Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi is a Palestinian who was born in Jerusalem and currently lives in East Jerusalem. He previously worked as Chief Technical Advisor for the United Nations Development Programme in Public Administration, as professor of political science and founding director of the American Studies Graduate program and General Director of Libraries at al-Quds University in Jerusalem. In 2007 he became founder of the Wasatia movement which aims to promote moderation, understanding, tolerance, coexistence, and interfaith dialogue as a pathway to reconciliation in midst of strife. Between 2015 – 2017, he worked as an inaugural Weston Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He gained international recognition for his extensive record in helping to raise awareness concerning the Holocaust. In March 2014, he became the center of a controversy when he led a group of 27 Palestinian students to the Nazi death concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland. The public outcry led to his resignation from his posts at the university. He is currently the founding director of the Wasatia Academic Institute which aims at establishing an interdisciplinary doctorate program for Palestinian students on the topics of reconciliation, moderation, and ethics.
I don’t believe in borders. I believe what we need to do is to have symbolic borders that are permeable. No barbed wires and checkpoints. It should be like in Europe, like the status between Germany and France. We are now living in a globalized world where borders are starting to have less and less value. To cross from one side to the other should not be that bad. It should be like before 1993 where people can intermingle with each other. Permeable borders can be easily balanced with security since when you take the conflict out of the equation, it will become more like between France and Germany.
There should be symbolic borders based off of 1967 with mutually agreed upon “land swaps,” but more with an open border. It is not about the idea of land swaps though. We agreed upon ‘67 borders with annexation of certain lands by Israel or by Palestine, but not swapping. We need to look at it more like what is, so that it will not be bartering. Once you establish peace, what is more important are the people living on the land, and how to take care of them and deal with them. In this sense when you are talking about 1993 Oslo Accords, we don’t need to fight over meters here or meters there or to say this is where borders can be assigned and people can live there.
The settlements started after 1967 and then for a long period they were not widely spread. During the 1993 Oslo Accords, Palestinians recognized Israel within the 1967 borders and Israel recognized the Palestinian entity outside the 1967 borders. It was said there would be negotiations to finalize the status of some issues. The Oslo Accords would deal with those settlements from before 1993 and what should be done with them (annexation, special status, which should be dismantled, which should remain). I think that before Oslo, the Israelis began negotiations regarding the big settlements (Ma’ale Adumim, etc.) and whether they should become part of Israel. During 2000 when Arafat went to Camp David, in his mind, the settlements were talked about as illegal according to international law and the Oslo Accords (which were signed by Israel), because the settlements after 1993 were built on confiscated Palestinian land and encroached within the borders of what was supposed to be the state of Palestine. There have been settlements built and the PA and Palestinians make it a condition that they can’t negotiate until Israel stops settlement expansion at their expense, since it takes away land of the future Palestine.
There has to be negotiations on how to deal with settlements because within the establishment of the State of Palestine, the settlements will come up in any peace negotiations. I think there will be settlements that will be dismantled (Gaza and Sinai), settlements that could remain under Palestinian authority, and settlements that could be allocated under Israeli authority. It depends where the settlement is and what kind of settlement it is. But, it can’t be de facto. Israel can’t say they are built and you have to recognize them. That is not justice and that is not Israeli law, let alone international law. I believe that it can work and it it something that can be dealt with.
There are Palestinians in Israel so there can be Jews in Palestine. I am not against a multicultural society in Palestine. The Jews can have double nationality or keep their nationality, but Palestinian sovereignty will be over the settlements. The state law will apply to everyone and there can be a religious court such as that under the British Mandate before 1948. There were Christian, Muslim, and Jewish judges for their respective cases and they would also make decisions together. I think we can apply the same idea. I think that Palestinian law should be synchronized with Israeli law so both will apply (secular law) to both areas. For instance, if Israel does not have capital punishment, neither should Palestine. And vice versa. Essentially so punishment here is the same as there, especially for criminals.
I believe that the state of Palestine should be demilitarized and should not have an army. It would be like the status of Germany and Japan after World War II and like Costa Rica today. I believe that we should channel the funds for military equipment to state development (education, social development, social security, and to help build the country rather than to help build the military). Maybe we have an international agreement regarding the national security, because if we are invaded from outside, there should be some international agreement regarding this. Within this state, we shouldn’t need an army. International presence or Israeli presence (in the Jordan valley) should not be a problem because that is meant for the security not only of Israel, but also of Palestine, since there could be infiltration from the outside like what is happening in Syria, Iraq, etc. Also, we can use Israeli expertise, technology, weaponry, and military advancement to provide security for both Israel and Palestine.
