Day one at the "One State for Palestine/Israel: A Country for All Its Citizens?" conference is over and here are some early thoughts:
One of the most striking things about the conference is simply the audience and energy. The energy of new ideas and a growing movement. It had more the feel of a blockbuster opening night than an academic conference. People wanting to make sure they got their seats, anticipation for it to start. The room is filled to capacity at around 500 people and many got turned away. The organizers announced over 9,000 people had visited the conference website since it went up three months ago. A few months ago Phil wrote about what it feels to be inside an insurgent political movement. I think this is it.
Professor Hani Faris, one of the organizers of the conference, made the observation during his introduction that
during the 16 years of the two-state peace process the situation on the ground has only gotten worse for Palestinians, and the
process itself has given Israel the cover to continue with
colonization. Ali Abunimah also pointed out that peace plans continue to serve as a legitimization for the Israeli land grab. He specifically pointed out the realist plan that we talked about on Friday. He said a plan that allows Israel to retain control of parts of the West Bank and allows Israeli troops to stay in the occupied territories is not a plan to end the conflict, it's using the two-state solution to save Zionism and Jewish supremacy in Israel/Palestine. It's hard to argue with that summary.
Meron Benvenisti, who was Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem during the 1970s,
said it doesn't make sense to talk about a one-state or two-state
solution – it is already one state. The question before us is what kind
of state is it going to be? Abunimah agreed and pointed out that both he and Benjamin Netanyahu support the one-state solution. The difference is that Netanyahu
wants a Jewish supremacist state and Abunimah wants democracy.
Finally, Professor Faris
made another point that stood out to me. He acknowledged that one of
the frequent criticisms of the one-state solution is that it's too utopian, and its advocates are ridiculed as dreamers. It is the two-state
solution that is inevitable and realistic. But then when you look at
the two-state solution you find expanding Israeli settlements, plans
for ethnic cleansing, gross inequality, legal discrimination and
perpetual violence. After 16 years of trying to justify these policies
as constituting the two-state peace process, the solution is as far as ever. Meanwhile
advocates of the one state solution continue to gain support by calling
for equal rights and democracy. Looking at this Prof. Faris simply asked – who are the realists and who are the dreamers?
Listening to these postmortems, you don't have to look any farther to see what killed the two-state solution. The international community stood by and patted themselves on the back while Israel expanded the settlements and instituted a system of racial separation with exclusive rights for Jews. And this was called the peace process. Case closed. The question becomes not whether the two-state solution was ever possible, but whether it was ever preferable.