“What will it take to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians?” asks a Palestinian-American journalist. His answer is a bold proposal indeed.
Abunimah suggests that Palestinians and Israelis agree to inhabit the same nation, enjoy the same rights and responsibilities and accept each other as compatriots. Peace does not require that both sides share an “agreed narrative” of what happened in 1948, as some commentators have suggested. But, Abunimah urges, “It is unacceptable for a Palestinian to draw on his history of oppression and suffering to justify harming innocent Israeli civilians,” just as it is for an Israeli to use the idea of a covenant between God and Abraham to force Palestinians out of their ancestral home. Indeed, he adds, the success of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland and of Belgian federalism has not hinged on agreed narrative; “changing society,” he writes, “does not require us to forget or revise the past.” (Good thing, too, given the long memory for outrage and wrong that people around the world, and not just in the Middle East, possess.) Moreover, Abunimah writes, there is no reason why the Middle East could not harbor a multiethnic democracy along the Swiss—or Canadian, or South African—example. Though the current models provided by the Oslo Accords and the aborted Bush “road map” push for two-state partition and further fragmentation of what are now occupied territories, Abunimah counters that their fates are so closely intertwined that “the free and consenting union of two principal national communities, Israeli Jews and Palestinians, which each have multiple subcultures, shared histories, and sometimes irreconcilable narratives binding them to the country” is the only hope for peace.
Abunimah’s proposal requires deep reservoirs of good will and a willingness to forget at least a few injuries. History will determine whether it’s a pipe dream, but it deserves the widest discussion.