‘That’s what democracy means’: Kristof makes the common sense argument for one state

Israel/Palestine
on 25 Comments

Today Nick Kristof has a column in the Times titled “Is Israel Its Own Worst Enemy?” which lays out the current impasse in Israeli/Palestinian negotiations (including Obama’s “humiliation” at the UN). He ends:

So where do we go from here? If a peace deal is not forthcoming soon, and if Israel continues its occupation, then Israel should give the vote in Israeli elections to all Palestinians in the areas it controls. If Jews in the West Bank can vote, then Palestinians there should be able to as well.

That’s what democracy means: people have the right to vote on the government that controls their lives. Some of my Israeli friends will think I’m unfair and harsh, applying double standards by focusing on Israeli shortcomings while paying less attention to those of other countries in the region. Fair enough: I plead guilty. I apply higher standards to a close American ally like Israel that is a huge recipient of American aid.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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25 Responses

  1. Chu
    October 6, 2011, 11:18 am

    It’s difficult to imagine Israeli’s living with Palestinians in peace as one cohesive state. The racism would still exist and public violence would continue, with a police force doing nothing. Israel would have it’s new clandestine KKK, and it would be ‘Jim Crow times’, as many like to say.

    Kristof could avoid using the final phrase, ‘friends don’t let friends drive drunk’ if he wants his article to be taken seriously. It’s completely inappropriate to use a corny punchline when trying to convince his readers about Israel’s continued settlements.

  2. David Samel
    October 6, 2011, 11:25 am

    I spotted the same excerpt, though I think the double standards discussion is silly. But before that, it is, as Adam says, the common sense argument for one state. However, I would like to ask Kristof when he feels his solution of giving Palestinians the vote should be triggered. “If a peace deal is not forthcoming soon” — we’re 20 years into the “peace process”, and “if Israel continues its occupation” — that’s been 44+ years. Exactly when does Kristof lose patience and say “that’s it, time’s up.” Those who have been subject to the occupation, and the false, even ridiculous attempts at a peace process, arrived at that point long ago.

    That’s not the only thing missing from Kristof’s analysis. He also does not deal with the infeasibility of removal of hundreds of thousands of settlers, many of them hard-core “over my dead body” lunatics that would be necessary to make the 2ss a reality.

    Kristof is dipping his toes in the water, and knows enough not to explicitly state that this solution spells the end of the “Jewish State” as we know it.

    But enough with the criticism, which is petty in comparison to what Kristof does say. As Adam implies by posting this article, it is a very important step. A NYTimes columnist is actually broaching the subject of a one-state solution, and citing for support an uncontroversial notion — “That’s what democracy means: people have the right to vote on the government that controls their lives.” This reasoning, which should provoke a “Duh!” response in a rational world, is revolutionary among “respectable” establishment-type journalists.

    • Donald
      October 6, 2011, 11:52 am

      It was a great column for a NYT pundit, but I’m also tired of grading on a curve when it comes to this subject. There’s an unwritten rule in US politics that you never criticize Israel without taking some cheap shots at Palestinians (like complaining about Palestinian nonviolent protests involving stone throwing, when the Egyptian protests were at least as violent) and the trouble with allowing this stuff to pass is that it invariably comes back to bite the Palestinians. He starts out with the fairy tale version of the history where in the past the conflict couldn’t be resolved because Westerners were so offended by Palestinian terror. He barely avoids saying that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Then he claims that all of a sudden, the conflict has become more Israel’s fault, as though this was a new development. That’s his way of reaching his intended audience–he apparently has to tell them that until Netanyahu, it was always the Palestinians who were the chief problem.

      The only reason the Palestinians are getting even this much sympathy is because Netanyahu is full of hubris and is impossible for any sane rational person to defend. If he were just a little better at PR he could offer an unacceptable peace plan, the Palestinians would stand on their rights granted by international law, and then the American pundit class would unite as one and blame the Palestinians for not making a counteroffer. And things would be back to normal.

      I know I’m being a little too negative. The piece had some very good features and maybe it should be seen as a harbinger of how things might be changing in the US. But it comes back to grading on a curve. We’ll have a healthy discussion on this subject when simple statements of fact are not seen as revolutionary.

      • David Samel
        October 6, 2011, 3:30 pm

        Donald, you’re absolutely right about the other objectionable things in Kristof’s column, and his absurdly un-evenhanded efforts to appear evenhanded. If this were a post on mondoweiss, it would be ridiculed. The fact that this column appears to be a beacon of rational thought is evidence of the low level of mainstream discourse on this subject. Still, the excerpt quoted by Adam struck me as a significant departure from the usual, and a very rare acknowledgement that Israel is not a democracy if it rules over people who have no vote.

        • Donald
          October 6, 2011, 5:39 pm

          You and Rusty Pipes below are probably both right–it’s unlikely the column would appear without all the un-evenhanded attempts to appear evenhanded. (That, btw, was a very clever and accurate way to describe it. I’ll have to steal that phrase in the future.) Or if it did appear, it would be totally uncharacteristic for the sorts of timid people that write columns in the NYT. (Krugman is the main exception to this these days, but my theory on that is that Krugman was hired as a columnist back in the late 90′s, when he himself has admitted he wasn’t really paying close attention to politics and usually took the position that both left and right were equally crazy on economic issues.)

