After Donald Trump’s historic comments at the White House Wednesday about his indifference to a one- or two-state outcome, The New York Times ran an editorial rating the president’s comments as “nonsensical.” The editorial conceded that there may never be a Palestinian state before describing Israel’s “miserable choice.”
The likeliest outcome, given the growth rate of the Arab population, is that Israel would be confronted with a miserable choice: to give up being a Jewish state — or to give up being a democratic state by denying full voting rights to Palestinians.
Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books landed on the Times’s framing:
Notice here that the ‘choice’ belongs exclusively to Israel. Palestinians, as always, are the objects of a decision, and never the decision-makers. That these options – ceasing to be a Jewish state or allowing non-Jews full citizenship rights – are considered equally lamentable is a gift to historians. One day this kind of commentary will be read in much the same way as we now read Times editorials from the 1950s on the ‘Negro Problem’.
Israel made its choice long ago, without much hand-wringing. It is impossible to imagine the Jewish state without bulldozers and settlements, even in the unlikely event of the US government withdrawing its annual $3.8 billion dollars of aid. The real question isn’t the choice that faces Israel, but the choice that faces Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the diaspora, as they confront an apartheid regime, and an impending single-state reality, which appears, this week, to have the backing of the White House, and the complicity of America’s Arab allies.
Happily, Shatz’s understanding is now widely shared among Times readers. The newspaper’s initial story on Trump’s comments has 1016 comments. The Times editors (to their credit) chose this one from D. Hall of Canada near the top.
The two state solution has been dead for years – killed by Israel’s policy of massive settlement building in the heart of what could have been a Palestinian state. Much as I detest Trump, the previous policy of ‘let’s pretend’ was a thily veiled policy of allowing Israel to use its military power to do whatever it liked. Nothing Trump can do is going to make that worse.
Israel, and its supporters, will just have to face the alternatives they have created. They can have a single, secular state with equal rights for all people regardless of ethnicity or religion. Or they can have an apartheid state with Palestinian bantulands, until they lack the political and military power to maintain it.
everything else is just spin, smoke and mirrors. And if, as seems likely, Israel and its suporters go with the Apartheid approach, they had best pray for someone of Nelson Mandela to be in charge when that corrupt option dissolves – as it inevitably will.
Many other Times commenters are just as sensible.
But let’s get back to the Times‘s Negro Problem. On Wednesday, Tom Friedman published a column titled, “President Trump, Will You Save the Jews?” which is written from the standpoint of “Jewish history.” If Donald Trump doesn’t curb the Israeli settlement project, Friedman warns, American Jews are going to be at each others’ throats:
As long as the two-state solution was on the table, the debate among Jews on Israel was “right versus left” and “more security versus less security.” Some thought the border should be here; others thought it should be there. But we could mostly all agree that for Israel to remain a Jewish democratic state, it had to securely separate from most of the 2.7 million West Bank Palestinians. That debate could and did go on in every synagogue, Jewish institution and Jewish country club, without tearing them apart.
But if Netanyahu’s weak leadership and the overreach of the settlers in his party end up erasing the two-state solution, the debate within the Jewish community will move from “left versus right” to “right versus wrong.” That debate will not be about which are the best borders to defend the state of Israel, said the Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal, “but whether the state is worth defending in moral terms.”..
That debate will tear apart virtually every synagogue, Jewish organization and Jewish group on every campus in America, and around the world. Israel will divide world Jewry.
It is hard to imagine a more hermetic attitude to the fate of millions of Palestinians living under apartheid than Tom Friedman’s pieties about Jewish consensus in the United States.
As if the debate about two states among communal American Jews did ANYTHING to help the Palestinians. People who cared about human rights should have torn those communal institutions apart! That might have ended the occupation! It might have disgraced the neoconservatives before they helped start a war. But, no, in order to maintain Friedman’s blessed cohesion, Wolf Blitzer taking leaks from the Israeli embassy helped to destroy Breira as pro-Palestinian back in the 70s, B’nai Jeshurun endlessly hosts neoconservatives at its progressive synagogue; and Peace Now stayed on the board of the rightwing Conference of Presidents; and the big Jewish organizations did their utmost, using the most coercive measures, to make sure our government never put any pressure on Israel to adhere to U.S. policy. The occupation is an American Jewish achievement; it is 50 years old now; thanks to Friedman’s generation not fighting outright. The great thing about the next generation of Jews is that they are actually resisting these communal forces. Some day they may save the Times from the Negro Problem…