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Das Land von Kanaan miteinander teilen
Studie von Mazin B. Qumsiyeh,
rezensiert von Anis Hamadeh im Juni 2005
Rezension von: "Sharing the Land of Canaan. Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle" von Mazin B. Qumsiyeh (US, UK 2004). Pluto Press (London & Sterling, Virginia). Vorwort von Dr. Salman Abu Sitta. Mit 2 Tabellen, 5 Dokumenten, 2 Schaubildern, Glossar und Register. Internet-Infos unter: www.qumsiyeh.org/sharingthelandofcanaan
Dr. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh ist ein palästinensischer Christ, der in Beit Sahour bei Bethlehem geboren und aufgewachsen ist. Er lebt in den USA und hat mehr als 120 wissenschaftliche Artikel in den Bereichen Zoologie und Genetik publiziert. Dies ist sein erstes Buch über das Nahostproblem. Qumsiyeh ist Menschenrechtler, Mitgründer einer Anzahl von Organisationen und Gruppen und wird regelmäßig in nationalen und internationalen Medien interviewt.
Zweck der folgenden Rezension ist, den Inhalt, die Hauptthesen, die Art der Argumentation und eine kurze Einschätzung für eine deutsche Leserschaft darzustellen, die Details über diese neue Studie erfahren möchte, ohne Zugang zu der amerikanisch-englischen Quelle zu haben. Die Kapitel sind in ihrer Reihenfolge in je einem Absatz zusammengefasst, auf Seitenangaben wurde verzichtet.
Sharing the Land of Canaan
Study by Mazin B. Qumsiyeh,
reviewed by Anis Hamadeh in June 2005
Review of: "Sharing the Land of Canaan. Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle" by Mazin B. Qumsiyeh (US, UK 2004). Pluto Press (London & Sterling, Virginia). Foreword by Dr. Salman Abu Sitta. Including 2 tables, 5 exhibits, 2 figures, glossary and index. Internet infos at: www.qumsiyeh.org/sharingthelandofcanaan
Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, PhD, is a Palestinian Christian who was born and raised in Beit Sahour, on the outskirts of Bethlehem. He is living in the USA and published over 120 scientific papers in areas ranging from zoology to genetics. This is his first book on the Middle East issue. He is a human rights activist, co-founder of a number of organizations and groups and regularly interviewed in national and international media.
The purpose of this review at hand is to give an account of the contents, main theses, line of argumentation and a short evaluation, originally with a German readership in mind which wants to know some details about this new study without having access to the American English source. Each chapter is summarized in a paragraph in subsequent order. For better reading no further references to page numbers were made.
The human rights, international law and the Geneva Conventions are starting-point and measure in this comprehensive study about the past and the future of the land of Canaan, i.e. Israel and Palestine (and Jordan). On 236 pages all the central issues of the conflict are addressed and analyzed, starting with a sketch of the 6000 years of the history of the country's inhabitants, their languages, achievements, city states and kingdoms. We read about Jabusites, Nabateans, Phoenicians and Hebrews ('Abiru/Habiru) who have been living in the cultural and religious melting-pot of Canaan. When the whole history of the region is considered in observation the political pessimism, which has to do with the ostensibly irresolvable conflicts, becomes relative. The author's basic idea is the one of self-determination of the inhabitants of the country.
Qumsiyeh bundles the fundamental questions of the conflict and deals with them chapter by chapter. He reviews the thesis that Jews throughout history have been a national ethnic community, descending from the twelve tribes of Israel, for this thesis led to the idea of a so-called right of return of Jews to Palestine. Today every Jew may immigrate to Israel, even if they have never been there before, while this is not permitted for non-Jews. Serious studies by different scientists from genetic anthropology, though, affirm what linguists had been pointing to for some time and that is that Arab Palestinians are genetically closer to Sephardic (oriental) Jews than each group is to Ashkenazi, European Jews. Those in turn share more similarities with people from the Black Sea region. Ethiopian Jews again would be remote from all of these groups. With examples from US press quotes and the academic discourse Qumsiyeh demonstrates that the myth of an overall Jewish genetic pool is being used for political ends. Yet the factual genetic similarities between oriental Jews, Christians and Muslims seem suitable to prove the kinship of the Canaanites and to foster a peaceful co-existance.
