Two prominent peace activists, a Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah and an Israeli Roi Ben-Yehuda had a public, interesting, though short discussion on whether or not Palestinians should recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Roi argued, as may be expected, that the Palestinians should recognize the Jewish character of Israel so as to allay the Israeli fear that Palestinians wish to exercise their right of return to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. He recognizes that this would not be easy for Palestinians and suggests that Palestinians, if they don't like the idea of a Jewish Israel, should propose an alternative.
The thrust of Aziz's argument is that it's important for there to be mutual recognition of the "other's" narrative and that Israel needs to take responsibility for Palestinian suffering. These are words that he lives by, as per this heartfelt piece he wrote. He also suggested that Palestinians should not be asked to make this recognition before they have a state, nor should they be asked to do something neither Egypt nor Jordan were when they made peace with Israel.
Certainly the discussion was thought provoking, so I decided to draft a short statement of recognition of Israel that the PA could use. Obviously, this is nothing more than the off-the-cuff musings of a guy on his couch, but maybe it's an interesting starting point:
"The Palestinian Authority recognizes an ancient and continuous Jewish connection to the land of Israel. Similarly, the PA recognizes a long and continuous Arab connection to the land and that the land is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The land contains sites central to the culture of these people who continue to inhabit it and who look to it as a source of inspiration from afar. It also contains sites sacred to the world's three Abrahamic, monotheistic religions. The sate of Israel, which legitimately governs its territory as defined by the United Nations, governs people of all these backgrounds and of all these faiths. It also has sovereignty over sites which are culturally, historically and or religiously significant to millions of people in the middle east and around the world.
Israel must guarantee the rights of all non-Jewish minorities in its territory. Israel must ensure that all real or technical barriers to full equality between all its citizens must be removed and eliminated. Israel must recognize that its minorities are its full citizens and have the right to permanently remain in Israel.
Israel must also guarantee that the aforementioned religious, cultural and historic sites in its territory, significant to so many be protected, preserved and accessible to all who wish to visit them.
Since 1948, when Israel established its Independence, the Palestinians have suffered. Palestinians have been hoping for a state and have lived through much adversity and national trauma. Israel must recognize this suffering and acknowledge its role in it.
If Israel can recognize the suffering of the Palestinians, its role in it and the legitimacy of the Palestinian national aspirations, if Israel will guarantee the safety and equality of its minorities and protect the treasures of humankind within its borders, if Israel can recognize that the Palestinians have the same hopes and aspirations for themselves and Israel does for itself, then the Palestinian People can recognize that the state of Israel in the fulfillment of the Jewish national aspiration to a homeland of their own."
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