Israel Israeli Arabs Israeli occupation Israeli settlements one state solution Palestinians two-state solution

One state advocates, how do you know two states aren’t possible?

How do you know? What makes you so sure?

You say, “It is too late for a two state solution” or “Israel is already one state. It is an apartheid state, and the only way forward is to transform it into a just state.”

Where do you get this absolute certainty? With all due respect, I find that completely befuddling, because some of you have spent time in Israel and the territories (yes, some of you are Israeli Jews) and studied or lived with the same situation I’ve studied and lived with. And I actually haven’t the faintest idea of what you are talking about when you say, “It is too late for two states. We know this for a fact. So one state is the answer.” I’ve heard all of your arguments and I am not addressing the particulars right now. I am more interested in the psychology of this matter. I am trying to understand where you get the deep wellspring of faith that two states are out of the question and one state is not.

I agree that two states are unlikely. I endorsed that goal two decades ago, before it was fashionable in my community, and you don’t need to convince me how daunting the odds have become. The question is, which outcome is less unlikely? If you were forced to bet on the roulette wheel of history, would you honestly put your money on a secular bi-national state, a shared polity that is willingly accepted by both peoples after so much torment and violence and hatred? Or would you plunk it down on a deeply flawed compromise that satisfies neither people but which both agree is better than any practical alternative: two states, living side by side in an uneasy peace?

Here, once again, is Hussein Ibish in his book, What’s Wrong With the One-State Agenda?

At some point a two state agreement could become practically impossible, although this has not yet occured. The moment at which such a state of “impossibility…” will emerge is, contrary to many arguments by one-state advocates, not the function of a critical mass of administrative, topographical and infrastructural changes constructed by Israel in the occupied territories. Rather, it is that moment when a critical mass of Israelis and Palestinians become convinced that such a peace agreement is no longer feasible or desirable. The two questions are linked, since entrenchment of the occupation greatly complicates any belief in the plausibility of a peace agreement to end it. However, political realities are fundamentally shaped by the confluence of political will and power. Longstanding and deeply rooted realities can be transformed by political actions based on necessity and consensus. The emergence of the State of Israel is a prime example of this process at work.”

Stranger things than a two-state solution have happened on this planet. If you are uncomfortable with the example of the State of Israel cited by Ibish, what about the pied noirs, the French colonists in Algeria? They returned to France en masse after the Algerian civil war. Many said that couldn’t be done but it happened because political realities made it happen. Are you really certain that the odds against the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from, say, 98% of the West Bank, are much much higher? I know the parallels are not exact so don’t give me a lecture about why the situations are different, please. I’m talking about odds here, and how sometimes people –and national movements–beat the odds.

So please tell me what you think of the piece on the “settler firebrands” by Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner in the NY Times a few weeks ago (9/16/2009). They talked to the hard core ideologues, the people whom I’ve always believed would not be removed without a fight, whose implicit and explicit threats of violent resistance would make any Israeli government reluctant to take them on in order to fulfill the terms of an agreement. It turns out that while many will resist in some fashion, few are likely to fight pitched battles against Israeli soldiers.

I thought that article was one of the most heartening pieces I’ve read in a long time. So I wonder, were you disappointed by it? Did it prompt you to revisit your absolutely certainty that the settlers are entrenched, there are too many sewage lines and bypass roads for Jews-only, it is too late for two states, give it up, fuggedaboutit?

Another question confounds me. Do you honestly believe there is NO distinction between the occupied territories and Israel west of the Green Line? There is no essential difference between the plight of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians under occupation? You don’t need to lecture me on how Arabs in Israel are in many ways second-class citizens. I’ve probably been aware of that longer than most of you. But when you say, “There is already one state. It is an apartheid state,” that can only mean that you see no difference between stateless Palestinians with few rights who want independence from Israel –like other national liberation movements– and Arab citizens of Israel who have rights but want more of them. and want to live in a shared society with fellow citizens who are Jewish. Folks, do you really believe Nablus in the West Bank is for all practical purposes the same as Sakhnin in the Gallilee?

There are too many questions on my mind. A blog post doesn’t leave room for all of them. I’ll stop here, and hope you can either explain the sources of your faith or admit that, like all faith, it is irrational, it passeth understanding.

73 thoughts on “One state advocates, how do you know two states aren’t possible?

  1. You raise the very questions in my own mind.

    We are talking about 2 completely different cultures–with different histories etc

    And they hate each other.

    Yugoslavia was held together by one dictator, as I understand it–and came to pieces as soon as he died. And they’re all similar ethnicity!

    What is the glue that would hold a one-state solution together? That Islamist terrorism would go away if Arabs lived in a secular, binational (part infidel) state?

    I don’t think so!

    I also don’t believe Palestinians want this.

    This is just the usual utopian pipedream of unrealisticos–a minority within a minority.

  2. oh…and it bears saying once again–the evidence of Arab intra-religious fighting is anywhere there are different Islamic factions.

    And they things are going to be ok between 2 different religions?????

    The one-staters want this to pass so badly they’re lying through their teeth about Christians in the Arab world.

  3. Re the distinction between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories: The fact that these two populations have different bundles of rights does not negate the charge that Israel is an apartheid state. In apartheid-era South Africa, Blacks, “Coloreds” of mixed African and European descent, and Asians all had different legal statuses and different bundles of rights, while all living under white supremacy. Apartheid regimes often make geographic and ethnic distinctions between different subordinated populations as part of a “divide and rule” policy. Soweto wasn’t the same as the bantustans.

  4. William,

    No analogies are perfect, because the situation in Israel is unique in many respects. But if you are searching for parallels, why don’t you consider the plight of Palestinian citizens of Israel to be comparable to the plight of minorities in many other societies? In this country, we have made efforts to deal with the historic discrimination against African Americans with affirmative action and other programs. The efforts have had mixed results but they have done some good. If the bitter conflict between two national movements ever comes to an end with two states for two peoples, it will be easier to turn Israel into a state for all of its citizens. But right now, I believe Palestinians citizens of Israel have many more rights and opportunities than Muslim citizens of European countries.