If you look around (at a café on Tel Aviv beach) you see people walking around, walking on the beach. People in the West Bank don’t have this opportunity to just walk around and travel around. How many Israelis traveled abroad this holiday? How many Palestinians would travel? There is a psychological and physical siege in Gaza and the West Bank regarding movement. This leads to despair, frustration, and hatred. It also leads to poverty and lack of free trade to get goods in and goods out. I think the occupation is part of the problem. And it is the elephant in the room that we can’t ignore. Thus, I feel the Palestinians should be rid of the occupation and have the right to move around. There should also be a connection to Gaza and the sea. And we should be able to fly out and travel to Jordan. That’s why I think there should be a special status between the State of Palestine and Jordan where there will be a confederacy between the two with movement that is much easier.
Control over security in Palestine can involve Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian coordination (as well as Egyptian with Gaza) to allow for a much more open border between these countries.
To look at the future of Jerusalem, you have to address the past. Jerusalem was one city during the mandate period. In 1947, the partition plan decided that Jerusalem should become an international city with international status (“corpus separatum”). One part would be Arab and one part would be Jewish, with a similar division of Palestine—one part Jewish and one part Arab. As a result of the 1948 war, Jerusalem fell partly under Israel (West Jerusalem) and partly under Jordan (East Jerusalem and the Old City). However, since neither had sovereignty over these two parts in the UN resolution that created Israel but did not create a Palestinian state, the status remained undecided for both. The international community did not recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or East Jerusalem as part of Jordan. Only two states recognized Jordan as sovereign over East Jerusalem. On the other side, international recognition was also not there. After 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and unified both parts. However, although Israel declared the city to be unified and later to be the capital of Israel, this was not internationally recognized. Here we have a status in which the city is occupied in both parts by Israel, but not recognized internationally as part of Israel or as its capital, nor that it is a unified city. People in the international community and under international law still see East and West Jerusalem as separate.
I think this is an opening for the solution since Israel would need international recognition to make the status of Jerusalem permanent, end the question of illegal occupation and presence, and to impose its sovereignty (which requires international recognition). When I look at Jerusalem, I see two cities in one. One city is the religious city (Old City), which has been mentioned in all holy scriptures, and, although Jerusalem is not mentioned by name in Islamic scriptures, there is a reference. The idea here is to add a special status for the Old City and its immediate surroundings. Then there are the municipal cities outside the Old City, which I believe can be the two capitals (East Jerusalem for Palestinians, and West Jerusalem for Israelis). Although personally I hope it will be more of a religious capital than a political capital…a city of peace with no political character which it has now.
I think that these religious places like Haram al-Sharif should be open to all religions and all people, and have people pray in synagogues, mosques, and churches. These places are holy because man made them holy. God is not concerned with lands and buildings and places and stones, but more with man/humans, and human spirit and behavior. So, I believe that if it is for a sincere religious wish to pray there, then yes. But, if it is for a political reason, then I don’t agree with that. Holy places are places for prayers, so if you go in to pray (no matter what religion), you can pray there and it shouldn’t be forbidden. When the second caliph, Umar ibn Al-Khattāb, came to Jerusalem and received keys from Sophronius, he was taken to the Holy Sepulchre. It was a time of prayer and Sophronius invited Umar to pray, but Umar refused, not for religious reasons, but for political ones. He thought that Muslims would convert churches into mosques. If there is peace and trust, then it shouldn’t be a problem. But with the current lack of trust, I see it as a problem. Many Muslims think Jews want to demolish the Haram and build a Temple. This fear dominates the relationship. Muslims think that they aren’t going there to pray, but to take it over.
