Solving the problem of Israel/Palestine isn’t rocket science: the solution is obvious.
We just have to get serious about it.
A brief history
Due to recent events, things are coming to a head in the Middle East. As Israel becomes more belligerent and aggressive, more committed than ever to using overwhelming force as its only answer to a rapidly deteriorating situation, feeling itself even further victimized and becoming ever more paranoid, two issues come to the fore: the question of legitimacy and the question of long-term viability. More and more people, even within Israel itself, are becoming aware that what we are looking at is a severe societal case of paranoid schizophrenia, a split personality featuring the Jewish Uebermensch and the poor innocent yiddische victim, in light of which the search for a solution becomes even more pressing.
It is becoming clear even to very slow learners that a European settler-colonialist society based on ethnocentric identity, established in the middle of the 20th Century no less, in the midst of people with whom they have little or nothing in common, aggressively alienating their new neighbors through the establishment of an Apartheid state based on blatant racism, and carving out ever more territory for itself through ethnic cleansing and remorseless genocide, never really had much of a future.
The only reason that this bizarre "State" has lasted so long, six decades and counting, has been the financial, military and political support that Israel has been receiving from the West. This support, in turn, has been the result of intense pressure brought to bear by a relatively small number of wealthy and powerful Zionist Jews, the Israel Lobby, particularly in the English speaking democracies. This support seems to be on the verge of weakening, while the political elites are finally beginning to comprehend the insupportable costs to their countries, in lives, wealth, international support and moral standing, of succumbing to such blackmail.
Equally relentless have been a small but determined number of liberal Jews who have fought Zionism from day one, and whose numbers are now increasing exponentially. These people have come to realize not only the moral hypocrisy and irrationality of supporting liberal, humanitarian and universalist causes everywhere except Israel, but the age old danger to themselves of antagonizing their host populations and ultimately incurring their inevitable wrath.One would think that we Jews, supposedly so smart, would learn from history, not mindlessly repeat it.
So is there a way out of this increasingly intolerable and dangerous situation? Of course there is; it’s been there from the beginning, and in fact it was the mainstream Zionist policy for nearly eighty years prior to the rise of Nazi Germany. Various configurations were envisioned, but what it boiled down to was sharing the land with its existing inhabitants, the Palestinians, on the basis of justice and equality. These were the conditions, in fact, articulated in the United Nations resolution in favor of the establishment of a Jewish state, which, like all subsequent UN resolutions, Israel has treated with the utmost contempt.
That brings us up to 1948. A great deal has happened since then, but I must reduce it to a few sentences. The inexorable logic of political Zionism, driven by fear of the "demographic problem," requires the maintenance of a predominantly Jewish population - the traditional ratio being no less than 80:20. As the current Palestinian population within the ever shifting boundaries of “Israel” is about 20% and growing faster than the Jewish population, the politically convenient notion of the Jewish State being a "democracy" is threatened by the greater fertility of its (second-class, feared, hated and barely tolerated) non-Jewish citizens. In addition, since 1967, Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza, areas previously in a political limbo, but now representing an "existential" threat within the borders of what the political Zionists have always claimed as "Greater Israel." (See The Zionist Plan for the Middle East) Even not counting the Palestinian diaspora, those within Israel together with the populations of the Occupied Territories would soon constitute a majority.
Although Israel forcibly evacuated its settlers from Gaza, hoping thereby to consign the inmates of what then became an open air concentration camp to oblivion or, they hoped, rule by the Egyptian dictatorship (who declined the offer), the residents, mostly refugees since the Nakba, refused to accept their fate. In response, the government has chosen to lay a medieval siege to the area, employing the ancient strategy of literally starving the besieged into submission.