        • David Samel
          October 7, 2011, 12:48 am

          Donald, “steal” away, though with my permission, it is not theft.

      • Rusty Pipes
        October 6, 2011, 3:56 pm

        Considering Adam’s excerpt, I was surprised that the NYT ran the piece at all. But without the disclaimers and diversions in the rest of the piece, the NYT would only make Kristof’s views expressed in the excerpt available online in the IHT.

  3. Richard Witty
    October 6, 2011, 11:29 am

    Kristof’s post is a great endorsement for genuine two-state negotiations.

    The implication of a single state is self-talk on your part Adam.

    I assume you saw the discussion between Gershom Gorenburg and Dimi Reider on 972?

    link to 972mag.com

    • Donald
      October 6, 2011, 11:58 am

      “The implication of a single state is self-talk on your part Adam.”

      Kristof seems to prefer the two state solution, probably because he knows the Israelis won’t accept the one state solution (because Israelis think they have the right to benefit from ethnic cleansing). But he’s also pointing out that if they don’t reach a two state solution soon, the West Bank Palestinians should get the vote. It’s right there in the post. You just don’t want to acknowledge it.

      • Shingo
        October 6, 2011, 5:13 pm

        I love how Witty, the master of incoherent, irrelevant babble that no one listens to, and the owner of a blog nobody reads, accuses others of self talk.

      • Richard Witty
        October 7, 2011, 4:41 am

        Often that warning is presented as an advocacy here. Its still presented as a warning.

  4. pabelmont
    October 6, 2011, 11:34 am

    David Samel has the right issue: TIME. Palestinians are like prisoners, no charges, no trial, just prison, and not allowed to vote (or otherwise be effective citizens of the country they live in) WHILE STILL IN PRISON.

    TIME IS RUNNING. Anyone can do 1 day in prison, but 44 years (or 64 years) is too much.

    USA has refused to free the prisoners and demands that they negotiate with the prison officials who evidently believe their livelihood will be lost when the prison doors are opened.

  5. LeaNder
    October 6, 2011, 11:43 am

    He is acknowledging that the Israeli “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” narrative is loosing ground. Many seem to do lately.

  6. lobewyper
    October 6, 2011, 12:16 pm

    I agree, LeaNder–this is more evidence that the tide is turning against Israeli (and US) hardliners…

  7. American
    October 6, 2011, 12:29 pm

    I no longer read any article that starts off with what ‘Israel is doing to Israel’ instead of what Israel is doing to Others.

    Israel and the Israel firsters need one of those interventions where everyone washes their hands of the addict and gives him an ultimatum and walks away.

  8. Dan Crowther
    October 6, 2011, 12:29 pm

    Witty’s comment above says it all.

    …….then Israel should give the vote in Israeli elections to all Palestinians in the areas it controls. If Jews in the West Bank can vote, then Palestinians there should be able to as well.

    You can see Witty closing his eyes, fingers in his ears screaming ” na na na na” like a petulant five year old refusing the orders of his parents.

    As for Kristof – he reminds me of the woman from NY (featured the other day on MW) who was for one state on “pragmatic” grounds – his call on Israel to grant voting rights at some undertermined point in the future to Palestinians in the occupied territories has a tinge of racism to it. But at least he is going where few others dare to go. He’ll probably be out at the times soon.

  9. Chespirito
    October 6, 2011, 1:20 pm

    Weird that Kristof doesn’t event float the possibility of Washington cutting off its lavish aid to Israel, which he, like nearly all American intellectuals, seems to take as a fact of nature just like Lake Erie or the Tehachapi Mountains. Why is it so hard for American opinion-makers to denounce the vile absurdity of military, economic and diplomatic aid to a country that is a) carrying out ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, b) is one of the wealthier nations of the world, c) has a qualitative nuclear advantage over its neighbors, not to mention other reasons? Like Donald, I’m tired of grading establishment Americans on a curve here.

    (One rare exception to this weird establishment silence on massive aid to Israel, even in a time of brutal fiscal austerity, is this op-ed by veteran journalist Celestine Bohlen, orginally published in Bloomberg BusinessWeek: link to host.madison.com)

    People may say that ending the Israel subsidy is a political non-starter, but it is not the job of journalists and intellectuals to voice only plans that are immediately feasible–most policy changes require plenty of cultivation and mobilizing buy-in before they become possible. And cutting off aid is not “radical” or “Lindbergian”; what’s truly extreme and chauvinistic is our status quo policy. Honestly, if it were proposed that America start pumping Armenia with $3bn a year in aid so they could retake Nagorno-Karabakh, and be our “landlocked aircraft carrier” strategically close to the oilfields of Baku, would anyone take that seriously? Of course not–but the logic undergirding our massive Israel subsidy is not much different. Oh well, even as Kristof lags behind, at least some of the marchers at Occupy Wall Street are calling for cutting the purse strings to Israel, a modest step towards peace in the Middle East. Until then, Washington is contributing not to a peace process but a war process.

