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An open letter to J Street: Let’s talk

Israel/Palestine
on 38 Comments
Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street

Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street

It’s time to bite the bullet. We of the critical (non/anti/post-Zionist) Israeli peace camp understand why a liberal Zionist organization like J Street could never consider, let alone accept, the end of the two-state solution. You say it yourselves: the end of the two-state solution is the end of Israel as a Jewish state; it marks the end of Zionism.

We understood why you can’t go there – but the luxury of picking the solution you like regardless of its relevance and do-ability is no longer an option. In light of the collapse of the Kerry initiative (and it has finally collapsed, no matter if Abbas can be persuaded not to go to the UN), you cannot continue to deny the collapse of the two-state solution upon which it was built. That was not a failure of Kerry or of “negotiations” or of “both sides” or even the failed Oslo negotiators like Martin Indyk that you and the American government continue to parade that brought about that result, it was a conscious, deliberate and explicit policy of all successive Israeli governments since 1967 to eliminate a two-state solution.

You might be right that most Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs want a two-state solution. You are right that this is the only way a “Jewish” state can be salvaged. But you hit up against three insurmountable facts of life: (1) No Israeli government – and certainly not the current one – has ever seriously considered a genuine two-state solution, and in fact all have worked assiduously (and successfully) to create “facts on the ground” that prevent the establishment of a truly sovereign and viable Palestine state; (2) the Israeli public has no idea what it means by “two-state solution” and simply does not care; what we call the “occupation” has been rendered a non-issue in Israel and Israeli Jews will not pro-actively overthrow it; and (3) as long as Israel has Congress in its pocket – which it does despite your best efforts – it can thumb its nose at the Administration, the Europeans, the UN, international law, liberal Jewish values and J Street alike, or so it thinks.

The end of the Kerry initiative is a big thing. It represents that fateful juncture that we of the critical left have been speaking of for years: in the next few weeks, perhaps days, Israel will have irrevocably abandoned any opportunity for a just peace with the Palestinians for apartheid or, worse, for the warehousing of Palestinians in permanent ghettos. Israel will unilaterally annex the “settlement blocs,” up to 30-40% of the West Bank, arguing that “there is no partner for peace,” we need to ensure our security and, besides, 95% of the Palestinians live under Palestinian Authority rule in Areas A and B (38% of the West Bank truncated into 70 enclaves) and Gaza. Whether the PA remains as a collaborationist regime or leaves the scene makes no difference. The Occupation is over. Will J Street finally admit that apartheid has arrived, or will it try to make the best of a Palestinian bantustan as a “good enough” two-state solution?

In light of the struggle for a truly just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, of which the two-state solution was merely a diversion, I would suggest that we view the end of the Kerry initiative as a good thing. Finally the fog of the two-state solution is lifted. We finally see reality: naked, raw occupation and apartheid with no pretense of two equal “sides” or genuine negotiations. Now where do we go from here?

If J Street can learn anything from its years of existence, it is that you cannot simply assert a political position. You cannot promote “solutions” like that of two-states merely because you cannot entertain anything else. If there is no more connection between your political stands and the political facts on the ground, your stands have to change whether or not you want to “go there.” In the end, if J Street really wants to salvage something of worth from the rubble of the two-state solution, it must acknowledge what was apparent to everyone on April 1, 2014: Israel itself and no one else turned Israel/Palestine into one indivisible state.

Why am I writing this open letter to you-all of J Street, an oganization that would never allow people like me into its tent? Because a post-two-state-solution J Street could help bridge the gap between critical and liberal supporters of a just and lasting solution. Join with us, critical Israelis, Palestinians and others, in convening a meeting of minds on the one question remaining before us all: now that the two-state solution is gone, where are we headed? This is a question made urgent by the collapse of the Kerry initiative. It is of relevance not only to post-PA Palestinians who must now provide us with leadership, but of anyone concerned with securing a place for Israeli Jews in what will be a common country.

