Reflections After the Harvard One State Conference

Qalandiya
Palestinians in line for a Qalandiya checkpoint during Ramadan, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

I attended the One State Conference at Harvard University on March 3-4, 2012, and was encouraged to continue working to bring peace and prosperity to all the people who live between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. Nevertheless, I left the conference unsettled by several issues.

Regime Change

Lets face it, any resolution of the present conflict will require regime change in Israel and the Palestinian administration in the West Bank. The reason that negotiations for a Palestinian state alongside Israel (the two-state solution — TSS) have failed is that the Israeli government does not want a just, political resolution of the conflict. This was demonstrated at the conference by Diana Buttu who worked six years with the Palestinian negotiating team. She described Israeli tactics to undercut any progress in the TSS talks: (1) all proposals put forth by the Israelis were designed to expand Israeli control over the West Bank, (2) the Israeli negotiators never mentioned Jerusalem, and (3) the Israeli team would walk out of meetings when the Palestinians attempted to discuss the right of return. And Buttu’s comments are not news – they confirm what we learned from the Palestine Papers released by Al Jazeera in January 2011.

Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, all Israeli governments talks have been opposed to allowing any meaningful Palestinian self-determination to emerge through Israeli-Palestinian talks. The result is that for the almost 20 years of negotiations, not only has there been no success, but Israeli government actions have actively and passively expanded settlements and deepened Palestinian dispossession.
This situation means that there must be regime change in Israel for any hope of ending the present reality, and establishing either a two-state solution (TSS) or a non-apartheid one-state solution (OSS). Simply changing the Israeli government will probably not be enough, some sort of more profound change is required; for shorthand I use the term “regime change”.

There are several ways to effect this regime change: impose it militarily, a military coup, force or allow the existing government to collapse, or agree to a new regime through negotiations. Defeating Israel militarily, considering that Israel has one of the ten most powerful militaries in the world with bio-chemical and nuclear weapons, is not even worth considering. Any of the other options may be triggered by serious disruption in the existing political, economic, social order. In theory this could be possible if the United States were to make its ongoing military, financial, and diplomatic support conditional on Israel and the Palestinians reaching a just agreement. A movement among some American foreign policy elites as well as among small politics groups to make that happen is growing, but it is ineffective small and easily countered by the Israel lobby. The lobby, consisting of establishment Jewish American groups, Christian Zionists, Israeli government operatives, and the American military-technology complex, works to assure the status quo in American – Israeli relations. Progress on this front seems distant unless the U.S. government suffers serious setbacks domestically or in the Middle East that trigger unanticipated desperate acts.

Ali Abunimah, in his keynote address, suggested that an enlightened Israeli leader might emerge, someone like F. W. de Klerk who led South Africa to negotiate the end to apartheid. In recent years we have seen Israeli leaders like Ehud Olmert who recognized the unsustainability of the present situation, but they lacked a desperate situation and leadership skills needed to effect a change.

It is important to recognize that de Klerk worked in a South Africa that had become ungovernable, not by the world-wide boycott and sanctions movement, but by rebellion of the 90% of the population that was black. Strikes were crippling the economy; whites were in fear of physical violence, and the economic elite worried that major industries would be nationalized. Palestinians, who are 50% of the population in Israel-Palestine, even supported by the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, are a long way from making Israel ungovernable or threatening the viability of the Israeli economy which is still expanding.

The best chance Palestinians have of making Israel-Palestine ungovernable is to stage massive, continuous, non-violent protests on the model of the Tahrir Square protests in Egypt that brought down Mubarak. Imagine 100,000 Palestinians from Ramallah showing up every Friday morning at the Qalandia checkpoint and demanding access to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

It should be recognized that if Israel produced an enlightened leader, (s)he will likely push for a Palestinian state alongside Israel – the TSS, rather than a single democratic state – the OSS. After all, the TSS is the international consensus and may be easier to “sell” to the Israeli people. Furthermore, even if a Palestinian state is sovereign, and not a “bantustan,” it would be economically subordinate to Israel with its economic elite still cavorting with their Israeli counterparts.

A major problem with the TSS is that it does not account for the Palestinian Diaspora and the right of return. But that problem can be transcended if the right or return is allowed to the Palestinians state, combined with a suggestion of Jeff Halper that an Israel-Palestine confederation is established as part of the TSS. This confederation must be similar to the EU in allowing any citizen to remain a citizen of his state, but to live and work anywhere within the confederation boundaries.

Nature of one-state

Most speakers at the conference supported an OSS remedy to the current dispossession of Palestinians by the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. But hardly any speaker fleshed out what one democratic state would look like or addressed economic issues, which are the major failure of the one-state solution to South African apartheid. In the South Africa case, government transformation allowed the existing class structure and government bureaucracy to stand. Although many blacks were able to significantly improve their economic situation and become solidly middle class, corruption and inequality increased under African National Party political control,

Obviously no one at the conference supported the type of one state that some on the Israeli-right favor where Palestinians would hold second-class status and might even be expelled. But on the liberal left there are a range of possible democratic states. They can be grouped into two types: civic egalitarian and civic bi-national. A civic egalitarian one-state is characterized by one-person, one-vote and a bi-national state is also characterized one-person, one-vote and in addition, certain regions or groups, have defined rights and/or autonomy. Examples of bi-national democratic states include Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, China, and even the United States.

Most speakers at the conference tactility seemed to assume a civic egalitarian one democratic state, although Nimer Sultany, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, proposed a non-territorial, civic bi-national state, but did not flesh out his idea. And again, no speaker spoke to building economic equality between Israelis and Palestinians and among Palestinians.