  5. William,

    But in South Africa all Africans–that is, all those classified under apartheid as having the same race–had the same legal status. In Israel Israeli Palestinians have much different rights than those in the occupied territories precisely because Israel hasn’t annexed the territories. In East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed, Palestinians are elgible for the same rights but the vast majority haven’t availed themselves of those rights.

    If you are looking for an analogy a much better one would be that of blacks in antebellum America. In America there were three or more statuses for blacks: slaves; freemen without rights; freemen who were citizens. Blacks in New England (most lived in Massachusetts) were citizens with franchise rights, etc. In most of the rest of the North and in the South black freemen lacked franchise rights and couldn’t legally marry white women and could only live in certain areas. In the South and in much of the lower North freemen were also subject to kidnap by slave hunters who might mistake them or try to pass them off as fugitive slaves.

    This is one of many parallels between antebellum America and Israel–many more than between apartheid South Africa and Israel. Believe me I’ve spent a decade researching the matter and have had two books published on antebellum politics. I wrote my doctoral dissertation partially on South Africa.

  6. Tom,

    Would you describe antebellum America as an apartheid state? It seems to me the real conflict here is whether the term “apartheid” is generalizable. If one insists that an “apartheid state” must resemble South Africa in every way, then there can be only one apartheid state, South Africa itself. If there is a category of “apartheid states” with a family resemblance, then both Israel and antebellum America might fall into that category despite their differences from the South African model. (I would argue that the institution of slavery sets antebellum America off from both SA and Israel, neither of which made people property, BTW.)

  7. Since your question seems sincere, Dan, I’ll try to answer respectfully in all sincerity.

    I think the answer can be found in the first comment to this post. Look at it closely.

    Forgive me if this is harsh, but despite your best efforts, you seem to have a blindspot, Dan, and it is this:

    The Zionist side is more intolerant, more fixated on tribal identity and opposed to the idea of integration.

    Do you understand this?

    Because you will defensively make the point that intolerance and violence exists on the other side–and of course it is true–but in making that point you slide into this comfortable notion that this intolerance is equal to Zionist intolerance, that both sides are equally culpable, it’s tit-for-tat, the two sides have equal responsibility to resolve the conflict, and well, that is just historically, materially inaccurate.

    Zionism provoked the conflict, Zionists are the ones classifying people by their tribal identity, Zionists are the ones who wanted Palestine divided, who still (Witty, above) do not WANT it integrated. If peace came with integration, that would NOT be acceptable for Zionists.

    Of course there are now elements in Palestinian society who do not want integration, but neither in volume or intensity do they match the segregationist zeal of Zionists, and if you allow yourself to be honest, I think you will accept that.

    Thus the one-state solution isn’t so much a new construct, as the two-state solution is, it is merely what the failure of Zionism defaults to. It is the status quo. Try as they might, Zionists have not been able to isolate themselves entirely will expanding their colony. There are still other people there, interspersed among them. Even with all the wars and all the discrimination, there is no tribally pure state possible.

  8. MM thinks the Arab world is tolerant and non violent and that Israel stands out in stark contrast.

    The stark contrast part I’ll agree with–but otherwise…I’d find it more productive to argue with my kitchen clock. haha!

  9. As for historical comparisons…the only one that makes sense to me is Northern Ireland (to a limited extent) because this is a case of trying to control (via occupation) a hostile indigenous population.

    Also, the possibility of self rule (in an adjacent state)–which has been negotiated for–is a critical differentiator, I would think.

  10. MM,

    Thanks for the sincere and thoughtful comment. I don’t have time for more than one comment but I’ll try to respond.

    I haven’t tabulated the intolerance from both sides, but yes, you are absolutely right, I believe it emanates from both peoples and has ALWAYS emanated from both peoples. When Magnes and Buber and the other Beit Shalom types tried to find Palestinian Arabs willing to talk about sharing the land, there were none to be found. When Hiam Weizmann tried to find Palestinian leaders to discuss some kind of federal solution, there were none to be found. There was support for sharing the entire territory of the Mandate in some way among more than a few Zionists up until the mid-1930s, when the Arab revolt made it clear that would not be possible because the Arabs had no use for the idea. I don’t dispute the racism, Orientalism and intolerance that was inherent in much of the Zionist movement nor do I justify it. But we view this conflict differently, you and me, because I think it was a conflict between two national movements and obviously there is not much more we can say to each other about that, as I believe there is plenty of blame to go around.

    But even if what you say is true, it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change the reality of what people east of the Green Line and in Gaza want RIGHT NOW. You may not believe me but I care about what they want as well as what the Israelis want. So check out this article about a recent poll of Palestinians in the OPT:

    55% are in favor of a 2- state solution and only 11% are in favor of two other options, a single bi-national state or a confederation with Jordan. Most polls I’ve seen show a much higher percentage opting for two states.

    When 1-state advocates are confronted with the plain truth that only a minority of Palestinians under occupation want 1-state. they resort to answers like “many” or “growing numbers” of Palestinians support it. That answer doesn’t work.

  11. William,

    There are many people that stretch the term apartheid out of its historical context completely and talk of “gender apartheid,” etc. I think that Rhodesia and South West Africa (Namibia) could also be considered apartheid states. SWA was similar to South Africa even when it was colonized by the Germans who were much worse to the native population. And South Africa did have slavery in the Cape Province until 1834 when Britain outlawed it throughout the British Empire. The Boers had an “apprentice” system based on kidnapping young African children and raising them as virtual slaves.