The new chapter opening before us will be infinitely more difficult and challenging than obtaining a two-state solution would have been, but so be it. Israel made its choice. This is the historical moment. Can we all rise to the occasion?

(Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at <[email protected]>.)

Jeff Halper
About Jeff Halper

Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at [email protected]

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38 Responses

  1. BrianEsker
    BrianEsker
    April 3, 2014, 2:34 pm

    I went to a Jeff Halper lecture. It was full of fraudulent distortions and completely one sided. The PalArabs should simply sit down and work out borders and differences with the Israelis and stop looking like a lame protest movement just for once.

    • Donald
      Donald
      April 3, 2014, 2:51 pm

      I read a Brian Esker comment. It was completely one-sided, not really full of fraudulent distortions because there wasn’t much substance of any sort, distorted or otherwise. In conclusion, the (insert racist term for this or that group) should work things out and stop doing whatever.

      • DaveS
        DaveS
        April 3, 2014, 3:00 pm

        Donald, you should show more respect. Brian is, according to his own description, a “Student. Linguist. World traveler.” Such a resume relieves him of the burden of providing any support for his assertions. I mean, the man has traveled the world!

      • homingpigeon
        homingpigeon
        April 4, 2014, 12:28 am

        And only a linguist could come up with “PalArab.”

    • joemowrey
      joemowrey
      April 3, 2014, 4:17 pm

      When I have given presentations about Palestine, I have focused primarily on the human rights aspect. My answer to those in the audience who claim my presentation is “one sided” is to ask, “What exactly is the ‘other side’ to a human rights discussion—defense of the abuse of human rights? Should we defend all abuses of human rights, or only Zionists’ abuses?

      Defenders of Zionism often claim that Israel is being singled out for criticism, yet they would have us single out Israel by allowing it to defy international standards of social justice and human rights. And no, saying “Look what the Arabs do in their countries” is not a justification, it is a rationalization.

      If Zionists are willing to dispense with human rights in defense of Israel, what does that say about the culture they have created there?

      Of course, this same statement holds true for the U.S., bigtime. We have demonstrated that as a society we are willing to ignore any and every abuse of international law and human rights perpetrated by our government. What does that say about us?

      Exceptionalism portends the end of morality in any culture.

      • marty_mcfly
        marty_mcfly
        April 4, 2014, 8:23 am

        TOTALLY agree! And the notion that victims of human rights violations should just “sit down and work it out” is absurd. Anyone who thinks human rights should have to be negotiated for has plainly misunderstood the concept

    • justicewillprevail
      justicewillprevail
      April 3, 2014, 4:45 pm

      Funny that. The Palestinians have sat down and outlined borders and many other agreements. Countless peace proposals have set out the details. Strangely the Israelis have always refused to discuss borders or the substance of an agreement, preferring to hide behind demands for recognition, or other pretexts. You must have mixed up with which side has been scuttling the talks for decades.

    • talknic
      talknic
      April 3, 2014, 7:48 pm

      BrianEsker “the PalArabs should simply sit down and work out borders and differences with the Israelis”

      Israel has never put a plan forward that does not include swapping non-Israeli territory for non-Israeli territory so Israel can keep non-Israeli territory it illegally claims and has illegally populated.

      You’re suggesting one should negotiate with the car thief how much the car thief should be allowed to steal. The answer, which seems to elude supporters of the car thief is of course, none. Especially as stealing is against the basic tenets of Judaism and on behalf of the Jewish state is completely at odds with Judaism

      ” and stop looking like a lame protest movement just for once.

      How about Israel adhere to the law for once? It’s never been tried.

    • petersz
      petersz
      April 4, 2014, 7:55 am

      What borders? What is there to negotiate over? Since 1973 Golda Meir made the official Eastern border as the Jordan River which appears on ALL Israeli maps. The best the Pals can hope for is to allowed to become “Foreign Nationals” like the Blacks were forced to become in racist White Supremacist South Africa.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        April 4, 2014, 7:11 pm

        Idea in SA was to assign a homeland to as many blacks living in SA as possible, so that those blacks could not vote in SA elections.

