Finkelstein’s prescription for a two-state solution is not realistic

Israel/Palestine
on 48 Comments

One of the issues raised in the controversy over Norman Finkelstein’s recent video interview is the feasibility of the two-state solution. While the creation of a Palestinian State in Gaza and the West Bank alongside Israel remains the purported basis of a settlement among much of the international community, many are now questioning whether it is still possible. After decades of Israel’s deliberate creation of “facts on the ground,” primarily the illegal settlement of hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens throughout the West Bank, can a Palestinian State still emerge free from a large number of permanent residents owing allegiance to, and expecting protection from, a foreign state? Finkelstein emphatically answers in the affirmative, and has presented his case in lectures around the world.

A brief preface. I have greatly admired Finkelstein for many years, and cannot think of anyone else outside the Palestinian community who has devoted more time and energy to the cause of their freedom. He is sincerely taking what he feels to be the best strategic position to mitigate the human suffering he has witnessed firsthand. He is in a position to make the most genuine case for the two-state solution, and he does not come close. At recent videotaped lectures he gave in Glasgow and Edinburgh , his discussion of the settler problem contains serious flaws and shortcomings.

Finkelstein begins talking about the two-state solution at about an hour and a half into his lectures. First, he offers a legal/logical/moral imperative for recognizing the State of Israel as a simultaneous condition for demanding Palestinian rights guaranteed under international law. Mondoweiss published three responses, including my own, to this contention, but rather than repeat that discussion, let’s turn to Finkelstein’s insistence that the two-state solution remains viable, and that a peace settlement along the lines of the “international consensus” may still be achieved with a little creativity.

Here is his prescription for dealing with the settlers. First, Finkelstein estimates the number of these settlers at the very low end of 500,000. Netanyahu has stated that there are 650,000 settlers and the actual figure may even be higher, but Finkelstein goes with only 500,000.

Second, Finkelstein claims that if just 1.9% of Occupied Palestine is transferred to Israel, 63% of the 500,000 settlers reside within that 1.9% and would not have to leave their homes and communities to leave Palestine. At his lectures, he displays a map, presented by a Palestinian negotiating team in 2008, depicting this 1.9% of the OPT. The 1.9% consists mostly of numerous territorial segments that appear sort of mushroom-shaped, with narrow access roads leading a few miles from the Green Line to a settlement. The map also shows a few land areas that are presently part of Israel’s internationally recognized territory that would constitute an equal amount of territory that can become part of Palestine in the swap. Finkelstein concludes that about 300,000 of the 500,000 settlers will be accounted for in this 1.9% swap, leaving about 200,000 who must be evacuated.

Third, he states that many settlers are not ideological fanatics but moved to the OPT because of financial incentives offered by the government, and similarly could be induced to move back within the Green Line. He estimates that only 5000 to 10,000 settlers might refuse to move out of ideological fervor. Finkelstein believes that compelling the removal of this number would be relatively easy. Israel could merely impose a deadline when it will withdraw its armed forces, and these five to ten thousand ideological settlers will comply with an evacuation order out of fear of being left alone and unprotected.

Finkelstein makes several errors and omissions in his analysis, but this last one is the best place to start. His estimate of 5000 to 10,000 recalcitrant settlers seems absurdly low. Even if one accepts his minimal figure of 500,000 total settlers, and 200,000 who would not be “swapped,” his numbers correspond to only 2.5% to 5% of these 200,000 settlers being ideological and resistant to financial incentives for relocation. According to Finkelstein, 95+% would leave voluntarily. I don’t know what polls he relies upon to support this improbable figure, but a recent Hebrew University poll shows a much higher rate of settler opposition to evacuation. In 2010, 21% of settlers agreed that they would not only refuse to move, they would use all means, including force of arms, to resist. This position is on the increase, up from 15% in 2005. This 21% represents the hardest of the hard-core; surely many more would also refuse to move, but would not presently commit to force of arms to stay. It looks like Finkelstein could be off by a factor of ten, and that 50,000 to 100,000 settlers would refuse all offers of financial compensation, and would require massive military force to budge them from their illegal residence in the West Bank.

Finkelstein’s plan to remove these stubborn settlers, whether 5000 to 10,000 or a great deal more, is to assume they are “cowards” who would turn tail and refuse to face life amongst Palestinians without IDF protection. It’s amusing to ridicule one’s enemies as cowards, but it’s often inaccurate. Bill Maher lost his gig at ABC a decade ago for sensibly pointing out that the 9/11 hijackers were not “cowards.” These fanatical settlers may be greedy, racist, violent, deluded, and a host of other adjectives, but they also are well-armed with both firearms and the certain conviction that God promised the Jewish people the entire land of historical Palestine. Finkelstein’s “evidence” of the settlers’ cowardice consists of a quote from the former head of the Shin Bet, who said, of the 400 Hebron settlers, that they would quickly run back behind the Green Line if threatened with the loss of IDF protection. Does Finkelstein accept the word of Shin Bet directors about anything else? Even if this questionable source was absolutely sincere in this instance, he was merely voicing his own generalized prediction of the conduct of others. The assumption that many thousands of ideological lunatics with guns will be frightened to abandon God’s plan for Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria is not a realistic basis to reach a peace agreement. Is there anything more dangerous than a person with a gun and the unshakeable conviction that God wants him/her to use it?

