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Now that Israel has killed the two-state solution, will liberal Zionists support equality or ethnocracy?

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Peter Beinart has a decision to make.
Peter Beinart has a decision to make.

Now that the Two State Solution has finally received belated, more-or-less official autopsy results, what will liberal Zionists do: move left to support a state of equality, or move right to support a state of permanent Apartheid ethnocracy? For a long list of self-identified liberal Zionists such as Peter Beinart, Jeffrey GoldbergThomas Friedman, Bradley Burston, Larry Derfner, and many others, that’s the obvious existential question.

Rebecca Steinfeld writes on her Haaretz blog (read it in full):

Whether to go right toward a Jewish one-state or go left toward a democratic one-state is a serious challenge for liberal Jews both inside and outside Israel, who are committed to liberal values such as equality and civil rights…

Liberalism stands for equality and individual rights; Zionism, by contrast, aims to maintain Jewish sovereignty in an area populated predominantly by Palestinian Arabs. It is impossible to square this circle: granting exceptional privilege to one group on the basis of their historical experiences and membership in an ethnic, national or religious group is inherently at odds with a political philosophy premised on universal equality and individual rights. It is illogical to claim that everyone is equal, yet some are more equal. A state founded by and for the Jewish people, living both within and outside of its territory, cannot also be a democratic state for all its citizens within territorial limits.

These contradictions undermine the neat spatial and temporal delineations of liberal Zionists who characterize Israel as illiberal only beyond the “Green Line” and liberal within it. As the Israeli political geographer Oren Yiftachel asserts, portrayals of the existence of “Israel proper” within the “Green Line” as “Jewish and democratic” are both “analytically flawed and politically deceiving.” Instead, he argues that the whole entity, territorially and politically, ought to be characterized as an ethnocracy rather than a democracy….

I say to liberal Jews who are genuinely committed to equality: Stop just hugging and wrestling. Recognize that assumptions about the possibility of a Jewish democracy have rested on sloppy or wishful thinking, with devastating consequences. Confront the logical impossibility of “liberal Zionism.” Demand civil rights for all. Go left.

As a former liberal Zionist, I proudly claim the only mantle that makes any kind of humanistic sense: Equality-ism (h/t Judah Magnes and Martin Buber). If you’re a former liberal-or-otherwise Zionist and ready to come out of the closet as an Equality-ist, please stand up and be counted here in the comments, and/or in the comments on Steinfeld’s piece.

P.S. – To the liberal Zionists who would still grasp at the two state straw in order to preserve Israel as a privileged ethnocracy on part of the land… “Two state solution” is nothing more than a talking point for the Israeli government, a P.R. smokescreen which if repeated enough times (“We want a two state solution. We want more negotiations without preconditions,”) is a way to buy time, avoid prosecution at the International Criminal Court for war crimes and human rights violations, maintain Israel as a state in good standing in the international community . . . and steal more land. In a time of moral crisis, staying neutral is not an option, and if you insist on staying put where you are and advocating for a two state non-solution, you will just be carrying water for the colonial regime’s agenda of naked aggression and conquest.

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Steinfeld nails it!

“Confront the logical impossibility of “liberal Zionism.””

Truer words were never written wrt Zionism. Thank you Matthew.

A One State solution with a Jewish financial elite and an impoverished native majority living on reservations , commuting to work under Jim Crow, and shackled in federalist prohibitions on self determination; how ill that be better for Israelis , morally or otherwise?

I don’t see the older generation (my generation and older) shaking off Zionism. But the young — if they maintain a concern for the problems of Jews — should flock to Equality-ism in regard to I/P as they’ve always done for all other problems. This article is wonderful. Some LZ’s… Read more »

A really astute piece by Taylor, echoing Steinfeld. Time for Americans to face what their own elected government has been doing in the Middle East. There’s another recent piece on this blog about American values regarding the I-P peace process. If you want to know what those values are, or… Read more »

A Jewish State means Jewish sovereignty and national self determination for the Jewish nation. It is this principle of national equality that Jews rightly insist on that the Palestinian Arabs reject. Liberal Zionists have no dilemma to face since the other side rejects two states for two peoples. Until that… Read more »