Gaza and the Logic of an Abraham Federation
by Dr. Norman G. Kurland, J.D.
President, Center for Economic and Social Justice
Gaza and the Logic of an Abraham Federation
by Dr. Norman G. Kurland, J.D., President, Center for Economic and Social Justice
When President Barack Obama gives his first foreign policy speech, planned to be given in an as yet undesignated Muslim country, he should address the critical issue of Gaza. Here is the substance of what he should say, as first proposed in 1977 and updated in several books and journals on Middle East affairs, as well as in the websites of the American Muslim (http://www.americanmuslim.org), the International Quranic Center (http://www.ahl-alquran.com), the Global Justice Movement (http://www.globaljusticemovement.org), and the Center for Economic and Social Justice (http://www.cesj.org/homestead/strategies/regional-global/abrahamfederation-nk.html).
This proposal for an Abraham Federation in Arab-populated areas of the Holy Land, eventually to expand throughout the immediate region, provides the details necessary to understand Dr. Robert Crane’s article in the American Muslim (http://www.theamericanmuslim.org), entitled “Arab Extremists’ Logic Calls for Annihilation of Arabs in the Holy Land.” A successful initiative in the pursuit of peace, prosperity, and freedom for all the persons and peoples of the Holy Land must go beyond the failed attempts of the past. It requires a new paradigm of justice and a vision and realistic strategy for achieving shared prosperity. And it requires a new symbol.
Symbols of the past often serve as useful symbols for charting the future. A federation of the spiritual and blood descendants of Abraham could offer a bold political framework for taking small steps in a new direction. Thus, rather appropriately, the new nation could be named the “Abraham Federation.”
With this philosophical common thread, the question is: Where do we start? The answer is: In the historic region of Judea and Samaria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where Arab and Jewish settlements exist today under Israeli military control. It would not be an Islamic state or a Jewish state, like Israel and other neighboring states. But such a concession would require that Hamas religious and political leaders agree to making it a religiously and spiritually pluralistic nation-state where all citizens of the new federation would be ensured all rights under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In exchange for such a concession by Hamas leadership linked to a permanent cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel, the UN and all countries, especially the United States, would commit themselves to offering massive assistance (“a Super Marshall Plan”) to the citizens of the federation to turn the federation’s territory into a unique global model of sustainable growth, shared abundance, and justice.
The plan would aim at developing such a success story that Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and other neighboring countries would within a decade be eager to join the federation.
The biblical region of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank with extensions in Gaza and other areas covered by the Oslo Agreement) could provide the foothold for the Abraham Federation. It includes Bethlehem, Hebron, and the surrounding mountain region west of the Jordan River. It also encompasses Jerusalem, which deserves special handling, perhaps serving in the transition period as the capital of the new nation as well as present Israel. Jerusalem could even be designated by the UN as a special “global capital,” to be administered by spiritual leaders of all faiths and policed by security guards under the authority of the Security Council of the UN.
Although some Arabs would dispute the legitimacy of all Israeli-occupied territory, the Israeli military has the power to maintain law and order over all areas it now patrols. Despite the intifada and mounting international pressures on Israel, this reality is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, the easy diffusion of modern military technology, including weapons of mass destruction among Arab guerrillas and their allies, makes a military status quo uneasy at best.
The main obstacle to peace, in this author’s view, is not the Israeli military or the deep-seated Holocaust fears which justify in the minds of most Israelis the continued Israeli military presence on the land where the Abraham Federation could be created. Rather, the deeper issue is whether a more just society can be conceived, which will eventually allow the Israeli military presence to be phased out and replaced by US and international security forces during the transition to a viable Abraham Federation at peace with all its neighbors, including Israel.
With the US leading the way to promote a phased Abraham Federation departure from the inherently flawed and divisive two-state solution, Israeli leaders would have a deal they could not possibly refuse. Israelis would have at least a decade of peace to adjust to the significantly more favorable terms and support that the global community provides to the citizens of the Abraham Federation, even if Israel receives no greater support from the outside than it does now.
The proposed strategy would go beyond the demeaning “autonomy” proposals of the Israeli Likud Party. It would be less threatening to Jewish settlers than the Labor Party’s “land-for-peace” proposals. And it would offer a significantly more just future for all Palestinians than what they are now demanding.
The New Nation’s Unique Economy
As a testing ground for a new nation, today’s West Bank and Gaza would be transformed into a laboratory for dynamic “win-win” economic change, allowing revolutionary change in the economic culture to precede ultimate change in the political culture.
Economic empowerment would thus become the foundation for effective political empowerment in the lives of the people. A basic premise of the new economic culture is the rejection of artificial and disproven assumptions of scarcity.
Today’s scarcity could be overcome if West Bank and Gaza residents would work together within a justice-driven free enterprise system to create new wealth that could be traded globally, with profits and ownership shared more equitably.
This would shift the primary focus of thinking from how to divide scarce resources of the past, to planning the “open growth frontier” being created by modern science, technology, and global production and marketing systems. A second premise for rapid growth is that sound moral values, along with sound market principles, must be infused at all levels and within all institutions of the economic process.
Land, of course, is finite. But as the philosopher-design scientist R. Buckminster Fuller pointed out, creative energy can be channeled into what he called “ephemeralization,” the process of doing-more-with-less. This entails the continuing re-design of existing technologies, structures, and even social “tools” like money, tax systems, and global corporations and financial institutions. Designing a more advanced nation-state is just another example of organized social tool-making.
By introducing the world’s most sophisticated technologies (particularly in energy and food production) and redesigning methods of participatory ownership, Arab and Jewish settlers willing to become citizens of the Abraham Federation could transcend their competing exclusive claims to the “Holy Land.” They could complement each other’s existing strength’s and potentials: Jewish settlement experience and advanced energy and agricultural technologies, Islamic interest-free financing principles, and Palestinian self-assertion and drive.
Neither Capitalism Nor Socialism
Guidelines for constructing this model for peace in the Middle East involve a radical departure from traditional approaches to industrial development. Neither capitalism nor socialism is adequate for building a successful economy for the Abraham Federation. Neither combines maximum justice with maximum efficiency. Both ignore the need for building economic sovereignty into each citizen. Both leave ownership and control of modern technology, natural resources, and business enterprises to a ruling few.
To avoid these dangers, the government of the Abraham Federation would neither own property nor permit future monopolies over the ownership of natural resources and human-created means of production. This principle alone would make “sovereignty” in the Abraham Federation uniquely distinct from any nation in history.
Every citizen would own a single lifetime non-transferable share in the land and natural resources through a for-profit Land and Natural Resources Bank, entitling him or her to governing rights and rents and extraction fees from the use of Nature’s resources and enhanced location values from improvements upon the land.
The federation’s tax, monetary, and interest-free capital credit system would enable every citizen to acquire and accumulate dividend-bearing shares in new technologies, new plant and equipment, new rentable space, and new infrastructural improvement built upon the land.
The Abraham Federation would recognize that sovereignty connotes power and that only human beings, not abstract “collectives”, can exercise power. The major issue to be addressed in a democratic world is which people will exercise what kinds of power, either directly, jointly in association with others, or by delegation. The democratization of ownership power would supplement access to the political ballot to provide the ultimate check on government’s legitimate monopoly power over all instruments of coercion, thus maximizing the self-determination and freedom of choice of all citizens.
No rational dialogue and no genuine steps toward peace among Arabs and Jews in the Middle East are possible within traditional conceptual and ideological frameworks. These competing frameworks all suffer from faulty assumptions, semantic ambiguities, and poorly defined, often contradictory, objectives. A new and more realistic framework is demanded. It must proceed in small steps toward a broader, more comprehensive, and more just solution, one not even conceivable under the old two-state frameworks.
Many problems may arise in moving from the initial blueprint stage to implementation, especially regarding security and control over the Israeli military, immigration, and land-use matters. But within a framework that takes into consideration the legitimate concerns of Palestinians and Israelis, one that offers the Abraham Federation special trade status in the global marketplace, even these problems could be addressed for the mutual self-interest of all citizens of the Abraham Federation.
Just as the offer of 160 acres of land to its propertyless pioneers sparked America’s development as an agricultural power, the high-technology and information age offers an unlimited frontier in which ownership incentives can now be offered to the propertyless Arabs, Jews, and others living in Jerusalem and other places in the Abraham Federation. Truth, justice, and peace can again go forth from Jerusalem. Building a just and pluralistic nation is, of course, a complex undertaking. But by focusing on the limitless possibilities of technological growth, rather than on endless confrontation over scarce land resources, Arab and Jewish settlers of the Abraham Federation can take a new look at their common problem. Under the mantle of Abraham, they can step back into the past in order to leap forward into a more just and hopeful future.