Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One Country

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on.

Rashid Khalidi, a New York-born Palestinian-American who holds the Edward Said chair in Arab studies at Columbia University, and is the author of the new book, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, describes all that remains of Arab Palestine as a “patchwork of open-air prison camps”.

Will this conflict ever be resolved in a way that will finally bring peace to the region?

Ali Abunimah, in his new book, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, makes the radical argument that what is needed is one state shared by Palestinians and Israelis.

The son of Palestinians who fled the country in 1948, Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American, is the co-founder and editor of the Electronic Intifada website since 2001 and, more recently, of Electronic Iraq and Electronic Lebanon.

Clear-eyed, sharply reasoned, and compassionate, One Country revives an old and neglected idea of sharing the country. Although living together might seem impossible, Abunimah shows how Israelis and Palestinians are by now so intertwined - geographically and economically - that no kind of separation can lead to the security Israelis need or the rights Palestinians must have.

He reveals the bankruptcy of the two-state approach, takes on the objections and taboos that stand in the way of a bi-national solution, demonstrates that sharing the territory will bring benefits for all, and asserts that the country can remain a homeland for both Jews and Palestinians.

The absence of any other workable option can only lead to ever-greater extremism; it is time, Abunimah suggests, for Palestinians and Israelis to imagine a different future and a different relationship.

Reviewing Abunimah’s book, The Economist concedes the author puts forward his proposal skilfully and interestingly but says the proposal is "an escape to Utopia …where lion and lamb nuzzle down together. Impossible, probably.”

But, Abunimah argues, if South Africa could break out of seemingly impossible conflict to find peace and reconciliation, why not Israel? What happened, he says, is that the Africa National Congress was able to put forward a vision that eventually changed the heart of most whites. Will the Palestinians, he wonders, ever find the inner strength to articulate a similar vision?

Abunimah himself chooses to be a visionary.

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