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Israel and Palestine: Fratricidal conjoined twins

Two nations claiming the same land is the perfect formula for a war with no end in sight. This will be the case as long as myths and not the law govern the lives of people and the relationship between them

Lluís Bassets

The Palestinians want their own state for the same reason that European Jews built the Zionist project. It can be embellished with religious or nationalist arguments and sentiments, but in the end, the powerful and practical reason for such a claim lies in the protection that a state offers to any dispossessed, exiled or persecuted people. That is the right to self-determination of all people, recognized by the United Nations Charter as a universal obligation, and conceived for the liberation of colonized territories — not as a legal ruse to fragment constituted states, as certain secessionist rhetoric argues.

Israel is a child of this transcendental chapter of international law and Palestine will be one too, one day, when the law is mutually recognized and the existence of the former is no longer threatened, and the rights of the latter no longer denied, by often violent religious extremists and nationalists from both sides. It makes no sense to recognize the right of some without recognizing the right of others, and even less to subordinate one’s right because it is denied by the other.

When it comes to both countries exercising this right, and having it recognized, the historical difficulty is that the land in dispute is the same: the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, historical Palestine and biblical Israel. This narrow and notable region, boasting the ancient capital of Jerusalem, which is sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims, is claimed as exclusive and indivisible by its oldest inhabitants, the Jews.

Two nations claiming the same land is the perfect formula for a war with no end in sight. This will be the case as long as myths and legends and not law and international institutions govern the lives of the peoples and the relationship between them. Israel draws its property rights from the Bible, just as political Islam claims any territory where Islam was practiced in the past. Fringe historical fantasies, whether Arab or Jewish, remote or very remote, are all based on the bloody right of conquest, which the most extremist voices of both nations still try to keep in force.

These two states, of which only one exists, need each other if they are to live in peace, security and share the prosperity that awaits them and the entire region, if they are also able to cooperate with each other. Mutual recognition is not at all a reward for the violent extremists on both sides — the only ones interested in maintaining the war until the point of annihilation — but rather it is the only way to disarm them. It will not be weapons that will end Hamas, nor terrorism with illegal settler occupations. Siamese twins in civil war, they will only have peace and a future if they recognize each other.

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