How Many States?
Originally written by Ernie Halfdram and published on his excellent The Bureau of Counter Propaganda blog in 2007, the essay below really has hardly aged in my opinion. Now READ!
For months I’ve been saying I would write a review of Ali Abunimah’s One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. It’s beginning to look like that won’t happen. In any case, the principal reason I wanted to review it was bec
Meanwhile, Pluto Press published yet another book on the subject in February by ex psychiatrist, Joel Kovel, Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine. It will probably be some months before I get around to reading Kovel, and maybe this time, I’ll actually review it. I had read some snippets by Kovel somewhere or other not too long ago and recall thinking he was psychologising political matters. Raymond Deane’s review of Overcoming Zionism on the Electronic Intifada, however, said that it expanded on the ideas he first developed in a 2002 article in Tikkun magazine entitled ‘Zionism’s bad conscience’, an article that I found little to differ with.
And now, Zed Books has just published Where Now for Palestine, the Demise of the Two State Solution, a collection of essays edited by Jamil Hilal that was reviewed recently by expatriate Israeli Miko Peled, on The Electronic Intifada. It seems likely that I’ll come back to these issues when I’ve read the latest contributions to the debate. Meanwhile, I consider this a work in progress and welcome comments.
When I write of
Abunimah draws certain conclusions from the South African experience that buoy his optimism about the potential for a unitary state throughout
The crucial difference is whether the indigenous population is harnessed as a labour force to be exploited, a source of surplus product; or excluded from the settlers’ economy – marginalized, exterminated or expelled, ethnically cleansed.
As Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery wrote in Counterpunch in January
In SA, a White minority (about 10 percent) ruled over a huge majority of Blacks (78 percent), people of mixed race (7 percent) and Asians (3 percent). Here, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, there are now 5.5 million Jewish-Israelis and an equal number of Palestinian-Arabs (including the 1.4 million Palestinians who are citizens of
The SA economy was based on Black labor and could not possibly have existed without it. Here, the Israeli government has succeeded in excluding the non-Israeli Palestinians almost completely from the Israeli labor market and replacing them with foreign workers.
The 1996 South African Census, incidentally, shows that Avnery’s ballpark figures were not far off – 10.9% for ‘White’, 76.7% ‘African/Black’, 8.9% ‘Coloured’, and 2.6% ‘Indian/Asian’ (3.5% including ‘Unspecified Other’).
These two differences are significant. Even if they had wanted to, white South Africans could not have exterminated the more than 36 million Blacks, nor driven them over the border. The creation of the Bantustans was always recognised as a transparent ploy to deprive Black South Africans of political rights within ‘
Clearly in 1948, the Zionists thought they could drive the Palestinian population out and get away with it. And they were right, although they stopped before finishing the job. It remains to be seen whether
Not only was the Black working class numerically huge and utterly indispensable to the South African economy under apartheid, it was organised. In contrast, the Palestinian working class is marginal to the Israeli economy and unorganised. I would like to think that Abunimah is right and the similarities will outweigh the differences. But in my view, these factors militate very strongly against a resolution to the conflict in
The main difference I have with Abunimah, and with Tilley as well, although she is sometimes ambivalent on this point, is that they argue that ‘facts on the ground’ established since the occupation of June 1967 have made a just partition of
Any approach that aims to resolve the problems in
We often hear formulations like ‘
In demanding recognition of its right to exist,
John V. Whitbeck’s ‘What '
To demand that Palestinians recognize "
Nevertheless, promotion of a two state ‘solution’ inevitably presupposes acceptance of
I think it goes without saying, but there does seem to be considerable confusion about the issue, of what it means for
In conception and implementation, a Jewish state embraces inequality and is therefore inherently undemocratic. Clearly,
So the first point is that to support a two state ‘solution’ in Palestine, which as I said means accepting the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, requires an implicit endorsement of an undemocratic state privileging some people over others on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Most of those who support partition of
But it goes beyond just being undemocratic. Because the Jewish state necessarily privileges Jews as an ethnicity, it is also inherently racist.
Curiously, it was not until 1970 that the Law of return was amended to define Jew.
For the purposes of this Law, "Jew" means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.