    When I compare the antebellum U.S. to Israel it isn’t in terms of slavery but in terms of having a class of native-fighter politicians–the only other Western country besides these two with such a class was the South African Republic (Transvaal). However, the antebellum North had a three-party system whereas the Transvaal had maybe a 1.5 party system, no standing army, and less than 15,000 voters in its presidential elections. Antebellum America also featured a territorial debate about the future of conquered territories, and Indian wars or ongoing native-settler warfare. The most comparable South African period to Israel in terms of internal politics was the Union of South Africa from 1910-48, but during this time the African population was quiescent.

    In terms of regional security policy a valid comparison can be made between the Republic of South Africa during the late apartheid period and Israel. And the migrant labor system in Israel was similar to that in South Africa, but Israel is much less reliant on Palestinian labor today than it was in the early 1990s–terrorism and closures has seen to that.

  12. I like your take-off point: Odds. What is really more realistic?

    Personally, I fear that destruction of Israel is the most realistic. Not tomorrow, not by Hamas or Hezballah, and not through mass-murder, however, still destruction of Israel.

    I fear that there will be no progress in the so-called peace process that Obama is currently running, mainly because Bibi is not interested in changing anything for the better, but also because Obama will not have the powers available to force through a solution, and because the Palestinian leadership is simply unable to move from their current position without being overthrown – in one way or the other.

    This lack of progress, or, in fact, the lack of serious interest in progress, will leave the entire Arab world with an ever growing wound, that has to be solved one way or the other. And the Arab world is moving consistently towards radical change: All governments are more or less dictatorial, all nationalities suffer from repression, and both democratic and religious opposition movements are making headway, perhaps especially through the internet, which the Arab dictators are notoriously incompetent in managing and censoring. Together with the continuous media attention to atrocities towards Palestinians, increasing unemployment, and general economic decline, it is only a matter of time before the Arab world is on fire.

    Then, I think, every sane Israeli will use the opportunity to exit the neighbourhood, leaving hardliners and extremists behind in Israel.

    The clash between a radicalized and weaker Israel, and 500 million revolting and mad Arabs, will not be a nice one, and it will most likely be particularly bad for the poor Palestinians caught in the middle. And it will mean the end of Israel, at least as we know it today. Needless to say, this is also my worst-case scenario.

    I don’t know what is most likely between a two-state and a one-state solution though. Personally I disgust nationalism of all kinds, which makes me a natural one-atater. IMO, the whole idea of the Nation State (or the Religious State!) has been disastrous, and we better discard that idea sooner rather than later. I am not sure if that is going to happen, hence I opt for the worst-case scenario sometime in the future, but aside from that, I think the Israeli leadership will face a choice in the near future, if a one-state solution is going to happen:
    Do we want a Palestinian ‘Mandela’, or do we want a Palestinian ‘Mugabe’? Push it too far, and the forces that would have ensured pesaceful coexistence and the rule of law to punish perpetrators of past crimes will be too weaken to fucntion, and one is left with arbitrary extremists of the worst kind (of course, you will say that that won’t happen, since Jews will anyways have majority. Wrong, a wave of refugees will cross the borders to the West Bank and Gaza, and a wave of Israelis will certainly move to the US and Europe – ensuring a Palestinian majority).

    If the two-state solution is going to happen, the Israeli leadership has to face two challenges:

    1. Avoid a civil war when 500.000 settlers returns from the West Bank (unless some of them accepts to live under Palestinian Rule), and avoid a civil war as a consequence of loss of control over Jerusalem (I have no confidence in a legitimate deal that does not force Israel to loose control of the templemount, the old city, and it’s settlements around Jerusalem).

    2. The reparations payments that will obviously be a heavy burden on Israel’s budget, and force the country into an economic recession. Depending on the agreement, Israel may also have to integrate a high number of returned Palestinian refugees, which will of course exacerbate any other problem.

    Sorry, long posts. It’s simply a lay-man’s ideas, but I’ll be surprised to see a functioning and tolerable solution anytime soon. I don’t think the two-state solution will survive for long – it will succumb to nationalism, intolerance, and challenges created by the partition.

  13. Thanks for your response, Dan.

    My only follow-up would be to say that “tabulating” (considering) the difference in intolerance, or put another way, the attraction to the idea of a tribally-pure population, really does shed light on the conflict and would be worth the effort for you to do so.

    I am familiar with the public opinion research on Palestinians and the two-state solution–it is hardly as conclusive as that done on Israelis and their commitment to a Jewish state. Compare 55% to 90+%. Why the discrepancy, do you think?

    But regarding history, it is my understanding and I believe the accepted fact that all three of the monotheistic religions were represented in pre-Zionist Palestine. So I consider your portrayal of Arab resistance to Zionism a little disingenuous in that you haven’t bothered to differentiate between reactionary attitudes toward others based on ethnicity/tribal affiliation (the case with Zionists) or based on ideology (the Arab response to Zionism).

    Judging or classifying others based on ethnicity is not the same as doing so based on ideology. Ideology clearly affects or determines attitudes and/or actions. Ethnicity is a coincidence of birth.

    I understand you don’t have time to respond to everything but I would like to see you take on this topic. I think Zionists often try to paint Arab intolerance as ethnic/tribal and unrelated to ideology. Do you think so?

  14. This idea that nation-states (or something resembling them) can and should be dissolved is at the heart of every so-called progressive argument.

    From a logical standpoint–which takes into consideration human nature and physical realities–it’s a no-starter premise. It has no legs.

    Therefore, everything appended to this argument–including one state solutions–is flawed. All of it traces back to this idea that Israel, as a sovereign state, should not be allowed to exist.

    The Left wants to use this as their latest guinea pig in the social experiment lab.

    The best I can say about it is that they’re not really coming from a place of anti-semitism (though some of them are). But rather from some misguided sense of white guilt (although plenty of Arabs are white) and a rejection of anything “Western”–i.e., nation states.

    I really don’t understand how anyone can embrace an idea for too long if the logic doesn’t make sense. I’ve had to abandon certain harebrained ideas too once I thought them through.

    The insistence that Israel–which is a flourishing, stable state–is going to crumble is mindboggling, given the reality on the ground. It’s a form of magical thinking.

