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For some time, this column has been drawing attention to the similarity between what is taking place in Guyana and in Israel as it relates to governance. The moral historical justification for the Jewish people wanting their own state, the complications that have arisen from the process of their obtaining one, differences in the level of violence, etc., should not detract from the fact that over some 70 years, there has been a prolonged political struggle for power between two large ethnic/racial groups for the same geographical location. On the democratic continuum, a two-state solution was and still is generally accepted as being the basis of a means of resolving the case of Israel and the Palestinians. Although among the citizens on both sides, support for the two-state solution has diminished significantly, 77% of experts polled in 2021 believed it is either that or a ‘one-state reality akin to apartheid’ (‘Two-state solution’, Wikipedia).
A moral conundrum usually appears when downtrodden people rebel and perceived excessive force is used to try and remove the inhuman conditions under which they are kept. The Hamas invasion of Israel was a merciless operation that has, and as the Israeli government proceeds with its unmeasured reprisals will continue to lead, to the loss of thousands of lives and untold hardship. Thirty-three Harvard University student groups in a letter sought to put the attack in its context. ‘Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum … The apartheid regime is the only one to blame. Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinians existence for 75 years.’ The school president’s criticism of the students speaks to the conundrum and provides additional food for thought. ‘The silence from Harvard’s leadership, so far, coupled with a vocal and widely reported student group’s statement blaming Israel solely, has allowed Harvard to appear at best neutral towards acts of terror against the Jewish state of Israel’ (www. growing+backlash+over+Harvard+students).
A Stabroek News editorial (www.stabroeknews.com/2023/10/13/opinion/editorial/israel-and-gaza/). claimed that Israel is a ‘democratic’ state and now we hear from a learned and credible source that it is a Jewish state. These concepts have significant practical expressions. In 2018, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government passed a controversial law that declared that ‘the right to exercise national self-determination [is] unique to the Jewish people’, made Hebrew Israel’s official language, and downgraded Arabic to some kind of special status, and designated Jewish settlements as a national value ‘that the state will labor to encourage and promote their establishment and development.’ While Netanyahu was lauding this law as a defining moment in the history of the state’ the Arab members of parliament ripped up copies of the bill with shouts of ‘apartheid’ and referred to the law as a law of Jewish supremacy that told us that we will always be second-class citizens’.
As for Israel being a ‘democratic’ state Professor Sammy Smootha of the University of Haifa, Israel in a paper ‘The model of ethnic democracy: Israel as a Jewish and democratic state’ suggested that Israel is a special kind of democracy – an ‘ethnic democracy’. Netanyahu and his ilk have a one-state solution wherein Jews are allowed to grab Palestinian lands, expand illegal settlements, ride roughshod over Muslim sensibilities regarding the sacred sites, etc. ‘The future of the Palestinians lies in their accommodating themselves within Jewish rule and as trust is built they will all live happily together. Since the Palestinians have no intention of doing so their resistance and its consequences will continue interminably.’ (‘Towards a non-democracy,’ Future Notes: SN: 15/07/2020)!
The hypocrisy associated with the political process is at times quite alarming. In Guyana, from its inception shared governance was placed on the table, was rejected and today the logical political outcome of Guyana’s ethnic configurations, namely autocracy rules the day and the conflict continues. The PPP offers a similar future that its opponents have also justifiably labeled apartheid: it will do what it takes to stay in the government until trust between the ethnic groups develops and all Guyanese can live happily together. Yet, even before the 7th October operation by Hamas against Israel, in his presentation to the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 20, President Irfaan Ali, who continues to exacerbate his own ethnic conflict in Guyana not only by refusing to share government but by attempting to solve the difficulties that result from such a blanket rejection by impoverishing and deliberately undermining Africans organizations, was reminding his audience of Guyana’s longstanding solidarity with the Palestinian people and support for the dignified existence in their homeland in accordance with the two-states solution!
In ethnic situations such as Israel and Guyana, when democratic political solutions are not available persistent subterfuge, repression, and conflict are the ultimate responses. As it was planning the current invasion, Hamas feigned compliance with the status quo, giving the impression that it was becoming more like a normal government not any longer interested in armed resistance. The vaunted Israeli military and security apparatuses were caught off-guard, and Netanyahu must now resort to threats of Sodom and Gomorrah to try and save his presidency.
This is not unlike what has occurred in Guyana where, by the 2011 national and regional elections, largely because of the electoral strategy adopted by the People’s National Congress (PNC), its leadership appeared irreparably compromised and weak, and the PPP, having convinced itself and many others that it was invincible, trotted around Guyana as if its goal of ethnic/political dominance had already been accomplished.
The 2006 elections were the last elections the PPP won but regime change, that removed the previous Coalition government from office came to its aid. Installed in government in 2020, the PPP is back attempting to deliver ‘fire and brimstone.’