While it also provides for recognition of converts as Jews on the basis of religion, the basic principle is descent, irrespective of religious belief or practice or membership of a religious community. In other words, it establishes a racial category.
The same 1970 amendment also vests ‘the rights of a Jew’ ‘in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion.’
While it may be, as some have argued, that the vesting of the rights of a Jew in these populations is strictly a humanitarian measure, there is a striking resemblance between them and those defined as Jewish and ‘of mixed Jewish blood’ under the November 1935 First Supplementary Decree to the Nazi Nuremburg Laws.
ARTICLE 5 (1) A Jew is an individual who is descended from at least three grandparents who were, racially, full Jews... (2) A Jew is also an individual who is descended from two full-Jewish grandparents if: (a) he was a member of the Jewish religious community when this law was issued, or joined the community later; (b) when the law was issued, he was married to a person who was a Jew, or was subsequently married to a Jew; (c) he is the issue from a marriage with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, which was contracted after the coming into effect of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor of September 15, 1935; (d) he is the issue of an extramarital relationship with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, and was born out of wedlock after July 31, 1936.
ARTICLE 2. (1) The provisions of Article I shall apply also to subjects who are of mixed Jewish blood. (2) An individual of mixed Jewish blood is one who is descended from one or two grandparents who, racially, were full Jews, insofar that he is not a Jew according to Section 2 of Article 5. Full-blooded Jewish grandparents are those who belonged to the Jewish religious community.
What makes the Nuremburg Laws racist is that they provide for the systematic oppression of a group identified on the basis of real or imagined descent. It is crucial to understand that race is not a biological category, but one constructed by the racist on a social basis and imbued with pseudobiological meaning. Race is a phenomenon that only exists insofar as the racist defines it and deploys it. Racists may decide to identify the target race on the basis of any arbitrary characteristic: skin colour; eye, lip, head, or nose shape; hair characteristics; language; cultural practices; surname; religious observance, or indeed, religious observance of forebears.
Although the intent was a category defined strictly in terms of descent, religion was used as a proxy marker of descent two generations back. The Nazis didn’t just pretend Jews were a racial group. By identifying Jews as a race, they created the race. That’s as real as race gets as a category. It doesn’t matter what markers the racist claims to use in identifying members of a race. What makes it a race is not the markers, but the racism. Just like any other kind of racism, it is based on the racists’ perception of race as a biological category.
The Law of Return identifies a Jewish race on much the same basis as the Nuremburg Laws. The intention in this case however is not to oppress but to privilege Jews, and concomitantly, to discriminate against non Jews living in the Jewish state.
So, in supporting a two state ‘solution’, which, as I think I’ve demonstrated, entails accepting a Jewish state in some meaningful sense, it becomes necessary to embrace racism, again, either as a general principle, or just in this one case.
As Joseph Massad explained in al Ahram in April,
By Zionism, I mean the belief that a Jewish state – a state that privileges Jews in some meaningful sense – is a good idea and has a ‘right to exist’. It arises from the premise that all Jews have common interests, that all non Jews have opposing interests, and that Jews and non Jews cannot join forces to combat anti-Semitism.
Zionism assumes that anti-Semitism will inevitably arise wherever Jews live among non Jews.
The Jewish question exists wherever Jews live in perceptible numbers. Where it does not exist, it is carried by Jews in the course of their migrations. We naturally move to those places where we are not persecuted, and there our presence produces persecution. This is the case in every country, and will remain so, even in those highly civilized--for instance,
That’s how Theodor Herzl, ‘the father of Zionism’, put it in his seminal 1896 work, Der Judenstadt.
In some versions, anti-Semitism is actually hardwired into gentiles – Moses Hess, for example, writes of the Germans’ ‘inborn racial antagonism to the Jews’ (Rome & Jerusalem, 1862). A formulation like this implies a very strong version of biological determinism, but ultimately, that is where Zionism leads. If anti-Semitism were really just a social phenomenon, then there would be viable social approaches to its eradication and there would be no necessity for Jews to isolate ourselves from non Jews. So to adopt the Zionist position as I’ve defined it, which support for partition requires, also means adoption of a biological determinist position.
