We’ve all been waiting to see where The New York Review of Books puts its marker under its new editor, Ian Buruma, and the latest signs are very good that it seeks to do honest journalism about the conflict. The new issue has Palestine on the cover and contains an essay by Raja Shehadeh about the confiscation of lands in the West Bank and a report by Sarah Helm from Gaza that centers on the “narrative war” Palestinian refugees are engaged in against Israel over the neverending Nakba, the erasure of Palestinians from 1948 to this day.
Ibrahim’s reference to the second Nakba was echoed up and down Gaza. The destroyed houses, the panicked flight, the tents in which the homeless had to live—these have reminded many of what happened seventy years ago.
The breakthrough in Helms’s piece is that the reader sees things almost entirely from the point of view of Palestinians. She cites the work of the Electronic Intifada and Zochrot, and quotes Ilan Pappe on “ethnic cleansing.” She explains the ways that 1948 has been revived as a reference point (as opposed to 1967):
“At a popular level Palestinians everywhere including citizens of Israel are resurrecting these ’48 values in response to divisions of their leadership. It is an issue that unifies everyone,” said Ramzy Baroud.
And notice how little piety Helm has for the two-state solution. This is a straightforward report on what advocates for Palestinians are thinking:
some new ideas for a resolution are emerging, particularly among the new generation of Palestinians who talk about a one-state solution with Jews and Arabs living as equals in a single democratic state on all of mandate Palestine. Among Israeli Jews today this prospect seems especially fanciful, but some Israeli radicals predict it must come. Ilan Pappé, speaking in Cambridge recently to launch his new book, The Biggest Prison on Earth, said that the one-state solution was “not an impossible scenario” and that the alternative is for Israel to continue developing as “an apartheid state.”
Although the concept of a one-state solution is still in its infancy, we are certain to hear more about it, precisely because the prospects for two states seem dead. The one-state idea is already being discussed within senior ranks of the moderate Palestinian Authority. Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for Mahmoud Abbas, responding to Trump’s Jerusalem move, declared that by recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, Trump had finally killed the two-state idea, adding: “Now is the time to transform the struggle for one state with equal rights for everyone living in historical Palestine from the river to the sea.”
David Halbfinger of the New York Times also made this point, just as straightforwardly, in an article 2 weeks ago about how one state with equal rights is now “dominating the discussion,” as Mustafa Barghouti says, among Palestinian leaders.
Both pieces are a reminder of how the ultimate disrupter, Donald Trump, has catalyzed a crisis in the conflict that may actually be productive, and extremely painful. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the focus of the demonstrations in occupied Nabi Saleh December 15 that led to the arrest and indefinite jailing of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi for slapping a soldier– an event that has riveted the world.
The Helm and Halbfinger reports–along with Michelle Goldberg’s Times column saying that Mustafa Barghouti has a better answer than liberal Zionists to end Jim Crow– threaten to initiate a real discussion among U.S. elites about, What’s so wrong with equal rights? These articles may force the Atlantic and the Center for American Progress to have the discussion, and so begin to change the paradigm inside the Democratic Party.
Notice the panic from establishment stalwart Trudy Rubin in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the end of a Jewish state.
As I saw firsthand on a recent trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel is heading pell-mell toward an unprecedented danger: a “one-state solution” in which the Jewish state will control an unwilling population of Palestinian Arabs that soon outnumbers Jews.
Rubin quotes “left” Israeli Jews warning against those equal rights.
Ehud Barak… predicts that if Palestinians were given full civic rights, Israel would become “a binational state with an Arab majority and civil war…
If the two-state solution is buried, autonomy will increasingly tie the West Bank into Israel and push Palestinians to demand equal rights in one state. “The problem,” says the Institute for National Security Studies’ Gilead Sher, a senior peace negotiator under Barak, “is how to convince Israelis and Palestinians that the two-state solution, even in its meager design, is best for them as individuals, communities, and nations. How to make people conscious of the tragic trajectory they are following.”
Though Rubin says that her greatest scare came from the rightwing in Israel, and their refusal to see a problem.
“Two states is impossible. One state is not feasible,” I was told by a Likud member of Knesset, Benny Begin, son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin. “That leaves us with the sustainable status quo of the last five years.”
Managed conflict. Even liberal Zionists support that over a struggle for equal rights.
No one who is sensible would say that the path to one state with equal rights is an easy one. Or that it won’t be violent, disruptive, that many people may leave the country and so forth. My mantra on the issue comes from my Spanish U.N. friend inside the occupation. “People always ask me, what is the peaceful resolution of this conflict. You’ve been here, and you see: There is no peaceful resolution of this conflict.” That is why I support the South African model, and BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions.