I’ll begin with the personal. I was born into a Mapam (United Worker’s Party, eventually one of the components of Meretz) kibbutz, but my political and ideological home is in the civil society. I hope that everyone here at this conference in Tel Aviv belongs in one way or another to a joint Palestinian-Jewish civil society framework. Whoever isn’t is invited to do so. I have an excel sheet in which I have counted those people who are involved in a joint Jewish-Palestinian framework, and I stopped counting when I reached 70,000.
I am pointing this out because, what we need today in the Israeli parliament is a body that should be the head of a pyramid that is based on daily joint activity that would be the representation of a world outlook. An “All Its Citizens” party should be the practical representation of a public that carries out such an approach, a shared Palestinian-Jewish society in the country.
What is a “shared society”? Work on this concept is being done at the Nisan Center at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, and soon the first edition of a lexicon of concepts for a shared society will be published. It’s already clear that the heart of a shared society contains two ideas: 1) There is no division or bias between citizens; and 2) The framework for such a society, the state, should be based upon shared and equal ownership. Shared with whom? Equal between whom? Between the children of the two nations that exist here: Underneath the land between the Jordan River and the sea there are two tectonic plates, Palestinians and Jews, the two nations that belong in this homeland.
Needed: An Equal Division of Power
In order to create the partnership and development of the country, the Jews have to relinquish their sole ownership of the state, of the power and privileges, and also of the narrative of always being in the right that we are brainwashed with from birth. From my personal experience and from the experience of an equal division of power – within shared civil society organizations – I can tell you that the giving up of power can be extremely challenging mentally. But in my view, it is easier than what I think the Palestinian side has to give up, which is the granting of legitimacy to the existence of the Jewish collective in this land. This requires from the Palestinians a great degree of generosity, and the overcoming of mountains of anger and frustration that we, the Jews, will have to live with that will not disappear overnight.
But the knowledge that we have to relinquish, “to let go,” can sometimes be misleading. There is one thing that if we relinquish it I think would cause damage to both sides within the framework of a shared society: our collective identities. In the eyes of many Israelis, the Palestinians have to give up their Palestinian identity in order to live together with the Jewish people, and that is a very serious mistake.
Zionism Has to Undergo a Transformation
At the same time, it would be a mistake to expect that the Jews will give up on their belief in the Jewish collective existence in the land of Israel, which is the core meaning of Zionism. And the Jews who are here – are Zionists, or what we can call re-Zionists. Zionism is the framework that for the last 130 years has encompassed the idea of Jewish nationhood. It made a major and continuous historic mistake in its attitude towards the Palestinian people, and thus caused an ongoing disaster for the two peoples. It is the ideological framework for Jewish nationhood and should remain so. But now it also has to undergo a transformation. The deep change that Zionism has to undergo is the responsibility for those Jews who are here, and they, we, have to assume this burden. It would be too easy, and also not worthy, for us to simply abandon Zionism, as if that was even possible.
For me, to be a Zionist is, first and foremost, to assume personal responsibility for the crimes of Zionism. Me too, as a member of a kibbutz, Ma’anit. I hope that all kibbutz members will understand that. I hope that everyone understands that “all its citizens” means a new fair re-distribution of all the property, including the land resources of the country. These include all the agricultural land that the kibbutzim and moshavim have generously received, to “guard over the land of the nation,” and also all of the areas under the jurisdiction of the Jewish municipal authorities and all of the properties that go with them – which include vast industrial and commercial centers of activity, municipal taxes and much more. Every Jew who lives here gains benefits in one way or another from Jewish privilege in this land. And this is also true for Jews around the world.
The second meaning is the responsibility to change the basis of Zionism: from supremacy to equality, from nationalism to citizenship. In other words: re-Zionism, rethinking, and a change in its meaning. I know it sounds fantastical to say this in a period like ours when we are being washed in a wave of a destructive hyper-nationalistic government. But everyone here wants to change the reality. Therefore, my proposals are part of an attempt to define what we want.
A Solid Palestinian Identity Alongside a Solid Jewish Identity
A solid Palestinian national identity alongside a solid Jewish-Zionist national identity, are the two building blocks for a shared society in our joint homeland. And mutual recognition of this collective sentiment is a fundamental requirement. This is a partnership in the homeland between the children of this place, stemming from a deep, existential attachment to the homeland. In an article in Sicha M’komit (Local Call), Dr. Ameer Fakhoury gives it a name, אומות-אחיות شعوب أنداد co-nations. This provides the logic for the building of a joint political framework in the future, whether it will be within one state between the Jordan River and the sea, or two, or a confederation. With mutual recognition and legitimacy for the collective right of both Palestinians and Jews to belong in the beloved homeland, it is possible to make a history for the benefit of all of us, for all the sons and daughters of the homeland and their children. For all its citizens.
This article is based on a presentation made at a public conference in Tel Aviv organized by PIJ editorial board member Dr. Alon Liel and others to discuss the idea of a joint Jewish-Palestinian party in Israel, registered under the name “All Its Citizens.”