The problem of the Palestinian refugees is the subject of the forth chapter. Qumsiyeh begins with reporting the two competing points-of-view concerning this issue. According to the traditional Israeli account the Palestinians left their land between 1947 and 49 mostly voluntarily and were encouraged by their leaders. According to the accounts of the refugees themselves, however, it was a matter of brutal ethnic expulsion (Qumsiyeh uses the concept "ethnic cleansing" referring to the Hebrew word "nikayon" from military language). He names Israeli historians with access to declassified material who newly analyzed this period of time. In this light the preparations for mass expulsion and expropriation of the local inhabitants have commenced immediately after World War 2 and intensely with the UN partition plan, subsequent to a high immigration rate of European Jews to Palestine since 1920. The expulsions started visibly before the founding of the State of Israel and before the engagement of Arab armies. It would also be proven today that the Israeli army in 1948 was at no point outnumbered by rival forces. Around the building of the State of Israel hundreds of villages and cities were destroyed which generated about 800.000 refugees. There were another 300.000 expelled in 1967, many for the second time. As these expulsions violate both article 13 of the Human Rights and the Forth Geneva Convention UN resolution 194 was issued in December 1948, positively affirming the right of return of the refugees and/or a compensation. This demand of the United Nations has been renewed almost every year since. Israel's membership to the United Nations was even made dependent on this issue. Still the situation of the meanwhile 5.3 million Palestinian refugees has not changed up to this day. As the repatriation of the refugees is explicitly and in several ways rooted in law and as such a return would be technically possible without having to displace Israelis Qumsiyeh emphasizes the refugee issue which seems central in the discourse and he analyzes in detail all relevant arguments and a lot of empirical data.
Jerusalem is the topic of chapter 5. Again historical details are taken as a starting-point, again it is the history of the people he is looking for, not the history of the ruling. Biblical passages about Jerusalem are quoted and checked on their historical content. The numerous conquests of the city are described and compared with the conquests from 1948 and 1967. According to this analysis, Jerusalem through the millenia has remained a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community despite all changes until the events of 48 and 67. Qumsiyeh does not see a possibility for the now valid discriminating laws to prevail and refers to UN resolution 181 calling for the international status of Jerusalem. To him the most plausible and actually only solution is that Jerusalem becomes the capital of a pluralistic unitary country for all its citizens.
Zionism is the next topic. As Zonism has undisputedly been standing in the center of the conflict for more than 100 years it would be adequate to newly investigate it together with the newly accessible sources like Herzl's diaries. Qumsiyeh shows the origins and developments of Zionism, starting with Napoleon and with the Christian Zionist movement which had had only a marginal significance until the beginning of the twentieth century. Only the argument that (colonial) settlement in Palestine was a security measure against anti-Semitism and an expression of Jewish emancipation and national independence led to the popularity of Zionism in Jewish communities in Europe. After 1948, when the Zionist dream had come true, a re-interpretation took place, e.g. in the programs of 1951 and 1968 which deal with the protection and encouragement of "Jewish rights". The author notes that a replacement of the concept "Jewish" by "Christian" or "Muslim" shows the unfairness of these programs. He also asks whether Zionism factually had provided a reducement of anti-Jewish prejucide and safety in the state of the Jews or whether the opposite is the case. In his historical analysis, Qumsiyeh also brings the attention to the circumstance that there had been cooperations between National Socialists and Zionists in the mid-thirties, because both promoted a segregation of Jews. Most of the Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries were no Zionists, though, often argueing that here religion would be misused for purposes of stately power. The author names Einstein and Freud as examples for prominent non-Zionist Jews. Parallels are described between Zionism and apartheid in South Africa and the Jewish opposition to Zionism today is referred to. The author concludes that the lesson to arrive at from the historical results of such ideologies should be to leave tribal and camp thinking and to think only as a human being. This would be true for the Palestinians just the same.
In order to clarify the problematic points in Zionism the author takes a look at the Israeli state and starts with the two competing notions, namely the one of the only democracy in the region on the one hand and the one of an ethnocentric racist state on the other. Approaching this contradiction Qumsiyeh analyzes some Israeli basic laws in respect to the differenciation of citizens of the state. He states that there is a national membership of Am Yisrael, i.e. the people of Israel (=all Jews), called "le'om", which would be distinct from the citizenship ("ezrahut"). There would exist no actual Israeli nationality in the self-understanding. Thus Palestinians cannot belong to Am Yisrael while Jews from all over the world can obtain the Israeli citizenship without difficulties. Non-Jewish immigrants face a different set of laws. The same is true for laws for non-Jewish citizens who do not profit from the land laws, the economic, cultural and political laws provided only for Jews. Therefore it would be necessary to address Israeli laws like the one from 1985 after which the participation of a political party is only allowed when this party acknowledges the primacy of Israel's Jewish identity as well as the raison d'Ítre. According to this law it is, for instance, prohibited to deny the democratic nature of the state. Contradictions with democratic pluralist principles can be found in other laws, too, like the absentee-law, according to which every inhabitant, who was away from his land for even one day between November 47 and May 48, lost this land and its revenues to the Jewish state.
