≡ Menu

Avrum Burg’s Vision for New Israel

Avrum Burg published an op-ed in Haaretz responding to the hysteria over EU parliamentary president Martin Schulz’s Knesset address.  He gets in a few terrific zingers against Naftali Bennett and contemporary Israeli politics in general:

Naftali Bennett is one of the shallowest people I’ve ever encountered here…Give me Moshe Feiglin…but spare me this hollow charisma.

But what’s really interesting is this vision statement he presents for a future Israel.  It’s quite breathtaking when you’re used to reading such pablum and hasbara from the vast majority of Israeli political figures.  Burg, who in truth is no longer a mainstream political figure and so can afford to blue-sky such issues, has articulated ideas that follow on those of the Geneva Initiative, but go farther because they acknowledge the distinct possibility of a one-state solution.  In fact, Burg implicitly no longer posits two-states as practicable or viable given current realities.

martin buber

Martin Buber: founder of Brit Shalom, advocates for bi-national state

Here is what the future looks like to Burg:

* Every person who lives…between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea shall be assured equal personal, political, economic and social rights. These rights include: the right to protection and security; equal treatment without regard to sex, race, ethnic origin or religion; freedom of movement; ownership and possession of property; the right to bring a lawsuit to court; and the right to vote and hold elected office.

* The collective rights of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians – linguistic, cultural, religious and political – shall be ensured in every political setting. It is understood that neither side shall have exclusive sovereignty over any part of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (including exclusive ownership of land, exclusive access to natural resources, and so on).

* All remaining exclusive rights possessed solely by Jewish Israelis, including ownership of land and access to natural resources, shall be abolished. All resources – material and political – shall be redistributed on the basis of principles of affirmative justice.

* The right of return of the Palestinians is an integral part of UN Resolution 194. The implementation of this resolution shall take into account the existing reality. The moral and political injustice of dispossessing the Palestinians in the past shall not be remedied by creating new injustices.

* The new political institutions shall make democratic immigration and citizenship laws. However, Jews and Palestinians who live in the diaspora will be able to receive immunity in situations of danger (according to UN resolutions) and will have special status in the process of obtaining citizenship in comparison with any other ethnic or national group.

You’ll note the italicized passage, which is the only portion with which I take issue.  Here, Burg has had a failure of nerve, perhaps because of his lingering allegiance to an Israel he once knew and cherished; or perhaps because he believes it will make this pill less bitter for the average Israeli to swallow.

Frankly, I don’t know what “the existing reality” is: that Israeli Jews control virtually all the land and shouldn’t be further inconvenienced?  Reading a bit between the lines, I think Burg is articulating a bi-national state in which Jews live in Israel and Palestinians live in Palestine, but who have some form of joint governance at least in certain spheres.  In this bi-national state, Palestinians would be able to exercise the Right of Return, but only to Palestine.  It’s little different from the two state solution espoused by liberal Zionists, except that there would not be two sovereign independent states.

I don’t think Burg’s solution to the Right of Return will fly.  Palestinians need to be able to return to the territory that is now Israel.  There is a great deal of space to build new communities in Israel and to rebuild ones destroyed during Nakba.  There should also be space in what are now the Territories if Jews wish to fulfill Biblical injunctions to settle the Land (what I call the Froman Plan, after Rabbi Menachem Froman z”l).

But I do think that aside from this flaw, the rest of this vision is compelling and an excellent place to start a dialogue about what could be.  I only hope that there are Israelis outside of the usual leftist suspects who will begin taking this sort of plan seriously.  It is, in the long run, Israel’s only hope.

Bufferfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail
youtube

{ 19 comments… add one }

  • bluto February 15, 2014, 4:17 AM

    It’s very interesting because the picture Burg is painting for me sounds more like the Palestinian Diaspora returning to ALL post-1948 Palestine (that’s where they’re from, after all) — the unbelievable One State/or Binational thunderclap that that is – essentially ANYWHERE in the ‘binational state’ or ‘One State’. I know that sounds radical as heck. (He speaks also of the illegal Settlers ‘staying’ in the previous ‘Occupied Territories’. He does say he is talking wide brushstrokes here and not details. I wonder if Burg would be interested in an elected part of this new political structure)

    I think this is beyond the ‘token only’ Palestinian Right of Return which Israelis have been desperately trying to create as a firewal for 60+ yrs – I think this is the REAL UN Res 194 spirit and letter of the law that Burg is insisting on – resolution of the conflict by the Laws and Rights (International Law, Geneva Con, UN Resolutions too numerous to count) rather than the pig in the poke Ross/Indyk farce