    I highly recommend some people start using the left side of their brain (as lefties this should sound appealing haha!). Seriously…it will open up your world.

    As for myself…I need to exercise the left side of my own brain more and refuse to engage in refuting illogical arguments. Not productive.

  15. So what happens to the Palestinians in the territories, Suzanne? They remain colonial subjects outside the nation-state forever? To think that colonial empires persist forever is to go against most of the twentieth-century evidence.

  16. Again and again,

    If the communities regarded themselves as a single nation, then finding the tangible means to realize that would be simple horse-trading resulting in consented compromise.

    They don’t. By all polls of Palestinians, they regard themselves as either Muslim, Arab or Palestinian (in contrast to Aryeh’s assertion in his reply, there is no overwhelming self-definition of Palestinian identity, though strong enough to not be dismissed). They don’t regard themselves as one with Israel is the point.

    And similarly for Israelis, even some of the Palestinian/Arab Israelis. They identify either as Jews or Israelis largely, and do not consider themselves as one society with Palestinian/Arab/Muslim.

    That is the CLASSIC definition for partition, more pronounced than India/Pakistan which was 65/35.

    There is a two-state solution that offers current residents east of the green line Palestinian citizenship. If 100% of the settlers accepted that, including East Jerusalem, that would be 10- 12% Jewish minority, contrasting with the 18 – 20% Palestinian minority in Israel.

    At 30-35%, it becomes contentious to impossible.

    Its not there yet.

    Likud is still committed to its Israel dominant perspective that accepts an apartheid-like non-sovereign Palestinian administrative rule over isolated portions of the West Bank.

    Kadima and Labor acknowledge the possibility of a viable sovereign Palestine, still militarily and diplomatically subordinate to the state Israel, but sovereign relative to international law.

    If a sovereign Palestine were to actively ally with Iran, even with a well-intentioned two-state, there would be intense war.

    That is actually the significance of Hamas. If Hamas does not change its worldview, to accept Israel’s existence, then the likelihood that Hamas would seek to ally with Iran would itself invoke unilateral military actions against Palestine.

    In the chess game, three moves down the road, (not only the amateur’s one move ahead), a weakly constructed peace constructs a deferred war, rather than a peace.

    “Justice” from a microscopic view, rather than from a landscape view, does not yeild justice in fact.

    It takes acceptance of the other, and conscientious assertion of one’s needs, to achieve.

  17. ” I think Zionists often try to paint Arab intolerance as ethnic/tribal and unrelated to ideology”

    I’m sure most are going to inject their own subjective, highly emotional pov into this…but there’s been legitimate arguments put forth that Islam–the good, the bad, and the ugly–is colorized by Arab culture (where it began).

    Most of the Arabs I run into (I’m talking immigrants, not first generation)–tend to be Christian. Most specifically from Lebanon and Iraq. One of them happens to be a longtime friend of my father.

    While there are obviously differences (including ethnic makeup)–there are pronounced Arab characterisics that show up. I don’t know if it’s bedouin tribalism or what–as I’ve observed it more than studied it.

    For example, extreme generosity & and opening their doors to strangers–yet always a wariness and a fear someone can do them great harm. There’s a culture of lying built around that, which Arabs themselves acknowledge. I’m not putting any moral judgment on it…although it’s frustrating when you have to deal with it one on one. But it’s a coping strategy that allegedly came from nomadic tribalism.

    Are all cultural characteristics ideological rather than ethnic and tribal? You’d have to apply that test across all cultures to make that determination.

  18. William–I’d like to see the occupation end (under conditions satisfactory to both sides). I’m not in favor of the status quo.

    I understand why the Israelis feel the need to occupy…but it’s a sad solution to a bad problem.

    Ideally, the Palestinians should stabilize, become economically self sufficient and become a full fledged state.

  19. MM,

    It is not historically accurate to claim that the Zionists were motivated or based their actions ONLY upon “tribalism/ethnic affiliation” and that Arab resistance was based ONLY upon “ideology.” I don’t actually know what you mean by “ideology” or how it can be distinguished, in this case, from tribalism and ethnic affiliation.

    Before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Palestinian Arabs began developing a nationalist movement led by intellectuals and leaders of prominent families, and one of the failings of the Zionists was that they did not take these nationalist stirrings seriously. There was also pan-Arab nationalism. But the organized violent attacks on the Jews in Jerusalem (1920), Jaffa (1921), Hebron (1929) and throughout the Arab Revolt in the mid-1930s were also characterized by ethnic hatred that included raw anti-Semitism. So was the writing in much of the local Arabic media (newspapers) during the Mandate period. There were outright racist sentiments expressed against the Zionists because they were considered the Other, a European implant, AND because they were Jewish, a threat to Islam. And there were also violent attacks on Jews who had lived in Palestine for centuries. So what is that if not “tribalism?” You could say it was all justified by the provocation of the Zionist colonialists, if you want, but you should be more accurate about what motivated and energized much of the resistance against the Zionists.

    The Zionists also had a mixture of political philosophy and tribalism. If anyone could be considered ideologues, it was the Jewish socialists of the Second and Third Aliya, some of whom were more concerned about uniting Arab and Jewish workers than creating a Jewish state. The best comprehensive account of the pre-Mandate period, which covers all of this, is Tom Segev’s “One Palestine, Complete.” At least it’s the best and the fairest account that I have read. If you immerse yourself in that, you will see that the dichotomy you presented is a false one.

    Both the Zionist settlers and the Arabs who resisted them were products of their time. The Zionists were basing their actions in part on the goal of self-determination that was considered quite progressive in the mid- and late-19th century. They borrowed attitudes from more classic colonialists and they shared the Orientalist prejudices of their time and place. But if you are going to judge them by today’s standards, then you have to do the same to the local Arabs, many of whom had utter contempt for those who were different from themselves. So I do not see how you can take a balanced view of the conflict and characterize the Palestinian Arabs as mainly universalist, noble “ideologues” fighting against racist tribalists. There were racist tribalists galore on both sides.

