Gorenberg on why one state is a non-starter: Jews would have to pay higher taxes or receive fewer services

It seems the Harvard One State conference really has Israel’s supporters – both liberal and conservative – running for cover. Jeffrey Goldberg does his part today in his column for Bloomberg:

This group argues for the “one-state solution,” the merging of the Palestinian and Jewish populations between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea into a single political entity. It is an entirely unworkable and offensive idea, but because it is couched in the language of equality and human rights, rather than murder and anti-Semitism, it has gained currency in certain not-entirely-marginal circles . . .

The one-staters posit that they differ from the Shukairy approach or from the ideology of Hamas. They don’t seek the expulsion of Jews from Palestine, they say, but instead the creation of a unified parliament that would represent all Arabs and Jews between the river and the sea. Instead of two ethnic- based states, they say, there would be one harmonious, pluralistic democracy.

Terrifying idea, isn’t it? Goldberg goes to Gershom Gorenberg to paint the horror that one democratic state could produce in Israel/Palestine:

Gershom Gorenberg, in his new book, “The Unmaking of Israel,” a jeremiad directed at the Jewish settlement movement, writes at length about the absurdity at the heart of the proposal.

“Palestinians will demand the return of property lost in 1948 and perhaps the rebuilding of destroyed villages. Except for the drawing of borders, virtually every question that bedevils Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations will become a domestic problem setting the new political entity aflame.”

Gorenberg predicts that Israelis of means would flee this new state, leaving it economically crippled. “Financing development in majority-Palestinian areas and bringing Palestinians into Israel’s social welfare network would require Jews to pay higher taxes or receive fewer services. But the engine of the Israeli economy is high-tech, an entirely portable industry. Both individuals and companies will leave.”

In the best case, this new dystopia by the sea would be paralyzed by endless argument: “Two nationalities who have desperately sought a political frame for cultural and social independence would wrestle over control of language, art, street names, and schools.” In the worst case, Gorenberg writes, political tensions “would ignite as violence.”

So even Gorenberg acknowledges that the worst case scenario is violence, and most likely the new country would be tied up in fights over “language, art, street names, and schools” – which is to say it would be about as functional as almost any other democracy. Is the threat of Jews paying higher taxes really the best argument liberal Zionists can muster these days?

What goes unsaid in the piece, and what Goldberg really finds “unworkable and offensive” about the idea of democracy in Israel/Palestine, is that Israeli Jews would have to give up the special and exclusive rights they enjoy now as Jews in an ethnocratic state. Equality would seem to be Israel’s greatest existential threat.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, One state/Two states

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

  1. Dan Crowther says:

    Does it ever dawn on american jews like goldberg that when they claim “two peoples living together” in israel/palestine is “offensive” that other americans, myself for example, take their stance to mean they believe in “separation” generally?

    And does it dawn on them how offensive this view is? And does it dawn on them that this leads people, myself for example, to not like people like goldberg?

    And does it dawn on them that when other americans, myself for example, begin to detest people like goldberg, they will no longer be interested in hearing “moral” arguments from them?

    In short, why should “we” care?

    • Does it ever dawn on american jews like goldberg that when they claim “two peoples living together” in israel/palestine is “offensive” that other americans, myself for example, take their stance to mean they believe in “separation” generally?

      we are not supposed to notice or pay attention. we are only supposed to hear “share our values” “share our values” “share our values” “share our values” “share our values” even tho ethnic nationalism is completely different than civic nationalism.

      • Dan Crowther says:

        yup – no doubt annie.

        But here is the thing – i grew up in a largely jewish neighborhood and remember vividly how “separate” a lot of the families were. I lived across the street from the synagogue and was always taken a back by how I was looked through by the people on their way to services. Hardly any neighborly “hey, how you doin” type of stuff – so when I see Goldie here talking about “separation” I think back to my neighborhood and think “yea, this seems to be a universal norm among (some) jews” — and i have to say, i didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. I wont even mention my neighbors who moved to the Golan Heights, changed their names and came back a year later rabid racists — Whoa. I was 12 at the time, my first inkling that something about Israel was not on the up and up

        link to cbinorthampton.org

        and here are the flags out front:

        link to google.com

      • Citizen says:

        Ever wonder why America’s top politicians of either main party never raise this difference, Annie? Why, they rather, incessantly conflate those distinct opposing values when it comes to Israel? Why does a state based on civic nationalism like the USA support more than any other, a state based on ethnic nationalism like Israel? Is this why GI Joe died 1941-45? Where is the Black Caucus on this issue? Did GI Joe, black or white stoke the chimneys of Auschwitz? Why did America prioritize targeting the ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt? Because they didn’t give a crap about foreign Jews (or gypsies)?

