A guest post by AKUS
For years British academic and self-styled Palestinian (and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor) Ghada Karmi has been a staunch supporter of the idea of a “unitary” Palestinian state of Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. That is, she supports a Palestinian state comprising all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
Notably, she does not include what is today known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. “Trans-Jordan” was also originally part of the British Palestinian Mandate until Churchill ceded it to the Hashemites as the counter weight to the Jewish Homeland pledged by Lord Balfour that would exist between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
Karmi’s position represents a full version of the “the one state solution”, including the supposed Palestinian “Right of Return”, and restoration of “stolen land” to ensure what she believes is the appropriate balance of demographic, economic and therefore political power in this “unitary state”. There would be an Arab majority evidently agreeing to allow a Jewish minority to exist on whatever small area of land they are not forcibly “returned” to those claiming to be descendants of pre-1948 owners.
She apparently believes – in the face of all evidence to the contrary – that this would be a secular democracy and Jews could live safely among the democratic and enlightened Arab majority.
For good measure, she believes it is the ‘racist Israeli public’ that prevents such an obvious and beneficial solution to the conflict.
In July 2002 she wrote the following, in an article titled ‘Bi-nationalism and the right of return‘, which accurately sums up her views:
“In the context of a unitary state solution, the bi-national state proposal is obviously less unacceptable, since it can be designed to mimic closely a two-state solution tipped in favor of the stronger side. But from a Palestinian viewpoint, for bi-nationalism to be equitable and not just a re-hash of the present formula of Israeli hegemony, it must provide for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to the state and for restitution of the land and resources which were stolen from them. The Jewish law of return must be cancelled and the bi-national state should be configured along non-Zionist lines, since it was the exclusivist and discriminatory nature of Zionism, which created the original problem. The prominent Israeli sociologist, Sami Smoocha, who conducted several surveys of Jewish society since the 1970s, has observed that the Jewish public in Israel was ‘both racist and rigid’ and it was this which was the cause of the persisting Jewish-Arab conflict.”
On September 20th, 2012, in a ‘Comment is Free’ piece, Palestinians need a one-state solution, she castigated the Palestinian Authority and its attempt to get UN backing for a Palestinian State (perhaps including Gaza with the West Bank, or perhaps not) that wouldn’t include the incorporation of Israel’s population and territory. Once again she took pains to point out the huge advantage, in her eyes, of a single cis-Jordanian state with a large Arab population:
“This situation demands a new Palestinian strategy, a Plan B that converts the Palestinian struggle for two states into one for equal rights within what is now a unitary state ruled by Israel. …..
The first step in this plan requires a dismantlement of the PA as currently constituted, or at least a change of direction for the Palestinian leadership. The PA’s role as a buffer between the occupier and the occupied should end, along with the illusion of a spurious Palestinian autonomy it has fostered….
… The PA should lead the campaign to prepare Palestinians for the abandonment of the two-state idea and the struggle for equal rights instead. … At one stroke, Plan B shreds these fig leaves, and removes the chimera of a Palestinian state that has diverted attention from the reality on the ground.
The 2.5 million potential new Arab citizens of Israel would be able to challenge its much-vaunted democracy, and upend the old order in the Palestinians’ favour. Will they have the courage to grasp the challenge?”
Now, there are several weaknesses in Karmi’s theories that should surely have put an end to the belief in a cis-Jordan “one state solution”:
1. Karmi continues to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, in a “Plan B” that assumes that Israelis will agree or can be persuaded by “a struggle for equal rights” (mainly by the Palestinians and, presumably, various tiny pro-Palestinian groups in Israel, plus the fly-in rent-a-protest Westerners such as ISM) to create a single state which will have some 4 million Arab citizens at its inception, out of a population of approximately 10 million.
Given the birthrate of Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank this is a crudely disguised demographic time bomb with a delayed “Right of Return” explosion to be set off when an Arab majority is achieved.
Israelis will never agree to this. The idea is simply a non-starter, no matter how many articles she writes about it.
2. Karmi refers to the “chimera” of a Palestinian state consisting of the West Bank (including everything that was “east” of the Green Line) and Gaza – but for all the wrong reasons. She believes that Arafat’s acceptance of “Palestine” as the West Bank and Gaza (the “chimera” she refers to) has diverted attention from the possibility of creating a Palestinian state consisting of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.
In reality, when the world’s powers acquiesced to Arafat’s creation of the Palestinian people as those living in Gaza and the West Bank, and to the Arab states’ Khartoum “3 no’s”, they prevented a settlement between Israel and Jordan soon after the 6 Day War. That agreement would have created a Palestinian state that would have included most of the West Bank and all of Jordan, under the leadership of King Hussein. Gaza would have either remained as it is today, or eventually been returned into the reluctant hands of the Egyptians.
