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Ben-Gurion University
BGU Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin: Bi-nationalism, a reality already established by the Zionist regime, obviously asymmetrical & colonial

Jadal  1                     Mada al-Carmel
Jadal Issue no.10, June 2011 www.mada-research.org
Separation and Bi-nationalism
Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin*

Separation and division
The principle of separation is the leading principle of the Israeli perception of 
“peace” and illustrates its intentions: not reconciliation based on equality and on 
historical justice, but an aspiration to get rid of the Occupied Territories, so as to get 
rid of the Palestinian Arabs in order to preserve the Jewish majority in the State of 
Israel, and thus restore the definition of the state as the state of the Jewish people. 
However, the division is not between Jews and Arabs alone; it is also between Arabs 
and Arabs. Division would mean perpetuation of the separation between segments 
of the Palestinian people: between Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians in the 
Occupied Territories; between these two groups and the refugees; and between 
groups separated inside the Occupied Territories.

Palestinian nationalism 
This system of divisions and separation expresses the fundamental aspect on which 
the definition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people is established: denial of the 
Palestinians as a nation. Israel “agrees” to grant second-class Israeli citizenship to 
Palestinians inside Israel and third-class Palestinian citizenship to residents of the 
Occupied Territories, with the condition that the Palestinian refugees and the 
Palestinian nation completely give up the right of return. As such, Israel refuses to 
recognize the rights of Palestinians as a nation. The Palestinians are required to 
forgo their nationalism, that is, their very sense of belonging to the land. They are 
granted limited rights only if they declare themselves strangers in their own 
homeland. This conception underlies the seemingly innocent formulation of “the 
Jewish nation-state.” The denial of Palestinian nationalism is evident in the 
sweeping rejection of the right of return, which also affects the status of Palestinians 
within Palestine

In light of this consequence, the recognition of Palestinians’ rights as a nation should 
be seen as a precondition for any discussion of Israel/Palestine. In this context the 
concept of “nation” does not refer necessarily to a distinct identity, but should be 
seen as a category that defines rights, with belonging to the land as its focus. The 
lack of a comprehensive Palestinian national position undermines the basis for 
claiming rights and perpetuates the framework dictated by Israel, whereby the 
struggles of various Palestinian groups remain divided. Furthermore, recognition of 
Palestinian nationalism and national rights should be a condition for pursuing a 
profound and open discussion of the national rights of the Jews. 

Bi-nationalism 
On these grounds I believe that a bi-national framework is crucial for any thought 
and discussion on the question of Palestine. The concept of “bi-nationalism” does 
not necessarily refer to the one-state solution, as it is commonly understood in the 
political discourse. Rather, it involves fundamental principle elements whose 
realization should be advanced by any political process: (a) national and civic 
equality between Jews and Arabs; and (b) reconciliation based on historical justice. 
Considered in this way, the concept of bi-nationalism does not describe a “solution,” 
but rather serves as a crucial point of departure and perspective to direct the 
struggle towards democratization and de-colonization, based upon the recognition 
of both Palestinian and Jewish rights. Underlying this point of departure is the 
recognition that it is impossible to separate the discussion on the rights of the 
Jewish people from the discussion on the rights of the Palestinians. 

Bi-nationalism is first of all a description of the reality already established by the 
Zionist regime–one obviously asymmetrical and colonial; it is the reality in which 
Jewish superiority  is exercised in different ways upon geographically divided 
Palestinian groups. At the same time the concept also indicates the possibility of an 
alternative reality based on the principles of equality. Many of the participants in 
the current debate prefer to avoid the term “bi-nationalism.” I think in doing so, they 
disregard fundamental features of the present reality. 

I do not find the continuous attention to “models” (one state, two states) to be 
productive; in fact, it blurs fundamental questions. I believe that we must first 
articulate the principles to which a political process should aspire. Regardless, I do 
not think that it is possible to isolate the question of Palestine, and it should not be 
discussed independently, because the issue of Jewish national rights can only 
seriously be discussed within a general framework that includes the entire Arab 
world.

Rights of the Jews
This proposed framework requires us to ask the question that is almost never 
asked: what are the rights of the Jews in Palestine? We naturally focus on the rights 
of the Palestinians, since Palestinian rights are those that are constantly breached. 
However, another fundamental question for discussion is specifically about the 
collective rights of the Jewish people. The rights of the Palestinians are in fact
selfevident and undeniable according to principles of justice and historical precedent. 

