Entirely Missing From Eliaz Cohen’s Piece In Newsweek Is The Word “Justice”
What to make of Eliaz Cohen’s opinion piece in Newsweek titled, As a Settler who Believes in Peace, I Welcome [Peter] Beinart’s Call for Equality in Israel-Palestine?
Not much; let me explain.
Let’s begin with where it’s published. The Newsweek opinion editor, Josh Hammer, is an active, ideologically committed extreme right Zionist. An example of his commitment is a recent hit piece on Edward Said as “a prophet of political violence” by Caroline Glick, who writes for Israel Hayom. She is a notorious, rabid Zionist.
Cohen’s piece is translated from the Hebrew by Dimi Reider, Senior Editor of Newsweek and an Israeli journalist, co-founder of +972mag, whose Twitter header photo or banner has a picture of the port city of Acre, my grandmother’s city on my mother’s side (from the Dalal family), with a caption that says, “The Middle East is so complicated.”
I glanced down Reider’s twitter feed and was surprised at, “Yep, finally subscribed to The @Guardian. You should too.” He tweeted that on the 17th, I am guessing to indicate his approval of The Guardian severing ties with its veteran cartoonist Steve Bell on bogus accusations of antisemitism.
I wonder if Eliaz Cohen’s piece has also been translated into Arabic for hasbara purposes. Clearly, the Hebrew original was meant to target Israelis. The English is meant to target the English-speaking world and especially Americans. The word “peace” in the title rings all kinds of alarm bells in my mind, harking back to the tortuous decades of a fake “peace process” devoid of justice for Palestinians. The word “peace” among liberal Zionists is a ruse for hanging on to illegitimate gains. I actually searched for the word “justice” in the article, but it was missing entirely.
The above is to say that I was suspicious of the piece, before I even read it. So, what is he saying?
Eliaz Cohen welcomes “Beinart’s transition,” and what he describes as “a new vision of partnership and equality between Palestinians and Israelis, across the entire land.” He then tells us about “work we’ve been doing for about eight years now with a new coalition of Palestinians and Israelis from communities on all sides of the Green Line.”
Eight years ago? Such coalitions were working within the paradigm of the “peace process” in the context of what Palestinians outside the Green Line called “normalization,” a highly undesirable activity, one I describe as providing de facto assistance in keeping the status quo of Israeli state control over the Palestinian people.
Cohen describes in poetic terms one such meeting in “summer 2012. We were about 20 men and women, Israelis and Palestinians, sitting at the Everest Hotel on top of Ras-Beit-Jala near Bethlehem.” He takes a minute to describe the setting and mentions the “Judea Desert,” referencing one of the three divisions of ancient Palestine, harking back to when, according to Jewish lore, the tribes of Israel invaded the country, the tribe of Judah claimed the area from south of the site of Jerusalem into the Negev region (the area south of Beersheba).
Let’s stop here for a minute to reflect on his usage of this word “Judea.” By inserting this word into the conversation, what Eliaz Cohen has done is to casually erase four thousand years of Palestinian history. This “settler” talking “peace”, does he understand that where he settled is part of a country that has been called Palestine since the late Bronze Age (from 1300 BC) onward? Does he understand that the multicultural dimensions of “Palestianess,” as historian Nur Masalha puts it, are “grounded here in the living history and living experiences of the indigenous people of Palestine and the Palestinised immigrants in the country?”
He doesn’t. Nor does he understand that there is no balance between Israelis and Palestinians. He craves Palestinian recognition of his “deep belonging, as an Israeli, to the entire land of Israel.”
Nothing good will come from “profound mutual recognition” of the nature Cohen describes. The appropriate recognition for a Jewish self-confessed settler in the context of a brutal settler-colonization of Palestine is to recognize that truth about himself.
His connection to Palestine, the Holy Land, as a religious Jew, is spiritual and is no more or less binding than the connection of a Christian settler/immigrant to the place, Bethlehem, where he was having this apparently transformative conversation eight years ago. Eliaz Cohen’s expression of a “deep belonging, as an Israeli [meaning Jew], to the entire land of Israel” indicates that the paradigm shift he has adopted for one state, like Peter Beinart’s, has not yet shifted far enough. He doesn’t understand that the mandate of one state ought to be to make him a Palestinised immigrant to this country, to dismantle the Zionist foundation on which he is building this new vision.