3. Karmi, like other presumably left-leaning observers of the conflict, has an enormous blind spot that allows her to consistently ignore the fact that Jordan is the only Palestinian state that exists and it is run as an anachronistic monarchy ruling over a majority Palestinian population.
Created over tea in Jerusalem by Winston Churchill and handed to the Hashemites in 1923, it has a population estimated variously as between 60% – 70% Palestinian. During the 1948 war, King Abdullah of Jordan seized and occupied the West Bank, which remained under Jordanian control until 1967. The West Bank and Jordan functioned quite well as a single economic and political entity during that period. With the exception of Jordanian sniper fire targeting Jews in “West” Jerusalem, Israel and Jordan preserved a fairly peaceful status quo during that period.
King Hussein eventually washed his hands of the West Bank in 1988, or, more precisely, its Arab occupants, realizing that it would be more trouble than it was worth to incorporate them into Jordan. The addition of the West Bank Palestinian population would further have imperiled his rule. But that has not really changed the facts on the ground – that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is, in fact, a predominantly Palestinian state.
I would maintain that what really drives Palestinians and their supporters to the idea of a “one state solution” is not the desire to achieve a workable and practical Palestinian state. It is really a desire for revenge – a desire to forcibly take back from Israel and Israelis what was lost during several wars and developed by Israelis over the last 100-plus years.
Karmi and those supporting her ideas are driven by a true chimera – a dream of returning to an idyllic period (which never actually existed) when Palestinians supposedly lived, not mainly as feudal serfs working the lands of absentee landlords, but having a sort of noble, gracious village life or one of great intellectual achievement in a few of the tiny towns in what was in fact the dusty and wretchedly poor corner of the Ottoman Empire known as Southern Syria, while enjoying the confiscated wealth of the Israelis they would dispossess.
If Karmi really wants to create a viable Palestinian state she should develop a more positive vision – one which doesn’t take away Israelis’ land, prosperity, economy, industries, and agriculture through a forced incorporation of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel into a “unitary state”.
She should look east across the Jordan River. There she would see one of the few countries in the world still ruled by a monarchy of sorts. Sixty to seventy percent of the population is ruled over non-democratically by a branch of the Saudi Hashemite dynasty whose position is supported by loyal Bedouin forces in the Jordanian military.
If Karmi is as left-leaning as she claims to be, surely this anachronistic situation should be swept away with a democratic federation of most of the West Bank and Trans Jordan?
Ironically, a Guardian contributor, Samer Libde, asked the question, ‘Is Jordan heading for chaos?‘, in a Comment piece a few days after Karmi’s latest article.
The problems of dynastic rule in Jordan in a modern interconnected world have been obvious for some time. It was interesting to read Libde’s analysis of the tensions arising from the attempt to perpetuate a non-democratic, monarchical trans-Jordanian state that has a Palestinian majority controlled by the trans-Jordanian Hashemites – a situation that seems not to bother Ghada Karmi and many others like her:
“As the impact of the Arab spring continues to be felt across many parts of the Middle East, the Jordanian regime‘s unwillingness to heed calls for meaningful political reform, greater press freedoms and democratisation is antagonising political and civil society activists alike.
The royal court has a difficult balancing act to perform. First, the protesters are divided. Transjordanians, who have been traditionally loyal to the Hashemite regime, are opposed to political reform that challenges their inherited privileged status and position, and are resisting calls to increase the representation of Palestinian-Jordanians in parliament.
While the king will have to respond to the demands of the IAF and the Palestinian-Jordanians, he will also have to remain sensitive to the needs of the Transjordanians. This will not be an easy task.
Unfortunately, it does not appear as if Jordan’s king has the vision or the courage to follow this path – but failure to learn the lessons of the Arab spring may mean that the Jordanian people will make that decision for him.”
If the largely Palestinian population does make that decision, I would propose that they approach Israel with a plan to create a Jordanian (or Palestinian) federation of the West Bank and Jordan. After nearly 50 years of frustration dealing with the West bank, Israel is likely in any event to finally fence in the bits of the West Bank it wants to keep, and, as with Gaza, simply withdraw from the rest. This would leave 95% of the West Bank in a non-viable limbo, something as likely to be as dangerous for Jordan as it is for Israel, as we have seen with the rising conflict between the Gazans and Egyptians.
It is not difficult to see the Jordanian option as a workable solution to the chaotic situation that would otherwise arise on the West Bank. Karmi and those like her should be looking east at what was, in fact given to them by Great Britain, not peering vengefully westwards Israel, the country they cannot have. They should be working on a proposal for a Palestinian state that includes most of today’s West Bank and Jordan, not the chimera, to borrow her word, of a “unitary [cis-Jordan] solution”