I would love to see a civic and economically egalitarian democratic state in Israel-Palestine, but I find it hard to have confidence such a state would be stable after 45 or 64 years of Jewish – Arab conflict and taught hatred. It is not the pent-up anger and fear of the other – that can be overcome as it was in South Africa. Rather I worry that the economic and infrastructure differences between and among the Jewish and Arab communities are so extreme that special arrangement would be required to undo those inequalities, and those arrangements would weaken the egalitarian nature of the state such as affirmative action programs do in the United States.

A bi-national state would take into account difference among the population, and set-up political structures to account for these differences. The idea is to turn differences into positive aspects of the state, rather than leaving them unaddressed as bombs that might explode at a later date. A bi-national state might have a better chance of long-term stability than an egalitarian state with equal civil rights because it will directly and constitutionally address inequality in human rights.

A path from here to there

Many speakers emphasized that change to a OSS must come from the bottom-up, and that change from the top-down is an empty dream. To that end, a movement for an OSS must attract massive popular support from ordinary people. It was the active participation of masses of people that propelled the American civil rights struggle in the 1960s. That will be hard to garner for an OSS unless the people see achievable goals. And that means a realistic path from here to there. Unfortunately, the only mention of a path to a OSS at the conference were questions to two speakers, and neither got a substantial response.

There is a path that has been proposed by Palestinian as well as Americans in several forms. Among its proponents are Dr. Sari Nuseibeh, President, Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. It was predicted as inevitable future by John Mearsheimer in a 2010 lecture at the Palestine center, and was hinted at by Stephen Walt during his talk at the One State Conference. The idea is that the West Bank will be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will be an apartheid state. But the apartheid state will not be politically viable over the long term. Palestinians would initially have second-class citizenship. They would initiate a civil rights struggle for full voting rights, a struggle they surely will win because it will be supported by most Americans, including Jewish Americans, Europeans, and most of the world. In the end the Greater Israel will become a democratic state whose policies will be dominated by a Palestinian majority – that is, it will be the OSS.

The problem with this path is that it does not include either Gazans or the Palestinian Diaspora, at least initially. But that will be remedied after the Palestinians win their civil rights struggle. A bigger problem is that it means Palestinians will have to accept an interval of second-class citizenship for their civil rights struggle to have meaning. Another problem is that this path will likely not remedy the existing economic inequality.

About Jeff Warner

Jeff Warner is a Jewish peace activist in Los Angeles. He is active in LA Jews for Peace, Jews for Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians, Americans for Peace Now, and Cousins Club of Orange County. He organized street demonstrations against the Israeli siege of Gaza since late 2007, and against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza during the December-January massacre. Warner is a retired geologist.
Posted in Activism, Gaza, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Occupation, One state/Two states, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

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

  1. Pixel says:

    I see another possibility for regime change – a complete takeover by the fanatic settler faction.

  2. OlegR says:

    /In the end the Greater Israel will become a democratic state whose policies will be dominated by a Palestinian majority/

    Basically it will become another Arab state with a large Jewish minority,
    seems so attractive to the Jews.
    Yes i think i am convinced.

    • Yes so let’s continue the ethnocratic subjugation of an entire people because you’re afraid to lose your privilege.

    • Dex says:

      Question: Where were YOU born? Where were your PARENTS born? Where were your GRANDPARENTS born?

      I’m willing to bet that none of you were born in Palestine/Israel…and here you are telling the people born there, whose parents were born there, whose grandparents were born there what they can and cannot do…talk about arrogance.

      • tokyobk says:

        Thats not a test that works in general or one that supports the cause of Palestinian return.

        Ariel Sharon was born in Palestine and Arafat was born in Cairo.

        In 2012 many Israelis can go back three generations and more and of those that can’t, many trace to the Middle East which, in the case of Omar Barghouti, who was born in Qatar, is also no challenge to his Palestinian ID.

        This conflict is about establishing human rights for all people in I and P. People born there or who want to move there belong there, just as in any other part of the planet. The question is rights and the sovereign entity with establishes and protects those rights.

        • Dex says:

          I disagree:

          The problem is that a Jew who lives in Argentina seems to believe — or better put, has been brainwashed by Zionist historiography t0 believe — that he/she has a greater claim to living on the land of historical Palestine than the indigenous population. That is called exceptionalism, and exceptionalism is always rooted in racism.

          You say Ariel Sharon was born in Palestine? Then he has a right to live in Palestine, not occupy and colonize Palestine.

          You wrote: “This conflict is about establishing human rights for all people in I and P”

          Third generation Jews who live in historical Palestine have every right to be there, I agree — though we must be very clear that the means by which they got there were filled with colonialist atrocities — but a Jew in New York, who has NO dog in this fight, needs to learn to keep to him/her self. Just because they may “love” the place, doesn’t mean they have a right to move there, one that supercedes the rights of those already there, or those forcibly removed from there.

          You are trying to rationalize Oleg’s position. But remember: HE is an immigrant that wants to prevent the rights of people who have been there for centuries from having his same rights. What does that make him? If you agree with him, what does that make you?

      • OlegR says:

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        “Repatriation laws have been created in many countries to enable diasporas to immigrate (“return”) to their “kin-state”. This is sometimes known as the exercise of the right of return. Repatriation laws give members of the diaspora the right to immigrate to their kinstate. Repatriation laws serve to maintain close ties between the state and its diaspora and gives preferential treatment to diaspora immigrants.”

        • Shingo says:

          Definition of Repatriation:

          1. to send back (a refugee, prisoner of war, etc.) to the country of his birth or citizenship.
          2. To restore or return to the country of birth, citizenship, or origin: repatriate war refugees.

          IN the case of Israel, ROR is offered to those who have not been norn in Israel, are not citizens of Israel, and most certainly never originated from Israel.

          FAIL!