    • Ellen
      Ellen
      April 4, 2014, 12:39 pm

      Aside from the bigoted “PalArabs” expression used by a resident “linguist,” keep in mind that Israel refuses even propose borders in spite of the US/Palestinian request that Israel first propose it’s borders. This is one of major and many blocks Israel has put in the way of starting earnest negotiations.

      Palestinians are now being scolded for applying to international bodies for recognition — something they said they would not do while negotiations were ongoing.

      But Israel nixed the negotiations by reneging on its agreement. So the negotiations, in effect ended. So the Palestinians didn’t do anything outside of its agreement. (However, I do not know if it was/is politically wise to do it at this moment. )

      Even if the Palestinians did not make the move for recognition, the negotiations would have to be killed off by Israel. You see, Israel needs this conflict for its identity, its economy, the Oligarch families, the occupation industry. etc. There is simply too much too loose with peace with neighbors.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        April 4, 2014, 6:48 pm

        And Obama is unable or unwilling to stop the growth of the illegal colonies of Jews in the West Bank.

    • genesto
      genesto
      April 4, 2014, 8:19 pm

      Wake up! Israel never has had, doesn’t currently have and, in the absence of a much more enlightened leadership, never will have established borders! That’s why the US doesn’t/can’t have a formal defense treaty with Israel. Where would it start? Where would it end?

      Get you head out of the sand – you and all the others that have lived a deluded life with regard to Israel and Zionism. Wake up, and soon, before you’ll witness your precious Jewish state disintegrate into ruins – or simply disappear!

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        April 5, 2014, 2:47 pm

        A Palestinian news agency said yesterday Abbas will continue to defend the Green Line as Palestine’s border, as much as possible.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      April 5, 2014, 9:48 am

      @ BrianEsker

      How can the “PalArabs” sit down and “simply” work out borders when the Israelis, despite repeated requests, including at the recent Kerry-brokered negotiations, have refused to produce a map of the Israeli borders they propose for Palestinian agreement towards peace?

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        April 5, 2014, 7:48 pm

        And the Palestinians gave maps to the Israelis years ago, at Taba, Egypt. Israel should have taken the deal.

  2. MRW
    MRW
    April 3, 2014, 2:51 pm

    This is a great post.

  3. edwin
    edwin
    April 3, 2014, 2:55 pm

    Well Brian – after that wonderful one sided fact free swipe at Jeff Halper and the “PalArabs” you have convinced me of the rightness of your position.

  4. DaveS
    DaveS
    April 3, 2014, 3:09 pm

    This is one terrific letter. Most of the intended recipients are surely not ready to abandon their long-cherished dreams of a moral, liberal Jewish State, but such outreach is not premature. There are a significant number of sincere and genuine LZ’s who will increasingly find themselves lost in despair as they belatedly recognize the death of two states. Although many MWers have written them off, I continue to think they should be thrown a lifeline and persuaded to move in the right rather than wrong direction.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      April 5, 2014, 9:50 am

      @ David Samel
      What sort of lifeline do you have in mind, any specifics?

  5. seafoid
    seafoid
    April 3, 2014, 3:22 pm

    It’s gone beyond the point of Jews talking together to fix the problem .
    Halper has zero leverage. JStreet has zero leverage. Israel needs to be beaten over the head with international law to come back to reality. And it doesn’t matter a sh#t about “facts on the ground”.

    Israel is a basket case.

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.583709#
    “Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who represented Israel in the meeting, submitted a formal request to the Palestinians, asking them to withdraw their application to join 15 international conventions. The Palestinian negotiating team, headed by Saeb Erekat, demanded deliberations on the core issues still outstanding, including recognition of the 1967 borders, as well as recognition of East Jerusalem as the future capital of Palestine. “We didn’t come here to discuss packages, we came to discuss the core issues,” Erekat said in the meeting.

