The children of Abraham – a time to live together

So much has been said and written about the Palestinian/Israeli story from both narratives that the core issue has been mired and clouded in narratives, and analysts are beginning to conclude that a peaceful solution on the principle of two states for two peoples, the mantra for so long, is no longer a viable option.

Increasingly, the South African scenario is coming to the fore, namely one state for all and the call for equal and human rights for everyone living within that state; which the State of Israel will not accept, because it threatens its Jewish character, demographically speaking. On the other hand, the Israeli settlements continue to grow in the West Bank and a contiguous Palestinian state is also no longer possible, as removing the hundreds of thousands of messianic settlers would be an impossible task to accomplish.

A wry Palestinian commentator once aptly summed it: “How can we negotiate the sharing of a pizza, when Israel is holding onto it as well as busy eating the part that we should be talking about sharing?”

My own views about this story have changed during my two decades living here. Firstly, in 2003 at the backend of the Second Intifada (Palestinian Uprising), as South Africa’s representative/ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, I had a ring-side seat, albeit on the Palestinian side of the story and perceived it thus – the lessons of history have taught us that no oppressed peoples have won their freedom and their right to live like human beings by pleading subserviently with their colonial masters: not in India and most definitely not in South Africa.

Here are the facts: Palestinians are human beings; they have fundamental rights, the right to self-determination, the right to dignity, the right to live in security, free of occupation, violence and oppression. A Palestinian State is their right, not a privilege to be bestowed upon them through the generosity of the occupier. Palestinian refugees have an inalienable, individual right to return to their homeland. This right is not a collective chip to be bargained or granted at some negotiating table by those yearning for Israel’s acceptance and inclusion. In the final analysis – it is the Israeli occupation and its denial of Palestinian existence and humanity, not the desire of Palestinians to exercise their inalienable rights, which remain the obstacle to peace.

In 2006, I returned to make the transition from being the South African representative/ambassador to the Palestinian National Authority, a VIP, where I would visit, inform and protest on what was happening to Palestinians only, to enter the ring and become the host of the sole political talk show, on 93.6 RAM FM, a radio station modelled on Radio 702 in South Africa, that provided a platform for both Palestinians and Israelis to be entertained, informed and to talk in a neutral language – English. It was then time for me to suspend my own perceptions, engage Israeli society and understand its fears and problems in order to have a comprehensive picture of the story. Hosting issues that divided as well as united both sides, I learned eventually that no one wants to hear the truth. As Frantz Fanon aptly said: “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

In early 2009, the radio station that sought to build bridges between Semitic cousins at a time when walls of separation were being constructed, saw its untimely demise. Now, being detached from the story, my view is that although the relationship between language and reality has been an ongoing philosophical debate, and to this the Buddhist Nagarjuna contended that reality is constructed by language, and not language imitating reality as some may profess, all of which bear on the Israeli/Palestinian story – in essence, narratives deploy words to construct/deconstruct events, depending on which side of the story one stands, and these words then articulate respective realities and truths, aptly manifested by the voluminous reporting that continues to cloud the core issues. The two-state solution – stillborn and flogged to death – expired ages ago. For the Palestinian leadership the delusion of a state on ’67 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital and return of Palestinian refugees has always been met with Israel’s denial and parroting of some kind of token acceptance, while gobbling up more and more of Palestinian land. Narratives from the Holocaust, Biblical Title Deed, Balfour Declaration, UN Partition Plan, Nakba, ’67 War, First & Second intifadas, and the Occupation may be argued and counterargued forever – depending on which side of the issue one stands or supports. But – the question of Palestine/Israel remains unresolved after 75 years. So, what is the way forward? Israel cannot be wiped off the map, and Palestinians can’t be made to disappear. Children of Abraham – both Palestinians and Israelis – have to finally accept, they may be of different mothers, but their father unites and binds them to the Holy Land. They both belong here and have the right to be here. That is their inalienable right. That is the only way forward – everything else is just stalling the inevitable. Last word – from the cradle to the grave, we are all captives of our own identities, living in prisons of our own creation.

Rafique Gangat, author of Music Has No Boundaries. His homepage is

Former South African Ambassador - Management Consultant (Communication & Media) and Author/Columnist. author of Music Has No Boundaries.

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