In the last issue we gave some indications concerning the economic aspects of a Tripartite Society. In order to describe the political or rights aspect, we will focus on the main point of conflict in the world today: Palestine - the cross of the world, the meeting place of Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed. On the surface, the conflict is between the state of Israel and the Palestinians, represented by the Palestine Liberation Authority. Looking at the map of the Middle East from a bird’s eye view, we see a belligerent albeit defensive Israel surrounded by Arab states that desire its destruction.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Rudolf Steiner wrote several articles for a Jewish periodical based in Basel, Switzerland. At that time, the European Jewish community was deeply divided on the Zionist issue. The Zionists, still a minority, agitated for a Jewish state in Palestine. The integrationists were opposed to this idea and advocated the integration of Jewish culture into European culture as a whole. In the articles (I no longer have them at hand and am writing this from memory) Steiner argues against the founding of a Jewish state, because such an entity would be a throwback to a medieval socio-political form, that is, a religious state. He mentions that the Jews would suffer even greater persecution than they had known until then. This was entirely in accordance with Steiner’s ideas of a Tripartite Society: political states that are only concerned with human rights, religion and culture being purely individual affairs to be exercised in freedom by all inhabitants of a political region. If the Jews were to establish a state for Jews only, they would have to either expel everyone else from within their borders, or have them as permanent subjugated enemies. This, however, was before the Holocaust, which distorted terribly the current of history.
The Holocaust allowed the state of Israel to become a reality. That is history and it cannot be changed. Until recently Israel’s existence and courageous development has been cause for admiration outside the Middle East. Within the Middle East the very existence of Israel has caused outrage and hate amongst its Arab neighbors. It should be understood that Israel is essentially a European enclave situated in an Arab world. European immigration to Israel has provided it with educational and technological advantages that are light years from the capacities of their Arab neighbors.
The attitudinal tide is changing however. In this issue of Southern Cross Review, Starhawk, in an eloquent and moving article, describes her despair at recent Israeli military actions against the Palestinians. She goes so far as to compare them to the Nazis. Coming from an American Jew who until now has shared the general enthusiasm for Israel, this is a startling but understandable reversal. These feelings are shared by many, especially in Europe. Personally, I think that the Israeli reaction to the suicide bombings was inevitable, and is quite possibly exactly the reaction desired by those behind the suicide bombings. Certain neighboring dictatorial states -Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya- need Israel to justify the suffering and misery of their own people. “Of course you are miserable wretches,” they say, “and who is to blame? They are, the Zionists of Israel.” This is not to say that Israel is blameless, nor that the current Prime Minister, Sharon, is the appropriate person to even consider something other than a military solution. Or that Yasser Arafat can be believed for one moment when he talks of a desire for peace.
The scenario is one religious political state surrounded by antagonistic political religious states -all throwbacks, anachronisms, the kind of historical distortions destined to create bloodshed and violence.
What, then, can we offer as a possible solution? At the risk of being called an idealistic utopian, I can only recommend a confederation consisting of semi-autonomous “cantons” called Israel and Palestine, and perhaps Jordan as a buffer. Yes, I know, I know - What about the history of the area, the wars, the murders, the religious fanatics on all sides - the hate, the horror? I am aware of all that and can only say that a new generation of leaders must arise from amongst the Palestinians and the Israelis. And, yes, amongst Israel’s staunchest allies, the Americans. And I ask those who advocate a Palestinian state (almost everyone except Israel) to consider that such a state would not be viable and would be dependant on its co-religionists, whose aid would be conditioned on Palestine continuing to be a client terrorist entity. The Palestinians also need Israel; they need the economic and technological know-how that only Israel possesses in the region. Together the three could constitute a viable political entity at peace with itself and the rest of the world.
After the First World War, the attempt was made to divide up Europe into ethnic political states. The ethnic groups overlapped the artificially drawn borders, however, and this was one of the principal causes of the Second World War, as well as the more recent Baltic conflict. Only when the political state is exclusively an administrative body, essentially unconcerned with the spiritual and cultural diversity of its citizens, will the latter be at peace with themselves.
In the next issue of SCR we will touch upon the spiritual-cultural area of the Tripartite Society.
Frank Thomas Smith, editor