Of course, the IDF could physically force the settlers from their illegal outposts, but that might be politically impossible, and even physically impossible if the numbers are significantly greater than 5000-10,000 as they almost surely are. These die-hard settlers are not concentrated in one or two geographical areas, but dot the landscape all over the West Bank. Enormous resources would be required to force them to move without outbreaks of lethal violence. Finkelstein’s conclusion that it would be simple to empty the future Palestinian State of Israeli citizens is absurdly optimistic.

While Finkelstein does not explicitly propose it, Israel theoretically could strip, or threaten to strip, these recalcitrant settlers of their citizenship and have them assume Palestinian citizenship, as Jewish citizens of Palestine. However, there is no realistic chance that these fanatics would accept being subject to Palestinian governmental authority. It is not difficult to foresee them use their weapons in “self-defense,” leading to a armed conflict and Israeli military intervention to protect these “courageous Jewish pioneers” from massacre by the “Arab hordes.” In short, leaving behind ideological settlers would be a recipe for conflict and disaster.

There are other flaws in Finkelstein’s analysis as well. There is no reason to believe that Israel would ever be willing to accept the disjointed, mushroom-shaped territories extending into the West Bank, or that it would swap those areas presently within the Green Line that were designated by the Palestinian negotiators. Finkelstein concedes that it would be political suicide for any Israeli leader to accept this map, and urges us all to apply political pressure to somehow make it feasible.

Next, who would pay the enormous price tag for relocating about 200,000 settlers who supposedly would agree to move with generous compensation? The compensation cost alone could easily run into tens of billions of dollars or more. And how would Israel accommodate this huge influx? Enormous new housing projects would have to be designed and constructed. Where? How long would it take? How much would that cost? Who would pay?

Finally, is there any Israeli political will to force any two-state settlement at all? Somehow, it has failed to materialize until now. Theoretically, a majority of Israelis oppose the settlements, but the settler population and their supporters from within Israel have been politically able to obstruct any movement to restrict settlement activity. The country is certainly becoming more right wing, and that will continue in the foreseeable future, as there is a much higher birth rate among the ideological and/or religious Israelis than there is among the secular population.

Norman Finkelstein, while expressing certainty that the two-state solution remains achievable, with only this last consideration (Israeli political will) to be overcome with international pressure, doesn’t address these thorny questions. Even worse, his vision for the future is dependant on an unrealistically optimistic view of the ease with which Israel’s illegal settler population can be re-settled within its internationally recognized boundaries. To briefly recap, he starts with the lowest estimation of total settlers, assumes that the Israeli map could be acceptably redrawn with lots of tiny fingers extending into a foreign state, assumes near unanimous compliance with evacuation orders when 25-50% would probably refuse, and neglects to ponder numerous other obstacles to a two-state solution.

Finkelstein’s argument that the law requires recognition of Israel is not nearly as clearcut as he insists. He claims that Israel’s existence is a legally recognized fact, but Israel exists only as a Jewish State and has no legal right to insist on the kind of ethno-religious favoritism that such definition entails. And the law is not straightforward, but a tangled web of conflicting claims. The UN Partition Plan “created” Israel on 55% of the land, but that percentage increased to 78% by the 1949 cease fire. That’s what is presently known as the Green Line, Israel’s generally recognized boundary. What is Israel’s legal claim to that part of its internationally-recognized territory outside the 1947 UN map? Wasn’t that territory acquired by war, just like the territories conquered in 1967? Also, the right of return of all Palestinian refugees is enshrined in international law, but if exercised, it would signify the end of Israel’s Jewish majority and its Jewish Statehood. What would happen to the Israel that Finkelstein claims is an entity that deserves legal recognition? It would disintegrate by enforcement of the law! So “the law” both requires recognition of Israel and sows the seeds of its downfall. The legal claims of all parties cannot be reconciled in one consistent, coherent manner.

