Bradley Burston dips his toes in one-state water

In his latest Haaretz column, Bradley Burston dares to go where he has never gone before, taking the first tentative steps toward consideration of the one-state solution. Burston strikes me as a true “liberal Zionist,” one whose expressions of decency are genuine rather than cynical, but he has never, to my knowledge, allowed himself to question the continued existence of the Jewish State, until now.

Burston draws inspiration from both left and right. He cites the recent revelation that as early as August, 1967, none other than Menachem Begin proposed granting citizenship to any West Bank Palestinians who desired it (a proposal kept secret until now). He notes that in a 2010 Haaretz article, Noam Sheizaf reviewed right-wing voices who have broached the subject of citizenship for OPT Palestinians. Burston even credits Peter Beinart, who has publicly favored a limited boycott, for moving the dialogue, even though Beinart lags behind on even the possibility of a 1ss.

Interestingly, Burston does not arrive at this position out of placing the fundamental concept of equality for all above the notion of the Jewish State. He is purely motivated by the increasing physical impossibility of achieving the two-state solution, referring to himself as someone who still believes that two independent states would provide Israelis and Palestinians with their best chance for a future of freedom, justice, security and well-being. I disagree with him there, and disagree even more when he blames the disappearance of a potential 2ss on both Israelis and Palestinians: There is no denying, however, that settlement construction, Palestinian disunity, and other factors are fast rendering the two-state concept impracticable.

Still, Burston comes a long way, seeing “something of a Jewish Spring in rethinking the future of Israel and its relationship to the Palestinians, the Mideast, and the Jewish people.. He agrees that Israel, if left to its druthers, will probably choose to continue the status quo of “temporary” occupation, which he recognizes is profoundly immoral. He also knows that most Israeli Jews, himself included, would be fearful of remaking their state less committed to preservation of an inherent Jewish character, but he concludes with a plea to think what had previously been unthinkable:

In another week, it will be Pesach. The enemy of fear. Time to cast out the chametz, which is everything we put up and hoard and refuse to part with and acquire and consume too much of, as our insulation against everything that scares us. Ideas included. Time to burn it. Time to burn what we are so comfortable believing, knowing to be true. It’s Spring. Time to start again. Time to think again, to leave behind what we know. Time to hit the road. Even if we can see that the route leads between gigantic, threatening walls, with nothing visible holding them from falling in on us, drowning us, annihilating us. Nothing, that is, but faith and a willingness to try something we hadn’t, until now, considered.

About David Samel

David Samel is am attorney in New York City.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Media, One state/Two states

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

  1. Noam Sheizaf in +972: “The major problem right now is that an inherently immoral order represents the most desirable political option for Israelis. All the left’s effort to demonstrate the problems the occupation creates – like the burden on the state budget – won’t help, since political choices are made based on alternative options, and right now the alternatives are more expensive, more painful, and more dangerous.”

    I admit that it took me a very very long time to realize this. mea culpa maxima. It looks to me very much that Noam’s view explains people like Mr Burston (and Beinart) who I think genuinely are ‘liberal’ and yet somehow have rationalized 65 years of grossly wrong acts by the state, aye and by his friends, and himself.

    More importantly, it is hard to know what this late dawn really means. My fear remains that we won’t see the ‘promised land’ emerge, ever, but rather that sooner or later the 1948 solution will be continued. The bibi’s of this world, the man himself or a successor will wait until some crisis, and then move.

    • seafoid says:

      “since political choices are made based on alternative options, and right now the alternatives are more expensive, more painful, and more dangerous”

      The ultimate meltdown will be irreversible. Ask Dick Fuld.

  2. Thanks for the great story David.

    This is starting to remind me of a story i read this morning about a grandma that told her grandson about rats leaving a sinking ship.

  3. seafoid says:

    “There is no denying, however, that settlement construction, Palestinian disunity, and other factors are fast rendering the two-state concept impracticable.”

    Like it makes any difference what the Palestinians do. If the front benches of Fatah and Hamas were all dressed up in tutus singing “the border police will stick a log up my ***” (I saw that video recently) it wouldn’t change anything. Israel is driven by a deeper force of unreason .

  4. seafoid says:

    He agrees that Israel, if left to its druthers, will probably choose to continue the status quo of “temporary” occupation, which he recognizes is profoundly immoral.

    As well as ruinous.
    Shir Hever calculated that the occupation cost Israel 381 bn shekels to 2008. That’s 100bn USD.

  5. ToivoS says:

    Davis defines: true “liberal Zionist,” one whose expressions of decency are genuine rather than cynical,

    That is the most accurate and succinct definition of liberal Zionist I’ve seen.