Violence and terrorism are the subject of chapter 8. Qumsiyeh points to the vagueness of the concept of terrorism, the fact that it is often used as a battle concept and the fact that some terrorist acts are not called by their name. It is demonstrated that the definition of terrorism as provided by the US government also fits Hiroshima and Nagasaki and many other events. The argumentation goes that September 11 in its violence was neither qualitatively nor quantitatively unique and must be viewed in relation to incidences which occurred to the rest of the world. Here follow many examples. The thesis is formulated that ruling forces in history have often used the fear of the citizens to reach political decisions. It follows an outline of terrorist precedences in Palestine/Israel through Zionists with an emphasize on the 1940s. Qumsiyeh notes that occupying and colonial powers use to call resistance against their occupation terrorism and gives examples, while referring to the UN Charta in which resistance against oppression and occupation is legitimized. Palestinian terror against civilians is not omitted in this context, but consequently rejected, too. The problem of group responsibilities is tackled in this chapter also, when societies acquiesce to acts of terrorism, and at the example of the failure of the Oslo negotiations the argumentation is that the continuity of violence is related to a lack of justice. The thesis, after which terrorism is the phenomenon of certain cultures or religions, would be false and could not lead to a rational discourse. History would show that violence always breeds violence and that violence is not a random by-product of occupation, oppression and dispossession, but "their chosen tool and consequence". To reject violence and to hope in bad times would not be romantic ideas but the proof of positive possibilities in human behavior.
Motivated by the necessity of overall human rights standards the author documents the wording of the 30 articles of the Human Rights which were adopted by the UN in 1948, as well as ten human rights principles formulated by Amnesty International in 2001, noting that Amnesty had deliberately pointed to the failure of the Oslo process as being due to lack of application of the human rights. The most grave human rights violations in Israel/Palestine concern the killing of civilians and torture as a means of interrogation. All renowned human rights organizations publically point to the fact that Israel does not fulfill the standards here. According to an Amnesty report there were about 2650 Palestinian houses demolished between 1987 and 1999. Thousands of acres of land were confiscated in order to build illegal settlements in the West Bank. About the 650 km long and 1.2 billion USDs expensive separation device Qumsiyeh says that it would not be a security fence on the Green Line. Its main purpose rather is the expansion of illegal settlements. On the following pages the author describes why this edifice is rightly called an "apartheid wall" by human rights advocates. To think one could put the human rights aside and still achieve security or peace would be a self-delusion.
All these factors have determined the social development in Palestine/Israel and have generated unequal economic and social conditions. Today, about nine million people are living in the country and about half of them are native Palestinians. In order to maintain the Jewish character of the state refugees are prevented from returning, Jews who identify with Zionism are brought into the country, and the life of the remaining Palestinains is being made as difficult as possible to motivate their departure. At this point, the author analytically summarizes the background data of the economic situation and hierarchy in Palestine/Israel. Here he also reviews the UN documents concerning the water issue in the country, as well as he deals with environmental damages as a consequence of politics. To all these problems the one-state solution would give positive answers like: prosperity via stability, ecological sustainability, efficiency of infrastructure, end of demographic struggles, reduced birth-rate in Palestinians due to economic security, opening of the markets.
