Jun 7, 2011
The Myth of the Two-State Solution
The phrase “two-state solution” is the new mantra for the politically savvy. It’s become almost mandatory upon anyone even remotely associated with Middle East politics to squeeze this buzz phrase at least a couple of time within his/her discourse in order to reflect a refined understanding of and a sophisticated contribution to the ongoing dialogue concerning a just and peaceful resolution to the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Every major player in the Middle East seems to profess some sort of aspiration to one version or another of a two-state solution. Despite vague deceitful language and many explicit and implicit conditions especially concerning Jerusalem, Netanyahu claims now that he subscribes to it. Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority say it is the ultimate objective of their persistently (almost religiously) declared lone strategy of “peace negotiations only” without any alternative course of action. The American arbiter, in its current and past manifestations, proclaims it to be the optimal necessary solution to have much touted goal of stability in the Middle East region. The Arab League has endorsed it as part and parcel of its 2002 peace initiative. The International community represented by the United Nations supports it as the solution in line with its many resolutions on the subject. Even hard line staunch supporters of Israel such as the belligerently audacious Allan Dershowitz and counterfeit liberal Thomas Friedman purport to back some perverted edition of a two state solution that just magically happens to match all the conditions of leaders across the Israeli political spectrum.
But why be surprised at the level of consensus if highly reputed and immensely respected scholars and pundits well known for their academic and professional integrity as well as their courageous morality who are sharp critics of Israel (and many a times of the US) from both the right (John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt) and left (Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Naomi Klein) also advocate the two-state solution as their ultimate objective?!
What all these versions of a “two-state solution,” distinctly different as their wide array of champions are, have in common is one very important caveat. They all imply undermining the right of return of Palestinian refugees in varying degrees. As such, the right of return becomes the most pivotal rallying aspect of the whole Palestinian struggle.
But let’s not worry too much yet about the apparent grim fate of the refugees Right of Return. While the above unanimity seems to suggest some sort of a two-state solution is inevitably looming on the horizon, there are ample historical, legal, political and practical reasons to believe that a two state solution is nothing but a huge myth that is never going to find its way to being realized. Those who believe this myth are engaged, I’m afraid, in a cynically futile practice of self delusion.
To help better explain the above claim I present to you today three recent and quite timely video resources on the subject that I promise you will find quite worthy of your time. The first is a lecture entitled “A brief History of Zionism” by Dr. Zachary Lockman, professor of Middle Eastern studies and History at New York University, that was given last March 17th. This is a fabulous presentation on the origins and development of Zionism until the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. If offers an enlightening perspective about the circumstances and dynamics that granted the Zionist idea its initial traction and breathed life into its project. It also offers a stark analysis on the inherent divergence between the Zionist project and the core values of liberal democracy. This in turn unequivocally highlights the sheer hypocrisy of the international community which claims to hold those values to be universal on one hand while sanctioning a “Jewish state” on the other hand. The same goes for the Arab “liberal” secular elite who snobbishly lecture the masses about the same universal liberal values denouncing any role for religion in the state while they aid and abet the whitewash of the Arab regimes’ dubious role in forsaking the just Palestinian cause for the benefit of a “Jewish State” under the loose garb of the two-state solution.
The second resource is a Hisham Sharabi memorial lecture delivered last April 29th by Dr. John Mearsheimer at the Palestine Center in Washington D.C. entitled “The future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners.” In the lecture, the renowned international relations scholar and coauthor of “The Israel Lobby” contemplates the future of the Middle East region asserting that “the two-state solution is now a fantasy.” He predicts that the most likely scenario is that Israel will morph into a South African Apartheid. He proceeds to skillfully expound upon the very profoundly analyzed and compellingly argued practical, political and demographic reasons for his prediction. It is worth noting that this pessimistic conclusion is reached despite an a priori declared stance that the two-state solution is the most adequate one for the Palestinian question and that an earnest and benign American mediating role is at the heart of the efforts of bringing about a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The third resource is an excellent lecture by the BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions) activist Ali Abunimah entitled “Strategies for a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel” that was delivered 3 months ago. Mr. Abunimah is a Palestinian/American journalist. He is the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. In his lecture, he makes very convincing argument, building upon parallels of South Africa and Ireland, for the central idea of his aforementioned book, namely a one state solution for the Palestinian question. And while one may not totally agree with the secular nature of the state in his proposition, the one state framework is definitely much more feasible, practical and in accordance with history, morality and the law.
