Friday, March 12, 2010

Jewish Refugees To Be Part of the Picture

The Knesset has approved a proposal which would require that any peace talks the Israeli government enter into advance the compensation claims of the 856,000 Jews who were forced out of their Arab homelands in the wake of Israel's independence. This is a linkage I've long felt appropriate, though some are raising alarms that it adds in another variable to an already complicated equation, and one that isn't traceable to Palestinian action to boot.

Nonetheless, I think it is a perfectly sensible and just addition, for three reasons (aside from the obvious one, which is that these people were wronged and deserve compensation). First, the proposal is specifically attached to the Saudi Peace Initiative, which does take the idea of peace to be comprehensive. Second, nobody seriously thinks that a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine will actually occur absent some broader regional settlement -- particularly given that on the Israeli side the security threat posed by groups like Hamas is simply a subspecies of a broader fear that all their neighbors want to wipe them out. And third, I think bringing to the fore the history and experience of the Jewish refugees is part of the politics of recognition approach that I think is critical to resolving the conflict. The more nuance we add to the history, the more we can break from simplified notions of "oppressor" and "victim", "native" and "colonizer", and other binaries that both sides use to nurture the moral foundation for maximalist and counter-productive policies.

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