Micheal Warschawski is a well-known pro-palestine, anti-occupation activist, co-founder of the Alternative Information Center. I’ve met him in Jerusalem and we had a long chat about Palestine. His model of Palestine was peculiar, he used also non bricks to underline the external factors mining the stability and the peace making process. But when I ask him about Israel, his reaction is strong.‘What is Israel?!’
Says angrily messing up all the bricks on the table. ‘Here it is…! It’s something incoherent and structured except by its military mind, it’s a nation which is a very weak entity, which is not very big, where the glue is very weak, without borders… why Israel doesn’t have borders? Israel always refused to define borders, it’s something which is chaos, it’s chaos as a way of existence. Always either in the offensive way, conquering more lands, conquering population, they try to get rid of them… it’s a chaos. Not a chaos without a plan.’ ‘There’s a plan?’ I ask. ‘Of course! Judea and all this area, they are making it as biggest as possible provided that it is purely, or as pure as possible, Jewish. This is the plan, the official objective of Israel.’
He didn’t make a model of Israel and I go a step further. ‘If Israel is such a mess, who is an Israeli?’ ‘Who is an Israeli?’ He stops and stares around for a while. ‘It’s almost an irrelevant question. Because of Israel defining itself as a Jewish state, what is relevant is what is a Jew, not who is an Israeli. We have a minority of non Jewish Israeli, but they are an accident. They are perceived as an accident, they are perceived as not belonging… they have civil rights but they are not co-owner of this entity – Israel – they are co-citizens. People use the concept of second rate citizens, I don’t like it. But simply they are not part of sovereign culture. So what is relevant speaking about Israel, is who’s a Jew not who is an Israeli…’ ‘And how can you merge these 2 different realities?’ He builds something with the Lego. ‘Identity needs to be de-ethnicized. This is a Jews Israeli identity. It means to build a real state of citizens and to transform Israel and its society from an ethnic democracy, from an ethnocracy, into real democracy where each individual, men or women, Jewish or Arab, Israeli or Palestinian, are equal in the way institutions perceive their belonging.’
‘I challenge you once more… Democracy is such an overused word! Can you build me a model of democracy? What is it? I don’t know what democracy is…’ ‘I don’t know either…!’ I don’t let him go and avoid the bricks: ‘But you have been talking about it, so you should have some ideas…’ ‘The only concept which is relevant for me – and he starts building – the concept of equality, where none has a privilege, have more or less rights than others. This is the core element of democracy.’ ‘Democracy equals equality?’ I ask. ‘Yes. This is the precondition, the supreme value of democracy if you have equality, which begins with civil equality and then we can push it to economical equality, same access to wealth, to power to the state… this is the process of democracy. Democracy is a process of building. ‘
‘Has this process have already been achieved somewhere?’ ‘It’s a process and a process is never achieved. There are countries where it’s more achieved than others…’ ‘…Like?…’ He stays silent for very few moments. ‘Countries where everyone has the right to say whatever they think are more democratic than a countries where you can not say what you think. You have more democracy in Belgium and in Britain than in Saudi Arabia! It’s composed of similarities, it’s composed of respect for human rights as individuals and it’s composed also of the fulfillment of collective rights, protecting minorities – national minorities, religious minorities, where you have tools and a system to protect you as an individual and you as a collective. I think the scale of democracy is the way those who are not the majority are protected in their specificity. It’s equality first of all but also it’s protection. The combination of both, it’s the index of democracy. Where you don’t have equality, you don’t have democracy. Where you have more equality, you have more democracy. As I’ve said it’s a process and there’s no place where you have full equality between human beings. In most of the countries in the world you have democracy at the level of civil rights, of economical rights, you have the right to earn a lot of money and other ones have the right to die of hunger. It’s not equality on that level…’
We talked a while about democracy and principles and then I can not resist asking him about the democracy process in Palestine. ‘And how can you enhance such a process in Palestine?’ ‘It’s always a negative process, you have to get rid of the military domination and military occupation. This is even before the right and possibility to chose what you want to eat. The possibility not to have domination – political domination, religious domination, military domination… This is precisely an illusion of the present course… how can Palestinian take the leadership while on devastation? This is an illusion. One of the most fundamental aspiration of human beings, even more than food, not less than food – take the Arab revolution… What started the Arab revolution was the Tunisian merchant setting himself on fire: when you don’t have the capacity to care for your human dignity, you are not an human anymore… The driving force of revolutions is the feeling of lack of dignity. You can not understand the Intifada otherwise…’ And he goes on: ‘Take for example the apparent normality – we don’t have the intifada today… you have a kind of adaptation – it is possible because individual dignity is not so much hurt. The separation, what the intelligent Israeli establishment were preaching for years, like, not being in contact with population, taking distance, controlling the space, controlling the water, controlling the land but trying not to control the people and to confront directly the people. This has been partially implemented. You can live in Nablus, Janine or Ramallah without meeting them, as long as you are in your balance you are not confronted to the humiliation that attacks your dignity …’ But things can not go on like this for ever, it’s not a stable model. ‘It’s not stable – Warshawski goes on – because there’s difference between the individual and the nation. And in addition to this level of individual dignity, there’s a national dignity, sometimes with ups and downs. I’d say that today, the Palestinian individuals are less hurt in the individual dignity, because they are not confronted as much as they were in the past by the constant humiliation of the Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers. As a nation they should be offended even more, because they are not calculated anymore, as a nation.’ ‘But in this way you are denying the problem, you are not facing it…’ ‘It’s a short term vision of Israeli and Palestinian … very short term…’ ‘Who is preventing the stabilisation of the situation?’ ‘The Israeli public, not only the Israeli leadership. As long as the present reality doesn’t have a cost, as long as you have security, economical prosperity, no international isolation, why should you evolve? Why should you challenge the state of the present situation?’
We ended the LegoView with these words, though I had other questions in my mind, recalling what I had seen and heard in Israel. I had to keep my questions, I have taken them back home and let them to drive me on a long reflections on facts, human perceptions of the overall political situation, making my own mind, as I wanted. The series of abstracts from Palestine and Israel on LegoView.com end with the Mikado Warshawski’s words on Israel. More thoughts and a detailed reportage with photos and all the 10 Legoviews, is under preparation.