Rethinking Israel-Palestine: Beyond bantustans, beyond reservations

Noura Erakat writes: Due to the insistence upon maintaining a Jewish demographic majority, Israel’s establishment and maintenance has necessitated the ongoing forced displacement of Muslim and Christian Palestinians. Well before Israel’s establishment, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s chief architect and two-time prime minister, said that in order to be successful, Jews must comprise 80 percent of the population, hardly a plausible ratio in light of a vibrant Palestinian society in 1948. As put by the Israeli historian Benny Morris during an interview discussing his book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited,

Ben Gurion…understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst…that has to be clear, it’s impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen there.

And so based on that vision, Zionists demolished 531 Arab villages and expelled some 700,000 Palestinians from what is today Israel proper. The “problem,” so to speak, is that Zionist forces did not expel all Palestinians. Instead, the 100,000 Palestinians remaining within Israel at the conclusion of the 1948 war today constitute a 1.2 million-person population, approximately 20 percent of Israel’s total population.

Had Israel declared its borders along the 1949 armistice line, maintaining an 80 percent demographic balance may have been possible. Israel, however, has never declared any borders and, in accordance with a plan first elaborated by Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon immediately after the 1967 war, it has steadily expanded into the rest of Mandate Palestine, home now to 4 million Palestinians.

As of October 2012, the balance of Jews to non-Jews throughout Israel and the OPT was approximately 5.9 million Jewish Israelis, including the settler population, and 6.1 million Palestinians.

At this juncture, Israel could abandon its commitment to a Jewish demographic majority and establish a state for all its citizens without distinction to religion. Its leaders and supporters reject this pluralistic, democratic option outright and equate it with the destruction of Israel. [Continue reading…]

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