In this respect, Zionism counterposes itself directly to the socialist principle of class solidarity. Specifically, Jewish employees have interests in common with their Jewish employer that they do not have in common with their non Jewish coworkers. It fosters the illusion of alliance between classes whose interests are directly contradictory and the illusion of division between those with common material interests.
To be fair, in more recent times, some have recast the justification in terms of nations’ right to self determination. The French have a right to self determination in
There are a number of rejoinders to this argument. One of them is that the Jews per se do not possess any of the usual defining characteristics of a nation, like a common language, residence on a contiguous territory, and so forth. It is of course significant that this state of affairs came about through millennia of oppression and dispersion and is not our fault, but that doesn’t change the current situation. More importantly, even if the Jews were in fact the kind of group that had a right to exercise self determination, it is preposterous to suggest that it could be exercised in a territory in which another nation is transparently entitled to do so and specifically at their expense.
Wherever a Jewish state was established it would have to displace somebody. Although primarily a secular ideology, Zionism has always preferred
"This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy."
In this context, colonisation is not in our interests. Colonisation can only mean the oppression of the colonised. Our movement benefits from the success of those fighting colonial oppression and suffers from their defeats.
The Society of Jews will treat with the present masters of the land, putting itself under the protectorate of the European Powers, if they prove friendly to the plan. We could offer the present possessors of the land enormous advantages, assume part of the public debt, build new roads for traffic, which our presence in the country would render necessary, and do many other things.
…A great period of prosperity would commence in countries which are now Anti- Semitic. For there will be, as I have repeatedly said, an internal migration of Christian citizens into the positions slowly and systematically evacuated by the Jews…
The States would have a further advantage in the enormous increase of their export trade; for, since the emigrant Jews "over there" would depend for a long time to come on European productions, they would necessarily have to import them…
They would also derive strategic benefits.
… We should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against
And social benefits, not least that they would be shed of the Jews.
Another, and perhaps one of the greatest advantages, would be the ensuing social relief. Social dissatisfaction would be appeased during the twenty or more years which the emigration of the Jews would occupy, and would in any case be set at rest during the whole transition period. (Der Judenstadt)
So embracing the two state ‘solution’ also entails an implicit endorsement of colonialism. And not just any kind of colonialism, but specifically settler colonialism. The objective was not to administer
Until the Holocaust, Jews fleeing persecution in Europe never considered
The idea was not new – Herzl mentioned it in his diary entry for 12 June 1895.
We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries whilst denying it any employment in our own country…Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly. [Benny Morris, Righteous victims, pp. 21-22]
And in Der Judenstadt
…a gradual infiltration of Jews…is bound to end badly. It continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened…
Nur Masalha’s Expulsion of the Palestinians traces the history of the idea of ‘transfer’, as well as explicit decisions not to articulate ‘the Arab problem’. In November 1917, prominent British Zionist Israel Zangwill wrote
…the Arabs had read my article in Pearson’s Magazine, in which I pointed out the difficulty in the existence of the Arab population in the
Vladimir Jabotinsky’s seminal 1923 article, ‘The iron wall’, was absolutely clear that there was no possibility of the Palestinians voluntarily relinquishing control over their land.
I repudiate this conception of the Palestinian Arabs [as fools]…We may tell them whatever we like about the innocence of our aims, watering them down and sweetening them with honeyed words to make them palatable, but they know what we want, as well as we know what they do not want. They feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of
And there is no longer any doubt, if there ever was, that there was an explicit plan. On 10 March 1948, David Ben-Gurion and his closest advisors, ‘the Consultancy’, finalised ‘Plan Dalet’, to rid the country of its indigenous population. Ilan Pappé’s recent book, The ethnic cleansing of
So the two state ‘solution’ also implies acceptance of ethnic cleansing as a strategy of nation building, at least in this case.