Cohen repeats that old maddening language of the liberal Zionist whose false narrative is of “a conflict” between two sides each with a legitimate claim to Palestine: “… it’s time to recognise that even after a century of bloodshed, of land wars and of demographic contests through immigration and displacement, neither side has managed to defeat the other — much less to make the other side completely go away.”
What Zionist drivel! Any proposal from such a person or from a Fatah operative like Awni al-Mashni (whom Cohen mentions as part of the normalization meeting), who is hell bent on “a solution” rather than liberation, is ultimately a recipe for disaster. [See my post: A Jewish Zionist Tent Is No Place For Palestinians]
In WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE (June 20, 2020), Haidar Eid writes:
It’s very encouraging to see more Palestinian activists embracing a clearer analysis that reflects a vision which is able to move beyond the racist two-state solution by radically critiquing the activism and nationalist theories of the past.
One good example is the formation of the One Democratic State Campaign which has members from the three components of the Palestinian people. Its objective has been stated very clearly: replacing the apartheid regime with a democratic state of equal rights for all its inhabitants, including the returning refugees. Its vision is “a democracy that will give all the inhabitants of [Palestine] equal rights, will finally bring home the refugees, and will respect the cultures, religions and identities of all the peoples that comprise our society.”
No plan for “equality” is acceptable coming from a Zionist. Following is what a political plan for true equality and justice in one democratic state looks like. Take a little time to read the political program of the Campaign for One Democratic State in Historic Palestine:
The goal of this political program, as formulated by the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), is to widen the support for this solution among the local populations, Palestinian and Israeli alike, as well as among the international public. We call on all those in the world who struggle for freedom and justice to join and support our struggle against this apartheid regime and for the establishment of a democratic state free of occupation and colonialism, based on justice and equality, which guarantees a better future for the next generations and real peace in all of historic Palestine.
The Political Program
A Single Constitutional Democracy. One Democratic State shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as a state belonging to all its citizens, including the Palestinian refugees. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the will of the people. All its citizens shall enjoy equal rights to vote, nominate candidates for any post and take part in the country’s governance.
Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants, those who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in historic Palestine, including those with Israeli citizenship. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from which they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property and/or compensate them.
Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices shall discriminate among its citizens on the basis of ethnic identity, national or cultural belonging, or on the basis of color, gender, language, religion, political opinion, property or sexual orientation. The state will grant all its citizens the right to freedom of movement and the right to reside anywhere in the country. The state will guarantee to all the citizens equal rights in all levels and institutions and will guarantee free thought and freedom of opinion. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and cultures can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group or collectivity have any control or domination over others. The Constitution will deny the Parliament the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community, be it ethnic, national, religious, cultural or class.
Immigration. Normal procedures of obtaining citizenship will be extended to those willing to immigrate to the country.
Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The State shall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic.
Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the country. The income distribution in Israel/Palestine is more unequal than in any country in the world. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The State shall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The State will sign and ratify all international treaties on human rights and its people shall reject racism and promote social, cultural and political rights as set out in relevant United Nations covenants.
Our Role in the Region. The ODS Campaign will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination. The State shall seek democracy and freedom in the Middle East, so that the rights of the region’s peoples and citizens will be guaranteed and its many communities, religions, traditions and ideologies shall be respected. That should include respect for the peoples’ right to struggle for equality and freedom of thought. Achieving justice in Palestine will contribute measurably toward these goals and the aspirations of the region’s peoples.
International responsibility. On a global level, the ODS Campaign views itself as a part of the democratic and progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that shall be pluralistic and sustainable, more just, egalitarian and humanistic and free of exploitation, racism, intolerance, oppression, wars, colonialism and imperialism. This new world order will be based on human dignity and respect for the people’s rights to freedom and just distribution of resources and will provide a healthy and sustainable environment.
Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.