zaterdag 1 december 2007

De betekenis van een natie-staat

Een Joodse staat sluit de rechten van minderheden net zo min uit als Denemarken of Frankrijk. Uit een pas uitgekomen poll blijkt dat Israëlische Arabieren vinden dat de Palestijnse Autoriteit niet in hun naam allerlei concessies mag doen, waaronder Israël als Joodse staat erkennen of instemmen met een landruil (omdat men bang is dat Israël gebied waar voornamelijk Arabieren wonen zal willen afstaan aan de Palestijnse staat, en zij dus in de Palestijnse staat komen te leven). Minister van buitenlandse zaken Tzipi Livni voedde deze angst (die irreëel lijkt, want Israël kan geen burgers tegen hun zin hun staatsburgerschap afnemen), door te zeggen dat wanneer er een Palestijnse staat is, deze ook de nationale aspiraties van de Arabische minderheid in Israël zal vervullen.
Israëlische Arabieren hebben vorig jaar geëist dat Israël een soort binationale staat wordt, waar Arabieren en Joden niet alleen individueel, maar ook als nationale groep, gelijke rechten hebben en gelijke invloed op het karakter en beleid van het land, waaronder een vetorecht voor de Arabische minderheid op een aantal punten. Israël zou dan ophouden een Joodse staat te zijn, en voor alle cruciale zaken zou goedkeuring van de Arabische minderheid noodzakelijk zijn. Ik noem dit weleens het anderhalf staten plan: anderhalve staat voor de Palestijnen, en een halve voor de Joden.
Behalve een recept voor burgeroorlog en een nieuwe regionale oorlog ontzegt het het Joodse volk een basaal recht: dat op zelfbeschikking.  

Last update - 11:59 28/11/2007

For those who have forgotten what a nation-state is 
By David Navon

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni found herself under heavy attack from the Arab Knesset members, backed by her colleague from the coalition, Ophir Pines-Paz, for supposedly expressing the views of the extreme right. And what was all this about? About having said that when a Palestinian state is established, it will also fulfill the national aspirations of the Israeli Arabs.

I could not believe my ears when I heard that. After all, it is for this very purpose that the solution of "two states for two peoples" was meant. Were the two peoples desirous of living in a bi-national state, there would be no reason to partition the land. But nations have been granted the right of self-determination. For that reason, most nation-states were not formed on multi-national territory, but rather as the result of partitioning that kind of territory on the basis of the lines that separate the living areas of members of different peoples and setting up nation-states in the areas where one of the peoples has a majority.

This, of course, does not negate the civil rights of minorities living in a nation-state. But it would be ridiculous if, in the name of equality, that very target for which the people had aspired to set up a state of their own, were lost. An ethnic Hungarian born in Bratislava will have citizenship identical to that of an ethnic Slovak born in Bratislava, but it is clear that the country where both live is a Slovakian state. As a state, it aspires, for example, to nurture the heritage of the Slovakian people, even if it enables the Hungarian minority to maintain its heritage.

An ethnic Turk born in Copenhagen will have the same citizenship as an ethnic Dane born in Copenhagen, but it is clear the country where they live is the state of the Danes. The Danish state will give preference to ethnic Danish repatriates over migrants from Turkey or any other ethnicity. And for that very reason, ethnic Macedonians insist that Macedonia should not be a binational state, as the large Albanian minority is demanding: The Albanian people already have a state of their own, the Macedonians have only Macedonia.

It was on this same basis that the League of Nations assigned the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, and in its partition resolution, the United Nations assigned part of it to the Jewish state even though a great number of Arabs lived there. The establishment of a Palestinian state is supposed to constitute the completion of the partition process. In view of the fact that there is a partition, this means that there will be two nation-states in this land. The State of Israel is the nation-state where the Jewish people fulfill their national aspirations, even though there are millions of Jews living outside of it, and even though one fifth of its citizens are not Jewish.

Its existence, of course, does not negate the right of the members of the minority who reside there, who are not members of the Jewish people, to be equal citizens of the state. But the state is not the state of their people. The state of the people of the Arab minority will be beyond the border. If the state of Palestine is defined as the state that answers the national aspirations of all Palestinians, including those who reside in, say, Belize, then it is also supposed to satisfy the national aspirations of the residents of Umm al-Fahm.

This is apparently what the foreign minister meant to say. She was not talking about a transfer of populations nor about exchanging territories, but rather of the residents of Umm al-Fahm coming to terms with the realization that they are residents of a state that is not the state of their people. Since, after a peace treaty, the state of their people will be on the other side of the border, they can be consoled by this. Scant consolation, but that is the fate of millions of people all over the world whom history has fated to be residents of a state that is the not the state of their people.

We are not referring especially to migrants, but rather to locals who found their place on the wrong side of the border. This is what happened to the German-speaking residents of Alto Adige (South Tyrol?), a region which has been part of Italy since World War I. They aspired to be reannexed by Austria and some of them even engaged in terror, which died down only about 20 years ago. But in the end, they came to terms with the fate of having to live in the Italian state with the realization that their people at least are able to fulfill their national aspirations in the neighboring state.

This analogy, however, is not complete. When the residents of Umm al-Fahm are offered what the South Tyrol residents can merely dream about - namely to be annexed to their people's state - they and the entire leadership of their sector raise their voices in protest. Regardless of the actual proposal, it is interesting to know what the source of this opposition is. If it were a matter of national insurance, it could be solved with ease. Other socio-economic explanations also do not tell the entire story. Perhaps it is that they regard themselves as members of a different people from those in Ramallah and Gaza? A more reasonable explanation than the others is buried in another dream: that one day, Israel will cease to be the state of the Jews.

If that is indeed their dream, no real peace can be established here until everyone recognizes that this peace puts a total end to the conflict between all Arabs and the state of the Jews. If there is no such recognition, it is possible that we shall wake up in another 10 or 20 years to a new violent conflict, this time of the type in Northern Ireland, where a small local underground backed by a political movement in a neighboring country tries to forcefully complete the second stage of the homeland's "liberation," whose first stage was granted by a previous agreement.

The demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state is therefore not superfluous. It is not a matter of honor. We do not need their approval, of course. But recognition is not approval, but rather a certain commitment. That is why, for us, it is an essential condition.

Prof. Navon teaches psychology at the University of Haifa

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