Thursday, November 26, 2009

Would a unified Palestine be a binational state?


Whenever I hear the word "nation" used as distinct from "state" I feel as if I'm looking into a time capsule from 1850. In modern language, "nation" and "state" are the same thing. I've heard them used differently in the past several years in one context only: the Zionist idea that Jews form a "nation" independent of a state.

It is a very weird viewpoint that applies nowhere else on earth. South Africa didn't become a multi-national state. South Africa is a nation with multiple ethnic groups. There are Jewish South Africans who are members of the South African nation, along with Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaaner South Africans.

There are people of visually apparent African descent, East Asian and South Asian descent who are citizens of Germany. As citizens of Germany, they are members of the German nation. Nobody in Germany defines "nation" in a way that denies membership to citizens of the country. I can't think of any country that either has citizens that are excluded from the definition of "nation" in that country or that restricts citizenship to a single ethnic group.

I guess it's kind of a conceit that even in 2009, Zionists consider Jews in some sense more than an ethnic group. It is a racist viewpoint that was common two centuries ago but as far as I know extinct in every contemporary case except Zionism.

So no. No normal person calls for a "binational" state in Palestine. What kind of weird colonial-era concept would that be? What would be the status of a person who gains citizenship who is not a Jew or Palestinian? However, a single state that respects the rights of Jews and non-Jews equally as members of a single national entity - as we've seen in South Africa - is the way to resolve the conflict over Zionism most in line with modern values and that requires the least imposition of misery on innocent people in the region.

2 comments:

English European said...

I don't think the concept of the Jewish "nation" is as unique as you make out. There are many examples of autonomist sub-state entities that are considered "nations" - Scotland, Wales and Catalonia for instance. Ethnic "nation"s in the way the Jewish nation is used is also applied to the Armenian nation, the Assyrian nation, the Kurdish nation, the Romani nation, Canadian aboriginals ("First Nations") and so on. Many of these phrases are used in the separatist or ethno-nationalist sense but they shwo the use of the concept beyond Zionism.

Arnold Evans said...

I've read a huge amount of commentary about Iraq. I've never read Iraq described as multi-national, with the Kurdish nation being one of the component nations of Iraq.

I can't say I recall ever reading about the Armenian nation outside of a state context.

Some bands call their fans "nations", some websites I think have referred to their community of readers as "nations". I think there might be an iPhone nation somewhere.

I have heard of aboriginals described as "first nations", but still not in the Zionist sense that Israel as it is represents the Jewish nation and to accept a large number of Palestinians it would become binational.

Even with aboriginal first nations, I've never heard of Canada in a modern context described as multi-national. Possibly you can dig up something on google, but so far I've never come across that concept in a serious modern context except related to Zionism.