Dr. Ghada Karmi’s latest book Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine opens with the problem European Zionists faced over a century ago when they first mooted the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine. They found then that there was already a well-established Palestinian society existing in the land they wished to claim as their own. Hence the message sent back to Vienna by the two rabbis who made the discovery: “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.”
It is the essence of “Israel’s dilemma”: how to effect the disappearance of the ever-present Palestinians so that a purely Jewish state can exist on Palestinian land? The Zionist program of ethnic cleansing that has been going on since Israel’s creation has not solved the problem. Neither has the living hell of occupation.
Essentially, Karmi says that Israel should never have been created in Palestine, but she does not suggest that present-day Israelis must be removed. Instead, she argues that a single state for two peoples offers much more hope for peace than a state based on Jewish exclusivity next to a truncated and utterly unviable proposed Palestinian state under Israel’s vice-like control.
Karmi’s book is controversial, particularly since the West is still talking about a two-state solution that totally ignores the realities on the ground. Pointing out that all peace efforts have so far come to nothing, and the two-state solution is now impossible, Karmi argues that the one-state alternative may be the only chance of resolving the conflict. Other solutions raised recently, such as federation with Egypt and Jordan, will further divide the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza and will only lead to more conflict.
Karmi skillfully guides the reader through the political contortions and cruelties that have time and again failed to bring peace to both peoples. She is one of very few writers who have managed to untangle the mess of hypocritical and devious maneuverings enough for the reader to grasp the unfairness and tragedy of the Palestinian predicament. Instead of Oslo being the catalyst for change, the book shows how those hopeful but flawed beginnings quickly deteriorated as Israel continued to balk at reaching a fair settlement. One has only to look at Israel’s land expropriations and the illegal expansion of Jewish settlements deep inside Palestinian territory that went on throughout all the peace talks and continues even now.
The extraordinary nature of “Zionist machinating and Jewish sentiment” to preserve the state of Israel is formidable, but all the same, Israel could not have survived without Western support. This raises the question, why does Israel receive such absolute support, particularly from the United States? The book provides some of the answers, showing just how the Israel lobby has managed to influence both houses of the US Congress and how Christian Zionism has also been a powerful factor in US decision-making. It is doubtful though that the ideological hope of preserving Israel for the return of the Messiah is more influential than the imperialist agenda. Regardless, says Karmi, maintaining Israel’s existence without justice for the Palestinians will only lead to further instability and increasing violence between the two sides, which in turn has serious implications for world peace.
This brings us back to Israel’s dilemma — what to do with some 5 million Palestinians? If it is not to be a democratic state for all Muslim, Christian and Jewish citizens, then Israel’s solution can only be expulsion and genocide. Alternatively, says Karmi, all efforts should go into reversing the damage that Zionism has wrought, not just since 1967 as the two-state solution implies, but back to 1948 when Israel was created. The reader will find it difficult to ignore the appeal of her argument in light of the harsh reality to which the last six decades have led us — from the first realization that “the bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man” to the reckless decision to take the “bride” regardless, and the devastating consequences that have followed.
Ultimately, Zionism needs to change because it was always unworkable. The solution Karmi proposes shows remarkable magnanimity considering the terrible human cost of Israel’s venture. Her vision is to bring Palestinians and the now-established Israeli Jewish community together in one state so that justice can be served for both sides. The challenge, she says, is to change the current paradigm of thinking that has now become so entrenched in political discourse, yet for which there is no future at all. Karmi’s book allows the reader to look beyond the grim predictions and to see a solution that may be the only way for peace and justice to ever prevail in this troubled land.
Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia.