However, we believe that the meaning of justice cannot and should not be limited to formal and/or state-sanctioned legal procedures, and that there should be several decentralized mechanisms for accountability, out of which the courts (and their legal power to mete out punishment) constitute merely one. The majority of those involved in acts of violence, oppression and other forms of human rights violations should be held accountable through public hearings from the national to the local and communal level.
The purpose of the reconciliation process is twofold: redressing injustice through restitution (implemented through mechanisms determined by the transitional authority) and public acknowledgment of injury. We are convinced that a focus on truth-telling rather than crime will encourage the majority of Israeli-Jews to confront and work through Palestinian stories of loss, imprisonment and resistance as well as promote collective healing and a renewed sense of shared humanity.
Trauma and Healing
It is our belief that the unique cultural makeup of society in Palestine calls for careful planning and mobilization of available resources in any process of healing trauma. First, we acknowledge that the significance of religion in people’s lives requires that religious communities and leadership be called upon to take a role in the process. Second, we propose adapting traditional reconciliation mechanisms and practices from our own cultural contexts such as the Sulha.
In addition, we should explore the adaptation of practices from other similar contexts of decolonization, ethnic and inter-communal violence and subsequent reconciliation, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa and the Gacaca courts in Rwanda. Moreover, we deem it vital to consult with organizations and institutes with global experience in several other contexts, such as the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and the Institute for Healing of Memories in Cape Town.
Overall, the prevailing approach in our proposal is to stress the concept of Ubuntu and similar approaches from our immediate cultural spheres that favor restorative rather than retributive justice, and are based on shared experience in which “I am human because you are human.”
On an institutional level, we propose establishing government-funded trauma centers and other programs of psycho-social support targeting not just individuals but also their communal context, and seeking healing not just the lives of individuals but also the fabric of social relations. Such centers will also promote platforms for community discussions and bringing people together. This will hopefully contribute to building communities that do not dwell on memory and victimhood but are future-oriented yet commemorating survival and promoting victory over adversity. On a national level, we believe creative use of various media (such as the visual arts, theater and print media) will also promote healing and reconciliation.
Finally, it is vital to stress that the process of healing will ideally espouse not only trust among individuals and communities, but equally important, bolster faith in the process of reconciliation itself.
2. De-Zionization of Culture and Education
Our fundamental approach is that the healing of painful (individual and collective) memories does not entail imposing forgetfulness or silence, but rather encouraging the formation of life-affirming memories and commemorating struggle and survival instead of victimhood and injury. Therefore, a key aspect in the emerging culture of memory must involve decolonizing and repurposing buildings and other former sites of oppression and violence, such as prisons and ethnically cleansed locales. As these sites of memory should be meaningful to as broad as possible sections in society, they will be selected through public consultation. While some sites of commemoration will be state-funded and maintained, others will be constituted by communities, reflecting the diversity and multiplicity of memory.
Symbols and Languages
In the realm of symbols and in the spirit of the new culture of reconciliation, the transitional authority and the subsequent political structure in Palestine will institutionalize bilingualism as an official policy. Arabic and Hebrew will thus become the state’s official languages, on an equal basis.
Concomitant with the formation of this emergent culture, we propose promoting public discussion about the name of the new state, its flag and other symbolic representations. Recognizing that de-Zionizing lived and public spaces constitutes a vital aspect of creating a shared homeland, we also acknowledge the importance of remapping and renaming streets and other public spaces through public consultation where possible, aiming to make these spaces meaningful to all.
Acknowledging that the culture of reconciliation will only be sustainable through education, and moreover, that post-memory and trauma are transmitted across generations, we wish to stress the importance of overhauling and rethinking the entire state education system. The key principle guiding this reform will be the promotion of diversity and pluralism within one formal state-funded system. The new educational vision promoted by the system will endorse and celebrate processes of healing and reconciliation taking place in society at large. It is vital that education from kindergarten to university be free and accessible for all. Additionally, the medium of instruction will be at the discretion of each school; while relatively homogeneous communities may opt for either Hebrew or Arabic, others may favor a bilingual immersion approach. In any case, proficiency in both languages will be mandatory for all students, with instruction starting already in the pre-kindergarten age. Finally, special bilingual education will be provided to newcomers as well as the country’s current adult citizens.
Although neither language will be privileged in the realm of law, initially the acquisiton of Arabic will be promoted among the Jewish population in order to bring the two languages to par.
We believe that the structure and specific political formation of the new state should be determined democratically through broad public consultations and deliberations. Acknowledging that many issues will be contentious and subject to heated public debates, we tentatively set forth several guiding principles that we consider ideal. It is our hope that the new political structure created in de-Zionized Palestine will be that of a single democratic state (as opposed to the logic of ethnic separation embedded in the “two-state solution”) with clear separation of church and state. This society will ideally be demilitarized, but due to the highly speculative and futuristic nature of this document, and the unstable political situation in the region, we have not managed to come to an agreement regarding the necessity of a standing army.
One powerful lesson learned from the ethnicized and racialized Zionist and South African systems of immigration and pass laws is that in the new state, such system must be completely de-racialized. A paramount aspect of this process will be repealing the 1950 Law of Return, which grants automatic and privileged citizenship to Jews, and prioritizing naturalization of Palestinian refugees in its stead. Diaspora Jews will be permitted to apply for citizenship, although not as part of any prioritized process.
We envision an immigration system that is on the one hand flexible, yet also embedded with mechanisms to control potential influx of non-Palestinian immigrants. Nevertheless, given the bitter lessons learned from the Zionist State, the new political entity in Palestine will offer asylum to refugees and persecuted individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation in accordance with international law.