      • OlegR says:

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        Armenia
        Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (1995) provides that “[i]ndividuals of Armenian origin shall acquire citizenship of the Republic of Armenia through a simplified procedure.”[1] This provision is consistent with the Declaration on Independence of Armenia, issued by the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Armenia in 1989, which declared at article 4 that “Armenians living abroad are entitled to the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia”.

        [edit]Belarus
        Citizenship act of the Republic of Belarus (2002) states that permanent residence term requirements may be waived for ethnic Belarusians and descendants of ethnic Belarusians born abroad.

        [edit]Bulgaria
        According to the Constitution of Bulgaria, Article 25(2): “A person of Bulgarian origin shall acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a facilitated procedure.”[2]

        Chapter Two of the Bulgarian Citizenship Act is entitled “Acquisition of Bulgarian Citizenship”. The first section of that chapter is entitled “Acquisition of Bulgarian Citizenship by Origin”, and provides at article 9 that “[a]ny person … whose descent from a Bulgarian citizen has been established by way of a court ruling shall be a Bulgarian citizen by origin.” Separately, article 15 of the Act provides that “[a]ny person who is not a Bulgarian citizen may acquire Bulgarian citizenship … if he/she … is of a Bulgarian origin”.

        Ethnic Turks who were born to refugees or immigrants from Bulgarian lands (and thus have Bulgarian origin) also have a right of return.

        [edit]People’s Republic of China
        Chinese immigration law gives priority to returning Overseas Chinese — ethnic Chinese who were living abroad. As a result, practically all immigrants to China are ethnic Chinese, including many whose families lived outside of China for generations.

        The mainland Chinese government encourages the return of Overseas Chinese with various incentives not available to others, such as “tax breaks, high salaries and exemptions from the one-child policy if they had two children while living abroad”.[3]

        The “rights and interests of returned overseas Chinese” are afforded special protection according to Articles 50 and 89(12) of the Chinese Constitution.[4]

        The term Overseas Chinese may be defined narrowly to refer only to people of Han ethnicity, or more broadly to refer to members of other Chinese ethnic groups. As a result of this ambiguity, people who are not Han Chinese but were born in China and subsequently left, including refugees, are not necessarily eligible for the same preferential treatment.[citation needed]

        [edit]Croatia
        The Croatian law on citizenship (Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu), article 11, defines emigrants (iseljenik) and gives them privileges by excluding them from certain conditions imposed on others.

        The Croatian diaspora makes use of this to obtain dual citizenship or to return to Croatia.

        [edit]Cyprus
        In the proposed Annan Plan of 2004, the right of return was to be severely limited with respect to Greek-Cypriot internally displaced persons/refugees to districts such as Kyrenia, Morphou, Famagusta and parts of Nicosia, despite judgements of the European Court of Human Rights in cases such as Loizidou v. Turkey, and numerous UN resolutions recognizing the right of return. Two referendums on the Annan Plan were held in April 2004, separately along ethnic lines, id est a single referendum where each citizen would be afforded a single vote was not allowed to the citizens of Cyprus. The Annan Plan was overwhelmingly rejected in the Greek-Cypriot referendum.

        The right of return continues to remain a stumbling block to the settlement of the Cyprus problem.

        Finland
        The Finnish Aliens Act provides for persons who are of Finnish origin to receive permanent residence. It is usually Ingrian Finns from the former Soviet Union who exercise this right, but American, Canadian or Swedish nationals with Finnish ancestry are eligible.

        The Finnish Directorate of Immigration states on its Returnees webpage[8] that;

        Certain aliens, who have Finnish ancestry or otherwise a close connection with Finland, may be granted a residence permit on this basis. No other reason, such as work or study, is required in order to receive the permit.
        Receiving a residence permit depends on the directness and closeness of Finnish ancestry. If the ancestry dates back several generations, a residence permit cannot be granted on this basis.
        People who may be granted a residence permit based on Finnish ancestry or close connections with Finland can be divided into the following three groups:
        former Finnish citizens:[9]
        persons of other Finnish origin. This group includes the persons who have at least one parent or grandparent who has been a native Finnish citizen.[10]
        persons from areas of the former Soviet Union. The group includes persons who have been determined to be of Finnish nationality by Soviet or post-Soviet authorities or who have at least one parent or two grandparents who have been determined to be of Finnish nationality in official documents, e.g., in their internal passports. Also all persons who were transferred between years 1943–1943 to Finland from areas occupied by Germany and were subsequently returned to Soviet Union or who served in the Finnish Defence Forces during the Second World War qualify. To qualify for permanent residence permit, the persons in this group must have a basic knowledge of spoken and written Finnish or Swedish. The knowledge is tested in pre-immigration training and in a subsequent language test. In addition, they must have a pre-arranged permanent residence in Finland, but the labour authorities assist in finding an apartment.[11]

        Germany
        German law allows persons of German descent living anywhere in the world the right to return to Germany and claim German citizenship (Aussiedler/Spätaussiedler “late emigrants”; de:Aussiedler). As with many legal implementations of the Right of Return, the “return” to Germany of individuals who may never have lived in Germany based on their ethnic origin has been controversial. The law is codified in Article 116 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, which provides access to German citizenship for anyone “who has been admitted to the territory of the German Reich within the boundaries of December 31, 1937 as a refugee or expellee of German ethnic origin or as the spouse or descendant of such person”.[12]

        Ireland
        Irish nationality law provides for Irish citizenship to be acquired on the basis of at least one Irish grandparent. Note that for the purposes of Irish nationality law a person born anywhere on the island of Ireland (including Northern Ireland) is considered “Irish.” A person born outside of Ireland with entitlement to Irish citizenship through an Irish-born grandparent may pass that right on to her or his own children. To do so, however, that person must register her or his birth in Ireland’s Foreign Births Register prior to the children’s births. Irish law also automatically grants citizenship at birth to any Individual born abroad to a parent born in Ireland, without the need to register with the DFA prior to the granting of citizen’s rights like holding a Irish passport

        Separately from this right, the Irish minister responsible for immigration may dispense with conditions of naturalisation to grant citizenship to an applicant who “is of Irish descent or Irish associations”, under section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1986. With rare exceptions the applicant must be resident in the island of Ireland before applying for naturalisation.