Perhaps most importantly, Israel has withstood the illegality of its settlement project for over 40 years. What would suddenly make it vulnerable to international public pressure? And if, as Finkelstein agrees, such pressure is required to budge Israelis from their current obstinacy, why would an appeal to law – hopelessly tangled and subject to varying interpretations and jurisdictions – be any more likely to be successful than an appeal to the principle of equality for all regardless of ethnic or religious background? Israel and its powerful supporters worldwide have legions of lawyers ready to obfuscate the law and explain why the illegal settlements are actually legal, the illegal occupation is legal, the illegal acquisition of territory by war is legal, etc. These arguments may be countered by more reasoned analysis from the other side, but submitting hyper-technical legal arguments to the whims of the public is not a sure thing. An appeal to the simple but undeniable principle of equality might be more successful. It would be more difficult for Israel to argue that in the 21st century, it remains acceptable to discriminate against native-born inhabitants based on their ancestry, ethnicity, and religion.

We’re now 45 years into the occupation and 500,000-750,000 illegal Israeli Jewish settlers blanket the land supposedly designated for a future Palestinian State. How many more years and more settlers will it take before Finkelstein concludes that the 2ss is now impossible? How many more dead-ends and false starts and fruitless negotiations in the peace process before we all realize it is not going to happen? His position mirrors those sincere liberal Zionists who say that unless Israel relinquishes its control over millions of stateless people, and/or unless it provides equal rights to its non-Jewish minority population, Israel will cease to be a democracy. Exactly what are they waiting for to make this pronouncement? Forty-five years of military rule over the disenfranchised, and 64 years of blatant, government-led discrimination is not enough? These people will be saying the same thing in 20 years, perhaps in 50 years. Finkelstein is making a similar mistake. The doors and windows of the two-state solution are all shut and locked tight, and it’s time to look for a new house.

About David Samel

David Samel is an attorney in New York City.

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48 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    March 1, 2012, 3:53 pm

    thank you very much david. i quoted him dec 28th, check for embedded links
    link to mondoweiss.net

    Haaretz

    Both the Americans and the Palestinians claim that building in E1 would in effect cut the West Bank into two sections and make it impossible to establish a Palestinian state with any kind of reasonable territorial contiguity.

    The big tamale. (Allison hits this angle in her post today on 70,000 Jerusalemites denied residency in the blink of an eye). This is what Norm Finkelstein was talking about (1:41:00 watch it!) when he said you can’t have a Palestinian state if you cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Referencing the annexing of ‘settlement blocs’ (note the distinction between settlements and settlement blocs) and Ma’ale Adumim. He says once Israel sets its mind on annexing certain ‘settlement blocs’ there is no chance for a Palestinian State. He’s very clear:

    There is no East Jerusalem unless it’s organically connected with the rest of the West Bank. And there is just no possibility of a Palestinian State with this settlement bloc. It’s not a matter of being stubborn or unreasonable, it’s simply ..an objective fact…..if you don’t have East Jerusalem as an organic part of the Palestinian state there is NO economy. There is no state.

  2. yourstruly
    March 1, 2012, 4:04 pm

    just what the zionists are looking for, instead of the moral and justice issues raised by the zionist theft of palestine, the debate turning into various interpretations of where and how to draw lines on a map. i can visualize how excited the palestinians will be as they rally to protect this or that tiny slice of what until 63 years ago was entirely theirs.

  3. Pixel
    March 1, 2012, 4:24 pm

    GREAT piece!

  4. WillB
    March 1, 2012, 5:06 pm

    Thanks for the well-argued post, and for the respectful tone toward Finkelstein.

    Two concerns:

    1. As I understand it, the additional territory Israel acquired through the ossification of the 1949 armistice lines is “legal” insofar as the relevant Arab states have established, through peace treaties, mutually recognized borders with Israel. I could be mistaken about this – it’s interesting this question doesn’t come up more often.

    2. To my mind, the most compelling argument against the workability of a one-state solution is that Israel is a Spartan nuclear power whose populace can’t be persuaded to give up their Jewish majority state. BDS, international pressure, US threats to pull loan guarantees and cut off diplomatic support, etc. might convince Israel to make significant concessions to the Palestinians as part of a two-state settlement, but nothing short of sheer military force will get the Israelis to give up Israel qua Jewish majority polity. Even if this point is overstated, there seems to be an undeniable kernel of truth to it. Consequently, when advocates of a one-state settlement argue that intransigent religious zealots in the settlements render a two-state settlement unworkable, I wonder why they don’t think this applies a fortiori to plans for implementing a single secular or binational state in Palestine.

    • Annie Robbins
      March 1, 2012, 6:05 pm

      willb, i think they do think it applies. that is probably why the bds campaign is agnostic wrt one or two states. israel won’t allow either. what’s the alternative? do nothing? violently resist? that is why it is a rights based campaign.

    • David Samel
      March 1, 2012, 9:14 pm

      WillB, as to point 1, you’re right in that legal arguments can be constructed to fit almost any point of view. It depends what law you look to and how you interpret it. Even grotesque distortions of the law, such as suggesting that the settlers are perfectly legal, can be made, and will find supporters among those predisposed to that opinion. My point is that when Finkelstein insists that the law is very clear, it is not. In fact, I don’t find persuasive his claim that recognition of Israel, but not necessarily as a Jewish State, is supported by law. As for the distinction between Israel and Israel the Jewish State, that’s not only unclear but quite confusing. Israel’s only raison d’etre is as a Jewish State.

      As to point 2, again you are right that Israeli Jews will not give up their privileges willingly, and that they almost certainly would prefer a two-state solution to one state. However, if they already have made a 2ss physically impossible, and I think they have, there has to be an alternative. With regard to the necessity of war to budge them into accepting equality, I certainly hope you’re wrong. No one can predict with any confidence, but I recall having a conversation in 1980 with a white South African who had emigrated to Australia. White-ruled Rhodesia had just transformed into democratic Zimbabwe, and I asked him if he thought the same thing would happen in SA. He replied no, that SA whites would fight to the death to preserve apartheid. He spoke with sadness but with confidence and fortunately, he turned out wrong. I hope you are too, and that at some time in the future, Israeli Jews will have to face the fact that ethnic privilege is just as wrong when practiced by them as it is when practiced against them.

      • WillB
        March 1, 2012, 11:42 pm

        Just to be perfectly clear, I also hope I’m wrong about violence being the only way the Israelis could be made to accept a just and democratic one-state solution to the conflict. Further, I also hope that “Israeli Jews will have to face the fact that ethnic privilege is just as wrong when practiced by them as it is when practiced against them”.

        But I can’t help but disagree with you when you say that facts on the ground have made a two-state settlement impossible. Israel pulling all the settlements from the West Bank to accommodate a Palestinian state is, no doubt, an incredibly unlikely scenario. But this assessment seems relatively favorable when I move consider the probability of Israel willingly dismantling itself to accommodate the erection of a single Arab majority state encompassing all of Palestine. If Israel uprooting the settlements as part of a two-state agreement is incredibly unlikely, the odds of Israel acquiescing to a one-state solution border on the absurd.

        Truly, I would be exhilarated to be dead wrong about all of this. As things stand, though, I honestly think the near political horizon in Palestine looks grim and that the kind of two-state settlement advocated by Finkelstein is the only remotely workable proposal on table.

      • OlegR
        March 2, 2012, 8:12 am

        /White-ruled Rhodesia had just transformed into democratic Zimbabwe/
        By the way how did that transformation go for the white
        population of Zimbabwe .Weren’t they brutally expelled out the country
        which is now a notoriously poor and corrupt Dictatorship.

        Here is another reason why Jews won’t accept 1ss under any condition.

      • Chaos4700
        March 2, 2012, 1:18 pm

        Just so we’re clear, Oleg, you perceive yourself as a white colonial invader, just like the people who conquered Rhodesia and instituted a system where the natives were treated as barely human?

      • Dan Crowther
        March 2, 2012, 1:35 pm

        Have you stopped beating your wife Oleg?

      • Woody Tanaka
        March 2, 2012, 2:18 pm

        “By the way how did that transformation go for the white
        population of Zimbabwe .Weren’t they brutally expelled out the country
        which is now a notoriously poor and corrupt Dictatorship.”

        “Here is another reason why Jews won’t accept 1ss under any condition.”

        Yeah, Oleg, all those non-Judeo-Christian white folks: uncivilized barbarians, the whole lot of them. I can TOTALLY see how your knee-jerk bigotry TOTALLY justifies your shitty little state inflicting uncivilized barbarism on the people from whom you stole land. Makes perfect sense…

      • OlegR
        March 3, 2012, 4:06 am

        Not married yet Dan.
        But we are getting distracted from the issue at hand.

        The more i read the arguments for 1ss the more a get feeling.
        That the logic behind it is the the logic of despair.
        2ss is dead it’s been going on for 40 years we can’t let it go on
        we have to do something.
        Hey i have an idea lets get them somehow to live in one state with equal
        rights or lets demand it .It can’t be worst then the current state…
        And that is the fundamental flaw,
        it can be a lot worse.
        Just look around.

  5. Real Jew
    March 1, 2012, 5:36 pm

    Israel has fought tooth and nail for 40 years to maintain the status quo and they intend to stick to their guns for better or worst. They have sacraficed much of its democratic character, international credibility, bearing fierce international and domestic condemnation all without so much as a flinch.. They are not going to wake up one day and say ‘ok, we have enough, let’s give them a state.’ It’s just not going to happen, ever.