The number of Arabs forced to flee the area that became
…that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return… (UNGA Resolution 194, Article 11)
Sixty years down the track, some of these people are still alive. Together with their descendants, according to UNRWA, as of 31 March 2006, they comprised 4,375,050 refugees, all of whom are entitled to return to the homes they fled within the Green Line if justice is to be served. Nobody knows how many would exercise the right of return, but if all 4.375 million returned, joining the 1.423 million already living there at the end of March 2007 according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics Monthly Bulletin of Statistics No. 4/2007, they would outnumber the 5.408 million Jews by 390,000, eliminating the Jewish majority.
This is one of the reasons
So an acceptance of the two state ‘solution’ implies a rejection of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, once again suggesting embrace of either a principle that refugees, indeed any kind of absentee, are not entitled to return to their homes, or a special exception in the case of the victims of the Nakba.
To summarise then, support for partition of
· An undemocratic ethnoreligiously exclusive state, an ethnocracy;
· Biological determinism;
· Ethnic cleansing; and
· Permanent exile of absentees and expropriation of absentees’ property.
It goes without saying that these principles are directly antithetical to the kind of principles that support class solidarity, or even bourgeois liberalism. The alternative is to claim to reject these principles except in the case of
This is the principal reason there has never been a possibility of partitioning
Furthermore, a Jewish settler colony in
the connections between the violent oppression of the Palestinians in the OPT, and the oppression of the working poor, women, immigrant workers, the unemployed, Arabs, and other minority groups within
Apart from these points, Abunimah and Tilley argue that the construction of the extensive permanent network of Israeli roads and settlements ensures that, even if I am right and there was never any realistic possibility of a just partition, there certainly not such a possibility anymore. For the last four decades every Israeli government, Labour or Likud, has quite consciously and explicitly expanded these ‘facts on the ground’. Whether they admitted it openly or not, the objective was precisely to preclude a return to the Green Line or anywhere near it. The
"Everybody has to move, run and grab as many (Palestinian) hilltops as they can to enlarge the (Jewish) settlements bec
Ariel Sharon, then Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of the Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, Nov. 15, 1998
At some level of abstraction, one could argue that the settlements can all be dismantled, or indeed turned over to the Palestinian state, and the settlers resettled within ‘
But this is all in the realm of fantasy, anyway. Without engaging in considerable self deception, it is nigh impossible even to imagine that Israel has clung to the territories for forty years, pouring in billions upon billions of dollars in infrastructure, with the intention of leaving. Even if there were the slightest pl
In his letter to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon of 14 April 2004, for example,
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
The fundamental problem with this approach is that, even if the Palestinians were to agree to the envisaged ‘changes’, they would still represent a reward to Israel for its intransigence over four decades. The message is, it is not legitimate to acquire territory by force and the Fourth Geneva Convention makes specific provisions against settling populations in occupied territory.
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
But if you can do it for long enough, then it’s ok.
More importantly, assuming there were some instrumentality that could negotiate on behalf of all Palestinians, it is decidedly unrealistic to expect them to be willing to agree to the kinds of border adjustments that the placement of Israeli Jewish only settlements in the West Bank suggest that
Even if the Palestinians were prepared to agree to an exchange of territory, and even if the exchange were of land of equal value and area, it is almost inevitable that
Advocates of the two state ‘solution’ often assert that unification of
The Zionist Left has indeed collapsed in the last few years, and its absence from the field of struggle is a painful and dangerous fact. In today's Knesset, there is no effective Zionist party that is seriously fighting for real equality for the Arab citizens. Nobody is able today to call out into the street hundreds of thousands, or even tens of thousands, in order to pressure the government to accept the peace proposal of the whole Arab world.
There is no doubt that the real disease is not the 40-year long occupation. The occupation is a symptom of a more profound disease, which is connected with the official ideology of the state. The aim of ethnic cleansing and the establishment of a Jewish State from the sea to the river is dear to the hearts of many Israelis, and perhaps Rabbi Meir Kahane was right when he asserted that this is everybody's unspoken desire.
