DevMode
On January 2, 2002, Palestine-Israel Journal held a roundtable discussion at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem on the subject of National Identity. The participants were Professor Yuli Tamir of the Philosophy Department and School of Education at Tel-Aviv University, Director of the Rabin Center; Dr. Einat Ramon, a Conservative Rabbi who teaches Jewish theology and gender studies at the Shechter Institute in Jerusalem; Dr.Mustafa Abu Sway, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies and Director of the Islamic Research Center at Al Quds University; Professor Sari Nusseibeh, Professor of Philosophy, President of Al Quds University and PLO Commissioner for Jerusalem; Azmi Bishara, Professor of Philosophy and Member of the Knesset for the National Democratic Alliance (Balad). The moderator was Professor Daniel Bar-Tal, Professor of Social Psychology, School of Education, Tel Aviv University, who is now replacing Victor Cygielman as co-editor of PIJ.

Daniel Bar-Tal:
On national identity, our first question is: what are the ingredients, or perhaps the bases, of the Jewish-Israeli and the Palestinian identities? To make it more interesting, I am asking each side to comment on the identity of the other, instead of speaking about his/her identity. Afterwards we will take comments on the views of the other party. Finally, do you think that Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian identities have elements of contradiction that cause conflict? If so, what are these elements and how can they be reconciled?

Yuli Tamir:
It is hard enough for me to answer this question about my own identity, so I am not sure that I am qualified to answer it regarding the Palestinian identity. The way I perceive the Palestinian identity is mainly as identities structured in the midst of a conflict with ¡°the other.¡± They are a product of self-awareness that emerges out of processes of social rejection, marginalization, discrimination and persecution. The emergence of Zionism is therefore a product of anti-semitism, the emergence of a Palestinian national identity a product of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The national narrative is structured around this conflict. The pain and suffering as well as the pride in a heroic war for independence are an important aspect of both national identities. The conflict motivates the formation of a national identity. The ontent of such an identity is another matter. Each and every nation ¡°invents¡± its own narrative and spreads it through its national institutions. Israel manufactured or invented a common culture and used its schooling system, the media, as well as other social and political institutions, to spread it. I don¡¯t know whether the Palestinian, being occupied, had an opportunity to undergo such a process. At the end of the day, all national identities are cluster of history, language, culture, a product of fear and hope.

Einat Ramon:
Ideologically I refuse to answer the question, because I think it is up to people who belong to a certain national identity to define what that national identity is. Scholars of nationalism try to pin down the elements of a national identity, trying to somehow highlight a common denominator. I am sure there are a few common denominators, but I think that each national identity has its own uniqueness and for someone who is part of a national movement, it is wrong to define for another national movement what its ingredients are. I think it is really up to people who belong to that national identity to define it. Even though the theorists may say a national identity has to include language, culture, relationship to a land, etcetera, there are complex elements in every different national movement. The Palestinians have a common connection to the land. Yet to what degree is their culture so different from that of the Arab world? I don¡¯t know. And if we arrive at the conclusion that their culture is not that different, does that make it an illegitimate national movement? No. I am saying that also as a Zionist. Other peoples are defining for Zionism whether it is a national movement or not, because Jews did not live in a common land or share a spoken language, but they dreamed of a common land and shared the Hebrew language as a written/holy language. Does all that make them less or more of a people? It is up to the Jews to define their national identity and up to the Palestinians to define what their national identity is. I, as an outsider, cannot do it vis-¨¤-vis any other culture.

Mustafa Abu Sway:
I would like to reflect on what Yuli said about Israel having melted together cultural units right here in the land. Of course, I have reservations about this.It is obviously not the case. If you talk about the Russian TV, the Russian newspapers or radio stations or Russian based political parties in Israel, I don¡¯t see that kind of unity. You asked, what about the Palestinians. For us, we do not have to bring unity in terms of culture. We did not have to reinvent culture. It is there. It is out there. For me it is right in here [indicating heart]. And if I talk about the language, it was never a problem; it will never be a problem. It is not a matter of reviving a language. The language as a concept in terms of its relationship with the people is quite clear for us. I can use any word that will reflect this and everyone will know exactly what I mean. If we are in the Diaspora, we would use exactly the same language. I would begin with this.