    In my opinion, the only way Israel will end the occupation is by force. Either through war, full withholding of financial and military aid from the US, or a South African type boycott. But the high level of support Israel enjoys in the west makes the latter 2 almost impossible. Im sorry to say but I highly doubt this conflict will be solved anytime soon.

    • David Samel
      March 1, 2012, 9:18 pm

      Real Jew, as I answered WillB above, I hope you’re wrong about the necessity of war. In fact, when you say, “Israel has fought tooth and nail for 40 years to maintain the status quo and they intend to stick to their guns for better or worst. They have sacrificed much of its democratic character, international credibility, bearing fierce international and domestic condemnation all without so much as a flinch.”, couldn’t the same have been said about apartheid South Africa? Israel will have to be pushed hard from its present position of intransigence, but ultimately, the world is moving away from making ethno-religious distinctions among populations, and I hope Israel will not be able to escape that trend for too much longer.

      • OlegR
        March 2, 2012, 8:00 am

        /couldn’t the same have been said about apartheid South Africa?/

        True but then Again South Africans did not live
        in the neighborhood that we do.
        Middle east does not treat kindly ethnic minorities.
        South Africans did not carry the historic baggage that we Jews carry.

      • eljay
        March 2, 2012, 8:07 am

        >> Middle east does not treat kindly ethnic minorities.

        In that sense, at least, Israel appears to be doing a bang-up job of fitting in.

      • OlegR
        March 2, 2012, 8:19 am

        Well we do as best we can under the circumstances,
        which is a hell of a lot better than any one else in the region.
        But that’s a bit besides the point isn’t it.
        1SS means somebody (who) is gonna have to force us into it
        (Palestinians as well ) and then an ugly bloody civil war.

      • tree
        March 2, 2012, 3:03 pm

        Middle east does not treat kindly ethnic minorities.

        You know, I hear this from Zionist bigots all the time. And yet a tiny ethnic European Jewish minority was able to prosper and grow in Palestine and eventually take over and expel the ethnic and religious majority from its land. If Palestinians were one tenth as anti-semitic and “unkind” towards their minorities as Zionists continually claim they are, then Zionism would be a tiny footnote in history, having failed at it mission over a hundred years ago. The Zionist line of thinking on this is merely more rationalization of injustice and denial of guilt.

      • eljay
        March 2, 2012, 7:12 pm

        >>Well we do as best we can under the circumstances, which is a hell of a lot better than any one else in the region.
        >> But that’s a bit besides the point isn’t it.

        Yup. And, anyway, “We may not be as good as the best but, hey, at least we’re not as bad as the worst!” isn’t exactly something Israel – or any country – should be striving for. ;-)

      • RoHa
        March 2, 2012, 11:40 pm

        ‘“We may not be as good as the best but, hey, at least we’re not as bad as the worst!” isn’t exactly something Israel – or any country – should be striving for.’

        Even if you are the worst?

      • eljay
        March 3, 2012, 8:46 am

        >> Even if you are the worst?

        Good point, liian-analyyttinen mies. ;-) But including that conditional statement in my not-yet-copyrighted tagline would ruin its almost poetic flow.

      • Real Jew
        March 2, 2012, 3:35 pm

        David, I truly hope I am wrong as well. Wrong to think war is the only way to budge Israel off their current trajectory into oblivion.

        You’re right to ask “couldnt the same be said about South Africa”? But fortunately in S.A. the international community united against apartheid hastily enough to overt war. My pessimism derives from the inaction of the international community for 45 years.

  6. eljay
    March 1, 2012, 5:57 pm

    Devastatingly well said, Mr. Samel.

  7. Binyamin in Orangeburg
    March 1, 2012, 9:18 pm

    How many more years and more settlers will it take before Finkelstein concludes that the 2ss is now impossible?, David Samel asks.

    That is a question properly posed not to Finkelstein, but to the Palestinian people. And that means the ones living under the Israeli boot, not the Princeton-educated elites speaking from the perch of their U.S. citizenship.

    Is it not a bit ironic that the one-state solution is being hotly debated not in Ramallah, or in an auditorium at Bir Ziet University, but at Harvard?

    I can agree with every word of Samel’s analysis, but then I have to say to myself, surely the Palestinians see the same “facts on the ground.” It may offend my sense of justice if the PA were to accept a two-state solution, but at the end of the day, why should anyone care what a bunch of Americans think. I personally believe the 1ss makes more sense, but I have to ask myself why it has virtually no support among Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza.

    Until an indigenous Palestinian movement emerges behind a 1ss, shouldn’t we keep our mouths shut and focus on what is our responsibility: stopping our own nation’s support for Israel?

