What Kind of One-State Solution

As the illusion of a “two-state solution” fades away with the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian talks, what remains is a “one-state solution” that will be either democratic and egalitarian or a de facto apartheid system with a permanent Palestinian underclass, as Lawrence Davidson observes.

By Lawrence Davidson

Michael Jay Rosenberg is a well-known, sharp-minded critic of the Israeli government. But he is also a “liberal Zionist” who believes in the legitimacy and necessity of a Jewish state. This point of view has led him to attack the BDS (Boycott Israel) movement in a recent piece, “The Goal of BDS is Dismantling Israel”.

In the process he seriously underestimates the movement’s scope and potential in an effort to convince himself and others that BDS has no chance of actually achieving the goal he ascribes to it.

A section of the barrier -- erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians -- with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy's famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, "Ich bin ein Berliner." (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

A section of the barrier — erected by Israeli officials to prevent the passage of Palestinians — with graffiti using President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote when facing the Berlin Wall, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (Photo credit: Marc Venezia)

However, the only evidence he cites of the movement’s weakness is the recent failure of the University of Michigan’s student government to pass a divestment resolution. At the same time, he fails to mention an almost simultaneous decision by Chicago’s Loyola University student government to seek divestment. Rosenberg also makes no reference to BDS’s steady and impressive efforts in Europe.

Rosenberg continues by asserting that the reason the boycott movement “keeps failing” is because its goal is to destroy Israel rather than to attack the occupation and pressure for a two-state solution. He writes: “The BDS movement is not targeting the occupation per se. Its goal is to end the State of Israel itself.”

What does that mean? Well, according to Rosenberg, it means “replacing Israel itself with a state” that would be “in theory, hospitable to Jews [but] would no longer be Israel.”

At this juncture there are several points in Rosenberg’s thinking that warrant scrutiny. First of all his emphasis on “in theory” in the comment above implies that, in his view, only a Zionist state can really be “hospitable to Jews.” Take the Zionism out of Israel and you really have to take the Jews out as well.

One can understand his concern, since he is aware of the wrongs committed by the Israeli government and knows that reconciliation with the Palestinians will not come easily. However, given the right sort of compromises, his fear for the well-being of Jews in a non-Zionist Israel does not have to necessarily translate into fact.

Secondly, he is still arguing that a two-state solution is possible. “The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is two states for two peoples.” Maybe “in theory” that is the case. However, “in the real world” (to use Rosenberg’s words), it is almost impossible to envision this happening given the make-up of the Israeli power structure and its worldview.

Most of those who organize and participate in the movement to boycott Israel know that the two-state solution is dead in the water. Even if the present negotiations led by Secretary of State John Kerry produce some pale imitation of a Palestinian state, it is hard to see it amounting to anything but a Bantustan.

The fact is, even now, there is only one state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and that is Zionist Israel. Having realized this, the boycotters have two choices: to give up the cause or to pressure for the transformation of Zionist Israel into a democratic, religiously and ethnically egalitarian state – a new Israel. This is what Mr. Rosenberg calls “dismantling Israel.”

South Africa Precedent

Those seeking a genuine democratization of Israel are encouraged by the past dismantlement of apartheid South Africa. But Rosenberg will have none of this either. He points out that in that case it was “the South African apartheid regime that was abolished, not the country known as South Africa.”

Here he is not clearly thinking his point through. The boycott movement helped destroy an apartheid ideology and its institutionalized manifestation as the government of Republic of South Africa. That, perforce, altered the essential character of the country. There is no difference between that and the present boycott goal of the destruction of the Zionist ideology and its institutionalized manifestation as the government of State of Israel. That also must result in a change in the character of that country.

Finally, Rosenberg points to the demand embodied in UN Resolution 194, and supported by the BDS movement, which calls for the return of Palestinian refugees evicted in 1948. This really scares him and understandably so. From the Zionist perspective, the demographics of Israel are precarious enough as it is. Allow back a sizable number of non-Jewish refugees and the maintenance of a Jewish majority in Israel becomes impossible.

On this note I have a Palestinian friend who asserts that one refugee should be resettled in pre-1967 Israel for every Israeli settler living beyond the Green Line. Would Mr. Rosenberg think this fair?

When it comes to Palestinian refugees, what Rosenberg appears not to take seriously is the long-recognized fact that, when and if the implementation of the Right of Return ever takes place, it will certainly be the result of negotiations aimed at minimizing social disruption.

None of this analysis of Rosenberg’s position is meant to deny that he does raise a very serious question: can justice be achieved for the long-suffering Palestinians while preserving Israel as an exclusive Jewish state? He wants to answer this question in the affirmative and he thinks a two-state solution will allow him to do so.

