Gideon Levy writes: Jews and Arabs have lived together in one state since 1948; Israelis and Palestinians have lived together in one state since 1967. This country is Jewish and Zionist, but not democratic for everyone. Its Arab citizens are deprived, while the Palestinians in the territories are disinherited and lacking rights. Yet the one state solution is here – and has been for quite a long time.
It has been a solution for its Jewish citizens and a disaster for its Palestinian subjects. The ones who are frightened by it – nearly all Israelis – ignore the reality that the one state arrangement already exists. They only are terrified by a change in its character – from a state of apartheid and occupation to an egalitarian state; from a binational state in practice that is disguised as a nation state (of the ruler), to a binational state in principle. Either way, Jews and Palestinians have lived in this one state for at least two generations, albeit apart. It’s impossible to ignore.
Relations between the two peoples in this one country have known changes: from a military regime over the Arab-Israelis until its abolishment (in 1966), from a calmer and freer period in the territories through stormy periods of murderous terror and violent occupation. In Jerusalem, Acre, Jaffa, Ramle, Lod, the Galillee and Wadi Ara live Arabs and Jews, and the relations between them are not impossible.
Relations with the Palestinians in the territories have also changed – but over the years we lived in one country, even if by the sword. [Continue reading...]
Joseph Dana writes: As the Second World War reached its height in the early 1940s, the largest Zionist paramilitary group in Palestine, known simply as the Irgun (the Organisation), sent a young emissary to the United States. His assignment was to raise money to save the Jews of Europe but the task quickly transformed into raising funds and diplomatic cover for the Irgun’s campaign of terror against the British in Palestine.
While in Washington, Hillel Kook, the Irgun’s emissary and the nephew of the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Avraham Kook, changed his name to Peter Bergson. By most accounts, Bergson was successful at his task but during the operation in the United States his ideology transformed from traditional proto-Likud thinking into something more akin to the debate about a one-state solution in contemporary Israel/Palestine.
Peter Bergson was one of the first to argue for a “Hebrew” republic that would grant full rights to Jew and non-Jew alike. His essential argument was that the people of the land of Israel had an equal stake in the reformation of an ancient Hebrew republic while those outside could elect to join but should not apply external influence.
In the short term, both Palestinian and Jew had a shared interest in fighting together against the British mandate and, for Bergson, this partnership could materialise into something deeper after the goal of independence was achieved. He wanted a democratic Israel, which didn’t use Jewish ethnicity as a pretext for rights and was thus a state of all of its citizens. As history would have it, Bergson’s concept of a Hebrew republic never materialised.
While in Washington, Bergson distributed a number of pamphlets outlining his radical new approach to the conflict in the Middle East including a slim volume titled Manifesto of the Hebrew Nation which announced, in no uncertain terms, that “the Jews in the United States do not belong to the Hebrew nation. These Jews are Americans of Hebrew descent”. [Continue reading...]
Saree Makdisi writes: Israel did not wait long to reveal its first response to the United Nations General Assembly’s overwhelming recognition of Palestine as a non-member state, almost immediately announcing its intention to push forward with plans to build housing for Jewish settlers in E1, an area of the West Bank just to the east of Jerusalem.
Although it is sometimes misleadingly referred to as “disputed” or “controversial,” settlement construction in E1 is no more and no less of a contravention of international law than settlement construction elsewhere in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. What makes this development significant is E1’s location, sealing tight the gap between East Jerusalem and Israel’s largest settlement, Maale Adumim, further to the east.
That gap is the last remaining link for Palestinians between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank; it also occupies the interface among and between the Palestinian communities of Ramallah, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem — which, apart from being the cultural, religious, social and economic focal point of Palestinian life, is also one day supposed to be the capital of Palestine.
In moving forward with long-threatened plans to develop E1, Israel will be breaking the back of the West Bank and isolating the capital of the prospective Palestinian state from its hinterland. In so doing, it will be terminating once and for all the very prospect of that state — and with it, by definition, any lingering possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Continue reading...]
