Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Is Palestine Dead? Can China Provide Its People With A New Home?


Arabs In China
The idea of a two-state solution is dead. Hamas does not believe in a two states living in peaceful co-existence, but in Israel's non-existence.  Israel could never negotiate with a extremist organization that believes in violence. Where does that leave the Palestinians, notably in Gaza, who wish to escape the violence of the Islamists? One original possibility is China, says Prof George Jochnowitz, which needs both young men and young women. "Can Palestinians run away? China may well be the answer. One doesn’t think of China as a country of immigrants. Nevertheless, there are Arab immigrants who are residing and prospering in Zhejiang Province, the province immediately south of Shanghai. In fact, the city of Yiwu is the home of a growing Arabic community."




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by George Jochnowitz


Hamas has probably succeeded in preventing a deal with Israel that would create a Palestinian state. Israelis now fear that ceding more territory would simply give terrorists new launching sites. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestine Authority, is old and not very popular. His successor is likely to be someone as extreme as the leaders of Hamas. There is no way that Israel could negotiate with extremists who persist in acts of violence no matter what the consequences.

I used to think that the rockets aimed at Israeli civilians served no strategic and no political purpose. I now feel I must reconsider my opinion. The rockets, and the never-ending violence coming from Hamas, have apparently ended the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution—maybe forever. Many Israelis, perhaps most, have long felt that an independent Palestine would lead to peace. Hamas is doing its best to show that nothing will lead to peace. The rockets do indeed serve a purpose. They are echoing the Hamas Charter, which excludes negotiation with Israel. Hamas—consciously or unconsciously—wanted to make sure there couldn’t be a Palestinian state, since it might lead to peace. Peace would give Israel security and establish its permanence. Hamas made sure that wouldn’t happen.

ISIS, also known simply as the Islamic State, has released a map of its view a future Arab world. There is no Israel on the map, needless to say. What is shocking is that there is no Palestine. Palestine, the central element in Arab nationalism, would be forgotten once Arabs conquered all the land that they had once owned. Palestine has remained an issue simply to be a way of opposing Israel’s existence. Refugees have remained in camps for over 60 years in order to make them suffer so that the world would blame Israel.

To an extent, this is part of an old tradition. The Arabs rejected a Palestinian state when the UN proposed one in 1947. It did so again with the Three No’s of Khartoum in 1967. It has been doing so ever since. But Hamas has taken an additional step. It keeps fighting a war it is losing—unambiguously. It goes out of its way to harm the citizens of Gaza, by launching rockets from schools and hospitals. Hamas not only doesn’t care about the lives of Palestinians—it is eager to put them in harm’s way. Hamas is saying that destroying the lives of its people doesn’t matter in the slightest, since nothing matters except ending Israel’s existence. Both Israel and ISIS have figured this out.

Can Palestinians run away? China may well be the answer. One doesn’t think of China as a country of immigrants. Nevertheless, there are Arab immigrants who are residing and prospering in Zhejiang Province, the province immediately south of Shanghai. In fact, the city of Yiwu is the home of a growing Arabic community.

Arabs are not the only immigrants to China. The one-child policy has led to an aging population. It has also had a much more serious effect: Chinese parents have been aborting female fetuses, leading to a great disproportion of young men to young women, about 6 to 5. As a result, foreign brides have been coming to China. China needs more young women. It also needs more young men to take jobs that have been vacated by an ever-aging population.

There is a Muslim population in Xinjiang, the westernmost province in China. Its people are called Uygurs or Uyghurs. They speak a language related to Turkish. There is a separatist movement and acts of violence have occurred. One of the ways that China is trying to deal with this situation is by drawing many different people to the area. A new city called Horgos is being designed, in the hope that it can be both Chinese and international and therefore a counterweight to Uygur nationalism.

There is another and much larger Muslim minority in China. Its people are called Hui (pronounced hwey) and speak Chinese, with a few Arabic words added to refer to religious concepts, such as permitted foods (halal) or forbidden foods (haram). There was a time when the Hui people wrote their variety of Chinese in the Arabic alphabet.

The Hui people have not been involved in a separatist movement. They could be good neighbors and friends to Muslim immigrants who want to learn Chinese but keep their religion. China has been tolerant to its Hui minority. When I taught at Hebei University in 1984 and 1989, there was a halal dining room for the Muslims who wished to eat food that fit in with their religious laws.

China has well over a billion people. A million or so immigrants would hardly be noticed.

Now that Hamas seems to have killed the idea of a Palestinian state, emigration from Gaza to China seems to be a perfect solution. 

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George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

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Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the author's permission.

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