Failing Palestinians

The United Nations Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2334, which condemns Israeli settlements in the West Bank, is being perceived as a posthumous lifeline for the idea that two states can exist between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. For many, the half a million Jewish settlers in the West Bank – declared illegal by the UNSC Resolution –make the creation of the second of two states impossible.

1995’s Dayton Agreement is an example of carving out power-sharing dynamics in ethno-religious territorial blends, among rival peoples that included perpetrators and victims of ethnic cleansing. The functional coexistence of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, over two decades after the culmination of Bosnian War, is testament to the fact that neither intermingled population densities, nor geography, are a hurdle en route to statehood for multiple nations staking claim over the same land.

Consociationalism – as in Bosnia and Herzegovinia – is a system of power-sharing among various groups fragmented along ethnic, national or religious grounds, which was proposed as a solution to the Indian subcontinent’s divisions, before they eventually culminated in the Indo-Pak Partition. When consociational nations are fragmented on religious lines, the resulting power sharing can be ‘confessionalism’ – as practiced in Lebanon and originally in the Netherlands (1917–1967).

There are many other examples of consociational arrangements. For instance, the Belfast Agreement of 1998 in Northern Ireland and the 2001 Ohrid Agreement in Macedonia.

Therefore, despite the growing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, on paper Israelis and Palestinians are still an agreement away from two states: a Jewish-majority state with Muslim minority, and a Muslim-majority state with a Jewish minority. Unless, of course, the idea that a Muslim majority state can accept Jews is preposterous.

Ever since the First Intifada brought it to the limelight in the late 1980s, highlighting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s religious roots has been deemed a ‘simplistic’ way to view it. That Jews and Muslims are clinging on to millennia old scriptures to fight over a piece of land was especially unpalatable for a generation of intelligentsia seeking to depict the post-colonial world as the complete doing of colonial powers, at a time the curtain was hastily coming down on the Cold War.

Many have rightly called out the theological motivations of many Jewish settlers in ‘Judea and Samaria’ (West Bank). According to the Old Testament, the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, Judea (Micah 5:2), the ‘length and breadth’ of which was given to the Jews (Genesis 13:17–18), with God granting them Samaria while addressing Abraham in Shechem (Genesis 12:7): “To your offspring I will give this land.”

Prominent liberal Jewish voices have repeatedly condemned both Israeli forces’ actions against the Palestinians and the rightwing’s citation of the Torah to justify settlements in the West Bank. Michael Ben-Yair and Shulamit Aloni have echoed many others in calling out ‘Israeli apartheid’. And yet, one almost never comes across any Muslim voices condemning the use of Islamic scriptures in sanctioning hostility towards Israel and denying its right to exist – a popularly held opinion in the Muslim world.

In official broadcast on PA TV talking of a future Palestinian state in September 2015, President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) won’t allow “dirty Jews” to defile Al-Aqsa Mosque. He has also said on numerous occasions that ‘not a single Jew’ would be allowed inside the Palestinian state.

The Preamble to Hamas’ Charter reads, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam invalidates it, just as it invalidated others before it”.

It also cites Sahih al-Bukhari, (4:56, 791) and Sahih Muslim (041:6983): “The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslim, O servant of God, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ Only the Gharkad tree would not do that, because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”

Other verses have regularly been cited by many a Palestinian leader to give ‘divine credence’ to Muslims being ordered to “not take the Jews as allies” and making them synonymous with “apes and pigs”.

With the scriptures of Judaism – the first of the three Abrahamic religions – not mentioning Muslims since the Old Testament predates them, the theological roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lie in a clash between colonialism of a ‘Promised Land’ and violent intolerance of a people.

While accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ often reverberate to shroud valid criticism of the Israeli state, the idea that Jews can’t be a part of a future Palestinian state reeks of anti-Jew bigotry. It also strengthens the Israeli rightwing’s assertion that agreeing to the creation of another Muslim-majority country would result in yet another state refusing to acknowledge Israel’s existence at best, and fighting for its extinction at worst.

It is no coincidence that 28 Muslim countries – including 18 of the 21 Arab League members – refuse to recognise Israel in any shape or form. For these Muslim states the UNSC’s Resolution 2334 or any of the other similar resolutions – 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) or 1850 (2008) – are irrelevant since these countries deem the state of Israel illegal itself.

As long as the ‘default Muslim position’ – as depicted by most of the Muslim-majority states – remains the same vis-à-vis Israel, they’d never be in a position to condemn Israeli settlements, nor would they have any anything constructive to offer to the future of a Palestinian state. It is this ‘default Muslim position’ and incompetent leadership that has aggravated the Palestinian cause.

Until the global Muslim leadership revises its position on Israel, the Muslim intelligentsia calls out the Islamist takeover of a nationalist cause and condemns anti-Jewish bigotry in the Muslim world, we would continue to fail the Palestinians. If a Jewish state in the Middle East, or Jews legally living in a Muslim state, aren't treated as sacrilegious ideas, a two-state solution would remain very much alive.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a former member of staffHe can be reached at Follow him on Twitter

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