  20. Dan, you write, “I don’t actually know what you mean by “ideology” or how it can be distinguished, in this case, from tribalism and ethnic affiliation.”

    Let me try to clarify:

    You are not born a Zionist. It is an ideology that must be taught and adopted.

    You are, however, born a Jew or not a Jew. Nothing really changes that.

    I never said ideology and ethnicity/tribe are dichotomous. But clearly, Zionism predicates one’s entitlement to live in Israel upon the latter factor.

    By pointing to anti-Semitism during Arab revolts, you again try to establish that the phenomenon was no different than Zionist rejection of indigenous Palestinians as non-Jews. It simply isn’t honest. Arabs were reacting to an ideology with nationalist and supremacist overtones, and Arab or Palestinian nationalism is really tangential, in this context.

  21. There was also class and other struggle among Palestinians/Arabs.

    The status of the fellahin were changing, as land became a titled commodity, rather than largely “owned” by residence.

    The Turks initiated it. The British furthered it when they assumed power. The Zionists assumed that when they purchased land, that it meant the same as it did in Europe, that it was their’s to use and everyone else had to leave.

    That miscommunication created a great deal of conflict that was exagerated to “they are seeking to take over, to kick us off our land.”

  22. Don’t all countries pretty much get to choose which immigrants get citizenship status or not?

    The exceptionalists here are the anti-Zionists. They think every country is free to make sovereign decisions about citizenship–EXCEPT Israel.

  23. MM,

    “By pointing to anti-Semitism during Arab revolts, you again try to establish that the phenomenon was no different than Zionist rejection of indigenous Palestinians as non-Jews”

    First of all, I never said they were the same. I was just pointing out some of the not-so-pleasant realities on both sides. Second, I don’t think it’s accurate to sum up the entire pre-1947 experience as “Zionist rejection of indigenous Palestinians as non-Jews.” That’s too glib. Many of the Zionists were trying to figure out how to share the land under British control (preferably on their own terms, of course) and, certainly before the mid-30s, few thought violent confrontation was inevitable or desirable (some did, of course). Some of the Zionists’ sentiments had a colonialist flavor that leaves a sour taste in the mouth today, but can’t be described as “rejection”–i.e., they sincerely thought the local Arabs would benefit from the presence of Western technology and culture, and hoped, somehow, that this would solve everything. Astonishingly, many of the Zionists, especially before World War I just didn’t seem to think a whole lot about their Arab neighbors’ plight or future. They were too busy with other matters. I guess that could be characterized as a form of “rejection” but it is not the kind you were referring to. Best book on this is Walter Laquer’s A History of Zionism. Really worth reading his chapter on “The Unseen Question.”

  24. A huge part of the issue is that the land the Palestinians have now is apparently not good enough for them…they want right of return and they keep electing people who insist on right of return.

  25. Dan–to add to your point about the dynamic between Arabs and Jews in pre-statehood–there’s a kneejerk tendency to see everything in the prism of racism–when in fact, those kinds of cultural & class differences go on everywhere all the time–including in people’s personal lives.

    Russian Jewish immigrants notoriously had a huge gripe against established German Jews–who in fact, “gentrified” them and were responsible for speeding up their assimilation into American society.

    The Arabs themselves were xenophobes and were half the problem (still are).

    I’d have less of a bone to pick with these ambulance chasers if they were more objective about it.

  26. To answer your premise, Dan, (as a type of one-stater) I would say that I personally don’t claim to know if either solution is impossible, or which is more possible. There are easily identifiable roadblocks to both, and it’s impossible to say with certainty which ones will be more easily bypassed. But I admit I am inclined to agree (if that’s your position) that a two-state arrangement is more likely sooner, because it is more desirable to most Jews.

    But perhaps, to accommodate this uncertainty and alternative possibilities, Palestinians and their allies should frame their demands as a choice for Israel: EITHER a separate state, or inclusion in a democratic state. Such a strategy would probably make either solution more likely. One-state by simply bringing it up as a possibility, and two-state by raising a potentially scarier alternative for Israel.

    I think the former point speaks to a problem with your interpretations of Palestinian opinion. Virtually none of the Palestinian leadership champions a bi-national framework because they have to deal with Israel, which demands they renounce that possibility as a prerequisite to even talking. Palestinian responses to the poll you cite are likely influenced by the one-sided discourse imposed on their leaders, as well as by their personal (and pessimistic) judgements of what is possible. To look only at that poll ignores that one-state variants have been central in Palestinian demands for most of their struggle against Israel (as Helena Cobban is right to point out), and it also ignores the current opinions of refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel (colluding, in a sense, with an Israeli divide-and-conquer strategy). Furthermore, it ignores the simple logic that Palestinians have a lot to gain from bi-nationalism, while Israel is constitutionally against it. All of what I really mean to say by this is: if we’re going to argue in some way against bi-nationalism, let’s be clear that we’re doing so on behalf of Israeli interests. To say simply that “the Palestinians are against it” is misleading and disingenuous. That’s something we can only say if it becomes a real option and they’re given a real opportunity to accept or reject it.

    Also, to address more of the discussion here, I think people have missed the basic point William Burns was making. The significance of the “divide-and-rule” policy he references is that its EXPLICIT goal is Jewish rule. That is the crucial distinction in Dan’s comparisons of minorities in Israel and elsewhere. Would we accept White rule in South Africa if it had more successfully jettisoned its Bantustans (to achieve that end)? The principle really is the same here, and it really is different between states that formally enshrine ethnicity (Israel) and those that don’t and yet still have problematic relationships with minorities (the USA, Europe, etc.). If they could, Palestinians would gladly trade their lot for the oppression of Muslims in Europe or Blacks in the U.S.–because it is qualitatively different, a fact which is connected to its being not as harsh in human terms.