The right of return is holy and the return is negotiable. The right of a Jew to return to Israel should be of equal value to the right of a Palestinian to return to Palestine. I don’t think it is realistic to ask that Palestinians will have the right to return to their pre 1948 lands, but they should be compensated because the UN resolution calls for either return or compensation. At the same time, we need to look at the actual numbers related to this issue. Specifically, who wants to return and where. I imagine a Palestinian in Jordan, Lebanon, or Syria would want to return, but would not want to return to be under the state of Israel because they would want to return under a sovereign state of Palestine. Also, the land that they left in 1948 is not the same land in 2017 or in 2020. So I believe that the choice to return should be the choice to return to the state of Palestine, and in this way they could be compensated and allowed to return to state of Palestine. Some of the settlements that are evacuated can be used to resettle some of the refugees, or new towns and new cities can be built to accommodate…like what happened with the building of Rawabi. To build a village and a town you are talking about whoever wants to return. I doubt that the number of returnees is as large as what has been perceived because I also believe Palestinians who are settled in Europe, the US, and Canada will not want to return. The percentage of people wanting to return for good is low. Maybe some will want to return to visit or to show where their grandparents lived, but not to uproot from where they are after 40, 50, or 60 years. Culturally speaking, it is not the same anymore, so I believe that we have to look at the human side of the issue and we should solve it from the human perspective.
There are two narratives: Israeli and Palestinian. Each can have their own narrative provided their narrative doesn’t demonize, stereotype or incite against the other. You have your way of looking at it, he has his way, she has her way, and I have mine. There doesn’t have to be shared narratives, but there should be no demonization of other narratives. Accordingly, I don’t care If Jews want to say Israel has been here for 5,000 years, or Palestinians want to say Palestine has been here for 10,000 years. It is fine, as long as it doesn’t incite.
I don’t see this as relative. Just don’t picture me as a devil, or a thief, or a terrorist because this is where a narrative crosses the line. Whether in education, or social culture, or religion, it should not be so. For instance, education shouldn’t focus on Palestinians teaching their children martyrdom against Israelis. This is inciting. Also, Israelis shouldn’t teach that Palestinians are thieves, criminals, or terrorists. In a conflict, many bad things will happen, but when there is peace, these things will be criminalized and fall under criminal law and dealt with as such. Take yesterday’s example in which a man stabbed a young British woman. This should be taken out of national context and treated as a crime. He should not be seen as a hero, and she should be seen as a victim. Instead of portraying it within a national echo, deal with it within the civil law and deal with it on that level.
When I was young, I was taught to be anti-Zionist because Zionism meant return to their homeland, and that homeland happened to be my homeland. I now see that there are two faces to Zionism. The face that I am against is the face that calls for my eradication, my transfer, and my loss. But, there also is a human side and a human face to Zionism which seeks to establish a homeland. However, that homeland should not be as much as possible at the expense of Palestinians, and should take Palestinian rights into consideration. I am for Zionism that takes me into consideration and recognizes my rights, and sees me as a human being not as someone without history or presence that should be thrown away.
Also, because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is between two conflicting narratives, the only way to resolve it is to make each side walk in the other’s shoes.
Recognition should be a building block. I cannot have reconciliation with you without recognition. That’s why I am for Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and Israel recognizing Palestine as a Palestinian state. In this way it is essential for one to recognize the other. This is whole idea of Wasatia. We have a cycle in which we call for moderation in order to usher in reconciliation and to pave the way to conflict resolution. Conflict resolution can lead to democracy, prosperity, and security. For the cycle to start and reconciliation to happen, we need minds to be more moderate.
I think that we do not need boycotts as a tool to regain our rights. What we need is more bridges and better understanding. I think BDS is copying the South African situation without understand or studying it. Palestinians, because of their lack of ability to do things or see a future, hang on to straws. And BDS is a straw. It is not in the best interest of Palestinians and it does not serve Palestinians’ interest in the sense that what we need to build is bridges with the Israeli community to empower the pro-peace camp within Israel. With the boycott, curriculum that is anti-Israel, and incitement against Israel (religious incitement as well), we are alienating Israeli society and weakening the peace camp within Israel. With this, we will never have an electorate within Israel that will vote for a party with a peace agenda. In this way we are just keeping the enmity and the conflict moving which is in the interest of radicals/extremists on both sides. I don’t believe BDS will achieve anything in the sense of trying to pressure Israel to negotiate or seek a peaceful settlement. But, it’s a democracy, and everybody has their views and the right to have their views. So I am not against their right. My objection is that they label me in a negative way in that those who are not boycotting and are for normalization are traitors and collaborators. I am giving them a democratic way to think the way they want, but not to impose their way on me or that they are the right way and I should follow them; or, that if I don’t follow them I am a non-nationalist and not patriotic. Same with the religious aspect. Hamas has a very radical interpretation of Islam which I do not believe in, so they are trying to label me as a non-believer because I don’t believe in their interpretation of the Quran, or their interpretation of Hadith from the prophet. That is part of the problem that we have internally within Palestinian society. Since we don’t have democratic culture, whether from people in power or outside, either you are with them or against them.