        • eljay says:

          >> “Repatriation laws have been created in many countries to enable diasporas to immigrate (“return”) to their “kin-state”.

          It makes perfect sense that diaspora Israelis should be able to return to their country. Jews are not Israelis. Jewish is not a state to which one can return.

        • Shingo says:

          Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (1995) provides that “[i]ndividuals of Armenian origin shall acquire citizenship of the Republic of Armenia through a simplified procedure.

          Israel are not offering citizenship only to those who iriginated from Israel. Fail!

          Citizenship act of the Republic of Belarus (2002) states that permanent residence term requirements may be waived for ethnic Belarusians and descendants of ethnic Belarusians born abroad.

          Israel are not offering citizenship only to ethnic Israelis and descendants of ethnic Israelis born abroad. Fail!

          According to the Constitution of Bulgaria, Article 25(2): “A person of Bulgarian origin shall acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a facilitated procedure.”

          Again, Israel are not offering citizenship only to those of Israeli origin. Fail again!

          Ethnic Turks who were born to refugees or immigrants from Bulgarian lands (and thus have Bulgarian origin) also have a right of return.

          Again, Israel are not offering citizenship only to ethnic Israelis. Fail again!

          Chinese immigration law gives priority to returning Overseas Chinese — ethnic Chinese who were living abroad.

          See above. Fail!

          The Croatian law on citizenship (Zakon o hrvatskom državljanstvu), article 11, defines emigrants (iseljenik) and gives them privileges by excluding them from certain conditions imposed on others.

          See above. Fail!

          Same goes for Cyprus, Finland, Ireland.

          None of your arguments are even remotely applicable to apartheid Israel.

        • OlegR says:

          Eljay
          The state of Israel is established as a national state for the Jewish people. Therefore all Jews in the diaspora are considered kin.
          Hence the repatriation law that you know as Hok HaShvut.

          This is a useless argument if you want to argue that this i not so.
          Or that it’s somehow very different then all those other repatriation laws
          in various countries that i have brought to you attention (Ps the list
          is only partial obviously)
          I believe i made my point it’s enough for the readers to make their own mind.

        • edwin says:

          So you believe in the big Jewish conspiracy. Jews are a race and speak with one voice.

          So much for freedom of religion and so much for the right to marry as one chooses.

          So tell me – is a half jew really a Jew. How about a quarter Jew? How about an octoroon? How about a Jew who converts to Islam?

        • eljay says:

          >> Or that it’s somehow very different then all those other repatriation laws …

          It’s not just very different, it’s completely different. Those other laws repatriate people who were citizens or descendants of citizens of those states. Israel’s law “repatriates” people who were never citizens or descendants of citizens of that state, but who happen to belong to a particular religious group.

        • OlegR says:

          /Those other laws repatriate people who were citizens or descendants of citizens of those states./

          Here are a few refuting examples.
          Armenia did not exist as a sovereign state since the middle ages (or even before) and until 1991.
          Their law applies to all of the Armenians in the Diaspora including those
          that never lived or had relatives in the new Armenian state.

          Ireland,
          attained sovereignty in 1922
          /Separately from this right, the Irish minister responsible for immigration may dispense with conditions of naturalisation to grant citizenship to an applicant who “is of Irish descent or Irish associations”, under section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1986. /

          Poland the last time they got independence was let’s say 1945 though some
          would argue that it with the collapse of the Soviets
          /Poland
          From the Constitution of Poland, Article 52(5): “Anyone whose Polish origin has been confirmed in accordance with statute may settle permanently in Poland.”[26]/

          India
          independence in 1947

          A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is a person living outside of India and without Indian citizenship, but of Indian origin up to four generations removed. It is available to persons of Indian origin anywhere in the world as long as they have never been citizens of Pakistan or of Bangladesh (a reservation excluding Muslims who joined Pakistan during or after the 1947 partition). This unusual type of citizenship by descent is an intermediate form of citizenship in that it does not grant the full portfolio of rights enjoyed by Indian citizens.”

          Russia (Which Russian state shell we take here as a starting point?)
          “Russia offers citizenship to individuals descended from Russian ancestors who can demonstrate an affinity for Russian culture and, preferably, speak Russian. Concern about Russia’s shrinking population prompted the program. Officials estimate that 25 million members of the Russian diaspora are eligible for citizenship. The Foreign Ministry has sent emissaries to countries around the world to urge the descendants of Russian emigrants to return home.[27]”

          It goes on and on and it’s all based on ethnicity and cultural affinity that goes way back before most of these states were independent or even existed in their current form nothing to do with some past citizenship which is a legal status that didn’t exist for most of those countries

        • seafoid says:

          “The state of Israel is established as a national state for the Jewish people. ”

          Wrong

          link to stateofisrael.com

          “THE STATE OF ISRAEL …..will uphold the full
          social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability
          of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter
          of the United Nations.”

          Fail. Epic

        • OlegR says:

          OH you sad little troll

          “ACCORDINGLY, WE, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in
          Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the
          termination of the British mandate for Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish
          and of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations,

          HEREBY PROCLAIM the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL.