    A senior Israeli official stressed that if the application is not rescinded and the negotiations are not extended, Israel will take a number of punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority.
    A second senior Israeli official informed about what was discussed at the meeting said the application to the United Nations agencies had created new conditions, in light of which Israel would not be able to release the 26 Palestinians of the fourth prisoner release.
    The Palestinian representatives said in response that they had not come to the meeting in order to discuss the fourth prisoner release, adding that this issue had been agreed upon with the United States and that Israel violated that agreement.

    “If you escalate the situation against us, we will pursue you as war criminals in all the international forums,” Erekat told Livni in response to her threat of Israeli sanctions against the Palestinians

    • David Doppler
      David Doppler
      April 3, 2014, 3:54 pm

      More from Haaretz: Pretty powerful stuff! Israel seeks to incite a third intifada to justify more ethnic cleansing and oppression. Instead, they’re told they’ll get indicted in the ICJ. Why wait for the Israelis to take new reprisals?

      “Palestinian demands

      The Palestinians issued six main demands in connection to the core issues at the meeting:

      1. A letter of commitment from Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the Israeli prime minister recognizes the 1967 borders and recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

      2. The release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Sa’adat and Fuad Shubaki.

      3. Implementation of the border crossing agreements and an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

      4. The return of the Palestinians who were expelled from the West Bank in 2002 after a siege in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

      5. A freeze on construction in Jewish settlements, including Jerusalem, the reopening of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem and family reunification for 15,000 Palestinians.

      6. Prohibition of the entry, for the purpose of carrying out arrests and assassinations, of Israeli security forces into areas of the West Bank that are under Palestinian control, and the transfer of Area C to Palestinian control.”

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        April 3, 2014, 4:22 pm

        It’s getting really interesting. The PA has grown a pair of balls.

      • Pixel
        Pixel
        April 4, 2014, 8:14 am

        I hope so.

  6. James North
    James North
    April 3, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Jeff Halper. A moral giant. Anyone who doesn’t know him yet should do an online search and learn more about this remarkable man.

    • libra
      libra
      April 3, 2014, 3:32 pm

      Jeff Halper. A moral giant.

      Under no circumstances to be confused with Mondoweiss’s very own JeffB.

  7. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    April 3, 2014, 3:34 pm

    “It is of relevance not only to post-PA Palestinians who must now provide us with leadership, but of anyone concerned with securing a place for Israeli Jews in what will be a common country.”

    I like this bit.

  8. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    April 3, 2014, 6:23 pm

    If Israel is prepared (as I dare say it is or could easily be) to “annex” more of the West Bank — as it has “annexed” the Syrian Golan and the so-called Jerusalem (a very large territory which contains the much smaller Old City and other pre-1948 territory then known as Jerusalem — then it will be prepared to “annex” just as much or as little of it as it likes. There is no reason for Israel to “annex” the whole thing, and certainly not Gaza.

    I use quotes on “annex” because it is my understanding that all Israel’s claims, so far, to have “annexed” occupied territory have been denounced as null and void and without legal substance by the UNSC.

    But of course Israel doesn’t really care much about the UNSC.

    So, the 2SS is over? Well, well, took long enough for almost everyone to say so. Maybe Kerry and Netanyahu will actually sya so as well now, or on April 30. But that is not at all the same as saying that apartheid has ended and it is very far from 1SS. All of those things are things which require a great deal of muscle from outside.

    And that is the ingredient which has been missing since 1967.

  9. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    April 3, 2014, 6:32 pm

    For many many years now, observers have been saying that “time is running out” for the 2SS.

    Here’s what Rashid Khalidi says
    …”the now universally applauded two-state solution faces the juggernaut of Israel’s actions in the occupied territories over more than forty years, actions that have been expressly designed to make its realization in any meaningful form impossible”. (source: Khalidi wikipedia page)

    Israel now has 500,000 illegal settlers on the occupied West Bank. That’s 10% of the Jewish population. The settlers have been taught they have every right to be there, that they’re not pushing anybody out of the way, etc. etc. Is any future Israeli government going to evict 10% of the Jewish population? Khalidi thinks not.