Ghada Karmi writes: It is one year this week since the Palestinians applied for UN membership. President Mahmoud Abbas’s impassioned plea to the UN’s General Assembly for support of the We Palestinian case on 23 September 2011 won him much praise, even from his detractors. But it came to nothing, and no further Palestinian application for UN membership was made. Now, however, the statehood issue is back on the Palestinian agenda.
Abbas has recently threatened to relaunch the UN application if Israeli settlement expansion continues. This time he would seek UN non-member observer state status, but has yet to decide to consult with Arab and other states, and it may come to nothing again. Only a bankruptcy of ideas could be driving him towards this move, given the present situation of US acquiescence to regional Israeli hegemony, and Israel’s stunning success in diverting world attention from the conflict on its doorstep to Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons.
The president also faces serious trouble at home. The Palestinian economy, dependent on aid, is staggering under a chronic budget deficit and external debt of a billion dollars, nearly a fifth of GDP. Donor funding has declined from $1 billion to $750 million, and the Palestinian Authority has delayed paying 153,000 employees, prompting protests. Mass strikes and demonstrations have rocked the West Bank for days.
The protesters want an amendment of the 1994 Paris protocol, a key part of the Oslo accords that govern economic relations between Israel and the PA. Its main effect has been to keep the Palestinian economy dependent on Israel. It pegs Palestinian tax rates to Israel’s much higher ones, lays open Palestinians markets to Israel, though the reverse is not true, and through various restrictions, forces the Palestinian to trade only with Israel. The resulting poverty and 40% youth unemployment have pushed people on to the streets, and they now demand the resignation of the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, and of the PA itself. Now Abbas has proposed cancelling the whole Oslo accords, including the economic and security agreements. However, no decision was reached, and whether it’s another empty threat remains to be seen. [Continue reading...]
Avraham Burg, former Speaker of the Knessett, argues that it is time for what remains of an Israeli left to abandon the idea of a two-state solution.
Until now, we the seekers of peace, wandered through the world, spreading the hope that there would soon be solutions, while they were busy creating disheartening facts on the ground. With time, our rhetoric was victorious (Netanyahu said “two states” ), but it died. Their acts won the day and are already killing all of us.
So enough of the illusions. There are no longer two states between the Jordan River and the sea. Let the right-wing MKs, the Katzes and the Elkins, travel around the world and show the beauty of their faces without the deceptive layer of makeup we provided.
Meanwhile we must consider how we can enter into the new Israeli discourse. It has intriguing potential. The next diplomatic formula that will replace the “two states for two peoples” will be a civilian formula. All the people between the Jordan and the sea have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that there will be only one state between the Jordan and the sea – neither ours nor theirs but a mutual one. It is likely to be a country with nationalist, racist and religious discrimination and one that is patently not democratic, like the one that exists today. But it could be something entirely different. An entity with a common basis for at least three players: an ideological right that is prepared to examine its feasibility; a left, part of which is starting to free itself of the illusions of “Jewish and democratic”; and a not inconsiderable part of the Palestinian intelligentsia.
The conceptual framework will be agreed upon – a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens. The practicable substance could be fertile ground for arguments and creativity. This is an opportunity worth taking, despite our grand experience of missing every opportunity and accusing everyone else except ourselves.
Ilan Pappe writes:
We are all going to be invited to the funeral of the two-state solution if and when the UN General Assembly announces the acceptance of Palestine as a member state.
The support of the vast majority of the organization’s members would complete a cycle that began in 1967 and which granted the ill-advised two-state solution the backing of every powerful and less powerful actor on the international and regional stages.
Even inside Israel, the support engulfed eventually the right as well as the left and center of Zionist politics. And yet despite the previous and future support, everybody inside and outside Palestine seems to concede that the occupation will continue and that even in the best of all scenarios, there will be a greater and racist Israel next to a fragmented and useless bantustan.
The charade will end in September or October — when the Palestinian Authority plans to submit its request for UN membership as a full member — in one of two ways.
