Tis the day we hit Reset on last year’s predictions. Tis the day for prominent pundits to predict the end of the two-state solution.
In his Times column, Roger Cohen (who once held out hope that Netanyahu would be a peacemaker), says that John Kerry will fail to achieve a peace deal in 2014. But the column is titled, “My Jewish State,” and Cohen does something I’ve always pressed Zionists in the media to do: he is frank about his Zionism and what that means.
If Israel looks like a Jewish state and acts like a Jewish state, that is good enough for me — as long as it gets out of the corrosive business of occupation. Zionism, the one I identify with, forged a Jewish homeland in the name of restored Jewish pride in a democratic state of laws, not in the name of finicky insistence on a certain form of recognition, nor in the name of messianic religious Greater Israel nationalism.
When I spoke to him in Tel Aviv a few months ago, Yair Lapid, a top government minister, said: “The fact that we demand from Palestinians a declaration that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, I just think this is rubbish. I don’t need that. The whole point of Israel was we came here saying we don’t need anyone else to recognize us anymore because we can recognize ourselves. We are liberated.”
That’s right. It’s also true that Palestinians leaders, with zero democratic accountability, and through facile incitement, are not preparing their people for territorial compromise at or close to the 1967 lines. Then again, nothing in Israel’s actions facilitates that. And on we go to more failure, more victories of narrative over normalcy.
I’ve always sensed that Cohen had a deep need to identify with muscular Jewish nationalism in the wake of the Holocaust. Now he says as much; and his candor allows us to question these ideas. How is Israel’s “democratic state of laws” doing after 46 years of occupation? When does a historical experiment in religious nationalist democracy cease to be experiment and earn the stamp of Failure?
What does it mean that a Zionist doesn’t live in Israel, doesn’t feel any need to live there; and actually has led a fairly good life as an ethnic minority, unfolding in Cohen’s case on two or three other continents? If Jewish “liberation” is such a symbolic, psychic, metaphysical construct, then why shouldn’t Jews in the Diaspora mark their own liberation with affirmations of our liberties: We believe that minority rights in a democracy and the separation of religion and state are the guarantors of freedom!
P.S. And wasn’t Naomi Klein right to question why North American Zionists demand the right “to not just one state but two” in the era of global warming, when other people are losing their countries?