This “all or nothing” mentality has been seen again and again in Palestinian leaders, most notably with Yasser Arafat at the 2000 Camp David Accords. Presenting the so-called “right of return” as a non-negotiable prerequisite for the establishment of a Palestinian state reveals a complete lack of interest in finding an actionable solution to the conflict. Whether he realized it or not, Doumani was implying that Palestinians do not want an independent Palestine—they want Israel.
Doumani concluded his remarks by restating the importance of the Palestinian diaspora to negotiating the state of Palestine; praising the Palestinians for finding loopholes in Israeli law that allow them to gain foreign passports; and highlighting the untapped potential of the Palestinian community in Israel. With regard to the latter, he lamented Israelis’ concern that their Arab compatriots might comprise a fifth column within their country while essentially encouraging those Arabs to realize those fears. “There is no reason why Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot be the leaders of a Palestinian national movement,” Doumani maintained. Although he claimed to be “agnostic” on the issue of a one-state or two-state solution to the conflict, he noted, “There is one state already. . . . The solution is a state for all its citizens.”
During the question and answer session, an audience member confronted Doumani on his final statement. “Why is it,” the man asked, “that there is no outcry against the treatment of Palestinians in Arab countries [such as Lebanon, Jordan and Syria]? Are these countries really states for all their citizens?” As might be expected, Doumani sidestepped the question. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he answered flatly. “If it’s wrong elsewhere, it’s wrong in Israel. I’m just asking that the right of equality for all people be applied to Israel.” In Doumani’s world, the right of equality for all people need not be applied to Muslim countries, and the fact that Arab citizens of Israel enjoy more political freedom than citizens of any Arab nation is irrelevant.
Other audience questions involved the role of international law, the American-Israeli relationship, and the possibility for coexistence. Doumani claimed that Israel has “no leg to stand on” with regard to international law and that “the free ride is over” in the American-Israeli relationship. Finally, Doumani concluded, coexistence is “the only solution I can see.” That may be, but coexistence under whose terms?
Jonathan Gelbart is a senior at Stanford University majoring in International Relations. He is the president of Students for an Open Society and former world news editor of the Stanford Review, an independent publication. He wrote this article for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
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