    • RoHa says:

      “they believe in “separation” generally”

      Give them what they want. Mark off a chunk of the US that no-one uses or wants(North Dakota, say, or New Jersey), set up a Jewish Autonomous Region in it, and herd all American Jews into it. They will need to show ID cards and pass through checkpoints to leave, and only be allowed to stay in the rest of the US for a limited time.

      See how well that goes down.

  2. Krauss says:

    There is something else which is overlooked but equally important.
    Goldberg is mentioning Belgium, an extreme outlier. But what about the U.S? Canada? And so on.

    Notice what Goldberg is doing here. He is demagoguing against multiculturalism itself.
    He is, in short, a nativist of the ugliest kind.

    Do you think his liberal creed would allow him to accept, even passively, conservatives to argue for a ‘white America’ because ‘look at what happened with Yugoslavia’.

    This is yet another sign of the tremendous privilege that Zionists inside the U.S. have. They can make the ugliest, most reactionary and racist nativist arguments that would never fly in the nations, like America, that they live in. And what’s more, the hypocrisy. Goldberg would call out the white supremacists and nativists, and as well as he should, if they made similar arguments for a ‘white America’ and then scaremongering of the blood, race war etc that would flow.

    Finally, his argument is that this is middle east and it can’t work. But the two nations are now almost completely merged already. His point is moot. The Palestinians already live in a single state, under control by Jews. The only thing the ‘one state’ paradigm would change is give them dignity.

    Why is Goldberg so afraid of that?

    The mask of the ‘liberal’ Zionist is ripped off.

    • Citizen says:

      Yeah, that mask of the “liberal Zionist” has been ripped off–why, it’s David “separate but equal” Duke!

    • seafoid says:

      He is demagoguing against multiculturalism itself.

      He is a Zionist. The ultra Zionist Jpost shot itself in the foot with this multikulti op ed last July

      link to jpost.com

      While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.

      • LeaNder says:

        Goldberg is mentioning Belgium

        It’s always Belgium, you can count on that.

        discontent with multiculturalism

        Well, “multiculturalism” including several languages has a long and rather successful history in Switzerland. The Swiss people realized really early it makes more sense to work together and form a Confederacy than to fight each other.

        If you have to choose a European model, why not Switzerland?

        • seafoid says:

          Multiculti works in most places. India is one of the best examples.
          Switzerland is also good.

        • Citizen says:

          The Wikipedia entry on multiculturalism reflects a mixed bag of results to date as to the pros and cons of this approach to state governance. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, followed quickly by the assault on Jim Crow in America, appear to have been the main (and IMO justified) impetus for the growth of multiculturalism, coupled with the advocation of “diversity” as public policy.

          Interestingly (conversely?), the end (bar Israel) of colonialism was supported by local ethnic. indigenous nationalism.

          The key to the question of the good or bad about multiculturalism seems to me to be a fight about power within the state in question, that is good or best for whom? The SCOTUS Loving case (1967), which ended statutory prohibition against interracial marriage in the USA–the remainder 16 states lost this built-in white privilege/right. (Alabama did not strike its statute, at least in full, until the year 2000), illustrates an example where legal discrimination ends and multiculturalism takes over more fully on a very personal level.

          It’s also interesting that food metaphors have been used to suggest the “taste of the times.” Melting pot: state encouraged assimilation (anti-multiculturalism/diversity). Salad bowl (different ingredients, not or less melted), [also Mosaic: Different, clearly recognizable pieces, but all fitted into a whole frame]. Now it’s “Chunky soup.”

          There’s something to say about one’s “comfort foods,” as well as about a taste for exotic foods. The key on the individual level is choice, which it was in the Loving case; when Mr Loving was asked by his lawyer if there was anything he wanted relayed to the judges, Mr Loving replied, ” Tell those judges I love my wife and I want to live with her. It’s not fair that I cannot do so.”

          Who remembers the German origin of hot dogs and hamburgers? I’m so old, when I was a little kid I never heard of, or saw a pizza pie. And so it goes (Vonnegut).

          The culture wars are far from over, whether they be intrastate or interstate. State (tax) funding and police power may be seen by an individual as helping or hurting him/her–and not without reason.

          I suspect few individuals get upset if the state taxing and police power help him/her simply by virtue of birth/formative years’ cultural attributes. They may get upset if they are hurt by same, again, for the same reason(s). Lots of folks like to pick and choose when to stand as an individual, and when to lump themselves into an ethnic group. The Census form indicates the state is very concerned about what cannot be melted in you due to your birth. It wants to count up its citizens for purposes that have nothing to do with any individual citizen as such.