On the surface, it appears that we have failed. We have not succeeded in compelling our government to stop the building of the wall or the enlargement of the settlements, nor to restore to the Palestinians their freedom of movement. In short, we have not succeeded in putting an end to the occupation. The Arab citizens of
They often speak of a requirement for contiguity in the Palestinian state. In his April 2004 letter, Bush, a strong advocate of the two state ‘solution’, wrote
In reality, of course, a contiguous Palestinian state has never been possible. It’s as if they had forgotten that some 30km of Israeli territory will separate the northeast corner of the Gaza Strip from the nearest point in the
In the last few days, a new idea has emerged – the ‘three state solution’. In a 12 June article in the Forward, Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, recommends establishment of two Palestinian states, one in
Obviously, his concern is neither justice nor viability. Indeed, what recommends the ‘three state solution’ to him is that it indefinitely removes the refugees from the agenda.
Neither Fatah nor Hamas would be able to speak — or even claim to speak — for the Palestinian people as a whole. Unable to speak for the Palestinian people as a whole, each of the two will find it easier, if not to stop insisting on the right of return, at least to put it aside for the time being.
So for those who do claim to want a meaningful form of self determination for the Palestinians, we can safely relegate van Creveld’s plan to the circular file.
Among those arguing for a two state ‘solution’ are Rafi Dajani, executive director of the American Task Force on
It's a matter of real, feasible opportunities, which can make compromise easier for both sides.
The two-state solution stipulates a historic compromise, a grand deal that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians have repeatedly said they support. It involves an end to Israeli territorial claims in the West Bank and an end to Palestinian claims inside
It requires a Palestinian recognition that those refugees from the 1948 war choosing to return will largely do so to a new Palestinian state rather than to what is now Israel, and an Israeli recognition that a fulfillment of the right they believe they have to settle in the West Bank will be either in a Palestinian state or as part of a negotiated minor West Bank land swap. It requires complex compromise formulas to both divide and share the holy city of
Their commonsensical approach presupposes that sensible peace loving people like themselves can determine what it befits the victims of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 to accept. They are competent to determine who shall represent the refugees as well as the residents of the
Moshe Machover sums up the argument against partition
In these circumstances any ‘two-state settlement’ is bound to be a travesty: not two real sovereign states (let alone two equal ones) but one powerful Israeli state dominating a disjointed set of Palestinian enclaves similar to Indian Reservations, policed by corrupt elites acting as Israel’s proxies. This was the real prospect even under the Oslo Accords of 1993; and since then the situation has deteriorated much further, with the virulent malignant metastasis of Israeli colonization, and the weakening of the Palestinian Authority under Israeli pounding and international strangulation.
I have argued that Israeli attitudes that proponents of partition claim make a unified democratic secular state unrealistic also make a truly economically and politically viable Palestinian state equally unrealistic. People like Avnery are wrong to think there is a just two state ‘solution’. But the question remains, are they right about the one state solution?
Avnery writes, ‘There is no doubt that 99.99% of Jewish Israelis want the State of Israel to exist as a state with a robust Jewish majority, whatever its borders’. That means there would have to be about 540 Israeli Jews who disagreed, and that might be just about right, although it wouldn’t surprise me if the number was even smaller than that.
Opinion polls consistently show deep hostility and distrust towards Palestinian citizens of
Faced with the evident present infeasibility of an equitable two-state setup, many people of genuine goodwill have reverted to the ‘one-state’ formula. This is, abstractly speaking, an attractive proposition. The trouble with it, however, is that a truly equal one-state setup is no more feasible in the short or medium term than an equal two-state one – and for exactly the same reason. Given the actual imbalance of power, a single state embracing the whole of
…A genuine resolution of the conflict will become possible in the longer term, given a change in the present balance of power. It is impossible to foresee exactly how this change may come about. But it seems quite certain that it will not be confined to the relationship between
People have often argued that the solution to the
Clearly one prerequisite for any just solution in
While there are few grounds for immediate optimism, there are some hopeful signs pointing to the longer term. American economic and political power, outwardly robust, is beset with symptoms of decline.
Proponents of partition are right that, as Ilan Pappé put it on Flashpoints on 18 May 2007, ‘Israelis are willing to face 67… Liberal Israelis… conscientious Israelis…Nobody in
What we probably will see, once the Wall completely encircles the parts of the West Bank without a Jewish population, is a unilateral ‘withdrawal’ and annexation of the ‘settlement blocs’ and the
Those who struggle for justice in
Just as important is to struggle for the