    • OlegR
      March 2, 2012, 8:05 am

      That’s another valid point that everybody pro 1SS seem
      to ignore.
      The Palestinian aspirations always have been a national Arab majority state.
      1SS may take that right from Jews but it also takes that right from the
      Palestinian Arabs as well.
      Belgium is a good example how even in ‘Civilized’ Europe people can’t get alone .

      • Newclench
        March 2, 2012, 10:56 am

        Exactly. Israel eliminationalists are also at the same time, Palestinian national state eliminationalists.

      • Chaos4700
        March 2, 2012, 1:21 pm

        War is peace and peace is war, newclench? Good to see you getting on so well with your new friend Oleg.

      • Cliff
        March 2, 2012, 6:54 pm

        Newclench said:

        Exactly. Israel eliminationalists are also at the same time, Palestinian national state eliminationalists.

        Are you opposed to 1ss even in stages? As the end goal? A federation of States?

        You support a Jewish ethno-religious State w/ a fixed Arab minority – forever?

        How will you sustain it? How will Israel sustain it?

        Newclench is like the old clench, just more dishonest.

      • Exiled At Home
        March 2, 2012, 11:26 am

        The Palestinian response is reflexively emotional, that is why support for the Two-State Solution is so popular in occupied Palestine. After so many decades of oppression and subjugation, of utter lack of sovereignty, the notion of having their own state, their own society, and not seeing Israeli soldiers and armed settlers running rough-shod through their homeland must be an utterly blissful feeling, so blissful in fact, that they are willing to overlook the minuscule, incongruous and fractured sliver of actual Palestine that they’d ultimately be left with. Trying desperately not to sound condescendingly like a western academic who “knows better” than the Palestinians, I truly believe that the Palestinian collective is operating more on emotion than reason right now. A Palestinian state would not be sovereign and independent, nor even viable given the geographical divide between Gaza and the West Bank. It would be a demilitarized and fractured Bantustan society, geographically separated by Israel-proper as well as Israeli “settlement tentacles” into the West Bank. A Palestinian state is a fallacy, it would be nothing more than currently exists under the allegedly sovereign Palestinian Authority.

        This is why, in my opinion, the discussion must not be about land ownership, or borders, or statehood, or the status of Jerusalem, but rather, it should be a loudly passionate demand for equality, for freedom, for human rights. These will resonate with the world. This is why the BDS movement is so vital. This is why so-called delegitimization of Israel is so necessary.

      • OlegR
        March 2, 2012, 1:29 pm

        /Trying desperately not to sound condescendingly like a western academic who “knows better” than the Palestinians, I truly believe that the Palestinian collective is operating more on emotion than reason right now./

        Failing it miserably though.

        /a loudly passionate demand for equality, for freedom, for human rights. /

        All of these do not exist in a vacuum .
        They can only be given in the context of a western style democratic state.
        So you can’t just say i want equality and freedom you have to say how you want it achieved and that has consequences.

      • Chaos4700
        March 3, 2012, 6:51 pm

        They can only be given in the context of a western style democratic state.

        Translation: White people are better than brown people.

      • OlegR
        March 4, 2012, 6:05 am

        Must be horrible living in your world.
        racism everywhere you look .

    • David Samel
      March 2, 2012, 6:20 pm

      Binyamin, see the poll linked to by Blake below. In fact, here it is again. link to jpost.com

      • Binyamin in Orangeburg
        March 2, 2012, 6:50 pm

        David: When we see a significant faction in the Fatah Revolutionary Council come out for one state, or a new (youth) movement emerge among Palestinians, or when a respected leader like Marwan Barghouti backs it, we will know it has traction, not before. I hope it happens, but I’m not holding my breath.

        Right now, its occasionally used by the PA more as a pretty empty threat to attempt to get concessions out of the Europeans and Americans.

        I see a difference, btw, between 1ss and a “bi-national state.” The latter will permit constitutional protections for both Arabs and Jews, which I would support.

      • Annie Robbins
        March 2, 2012, 7:21 pm

        occasionally used by the PA more as a pretty empty threat

        got link?

      • OlegR
        March 3, 2012, 4:24 am
      • Chaos4700
        March 3, 2012, 6:54 pm

        An Andrew Brietbart-style publication is your example, Oleg? Find those nukes in Iraq yet?

  8. Krauss
    March 2, 2012, 12:11 am

    Great piece, clear-eyed and logical.

    Finkelstein’s transformation from someone who has been relentlessly honest to a bit of a fantasy think perhaps begun to take steam in this interview:

    link to theamericanconservative.com

    Mearsheimer’s the one who is relentlessly realistic in this piece. I think Finkelstein’s denials may be a sign of depression as he realizes that Israel cannot be saved anymore but is now facing the long struggle of Apartheid.