Sari Nusseibeh:
I suffer from similar problems as Einat. But let me say: first of all that I see identity as a question of degree. It is not the case, in my opinion, that somebody either has or doesn¡¯t have identity. There are degrees of identities and this applies, in my opinion, to individuals as well as to groups. But in reply to your question, to tell you the truth I am not really bothered too much by the question of what is Israeli identity. I hear debates but I take only the fact that Israelis tell me that they see themselves as Israelis. They have self-awareness as Israelis. Who am I to say, ¡°No, you are not.¡± If Mustafa Abu Sway says I see myself as Mustafa Abu Sway, an Arab Muslim, that¡¯s fine. I have to deal with him on that basis. I don¡¯t think one needs to go any further politically.

Azmi Bishara:
Let us first think about what is national identity. Is there such a thing as national identity, as understood in the world, that causes us to call ours a national identity? We have a certain sense of what national identities are but how can we talk about our own national identity without being able to talk about the national identity of the other? We have to do so. If I cannot talk about the Israeli national identity, I cannot talk about the Palestinian identity. One of its components is the interaction with the Israelis. I can¡¯t deny that. And no Jewish Israeli whether he comes from Greece or Poland can tell me that the articulation of the Jewish-Israeli identity was possible independently from the Palestinian identity, from facing the fact that there were Palestinians in this country. And that Zionism articulated how the Jews felt about their identity. If we want to come to a conclusion, I think that nationalities are produced by nationalists. The national Jewish movement, Zionism, produced the Jewish Israeli identity. We can talk about the Palestinian national movement since 1918 that produced the Palestinian identity. It is still being produced and restructured and redefined all the time. I can tell you that there is a difference between the Palestinian national identity of 30 years ago and that of today. Or that between 1918 and 1948. So identities are constructed as a process, historically

Yuli Tamir:
The interesting thing about identities is that they are a complex product of self-definition, as well as of the way others respond to that definition.

Sari Nusseibeh:
I think there are two kinds of descriptions or attributes. One is psychological, having to do with one¡¯s language, self-awareness, memory, and so forth. The other has to do with the physical attributes, where you were born, at what point in time, in which particular location. These are the two kinds. But I agree with you, Azmi, and this is partly also what I meant by saying that there are degrees of identity. Many individuals remain without identity or with a lesser identity in their lives, and so is the case with people. Often, as you said, things are actually constructed on the basis of objective situations of conflict. But beyond this, I come back to saying that politically-speaking, from the point of view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I am not sure that it is particularly valuable to go into defining exactly what it is that makes an Israeli an Israeli, an Israeli Jew into an Israeli Jew, and what makes the Palestinian nationalist into a Palestinian.

Einat Ramon:
I want to clarify because I somehow feel that Azmi was responding to what I said. I¡¯m not saying that there is no way to discuss national identity. From my modest familiarity with theories of nationalism, there is always an attempt to focus on a common denominator and not on particular features of different cultures People come with their own baggage of identity and they impose it on whatever theory they want. We have to be very careful when we discuss what is called national identity not to exclude one category because it doesn¡¯t fit the definitions. Among the common elements of national identity, emotion is a very important one. We can take, for example, a Russian Jew who may not even be considered a full Jew according to Jewish religious law, comes to Israel and feels that he or she is part of Jewish nationalism.

Daniel Bar-Tal:
If I may break it down, we can talk on an academic, conceptual level about the emotional component, about memory, but I think that if we talk about national identity we necessarily speak about content, which is very specific and concrete, and which gives meaning to particular national identity.
Yuli, can you relate to this and to the question of possible contradiction between Israeli and Palestinian identities.

