July 23, 2013
My second novel, Watt O’Hugh Underground, takes place in the late 19th century, as the first aliyah (the one that collapsed from malaria) is gaining speed. In the book, I imagine that the lost Z’vulunite tribe wound up in Africa after the dispersion, and leads the migration.
A final battle in Book 3 is inevitable, probably on the little hill of Megiddo, a shadow over the plain of Esdraelon.
I have not written it yet, but I’d like to avoid it in real life.
I am Jewish, sort of (it’s a matter of semantics – I am nudgy, and I could make aliyah but not an Israeli minyan). The Palestinians are, quite literally, my brothers. After our mother Sarah died, Abraham, who had been living in another town (the marriage on the rocks after the hasty near-sacrifice of Isaac) rushed back into the arms of Hagar, who had kept her name chaste for him. When Abraham died, Isaac, the father of the Jews, welcomed Ishmael, the father of the Palestinians, home for the funeral.
If you believe that every word in the Torah is filled with meaning, I suggest forgetting the Amalekites for a moment – whom, after all, we are commanded to forget – and think about welcoming Ishmael home.
I think that carrots are as important as sticks. Anyone who knows me knows who I think started the latest war, and the last one (and the one before that), but let’s think about what’s on the other side of this one. Yassir Arafat rejected the Clinton Plan, then, with another Prime Minister re-invading the territories, he famously accepted. What if Sharon had stopped the invasion and taken his brother’s hand?
What we need now is an offer on the table, negotiated between the Israelis and the Quartet, which will be passed into Israeli law, and will be there for the Palestinians to accept, when they are ready.
The plan will include a seaport for Gaza, an airport for Judea and Samaria, tax credits for factories from the nations of the world, wildly generous stipends to get the government up and running, and an Arab Disneyland, if they want one. Think of the jobs; think of the tourism.
With one exception, the 1948 armistice line will be the formal border. Citizens of each state (of what could be federation, with one currency) will be permitted to live wherever they want, but they will vote in their national state. Arabs in Palestine, Jews in Israel. So-called settlers may remain in their settlements, in which Arabs will also be free to live. Mixed race children will be citizens of the state in which their parents choose to live, or may take the identity of their brothers over the border instead, if they so wish. Jerusalem will be an international city, with rotating governments – two four year terms for Palestine, two four year terms for Israel. Jews may live in East Jerusalem.
All of this would begin with what is disparagingly called “normalization” by the Arabs, but which would be essential for success. A number of years, at least ten, devoted to getting to know our brothers again. Trips to Auschwitz, if we must; exchange students, joint summer camps, Arab-Jewish orchestras, sports teams, boy bands, whatever it takes. Ten years of normalization and verified anti-incitement programs on both sides, combined with the hefty financial incentives for the building of an Arab state, followed by five-years of genuine calm, after which the great migration could begin with a trickle at first, a quota year-by-year, if indeed anyone wishes to pack up. It seems unlikely that moving a few miles West or East will seem like such a big deal at that point, but if Mahmoud Abbas would like to move to Tsfat, and he can actually afford it, so be it.
If it works out, the quota grows. If violence ensues, the quota shrinks. Normalization continues.
This is the pivotal point that inevitably kills the negotiations, and with good reason. Keeping our brothers locked up behind a wall, forever lost to their homeland, is wrong and unfair.
But what about the Jewish character of Israel, I hear you ask? Put three Jews in a room with fifteen goyim, and that room gets pretty Jewy. We tend to dominate the conversation. It may seem hard to believe, but we’re a minority in Brooklyn. I wouldn’t worry about Israel’s Jewish character. Half the Palestinians are just Jews who were forced to convert to Islam anyway. I think we’ve got the character covered. In any event, we’ll have years to adjust. If it doesn’t work out, it stops in place.
Why would the Palestinians agree to this proposal? Why would they not? Pressure from their citizens, preferably through democratic elections, would eventually bring jobs and reconciliation.
How long should this proposal stay on the table? With the approval of the U.S. and the Quartet, and the international community, a hundred years. Forever, if necessary. Let the UN recognize Palestine and the armistice line as formal borders of the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian federation. And how hard should we fight in the meantime? Judging from the pogroms in France this week, I think we should fight as hard as we must to keep our homeland safe, while all the while letting our brothers know that brotherhood awaits.