This situation arose because the Israeli intelligence services, comparable in power and ruthlessness to the Soviet KGB, had instigated the creation of an Islamic fundamentalist party called Hamas to counter the previously dominant Fatah party of Yasir Arafat. When Hamas surprisingly won the elections sponsored by Israel and its patron, the U.S., and was able to consolidate its power in Gaza if not in the West Bank, Israel promptly instituted a siege of Gaza, hoping thereby to undermine Hamas. It wasn’t a very bright idea and has lead to barely imaginable terror and further suffering of people most of whom were already refugees from the Nakba.
There is a third segment of the Palestinian population, the Diaspora, the most numerous of the three groups, living in refugee camps in Lebanon, in Syria, as well as constituting nearly half the population of Jordan, and spread out across the globe, with many of them in the U.S. and the U.K. They have steadfastly refused to give up their right of return, a right that is not based on an ancient story, like the one that forms the core of the Jewish narrative, but is clearly historical, quite recent, and deeply enshrined in international law.
This is the real "existential threat" to Israel, not the seemingly endless and arbitrary series of enemy nations "out to get them," the latest target being Iran. The real existential threat to us, the rest of the world, is the Israeli proclivity to act on its paranoia regardless of consequences, to rely on its overwhelming military superiority (built from the largesse of U.S. taxpayers) to its perceived enemies.
Israel is a nuclear power (again, thanks to its fifth column within the U.S.) and there is no reason to believe that if they imagine themselves sufficiently threatened they won't use those nukes. The bottom line, the reason that the story herein described is so vital to understand, is the likelihood that Israel, if allowed to continue on its path unchecked, will inevitably provoke a nuclear war, a catastrophe that life on this planet might very well not survive.
There are various proposals for resolving this state of affairs, but they really boil down to two: the one state solution vs. the two state solution. The latter has been endorsed by most of the world's elites, including significant minorities within the Israeli government and civil society; in the West, led by the U.S.; most of the Arab countries and the PLO since Yasir Arafat himself endorsed the idea. Well, that pretty much settles it, one might say, at least if you don't look too closely. The two state solution proposes that an independent Palestinian state be created in the West Bank and Gaza within the borders that existed prior to the 1967 war. Such a state would have territorial integrity, a protected land corridor between the two sections, the rights and privileges of any member of the United Nations, provide a home for all Palestinian refugees and have its capitol in East Jerusalem. Makes sense, doesn't it?
Actually no - it's pure fantasy. For one thing, it would mean defeat not only for the basic Zionist project of building Eretz Yisroel (Greater Israel), to which the Israeli government is more and more committed, but it runs directly counter to the dynamic that drives the Jewish state, as in all forms of ethnocentric or nationalist fascism. As Lebanon's Druze leader Walid Jumblatt succinctly put it on May 23rd, "Israel can't survive without expansion and war." Assuming for the sake of argument that we’re talking about a truly viable, sovereign Palestinian nation, consider Israel’s dread of a contiguous state populated by its recent victims – well, I needn’t belabor the point.
And just exactly how is the Israeli government going to pull off the forced evacuation of half a million of its citizens? They were faced with a violent struggle to remove the 8,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza. And those settlers have now become nearly dominant in the government and the military, so exactly who is going to do this? What the Israelis mean when they talk about the two state solution is the legitimization of the Matrix of Control that they have designed and mostly already constructed. It consists of about a dozen isolated bantustans, surrounded by barbed wire, checkpoints and guards. These "self-governing" labor camps would not only supply very cheap labor for the Israeli economy, but would have to support their entire infrastructure and administrative budget from such meager revenues through internal taxation. Collectively they would have the status of being a "Palestinian State." What a deal!
It would also erase the bottom line of the Palestinian struggle, which is the Right of Return to the land from which they were and are being expelled. Neither side, when push came to shove, could or would accept such an arrangement. Any Israeli government that seriously endorsed the idea would immediately fall, as would the collaborationist Palestine Authority in Ramallah if the prospect became imminent. An even more convincing reason, though, is that it could not even remotely be called a "solution" - quite the contrary. Such a configuration could theoretically be imposed by force by the U.S., acting in concert with its allies and the U.N., but it would be like placing a massive nuclear bomb between the river and the sea, just waiting for the spark that would give it critical mass.
