The current negotiations between Israel and us Palestinians are essentially over. The whole episode was probably never going to yield anything real, but it was fun while it lasted.
We have witnessed the normal maneuvers by all the parties involved. The Americans said both sides needed to make compromises, while implicitly blaming the Palestinians for the failures. The Palestinians said that Israel’s settlement building and continued discriminatory practices show that she is not serious about peace, all the while trying to cozy up more to the Americans, even getting a White House trip out of the deal. And Israel got to harp about terrorism and gutless Palestinian leadership, as her leaders peppered newscasts talking about annexation of the West Bank.
None of this was shocking to us. In fact, we Palestinians are surprised by almost nothing. Living with Israel already means living in a world where the bizarre is ordinary. It means existing in an alternate reality. Nothing stuns us. Many of those who have spoken to Palestinians might have observed this phenomenon. In fact, I am sure the following conversation took place many times over the past few weeks:
Non-Palestinian: Isn’t it crazy how that Malaysian plane just disappeared?
Palestinian: Not really.
Non-Palestinian: How can you say that?
Palestinian: Well, my homeland just “disappeared” too, so nothing sounds crazy to me.
But this round of negotiations brought another curious (and quite odd) element into the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. This time, Israel asked for something she has never asked for before. This time, she asked for something especially weird. This time, she asked, no, demanded, that in order for any talks to move forward, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.”
Now, Israel has asked the Palestinian leadership for many things, and she has basically received them all, including denunciations of terrorism, the sidelining of opposition groups, and even general recognition. Palestinian leaders and negotiators like Mahmoud Abbas, Saeb Erekat, and Nabil Shaath have basically capitulated to the American/Israeli discourse of discussions that are supposedly leading to a two-state solution, which just about every Palestinian knows will never happen. But even these lackeys can’t agree to this nonsense.
Also, we Palestinians have this pretty strong suspicion that Israel is not really interested in allowing us to have any sort of state at all, as evidenced by her continued land grabs, evictions, and confiscations, not to mention her incessant settlement activities.
So what is all this “recognize us the Jewish state” business really about? Is it a political ploy? Is Israel asking for something she knows the Palestinians will never give her just to put an end to this current round of talks? Some think that is the case. After all, what better way to kill the negotiations than to ask for something that is seemingly reasonable, only to have the Palestinians summarily reject it?
But what if that’s not the case at all? Why would Israel need our recognition of her as a Jewish state? She already gets this acknowledgement from the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world, on a daily basis, unequivocally, from every politician, in every capacity. The declaration is a staple in the platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties. They can’t find a way to make our healthcare system better than Colombia’s, or our education system better than New Zealand’s, but they can easily figure out how to agree on this pronouncement, which, incidentally, has not made Americans any healthier or smarter. Even Great Britain has gotten in on the act lately, with David Cameron calling Israel “the nation-state of the Jewish people” during a trip there a couple of weeks ago.
With these two great powers on her side, what does Israel want with us? Why does she crave our recognition? Well, it’s because she doesn’t just want it. She needs it.
Israel can’t move on without us. She needs us to tell her that everything is okay, that her actions these past 66 years have been acceptable, and that it was our fault, not hers. No, this recognition business is not some political ruse. Rather, it goes to the heart of the whole thing. Israel needs us to recognize her as the Jewish state so that she can feel better about herself. The affirmation of every leader in the world won’t mean anything unless we say it too.
Have you ever seen a wife argue passionately with her husband? She argues her points, and he argues his. Usually, the husband eventually relents and tells her, “I give up. You win. We’ll have sushi for dinner.” But sometimes that’s not enough. She needs him to understand why she wants sushi, and why having sushi is just a better idea. She is not satisfied with winning the argument. She wants more. She needs more. She is not merely interested in his surrender. She needs his acquiescence, his agreement, and his consent. In other words, she needs his recognition.
Haven’t you ever wondered if a failed relationship was actually your fault or not? Well, Israel is wondering the same thing. Basically, she needs us to tell her the one thing we all want to hear: “It not you, it’s me.”
If you think I am describing Israel as some sort of damaged, controlling psycho who needs everyone to agree with her, you’d be right.
There is a bright side here, though. If Israel needs our approval, we are not as insignificant as we have been telling ourselves we are. Israel actually cares what we think!
So, if it will move things along, I’ll recognize Israel in whatever way she would like me to. I’ll tell her, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But just like everyone else who has ever uttered those words, I’m not going to mean it.
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."
There is no reason whatsoever for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the “Jewish state.” Read that sentence again and let it sink in. Got it? Ok. There is no country on the face of this entire Earth that is obligated or has ever been obligated to officially sign an agreement to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Maybe they’ve said it verbally, and good for them, that’s their opinion but they have never ever written it into official state policy. The United States has never officially endorsed this position. Obama has verbally, but it has never been officially signed into agreement. The next U.S. President may or may not make that verbal recognition. Its completely and totally up to him. Even Egypt and Jordan with whom Israel has signed peace agreements were never obligated to endorse Israel as a “Jewish state.” It is not required at all for peace, nor for statehood. Its not as if Israel never receives such recognition then it is not an official state. It’s like demanding your friends to say you are the most awesome sexiest person on the planet in order for you to hang out with them. All this does is stroke Israel’s ego. Like the abusive husband who beats the hell out of his wife and then demands that she get him a beer. Palestine has officially recognized the legitimacy of the ISRAELI state. It has OFFICIALLY done this on several occasions. Ask the the Israeli government if it has ever OFFICIALLY recognized the Palestinian people or the Palestinian state. It has not and frankly, I don’t think that it ever will. There is a sick disease in Israel that has infected the minds of the people living there to the point that they believe that there is no occupation, there is no and never was a Palestine and that the oPt is not “occupied” but merely in “dispute”. The Israeli government is full of pro-expansionist right wing fundemental wackjobs who insist on swallowing as much land in the oPt as possible while strolling through the charade of negotiations. We really know what they want. Its written all over the charters of Likue and Yisrael Beitnu. They will never recognize a Palestinian state because it is a contradiction to their goal of creating Eretz Israel (from the river to the sea). Look at any map of Israel and the oPt. There is no Palestine in that map because Israelis believe that it is ALL their land. So for them its a non issue. This is the “Jewish state” despite the fact that over 20% of the population within the Green line (that is Israel proper) are not even Jews. If you think this means nothing in terms of state sponsored discrimination against non-Jews. Go look at the sharp contrasts between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem or Nazareth and Tel Aviv. Israel caters to Jewish population only and regards non-Jews as second class citizens. This recognition only further cements that discrimination. Its amazing that the Israeli government is so insistent on this precondition when they’re the ones who have been demanding “no preconditions!” the entire time. Even the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, is on the record as saying that his demand is not necessary. Its nothing more than a d*ck measuring contest hosted by Netanyahu.
Israel does not need the Palestinian recognition of it’s “state.” Period. You are fooling yourself to think that Palestinian approval is necessary for anything. Israel has managed quite all right
without the Palestinian endorsement and will continue to do so unless the super powers seize their unconditional support. I think the best thing Arabs can so, second to not being so cowardice and complacent, is to use the media to expose Israel for what it really is. The Internet is such a powerful tool, and pictures are worth a thousand words. Have you seen the short documentary by Mustafa Barghouti called “Our Story”? If not, you should link to it on your page.
I agree with Val above. Did you really need to liken Israel to a wife??? Granted wives tend to need buy in from their husbands in most matters, but the comparison to Israel was weak and far fetched. And if Israel is the “wife”, does that make the us and Britain it’s two husbands? :)