Therefore, it is precisely the rights of the Jews, currently based on a messianic 
interpretation of history, that shapes the ongoing process of Judaization and
deArabization in Palestine; rights which are not obvious. 

To recognize the rights of the Jews naturally means to limit their encroachment on 
the rights of others and to object to the Israeli demand for superiority and total 
control. The fundamental pre-requisite to the discussion of the rights of the Jews is 
recognition of Palestinian national rights, including the right of return. Once we take
the recognition of Palestinian rights as a starting point, we can only then ask 
ourselves  about the rights of the Jews for “self-determination,” and for the 
recognition of a Jewish sovereign community in Palestine. Otherwise this 
recognition remains an empty declaration, and does not address the complexity of 
the situation.

The framework of the current political debate leaves room for only two extreme 
options: one, accepting Israel as it is, according to its current self-definition. This 
option is essentially assumed as a starting point for the “peace process.” The second 
possibility is to completely ignore Israel, believing that it will somehow disappear. 
This latter approach is not different in principle from the Zionist denial of 
Palestinian nationalism. This framework aids in Israel’s propaganda, which 
maintains that either one recognize Israel as it is, or one de-legitimizes the very 
existence of the Jews. We have to establish a space between these two extreme 
options. Otherwise, we inadvertently preserve the logic of the present discourse and 
fail to challenge Israeli exclusivity and claims of superiority.

I believe that the task now facing us as Jews who support Palestinian national claims 
is to generate a discourse towards equality in which we raise the question of the 
Jews’ rights and request recognition of the right to self-determination. In order to 
make the recognition of the Palestinian right of return meaningful, we must direct 
our attention to reexamining the question of the Jews. These steps can form the 
basis for a process of de-colonization, which in the context of Israel/Palestine not 
only entails withdrawal, but also a process of significant change of Israeli 
consciousness

The concept “bi-nationalism” raises extreme anxiety among Israelis: the idea of
binationalism, namely the idea of equal co-existence, is considered a denial of Israel’s 
right to exist. This fact, itself, indicates that underlying the definition of Israel is the 
denial of the principle of equality. Most Israelis today refuse to even discuss 
Palestinian national rights. We must not underestimate the reality of their anxiety, 
which must be seriously addressed. But the only way for Israelis to deal with this 
anxiety is to address its sources: the suppression and denial of the Nakba. We, as 
Jewish Israelis, must accept responsibility for the Nakba as a precondition  for joint 
discourse. Israelis should understand that the Palestinians are not those who need 
to give recognition to Jewish claims, but rather Israeli Jews must recognize 
Palestinian. There is no reason to expect that the Jews will forgo their excessive 
rights, unless they understand that taking this step is the only feasible option. 
Indeed, forgoing rights is surely the only way to save Israel from its belligerent rush 
to self-destruction, which is liable to bring disaster to the entire region.
It seems that on an essential level, this compromise is the only one not yet taken. 
There is of course a de-facto Palestinian recognition of Israel, but not a serious 
discussion on the question. They implicitly recognized Israeli superiority over the 
land in exchange for Israeli recognition of a limited autonomy in the Occupied 
Territories. The Palestinians were even demanded to give up their perception of 
history without any expectation that Israel replace its narrative, which absolutely 
ignores the history of the Palestinians and rejects any responsibility for their 
tragedy.

From the Palestinian perspective, recognition of equality is liable to be considered a 
compromise, since it means recognizing the equal rights of the colonizers. In fact, 
during the last decade,  and within the framework of the Oslo process, the 
Palestinians have given up–explicitly or implicitly–most of their crucial national 
positions, and accepted much less than equality in exchange. But I believe this 
fundamental “compromise” is one that should be taken. It is precisely lack of 
recognition of Jewish rights that underlies the condition for demanding Palestinian 
self-denial located at the core of the “peace process.” Recognizing bi-nationalism 
would provide a clear declaration of Palestinian sovereignty and a basis for a 
partnership that ensures Palestinian rights. 

There are various ways to realize these principles. First, one has to remember that it 
is impossible to discuss the question of Palestine separately from regional politics; 
this discussion must be carried out within the framework of the region and of the 
Arab world as a whole. Bi-nationalism cannot be based on detaching the 
Palestinians from the Arab world, but rather on merging Israel within this world. 
This point suggests the complete context of the bi-nationalism framework. 

*Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin is a senior lecturer in the Department of Jewish History and chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.



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    1.  And this israeli academic asshole is
     From , Sent in 20-06-2011
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