    Here’s Noam Sheif from 972 Magazine quoting Burg from 2011:

    ‘(Another) Knesset Speaker endorses one-state solution’

    http://972mag.com/another-knesset-speaker-endorses-one-state-solution/31036/

    ‘Former Knesset Speaker Abrum Burg has an op-ed in Haaretz in which he not only endorses the one-state solution, but calls the entire left to do the same. Burg has flirted with the idea in the past, but he was never so explicit:

    Burg:
    “So enough of the illusions. There are no longer two states between the Jordan River and the sea… we [the left] must consider how we can enter into the new Israeli discourse. It has intriguing potential. The next diplomatic formula that will replace the “two states for two peoples” will be a civilian formula. All the people between the Jordan and the sea have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that there will be only one state between the Jordan and the sea – neither ours nor theirs but a mutual one. It is likely to be a country with nationalist, racist and religious discrimination and one that is patently not democratic, like the one that exists today. But it could be something entirely different. An entity with a common basis for at least three players: an ideological right that is prepared to examine its feasibility; a left, part of which is starting to free itself of the illusions of “Jewish and democratic”; and a not inconsiderable part of the Palestinian intelligentsia. The conceptual framework will be agreed upon – a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens. The practicable substance could be fertile ground for arguments and creativity. This is an opportunity worth taking, despite our grand experience of missing every opportunity and accusing everyone else except ourselves./

    I think this whole thing is breaking loose and the wheels are falling off Apartheid as even the US is now ‘speaking to Lapid’ and others and looking for ‘SOME OTHER ISRAEL’ than that of Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Bennett. Whomever is willing to take Israel thru the De-Apartheidization process is probably the ONLY one Obama and Kerry want to talk to these days. Netanyahu is not only damaged goods, he’s toxic goods now

    I’m not sure I agree with you Richard regarding the italized passage (see below) you quoted that we are trying to parse:
    “* The right of return of the Palestinians is an integral part of UN Resolution 194. The implementation of this resolution shall take into account the existing reality. The moral and political injustice of dispossessing the Palestinians in the past shall not be remedied by creating new injustices”

    I read this a little differently – I think it is inevitable (though beyond most Israeli imagination, but perhaps not Burgs) that Palestinian Refugees are either going to return to the Whole One State or not – if 700K illegal settlers are staying on the WB then for darn sure the Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian camps should return to their REAL HOMES and villages – and have them rebuilt anew (or as close as practicable) to the old sites. What’s good for the Jewish goose is good for the Palestinian gander

    Italicized passage:
    ‘Reading a bit between the lines, I think Burg is articulating a bi-national state in which Jews live in Israel and Palestinians live in Palestine, but who have some form of joint governance at least in certain spheres. In this bi-national state, Palestinians would be able to exercise the Right of Return, but only to Palestine’

    ===

    A previous Knesset Speaker, Burg for some time now has come out for the ‘One State/Binational State’. I think he’s HAD it and is really serious, a REAL 1P1V1S instead of the usual cynical Israeli machinations. I think the US is making a move on Israel ‘for it’s own good’ – talking to Lapid and probably anyone else OTHER than Netanyahu – and Burg’s ‘thank you’ to Schultz is a tacit admission THAT ISRAEL WAS POLITICALLY UNABLE TO DO THIS THEMSELVES

    • bluto February 15, 2014, 6:01 AM

      Noam Sheif from 972 Magazine (I just quoted him quoting Burg’s ‘One State’ position in 2011, above) has another piece up on 972 from yesterday Feb 13th 2014. Here is passionately addressing EU Pres Martin Shulz’s remarks to the Knesset:

      ‘When-reality-becomes-hate-speech – president-of-eu-parliament-visits-israel’

      http://972mag.com/when-reality-becomes-hate-speech-president-of-eu-parliament-visits-israel/87169/

      ‘Can anyone argue that Palestinians and Israelis in the same territory are not subject to separate legal systems? That in the same Hebron neighborhood, one person lives under civilian law while the other is subject to a military regime? Can anyone really argue that Palestinians do not have the right to vote while Israelis do? Can anyone argue that Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza enjoy freedom to travel, domestically and abroad? Can anybody argue that this hasn’t been going on for almost half a century, which is as “permanent” a situation as there is in modern history?

      Obviously, nobody can. So just referencing these facts makes one a target. The words one uses to describe the situation become the object of debate instead of the situation itself. Every time I refer to the apartheid regime in the Occupied Territories as apartheid, the foundations that support this website get a report from a well-funded Jerusalem-based organization named NGO Monitor, calling on them to cut ties with +972 Magazine. NGO Monitor and its likes will never debate the facts on the ground – the occupation itself – but only references to it, because there is really nothing to debate here. It is reality that is biased, so references to reality must be punished.’