There are clear and obvious reasons why the various elites are promoting the idea of the two state solution. For Israel, the "peace process" provides public relations cover for its ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. It should also be clear to people who understand the dynamics of the Jewish state that one thing can't be allowed to happen - a successful conclusion, peace. Peace is anathema. The primary reason for this is embedded in the nature of Zionism itself. One has to understand that fear, ancient and deep-seated paranoia, is at the heart of Zionism.
"For three years I have been imploring you, Jews of Poland, the crown of world Jewry, appealing to you, warning you unceasingly that the catastrophe is nigh. My hair has turned white and I have grown old over these years, for my heart is bleeding that you, dear brothers and sisters, do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spew forth its fires of destruction. I see a horrible vision. Time is growing short for you to be spared. I know you cannot see it, for you are troubled and confused by everyday concerns... Listen to my words at this... for time is running short."
- Vladimir Jabotinsky to the Jews of Warsaw on Tisha b'Av 1938
Moreover, Zionism is a textbook example of ethnocentric fascism, almost identical to Nazism, merely having a different tribal identity. A salient characteristic of such ideologies, as Jumblatt pointed out, is that they have no brakes - if they stop picking fights with their neighbors, if they stop trying to expand further and further, they lose their cohesion, their raison d'etre, and die.
This is particularly true in the case of Israel for a number of reasons. One of the main ones is that the Jewish population of Israel is a hodgepodge of different peoples, a true melting pot of cultures that have little in common with one another except for the notion that they are "Jewish." But, as Sand has convincingly demonstrated, there is no such thing as “the Jewish people,” any more than there was such a thing as the “Aryan race.” It's just a story, the kind one would tell to children, which was then massaged into powerful propaganda. Without the glue of an external enemy and serial wars, Israel would implode. Its people, by and large, distrust and even detest one another. As long as their fear and hatred can be directed at the "other," the external enemy, then the house of cards can maintain itself.
Until recently, Israel resembled India, a caste system with the Brahmins (the Ashkenazim) on top and those from the third world at the bottom, with the Sephardim somewhere in between, and the Ethiopians and other exotic “Jews” being the Untouchables. However, several new wrinkles have emerged in recent years, particularly with the massive intake of Russian opportunists (many of whom are about as "Jewish" as Mao Tse-Tung), and more ominously, the rise of a virulently fascist religious element. And lastly, the Gush Emunim, the settler movement, a group of way over the top fanatics who largely overlap with the religious zealots. They are becoming increasingly powerful and are challenging the old Ashkenazi elite in both the political establishment and the military. These factors create an opportunity for reaching out to the small but still potent segment of Israeli society that retains some vestiges of sanity with the idea of one democratic state.
The motivation of the Vichy government in Ramallah is clear enough. This is the small Fatah elite that inherited the Palestine Authority from Yasir Arafat. It is widely recognized as corrupt and wholly self-interested. A Palestinian state would solidify its grip on power and the spoils that would go with it. In any case, they take their orders from Israel and the US.
One State, Three Variations on a Theme
The current situation is already a single state, consisting of Israel and the OPT. Israel has de facto control of the entire country, although Gaza is in a state of resistance, its people desperately trying to survive. Israel controls the all the borders, the transportation infrastructure, the electricity supply, the water supply and has an overwhelming monopoly on military force, in fact everything but the air that people breathe. But those pesky Palestinians refuse to give up and die, which must be extremely irritating to the leadership in Tel Aviv. The strategy is, and always has been, to rid the land of non-Jews, using whatever means are available, but limited by the constraint that Israel vitally needs the support of the West, at the very least American support. The possibility of losing this support - without which Israel would be in the same position as the apartheid state of So. Africa when they could no longer ignore the writing on the wall - is the only thing that has so far prevented the total expulsion or extermination of the Palestinians within the country.
