Media Analysis

Haass and Kristof can’t cross the Zionist Rubicon

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David Halbfinger produced a fine piece of reporting for the New York Times this weekend, an article addressing the death of the two-state solution and Palestinians’ recognition that they have begun a struggle for equal rights in one state. Why– there might even be a Palestinian prime minister one day.

The article quotes Palestinian leaders who are giving thought to what a one-state future would look like. That outcome is “dominating the discussion,” says Mustafa Barghouti. While Saeb Erekat says Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital “was the death knell for the two-state solution.”

Halbfinger speaks plainly about what a real democracy would look like between the river and the sea:

Palestinian supporters envision one state with equal rights for Palestinians and Jews. Palestinians would have proportionate political power and, given demographic trends, would before long be a majority, spelling the end of the Zionist project.

And an informant states what Ali Abunimah has long said, the two-state solution is a mask for apartheid:

“When you support the two-state solution, you’re supporting Netanyahu,” said As’ad Ghanem, a political science lecturer at the University of Haifa.

The report violates an article of faith among American leaders: There must be a two-state solution; and by the way, the Jewish state will not survive if Palestinians can vote. So yesterday morning an eminence, Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, jumped in to try and make the article go away.

Haass tweeted:

Israel cannot remain 1) Jewish; 2) democratic; 3) secure; and 4) prosperous in a single state. Israel and its supporters should embrace a 2 State outcome before it is too late not as a favor to Palestinians but as a favor to itself.

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof chimed in, and tried to stand up for the grim reality described in the article:

I agree. But I’m losing hope in a two-state solution. Israel should understand that if it isn’t prepared to give Palestinians a state any time soon, it should give them voting rights and other equal rights.

Haass objected: 

But given the demographics that would mean the end of Israel’s Jewish character. That is precisely why Israel cannot have it all and oppose a Palestinian State.

And Kristof was compelled to endorse the two-state solution after all.

Yes, I agree. Israel has been able to have its cake and eat it too, indefinitely delaying. That’s why it should be pushed to clarify and embrace either two states or a democratic single state. I hope this can encourage it to accept a second state, and not drag this out forever.

Haass again:

Israel’s true friends should fight the trends undermining the potential for a 2 state solution. The Trump administration sees itself as a friend of Israel but has done nothing to halt the drift; in fact, it has contributed to it w its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

The tweets demonstrate how much disdain the Establishment has for justice for Palestinians.

Richard Haass of Council on Foreign Relations

The dialogue is all about Israel. Anything to bring about justice would be for Israel’s sake, not for the sake of justice. The two men speak of the need to push Israel against its “drift,” but what is a drift that has gone on for 70 years, and what is their position on the only pressure that Israel seems to care about, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)? They are surely opposed.  The well-meaning New York Times columnist worries that Israel might not “give” Palestinians a state “any time soon.” It is hard to imagine a more hollow endorsement of Palestinian rights, when Palestinians have been discriminated against and ethnically cleansed under Israeli sovereignty for more than 70 years.

That is the truth that both men are denying: that Israel has crushed Palestinian human and civil rights from the start. That is the Zionist Rubicon that the establishment still cannot cross. Because if you were to state that Israel should be transformed for the sake of justice, you’d be saying, A Jewish state is unjust by its nature.

It is essential to cross that Rubicon. Because until establishment voices are able to speak that truth in the United States, we’re never going to have justice in Palestine, let alone an honest discussion here.

No doubt finding a solution for Israel’s segregation and discrimination would save Israel. But that’s like saying that ending apartheid in South Africa brought salvation for white South Africans. Yes it did; by ending an evil order that whites had created. But saving South African whites was secondary to the main story of South Africa: 90 percent of the population finally got their rights and some semblance of justice.

Admitting that Israel needs to change for the sake of Palestinians, not Israeli Jews, is to admit that for 100 years Zionism has been an awful deal for the indigenous population. And you can’t say that in the U.S. establishment evidently. These men are, consciously or not, reflecting bigotry against Palestinians.

Youssef Munayyer said it shorter: 

Why should Palestinians being afforded basic rights be subject to Israel first resolving its identity crisis on its own time and not something demanded by a country that seeks to lead the world on freedom?

P.S. Halbfinger’s reporting is what we long sought from his predecessor as Times bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, without avail. Rudoren was never able to approach the Zionist Rubicon by raising reasonable questions about that article of faith, the two-state solution. And meantime she spoke to one Zionist group after another, Hadassah, JCC, AJC.

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