Chapter 11 is about the political players and their motivations which are necessary to understand in the attempt of ending the conflict. Quotes by Theodor Herzl indicate how the native Palestinians were seen by Zionists in that time, namely in the best case as squatters in a "deserted" land. Simultaneously, there had been conflicts between Palestinian intellectuals tending to the Ottoman rule and local farmers, the fellahin. Qumsiyeh reflects the events which had led to British and French support of Zionism and to the Jules and Balfour Declarations, followed by the transition and adoption of the Zionist cause in the time of Truman who in the beginning had insisted on the right of return of the refugees. Two branches of Zionism, identified as forerunners of the political camps of Likud and Labor, had been visible and active in this time. The role of King Abdullah of Jordan is analyzed and the role of the Palestinian political elite until 1974, when the PLO was acknowledged by the Arab states as the representative of the Palestinian people. With a quote of the Israeli general Peled the author identifies the thesis as a myth according to which the war of 1967 for the Israelis was a war of defense. The agreements with Egypt in 1978 and the transition to the Oslo Accords led, among other things, to a doubling of land confiscation and settlement activity of Israel's in the executive framework of the Allon Plan, according to which originally 35 up to 40 % of the West Bank were to be annexed, while the rest was to fall under Palestinian-Jordanian sovereignty. This plan later was modified by Ariel Sharon and finally accepted by Yasir Arafat, although this was not compatible with international law. At this point the Palestinian political discourse is examined, for example the Declaration of Independence by the PLO from 1988, in which the "patently unjust" UN partition resolution 181 was accepted, or the effects of the Gulf War in 1990/91 for the PLO and for the Palestinians. Especially intensely Qumsiyeh analyzes the Oslo Accords in this long chapter. He calls them a capitulation and says they would be deliberately vague in respect to Palestinian rights while precise on the power and authorities of Israel. The cantonization of the West Bank, e.g. through bypass road for settlements, is mentioned and other details. The role of the USA in this process is assessed to be destructive, as the USA is participating in the devaluation of international law and human rights and euphemizing Israeli violations. It would be the insufficient goal of the prevailing policy to just "manage" the Middle East and, apart from that, to keep the status quo. That such a policy fails in the long run is deduced by Qumsiyeh from the experiences in world history. The Israeli public had been misled to believe that there could be security without justice or equality for the Palestinians. The author reminds US-American tax payers of 140 billion dollars given as aids to Israel in the past thirty years, a sum which could pay all lacking drinking water in the world. This is happening although the USA prohibits itself to give military aid to countries which perpetually breach the human rights and international law. In this context the author mentions the USS Liberty affair from 1967 and the lacking subsequent investigation, a new experience in US American military history. The US support for the Road Map is mentioned, in the 2.221 words of which the concepts "human rights" and "international law" are missing.
Chapter 12 deals with the international context and international law. Qumsiyeh sees two possible scenarios at the outset: either a solution will prevail which bases on power politics in which case the stronger would win over the weaker, or a universal and binding legal principle will be applied. On the following fifteen pages many international agreements are examined and quoted in central parts, beginning with the Sykes-Picot Agreement from 1916, then documents of the League of Nations, the UN partition plan 181, the UN Charta, UN Resolution 194, letters from Ben-Gurion and others, the Forth Geneva Convention, article 13 of the Human Rights and resolutions 273, 242, 338, 446, 2727, 1322, 3236, 42/159, 51/124, 51/126, 51/114. In detail it is shown that despite the US blockage of 35 UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel the remaining of the accepted resolutions together with the minimum requirements of international law makes three points unacceptable: the refusal of Israel to withdraw from the areas occupied in 1967, the refusal of Israel to implement Resolution 181 on which the creation of a State of Israel in Palestine was based, and the refusal of Israel to allow refugees to return to their homes and lands and to compensate them. Qumsiyeh draws a comparison here and shows how the UN had decided in respect to other countries, for example in the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait or in the refugees of the Kosovo, where contrary to the case of Israel very concrete measures and precise frameworks were formulated. The self-determination of the Palestinians apparently is an exceptional issue.