This view, the goal of which is the establishment of Eretz Yisroel, is the Zionist version of a single state. There used to be a largish contingent who imagined that the borders of this state would be the Tigris/Euphrates to the east and the Nile to the west, but there is now a consensus that would be satisfied with the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
There are two other possible versions of a single state, at least in theory. The first is a mirror image of the Zionist one, as articulated by a few Palestinians and their more strident supporters. This vision entails, at least metaphorically, driving the Jews into the sea. For an eloquent and passionate expression of this vision, read 'A strategy of liberation requires emancipation', by Nahida Izzat, someone I admire and respect. It is, at bottom, a simple but unconditional demand for justice. In her view the only solution that would satisfy this condition would be to return the land to its rightful owners - end of story. She leaves up in the air the question of what would happen to the current Jewish population - that is not her concern. This view, which really entails returning to the status quo ante of more than 60 years ago is difficult to fault. However, it ain't gonna happen. As Thomas Wolfe put it, "you can't go home again." The fact is that most of the now resident Jewish Israelis were born there. However, as an initial negotiating demand, the version of a single state articulated by Nahida has more validity than the Zionist one, at the very least.
The government of Israel, The Palestinian Authority (PA), the Arab dictatorships and the US Empire and its vassal states are all primarily concerned with short term political and economic advantage rather than an actual solution to the problem. Not only that, but the Western democracies are hamstrung by the nearly absolute power wielded in those countries by the Israel Lobby, a situation that, in the U.S., reaches back at least as far as the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Those who have an actual stake in solving the conflict, and thereby achieving the universal goals of human rights, peace and justice, are ordinary Israelis, Jews everywhere, the Palestinians and the population of the West, not to mention the Umma, the Islamic world – actually, all of us.
All of which brings us to the third alternative, the only one that is not only actually possible in the long term, but is the only proposal that actually solves the problem - the replacement of the existing political configuration by a single democratic, pluralistic state. What is seldom mentioned in discussing this possibility is that it would be, to use a kitsch expression, a win-win for everybody, even the extremists on both sides. Let's see how it would affect the various protagonists, which actually includes all of us, since whether we like it or not we are all connected. I don't think it's necessary to go into any detail about the basic idea - it is simple, obvious and is already accepted by most of the world as the gold standard for modern nation-states.
Indeed, it is the entire world that is at risk. Considering the high probability of Israel setting off a nuclear war if it feels irremediably backed into a corner, it is in everyone's most fundamental interest to bring about a peaceful resolution, which can only be achieved through the establishment of one democratic state.
How Israelis would benefit
One of the most often heard objections to the One State Solution (OSS) is that the Israelis would never accept it. This argument is false on several counts. For one thing, never say never. The Nationalists of apartheid South Africa loudly proclaimed "over my dead body," as did the Protestant Unionists of Ulster. There are many examples. In the heat of battle, the enemy is always seen as barbaric, the embodiment of evil, people with whom one could never be reconciled. But what actually happens after an armed conflict has been concluded? The hated "Huns," the dreaded "Boches," become one's friends and allies. The "Yellow Peril," the "Japs" and so forth, not to mention the dreaded Russians, become one's principal trading partners and fellow upholders of the peace.
No matter how deeply embedded the Israeli dread of annihilation at the hands of their victims may seem, such attitudes, like all political attitudes, are only skin deep and as temporary as the fevers of love and hate. As Gideon Levy put it last year in one his pieces for Haaretz, "the only recognition that is needed now is Israel's recognition of the Palestinians as human beings. If this is obtained, all the rest will be relatively easy."
We should also recall that Zionism, prior to the ascendance of Jabotinskian fanaticism and terrorism in Palestine about 80 years ago, envisioned a cooperative, binational state. It was not that long ago. The ridiculous notion that "they've always hated and fought one another," another objection that one often hears, is just one of many facile inventions of Zionist propaganda. Barring relatively brief eruptions of tribal and religious strife, like the Crusades, the siblings of the Abrahamic tradition (outside of Europe at least) have gotten along rather swimmingly for the last 1,500 years, i.e., since the birth of Islam, which has traditionally respected and been hospitable to both Christians and Jews.