“Israel proper” delimited by the 1948 green line, which is supposed to constitute the Jewish state in a two-state solution, is an illegitimate polity. Despite its creation originally by the UN partition resolution in 1947, it attained its final demarcations through the act of war and the ethnic cleansing of the native inhabitants. While it is widely claimed that it was the Arabs who attacked Israel in 1948, this has no bearing on the fact that acquiring land through the means of war is inadmissible in international law. This same principle pertains to the land acquired in 1967, which the whole world is asking Israel to give back, as well as that acquired in 1948.
Moreover, the core Zionist tenet of establishing a Jewish majority state was the guiding principle of the systematic mass uprooting and expulsion of the indigenous population from its land better known today as ethnic cleansing. This has become an uncontroversial acknowledged fact even by Israeli prominent historian such as Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris. In international law, there is no statute of limitation on war crimes and crimes against humanity such as ethnic cleaning and therefore there could never be a statute of limitation on the illegitimacy of the Zionist entity. Yet, the rule of law and all the astute logic of even the most righteous, competent and ethical scholars seem to break down at that event which constitutes the political big bang in Middle East history, namely Israel’s creation in 1948.
This of course does not mean that we need to “throw Jews into the sea” as the bravado of various Arab dictators used to echo trying to find a resonance of legitimacy with the Arab masses hungry for the restoration of their trampled dignity. This would be in sharp conflict of the core values of Arab and Muslim society. On the other hand, no solution would be just or sustainable without the Palestinian refugees exercising their full right of return and compensation which is in direct conflict of a “Jewish majority state.” Therefore, a one state solution that would establish the democratic state of Palestine with all of its citizens’ 12 million Arabs and 6 million Jews is the only just and sustainable solution. No Jews would even be required to go back home as Helen Thomas suggested and as they would be free to choose. History has shown that such a one state solution would probably be the least costly solution as well in terms of human life and suffering.
By the way, one of the most intelligent commentaries on the Helen Thomas incident was made by Dr. Constance Hilliard, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of North Texas who has also recently published a book with a very interesting and relevant title to our subject matter: “Does Israel have a future?: the case for a post-Zionist state”. I have definitely added the book to my future reading list.
Give some of your time to watch the above referenced video material. I would highly recommend that you view them in the order in which they were presented, for they flow along a time continuum of past-present-future. They are also furnished by a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim in that order. Get to know how the Zionist movement stayed like an orphan for 37 years without a big time sponsor but it never relented until the wind started blowing into its sail. Appreciate the suffering that the Jews went through in Anti Semitic Europe and especially Tsarist Russia, the source of the fabricated “protocols of the elders of Zion” which many Arabs and Muslims unfortunately still hold to be true today, and learn how they dealt with their plight. Contemplate how perseverance pays off over the long run. All what we need are visionary sincere leaders and an abundance of determination, steadfastness and resolve. That is how the dreams of today become the realities of tomorrow.
Have faith my friends.
More useful resources on the subject that offer a better framework for understanding the Palestinian question:
Finkelstein vs. Dershowitz debate 2003
Chomsky vs. Dershowitz debate 2005
And note in the second how Chomsky considers the Geneva accord in 2002, which in essence was an attempt to nullify the Right of Return, as the ceiling for a resolution of the Palestinian question. The same can be found in Mearsheimer’s lecture in which he has no qualms about harshly denouncing Israeli practices yet not a word is mentioned about the Right of Return.