Meretz Symposium Day 0.5

I had intended to grit my teeth and power through the day despite having not really slept since the night before my first flight. But when Jad, the oddly familiar receptionist at the Crown Plaza, told me that my room was ready, I simply plotzed. It does feel a little strange, though, being in Israel and not being able to go out, be with friends, etc. I’m trying desperately to think of my being here as a business trip.

I did, however, manage to sneak out just before the start of the symposium, for a walk down the tayelet. My thoughts turned immediately to Amos Oz’s memoir. Tel Aviv, the white city, the secret winking gem of the Jewish people. In comparison with the Santa Cruz boardwalk, walking along the promenade in Tel Aviv is like simulating royalty.

Smiling on the Tel Aviv tayelet

Here’s a picture of me and the Mediterranean. Seriously the best beach I’ve ever seen yet. Sorry Oaxaca.

After a brief introduction with Abu Vilan, a former Meretz member at the Knesset, we relocated to a restaurant in Jaffo to meet with Dr. Yossi Beilin, former Meretz chairman who initiated the 1992 Oslo peace process. He is now the president at a global consulting firm.

He called Bibi an “insecure child with excellent English,” which our group appreciated, and said that the current economic situation in the occupied territories is a dream come true for the political right. He thinks that Palestine’s small economy that cooperates with Israel could continue forever unless the Palestinians make a drastic move. He also discussed the anxieties over an interim agreement, like Oslo, that once statehood is reached, the world would forget about the Palestinian cause. “Good new, though,” he said, allowing the sarcasm to coat his tongue in the way that only Israelis can accomplish. “The world has already forgotten about them.”

Although I disagreed with most of his proposed solutions, I did take away two nuggets from this first talk. First, he brought up the idea of “taking note.” “I can disagree with you, ” he said, “but I don’t want to get into it, so I can take note.” Actually, I wrote about this same idea for New Voices, only I called it “letting go.” Being, as I am, so fixed in the progressive left, I can often slip into over-analysis. It’s good to critique! It’s good to see room for improvement! But in situations such as this symposium, it’s best to simply let those critiques rest for a moment, and to focus on the most important issues at hand.

That being said, the second nugget I drew from his talk was actually a critique. So sue me.

It strikes me as kind-of odd for an Israeli to ask the Palestinians to make the first drastic move toward statehood, using September 13th, 2013 (twenty years since the signing of the Oslo accords) as a potential day to make that drastic move. I resisted the temptation to ask what role Israel would play in this drastic move, asking whether or not it is the responsibility of the victim to lift themselves out of oppression. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of the people in charge to make that drastic move toward Palestinian statehood. And Beilin himself said, “We’re in charge.”

String trio on the taylelet

I stumbled upon a lovely string trio playing on the tayelet. Only God should know what the sound of the cello does to me.

Along those same lines, I also began to understand just why I am so fixed on a two-state solution. I understand the merit in working toward one nation with equal rights for everyone. According to some of the other participants, more and more Palestinians themselves are actually relinquishing the idea of having their own state in favor of a peaceful living arrangement. However, from an American Jewish perspective, a one-state solution sounds a lot, to me, like the post-racism ideas in the US.

The idea is simple: Because the United States has a black president, has gone through the civil rights movement, has laws against racial discrimination, etc. everyone should be treated exactly the same.

Post-racism is not only untrue, but it is indicative of ignorant white privilege. If you asked them, I don’t think any people of color would agree that we are living in a post-racist society. Racism happens every day, even in sarcasm. But this idea continues because white people have the privilege of being able to ignore racism.

Same goes for a one-state solution argument from an American Jewish perspective. It’s hard for me to argue see the value in arguing against Palestinian statehood from a non-Palestinian perspective period, but specifically from the American Jewish front. I’m willing to hear Israelis out when they call for one democratic state with equal citizenship rights for everyone, including Palestinians, especially if they argue against Jewish government (even though I respectfully disagree with them).

But I have not yet heard a compelling argument for one state from an American Jew. To me, this argument sounds a bit too new-agey and idealistic. “Oh, we can get everyone to get along,” ignores the aggressive racism on the part of Israelis. If we’re going to argue for a one-state solution, then we need to start focusing a lot more on changing Israeli Jewish cultural attitudes toward Palestinians, and Arabs more generally.

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