      The only reason this strategy is somewhat successful is due to the imbalance of power between Israel, the governments that support it, its lobbying organizations and its advocacy arms, and the Palestinians. In fact, the threshold for debating facts in the American media is so high that every piece referring to the reality on the ground is celebrated like a miracle of biblical scale, circulated on email and shared on social media. (“Would you believe it? NBC showed the Wall! Times are-a-changin’!”) In certain places, and certainly in Jewish forums, just inviting a Palestinian speaker becomes a revolutionary act that needs to be debated, fought over, and finally balanced with some paid government envoy from Jerusalem to provide “context,” i.e., explain that the occupation is somehow the Palestinians’ fault’
      ===

      I think Burg really gets it – that what is needed is NOT just another iteration of the permanent Israeli con job over the single Eretz Israel issue that is really dispositive – that being at all costs to prevent the Palestinian return. I think Burg is ‘over that’ and if that’s the case there is an ‘open daylight’ hole in the wall to end the whole thing ‘here and now’ – in other words, to think the unthinkable and GIVE UP SCREWING THE PALESTINIANS OVER

      Certainly there are also the ‘Faux One Staters’ like many of the ‘One State Settlers’ or Likud’s Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who are simply trying to find a ‘Faux One State Solution’ that somehow PRESERVES Israeli Apartheid’, in other words to somehow formalize the ‘Israeli Apartheid One State’ – but that is a whole different kettle of fish than what Burg’s after, IMO.

      Israel with TRUE Palestinian Right of Return is a whole different world and we won’t be in Kansas any more

  • Dorothy Naor February 15, 2014, 4:24 AM

    Hi Richard,
    You might be right in your interpretation of what Burg means by the ROR. But I read it differently. I think that what he is saying is that Israelis will not be forced from their homes. This presents a problem, but not such a gross one. There is still plenty of room within today’s Israel proper for new communities, and room for new homes in existing communities. That is to say, ones that would become mixed communities when the ROR is brought to fulfillment. I hope that I am right, but perhaps you are. Maybe we should request Burg to expand and explain.
    All the best,
    Dorothy

    • bluto February 15, 2014, 4:44 AM

      ‘I hope that I am right, but perhaps you are. Maybe we should request Burg to expand and explain’

      What a BRILLIANT idea – would Mr Burg perhaps grant Mr Silverstein an interview for Tikun Olam?

      …………….—– ROCK AND ROLL!!!! —-

      • brenda February 15, 2014, 12:14 PM

        yes! I would adore to see an interview with Avraham Burg on Tikun Olam

    • Peter Lake February 15, 2014, 10:51 AM

      That’s the way I read it, Dorothy. (I guess this is why we need lawyers to draught legislation!)

  • Peter Belmont February 15, 2014, 7:04 AM

    “The moral and political injustice of dispossessing the Palestinians in the past shall not be remedied by creating new injustices. ”

    I agree that this (the italicized part above) cannot be interpreted at all, but nevertheless appears to seek to conflict with all the rest. The rest, is essentially consistent with the goals of BDS. This is not. On the whole I like it.

    Maybe he sees some outcome like today’s South Africa withg a Palestinian majority but Israeli-Jews in economic driver’s seat. I’m sure that the majority of the people of Gaza would like to be able to return to their country (before 1948) where they could at least hope to have equal access (with Israeli Jews) to fresh potable water. To say nothing of an end to all other elements of the long siege/blockade.

    Maybe to motivate this “future”, Burg should join Kerry in warning of boycotts, sanctions, blockades, etc. My principle is ALWAYS to remind Israeli-Jews of how they have been consistently mistreating others. Hence “blockade” as a boogie man to threaten Israel with, whether likely or not.

  • Peter Lake February 15, 2014, 10:48 AM

    The OpEd was wonderful.
    The italicized text would likely be OK with some of my Palestinian friends, who freely acknowledge that there are Jewish Israelis who, like them, know no other home.
    Thanks for sharing this.

  • dov Koala February 15, 2014, 11:14 AM

    I have just one simple question: What makes you think that what didn’t work 70-100 years ago, will work now and we won’t have one big blood bath (state) solution?

    • Richard Silverstein February 15, 2014, 6:31 PM

      A one-state solution was tried 70-100 years ago? Did I miss something in history? As for a ‘blood bath,’ what do you call the current situation with 7,000 Palestinians killed in the past 13 yrs? Oh, that’s right, “only” 1,000 Israelis killed during this period. That’s acceptable collateral damage, I suppose.

