Thursday, December 06, 2018

Edward Said on the One-State Solution

Edward Said was a fervent proponent of a one-state, binational solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But unlike some, he at least recognized legitimate reasons to worry about it. These quotes, from an interview Said did with Israeli journalist Ari Shavit, are very illuminating:
 On the status of the Jews in the bi-national state he tirelessly advocated, Said told Shavit, “But the Jews are a minority everywhere. They are a minority in America. They can certainly be a minority in Israel.” 
Regarding the fate of that minority in Arab Palestine, Said conceded, “I worry about that. The history of minorities in the Middle East has not been as bad as in Europe, but I wonder what would happen. It worries me a great deal. The question of what is going to be the fate of the Jews is very difficult for me. I really don’t know. It worries me.” 
In addressing this concern, the critic of imperialism looks to “the larger unit” and recalls another empire. “Yes. I believe it is viable. A Jewish minority can survive the way other minorities in the Arab world survived. I hate to say it, but in a funny sort of way, it worked rather well under the Ottoman Empire, with its millet system.  What they had then seems a lot more humane than what we have now”
Each of these are interesting in their own way. The first is striking for just how blase it is -- Jews have been minorities before, they can be minorities again. What's the big deal?

Of course, history suggests that it might be quite a big deal, and in the next segment Said -- to his credit -- at least acknowledges that. In contrast to those who suggest that only an Islamophobe could possibly worry about the status of Jews as minorities in a single state, Said at least has the historical literacy to recognize there are real reasons for concerns. It "worries" him. It worries us too! It's a very real and live worry!

And then the final section, which is perhaps the most ironic -- calling back to an older, truly imperial order where the territory was not in Jewish or Palestinian hands. Maybe things were better off when some third party was in charge and could force the Jews and the Palestinians to stop squabbling and live together. Call it the "no state for two people" solution -- but the yearning for a far more explicit period of foreign dominion is, to say the least, fascinating from a figure like Said.

1 comment:

Nina Melechen said...

On Nightline one time, Said told Ted Koppel that Jews don't need a state, because Jews have prospered in the US, with Koppel as an example of this. Koppel turned that around to Said prospering in the US, to which Said had no response. He was honest enough to understand the implications of his anti-Zionism, but not honest enough to admit that he didn't care about the implications because of self-interest. (The same is true of many Zionists, of course.)