          WE HEREBY DECLARE that as from the termination of the Mandate at midnight, this night of
          the 14th and 15th May, 1948, and until the setting up of the duly elected bodies of the State in
          accordance with a Constitution, to be drawn up by a Constituent Assembly not later than the first day of
          October, 1948, the present National Council shall act as the provisional administration, shall constitute
          the Provisional Government of the State of Israel.

          THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their
          dispersion;
          will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be
          based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full
          social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee
          full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability
          of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter
          of the United Nations.”

          Regarding your feeble attempt the passage talks about CITIZENS
          ie those who already hold this legal status.
          This has nothing to do with immigration policy of the state.
          Once you are a citizen you are equal in the eyes of the law.

          Now go and bother somebody else i don’t intent on feeding you anymore today

        • eljay says:

          >> It goes on and on and it’s all based on ethnicity and cultural affinity that goes way back before most of these states were independent or even existed in their current form nothing to do with some past citizenship which is a legal status that didn’t exist for most of those countries …

          None of them involves a religious element (e.g., born to a person of a particular faith or conversion to a particular faith).

        • OlegR says:

          / (e.g., born to a person of a particular faith or conversion to a particular faith)/
          Well this is your own interpretation of what being a Jew means.
          This debate is an old one and will not be resolved here by you and me.

          The founders of Israel were overwhelmingly secular.
          They certainly did not share you point of view on the matter but they did
          not elaborate it in the original draft of the law.

          My reply is that being a Jew has ethnic, cultural and religious aspects.

          Just like being a Serb probably means that you are either secular or
          Orthodox Christian and being a Croat or Irish that you are a Roman Catholic
          that just how the cultures developed.

          In any case that is beside the point.
          As i have shown
          the Israeli repatriation law is not unique among nations.

        • eljay says:

          >> Well this is your own interpretation of what being a Jew means.

          Are you suggesting that one can be a Jew without either being born to a Jew or converting to Judaism?
          - If ‘yes’, please explain how.
          - If ‘no’, how does my interpretation differ from yours?
          This is a sincere question, and I really would appreciate a sincere answer.

          >> As i have shown the Israeli repatriation law is not unique among nations.

          If you answered ‘yes’ above, then you have made your case; otherwise, you haven’t.

        • OlegR says:

          /Are you suggesting that one can be a Jew without either being born of a Jew or converting to Judaism?/

          No i am suggesting that your initial premise
          / (e.g., born to a person of a particular faith or conversion to a particular faith)./
          is erroneous.
          It’s being born to a person of a particular nationality/ethnicity / strong cultural affinity or conversion to a particular faith.
          When in my eyes the “conversion to a particular faith” part though still sometimes relevant as a matter of technicality is an anachronism.

          Not every Jew will agree with me obviously.
          But never the less i was born to persons of no faith at all
          (And they too were born to persons of no faith at all) and yet i am
          a Jew.

          /You haven’t shown that at all./
          I believe that i have shown sufficient evidence and arguments to support
          my claim.
          The readers shell decide by themselves.

        • eljay says:

          >> It’s being born to a person of a particular nationality/ethnicity / strong cultural affinity …

          So, just to clarify: Embracing secular Jewish culture is sufficient, yes? A child born to a non-Jew who has a strong cultural affinity to Jewish culture will be Jewish, yes?

          If not – if some sort of connection, however distant, to Judaism is required (an ancestor who underwent a religious conversion to Judaism, became Jewish and initiated a “Jewish lineage”) – how does your interpretation differ from mine?

          >> I believe that i have shown sufficient evidence and arguments to support
          my claim.

          Yes, you do believe.

        • OlegR says:

          / Embracing secular Jewish culture is sufficient, yes? A child born to a non-Jew who has a strong cultural affinity to Jewish culture will be Jewish, yes?/

          If he considers himself to be a Jew then yes in my eyes he is a Jew.
          It’s what in the head that counts.

          The difference between you and me that you give too much weight to the
          religious component in the Jewish identity.Some Jews would agree with
          you, i don’t.

          Regarding repatriation laws
          I have shown that
          1) There are numerous national countries that have them.
          2) Those laws are made for the sake of various Diaspora members
          that these countries regard as kin.
          Each country decide for itself what is the identification procedure for
          applicants.

          Singling out the Israeli repatriation law as something unique and because
          of that unjust (usually the claim is that it’s racist)
          is well, hypocritical.

          If someone wishes to argue the validity or morality of all repatriation laws
          or the whole idea of national countries than that’s another discussion.

        • eljay says:

          >> If he considers himself to be a Jew then yes in my eyes he is a Jew.

          Thank you for the clarification.

          >> The difference between you and me that you give too much weight to the religious component in the Jewish identity.

          I’m far from being the only person in the world who “gives too much weight” to the religious component in the Jewish identity.

          >> Singling out the Israeli repatriation law as something unique and because of that unjust (usually the claim is that it’s racist) is well, hypocritical.

          In my most humble opinion, as long as the Israeli repatriation law contains a religious element, it is unique and unjust (I refer to it as religion-supremacist rather than racist).

          But I look forward to the day when a person (or his/her offspring) – be he Canadian or Palestinian, atheist or Muslim – can become Jewish simply by embracing secular Jewish culture, and then be entitled to return to his/her homeland of Israel.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          “Singling out the Israeli repatriation…”

          The difference is that none of those countries were colonial enterprises built on someone else’s land. That difference defeats any attempt to play the “you can’t criticize us unless you criticize…” game.

        • OlegR says:

          “I’m far from being the only person in the world who “gives too much weight” to the religious component in the Jewish identity.”

          True but in anyway this is an old internal Jewish debate that has gone for 2000 years now and will continue for the foreseeable future.