In the concluding chapter of the book the author affirms that a peace based on human rights and international law is possible and feasible. At first, he introduces a plan of the Arab countries dating from 1948, when the USA, the Soviet Union and France were supporting the partition plan. This alternative, then printed in the New York Times, based on a federal concept under consideration of proportional representation and was inspired by the principles of the US Constitution. The Zionist forces by this time had control over 78 % of the country, far more than the 55 % of which Resolution 181 speaks. The state was created unilaterally in 1948, hand in hand with ethnic expulsions. As Israel was allowed into the UN only under the condition that it implements 181, 194 and other texts, which definitively did not happen, the author concludes that applying international law does indeed mean to exclude Israel from the UN and to sanction it until the obligations are fulfilled. As this would be the only legal and moral solution Zionism would have to be rethought. It has failed according to its own standards, for example in the issue of security for Jews. The few positive achievements, on the other hand, would be neglected in observation, like the creation of a new language. For the author it seems adequate today to speak about an Israeli nationality rather than a Jewish one. Likewise, those Palestinians, who dream of a reinstallation of an Arab Palestine, live in the past. This brings Qumsiyeh to a fundamental discussion of the two-states solution. He begins by rendering the points of the historical compromise of the PLO, i.e. the acceptance of a border on the ceasefire line of 1967 (not on the line drawn by the UN), an independent sovereign state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, a capital Jerusalem with free access for all religions, dismantling of the illegal settlements, return of the refugees, just distribution of water, good neighborhood and cooperation. By the time of Camp David and Taba, 2000-2001, the Palestinian leadership made further concessions, namely: giving up 78 % of their country against the will of the inhabitants; acceptance of a state which views itself as a nation "for the Jewish people", including discriminating laws, and not as a country for its citizens; making rights of return dependent on the guarantee of a Jewish majority (which the author calls a racist view); the acceptance of land exchange, so that most of the illegal settlements can be annexed to Israel; agreeing to distribute water which belongs to native people; the abandoning of Resolution 181 in respect to land distribution and the Jerusalem question. In the following Qumsiyeh summarizes the arguments which speak against a two-states solution and in favor of a one-state solution. Belonging to this is the fact that the populations are, in fact, already mixed, then the creation of justice for all with one measure, economic-ecological advantages and the general disillusion about the two-states solution on both sides. Here follows a critique of the influential philosophy of Leo Strauss which is juxtaposed with an altruistic philosophy. Groups are mentioned which profit from the status quo: weapon and oil industry, Washington think-tanks, many Zionist leaders, religious zealots, many Arab leaders, US representatives which receive election donations from pro-Zionist groups. These groups, however, constitute only a tiny minority of the people who are affected by the conflict. The history of the Holy Land during the past 100 years and the histories of similar struggles like in South Africa would prove that certain policies do not function: acquisition of territory by force; suppression, removal, and isolation of natives; attempts to claim divine or other religious "rights" to land; ignorance of human rights and basic legal standards; violence as a method of reaction to resistance; ignorance of the potential of mixed societies. Qumsiyeh criticizes the "defeatist attitude" of many analysts and stresses the power of nonviolent action. He draws positive scenarios which are possible to happen and asks which elements from history we should emphasize and focus on. According to his assessment history and context are lost, as is the rational discourse, when one is fixated on violence and when one is guided by fear and by wrong myths. There would be three options in colonialist situations: that the colonizer is expelled like in Algeria, that the complete or near-complete native population is annihilated like in North America and in Australia, and the introduction of a democratic state like in South Africa. Finally, the author devides the goals into ultimate, intermediate and short-term goals and calls for envisioning and working for a better future. Attached is the wording of a 10 points draft which is meant as a basis for discussion.
"Sharing the Land of Canaan" by Mazin Qumsiyeh is an informative and practical handbook for everybody who wants to understand the conflict from the perspective of the human rights and of international standards. It will beyond doubt become a standard reference book in many libraries in the world. Each chapter is complete in itself and ends with references to selected further reading. This form of presentation leads to a certain redundance of the arguments and to crossovers in the ordering of historical sequences, yet it has the advantage that the individual topics are easy to look up, with more support in the four-page index at the end of the book. The main sources are texts by human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, the Red Cross, Israeli groups, enriched with many quotes from Israeli politicians and scientists, newspapers like the New York Times, the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz as well as Arab scientists. Qumsiyeh, by the way, is not strictly anti-Zionist, he speaks on the contrary with appreciation about Levi Eshkol's and Martin Buber's brand of Zionism. The groups, which the book deals with, are examined by Qumsiyeh according to their own measures. Therefore the study represents a well-founded analysis of the situation and not an outsider's view. Mazin Qumsiyeh is not the first one to formulate or advocate the vision of the one democratic state, but he does it in a brilliant way and on the level of time, considering newly published official documents and topical events. Despite his passion he appears sober and always has his eyes on the central points of the conflict, taking away the myths by the analysis of facts. Although he regards himself as a Palestinian, Qumsiyeh has the whole on his mind and does not follow camp thinking and fear thinking. It is an enlightened, a modern, and also an American book. A significant piece of scholarship. The whole argumentation is as plausible as it is inevitable when the conflict is seen from the perspective of the human rights. It is clear to the author that it will not be easy to make this humanistic vision come true and that it will face opposition due to the long history of the conflict. On the other hand, Mazin Qumsiyeh trusts in the synergies of the people and writes at the end of his work: "We Canaanites, who invented the alphabet, domesticated animals and developed agriculture, and made this arid land into a land of milk and honey, surely can do this."
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