Photo: EPA
'UK will remain united, but growing national feelings point to direction Europe is heading in'
Photo: EPA
Ben-Dror Yemini

Europe proves one-state solution is an illusion

Op-ed: People in the right and in the left are trying to force one big Jewish-Arab state on us. If it's not working in the united continent, it definitely won't work in the split Middle East.

Europe is not falling apart, and neither is the European Union. But something is happening there.


A majority of 55% in Scotland voted against splitting from Great Britain. The kingdom will remain united. But the growing national feelings, after hundreds of years of unity, point to the direction the continent is heading in.



Since World War II, and as a result of the lessons of that war, there have been two contradicting trends in Europe. On the one hand, a huge wave of population exchange, for the purpose of creating nation states that would be as homogenous as possible.


Winston Churchill declared towards the end of the war, "There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble… A clean sweep will be made. I am not alarmed at the prospect of the disentanglement of population, nor am I alarmed by these large transferences."


And that's exactly what happened. Tens of millions of people went through the difficult experience of being uprooted before the war and during the war, and more than 20 million people experienced it in the five years after the war. It was another chapter in the fulfillment of the self-determination concept, which is a main part of the United Nations Charter.


The other, completely different direction, was the creation of a united Europe. The idea materialized. The European Union and the Schengen Agreement began the job of erasing borders. Nationality was regressing in favor of the post-national and multinational era and the opening of gates for immigration.


The idea of a "new Middle East" drew a significant part of its power from the processes taking place in Europe. If it works over there, why can’t it work between Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel as well?


But the joy was premature. Decisions about an economic union and cancelling the need for visas did not lead to similar feelings among the tens of millions who also stuck to the national and self-determination and identity.


A democratic and multiethnic Yugoslavia could have fit in well with the European Union. That didn't happen. Yugoslavia split into seven new national entities based on an ethnic majority – a process which was accompanied by extensive ethnical cleansings.


It happened earlier in Czechoslovakia, which split into two nation states, without a single drop of blood. And it happened, of course, in the Soviet Union, which split according to its ethnic and national components.


It's not over, because there may soon be a referendum in Catalonia, where many want to split from Spain. Similar voices are being heard in Italy – from the rich and well-established north – and in Belgium as well, where two communities live, the Flemish and the Walloons.


It’s also happening on the eastern side of Europe. A visitor from another planet wouldn't be able to understand the actual difference between Ukrainians and Russians. But there is a difference, and they are bleeding over it.


In the more western side, between Ukraine and Poland, there was a population exchange of 1.4 million people after World War II. That's unpleasant. But things have been quiet there ever since. On the eastern that didn't happen. The result is an uprising and a demand for independence.


Is there a lesson for the Middle East? Europe has a shared culture, shared values and usually the same religion. And nonetheless, the desire for self-determination is flourishing again. In the Middle East, the situation is worse. Syria and Iraq are falling apart, and no one is offering a referendum to communities seeking self-determination. Sunnis don't get along with Shiites, and Kurds don't get along with Arabs.


Despite all that, there are people in the right and in the left who are trying to force one big Jewish-Arab state on us. It's not working in the united continent. It definitely won't work in the split Middle East.


פרסום ראשון: 09.22.14, 00:07
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