  6. pabelmont says:

    It is neither here nor there when anyone, any individual, “OKs” 1SS or 2SS. The reason is simple: until Israel’s internal or external circumstances change radically, there will be no democratic 1SS to replace the present undemocratic, apartheid 1SS. Nor, of course, any 2SS at all (unless the Palestinians crumble and accept abject rotten defeat).

    Since I do not expect Israel’s internal politics to favor a democratic 1SS (or any acceptable 2SS), I look — without holding my breath — for intervention from the international community. With civil-society BDS leading the way and looking to Israel’s mad-mad-world attitudes to convince the world to intervene.

  7. it gives me goosebumps reading burston’s article. it’s going to take creative evolving minds to make radical change, and courage. and a belief it can be done. i know something will happen that will lead to resolution. i know it.

    “If every path seems to reach an impasse,” Sheizaf quoted former Netanyahu chief of staff Uri Elitzur, a fierce, even radical rightist and also an early advocate of citizenship for Palestinians, as writing, “usually the right path is one that was never even considered, the one that is universally acknowledged to be unacceptable, taboo.”

  8. Hostage says:

    In his latest Haaretz column, Bradley Burston dares to go where he has never gone before, taking the first tentative steps toward consideration of the one-state solution.

    He’s only talking about annexing the West Bank. There is no hint of a grand gesture in store for the folks living under siege in Gaza. It isn’t mentioned at all.

    • David Samel says:

      That’s right, Hostage, and that is why I said he was only dipping his toes in the water. But I do think it’s significant that he, and Strenger, and others are broaching what used to be a forbidden subject — the possibility that Israel might have to transform to a state that confers equal rights to all. Most of us on this website are already there, but obviously a major shift in outside opinion is needed for this to become a reality. I’m not nominating Burston for sainthood or the peace prize, but just noting a welcome shift in his opinion in the right direction. the more this subject becomes discussable in haaretz, the better.

  9. Woody Tanaka says:

    “He agrees that Israel, if left to its druthers, will probably choose to continue the status quo of ‘temporary’ occupation”

    Which, if he was really a liberal, would inexorably lead him to conclude that the Israeil state must be destroyed as soon as possible and replaced with one which respects the civial, political and human rights of all the people with a claim to the land between the sea and the Jordan River.

  10. kalithea says:

    I can’t believe this site is peddling the likes of Beinart and Burston trying to make their views palatable.

    Atzmon was right about Liberal Zionists and anti-Zionist Jews. He seems to be the only truly honest Jew around who cares about justice and humanity above all else.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      Well, I think it is important to discuss their views and it can be done (and I believe that it is being done here) without approving of those views…

      • me too, absolutely. i am certainly not in any position to assume every self identifying ‘liberal zionist’ is on the dark side unwilling to change, adapt, transform, be a part of a solution. what would be the point of that? it empowers an idea that is the antithesis of hope and peace. better to have a vision of success, empower peace and openness where ever you find it.

        anyone who aspires for a just peace and a fair resolution can be part of the solution not part of what’s creating this hideous strangulation leading to a constant escalation of oppression.

        • kalithea says:

          I’m sorry but I just can’t embrace or respect individuals who I know would settle for CHEATING others by pushing through a half-assed solution that benefits mostly their tribe and just to be rid of a “situation” that has annoyed their conscience for years.

        • i know kalithea, your a purity holier than thou type.

      • David Samel says:

        Thank you Woody. Of course you’re right. I’m noting a big change in the right direction. Do I share Burston’s views? Of course not, but I do think he’s taken a step toward recognition of the problem and a fair solution. Many more steps to go, but kalithea cannot reasonably believe that people dramatically change their long-held positions overnight.

        As for Atzmon being the “only truly honest Jew around who cares about justice and humanity above all else,” that is rather clumsy language. Putting aside the question of whether Atzmon is worthy of praise, surely there are other Jews who would measure up to kalithea’s high standards. I don’t think kalithea really meant to sound so anti-semitic.

        • ToivoS says:

          I don’t think kalithea really meant to sound so anti-semitic.

          Atzmon simply brings out the worst in many people.

        • kalithea says:

          “Putting aside the question of whether Atzmon is worthy of praise, surely there are other Jews who would measure up to kalithea’s high standards.”

          Then other Jews better speak up on behalf of justice and humanity even when the tribe must be denied like Atzmon does or be painted with the same brush. This is not a time for keeping a low profile within the herd.

        • kalithea says:

          Oh, whatever makes you feel better…like I care.

  11. kalithea says:

    Some of the hopefulness I’m witnessing around here in regards to Beinart and Burston borders on DELUSIONAL.

    Beinart and Burston are the types that would sideline justice, the truth and humanity to cheat the Palestinians out of something like all their land and right of return in a 2 state and all their rights and right of return in a one state. So why are you cheering for potential cheats?