-Arabs and the Palestinian inmates in the Gaza incarceration zone.  Those are the results one can expect when the Zionists are the only parties that have a say in the ‘re-zoning’ of Palestine. 

Palestine has been whole since 1967 and it is best to keep it whole – at any price. Even without the return of the refugees, the Palestinians constitute half the population between the river and the sea.  If you count in the Palestinians in exile, the demographic ratios are about the same as they were in 1947 – one-third Jewish and two thirds Palestinian.
The right to remain must be secured before the right to return. The simple demographic math favors the Palestinians. The Palestinian population within the borders of historic Palestine has actually increased by over 300% since 1948. The Palestinians are as resilient as ever and aren’t going anywhere and there is no possibility of a second forced exodus because the Arab countries have sealed their borders and made it clear that their house is full.

The notion that the Palestinians and the Israelis are mutually exclusive homogeneous populations is one of the greatest myths of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. From time immemorial, Palestine was a melting pot. Where now are the Armenian Palestinians and the Circassian Palestinians and the Greek Palestinians and the Palestinians of Turkish origin. Where now are the German Palestinians who settled in the German Colony to prepare for Messianic salvation a generation before the Zionists. Let them all come home and make Palestine as diverse as it always was.       

As for the Israeli Jews – they are still arguing about who is a Jew and who is a Goyim and who gets to be buried in a Jewish cemetery and who has the right to a Jewish wedding. And the reason they are arguing is that they too are a very heterogeneous group that includes Yemeni Jews, Hassidic Lithuanians, Ethiopian Jews, Berber Jews, Anglos, Poles and Russian atheists who claim to have one paternal Jewish ancestor on their great-grandmother’s side of the family tree.  Even the Chief Rabbi of Israel considers the Russians Goyim. The only real identity that Israeli Jews share is that they are not the indigenous people of Palestine. Even so, they too must be accorded the right to remain if only because they have no place to go.

A united Palestine will be a mirror image of Lebanon with cantons and settlements populated by very distinctive minorities that self-segregate like the Druze, the Orthodox Jews, the Circassians, the Ashkenazi Kibbutzniks, and the Bedouins. The urban majority will continue to live in diverse cosmopolitan cities like Jerusalem, Bir Zeit, Nazareth, Haifa, and Tel Aviv.
Eventually, the sectarian chains will be a relic of the past – if not this decade than soon enough.  In the meantime, the Palestinians should focus on economic survival.
As for borders, the border with Egypt and Palestine has been legally set in stone since the Camp David Accord and so has the border with Jordan. The borders with Syria and Lebanon are internationally recognized. And then there is the Mediterranean Sea and the bounties of the continental shelf of Palestine – bounties that must be equitably distributed to every citizen abiding between the river and the sea.

A Palestinian government in exile can lay claim to all the gas reserves off the coast of Palestine and demand that the proceeds from those gas reserves be placed in a trust fund that equitably distributes the proceeds like the Alaska stipends. It can create a population registry that includes Palestinian exiles and issue passports to any Palestinian anywhere on the planet. Palestinian passports should also be issued to Israeli Jews who embrace a one-state solution, self-identify as Palestinian Jews, embrace their Mediterranean identity and swear allegiance to the secular state of Palestine. 

Best of all, a Palestinian State in exile can immediately issue its own sovereign currency and reduce the Palestinian reliance on international donors and diminish Israeli economic exploitation that forces Palestinians to use the Israeli Shekel. 

Kushner’s sophomoric ‘Deal of the Century’ is a dead letter but one of the consequences of Kushner’s scam is that the Palestinians now understand that there is no alternative to a one-state solution. Let the Israelis annex the whole West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza in exchange for a one-woman one vote polity. 

The new Palestinian math demands that all the people between the river and the sea reaffirm Palestine’s historic Mediterranean identity and abandon both Zionism and the rhetoric of Pan-Arabism. That will necessitate marginalizing both Zionists and Islamists and making sectarian and ethnocentric parties illegal. 

The real deal of the century will be consummated when everybody agrees to “Make Israel Palestine Again” and embraces their Mediterranean identity. MIPA now and forever.  

Ahmed Amr is an economist, a forensic analyst and the former editor of Nilemedia.com. He is a frequent contributor to the Palestine Chronicle and one of the founders of the Royal Mint of Palestine – a project to create a sovereign Palestinian currency.