Can the demolition of Shepherd Hotel be good for democracy?

The Israeli government allowed Jewish settlers to take over an abandoned hotel in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem in order to build a Jewish only settlement on Sunday. From Washington to Brussels, diplomatic representatives have raised concern and dismay about the unilateral Israeli decision. The international community has raised questions about the viability of the peace process given the climate of reckless and uncompromising Israeli settlement expansion. Sadly, the destruction of the Shepherd Hotel shows that the two state solution is simply not a reality. Instead of bemoaning Israeli settlement activity and fighting for a two state solution which is almost impossible, it is time to start fighting for democratic rights for all of the residents of the land under Israeli military rule.

Israel destroying the two state solution in East Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo:
Israel destroying the two state solution in East Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo:

How can we speak of peace talks when Israel is pouring all of her resources into fortifying control over the West Bank, separating Gaza from the West Bank and completely annexing East Jerusalem? Single-handendly, Israel has successfully destroyed the two state solution despite the wishes of many of her cheer leaders across the world.

Israel and Palestine are under full Israeli military control. Everything going in and out of the Palestinian areas, West Bank and Gaza, passes through Israeli control. Every baby born in Gaza is registered in an Israeli controlled census. Instead of thinking about what would be in the future perhaps we should start from what is in the present. We live in one state.

So what does this state look like? It is a state in which eighty percent of the population, the Jewish population, enjoys full democratic, civil and human rights. The remaining residents of Israel within the 1948 green line borders are the Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in a system of institutionalized discrimination much like the Jim Crow South of the 1950′s.

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians live in an apartheid-like system where the term ‘separate and unequal’ reaches its full potential. Different infrastructure, different and unequal court systems, unequal access to resources such as water and lack of freedom of movement constitute their lifestyle. That leaves us with Gaza, which is basically an open air prison, fenced in and controlled by Israel. These are the current parameters of the one state which is known as ‘Israel and Palestine’ or ‘Israel and its occupied territories’.

The Shepard Hotel destruction and Israel’s move to create a new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem is the latest blatant move by the Israeli government to make permanent a one state solution in which the Palestinians live in an apartheid-like system. The reaction of the left in Israel has been outright condemnation. However, there is a new opening from which we can operate. The coming battle in Israel and Palestine should be one of democratic rights for all and the abolition of the apartheid infrastructure. If we want to fight to keep the West Bank for a Palestinian state, we are losing. If we would like to keep Sheikh Jarrah Palestine, we are losing.

The fight which we can, and should, embrace is for the human rights for all the residents of this one state. We have movements from Shiekh Jarrah to Nabi Saleh where Palestinians and Israelis embrace a model of co-existence and resistance. This foundation is a natural platform for a new program of struggle for human rights which does not focus on lost battles. Israel is pushing forward with a one state solution in which control and the systemic stripping of Palestinian human rights is standard practice. Instead of fighting a losing battle, the left must embrace the facts on the ground and fight for democracy.