Recently it's come to light that the citizens of Nagaland, a majority Baptist state, have achieved their power only by oppressing the large minority of Hindu citizens of their state in Northeast India. Though at one time Hindus were the majority of the country, due to a high rate of immigration in the past century, Baptist Indians took over the country, systematically removing citizenship rights of Hindus, and clustering them into a number of camps. Due to a higher birth rate, Hindus now number 48% of the population, but they still don't have basic civil rights, including the right to vote, and they live on a small portion of the land, with limited access to power, food, and drinking water. The civil government of Nagaland has vowed that, even when the Hindus outnumber the Baptists, which is due to happen in the next few years, they still will not be given equal rights. Rather the Baptist Nagaland government has magnanimously decided to give the Hindus a small portion of the worst land in Nagaland, to form their own Hindu state.
Now, of course, that paragraph is completely and utterly false- with the exception that Baptists are the majority of the NE Indian state of Nagaland (by some 90%). But perhaps the analogy gives us some taste of the real situation that the Palestinians now face in Israel- for if you replace every Hindu/Baptist reference with Palestinian/Israeli reference above, the paragraph accurately states the current state of affairs in Israel of Palestine.
It's always a pleasure to meet an author you've read. Tonight I got to hear Ali Abunimah speak on his book, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Shortly before he spoke I realized I was sitting two rows behind the author, so I took the opportunity to share with him that I'd been one of the Amazon reviewers of his book. It is always gratifying for an author to hear that they are read, no matter how small the author, so it was nice to hear that not only did Ali actually remember me, but he also appreciated my review.
Ali's book changed my mind on this issue. I had in the past supported an independent Palestinian state, but his arguments were simply too cogent and overwhelming, showing quite clearly how Israel is an apartheid state, with Palestinian Bhantustans, and the only answer to the situation there is a fully democratic country, with equal rights for all citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Ali doesn't think this will be easy, but only that it is the only way out for all sides.
He began his talk by discussing the pro-Israeli contingent distributing anti-Semitic-Arab flyers just outside the auditorium. He thanked them, for they had put a number of links to his website on their flyers, even if his quotes were taken out of context. Ali then spent most of his talk laying the groundwork for his case, reserving more detailed arguments for the Q&A afterward.
He knew what he was doing. I thought there wouldn't be any one in the audience who would forcefully present arguments from the other side, but there were quite a number. Ali respectfully heard their cases, allowing them to share at length, and then responded.
I asked a question during the Q&A that I thought might give him an opportunity to talk about the great hurtles we face, and how to effectively achieve the one state solution. I asked him, "What is the one thing keeping a Ghandi-style broad nonviolent resistance movement from rising in Palestine?" I specifically inserted the word "broad" in there, as I know there have been occasional attempts at non-violent action in Palestine, but they have always come to nought, usually through Israeli oppression of pacifists.
Unfortunately, the response left something to be desired. The audience shouted out that it was because of Israeli violence, as if that wasn't obvious, and as if I were asking the audience and not the speaker who we had all come to hear. Ali shared that there is a long history of non-violent resistance, but this is well known. What I'd hoped to hear is what he thought might be keeping a broad movement from occurring, something along the lines of what Ghandi did, something using imaginative nonviolence effectively to stop the Israeli oppression. Ali stated that there was much violence used against those engaging in nonviolent resistance, which sadly is true. But unfortunately, I do not think anything else will now work against the Israeli oppression.
Sadly, what has been tried in terms of nonviolent resistance is only a small drop in comparison to what must be done. What is needed is a movement on the level of what occurred in India. Complaints that it's been tried and Israel has responded violently are not enough. Water is powerful wet stuff, but stating the obvious never changed reality. Bold and noble efforts have been attempted, here and there. But we still await a massive fully nonviolent movement. Sadly, much Palestinian blood will be shed in this effective nonviolent resistance movement- if it is to be effective. But I believe only then will the world, the Israeli public, and yes, even the Knesset, finally see the oppression and apartheid they themselves live under because of their oppression of Palestinians. Only then will they realize the needs of the huddled masses, yearning to breath free. I fear it will take only the voluntary shedding of innocent blood on a massive scale - a true sacrifice - to wake the Israeli government up to the myth of redemptive violence that they live under, having become that which they hate, stripping others of land and rights for the benefit of a privileged few. Only then will the oppressor realize that his oppression also puts him under a yoke too heavy to bear.