Yuli Tamir:
As an observer of what has happened in this discussion, it is interesting to note that what started as a detached analysis of national identity has turned immediately into a political dialogue which is part of the conflict. It seems as if we cannot refer to this question without asking ourselves what are the implications of our discussion to the political reality outside this room. Obviously, there are contradictions between the Israeli and Palestinian narratives. They become very evident when we examine the tensions between the Israeli narrative told on Indedendence Day and the Palestinian narrative of the Nakba. There is no way to create from these two conflicting narratives a combined narrative agreed upon by the two nations. What we need to do is to open, in each national narrative, a window of dialogue with the other. An opportunity to understand, though not accept, the narrative of the other, including those aspects that are painful for the other side. Yet the debate about narratives should not become the essence of the dialogue. I agree with Sari, let¡¯s leave the question of identity for future generations and deal with practical political questions. Politically, I wouldn¡¯t want the peace talks to start with a discussion about identity. It would lead nowhere. Let us leave debates about identity to each nation to be held in its own public sphere. It is problematic enough for each nation to cope with its past. Yet our pasts are admittedly related. In constructing its narrative, Israel will have to deal with the injustice caused by its creation. The realization that we Israelis did not only suffer an injustice but also caused one, must be internalized. In this respect Azmi is therefore right, our identity is also constructed by the conflict and cannot be detached from it.

Azmi Bishara:
I agree. A few theoretical attempts were made to identify objective components of identity. People are obsessed with them. The attempts at social engineering to define what is and what is not nationalism, to determine who has the right to have a republic, whether the Jews should have or shouldn¡¯t have the right. All these attempts were doomed. I want to emphasize the fact that national identity, like any other identity, is structured, is constructed, is created historically, and each is different from other identities. National identity is not cultural identity, is not religious identity, is not professional identity. That is why we call it national identity. It is not simply a tribe or a people. We can say that the Jews always defined themselves as a people. I claim they never defined themselves as a nationality. Nationalities did not exist 2000 years ago. This is something that was produced in Europe, maximum in the 16th-17th century. People started to give their identity a political dimension, the will to sovereignty. This is nationality. You don¡¯t build this dimension from nothing. You build it from culture, from religion, which were always there, but the desire to be sovereign is something else, something new, something modern. It is not something the Prophet Muhammed or King David said. Why? Because they lived in different ages. I don¡¯t think that the Arabs 2000 years ago had a nationality. I don¡¯t think the Jews had a nationality. There were no nationalities 2000 years ago. When I say that, Israelis are insulted. Arabists would also be insulted, because they say Arab nationalism is 3,000 years old, that Arabs were always a nationality, and it is not the 18th century that structured Arab nationalism.
A national interpretation is something specific. It has to do with sovereignty. When you are asked to articulate your national identity, it has a lot to do with your ability to compromise. A major component of the Palestinian national identity as an identity is the attachment to the land of 1948, the Right of Return. It is without question a very important component of our national identity. This is something to discuss and study: what connected the Palestinians together between 1948 and 1967? The Jewish identity always said that it has something to do with the West Bank, what it calls Judea and Samaria; as a component of national, not only religious, identity, there is a connection with the West Bank. If this Jewish identity, this connection to Nablus, was only religious, I can live with that. But if you tell me it has a sovereign dimension, it has to do with my identity ©¤ as a nationality, not as a religion. This is the connection between national identity and religious identity.