          /and unjust (I refer to it as religion-supremacist rather than racist)/
          Why do you object so to the religious component ?
          If anything it’s more inclusive then just ethnic or cultural.
          I presume that you are secular just as i am so it’s presence may look weird,
          an anachronism.
          Would you feel better about the law if those converted to Judaism would
          be exempt from the law and it would only contain an ethnic connection
          to the Jewish people ?
          If you are not a Jew why would you care how Jews define them self or what criteria they use ?

          In any case at the current state of events the numbers of converted to Judaism that use the law are minuscule.

        • stevieb says:

          “How about a Jew who converts to Islam?”

          He wouldn’t be a Jew anymore. If someone who is Jewish converts to Islam, than that person wouldn’t be practising Judaism anymore. In practice, anyway.

          Was that supposed to be a trick question? Pardon me if this is ‘trolling’. I am interested in how others percieve this question, and am not trying to be cheeky.

        • OlegR says:

          “How about a Jew who converts to Islam?”

          There a few aspects of to question
          1)How the Jewish Orthodox religion will look at him ?
          Assuming that it was not a forced conversion then the answer seems to be obvious but it is not so.
          There were different opinions by various religious authorities over the ages.
          The predominant ones is that he is still a Jew though a bad Jew a sinner.
          If he should ever repents he will not have to go over any religious conversion rituals.What about his children is a matter of further debate.

          2) How will he look upon himself, will he consider himself a Jew anymore ?
          That depends on the individual.

          3) How i a secular Jew will look at it?
          The answer is that unless he states otherwise he is a Jew that converted to Islam.
          A strange matter but not any of my business.

        • Shingo says:

          He wouldn’t be a Jew anymore. If someone who is Jewish converts to Islam, than that person wouldn’t be practising Judaism anymore. In practice, anyway.

          That would mean there are no secular Jews, because failing to practice Judaism would preclude them from being Jewish.

        • eljay says:

          >> True but in anyway this is an old internal Jewish debate that has gone for 2000 years now and will continue for the foreseeable future.

          Given its significance in relation to issues surrounding the “Jewish state”, it seems rather like an issue that requires a resolution sooner than later.

          >> Why do you object so to the religious component ?

          You suggested that Israel’s repatriation law was similar to other repatriation laws. The religious component makes it quite different.

          >> If anything it’s more inclusive then just ethnic or cultural.

          How does requiring a religious conversion make the law more inclusive? It seems to me that it would be more apt to exclude a vast number of people.

          >> Would you feel better about the law if those converted to Judaism would
          be exempt from the law and it would only contain an ethnic connection
          to the Jewish people?

          I’m not trying to “feel better”, I’m trying to understand how Jewish is supposed to be like any other nationality, especially if a religious component is part of the identity. So far, it doesn’t make sense to me. But I do appreciate your replies and information.

          >> If you are not a Jew why would you care how Jews define them self or what criteria they use?

          I’m interested because it has a bearing on issues surrounding the “Jewish state”.

        • OlegR says:

          /Given its significance in relation to issues surrounding the “Jewish state”, it seems rather like an issue that requires a resolution sooner than later./
          Maybe, but it is nevertheless an internal issue at the core of Jewishness.
          It’s significance to issues surrounding the “Jewish state” is artificially inflated
          and overrated by interested parties as i attempted to demonstrate during this exchange with you.

          /How does requiring a religious conversion make the law more inclusive? It seems to me that it would be more apt to exclude a vast number of people./

          The law does not require conversion it requires you to be a Jew or related to Jewish people (i am simplifying it for arguments sake) and conversion is one of the options to get there, a very unlikely one.
          Compare it to other repatriation laws.I remind you they are not universal
          laws they are exclusive and preferential by nature.
          I can’t be Irish or Armenian no matter what i do therefore i will never be qualified to use their repatriation law.
          You on the other hand should you in honest decide that Judaism is the only way to go and that Jews are your people will be eligible under the law.(How the hell would they check it is another issue that i don’t think rises very often).

          / I’m trying to understand how Jewish is supposed to be like any other nationality, especially if a religious component is part of the identity./

          I never said that being Jewish is like any other nationality there are obviously
          differences stemming from the different history of every other nationality.
          How is being a German is the same as being an Armenian ? They have
          such different histories.Who are Russians ? Polish religion is overwhelmingly
          Roman Catholic is this not part of their national identity ?

        • eljay says:

          >> It’s significance to issues surrounding the “Jewish state” is artificially inflated and overrated by interested parties as i attempted to demonstrate during this exchange with you.

          I’m not sure how it’s “artificially inflated and overrated”, given that it is central to defining a “Jewish state”.

          >> The law does not require conversion it requires you to be a Jew or related to Jewish people (i am simplifying it for arguments sake) and conversion is one of the options to get there, a very unlikely one.
          >> Compare it to other repatriation laws.I remind you they are not universal laws they are exclusive and preferential by nature.
          >> I can’t be Irish or Armenian no matter what i do therefore i will never be qualified to use their repatriation law.

          Interesting point.

          >> You on the other hand should you in honest decide that Judaism is the only way to go and that Jews are your people will be eligible under the law.

          But only if you undergo a religious conversion.

          >> I never said that being Jewish is like any other nationality there are obviously differences stemming from the different history of every other nationality. How is being a German is the same as being an Armenian ? They have such different histories.Who are Russians ? Polish religion is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic is this not part of their national identity ?

          None of these nationalites has a religious element to them. You don’t need to be Catholic to be Polish. But if Israel is Jewish state and the nationality is Jewish, the only way to get there is religious conversion.

          If, however, the nationality of Israel is Israeli, then Israel is an Israeli state, not a Jewish state, and current repatriation laws once again become skewed in favour of a religious group (Jews) and not a nationality (Jewish).

