by Gabriel Webber, Progressive Zionist Activist

Gabriel Webber 23On Saturday night I reported to the basement of Hashomer House, just off Finchley Road, with a sense of excitement.

I’d been promised that, on payment of £5, I would get to hear about “the only fair, decent and humane solution” to the Israeli-Arab conflict. £5 seemed very reasonable for that, so in I went.

The two speakers at this panel debate hosted by the secular Meretz Party were Avraham Shomroni – Holocaust survivor, peace activist, former shaliach (emissary) to the UK and leader of the Bereaved Parents’ Forum and Roslyn Pine – retired pharmacist and my esteemed colleague on the Board of Deputies.

Avraham spoke engagingly, lucidly and persuasively as he outlined his vision for peace and justice in the region. Roslyn’s diatribe was different. In every respect.

First, she set out her arguments in favour of what I can only label a ‘one-state solution’. Not the one-state solution favoured by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, of course, because that’s racist; but a Jewish ‘one-state solution’, because that’s just rugged common sense.

Her plan is as follows: “This is my decent, humane solution. It’s the only fair solution there is. We annex all the land that’s ours, we let those Arabs who want to stay there stay – we make them self-governing in their towns but don’t give them the vote. And we give financial incentives to leave for anyone who wants to.”

So the idea is to take an ethnic minority, give them tokenistic self-rule within strictly defined areas and ‘humanely’ not let them have any say in this or any other aspect of national government. I have a strange feeling this system might have been trialled somewhere before?

Meretz members in the audience had a few questions about Roslyn’s proposal. One lady asked how this Greater Israel would remain a Jewish state if the majority of its residents were Arabs.

“But the whole point is not to give them citizenship! You can live your life perfectly happily without the vote,” clarified Roslyn, helpfully eliminating any last lingering doubt I might have had that there was room for some tattered shreds of human rights in her grand scheme.

And she’s right: you can live your life perfectly happily without the vote. I really don’t know what Emmeline Pankhurst was making such a fuss about.

A friend in the audience asked whether Roslyn’s fantasy of denying the vote to a particular ethnic group might not look a teensy-weensy bit like apartheid. The reply: “Don’t say ‘apartheid’. You don’t know what apartheid is! You don’t remember apartheid South Africa.”

Luckily, the average age of the audience was about 60, so when a grown-up who most definitely did remember apartheid South Africa repeated the question, she was forced to give a (very marginally) more substantive response than just tossing around ageist putdowns.

The (very marginally) more substantive response was: “It’s not apartheid, because if you look at what Abbas has said about a future Palestinian state, he’s said that not a single Jew will have the vote there.”

Aha. That definitely means Roslyn’s plan isn’t apartheid then. She proved us completely wrong. I feel a right fool now. In fact, she’s interested only in helping the Palestinians: “There are lots of Arabs in Judea and Samaria who actually don’t want to live in any Palestinian nation-state because they fear the corruption.”

And as history has shown, barring a particular ethnic group from participating in democracy is the very best way to prevent corruption. Depriving Palestinians of a state and a vote: it’s what they want, really; it’s a kindness. Although one questioner wasn’t quite convinced.

Q: “But surely there are Palestinians that do want to live in a Palestinian state?”

Roslyn: “No there aren’t! How do you know? Have you done a survey?”

Q: “Have you?”

Someone asked her outright: “Would it be a democratic state, yes or no?” To be fair, Roslyn gave a very revealing answer: “Yes, it would be democratic, as far as it can be to maintain a Jewish majority.” 

However, it is comforting to know that despite the rampant disrespect for democracy, equality, human rights and basic Jewish values in which Roslyn’s entire evening output was marinated, it turns out she’s not entirely opposed to freedom of conscience. She ended her ravings with: “I’ll let you figure out the fairness or otherwise of my solution.”

Thanks. I think I’m close to reaching my conclusion now.