Mustafa Abu Sway:
I was really thinking about two things. One of them provides an example of how basically you create narratives. When there was a dig behind the Marwani Mosque on the Al Aqsa Mosque complex, four Israeli archaeologists were interviewed in the Jerusalem Post. Two of them said that this is a landfill from the time of the Temple and two of them said, no, it is a landfill from the time of the Crusades. Reading between the lines, the former were officials of one of the Israeli ministries while the other two were academics. This is a clear-cut case of how you are trying to create a narrative and justify sovereignty around a place, be it justified or not.
I want to follow the notion of constructing national identity. We know that nationalism is basically a creation of the Enlightenment. Europe is moving away from nationalism. In Europe today, the Euro was said not really to be about money, but to be a pure political process. Here is my question to the participants: is it possible to deconstruct, because obviously while these nationalisms are in place, then the conflict will continue. If we do deconstruct these constructed nationalisms, then probably we are getting closer to each other since the ingredients of these nationalisms are at odds with each other. I don¡¯t see any real common ingredients.

Daniel Bar-Tal:
Do we understand you are suggesting that a condition for any possibility of co-existence is deconstruction, which means ¡°erasing¡±?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Yes.

Daniel Bar-Tal:
Is it possible? Is it something that you can envisage?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Europe is around the corner. Theoretically, it is absolutely possible. I can conceptualize an entity that is based upon deconstructed nationalities. Whether there is the political will to do that is a different question.

Yuli Tamir:
These last remarks exemplify the fact that the debate about identity cannot be won politically. Whatever the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be, it will not solve issues of identity. It will not settle the territorial debate or determine the hisorical relationship between the Jewish people and Judea and Samaria. Let the archeologists keep on arguing. The political debate should be forward-looking. In a hundred years, when there will be peace, one may find that debates about national identities will have lost their importance, that we will be more concerned about religious-secularist than about national debates, that secularists of different nations will find more in common with each other than with fundamentalists of their own nation.

Sari Nusseibeh:
The fundamentalists will find common language with each other and there might be more of them.

Yuli Tamir:
That would be worse. At the end of the day, the debate about identity is a destructive one. As identities cannot be compromised, they become a stumbling block for negotiations. Moreover, as long as there is a conflict, there will not be, within each nation, a genuine discussion of identity. Many Israelis will not publicly reflect on questions such as their relationship to Judea and Samaria as it might bear consequences for the political debate.

Sari Nusseibeh:
I think one way of formulating the problem is to say the following: for instance, Jewish identity, in so far as it is Jewish, can only manifest itself by somehow spreading over and taking up all the space that is Palestine or what the Jews call Eretz Israel. That is in the nature of Jewish identity. Moslem identity or Palestinian identity by its very nature is such that it will only manifest or realize itself in its fullest form when it has taken over and liberated all of Palestine. As such, there is an inherent contradiction between the Israeli identity and the Palestinian identity. We knew that 50 years ago. Today we must ask ourselves the question: is it really impossible for the two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, to live as neighbors? I don¡¯t think it¡¯s impossible. In the end people can live next to each other. Its just too bad if Israel can¡¯t take over Judea and Samaria and if the Palestinians can¡¯t take what they want. Just too bad. I think in the meantime, people can live side by side and just accept each other¡¯s differences.

