Guardian: Israeli intellectuals and Palestinian activists are engaged in imagining the inevitable, one-state future

on 4 Comments

Rachel Shabi in the Guardian states what no American politician can say but that every liberal Zionist must know in his or her bones after last night, the two-state solution is dead, and let’s get out from under the dead hand of the past and start imagining how to live together:

Among Palestinians, support for a one-state approach is also growing. A poll last month showed that support for a one-state formulation premised on equal rights has inched up among both Palestinians and Israelis. In the West Bank, there are fresh peaks of disillusion with the Palestinian Authority – whose tenure was always supposed to be temporary, pending statehood, as set out in the Oslo Accords. Unelected, tainted by corruption, aid-dependent and viewed as enforcers of the Israeli occupation, the PA’s last stab at credibility was probably its statehood bid at the UN last year. But you could practically hear the hope hissing out of that media-inflated bid when, pressured by the US, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas switched to a hollowed-out version that was meaningless and destined to fail. Now a new generation of Palestinian activists, in part inspired by the Arab uprisings in the region, are bypassing territorial demands to focus on civil rights and freedoms.

In Israel, there are green shoots of debate around practical questions of how to share the space between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Weeks ago, Israeli analyst and blogger Dahlia Scheindlin – previously a two-state advocate – set out a list of key questions and suggestions, concerning issues such as national symbols, voting systems, refugees and land rights. Already, Israeli intellectuals are working out the idea that Jewish claims to the region – currently enforced with guns and walls – would need instead to be enshrined by law, alongside equally guaranteed Palestinian protections. In his new book, Beyond the Two State Solution, Israeli sociologist Yehouda Shenhav draws on a pre-Israeli, bi-national strain of Zionism that was historically drowned out but should now, he argues, be reclaimed.

Countering a common criticism of one-state proposals, these emerging formulations don’t insist that Palestinians and Israelis give up outdated attachments to nationalism – which is helpful, because it seems that neither side wants to, yet. A small group of Palestinians, Israelis and Jewish settlers, Eretz Yoshveyha – “land of its inhabitants” – set out “principles for a single spatial polity” last year, among them safeguarding the collective rights of the two nations. One settler tells me of a consensus emerging within nascent, one-state settler groups that, while national identity may be important, exclusive Jewish sovereignty is not.

It’s all germinal and there are problems, of course. Most polled Palestinians and Israelis still support a two-state framework, even while at the same time believing it doomed. Shared-space alternatives have grassroots momentum, but no leadership support. The left needs to ensure that Gaza remains part of the picture….

But one idea is crystallising: that clinging to a two-state approach is, by default, a victory for the far-right claims of one state called “Greater Israel”, with a Jewish minority and two, ethnically coded tiers of rights and freedoms.

That’s the reality on the ground, cemented by Israel while paying lip-service to the idea of Palestinian statehood. Now the Israeli government wants to consolidate this even further, through approval of a report that declares all settlements legal under international law – enshrining the idea that the West Bank isn’t occupied. In this context it’s heartening that peace camps on both sides are starting to break a period of paralysis, discarding the spent husks of the Oslo phase to claw back fresh thinking space. It’s only when freed from the dead weight of a two-state paradigm that a just, dignified and peaceful solution has the chance to flourish.

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4 Responses

  1. Matthew Graber
    October 23, 2012, 1:40 pm

    Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz today, “Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel”

    The article has been shared over 4,000 times as of right now on Facebook. The US media doesn’t report like this, but Americans want to know. Americans need to know what our politicians are talking about.

    From the article –

    ‘”The majority of the Jewish public, 59 percent, wants preference for Jews over Arabs in admission to jobs in government ministries. Almost half the Jews, 49 percent, want the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arab ones; 42 percent don’t want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don’t want their children in the same class with Arab children.

    A third of the Jewish public wants a law barring Israeli Arabs from voting for the Knesset and a large majority of 69 percent objects to giving 2.5 million Palestinians the right to vote if Israel annexes the West Bank.

    A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favor of separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. A quarter – 24 percent – believe separate roads are “a good situation” and 50 percent believe they are “a necessary situation.”‘

  2. pabelmont
    October 23, 2012, 3:21 pm

    One Staters, if Palestinian, want equal rights. If Israeli Jews, want apartheid. Why should any Palestinian imagine that getting equal rights in one state would be any easier than getting two states?

    What is needed is a result-directed (e.g., 1SS or 2SS) outside intervention or else a law-based outside intervention.

    The law-based intervention would say to Israel to remove settlers, settlements, wall, siege, and to share water equitably. It would not have a goal as to one-state or two-states. I think this sort of intervention is more likely that a goal-directed intervention, because it does not require the international community to agree to a goal, other than enforcement of the law.

  3. FreddyV
    October 26, 2012, 7:17 am

    I don’t know why everyone’s driving towards a single state, which seems unworkable due to the animosity between Israelis and Palestinians. Levy’s poll has demonstrated this. Unless there’s a huge enlightenment, it’s never going to happen. Conversely, Finklestein recently spoke at The New School about the 1967 borders with 1.9% land swaps to accommodate 62% of the settlers.

    Building settlements actually don’t change any so called ‘facts on the ground’. In reality, it just means that Israel was dumb enough to build on land that didn’t belong to them. If I stole a car, then tricked it out with some wide wheels, a spoiler and a cool stereo, would I be able to claim ownership or demand recompense for the work I’d done on it? No.

    The answer is that you simply draw a border. Anyone who lives on the Palestinian side becomes a Palestinian citizen and if they don’t like it, they move to Israel.

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