Israel-Palestine and the UN: back to the drawing board.

Two years ago, Brent Scowcroft said the following (via Tony Karon @ The Rootless Cosmopolitan):

Hezbollah is not the source of the problem, … It is a derivative of the cause, which is the tragic conflict over Palestine that began in 1948. The eastern shore of the Mediterranean is in turmoil from end to end, a repetition of continuing conflicts in one part or another since the abortive attempts of the United Nations to create separate Israeli and Palestinian states in 1948.

Despite Scowcroft’s age (and some may say political and religious affiliations, although i withhold judgement here), this strikes me as precisely the sort of wisened, historically-informed, big-picture thinking that’s  needed today. This is not in spite of 21st century globalized media, the dominance of pro-growth consumerism or the world’s concomitant cornucopia of  identity crises. Rather, it’s precisely because of these things, because of the ‘global village’ that adaptive long-term thinking (both proactively and retroactively) now matters to virtually everyone. As Scowcroft goes on to say,

The current conflagration has energized the world. Now, perhaps more than ever, we have an opportunity to harness that concern and energy to achieve a comprehensive resolution of the entire 58-year-old tragedy. Only the United States [halewi winces] can lead the effort required to seize this opportunity.

I’m not convinced of the US’ suitability, let alone omnipotence, in leading the charge, here. But Scowcroft is dead on about how energized (if polarized) the world has become over this issue.

I’ve mentioned this briefly before, but i feel compelled to expand on it further. Israel-Palestine is an ill-adapted vestigal appendage of an outdated, geographically misplaced sociopolitical entity–the nation state.

It’s no coincidence that the very birthplace of this ‘imagined‘ ethno-political system–Europe–is now moving to a supranational, federal union with devolved cultural autonomies.

Europeans have literally lived through the horrific consequences of nation-state logic a full generation before most in the post-colonial world. This is not an argument for European superiority–far from it. If anything, the opposite. Rather, it’s an argument for the long-term untenability of the nation-state (a gift for which the world can thank the idiosyncratic territorial rivalries of 17th century European power brokers). This is particularly true for regions that have seemingly intractible competing claims.

In this light, the two-state solution no longer seems particularly adaptive for our current day and age. Not on the issue of the region’s shifting demographics, nor on its resource scarcity (namely, water, so often overlooked), nor with regard to ‘imagining’ an identity politics fitted to the 21st, as opposed to 19th, century.

Israel-Palestine, despite the endlessly ironic tragedy of the current situation, holds promise–perhaps the world’s best promise–for demonstrating how a new sociopolitical system can be concsiously imagined, cultivated and employed.

The region must become a permanent international protectorate.

Absurd–i know. But no more absurd than a flourishing nuclear ‘ethno-Jewish democracy’ living ‘side by side in peace’ with a demilitarized Palestinian Bantustan. Please.  No more absurd than perhaps the holiest place in the world devolving into a wasps’ nest of low-grade ethnoreligious civil-war, which is precisely what a Middle Eastern South Africa would look like.

The UN gave birth to this mess (not least out of western guilt for the Holocaust); now it’s a global tinderbox. Time has come to take collective responsibility–to take the potential, nay the necessity, for a powerful set of global institutions seriously, and turn Israel-Palestine into an internationally-administered, shining beacon of hope for the world. No, really. Call me crazy, but i mean it.

This is not as hard to do as it may sound–it takes some creativity and vision–but, phased in, from Jerusalem outwards, for instance, it may even be doable within this generation.

Combining the overarching structure of the late Ottoman millet system with the innovative democratic innovations of the EU, the result could be an entirely new paradigm of sociopolitical organization: the Permanent International Zone, a multicultural global protectorate.

Eventually, a series of such protectorates would have a far easier time of coordinating issues of macropolicy, such as trade, ecological concerns, migration, and so on, than exists within the current system of international relations, which is dominated by (somewhat) enlightened national and corporate anarachy (aka realism).

It may seem an impossible goal at the moment, but i honestly believe (perhaps against all common sense) that it is the way forward. If enough people take the time to think about it–Jews and Muslims especially, but the greater international community as well–i’m confident its utopian pragmatism will begin to shine through.

It seems high time we put aside our obsession for nation states. Diverse cultures and identities can persist, even thrive, without these relics of European cultural imperialism. The world doesn’t have to remain the hapless victim to historical accident; we don’t have to buy into the imaginings of centuries-old power-hungry western ideologues or the knee-jerk reactions of their non-Christian contemporaries. We now live in a world where the scale of civilization requires us, at the very least, to effectively coordinate policy, if not get along. This is the way forward. It just takes some constructive vision. No lobby, state or corporation has monopoly on that.


Filed under general, global issues, middle east, note to future generations, religion

3 responses to “Israel-Palestine and the UN: back to the drawing board.

  1. NA

    Holy crap.. You should copyright this stuff. I know I’m about to plagiarize!

  2. NA

    I gotta say I like the smiley face on the top right corner of the page. Makes me feel like big brother is watching me!

  3. Pingback: Let the UN take over? | Antony Loewenstein