Burg, former Knesset speaker, endorses idea of one state from river to sea

Enormous. Former Speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg has come out of the colonialism closet and endorsed one democratic state from the river to the sea if Israel fails to take real steps toward two states, which of course, it will not. 

This is barely a week after Nicholas Kristof said similar things in the New York Times. If only Thomas Friedman or the NYT’s editorial page had the courage/honesty to write this. From Haaretz:

If the idea of realizing this aspiration [of democracy] in the framework of a democratic Palestinian state does not bear fruit, the Palestinians must embark on a worldwide initiative demanding that they be allowed to vote for the Knesset. Yes, Israel’s parliament.

This initiative must be accompanied by a non-violent civil rebellion. It will attract a great deal of attention and will cast the spotlight on the paradox of Israeli hypocrisy which claims that we are the only democracy in the Middle East but forgets to point out that we are a democracy for Jews alone. Because we are also the only colonialist conqueror that is left in the Western world….

Anyone who is not prepared to do anything to promote two states today – and who is not prepared to pay the price by evacuating the settlements – will, in the end, have to concede all of the state of Israel. That is to say, the Jewish and not so democratic state will be renounced in favor of a legitimate democratic process in which everyone between the Jordan River and the sea has one basic right – the human and civic equality to elect and to be elected. They will have at least the very same rights that are enjoyed by Obama and his new friend who knows just how to manipulate him, Netanyahu.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 31 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Whizdom says:

    Wow. That is huge.

  2. Dan Crowther says:

    I was JUST THINKING about Burg, wondering when he would write this essay. Even when the “two state solution” was still “possible” – Burg was always a voice for true autonomy and self determination for Palestinians and was quick to reject the idea of Palestinian “rejectionism” at Oslo and Camp David.

    Lot of respect for Burg – I think he actually lives in Ramallah, so he walks it like he talks it

    • Erasmus says:

      Not Ramallah, but in a communal settlement called Nataf, not too far from the historically famous Abu Gosh, which has been and still is at the nadir on the way from Jaffa to JLM, which early day pilgrims had to pass – and therefore had been way-laid often for some “security fee”.

  3. annie says:

    i heard him speak at the local jewish community center a few years ago. he said at that time he thought one state was optimum. my friends and i cheered but otherwise there was stony silence when he said this.

    he’s a brave beautiful brilliant man.

  4. Diane Mason says:

    You and I must be reading different articles.

    I like Burg’s writing very much, and this article is no exception, but I don’t read it as coming out of the colonialism closet and endorsing one democratic state from the river to the sea if Israel fails to take real steps toward two states, which of course, it will not… etc, etc.

    I think he is simply reiterating the thrust of what he said in his breakthrough article of 2003 – the one about Zionism collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall. If I recall correctly, what he said then was that Zionists want three things – Greater Israel, Jewishness, and democracy – but they can have only two, and they need to make a decision. If they can’t give up Greater Israel, then they can keep Hebron, but cease to be a Jewish-majority state. If their Jewish majority matters most, then evacuate the settlements. Because Zionism can’t have all it wants, due to the fact that other people live there too.

    It seems to me he is reiterating the same points here, with practical ideas about what Palestinians can do to force the issue.

    What he’s saying is common sense, and it certainly was groundbreaking in 2003 to hear such sentiments coming from the former speaker of the Knesset. But he’s hardly coming out of the closet in making these points now, and I don’t see him endorsing one state here. I see him repeating his call for Zionist Israelis to face reality and make up their minds.

    I don’t think it does us any good to proclaim hyperbolic breakthroughs. We can have non-existent victory after non-existent victory, time after time, and the Palestinians will still be no better off.

  5. Diane Mason says:

    Edited to add: This is the 2003 article with collapsing wedding hall metaphor – A Failed Israeli Society Collapses While Its Leaders Remain Silent, link to forward.com

  6. Newclench says:

    This isn’t new and he didn’t say what you said he said.
    “Anyone who is not prepared to do anything to promote two states today – and who is not prepared to pay the price by evacuating the settlements – will, in the end, have to concede all of the state of Israel. ”

    This is the normative position of large swaths of the Zionist left, uttered as a plea for real action towards Palestinian statehood now. it is no mental revolution to concede that the failure of a two state solution probably means a one state solution. This is simply true, not a leap of faith or a change in ideology. It is uttered by centrists and right wingers as well.

    Burg left the Zionist camp some years ago.

