This post is part of “What Comes Next?: A forum on the end of the two-state paradigm.” This series was initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace as an investigation into the current state of thinking about one state and two state solutions, and the collection has been further expanded by Mondoweiss to mark 20 years since the Oslo process. The entire series can be found here.
What comes next?
It’s a big question and one that I haven’t got the answer to. Other writers in the series have done an effective job of highlighting why equal rights is justice and why anything else contributes to the certainty of conflict in Palestine.
Perhaps it’s useful to consider a different question: What can possibly happen next? What are the constraints – structural, moral and material – that bound the political space of Palestine/Israel? In other words, what are the durable trends that steadily bend the future to one path or another?
First, ethnic cleansing. One must acknowledge the searing fact that the Jewish Israelis will successfully ethnically cleanse Area C and East Jerusalem. They will continue to settle North American members of their ethnic group on the surface of the damaged landscape. Foreign diplomats are powerless to stop the program – and the pogroms. And while the Palestinian-led BDS movement will continue to develop, it will continue to do so less quickly than Zionists can raze and demolish. That means that the Palestinians who continue to inhabit the West Bank will live mainly in Area A, and they will rely on the largesse of international donors for their economic livelihoods.
The next trend is related to the first. As Zionist Israelis grow more brazen in their pursuit of total Jewish dominance in Palestine/Israel the BDS movement will grow in force and effectiveness. The cowardice of American political elites notwithstanding the upward momentum of the grassroots will right the keeling institutions trapped by an old allegiance to Zionism (the NYT for instance). But as Obama was so fond of saying in his first term, the ship of state will take longer to move.
BDS or no, the Jewish-privilege state will only grow more isolated with time; normal people in normal countries don’t like apartheid. It’s a trajectory that is being felt to a greater or lesser degree by Jews in Israel. Consequently, the most talented among them are leaving the country – who wants to practice apartheid anyway? – for America, Britain and Germany. Yossi Klein Halevi may find it harder to leave New York; Bernard Avishai may exercise his right of return to Montreal. The Zionists who remain will be those who believe most ardently in Jewish supremacy.
At the same time, the number of Palestinian-Israelis will continue to increase in both absolute and relative terms. The best opportunity that the Jewish-Zionists in the country had for more ethnic cleansing – a catastrophic regional war with Iran – appears to have passed.
The equal rights movement – or the one-state movement – will continue to grow. The recognition of the illegitimacy of Zionism will flourish with it. Or, the legitimacy of Pat Boone’s claim to Palestine/Israel will be recognized by the United Nations. The first proposition is likelier; no one will claim that 3 billion Christians have a right to settle in Palestine.
Young American Jews are increasingly unwilling to publicly identify with Jewish privilege and nonsense claims of “birthright.” Rather, the human rights many of them are actively willing to claim relate to universal healthcare or universal suffrage – both of which are anathema to Zionism. Relatedly, the intellectual resources of the Zionist movement will continue to atrophy and degenerate.
The final, most encouraging and meaningful trend goes to the redemocratization of the authorship of the Palestinian experience. The division between Hamas and Fatah is now a well-established artifact of the Oslo phase of the occupation. But it would be wrong to interpret its power to shape the future as complete or determinative. Instead, the Palestinians – in Palestine and in the Diaspora – are interacting and forging ahead independently of established political parties. They are working to craft and strengthen new institutions and movements despite their geographical isolation from one another.
So in the final analysis the question posed at the top of this post becomes: What can come next in an environment characterized by a growing Palestinian equal rights movement and an increasingly Zionist and isolated Israel?