Einat Ramon:
Also going back to the previous academic discussion, it is true that nationalism is a modern movement, but what have not been explored adequately are the dialectic elements that different nationalisms have taken from the previous cultures. I think that the root of what is causing the conflict here is all these inheritances that we have taken upon ourselves from the different cultures. The religious and cultural elements are very serious dimensions but liberal national leaders and thinkers have not taken them that seriously: how Jews have reinterpreted their Judaism when they moved into a nationalist phase, how the Palestinians have reinterpreted their connection to the land, their Arab culture, when they moved into a nationalist phase.
Because often this is where the conflict is. The conflicts are carried on from the previous reincarnation of people¡¯s history. I am offended by Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Zionism as a Jewish nationality. Zionism is often seen as a colonialist movement. Yes, it was influenced by colonialism and in fact we know that every nationalist movement is influenced by colonialism. Jews not being perceived as a nation is, I think, a carry-on from earlier times when Jews were not living on their land, even though they had a common consciousness of being a people and a common culture. To the extent that Palestinians view the Jews as outsiders that have no right to national self-determination here in Israel as a nation, that to me is the crux of the conflict from a Jewish Zionist point of view. Now the fact that Jews are historically and nationally attached to Judea and Samaria doesn¡¯t mean a rejection of compromise. The problem is that Jewish leaders did not take it upon themselves to redefine the way religious elements were translated into Zionist culture in a way that will facilitate co-existence with the Palestinians. I think that also happened on the Palestinian side. I think coexistence is possible, but the above developments left the entire arena open for the fundamentalists. Religion somehow overlaps nationality. Neither one of the nationalities is clear of religion. The fundamentalists are so powerful because they are dealing with something that is deeply, psychologically imbedded in the nations. They are not really getting any responses from the liberals on both sides because the liberals dealt with pragmatic solution and didn¡¯t pay attention to the mystical and religious psychological elements of the national identities involved.
The vision of going beyond nationalism is wonderful. Europe can afford it. The EU is a confederation that does not eliminate each country¡¯s respective nationality. European countries have the luxury of creating such a confederation because during the rise of European nation-states they persecuted, expelled or killed groups such as the Jews in order to create relatively homogeneous societies They now exhausted their nationalist period so and can move on to a post-nationalist world. But to apply this to people who did not exhaust their nationalist needs is premature. The Middle East has to first live in a civil nationalism before they can move on to a post-nationalist phase. Without that, the pressures are going to be too severe and will only strengthen the fundamentalists.

Azmi Bishara:
First of all, we all agree that compromise is possible. I agree that compromise is possible.

Sari Nusseibeh:
It¡¯s necessary. Maybe it¡¯s not possible.

Azmi Bishara:
I think possible here is more important than necessary, because it may be necessary and impossible. I think it is possible and that¡¯s why we struggle for a just peace. There is no just peace without a compromise. But the issue has to do with the kind of compromise, with our ability to sustain it, with the intensity of the conflict, with the language which is used. Here, what bothers many Israeli Jews and many Zionists, and Einat mentioned it, is the issue that the Palestinians deny the very nationality of Jewish Israelis. I think this is a hasty impression from the press. The Palestinians at the beginning of the century were not bothered with this issue of nationalism, there is no real discussion about it in Palestinian literature. The only people who debated the issue fiercely were Jews, the famous debate of the Communists with the Bund. In the Communist Party it was claimed that the Jews are not a nationality.
Secondly, the Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) considered national identity as heresy. The majority of religious people, not the minority, were against Zionism, against the definition of the Jewish people as a modern nationality, seeing it as the Chosen People, a sacred community, a commmunity of God, not of a state. So statehood for them was a religious issue, awaiting the coming of the Messiah, not a secular issue. The Palestinians heard about this debate from Jewish intellectuals. The Palestinians were against the Jews settling in this country whether they are a nationality or not.

Sari Nusseibeh:
In fact, whether they were Jews or not.

Azmi Bishara:
Whether they were Jews or not. At the beginning, Palestinians looked not at the Jews, but at Zionism, as a part of the British colonial project. They were against British colonialism and against the Balfour Declaration and the whole Zionist role in it as part of this colonial project. Whether the Jews were nationalists or not was not really important in the Palestinian debate. Around the partition plan, a debate started because people began to build on the right of self-determination. Then there was a legal debate among Arab leaders as to whether the Jews have a right of self-determination in Palestine, connected to the issue of whether you are a nationality or not. Here the question was: do they have the right of self-determination in our Arab culture, or as a separate state. People said they were not against the Jews. They can live like the Muslims and Christians in one democratic, secular Palestine.
This is where the debate started. It really has nothing to do with what Shlomo Avineri calls a sort of Arab anti-Semitism. Usually democrats and liberals wanted to think about the Jews like others, like the Christians and Moslems. This debate has to do with the character of Arab society, whether it is inclusive or exclusive. It would be very important for the American way of life and the American culture if they start defining Jews in America as a nationality outside of the American nation. The Jewish-Americans would be very insulted and offended. They are Americans. They don¡¯t want double loyalties, or double identity. They are Jews, yes, but their nationality is American.