        • Citizen says:

          Demographics of Switzerland: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%

        • Citizen says:

          India:

          Ethnic groups

          Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3% (2000)

          Religions

          Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.1% (2001 census)

          Languages

          Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.2%, other 5.9%
          note: English enjoys the status of subsidiary official language but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the most widely spoken language and primary tongue of 41% of the people; there are 14 other official languages: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language (2001 census)

        • pjdude says:

          india is ectremely disfunction hell the entire southern portion of the country basicly refuses to speak the national language of hindi speaking tamil instead brcause they feel its older.

    • Tuyzentfloot says:

      Belgium is a bad example. Its use as an example is mostly inspired by a very difficult formation of government. But the country has a successful history of 180 years . So is that proof that binational states work or that they don’t work?

  3. Woody Tanaka says:

    The thesis seems to be: “the denial of human rights must be accepted, otherwise the privileged class would be inconvenienced.” One wonders whether these people would hold that it is okay to strip human rights from one ethnic group because such a situation would benefit some other ethnicity if it were not their own ethnicity which is the top dog?

    • Shingo says:

      The thesis seems to be: “the denial of human rights must be accepted, otherwise the privileged class would be inconvenienced.”

      Bingo.

      So what is refereed to as the destruction of Israel is the the denial of provelage. And giving up that privelage and entitlement is what is referred to as commiting suicide.

  4. seafoid says:

    “Jews would have to pay higher taxes”.. .

    They are currently subsidised by the Palestinians they have driven into perpetual penury. Israel’s government expenses are far higher than the capacity of Jewish taxpayers to support them .

    Take away the free land and the water and the raw materials the occupation provides them, take away the captive Palestinian markets for crap Israeli products they can’t sell anywhere else and Israel enjoys a standard of living that has no bearing to its actual productive output.

    • Shmuel says:

      They are currently subsidised by the Palestinians they have driven into perpetual penury.

      Exactly. Yehouda Shenhav has remarked, for example, that to the extent that Israel’s settlement project has operated as a surrogate welfare state (for Jews only), it has been heavily subsidised by the Palestinians.

      the engine of the Israeli economy is high-tech

      The engine of the Israeli economy is actually the military and security sectors (cost also borne by Palestinians, in various ways). The new Palestina-E”Y economy would obviously have to find markets for plowshares.

  5. because it is couched in the language of equality and human rights, rather than murder and anti-Semitism, it has gained currency

    ouch! an indication goldberg is aware they are loosing the message.

    i was reviewing the hasbara handbook last night and one of the very first things they emphasize, from my notes:

    pg 6. people tend to believe something if they “hear it first and hear it often”…. “once people believe something it is hard to convince them they were wrong in the first place.”"

    re “murder and anti-Semitism”, those seem to be the mainstay of israeli hasbara, ‘they really want to kill us all’ etc. it’s embedded in so much of their propaganda. check this out
    link to jewishexponent.com

    Across the political spectrum, this distinction must be understood. On the right, there needs to be a clearer understanding of the difference between Jewish BDS supporters, who widely delegitimize Israel as a “racist” state and espouse the return of Palestinian refugees, and those who criticize particular Israeli policies. One group — the BDSers — wouldn’t blink an eye if Israel disappeared tomorrow or became submerged in one state, thereby losing its Jewish majority and character.

    notice how they connote one state as israel “disappearing”. and loosing jewish majority is hardly loosing jewish character. we’ve got plenty of jewish character right here in the US, with only 2%. it doesn’t require any kind of majority for jewish character.

    • GJB says:

      The situation in South Africa since apartheid ended is a more likely precedent, and another example of how it doesn’t take a majority to retain a huge degree of power and influence. In South Africa (by design – read Naomi Klein’s chapters on this in “The Shock Doctrine”) the white minority has retained much of its wealth and power, to the detriment of the majority. According to Klein, the IMF was a major player in the deal that led to this – the same IMF, incidentally, that Fayyad was a part of. I’d worry more about how the Palestinians would fare under a single state than about Gorenberg’s “dire” predictions.

    • RoHa says:

      Lose, losing, lost.
      Lose, losing, lost.
      Lose, losing, lost.

  6. bintbiba says:

    Ditto, Annie. Very well said! Character is never measured by numbers…Jewish or otherwise.

  7. awesome post adam, you nailed it again.