    To quote Tony Judt: “Israel itself is a multicultural society in all but name; yet it remains distinctive among democratic states in its resort to ethnoreligious criteria with which to denominate and rank its citizens. It is an oddity among modern nations not—as its more paranoid supporters assert—because it is a JEWISH state and no one wants the Jews to have a state; but because it is a Jewish STATE in which one community—Jews—is set above others, in an age when that sort of state has no place.”

  27. And I would add to that last quote, Israel is more than just a “multi-cultural” state. It is a state with a LARGE and INDIGENOUS population not included in the official ethnicity.

  28. Robin,
    Your characterization of Israel’s nature is innaccurate, as is your assessment of Palestinian attitude, and nature of the reasoning for the undesirability of a single state.

    It is FACT that Zionists until 1929 nearly consistently (with the exception of Jabotinsky) proposed bi-national approaches. They were utterly rejected by every Arab of stature (as a state structure).

    So, an 80 year-old idea, you suddently adopt. I wasn’t around then, and I assume you weren’t either.

    The two-state idea took 25 years to reach credibility and now necessity.

    To abandon it now is to state, “I want no solution”.

  29. “All of what I really mean to say by this is: if we’re going to argue in some way against bi-nationalism, let’s be clear that we’re doing so on behalf of Israeli interests. To say simply that “the Palestinians are against it” is misleading and disingenuous.”

    Extremely well put, Robin.

    Of course the actual Palestinian statehood implied by the two-state solution has played out kind of like Waiting for Godot–and even if you believe Godot will one day show up–it is a thinly veiled call for the continuation of Zionism’s ethnic/tribal classification of citizens, a total anachronism in the modern world.

  30. MM:
    So if it is so anachronistic, why does Ireland grant easy citizenship to those who can claim that one of their grandparents was Irish? And Ireland is far from the only state in Europe that does this. Greece also offers a preference for those of Greek ancestry.

  31. I just want to thank and compliment everyone for the quality of the commentary and the (mostly) polite but probing nature of the conversation. When I compare these comments to those on other blogs that focus on the Israeli-Arab conflict, it makes me realize that what I originally set out to accomplish when I began this blog two years ago–i.e., promote constructive but still candid exchanges– is an even more important goal now. I know I have learned a great deal from those I disagree with…

  32. You’re right, Tom. There are ethnocentric/geographic criteria for citizenship in other countries. Italy, Ireland, etc. What would really be a parallel, though, would be if Ireland didn’t let people WITHOUT Irish grandparents buy real estate or maintain their residence in certain parts of Dublin, or get married to an Irish person, or drive on Irish-only highways, or serve in the Irish armed forces.

    See the difference?

  33. I’m waiting with baited breath to hear the response to Tom’s question about citizenship privileges in Ireland & Greece (to name just a couple). In fact, I could be a citizen of 3 countries if I got a move on it! 🙂

    And sorry to be such a cheerleader, but Richard’s post #31 is kickbutt.

    It would be great to have an I/P Firing Line debate (preferably live). Too bad those types of events aren’t more popular.

    BTW–I caught Dan’s innuendo about mostly polite commentary…and I’ll try to tone down the sarcasm. I’m admittedly impatient at this point about having the same roundy round arguments about the same old stuff.

    I’ll have to read the Laquer book. I always understood that early Zionists had an idea of one state, mixed population–which is not to say they were always tolerant of–and openminded about–a less modern indigenous culture.

  34. Actually, MM, non-Jews do serve in the Israeli forces. And there’s a big stink about that because they aren’t afforded the same marriage rights.

    I have to agree the whole citizenship tier thing is prejudicial. To me, it’s a variation on the dhimmi status…or Jew’s 2nd class citizenship in Russia etc.

    I don’t know the extent of it–but it’s problematic.

  35. MM,

    When one compares the restrictions on Jews in Arab countries to Palestinians in Israel it tends to shed a whole new light on the subject. The best way to get rid of the settlers is for the Palestinians to stop talking and insisting on flooding Israel with Palestinians.

  36. The comparison with Ireland and Greece is manifestly inappropriate. As MM points out, the actual legal status of ethnicity in those countries is probably much less significant than in Israel.

    But the more important point is what I wrote in #29. Greece and Ireland are composed mostly of Greeks and Irish, respectively. Their nation-states basically “fit”. Even if an official nationalism causes problems for some minorities, the scale is tiny and there is less reason for conflict to be quite so bitter.

    Palestinians are not immigrants; they are indigenous to all of the state of Israel. They are not even a minority; they are a majority when you include those in the state of Israel as well as those who were forced out and would return. A specifically Jewish state that controls all or most of the land they live on and claim rights on is simply not viable–and the last 60 years of ethnic cleansing and conflict is what not being viable looks like.

    Notice that in advocating “binationalism”, I am not saying “no nationalism”. Binationalism IS nationalism that accomodates the reality of two peoples, rather than fighting that reality. Nationalism may be a fundamentally bad concept–I don’t know. But we can adopt–we must adopt–less destructive forms of it, whether there is one state or two.

  37. Israel’s population is 80 percent Jewish and 20 percent Palestinian. Arabic is an official language in Israel. Hebrew was never an official language in any Arab state.

    Give me an example outside of Europe where bi-nationalism has successfully worked. Even in Europe it has been problematic (Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Northern Ireland). I don’t have a problem with national rights for the existing Palestinian population within Israel, but it should not be an excuse for swamping Israel with another nationality. But you should keep in mind that the ANC in South Africa was reluctant to grant group rights to Afrikaners other than freedom of religion and the use of their language and the right to private education.

  38. As pointed out in the blog posts Peter provided, the Palestinians and their supporters are more interested in undermining the sovereign ethno-Jewish character of Israel than creating a stable, independent, sovereign state for themselves.

    Until they let go of that, the status quo will remain.

    The fixation on Israel is a rather sickish pathology, isn’t it? I have to wonder what the gratification in all this is.

