Blog post

Looking beyond the 'curse' of partition

Ariella Azoulay 7 October 2013

Over the past few years, it has been fairly common to hear: "the time has come for a new vision for Palestine/Israel." It is hard to refute the reality of a dead-end implied in this expression, but must a dead-end always lead us to a new vision? As Hanan Ashrawi has previously stated, new forms of talks, dialogue, and inventiveness are not what was missing in the endless peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

After 65 years of "peace talks" – they didn't start with the Oslo accords, but way back in 1949 – we should question the very relevance of the procedures of peace. A peace treaty is usually called for in a situation of war between two existing states. In the case of Palestine since 1949, peace talks were a means for imposing partition, which was rejected by the majority of the population in Palestine in 1947; they were a way to bypass that rejection and implement partition through violence. In 1948-49, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled, the country was destroyed and its face transmuted by the new state; but full partition was not achieved. Ever since, maintaining the fantasy of separation has required the use of more and more violent solutions to the problems entailed in partial partition. Peace talks are a means of ruling that for the last 65 years have kept Palestinians and Jews haunted by the same question that colonialism lethally injected into the Middle East: for or against partition; one or two states. The major difference between then – prior to 1947 – and now is the excessive violence that was exercised in order to achieve what was doomed from inception as opposed by the majority of the concerned population – namely partitioning.

Therefore, instead of inventing more new solutions, forms, procedures, steps, tools, terms, maps and documents to bypass the root of the problem, the time has come to address it. The root of the problem is the Palestinians’ uprooting from their land in 1948. The root of the problem is the fact that they were not allowed to return to their homes. The root of the problem was imposing the outcome of this violence as a fait accompli, as a new board game where Israeli-Jews incarnate sovereignty, and can therefore set the rules. A board game where Palestinians can – and should – be continuously dispossessed and beg for their rights, as if Israelis could have their rights while Palestinians are dispossessed of them.

Is a new vision really necessary in order to imagine an egalitarian civil contract among the populations of this non-partitionable territorial unit? Since the creation of the State of Israel, it has become impossible to imagine the future. If and when efforts to change the situation were made, they took the form of “solutions” to “problems,” imposed top-down and usually produced by the same – military-security – system. The ideology of imposed “solutions” generated the Nakba as a by-product of an effort to “solve” another “problem”: how to reduce the inadmissible gap between the minority’s desire for Jewish sovereignty and Palestine’s mixed population.

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