      • ben February 15, 2014, 9:49 PM

        or in an other way of looking at it its 8k people killed in the past 13 years. All human loss its terrible and one life cannot be measured against another. According the the FBI 14k people were murdered in the United States alone in 2011… Collateral damage, I suppose.

        • Richard Silverstein February 16, 2014, 2:59 AM

          @ ben: Are you comparing 7,000 people killed in I-P political violence involving major violations of international law to 14,000 people killed in U.S. domestic violence? Are you comparing Israel-Palestine with 12-million people to the U.S. with 320-million?

          • ben February 16, 2014, 10:50 AM

            No I am just saying loss of life is terrible. All murders are violations of law be it local or international. I think its wrong when we compare numbers Its easy for anyone to use them in a way to make the other side look bad. Case in point 7k vs. 1k. and how people say well this is not equitable.

      • dov Koala February 16, 2014, 3:43 AM

        “A one-state solution was tried 70-100 years ago?”
        -No, but Jews and Arabs shared the land, without one side governing the other and it didn’t get along so well. What will be different now?

        “Oh, that’s right, “only” 1,000 Israelis killed during this period”
        -Always amazed by this statement. I’m sorry we don’t die more, even though there are some who do their best, so it would be more “fair” to you humanitarians.

        Bloodbath, is what’s happening now in Syria, Iraq and some part of Africa, and it seems no one in west cares, so why would anyone care if it would happen here?

        • Richard Silverstein February 16, 2014, 2:30 PM

          @ dov koala: Jews and Arabs were colonized by Britain in the Mandate. They did not live together in a state of their own making. I am not saying one-state would be a simple or easy or tension free enterprise. I am saying that the Israeli political class (both right wing & centrist) & voters who elected them, have made 2 states impossible. So there’s virtually no choice left but one state or a bi-national state of some sort.

          I’m sorry we don’t die more

          That’s a ridiculous, insulting & offensive statement since I clearly intended that figure to point out that the current situation is just as much a “bloodbath” as any projected one state solution would be. Unless you are acting in bad faith (entirely possible) you would understand that both 6,000 dead Paleastinians and 1,000 dead Israelis are a bloodbath and unacceptable. When I say you’ve offended me, take it very seriously. Either improve your reading comprehension, articulate your thoughts more carefully, or accept the consequences as far as your future contributions here are concerned.

          As for blood in other parts of the world, that is off-topic. Read the comment rules and stay on topic.

  • brenda February 15, 2014, 12:28 PM

    delightful coincidence for me, Burg writing about the Martin Schulz fluff-up. I’m presently reading Burg’s 2008 book, The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes. I have a terrific NYT review to share:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/20/world/middleeast/20burg.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    “His father, Yosef Burg, barely escaped the Nazis when he left Germany in September 1939 and was a government minister for nearly four decades. His mother was a survivor of the Arab massacre of Jews in Hebron in 1929.”

    “Tom Segev, for example, a left-wing historian and Haaretz columnist, said in a review that the book was “one of the most spaced-out and in-your-face books this country has seen in many years.”

    “WHAT are Mr. Burg’s prescriptions? He wants a new Jewish identity focused not on the particular but on the universal, asserting that “if we do not establish modern Israeli identity on foundations of optimism, faith in humans and full trust in the family of nations, we have no chance of existing.” He wants Israel to dismantle the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and replace it with the headquarters for the International Criminal Court, making it the epicenter of international prevention of genocide. ”

    I think Burg is a true radical. Cut from the same cloth as Israel Shahak. Whatever your reservations on the Ha’aretz piece, Richard, are unlikely to be realized. By all means, interview the man and ask some pointed questions, then let us know what he says. He did speak recently to a Hillel group in the US, although in a student dormitory as the Hillel foundation refused to let him share a platform with a Palestinian speaker as planned.

  • Dave Terry February 15, 2014, 6:20 PM

    “The collective rights of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians – linguistic, cultural, religious and political – shall be ensured in every political setting.”

    As long as this “group-think” mentality prevails in both the Jewish and Palestinian quarters, any kind of meaningful peace and progress will be impossible.

  • Oui February 16, 2014, 1:56 AM

    Yr request on twitter:
    Avrum Burg, co-founder of Molad [press kit speakers forum – download pdf]

    From a bit of research, Molad’s governance includes a Public Council chaired by a former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg. Per WaybackMachineArchive of Sept. 9, 2013 – Avrum Burg was listed as Senior Fellow and Advisor. Today there is no mention of him on the Molad website. Originally Molad received funding from the Anna Lindh Foundation and Democratic party in the US. Today, the Anna Lindh Foundation has no mention of Molad.

Leave a Comment