    His recent outburst against BDS as a ‘cult’ is probably reinforcing that. He fears, rightly I think, that this struggle will increase anti-Semitism a lot because the Israel Lobby will fight to the very end and Mearsheimer & Walt were correct that there was a Christian element in the lobby but the fact is, nobody cares what Pastor Hagee thinks except his minions. Do you think the democratic leadership would crawl around him at CUFI’s conferences the way they do of Lee Rosenberg’s AIPAC?

    The majority of the Israel Lobby is Jewish and it’s nerve center certainly is just about exclusively Jewish. And these people, an isolated elite, have been working overtime to conflate Zionism with Jewishness, with considerable help from reluctant Jewish journalists(I’m talking folks at the Forward, Eric Alterman at the Nation and so forth) so that when Israel’s is going to be defend it will not be presented as a struggle for civil rights. It will be presented as a modern-day pogrom peppered with Nazi imagery.

    Truth is, a lot of these people have been complaining about intermarriage/assimilation for a long time. And this presents them with an opportunity to build stronger defences and glue the ranks together again. They might even relish the up-coming fight.

    But meanwhile, however, for millions the accelerating Apartheid continues and the brutal occupation continues in the name of millions of Jews who want no part of it. But we’re never asked what we think. We’re being told that all who oppose Apartheid is an anti-Semite and/or a self-hating Jew.

    This is a brewing disaster and Finkelstein knows it deep down. Hence his increasingly fatalistic pronouncements which no longer base themselves in reality.

    • FreddyV
      March 2, 2012, 6:50 am

      @Krauss:

      ‘His recent outburst against BDS as a ‘cult’ is probably reinforcing that. He fears, rightly I think, that this struggle will increase anti-Semitism a lot because the Israel Lobby will fight to the very end and Mearsheimer & Walt were correct that there was a Christian element in the lobby but the fact is, nobody cares what Pastor Hagee thinks except his minions. Do you think the democratic leadership would crawl around him at CUFI’s conferences the way they do of Lee Rosenberg’s AIPAC?’

      On the Christian Zionist issue: Hagee is an extreme element of CZ. The majority of CZ’s are what you could call ‘Soft Christian Zionists’. They’ve been taught for the last 100 years from the Scofield Reference Bible, don’t understand the actual theology behind the Dispensationalist viewpoint that the Scofield Bible teaches They don’t necessarily include Israel in their Christian lives and just get on with being good people, but they do believe the foundation of the modern state of Israel is a God given miracle and that it must be protected at all costs. This teaching is so prevalent that adherents are estimated at millions. Popular culture screams the Dispensationalist viewpoint with apocalyptic imagery in the form of movies like The Omen. Many many Christians believe in we are living in the ‘End Times’ and some form of Great Tribulation is just around the corner.

      This all plays very nicely into the Zionist’s hands. All they have to do is invoke a bit of Shoah imagery and talk about existential threats and you’ve got a lot of American voters on your side.

    • Chatham
      March 2, 2012, 1:06 pm

      Christian Zionism has been a major part of Zionism from the very beginning. Just one example regarding Rev. Blackstone and the Blackstone Memorial: “Mr. Brandeis is perfectly infatuated with the work that you have done along the lines of Zionism. It would have done your heart good to have heard him assert what a valuable contribution to the cause your document is. In fact he agrees with me that you are the Father of Zionism, as your work antedates Herzl.”

      Of course, Christian Zionism predates Blackstone, but he was an important part of the modern Zionist movement. This tends to get overlooked, as does the significant opposition to Zionism that came from a large segment of the Jewish population, including many influential Jews.

  9. Nevada Ned
    March 2, 2012, 8:09 am

    The argument that Finkelstein is making is that there is some support among Israeli Jews for a two-state solution, but almost no support at all for a one-state solution. Not even Uri Avneri, Israel’s veteran peace campaigner, supports the one-state solution.
    Opinion among Israeli Jews may change, but that takes time.
    So however long you think it will take to get a two-state solution, it will take even longer to get a one-state solution. And the Palestinians have been oppressed for the last 64 years already.
    That’s the argument that Finkelstein – and Noam Chomsky – make.

    • David Samel
      March 2, 2012, 8:40 am

      You’re mostly right Ned. That certainly is the argument that Finkelstein and Chomsky make, and it has a great deal of superficial appeal. If the 2ss solution is easier to achieve than the 1ss, it will more quickly bring relief to millions of Palestinians from the misery of occupation. The problem is that Israeli public opinion is not the only factor here. My point is that Israel actions over the past 40+ years have made the 2ss unachievable, regardless of public opinion. It has become physically impossible. Finkelstein obviously speaks out of genuine conviction and is not trying to sell a bill of goods for an unrealizable dream in a devious effort to continue the status quo for another decade or two. He really is trying his best to envision how a 2ss could work, and in my opinion, he falls way short.