Sari Nusseibeh:
What about Islamic identity?

Daniel Bar-Tal:
The more salient expression taken by the Islamic groups sounds in a way irreconcilable. Am I right?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
It depends upon how you define nationalism. For example, you have the Islamic Liberation Party absolutely and irreconcilably against the notion of nationalism. Absolutely, no way to accommodate nationalism. The Muslim Brethren, or Brotherhood, go back to the writings of Hasan Al-Banna, who speaks in terms of loving one¡¯s country. We talk about the political implications of the notion of Umma which is certainly not a nation, and lacks the equivalent of a nation. It is that identity which encompasses Muslims all over the world, whether they live as a majority in so-called Muslim countries or minorities. Most Muslims live as minorities, by the way. But, nevertheless, they are part of that ummatic structure. They belong or they affiliate themselves with the notion of Umma, precisely because it is Qur¡¯anic; it is there in the Qur¡¯an. It is not an added-on development of Islamic thought.
In this case, there is the relationship of Islam to the land, to the Holy Land; it is mentioned precisely as a Holy Land in the Qur¡¯an, where there is the holiness of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Within Islamic jurisprudence, this land is in a specific category and as such there is no room to compromise sovereignty over it, whether it is the Al Aqsa Mosque or Haifa. There is no difference. The mosque is not really what makes it part of the Islamic land. But this is a land acquired through Islamic conquest and as such in a sense this is not really reversible.
Unfortunately, we have focused on the concept of dar el-harb [Islam at war], as if the Islamic State and the rest of the world are in a state of permanent war. You have, at the same time, the concept of the dar el-sulh [Islam as a tool of reconciliation]. Technically speaking, either you are in an Islamic state or in a non-Islamic state. Either you have a treaty with that state, and therefore there is no condition of war. Or, on the other hand, if you don¡¯t, then a condition of war is possible, though not necessarily so. Even nowadays, you have, for example, the Hadith [sayings] of the Prophet, in which he prophesied the conquering of Constantinople and Rome. The Hadith exists. It is in our books. The Companions asked which one is first. He said the city of Heracles (that is, later Constantinople) is first. Obviously, this means that Rome would be next. However, if you check the books of Dr.Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who is a scholar par-excellence in the Islamic world, you see that he interprets the Hadith metaphorically. He said that, to translate from the Arabic: ¡°It is not the sword and the spear any more; it is basically the tongue and the pen.¡± Meaning, it is now ideas challenging each other, and this is exactly what is left between the different cultures, civilizations and religions.
So we have basically a different relationship with the outside world in terms of the contact between civilizations. But this does not really apply to land that has been occupied, and by occupied that doen¡¯t only mean 1967. It also means 1948.

Azmi Bishara:
Spain was occupied, Andalusia.

Einat Ramon:
Is there a difference between Andalusia or Turkey?

Sari Nusseibeh:
Do we have to go and fight for it, to liberate it from the secular government, because Islam lost it?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Theoretically, it might be the case that someone is thinking that way. But certainly within the Islamic framework no one would, let us say, give in to secularism as a philosophical program.

Einat Ramon:
Is there no minority opinion?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Here, in our own context, there is no way of reconciling or accepting. I am talking about Haifa not as Palestinian but Haifa as part of the Islamic land.

Einat Ramon:
Conquered like Spain. First of all, is it different from Spain?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Definitely it is different as a Holy Land because it has more religious value than Spain. Judging on that category as lands that were conquered by Islam, they fit into the same category, but they are not of the same value.

Einat Ramon:
Haifa has more Islamic value than Spain?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Yes, within mainstream scholarship.