  39. I don’t know what Greece’s story is…but I do know that Ireland had the ancestry clause for citizenship for similar (though not identical) reasons as Israel: Ireland lost a huge portion of its population and needed to rebuild it in order to improve the economy and be competitive.

    There was also a desire to resurrect and preserve Irish culture (which has been destroyed)–so there is ethnic preference there.

    Since we’re talking about differentiators here, let’s not conveniently forget that Ireland also doesn’t have a hostile population that wants to take over and wipe it off the map.

  40. MM:
    Going back to your previous post #35, you are badly misinformed about Israel. Israel does let Arabs serve in its armed forces, it just does not conscript them. It also allows them to marry foreigners, but limited Palestinians from entering Israel through marriage to an Israeli citizen at a time when Hamas and Islamic Jihad were attempting to use Israeli Arabs to carry out suicide bombings. So this law has a specific context.

  41. Fixation on Israel, Suzanne? What percentage of your blog comment posts are on topics other than Israel? Might look in the mirror on that.

  42. ummmm…William…this blog IS about Israel.

    My point, in case it was missed, is that the Palestinians and their band of merry cohorts appear to be fixated on Eretz Israel and not on the land they have right now or their own dysfunctional meshugaz.

    Good luck with that.

  43. “Israel’s population is 80 percent Jewish and 20 percent Palestinian. Arabic is an official language in Israel. Hebrew was never an official language in any Arab state.”

    Why would it be, Tom? The modern Hebrew language is barely 150 years old. The Jewish populations in Arab countries (prior to Zionism and their relocation to Israel) spoke Arabic in daily life, and only used classical Hebrew in its religious context.

    Saying Hebrew ought to have been an official language in an Arab country is like suggesting that since a significant minority of Americans are Catholic, Latin ought to be an official language in the U.S. Hard to see the logic.

  44. And just to continue on the language riff…

    Ever noticed that place names in the United States are predominately Spanish or indigenous?

    Contrast that with Israel, where Arab villages were “wiped off the map” and replaced with Hebrew names.

    Why is that? Any theory, Tom?

  45. MM:

    In re to place names, the Arabs founded very few new settlements in Palestine after the Arab conquest in 635. Ramallah is the major exception. The Arabs retained the original names with in some cases slight Arabizations. In places where Jews settled on an existing Arab village they simply restored the previous Hebrew name, as in Yafo.

    Spanish names in the U.S. are also the imposition of settler names. Many of the Indian names in the U.S. are bad corruptions of the original names as in Rhodesian attempts at African names–Umtali for Mutare.

    In regard to languages it would be interesting to compare Arabic usage in official documents in Israel with Kurdish usage in Iraq under Saddam or the Hashemites or Aramaic usage in Iraq and Syria.

  46. Robin,

    The ethnicity in Ireland fits much better after two-thirds or more of Protestants were driven out under the Free State by IRA intimidation squads. In the space of a decade Protestants went from being 10 percent of the population to less than 3 percent.

  47. It’s very simple.
    a) Israel already extends its de facto sovereignty over all of Israel proper, the West Bank, and Gaza.
    b) Israel shows no sign whatsoever of any intention to relinquish said sovereignty.
    c) Israeli settlements have made it impossible to form a viable state from the West Bank and Gaza, even if Israel were to relinquish its sovereignty on the parts not settled by Israelis.

    Ergo: There is already one state.

    We are not talking about Northern Ireland. We are not even talking about Ireland, ca. 1900. Neither are we talking about French Algeria. The situation is unique and, in many ways, it’s worse than any other decolonization problem. I can think of no other Western State ever ruling over a large population of disenfranchised colonial subjects in what it considers its own core territory – except maybe South Africa, and that’s why this analogy is so common.

  48. “Why would it be, Tom? The modern Hebrew language is barely 150 years old. The Jewish populations in Arab countries (prior to Zionism and their relocation to Israel) spoke Arabic in daily life, and only used classical Hebrew in its religious context.”

    You digressed from the original topic. The point was that Jews are 80% and Arabs are 20% of the Israeli population, therefore not a majority as suggested.

  49. “I can think of no other Western State ever ruling over a large population of disenfranchised colonial subjects in what it considers its own core territory – except maybe South Africa, and that’s why this analogy is so common.”

    There seems to be a disconnect on what Hamas (and Hizbollah’s) goals are. Are you suggesting their gripe with Israel is simply over the ’67 borders and occupation?

    Is that what you are REALLY suggesting?

  50. Richard, I believe injustice should be confronted, and my tone is civil and merely inquisitive. I raised questions that I wanted Dan and Tom to answer, and I thank them for offering their explanations, even if I am not particularly convinced.

    I still do not think that the supremacist strain in Jewish ethnic nationalism is faced honestly by so-called progressive Zionists.

    Likewise, I do not see an equal and opposite supremacist strain on the other side of the conflict, despite massive propagandistic efforts by Zionists to depict one.

    If you removed the ethnic/tribal qualification for full citizenship and rights, Zionism would no longer be Zionism, and the future for ALL of the residents of the land controlled by Israel would be brighter.

    But instead, Jewish nationalists living half a world away continue to insist on a particular ethnicity/tribe’s dominion, to the great detriment of the indigenous population and the radically militarized and racialized Jewish population of Israel itself, because this nationalist project has become an integral part of their group identity, and a source of collective power that they do not wish to ever relinquish, justice, international law, and human rights be damned.

  51. Suzanne, let me try to help you, re: Hezbollah and Hamas.

    Do you remember when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was going to “wipe Israel off the map”? Remember the name of the conference he was speaking at?

    If you get rid of the supremacist ideology that says Jews have certain rights and non-Jews don’t, you solve the main problem faced by the million Palestinians who have been turned into refugees, prisoners, or second-class citizens.

    But Zionists have accumulated great power, and the question is: will they surrender ANY of it, in the interests of peace, of a better future for their children and their neighbors.