          Once again, I appreciate the information and the discussion. :-)

        • OlegR says:

          / You don’t need to be Catholic to be Polish./
          I have seen debates among Russians where one side argued that integral to
          being Russian meant being a Greek Orthodox Christian.

          /But if Israel is Jewish state and the nationality is Jewish, the only way to get there is religious conversion./
          No you can’t use the Repatriation Law to get there. There are other
          options though they are limited.

          Israeli so far is not a nationality.
          You are welcome.

        • eljay says:

          >> I have seen debates among Russians where one side argued that integral to being Russian meant being a Greek Orthodox Christian.

          Nationality should not be determined by religion.

          >> eljay: But if Israel is Jewish state and the nationality is Jewish, the only way to get there is religious conversion.
          >> OlegR: No you can’t use the Repatriation Law to get there. There are other
          options though they are limited.

          What might those options be? How would one acquire Jewish nationality in Jewish state other than by conversion to Judaism?

          >> Israeli so far is not a nationality.

          It would seem, then, that the issues of…
          - defining what is Jewish nationality; and
          - determining how one would acquire it bureaucratically
          …merit urgent resolution.

          >> You are welcome.

          :-)

        • OlegR says:

          /What might those options be? How would one acquire Jewish nationality in Jewish state other than by conversion to Judaism?/
          I was answering the /the only way to get there is religious conversion./
          To get there, ie acquire citizenship.
          There regulations in the ministry of interior as to who is allowed naturalization (citizenship) for those wishing to do so and not being
          Jews or answering any category of the Repatriation law.
          These are not full immigration laws like in the you as but they do exist.
          For the sake of for example foreign workers that have lived in Israel
          for a long time have children here and wish to live here.

        • eljay says:

          >> I was answering the /the only way to get there is religious conversion./

          OK, fair enough. So it seems that Jewish state remains a religion-supremacist construct, at least until such time as one is able to bureaucratically acquire Jewish citizenship and/or nationality in Jewish state.

        • Fredblogs says:

          All countries are colonial enterprises started on someone else’s land. Some more recently than others, but all land was taken by the ancestors of the current inhabitants from someone else’s ancestors.

        • Cliff says:

          So if some stronger country over-powered the Jewish State and sent everyone packing back to Brooklyn, London, Russia, etc. – you’d chalk it up to just another century of the same ole’?

          Good to know. Just don’t make arguments centered around any reasonable concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

          We should bring back slavery by your logic. I mean, people did it before right? Why stop now? Just because there was some arbitrary finish line and Israel didn’t make it? It’s antisemitic to suggest Jews aren’t allowed to enslave other people.

        • eljay says:

          >> All countries are colonial enterprises started on someone else’s land. Some more recently than others, but all land was taken by the ancestors of the current inhabitants from someone else’s ancestors.

          A truly stirring defense of ON-GOING Jewish colonialism in the 21st Century.

    • Dex says:

      “another Arab state”

      Does anyone notice the lazy racism of this clown?

    • Rania says:

      Oh, don’t worry, poor scared little OlegR! Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and minorities are treated very well there. It’s all in the Constitution, right? It also has the most moral army in the world, so if the minority gets uppity, I’m sure they will be treated fairly and with humanity.

    • Talkback says:

      OlegR: “Basically it will become another Arab state with a large Jewish minority, seems so attractive to the Jews.
      Yes i think i am convinced.”

      I’m convinced you’re more attracted to the idea that Jews are allowed to commit crimes against humanity to become a majority or maintain being one.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for this piece about the conference. I have known folks who have been involved with this issue for literally decades. Most of these folks in their early to late 70′s. All of them non Jews. Almost all of them shifting towards a one state solution as the only solution. Interesting to hear individuals who have lobbied, petitioned met with Reps privately for decades shifting over to the OSS perspective.

    Wondering if this relatively new involvement and push by many young and older Jews over the last five or so years for a two state solution is just too little too late

  4. MarkF says:

    I’ve posted this article before, but I’ll toot a dear old school friends’ horn again. Aref Dajani, a good guy who works hard for peace and reconcilliaition. Ahead of their time – and article by Dajani and Walter Ruby written over 10 years ago:

    link to pij.org

    Two States, One Common Land
    by Walter Ruby and Aref Dajani

    Where do we go from here?
    The tragic eruption of large-scale violence between Palestinians and Israelis in recent months makes manifestly clear that the approach to peace symbolized by the Oslo Accords is dead. Yet it is also evident that when this latest sustained eruption of rock-throwing, shooting and killing finally subsides and the political fallout from these events is absorbed, our two long-suffering peoples will find themselves confronting exactly the same dilemma they faced a year ago and a decade ago and a generation ago, namely, how to coexist in the tiny land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River without giving way to murderous violence neither side can long sustain.

    Belonging and Sharing

    So if the Oslo process, based upon mutual recognition and trading land for peace, has proven not to be the answer, what conceivable formula can we find to finally break the impasse? While both sides do indeed need to make painful concessions in order to reach a just peace settlement, it will also be necessary for each people to make profound psychological adjustments that render more inclusive the manner in which both connect to the common land over which we have been struggling for so long.
    As agonizingly complex as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often appears, at heart it is quite simple. For over a century, our two peoples have been fighting with stones, bullets, bombs and missiles over the same small piece of land, all the while trying to out-shout each other with expressions of undying love and devotion for the place. In recent years, more and more Palestinians and Israelis have understood that they cannot militarily vanquish or permanently disperse the other side, and therefore will have to cede a portion of the land to the sovereignty of the other. Yet it is surprising how few have followed up that realization with another critically important one, namely, that while our two peoples are indeed fated to live side by side forever, it is not preordained that we must do so in a mutually resentful fashion, as though forced to put up with a free-loading relative in one’s own home. As long as we are condemned by fate to share the land both so revere, might we not learn to enjoy doing so?
    Indeed, why cannot the mutual enthusiasm of Israelis and Palestinians for the same hills, valleys and ancient cities and for the same sights, sounds and smells become a positive force for drawing closer together? No immutable law of nature dictates that we cannot enthusiastically share with each other the abiding love each people feels for the common land one side calls Palestine and the other Israel. Why cannot we not celebrate together our common feeling of connectedness and belonging to the place? Why not embrace a doctrine of “Two States, One Common Land”?