    • lobewyper
      October 6, 2011, 1:53 pm

      “Weird that Kristof doesn’t event float the possibility of Washington cutting off its lavish aid to Israel, which he, like nearly all American intellectuals, seems to take as a fact of nature just like Lake Erie or the Tehachapi Mountains.”

      Perhaps because he would summarily be fired if he did…

    • Charon
      October 6, 2011, 3:34 pm

      If every man, woman, and child in the USA received a check for $2,000 it would be a big deal. That’s how much disclosed money (conservatively adjusted for inflation, it’s higher than that) Israel has received in aid from the US. That’s $8,000 for a family of four. Some people take a part time job to make $8k in a year. When the Zionists say that aid is pennies, it isn’t when you add it up. Then you got the Israelis illegally working here running scams like mall kiosk junk, Florida/SC T-Shirt shops that charge a higher balance on your CC then they tell you (I believe it is called ‘Waves’, they also try to rip you off on henna tattoos and are involved in Narcotics trafficking), moving company scams, locksmith scams, ‘donation’ text scams, art student scams, etc. Sure plenty of people run scams but a whole bunch of illegal Israelis are monopolizing it on our soil. I’m surprised they don’t run the for-profit school scams like University of Phoenix, seems up their ally.

      In addition to a security risk because of their ethnic cleansing and state-sponsored terrorism approved by the USSA (paid for by us… blood money).

      They also have involved us in their conflicts essentially making our military into mercenaries. Compromised our cold war position (years and trillions of dollars adjusted for inflation of work) via Pollard who they insist on freeing. That peace process going on for 20 years isn’t free either. Significant time and money spent not only in Washington but also in the media.

      It all adds up to a huge chunk of our national debt, I guarantee it. Israel is a parasite that has been sucking whatever was left of the US dry.

  10. seafoid
    October 6, 2011, 5:27 pm

    It will be interesting to see the damage the forthcoming Greek default does to Israel.

  11. ToivoS
    October 6, 2011, 5:31 pm

    I agree with Adam that this Kristof piece is important. Nevertheless I like Asad Kahlil’s take on the same article in today’s Angry Arab:

    Nicholas Kristof
    I have said before that liberal writers annoy me more on Israel than right-wing writers, for more than the one obvious reason (that they don’t sound as liberal when they talk about Israel). They sound like Saudi Wahhabi liberals in their contradictions and inconsistencies. Look at this silly statement: “Palestinian radicals antagonized the West, and, when militant leaders turned to hijackings and rockets, they undermined the Palestinian cause around the world. They empowered Israeli settlers and hard-liners, while eviscerating Israeli doves.” Holy shit. Palestinian political violence did all that? Let me get this straight: so before the Palestinians turned to violence in the late 1060s, the world was all sympathetic to their cause? And it is historically untrue: the sections of the world outside of US and Israel, did not become less pro-Palestinian after the hijackings, but even became more pro-Palestinian. That can’t be disputed, regardless of one’s assessment of those methods. In fact, it can be argued that even Western governments which had ignored the plight of the Palestinians for decades only paid attention to the Palestinian question after those methods. Secondly, how can one respond to the silly notion that Palestinians are to blame for the right-wing leaders of Israel? It does not make sense. But this makes full sense: Arabs can legitimately blame Israel AND US for the right-wing reactionary dictators that rule over them. Thirdly, there is a principle among liberal writers on Israel: notice that they only fault Israel for settlements but not for on-going killing of Palestinians, for assassination and bombing raids, or for racism. All that does not count as bad for them.

    • David Samel
      October 7, 2011, 12:45 am

      Toivo – Thanks for that excellent analysis. Whereas I winced when I read that line in Kristof’s column, and thought it was outweighed by what he said later, Kahlil is quite right to be more upset at such nonsense from the “liberal” viewpoint. I have observed before that in many instances, liberals will twist facts to fit their consciences while conservatives will be more honest, though brutally so.

    • Chespirito
      October 7, 2011, 10:37 am

      Thanks ToivoS for posting this.

  12. yourstruly
    October 6, 2011, 6:21 pm

    oh well, what’s to be gained by our government’s severing its special relationship with the settler entity israel?

    we’d only be taking the first step towards a just and peaceful world

    and in the knick of time

    pulling back from the abyss

  13. tombishop
    October 6, 2011, 8:17 pm

    The half a million settlers in the West Bank have made the two state solution impossible. They are showing signs that they want to ethnically cleanse the West Bank. This would be a catastrophe for the world.

    The current Palestinian proposal in the U.N. is valuable because it is exposing to the world that the Zionists and the U.S. government have never been serious about a two state solution.

    Since the settlers have settled the question with their annexation of Palestinian land, the only way forward for those who are looking for a solution to the problem is a secular, democratic state where everyone regardless of religion or national origin is treated equally. Yes, it means a struggle like the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow in the American South. Engaging in such a struggle is the only way to bring the justice that will lead to peace.

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