  8. seafoid says:

    There already is one state. Jews like their benefits. Who wouldn’t? What mouth foaming right winger wouldn’t want to reduce 50% of one’s fellow citizens to a state of subcontinental penury and convince oneself that there is no alternative and what’s more that it is all sanctioned by G-D ?

  9. tombishop says:

    While Gorenberg is horrified at the one-state solution, he poses no alternative. The Zionist settlers have made two states impossible. There is no way the IDF will move almost one million fanatical Zionists off of the West Bank. So what is his alternative? Liberals like Gorenberg believe in democracy for Jews in Israel and second class non-state status for Palestinians. Whether he wants to recognize it or not, one state already exists and it is an apartheid state.

  10. piotr says:

    Danny Dannon, Reuben Rivlin and many other Israeli politicians are against two state solution. Opposition to the liquidation of settlements covers something like 80% of the political spectrum. I personally think that “Belgium is an outlier” only because there is no “Israel/Palestine one state”, so perhaps “2S” is preferable, but right now we talk about calculus of impossibilities. A happy Apartheid state is most possible, basically, status quo. But are Apartheid states stable, or inherently paranoid, aggressive and self-destructive?

    Concerning the problem of large poor population dragging down high tech sector, this is what current happy state may experience anyway if you believe complaints about Haredim.

    • kapok says:

      Nobody wants two states, not really. Except for the delusional. Imagine a border between these “two states”: with each side bound and determined to have as many Stukas and Panzers as the other. Not to mention divvying up the natural resources each side will share. Israel wants it all and is not going to part with any of it, no matter what The Nice Man of TV says. Abbas, Obama, whoever, they could crawl up the steps of the Knesset on their tongues for all the good it would do.

      • piotr says:

        To have reasonable “one state” you would have to negotiate ahead of time what are the property rights and communal control of land in the new state. Obviously, it would have to be change to the detriment of Jews (because they are unreasonably privileged now), and now you have a thorny issue how. Thus I do not see how is it simpler than 2 state solution.

        Whatever the solution, there has to be an international consensus that the current situation is not tolerable.

    • lysias says:

      Ancient Sparta was an apartheid state that was not particularly aggressive and was most concerned about preserving the status quo.

  11. RoHa says:

    “Gorenberg predicts that Israelis of means would flee this new state, …Both individuals and companies will leave.”

    But I thought they were all deeply attached to the Holy Land with their cultural and ancestral roots and stuff like that. And then just becuase they might have to pay a bit more in tax they are going to run back to Brooklyn?

  12. Shingo says:

    Clearly paying higher taxes or receiving fewer services is tantamount to the destruction of Israel.

  13. Pixel says:

    “Equality would seem to be Israel’s greatest existential threat.”

    Great post, Adam. Thanks!

  14. Clearly, objecting to a one state proposal based upon higher taxes and fewer services, sounds trivial. I assume that violence will be the main problem. In order to convince me that violence will not be the main problem, proposers of this are hereby requested to provide a hypothetical scenario of how this all comes about.

    Science fiction would only require a nighttime change of mind of all Israeli supporters of Jewish statehood, from their current state of mind into the minds of one staters.

    The prime minister (let’s leave him unnamed so as to avoid putting one stater words in Bibi’s mouth) would announce to the Israeli people, “I have decided (and I happen to know you agree), that our attempt at having a sovereign Jewish state has failed, therefore I will take the following steps: I will propose that Israel will annex the occupied territories.”

    (Time out: which would include Gaza, but not the Golan Heights.)

    Time in:

    “Israel will annex the occupied territories granting full citizenship to all people who reside in those territories. Further Israel agrees to accept any and all people who can prove that they are Palestinians (have one grandparent or two great grandparents or four great great grandparents who were residing in Palestine from the period of 1945 until 1947, into the new country. The number of Palestinian returnees will not exceed 250,000 per year, but over 20 years that means that we will accept 5 million Palestinians to be citizens of Israel.”

    From my perspective this is unlikely and you probably agree that this is unlikely. Therefore my request for some kind of a scenario is reasonable.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      I assume that violence will be the main problem.

      Correction: violence against Jews is the only problem you’re concerned about. Violence against Palestinians is already happening and CLEARLY, you’re perfectly comfortable with the two-state Bantustan solution.

  15. Citizen says:

    Israel: Ethnic groups

    Jewish 76.4% (of which Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish 23.6% (mostly Arab) (2004)

  16. Citizen says:

    pjdude:
    Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.2%, other 5.9%
    note: English enjoys the status of subsidiary official language but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the most widely spoken language and primary tongue of 41% of the people; there are 14 other official languages: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language (2001 census)