    • Blake
      March 2, 2012, 1:49 pm

      From an article on ICH entitled: ‘Jenny Tonge and Ehud Olmert – Can You Spot The Difference?’

      “And, on a related note, the truth is that a single, secular, binational, one-state solution is now a mainstream, much-discussed alternative to the Middle East status quo. Polls show it has the support of a third of Palestinians and, astonishingly, even a quarter of Israelis. It also has the backing of, among others, the late Edward Said, the late Tony Judt, Ilan Pappe, Shlomo Sand, Virginia Tilley, Meron Benvenisti, Ahmad Khalidi, Ali Abunimah, Noam Chomsky, Jeff Halper and Sari Nusseibeh.”

      link to informationclearinghouse.info

      That poll the article is referring to is an ‘Jerusalem Post’ article here:
      link to jpost.com

      • David Samel
        March 2, 2012, 6:13 pm

        Blake, this poll is quite significant and not surprising at all. I believe that Phil in one of his recent posts related that one-state is being talked about more and more among Palestinians.

  10. gingershot
    March 2, 2012, 8:53 am

    Great essay really cutting right thru the Israeli fuzzy math (and Finkelstein’s ‘mini-Goldstone moment’, if that’s what it is) and right to the heart of the matter.

    Finkelstein is simply flat wrong here, and it is very important to realize that no matter how powerful or even instrumental Finkelstein has been in the past

    Very clear thinking, support, and exposition – thanks

  11. homingpigeon
    March 2, 2012, 11:35 am

    “These arguments may be countered by more reasoned analysis from the other side, but submitting hyper-technical legal arguments to the whims of the public is not a sure thing.”

    Good point, and there is another concern about the “whims of the public” – or more charitably, the inability of much of the public to focus on the history and the issues long enough to develop a deep understanding.

    Let’s imagine that an agreement is reached whereby settlers are forced out of their settlements. Think of the scenes they will create on TV screens, the trauma, the screaming, the civil disobedience, and the hasbara about ethnic cleansing. Then imagine them inside Israel “proper.” Would these angry displaced settlers not turn on the Palestinians in the Galilee and the Negev with the logic that as they were displaced from their homes in the West Bank to make way for a Palestinian state, so now should the Palestinians depart Israel? After all the Jews had to move out of the Palestinian state to the Jewish state, and now the Palestinians can move out of the Jewish state to the Palestinian state. Astute historians can argue with the greatest of eloquence that the two transfers are not morally equivalent, but they will not command the sound bytes on the TV screens. Such a trade of population would sound very logical to the gullible American public and more importantly the US Congress. To be fair, I certainly didn’t have the background or stamina to sort out the relative merits of various population transfers and cleansings in the Balkan upheavals.

    I think the odds of success are better aiming for a deal with the Palestinian right of return and the settlers staying in place. It will be complex and difficult, but much less traumatic than the two state “solution.”

    • David Samel
      March 2, 2012, 6:11 pm

      homingpigeon, you make some excellent points here. I remember thinking about that when there was such angst over the “withdrawal” from Gaza in 2005. They were setting up a lesson for how dificult it will be to evacuate the West Bank of many more settlers. And you imagine the price tag of forced withdrawal from the WB, and the possibility of tit-for-tat expulsion of Palestinians from Israel. I hadn’t thought of that, but it seems not only plausible but likely.

  12. Filipe
    March 6, 2012, 4:44 pm

    Interesting post. Allow me to express my opinion:

    If one reads your text carefully, I think all one finds is a argument for why the 2ss is going to be harder than what Finkelstien makes it out be in his lectures.
    Quote:
    “To briefly recap, he starts with the lowest estimation of total settlers, assumes that the Israeli map could be acceptably redrawn with lots of tiny fingers extending into a foreign state, assumes near unanimous compliance with evacuation orders when 25-50% would probably refuse, and neglects to ponder numerous other obstacles to a two-state solution.”

    And that may very well be. In fact, let’s assume that you’re right: it will be harder than he suggests. It stands as pretty obvious that you still have all your work ahead of you to be able to claim that the route to a single democratic state is in any way easier or more feasible. You can’t argue for your (1ss) position just by pointing out the flaws of the other analysis, you actually have to say why is your proposal a more realistic solution. So until you can have an article that could be called: “Finkelstien’s prescription for a two-state solution is less realistic than a one-state solution” we’re not discussing real alternatives for the people suffering under occupation.

    As a preview of such discussion I think that a nuclear armed, staunchly US backed, jewish population, with a internationally recognized sovereign state, will never move to accept a position that no other state in the world actually calls for. If you can show that to be more “realistic” than to force fanatic settlers to move out… then we might be on to something.

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