It could be either painful and violent, if Israel continues to enjoy international immunity and is allowed to finalize by sheer brutal force its mapping of post-Oslo Palestine. Or it could end in a revolutionary and much more peaceful way with the gradual replacement of the old fabrications with solid new truths about peace and reconciliation for Palestine. Or perhaps the first scenario is an unfortunate precondition for the second. Time will tell.
Joseph Dana writes that the destruction of the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem confirms that the two-state solution is finished and that it is time to start fighting for democratic rights for all of the residents of the land under Israeli military rule.
Israel and Palestine are under full Israeli military control. Everything going in and out of the Palestinian areas, West Bank and Gaza, passes through Israeli control. Every baby born in Gaza is registered in an Israeli controlled census. Instead of thinking about what would be in the future perhaps we should start from what is in the present. We live in one state.
So what does this state look like? It is a state in which eighty percent of the population, the Jewish population, enjoys full democratic, civil and human rights. The remaining residents of Israel within the 1948 green line borders are the Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in a system of institutionalized discrimination much like the Jim Crow South of the 1950′s.
In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians live in an apartheid-like system where the term ‘separate and unequal’ reaches its full potential. Different infrastructure, different and unequal court systems, unequal access to resources such as water and lack of freedom of movement constitute their lifestyle. That leaves us with Gaza, which is basically an open air prison, fenced in and controlled by Israel. These are the current parameters of the one state which is known as ‘Israel and Palestine’ or ‘Israel and its occupied territories’.
Ilan Pappé writes:
The one-state solution has a troubled history. It began as a soft Zionist concept of Jewish settlers, some of whom were leading intellectuals in their community, who wished to reconcile colonialism and humanism. They were looking for a way that would not require the settlers either to return to their homelands or to give up the idea of a new Jewish life in the “redeemed” ancient homeland. They were also moved by more practical considerations, such as the relatively small number of Jewish settlers within a solid Palestinian majority. They offered binationalism within one modern state. They found some Palestinian partners when the settlers arrived in the 1920s but were soon manipulated by the Zionist leadership to serve that movement’s strategy and then disappeared into the margins of history.
In the 1930s, notable members among them, such as Yehuda Magnes, were appointed as emissaries by the Zionist leadership for talks with the Arab Higher Committee. Magnes and his colleagues genuinely believed, then and in retrospect, that they served as harbingers of peace, but in fact they were sent to gauge the impulses and aspirations on the other side, so as to defeat it in due course. They existed in one form or another until the end of the Mandate. Their only potential ally, the Palestine Communist Party, for a while endorsed their idea of binationalism, but in the crucial final years of the Mandate, adopted the principle of partition as the only solution (admittedly due to orders from Moscow rather than out of a natural growth of its ideology). So by 1947, there was no significant support for the idea on either the Zionist or Palestinian side. Moreover, it seems that there was no genuine desire locally or regionally to look for a local solution and it was left to the international community to propose one.
The appearance in 1947 of the one-state solution as an international option is a chapter of history very few know about or bother to revisit. It is worth remembering that at one given point during the discussions and deliberations of UNSCOP (the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, February to November 1947), those members of the UN who were not under the influence of either the United States or the USSR—and they were not many—regarded the idea of one state in Palestine as the best solution for the conflict. They defined it as a democratic unitary state, where citizenship would be equal and not determined on the basis of ethnicity or nationality. The indigenous population was defined as those who were in Palestine at that time, nearly two million people who were mostly Palestinians. When their idea was put in a minority report of UNSCOP (the majority report was the basis for the famous [or infamous] Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947), half of the then members of the UN General Assembly supported it, before succumbing to pressure by the superpowers to vote in favor of the partition resolution. It is not surprising in hindsight that people around the world, who did not feel, like the Western powers did, that the creation of a Jewish state at the expense of the Palestinians was the best compensation for the horrors of the Holocaust, would support the unitary state. After all the Jewish community in Palestine was made of newcomers and settlers, and were only one-third of the overall population. But common decency and sense were not allowed to play a role where Palestine was concerned.
Illan Pappe addressing the Palestine Solidarity conference in Stuttgart, Germany on November 27, talks about challenging the ideological foundation of the state of Israel.