Einat Ramon:
Is there any opinion within Islamic tradition that would allow Haifa not to be under Islamic rule?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Not within the tradition.

Einat Ramon:
Are there scholars who are not mainstream?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
I do not hear of recognition by any institution. It¡¯s not really a sulha in the sense that you bring the conflict to an end in the absolute sense, but it¡¯s more of a truce. It¡¯s a prolonged period. When you deal, for example, with Israel as a de facto entity and not as de jure.

Einat Ramon:
But then there is always the hope or the need to Islamicize the whole area, the religious commitment?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Not if you go by the book. That is why the notion of fundamentalism needs to be clarified. Fundamentalism, what is it? If you read even Bernard Lewis, he speaks of fundamentalism being borrowed from Christianity. Somehow I have a feeling that when people are looking for a scapegoat, then you blame the fundamentalists on the other side, rather than considering the position seriously and trying to deal with it.

Daniel Bar Tal:
How is it on the other side?

Einat Ramon:
I think that Jews, too, Jewish fundamentalists, are uncomfortable when they speak of their fundamentalism. But they are there. Clearly, if we go by the books, then often you find among the rabbis many who will say there is no way to compromise over the Land of Israel, because it is a Holy Land. We have to conquer. There is no way in which a non-Jew can own land in the Land of Israel, never mind the Temple Mount. The challenge is to say that the land is holy but we have to make a compromise. I think it is a major challenge to all religions in modernity, not something particular to Judaism or to Islam. I think all religions have to face new notions of living. So that¡¯s why I asked you whether there is any different interpretation, even a minority interpretation, that could be offered to what you said. I think in a Jewish context, there are such people, not in the mainstream, but we could find them.

Sari Nusseibeh:
What you are saying is that the human imperative can take precedence over the territorial precedence?

Einat Ramon:
That¡¯s true. To save human life, we can compromise on the Land of Israel, even though it is holy, even though we are connected to Judea and Samaria.

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Obviously, in the Islamic view, life has precedence in the sense of protecting life.

Sari Nusseibeh:
Life as opposed to territory?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Not only life as opposed to territory. But as opposed to religion, preservation of life comes first, even if in a sense you have to compromise on something religious. But it is always seen as a temporary thing.

Daniel Bar-Tal:
My impression is that if we will be dependent on those in this room, I think we could very quickly reach an agreement. We pointed out the obstacles, which we in this room want to overcome, and the possibilities of compromise. We don¡¯t have representatives of the extremists in the two groups, for whom I believe land or attachment to the land is a very important part of the national identity definition. For them giving up land is obviously compromising something very basic to national identity.

Victor Cygielman:
Dr. Abu Sway, you were saying that there is maybe a solution that should not be a national one. We could look at Europe and go beyond the national identity notion and try to find another approach to solve the contradiction between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. You didn¡¯t develop the idea further. Is it possible?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Obviously, if we talk about deconstruction of the national identity, then, as I said, basically it is the job of the intellectuals to sell the idea. If we don¡¯t have a state, this will be a post-Israeli entity.

Daniel Bar-Tal:
Which means?

Mustafa Abu Sway:
Whatever that means, I don¡¯t know. There¡¯s no eleventh commandment. None of the Ten Commandments says, ¡°Thou shalt have a national state.¡±

Sari Nusseibeh:
I don¡¯t believe, whether it is nations or states or religions or identities of this or that sort, that these are the really important thing. What is really important in my opinion is the individual, the human being. I think as we look at the human being, we have to take into account principles of humanity that define what is right and what is wrong. It is this that permits the individual human being to exist and to develop within the context of what is right, alongside other human beings, in equality with them and in a system of justice. If religions or nationalism help us to achieve that, then fine. If states or national identities help us to achieve that, all the better. But if we do not achieve that, then all of the above are bad and should be changed.

Daniel Bar-Tal:
That is a good ending to the discussion. Thank you for your participation.

Comodo SSL