    By now, all that remains to be said is that time has finally run out.

  10. James Canning
    James Canning
    April 3, 2014, 7:09 pm

    Interesting and well-argued points, in this letter. But it assumes that areas of Palestine with too many Jews must become part of Israel.

  11. Notfooled
    Notfooled
    April 4, 2014, 1:13 pm

    Jeff tries for a practical appeal to j-Street. His assumption that the failure of zionism is due to a rotten government and citizen inaction is mistaken, though. The failure of zionism cannot simply be blamed on the present Israeli government (same as all the other Israeli governments.)
    Zionism has failed as it should fail because it is a colonial movement and inherently racist. Every zionist government from the first land grabbing and ethnically cleansing invention to the present one has continued that expansionist and cleansing effort. Past time for its demise and the rise of human rights and equality for all.

    • MHughes976
      MHughes976
      April 4, 2014, 3:24 pm

      Zionism does indeed call for the planting and increase of a colony and it does place its foundation on a distinction of races. But even if had done neither of these things but applied a religious or class distinction to an existing population, claiming that only the followers of one religion or only those with certain levels of property deserved a share of sovereignty, its claims would have formed an indefensible contradiction with the idea of human rights, which implies that all those in peaceable (or in some versions peaceable and productive) occupation of territory should be enfranchised and if driven out should, at least unless they have accepted citizenship elsewhere, be restored.

  12. JLWarner
    JLWarner
    April 5, 2014, 8:48 pm

    Jeff: your analysis posits the only option after the collapse of the 2-SS is a 1-SS. But there are other options. You actually suggested the most probably several years ago. It goes like this: Israel annexes all of Area C and builds a wall isolating Areas A & B. Like Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, it will not be legally “accepted” by the U.N. and the international community, but like the case of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, there will be no move to reverse the annexation except for a few UNSC resolutions that will go unenforced. Over the following years, just like with East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, Israel will systematically revoke residency permits from Palestinians continuing its 67 year ethnic cleansing. You seem to think that the end of the 2-SS will open an era of equality. I see the end of the 2-SS as leading to more more Palestinian dispossession. best jeff (Warner)

    • puppies
      puppies
      April 7, 2014, 2:37 pm

      @JLWarner – “I see the end of the 2-SS as leading to more more Palestinian dispossession.” Certainly, the Zionist program will continue undeterred, as it has done all these years under Labor and the Right (and the Center and the Down and the Up and the Liberals…), methodically. It’s not that the end of 2SS will make a difference.
      This is independent of any 2SS or any discussion. All solutions, negotiations and bullshitting, all UN resolutions have had the effect of water off a duck’s back because the program is independent of anything external and will only slow down in the presence of a physical impediment –like for example the late PLO, that was eliminated by a major murderous war and seating it as a captive in Palestine.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        April 7, 2014, 7:11 pm

        I very much doubt military force is the solution to the problem of Israel/Palestine.

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      April 7, 2014, 7:48 pm

      I think JL Warner’s analysis is correct.

  13. JLWarner
    JLWarner
    April 6, 2014, 5:53 pm

    Jeff
    After thinking about what the end of the 2-SS means, my conclusion is that there will be no change. In a previous post I argued that Israel would annex Area C. But the same forces that kept Israel from doing that for the past 10 years remain in place. So what would make Israel generate even more antagonism against itself by annexing Area C? I don’t see it happening.
    I think Israel will keep doing what seems to have worked so well for the past decades. They will expand more settlements and build now roads and more walls. Israel will continue its systematic efforts to push Palestinians out of the Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills. There will be more Jews forcing their way into Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem and house demolitions will continue.
    Israel will continue to increase its footprint on the West Bank so that at some future point the annexation of Area C will be anti-climatic – it will be codification of a deed already done.
    Best jeff (Warner)

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