    Finally, I question your implied assertion that supporting a one state solution is the same thing as coming out of the colonialism closet. Are two state supporters in Hadash, Balad, the DFLP or Fatah supporters of colonialism? (I know some folks here will agree, as they feel fine denouncing large swaths of Palestinian public opinion as part of internecine political warfare – but to you Matthew agree with that?)

  7. pabelmont says:

    The settlers don’t want to give up the lands they’ve seized. So 2SS is not “on”. But why anyone should suppose that those same settlers would willingly allow Palestinians to vote (even merely those present today in Greater Israel) is beyond me.

    Israel will not do ANY RIGHT THING (not 2SS, not 1SS) willingly.

    So the need for external pressure remains. BDS at civil level. With luck, BDS at national level via UNGA.

    And while we wait, more of the same, spreading practical annexation, apartheid, oppression, prison for the 5000 not released, etc.

    Thank you Mr. Burg for the thoughts, but I am not cheering. Not yet. And if there ever IS SUFFICIENT EXTERNAL PRESSURE TO achieve 1SS, would it not also be sufficient to achieve 2SS? And so, the question remains, which is better (for Palestinians, perhaps for most Israelis): removal of all settlers and destruction of all settlements and wall and a real 2SS — or a 1SS with masses of pogromist settlers angry as Hell, and a universal suffrage but perhaps laws against anti-Jewish parties! and laws against immigration of Palestinian refugees and exiles.

  8. DBG says:

    again, no talk of the descendants of Palestinian refugees in the camps.

  9. It is definitely an absurd conclusion, “endorses one state”.

    • libra says:

      Here’s Burg speaking to you Richard:

      “Anyone who is not prepared to do anything to promote two states today – and who is not prepared to pay the price by evacuating the settlements – will, in the end, have to concede all of the state of Israel.”

      You may be right about Burg not endorsing “one state” but he’s certainly right about you conceding to it. All because you insist upon putting the settlers “entitlement” to the land they have stolen above “the Jewish state”.

    • Charon says:

      It is definitely absurd that you read it and DID NOT come to the same conclusion. Witty, you’re thankfully not on the same level as eee and DBG but you do share a common trait with them when it comes to this material. You only read what you want to read and interpret it completely differently than intended.

      This is an endorsement for a one-state solution. It’s just spun differently with carefully chosen words so it can be sold to the over-sensitive and paranoid Israeli public. If they said ‘one-state’ people would stop at that and panic like mad.

  10. Avraham Burg ist great. He’s the liberal Zionist Richard Witty et al claim to be.

    I highly recommend “The Holocaust is over. We must rise from its ashes” by him.
    link to amazon.com

    • I read Burg’s book. It is a polemic and interesting.

      (At one point he writes in his book that he does not know what he would do today if he were in the Warsaw Ghetto, maybe he would use Gandhian tactics against the Nazis. This is totally wacko and if he had been in the Warsaw Ghetto and if the reality did not wake him up to the situation and stir him from his trance of “idealism”, the youngsters in the Ghetto would have dismissed him as mad and stepped right over him.)

      No one here has commented about his first step of getting Jerusalem’s Arabs to vote in municipal elections, which is a very solid idea, that requires the green light from Hamas and/or Fatah before it would be accepted by Jerusalem’s Arab population.

  11. Robert says:

    DBG, i think that that is just for brevity, but I’m sure that he means the descendants of the refugees in the camps, too. I did the math for an article a few months ago, and most refugees are within the West Bank and Gaza. The refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan are under a few hundred thousand. The Jewish percentage after full integration of everything is 44%.

    As an American Jew and a supporter of the Jewish community in Israel/Palestine, but not political Zionism, I support using the full weight of (non-violent) economic and political pressure and influence to maintain Jewish rights and safety in the integrated state. The Prime Minister would probably be a Muslim Palestinian, but he would be under (non-violent) political and economic pressure as a check against tyranny against Jews.

    The IDF would stay in the future integrated state, but with a decidedly different doctrine and orders than they have now.

    Obviously, it would be a huge national project to educate, invest, and develop the refugees and to support them where necessary. That means politics as a whole would move to the left.

    • DBG says:

      Robert, it would be a HUGE national project and it would take generations to get true equality. That is why I am more for a solution where economic/social/education equality can come first and then both societies can become one, once they are on the same playing field. if not there will be infighting before things even begin.

    • eee says:

      Robert,

      How is your unicorn doing?

