[Note: Mukoma Wa Ngugi’s ZNet article, “Africa and the Middle East”, was published in Kenya’s Daily Nation, where Israel’s ambassador to Kenya replied. We republish Mukoma’s response to the ambassador here.]
In response to my commentary â€œViolence without Borders â€ (Kenyaâ€™s Daily Nation, 01/4/07) the Israeli Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Emmanuel Seri, states that â€œIsrael is unwilling to waive one thing â€“ its right to exist. In that respect, the idea of a bi-national state is simply unacceptable: Israel is a Jewish state, clear and simple. Any attempt to eradicate Israelâ€™s Jewish identity is a disguised effort to bring about Israelâ€™s annihilation, and to that, Israel shall never agree.â€
And I couldnâ€™t disagree more. A one state solution, in which Jews and Arabs live together, does not mean the annihilation of Jewish identity. To speak of two peoples as sharing common destiny does not mean erasure of identity. Take the example of the ANC, which from its formation in 1912 understood that the destinies of the black people and the oppressing whites were one. And the future South Africa would belong to all regardless to race.
It is true South Africa today has many tragic flaws, but to its credit, the ANC understood that separatism was the problem and not the solution.
We have to bravely stare at a present that follows the logic of separatism and consider the counter-intuitive erasure of boundaries. The enemy is not difference but how difference is used to allocate resources between and amongst people. Practically all the wars on the world stage today are being waged over control and distribution of resources not identity.
And a state that does not accord privilege based on oneâ€™s race or ethnicity becomes the best arbitrator between people who have different identities. As Thomas Sankara once said, â€œwe have to dare invent the future.â€
Who is the victim and who is the perpetrator? One only needs to look at who is doing the suffering and the dying, and who is stateless. In the case of the Middle East, it is the Palestinians. We have to stop â€œblaming the victim.â€
On Hamas and Hezbollah, it is best that we remember Nelson Mandela was once considered a terrorist, as were the Mau Mau by the British. We have to reject these blanket designations of terror, terrorist and War on Terror. No matter what one thinks of them, Hamas was democratically elected and Hezbollah receives vast support from its constituents. The logic of overthrowing popularly and democratically elected governments that we do not like only fuels the cycle of violence. Once we begin, where do we stop? Venezuela? Bolivia?
To understand what is happening in the Middle East, let us look at Rwanda. An estimated 1,000, 000 Tutsis lost their lives during the 1994 genocide. Yet we can never stand aside and let the Tutsis wantonly oppress the Hutus. And indeed we must stand opposed to Kagameâ€™s military misadventures in the Congo that have cost countless lives. We must oppose the victim who becomes the oppressor even as we empathize.
Mr. Seri also writes that â€œI was mostly enraged by the articleâ€™s abominable and ignorant comparison of the situation in Israel and the Palestinians to â€˜apartheidâ€™ and even Nazi Germany.â€ The comparison of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians to apartheid is not mine. People like Desmond Tutu and former US President Jimmy Carter, both winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, have called it apartheid. Nelson Mandela, also a Nobel Peace winner, accused Israel of creating Bantustans for the Palestinians.
I will leave them the task of defending their choice of words and say that I believe Israel has a right to exist but so do the Palestinians (as Mohamed Hassan writes in â€œHow About Palestine’s Right to Existâ€ in response to Ambassador Seri, Daily Nation, 01/15/07). Yet, I do not believe that a one state solution annihilates Jewish identity. This is in the same way that I do not believe black identity is being annihilated in a South Africa of many races; or that the Luo identity is being annihilated in a Kenya of 42 ethnicities.
I am vehemently opposed to anti-Semitism and equally opposed to Zionist racism. Yet I believe in our human capacity to overcome hate while preserving identity, and all that which makes us beautiful.
I believe that exploring a one state solution will in the long run safeguard future generations from a cycle of violence fuelled by Palestinian blood. And it would provide an example for other countries in and outside of the Middle East to follow.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi is the author of Hurling Words at Consciousness. Please note that a version of the article â€œViolence without Bordersâ€ appeared in Znet as â€œAfrica and the Middle Eastâ€, (12/12/06) and the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine as â€œAfrica Offers Hopeâ€ (Oct-Dec, 2006).