    Against Separation, for Reconciliation

    The two of us have joined together to espouse this new consciousness as a Palestinian-American whose father was driven from his ancestral village of Beit Dajan near Jaffa in February 1948 by Jewish forces and who himself aspires to return to live there one day, and as an American Jew who has spent five years of his life living in Israel and passionately loves the country. We do not agree on every issue, but we rejoice in celebrating together our mutual love for the tiny, jewel-like land that is at the heart of our respective identities.
    We strongly oppose the doctrine of “separation” between our two peoples. True reconciliation can only come about through an ongoing program of intensive personal interaction between grass-roots Palestinians and Israelis. Imagine people from twinned Israeli and Palestinian villages and cities or from professional associations in both states talking to each other on a sustained basis via telephone, the Internet and regular face-to-face meetings on both sides of the new border. Imagine Israeli scouts, both Jewish and Arab, hiking together with Palestinian scouts along the old Green Line, comparing historical, religious or folkloric associations each side attaches to the same hidden spring, ancient village or crumbling ruin.
    The ethic of “Two States, One Land” is also about taking urgently needed steps to protect the fragile environment of the land, which is under great strain due to over-population and runaway development. It is necessary for Israel and Palestine to work together to institute sensible environmental and land-use policies, while equitably sharing water and other scarce resources.

    A Common Vocabulary

    At first glance, our vision of “Two States, One Common Land” may sound romantic, even utopian. Actually, it is eminently pragmatic and practical, since the realization of this new ethic could finally overcome the entrenched opposition to a peace agreement by large constituencies on both sides.
    Many Palestinians oppose the Oslo Accords because of a fear that by signing a peace deal with Israel they would be cutting abiding communal and personal ties to the cities and villages from which they fled or were driven in 1948. Israelis and Jews often see that as evidence of revanchism, but, in reality, it is simply asking too much of Palestinians to relate to only the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as Palestine. By the same token, many Israelis and Jews fear that once a peace deal is consummated, they would have to sever ties to West Bank sites, including some that have been attacked by Palestinians in recent months, with which they have deep spiritual and historical connections. Palestinians and Arabs often see expressions of this connection as evidence of expansionism, yet, in reality, it is asking too much of Israelis to embrace only the politically defined State of Israel and sever all emotional connections to the remainder of the biblical homeland.
    Rejectionists on both sides happen to be correct that Israel-Palestine is organically one land. Yet they are profoundly wrong in insisting that the whole of the land can be united only under their own dominion. A century of conflict has proven that neither side has the power to force the other to accept such a solution. Therefore, the most sensible strategy for achieving reconciliation is to divide the land into two states while promoting love of a common land that transcends the borders of those states.
    “Two States, One Common Land” cannot be a substitute for a just peace settlement between Israel and Palestine, but must instead go hand in hand with one. Yet the latest spasm of violence has made graphically clear that it will likely prove impossible to find a formula for a peace settlement acceptable to both sides, unless we find a common vocabulary allowing both peoples not only to feel secure, but also to have a sense of belonging they can share. The notion of “Two States, One Common Land” is the missing link needed to bring about genuine and lasting reconciliation.

  5. RE: “In the end the Greater Israel will become a democratic state whose policies will be dominated by a Palestinian majority – that is, it will be the OSS.” ~ Jeff Warner

    FROM ELLIOTT ABRAMS, 04/08/09:

    (excerpt)…Is current and recent settlement construction creating insurmountable barriers to peace? A simple test shows that it is not. Ten years ago, in the Camp David talks, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat approximately 94 percent of the West Bank, with a land swap to make up half of the 6 percent Israel would keep. According to news reports, just three months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered 93 percent, with a one-to-one land swap. In the end, under the January 2009 offer, Palestinians would have received an area equal to 98 to 98.5 percent of the West Bank (depending on which press report you read), while 10 years ago they were offered 97 percent. Ten years of settlement activity would have resulted in a larger area for the Palestinian state

    SOURCE – link to washingtonpost.com

    P.S. Ergo, the ‘Abrams Principle’ stands for the proposition that more Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank will result in a larger area for the Palestinian state. That’s why I say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” with the settlement actvity; so as to result in the largest Palestinian state possible (from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River)! “Let Right Be Done.”

  6. RoHa says:

    “But that problem can be transcended if the right or return is allowed to the Palestinians state”

    Why do people keep repeating this nonsense?

    The Right of Return is the right to return to the territory that is now Israel

    Under the “right of return to the Palestinian state” idea, Palestinians now resident in the West Bank would not move anywhere. That is not return. Palestinians who were driven from Israel and now resident in areas outside Palestine might go the West Bank, but that is not return. It is just going to another part of Palestine.

    However, Palestinians currently resident in Israel might be “encouraged” to move to the Palestinian state. That is not return. It is ethnic cleansing.

  7. stevieb says:

    “…weaken the egalitarian nature of the state such as affirmative action programs do in the United States.”

    I don’t agree with that. Affirmative action programs have never weakened the ‘egalitarian nature of the United States’(??), mostly because it never was an egalitarian system to begin with. Giving a historically – and systemically – oppressed racial group access to education – that they wouldn’t have otherwise – is never a problem.

    How do you think AA action programs have weakened the U.S? You don’t say, as far as I can tell…