The Zionists wanted to have a place where Jews would be safe from their implacable enemies, a place where they could be just ordinary people, going about their business - a place where Jews would no longer be exposed to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Unwilling or unable to recognize that the Western democracies already offered such a haven, they settled on Palestine as the location of the putative Jewish state (a number of other places were considered), they convinced themselves that they could unobtrusively insinuate themselves among the natives, who wouldn't really mind. After all, the Zionists were enlightened Europeans and the natives were benighted, albeit inoffensive, orientals. No doubt they would feel honored and grateful. Land would be purchased, deals would be made, and knowledge and wisdom would be transferred. Bear in mind that all this was promulgated at the height of European colonialism and the idea of the White Man’s Burden.
Well, what can one say? Good luck, sir, as my teacher put it. We Jews have a reputation for being "smart" people, but a dumber idea has never been formulated. It arose out of a sense of utter desperation and the delusion that Jews would be safe only if they had a State of their own, a sort of super ghetto. So we set about constructing the Golem, but in our usual Rube Goldberg fashion. Even so, the Golem was fed and cared for, and as predicted, it became a monster.
What is it that most Israelis actually want? Not surprisingly, we find that they want what people everywhere want, security and stability, peace, to be respected if not loved, to be free of constant fear and anxiety, to have the sense that their children will have the opportunity to live normal, productive and happy lives. All surveys have been consistent in this respect. None of these things are possible as long as the Israelis stick with political Zionism, and the Israelis, deep down, know this. They may be temporarily deluded, even collectively insane, driven by the howling winds of paranoia, arrogance and bloody minded defiance that always accompany full-blown fascism, but they aren't actually stupid, and the madness cannot last.
So let's consider what would likely happen if wiser heads prevailed and the Israelis were to agree to share the land, no matter how reluctantly, with the Palestinians in a genuine, rather than faux, democracy. Jerusalem would become the capitol. Jews, like anyone else, could live wherever they liked in the whole country. Given that they would initially be in the numerical majority, they could insist on whatever safeguards they thought necessary to protect their interests, a negotiating position that the Palestinians would have to give due consideration to. They would most likely have to accept the necessity of a truth and reconciliation commission, but that's a far cry better than the possible consequences of a solution imposed by a world no longer willing to tolerate a totally out of control rogue state - or the final war, the one that the Jews lose, quite possibly on terms of unconditional surrender, quite possibly after blowing up half the world. Fortunately for the Israelis, the Palestinians have proven themselves to be an extremely decent, tolerant and amazingly patient people. In general, they show remarkably little animosity towards Jewish people, and the remaining hotheads, on both sides, could be dealt with.
Realistically, the Jews, after eventually becoming a minority of the population, but a very substantial minority, would largely retain economic control, as well as dominance in many other ways. South Africa stands as just such an example of "the more things change, the more they remain the same." And a Jewish culture, with its multifarious institutions, customs and traditions would coexist with its Palestinian counterpart, enriching both but threatening neither.
It should be noted that among all the Islamic peoples the Palestinians are the most secular and the most highly educated. Together, the synergy of the two would almost certainly result in a dynamic society that would instantly become the flagship of the Middle East, in which Jews could play a respected and admired part instead of being universally reviled and hated. Sound too good to be true? Not really - it's a reasonable projection of what would likely happen if just a little sanity were to prevail.
How Palestinians would benefit
In a survey taken a couple of years ago 72% said they would accept a two state solution. Responding to a different question, 72% said they would accept a one state solution. In a word, the Palestinians would just like the nightmare to stop - they want a solution and they're not picky about what form it takes. However, as we have pointed out, a two state solution is anything but a solution - it would be a recipe for an even greater disaster. Not that the Israelis, while under the sway of political Zionist leadership, would ever actually consider a viable, sovereign Palestinian state. So it's not something that we even have to seriously consider, unless the US led West, in its predictably imperious, blundering, short-sighted manner, were to try to impose such a thing.
As for specifics, Jerusalem would be the capitol. The right of return of the Palestinian diaspora, enshrined in international law, would be acknowledged and the negotiating parties would have to work out the details. Needless to say, the obscene wall would come down. The West and the Arab countries would have to pony up a lot of money to deal with the costs of repatriation, compensation on both sides and reparations, but in the long run it would be far cheaper than any conceivable alternative. Again, the details would have to be worked out between the two parties directly concerned, in consultation with all other interested parties.
Presented with such a possibility I think we can say with some certainty that the vast majority of Palestinians would be in favor of such arrangements. After all, like the Israelis, they aren't stupid. So the other major objection one hears far too often - that the Palestinians have to decide among themselves what they want and then we will support that - can be dismissed as the nonsense it is. The Palestinians, with the boot firmly planted in their necks, are in no position to decide much of anything. And just how would they get together to come up with some expression of their collective desires? In Gaza they are cut off, unable to come and go; in the West Bank they are under an oppressive regime consisting of self-interested Quislings under the military command of an American General, and otherwise they are scattered around the world, many in refugee camps, in no position to even begin to formulate their collective will, if there is such a thing.
How the rest of the world would benefit
This should be too obvious to even mention, but a couple of things need to be said. With the Jewish state dissolved and the problem solved, Zionism, a combination of ethnocentric, religious and nationalist fascism dedicated to the continued existence of Israel, would no longer have a raison d’être and would consequently die a quiet, unlamented demise, to the great relief of billions of people. In one stroke, its iron grip on the political life of the West would relax and perhaps the ideals and hopes that gave rise to the great democracies could somehow be salvaged. The U.S., foremost among these, might once again be viewed with respect instead of with a mixture of fear and contempt. Perhaps we could begin to deal with the real problems that face humanity, without being distracted by the wars, hypocrisy, treason, crimes, terrorism, distortions, double standards, lies, confusion and scheming that Zionism has until now plagued us with.
If one agrees that One Democratic State is the only conceivable solution, then, you, dear reader, must act. As is frequently said, silence is complicity. And as mentioned earlier, we cannot look to the powers that be to accomplish this. They mostly have other agendas, utterly inimical to working for the actual benefit of their constituencies, let alone humanity as a whole. That leaves us, ordinary people, to bring this about. We will have to work within our communities, our towns, cities and states, our own countries. Most people, in the West particularly, have been subjected to incessant propaganda that has left them confused and almost totally ignorant. If you talk to people and just point out a few simple facts you'd be surprised how people will respond. It starts with "Oh, I didn't know that. Keep talking." One by one people will become more aware and start pitching in, like a snowball rolling downhill.
If you're interested, please get in touch with me (we’re just collecting email addresses at this point) - some of us have developed a workable strategy for moving forward, but we need a bunch of people to help out. We envision a three-pronged campaign, in Israel itself, within the Palestinian communities and, most vitally, among the population in the West. It was worldwide moral outrage that undid South African apartheid, along with the resistance of the oppressed, working together with their white South African allies, and, eventually, the recognition by key members of the ruling elite that the jig was up. This will be more difficult, because the power elites in the West weren’t part of the problem then as they are now. The craven, hypocritical politicians have been bought and are terrified of the Israel Lobby. The Zionists own the mainstream media and are in firm control of the Universities. This will be more of a challenge than Apartheid in So. Africa or overcoming Jim Crow and segregation in the US was, but we the people can do it, and it has to be done.
It's high time that One State advocacy went from being a few voices crying in the wilderness to a worldwide movement that will solve the central international political crisis of our time and, potentially, transform our world.
Many articles and essays advocating One State can be found here.