Even as labeling you a traitor, they are inciting the community against you. The community won’t deal with you or work with you. So that’s why I do not believe in BDS. I do not think it will achieve anything and I think it exaggerates its impact.
We need more dialogue with the other. That’s why I believe that you should not have a general boycott against Israel, or a boycott against Israeli universities. If you want to boycott anyone, target those universities that are calling for occupation or are supporting the continuation of the occupation. But don’t target those Israelis and those Universities and those Institutions who are actually your partners.
I don’t think Israel is an apartheid state and I also don’t think that labeling Israel as an apartheid state serves the Palestinian cause, because when they do that, they make the Palestinian struggle a cause of anti-discrimination and not an anti-occupation cause. In March 2017, a UN report titled “Israeli Practices toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” published by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), accused Israel of being an “apartheid state” over its treatment of Palestinians.
The authors of the report, based their definition of apartheid primarily on Article II of the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute states: “The term ‘the crime of apartheid,’ which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa, shall apply to…inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” The Apartheid Convention sets forth that the “crime of apartheid” consists of “discrete inhuman acts that acquire the status of crimes against humanity only if they intentionally serve the core purpose of racial domination.” The Rome Statute specifies in its definition the presence of an “institutionalized regime” serving the “intention of racial domination.”
The report stated, on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.” It bases its apartheid argument on the “area of policy serving the purpose of maintaining Israel as a Jewish State” such as the “land policy” and “the Israeli law conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country.” But both examples cited in the report are motivated by occupation policies rather than by apartheid.
Whether Israel is considered an “apartheid state” or not depends on the definition and meaning of the term “apartheid.” Generally speaking, it means “a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination.” Wikipedia’s definition states: “Broadly speaking, apartheid was delineated into petty apartheid, which entailed the segregation of public facilities and social events, and grand apartheid, which dictated housing and employment opportunities by race.” So, the following elements must be present for a state to be a true apartheid state: discrimination is institutionalized; the reason for discrimination is racial; public facilities and social events are segregated. But if discrimination by the state is not institutionalized, is not racial, and does not include legal segregation of public facilities and social events — as is the case with Israel—then it is not apartheid.
Those accusing Israel of being an apartheid state confuse occupation policies with apartheid. For instance, the Israeli army dismantled a Dutch-funded project on the West Bank of the Jordan River, including tools and sheds. The agricultural project, into which the Netherlands put ten million euros, involved teaching Palestinians how to use the land for growing their own crops. This is an example of occupation and repressive policy, but not apartheid. The wall Israel built is a “separation wall” rather than an “apartheid wall” — it was built to separate Palestinians and Israelis for political and security reasons in the wake of suicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians, not for the purposes of ethnic discrimination.
Similarly, Israel does not invest in Area C, where Palestinians are living under full Israeli military and civil control, but this is the nature of an occupation state. An occupier simply does not invest in an occupied area. Israel discriminates against these Palestinians not because of their ethnic origins or the color of their skin but because it covets their land.
Israel certainly has laws that are discriminatory, but such laws do not automatically make it an apartheid state. In some Jewish neighborhoods, Israelis practice housing discrimination where Arabs may not rent or buy homes, but these are de facto, not de jure, arising from social behavior. The same is practiced by Palestinians who consider such matters to be crimes punishable by death.
This is why I think that this labeling of Israel as an apartheid state does not reflect reality and it distracts from the occupation. And, I also believe it has to do with ignorance because people try to use labels that have been used from South Africa in Palestine and the nature of conflict here is totally different than it is there. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about racial separation but about military occupation. What the Palestinians are demanding is not an end to racial separation but an end to military occupation, and gaining the recognition of Palestinian rights to self-determination, independence, and statehood.