A Peace Plan for the Land of Canaan

By Jack D. Forbes
News From Indian Country

Native Americans have a great deal of experience trying to secure justice and fair play under conditions of adversity. The peoples of Palestine have witnessed several thousand years of seeking justice in the midst of competing claims of empires and invaders.

What I want to propose is to take my knowledge of Native American experiences in dealing with militarily superior enemies and to apply whatever lessons we may have learned to the situation in old Canaan (also known as Kanaan and Palestine).

As with any peace discussions between parties of unequal strength, one fears that the weaker side may be forced to accept a deal that is unfair and discriminatory.

As an example, the USA and Israel are constantly demanding that the Hamas organization recognize the Israeli state’s legitimacy and give up the use of arms, while Israel is never asked to recognize the Palestinian territory as a state, nor is Israel asked to give up its military machine equipped with “illegal” nuclear weapons.

In effect, the Palestinians are being asked to give up all of their bargaining chips prior to negotiations, while the Israelis are able to keep all of their very powerful cards (including George Bush’s recent promise of still more U.S. subsidies and weapons systems).

Given the violent history of Canaan/Palestine over the centuries, let us admit that no one side is totally blameless today and that all parties have very legitimate complaints and concerns. Fortunately all of the religions concerned agree on the principle of the just treatment of other human beings, so that gives us the basic principle of any peace agreement.

We need to focus our attention on equal treatment and equal justice for all who have a stake in Kanaan, whether they are Jews, seculars, Muslims, Christians, Samaritans, or others. The first principle, already accepted by the Israeli state, is the “right of return.”

Under this principle all Jews have the right to come to Yisrael no matter what the reason their ancestor/s left in ancient times. In short, persons of Jewish (or even mostly non-Jewish) ancestry, so long as they meet certain criteria, and no matter how long their ancestors have been in other lands, and no matter if their ancestors ever lived in Palestine (as is the case with descendants of Khazars, Berbers, and others who converted to Judaism) can be granted immediate citizenship in the Israeli state.

Clearly, this “right of return” must be extended to Muslims and Christians who have left Palestine, let us say, at least since the period of British rule. It would be utterly hypocritical to deny people the right to leave crowded refugee camps to come home when persons who have never lived in Kanaan are allowed virtually automatic privileges simply because of their conversion to Judaism or that their mother was of Jewish heritage.

What I am suggesting, based on the above, is that we have found the first broad principle for a peace settlement: each and every person with a deep relationship to Palestine/Kanaan/Israel must be treated with absolute dignity and fairness. To do otherwise is to repudiate the Torah of the Jews, the Ten Commandments, and the Holy Quran.

What this means is that one must downgrade the interests of any particular state entity and instead concentrate upon human needs, human rights, and justice.

Whether there be a two-state solution or a one-state solution, or a federation of regions, is irrelevant to this principle. What does matter is that: (1) Every Muslim and Christian must have the same right to land, home, and opportunity as every Jew or secularist has had; (2) That all prisoners must be released and exchanged, unless guilty of non-political crimes, since all have been “soldiers” in a long inter-ethnic war; (3) That refugees must be able to return to their old homes or, if occupied by others, to homes and land of equal value (but not necessarily in what is now Israel); (4) If Jewish settlements are to be allowed to remain in the “Occupied Territories,” then settlements of equal quality must be established for Muslims and Christians in Galilee or other sections now in the State of Israel (in other words, Arabic-speaking people should not be required to give up land except on the principle that Hebrew-speakers also give up land).

Personally, I now believe that Yisrael (Israel) has already annexed the entirety of British-mandated Palestine, and that the Palestinians are now involuntary Israeli “subjects” illegally denied the rights of citizenship and subjected to ethnic and religious discrimination.

But, of course, Israel has wanted to remain in control of the West Bank (and Gaza as well) without recognizing citizenship rights for the people (except Jews living in protected hamlets).

No matter! If all Kanaanites of today are to be treated equally it will not matter whether there is one state or two. What I am suggesting also is that Judaism has survived without having its own state for thousands of years. Christianity and Islam have similarly survived and even flourished when not having their own religion-controlled states.

Indeed, I would suggest that multi-religious states are apt to be the best for all, as witness the ancient Kingdom of Yisrael (before the Assyrians conquered it); the Kingdom of Sicily under Norman rule; and the Ptolemaic period in Egypt (when large numbers of Jews left Palestine to live along the Nile and in Alexandria) among many other examples. This is the kind of state we should be encouraging, in my opinion.

Native Americans have suffered, often very badly, from being forced into unequal negotiations with the USA, Canada, or other American states, wherein non-Natives were always given privileges and land rights which the Indigenous Americans were denied. Let us insure that the Palestinians will be treated according to a higher set of principles.

Jack Forbes is the author of many books including “The American Discovery of Europe.” He is a historian specializing in Native American and inter-ethnic topics.

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