      Your fantasies are never going to happen, but I would like to point out how irresponsible you are. You currently support “(non-violent) political and economic pressure” against Israel to check against the treatment of Palestinians. How is that working for you? So you want the Jews in Israel to take a chance based on you applying the same useless methods against the Muslims and then wait 60+ years for a resolution if they are wronged?

      Plus, even if you are able to apply the methods, you will also be sanctioning the Israeli Jews as they will be part of the state! Do you really care about the Jewish community in Israel? I seriously doubt it.

    • eee says:

      Robert,

      How is your unicorn doing?

      Your fantasies are never going to happen, but I would like to point out how irresponsible you are. You currently support “(non-violent) political and economic pressure” against Israel to check against the treatment of Palestinians. How is that working for you? So you want the Jews in Israel to take a chance based on you applying the same useless methods against the Muslims and then wait 60+ years for a resolution if they are wronged?

      Plus, even if you are able to apply the methods, you will also be sanctioning the Israeli Jews as they will be part of the state! Do you really care about the Jewish community in Israel? I seriously doubt it.

    • Talkback says:

      “… most refugees are within the West Bank and Gaza. The refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan are under a few hundred thousand.”

      According to UNWRA (first number is “Registered refugees in camps “, second is “Registered refugees”) the numbers are (Jan 2011):

      Jordan: 350,899/1,999,466
      Lebanon: 227,718/455,373
      Syria: 149,822/495,970
      West Bank: 206,123/848,494
      Gaza Strip: 518,147/1,167,361

  12. Mndwss says:

    “If the idea of realizing this aspiration in the framework of a democratic Palestinian state does not bear fruit, the Palestinians must embark on a worldwide initiative demanding that they be allowed to vote for the Knesset. Yes, Israel’s parliament.”

    The Palestinians must? They could, but why would they? Is there any hope that they will be treated fairly even if they become the majority in the Jewish state? Why would Palestinians want to be a part of the “holy democracy” that transfers people who belive they are chosen by god into Palestinian homes?

    Louis Theroux: The Ultra Zionists

    link to documentaryheaven.com

    Why would they embark on a worldwide initiative to be allowed to vote in the “democracy” that already rules over them, and kills them, and where the chosen people is above the law?

    Please world let us surrender to our holy master israel…?

  13. RE: “Burg, former Knesset speaker, endorses idea of one state from river to sea” ~ By Matthew Taylor

    ALSO SEE: Avraham Burg: Israel’s new prophet ~ By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, 1 November 2008
    Avraham Burg was a pillar of the Israeli establishment but his new book is causing a sensation. It argues that Israel is an “abused child” which has become a “violent parent”. And his solutions are radical, as he explains to Donald Macintyre.
    LINK – link to independent.co.uk

    SPEAKING OF A “VIOLENT PARENT”, MEET MY NEW “DROP DEAD GORGEOUS” ICON/AVATAR! Are those “Bette Davis eyes” (VIDEO-03:38), or are they the cold, calculating eyes of a sociopath (or perhaps even a psychopath)?
    “RAYMOND DAVIS: GUNS, CARS, AND BAGELS”link to newyorker.com

  14. MHughes976 says:

    I think one could read the earlier article as calling for 2ss before it is too late, the second one as edging closer to the idea that it is already too late. The earlier one states that there is already no Jewish majority from river to sea – ie what we have long seen is a kind of minority rule. He is now a bit more explicit about what he thinks should be done – though he doesn’t seem ready to press the button just yet – and it should be a campaign on the South African model for franchise without discrimination. He doesn’t mention SA but it must be in his mind. Perhaps there is an implicit idea – is this part of what Mdws detects? – that the majority should accept the franchise rather than economic redistribution as their aim – Mandela, not Mugabe. Hence little attention to the external Palestinians, who might be thinking too hard about giving the prosperous Jewish Israelis a taste of their own bitter medicine.
    Many minds – mine certainly – quail before these problems. I think Burg is making his position clearer – very slowly. I’d say that he is slipping quietly over the border between liberal Zionism and ex-Zionism.

  15. RoHa says:

    Avraham Burg started talking sense years ago. I think he’s been an ex-Zionist since 2003 at least.

    link to guardian.co.uk

    Probably earlier.
    “He allowed that he had been living “a lie” while he was in government. “I was not myself.” Now he was very much himself, a man with multiple identities, “beyond Israeli,” a universal humanist. ”
    Read more link to newyorker.com

    • Talkback says:

      It’s always nice to see somenone becoming an individual thinker and a universal humanist who leaves the stupidities of his herd behind. To identify with a collective is always immature.