    You’re part of Team Chosen; I’m not. So it’s up to you.

  52. To MM, Koshiro and the other anti-Zionists here:

    You guys throw out words like “tribalist”, “ethnocentric” and the such like bombs. In other words, we are supposed to be afraid of them. I personally couldn’t care less if you called me a “tribalist” or not. I don’t care if you call me “ethnocentric” or not. You know darned well that Israeli Arabs have a higher standard of living than all Arabs not living in the oil-rich Gulf states and more freedom than ANY Arab living in any Arab country. The Israeli Arabs VEHEMENTLY oppose having their towns transferred to Palestinian sovereignity. Then would rather live as a minority in Israel than under their own peope. This is what matters, not the fact that there is a certain amount of discrimination against them which doesn’t concern me in the least.

    YES, I AM A MEMBER OF “TEAM CHOSEN”. Get used to it. The Qur’an also teaches that the Arabs are the “chosen”. Go convince them to give up their beliefs before you bother us with this.

  53. Mr. Ben-David, your argument that Israeli Arabs would prefer to live under a supremacist system that treats them as second class citizens is very convincing.

    Being a Zionist chauvinist, you probably understand Palestinian public opinion very well.

    I do have one minor qualm with what you posted, however. You used the term, “Palestinian sovereignty.” I consider that phrase borderline anti-Semitic.

    Please be more careful in the future.

  54. Koshiro:

    You’re wrong, as usual. Algerie francais consisted of three departments that were all legally on the same status as the French mainland and the Muslims weren’t offered any type of franchise until the mid-1950s. Angola and Mozambique were also considered overseas provinces rather than colonies legally and less than one percent of the Africans had the franchise. So, instead you end up going to your preconceived notion that Israel is uniquely evil.

  55. MM,
    Its odd that you consider your tone civil.

    I don’t regard Jews as “chosen” in the sense of privilege. But, we are a nation, a people.

    My Zionism is for enough, enough to be a people. The dream of greater Zion is now clearly implausible, but the dream of enough Zion, is clearly plausible, and optimizes democracy.

    According to all polls, the peoples regard themselves as separate societies, so separate that they regard governance by the other to be a fundamental imposition.

    In that setting, a 51% majority would rule over and prospectively suppress (if there is not a dominant universalist attitude over nationalist or religious) the remaining 49%.

    In a two-state scenario, in which minorities comprise at most 20% of their host nation, that is the largest extent of any suppression.

    The common factor for reform is the development of mutually respectful civilist attitude and party. But, you are not doing that MM. You are condemning prospective neighbors, partners, and urging for a punitive and Palestinian nationalistic approach.

    Zionists value their self-governance, highly. It is respectable, more respectable if reformed.

    Why don’t you value that urge to self-governance?

  56. In reading of the history of Zionism, ideas, actions, conflicts, there is enormous substantiation for the importance of the state of Israel, especially for post WW2 European refugees, and later for sephardic refugees and immigrants.

    Dan has recommended the Laquere “History of Zionism”, which I am about 2/3 through.

    There is much discussion in the book of criticism of Zionism, very candid. You really should read of the history.

    Not comic books of it, whether right or left.

  57. Let me get this straight…is someone here actually suggesting–and can back up their claim with PROOF–that Israeli Arabs would leave Israel if a Palestinian state were created?


  58. “I do have one minor qualm with what you posted, however. You used the term, “Palestinian sovereignty.” I consider that phrase borderline anti-Semitic.”

    I doubt anyone–including yourself–understood what you meant by this. Would you please elaborate? thank you.

  59. Suzanne,

    So other people who post about Israel on blogs devoted to the topic of Israel have a sick pathology, but you’re perfectly OK?

  60. “Going back to your previous post #35, you are badly misinformed about Israel. Israel does let Arabs serve in its armed forces, it just does not conscript them. It also allows them to marry foreigners, but limited Palestinians from entering Israel through marriage to an Israeli citizen at a time when Hamas and Islamic Jihad were attempting to use Israeli Arabs to carry out suicide bombings. So this law has a specific context.”

    Come on Tom, you know very well that the limitations on family reunification were done for demographic reasons (i.e. preserving Israel’s Jewish majority), not security ones. Even its supporters acknowledge that:

  61. “As pointed out in the blog posts Peter provided, the Palestinians and their supporters are more interested in undermining the sovereign ethno-Jewish character of Israel than creating a stable, independent, sovereign state for themselves.

    Until they let go of that, the status quo will remain.

    The fixation on Israel is a rather sickish pathology, isn’t it? I have to wonder what the gratification in all this is.”

    Um…the writer of the blog I linked to, Jerry Haber, is an Orthodox Jew who lives in Jerusalem. Is it really surprising that he has a “fixation” on Israel?

  62. Peter–so what? There are Orthodox Jews in Israel who think Israel shouldn’t exist.

    The point remains (excuse my redundancy): “the Palestinians and their supporters are more interested in undermining the sovereign ethno-Jewish character of Israel than creating a stable, independent, sovereign state for themselves.”

    I don’t see where I’m wrong.

  63. @ Tom Mitchell
    No, I’m right. As usual. The legal status of Algeria did not actually make it a part of France’s core territory, which is the term I used. If you really think that Algeria was ever considered to be such, you’re dead wrong.
    But go ahead. Knock yourself out by equalizing Israel with colonial France. Personally I think that comparison is too harsh even for Israel’s colonial regime, but if you want to smear Israel by likening it to French colonial oppression in Algeria, who am I to tell you you can’t.

    @ Y. Ben-David
    Save your bragging and your bigotry. We’re not primarily concerned with Israeli Arabs – although you are of course using false standards. Compared to Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs are severely underprivileged.
    We are primarily concerned with the majority Palestinians who live under Israeli rule. They don’t have any democratic rights whatsoever, they are severely impoverished, they are denied freedom of movement, freedom of commerce, well freedom of just about anything – and yes: It’s all Israel’s responsibility.

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