Unfortunately, that is “not how the real world works” (his phrase again) in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The truth is that this solution has been taken off the table by the Israelis themselves. We are left with a unitary Zionist state.

The answer to the question of whether such a state is compatible with justice for the Palestinians is simply no. Zionism, like apartheid before it, has to go – for the sake of the Palestinians and also for a more promising future for the Jews.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.


  6 comments for “What Kind of One-State Solution

  1. Joe
    April 3, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Good call on M.J. Rosenberg. As a former AIPAC insider, Rosenberg has penned many good insights into how the Likud Lobby works, but some of his pronouncements on BDS are hard to understand because they fly in the face of reality.

  2. lumpentroll
    April 3, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    The purpose of the Soros controlled BDS movement is the legitimization of Israel.

    Well funded, the BDS movement quickly becomes the only game in town for those wishing to oppose Israel’s brutal occupation.

    All critics who fail to respect Jewish sensibilities are then isolated and removed from the movement thus ensuring real conversations about zionist and Jewish racism, fascism, apartied, etc., never occurr. The point is not to confront the Israelis but to make sure all criticism remains within boundaries determined by committed zionists.

    If you are concerned you can only help by acting responsibly. Boycott Israel the same way you boycott GMO food and then let people know if you believe it might influence them to follow your example.

  3. Rehmat
    April 4, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Judging by the past record of US-Israel blackmailing of Palestinians in order to extract more subjugation via the so-called “peace initiatives”, one should not be surprised to learn that John Kerry’s “peace charade” has met the same fate.

    Both Natanyahu and Kerry has blamed their Palestinian stooge, Mahmoud Abbas, for killing the initiative by refusing to recognize Israel as “Jewish state”, which they knew, no Palestinian leader in his right mind will accept.

    Abbas’ team at the negotiations and even the ‘Jew York Times’ in its editorial have blamed Netanyahu for the death of the initiative.

    Kerry has been lobbying for the release of the convicted Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard to meet one of Netanyahu demands to bless Kerry’s pro-Israel peace initiative. However, to meet Netanyahu’s demand, Barack Obama could face the greatest setback of his presidency. On April Fool Day, the ‘Jew York Times’ editorial said: “The emergence of the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard as a bargaining chip in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations is a lamentable sign of America’s desperation to keep both sides talking. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians can be achieved only if they want it for themselves, something that is very much in doubt right now.”


  4. Synoia
    April 4, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Perhaps the Palestinians should consider a conversion to Judaism, get what they want and then exercise their right to freedom of religion.

  5. borat
    April 13, 2014 at 8:39 am

    59% of all Palestinians would emigrate if they could. The PLO has always been a terrorist organization whose goal is the destruction of Israel. A Palestinian state on Israel’s borders created under these circumstances certainly is not possible.

  6. borat
    April 14, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Card-carrying Israeli citizens in a totally Arab city in the western Galilee already are preparing celebrations for what they expect will be the return of their “heroes” who killed Israelis in terrorist attacks.

    The United States is trying to work out a deal with Israel to allow freeing several Arab terrorists with Israeli citizenship in order to continue the so-called peace talks that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry resurrected last July. Key government Cabinet ministers have said they will quit their posts rather than vote to free the terrorists.

    In the city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, located northwest of Netanya and almost adjacent to the western edge of Samaria, citizens already have posted a banner with a picture of four Arab-Israeli terrorists and a message, “Today you; tomorrow all the prisoners. You are returning heroes.”

    That’s right, ”Heroes,”

    Kerry not only expects Israel to free the murderers, but he also expects that the country swallow with pride such a humanitarian effort in which the Arabs learn, once again, that a murderer is a “hero” when he kills Jews.

    The picture was posted on Facebook by Oren Tamam, brother of Moses Tamam, who was murdered by Arab terrorists carrying Israeli citizenship.

    The security fence, which has stopped almost all suicide bombers from crossing into major Israeli cities to blow up as many Jews as possible, separates Baqa al-Gharbiyye from its sister city in Samaria.

    When Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni was Foreign Minister in 2008, she raised the possibility of transferring Israeli Arab communities, including Baqa al-Garbiyye to the Palestinian Authority, which rejected the idea.

    It is more than likely that the Arabs, too, would not want to be Palestinian Authority citizens because they would lose their welfare benefits as Israelis.

    Moreover, it is lot easier to murder Jews when you have Israeli citizenship and live in the country, without having to cross a checkpoint and endure one of these “demeaning” inspections that are carried out at thousands of border crossings in the world.

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