Ian Lustick’s landmark argument for alternatives to the two-state solution in the Times Sunday, which expressed indifference about the demise of the “Zionist project,” elicited a sharp response from Zionists in the Times letters page today. One is from the liberal Zionist lobbying group J Street, which is alarmed that the Times would give any credit to a one-state outcome.
Writes Alan Elsner, the group’s vice president:
The point of the two-state solution is to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and to fulfill the Palestinian right to self-determination…
The main problem with Professor Lustick’s analysis is that it is a recipe for permanent conflict. Both Israelis and Palestinians want to fulfill their national aspirations in their own country. Neither will be satisfied with less.
Of course we’ve had permanent conflict for the last 65 years. And Lustick’s argument was that there would be less violence ultimately if a failed paradigm is abandoned. J Street’s man was particularly irritated by Lustick’s assertion that different ethnic groups could combine politically in one society. Lustick:
Untethered to statist Zionism in a rapidly changing Middle East, Israelis whose families came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as “Eastern,” but as Arab.
Now Elsner. Note how an American liberal is attached to traditional identity politics:
Likewise, the notion that Israelis whose families came from Arab countries would consider themselves Arabs is absurd. They managed to preserve their Jewish identity for 2,000 years in exile. Why would they give it up now? In any case, as Israelis of European origin increasingly marry with the children and grandchildren of families who came from Arab lands, the distinctions between the two are fast eroding.
The Times letters section also features a rightwing Zionist talking about self-determination and the Jewish state. Ken Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League is angered by Lustick’s indifference to the Jewish state:
Anyone who cares about the Jewish people and takes into account both the wonderful aspects as well as the immense tragedies of Jewish history must shudder at Mr. Lustick’s willingness to dismiss the existence of the first independent Jewish state in 2,000 years. His argument about what will ensue after the abandonment of the goal of two states is a fancy version of a one-state solution that ends the concept of Jewish self-determination…
Lustick’s essay ultimately reminds us of the need to get moving toward that goal…[a two state solution]
Unfortunately, Palestinians still have not made that leap primarily because they, like Mr. Lustick, do not place any value on a Jewish state.
Israel may no longer exist as the Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders. The Palestine Liberation Organization stalwarts in Ramallah may not strut on the stage of a real Palestinian state. But these lost futures can make others more likely
Lustick’s frankness about the end of the Jewish state is freaking folks out. Here is a leading rabbi from Los Angeles saying Lustick want to destroy the Jewish state.
Not only to eliminate it, but to crucify it on a one-state platform of “ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel,” all of which would result in the withdrawal of American support.
The rabbi is fearmongering because he worries that the Times will break the tie between American Jews and Israel.
The debate is a fresh reminder that the media have got to start talking about the ideological issue here, Zionism, the belief in the need for a Jewish state, and allow liberal Zionists to make their case to young liberals. One basis for Zionism is the belief that Jews will be unsafe as tiny minorities in western societies. And I’d point out that while these Zionists are talking about Jewish self-determination in Israel, The Times has several articles covering the competition to become the next Fed chairman. The contenders include Janet Yellen, Lawrence Summers and Donald Kohn. Present Fed chair Ben Bernanke and past Fed chair Alan Greenspan are also mentioned. I believe all these folks are Jewish (I am not sure in Kohn’s case). Staggering success. Why do we need self-determination as a nation in a disputed land when we’re a religious group that’s doing just fine in the United States?