Two Citizenships for Two Peoples

Donatella Di Cesare
Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University “La Sapienza” of Rome

The formula «two Peoples, two States», which still recurs here and there, on the lips of some moderate, has never seemed so worn, almost stale, as in recent days. And indeed, it has been so already for some time. In the best case, the user seems to want to express, despite everything, a glimmer of optimism; in the worst case, it uses a safe way out to circumvent a complex issue that is difficult to analyse. And then – you know – we live in an era in which there is no time, nor desire, to get to know the positions of others, and it is easier to hate them. Hence the flourishing of fanatic supporters, on social networks and in the streets, the waving of flags, the absence of dialogue. Everywhere in the world, and in our country too. Not without paradoxes: those on the left blunder to defend Hamas, while the star of David appears behind representatives of the institutional right conniving with neo-fascism.

Little margin now, almost none, for those who try to argue, ending up between two fires. For Israel and Palestine, the hypothesis of the two States has always seemed remote, difficult to implement. A few decades ago it seemed within reach. The Palestinian leadership is to blame for not having seized that opportunity. Would it really have been the solution? Maybe yes, but maybe not. Anyone who knows that context knows that there are two peoples forced to live together. The intertwining is now inextricable. This is why a second State is no longer conceivable today. Thus, what's the point of continuing to talk about it? Undoubtedly it has tragic implications: those that appear in the news these days. The novelty is Lod, or «the third front». The conflict is penetrating into the country, hostility is also rampant in cities such as Haifa, taken as an example of cohabitation, and in the most remote villages. The fronts multiply and the spectre of civil war is materializing. There have always been tensions, but the explosion of violence on the street, perpetrated by both sides, leaves us puzzled. There is no shortage of good fomenters.

Those who believe in peace have more than one reason to despair. Especially if we move forward with the old political categories of the past. First of all that of «State», which perhaps in that context was always a stretch. Those philosophers – from Martin Buber to Hannah Arendt to Emmanuel Levinas – were right to pose the problem very early on. As it is often the case, they went unheard. Certainly, the idea of a bi-national State, as it was hypothesised at the time, is not practicable. And yet, that very path, which they indicated, still remains open despite the tragic scenario. Where the danger is greatest, the possibility of redemption emerges. And this consists in fluidizing the State and above all in thinking of new open forms of citizenship with equal rights. The key word is «citizenship», no longer the State. This also applies, among other things, to different contexts in the world, where cohabitation is forced and State-related categories become only an obstacle. The new political philosophy deals with this. These are not theories for naïve idealists, but, on the contrary, are very concrete and effective ways to solve otherwise unresolved conflicts.

For post-Netanyahu Israel, where the belligerent right will hopefully have less space, the motto must be «citizenship», even beyond «nation», «stock», etc. It can't be difficult, just because of the great Jewish tradition of hospitality. And let it be said, by the way: those who today accuse Israel of «apartheid», more or less openly, are the same Europeans whose nation-States still have citizenship laws based on blood and soil. Let us not speak, therefore, of the European guilt for the holocaust; we are talking about today's events, of Italy that does not grant citizenship to the children of immigrants.


This article was originally published on La Stampa, on 16 May 2021

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