Israel’s ‘Two-State’ Smokescreen for Ethnic Cleansing

The genocide in Gaza must not be viewed in isolation, writes Hamza Ali Shah. It is inextricably linked to what is happening in the West Bank.

From a Gaza bus window, January 2016. (Catholic Church England & Wales, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Hamza Ali Shah
Declassified UK

“The two-state solution is no longer possible”.

Those were the uncharacteristically honest words of the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely, last week.

From the person who callously denied a humanitarian catastrophe existed in Gaza and had the audacity to dismiss the idea that innocent Palestinians were being murdered by Israeli bombardment, it was a rare moment.

However, her admission that a two-state solution was out of the equation and an “independent state of Palestine was politically impossible” was framed as a seemingly unfortunate and unwelcome policy development. 

The indirect implication is that as a result of 7 October, when Hamas attacked Israel, changed political circumstances render a Palestinian state problematic.

The reality is far simpler than that: a two-state solution, or any tangible framework that upholds Palestinian statehood, is unachievable because decades of Israeli state policy is working as intended.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made unambiguously clear in July that Israel must “crush” Palestinian statehood ambitions. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hotovely in March 2017. (Estonian Foreign Ministry, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

Nor is it a new standpoint. In his 2015 election campaign, he made clear there would be no Palestinian state under his watch.

That same Netanyahu, at a United Nations General Assembly speech earlier this year, presented a map showing the “new Middle East,” wherein the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were part of Israel.

Perpetual Anguish

The state of perpetual anguish is the only type of Palestinian state that Israel is willing to accommodate.

Yet the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, the only two parties that can realistically govern Britain, appear to live in an illusory world where the two-state solution is alive and Israel allows the establishment of a sovereign Palestine. 

Both leaders of the parties have reiterated those policy positions in recent weeks.

By persisting with the robotic recitations about a two-state solution, Britain’s political class are providing the perfect smokescreen for Israel as it deliberately nullifies the possibility of Palestinian statehood and consolidates the one-apartheid-state reality.

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Indeed, Netanyahu’s map that erased Palestine chillingly captured the undeniable trajectory on the ground.

This year has seen the Israeli government take ruthless steps to annex the West Bank. Within the first six months of the year, Israel’s government approved the construction of a record number of settler housing units. 

According to the U.N., around 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, a number which has grown by 180,000 since 2012. 

Israel’s strategy coincides with an intensification of housing demolitions. During the first quarter of the year, Israeli authorities also demolished, forced people to demolish or seized 290 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, forcing many of them to leave their communities. 

This marked a 46 percent increase compared to the same period in 2022.

Record Killings in West Bank 

A Palestinian boy and Israeli soldier in front of the Israeli West Bank Barrier. August, 2004. (Justin McIntosh, Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0)

Where Palestinians were not being displaced, their lives were at the mercy of Israel’s unsparing occupation forces. Between 1 January and 6 October, Israeli forces killed more Palestinians in the West Bank than in any other year since 2005.

It also marked the deadliest year on record for children murdered in the West Bank.

The systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that was being perpetrated was as undeniable as it was unforgiving.

And that was before the international green light for Palestinian mass slaughter and displacement was awarded to Israel after 7 October. Since then, human rights organisations describe Israeli policy in the West Bank as the most aggressive land grab since 1967.

Settlers in particular have been emboldened and are imposing a reign of terror. The U.N. has recorded at least 281 settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank since 7 October.

At least 15 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers in the last six weeks. Meanwhile, Israeli forces have murdered at least 201 Palestinians including 52 children in the same period.

More than 1,000 Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, often citing settler violence and intimidation as a primary reason. Many have been kept at gunpoint, abused and humiliated.

End Game

Demonstrator in a London solidarity march for Palestine on Oct. 21. (Alisdare Hickson, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

“All Arabs should die. All who don’t die should go to Jordan,” one Palestinian recalls an illegal settler shouting whilst beating him.

It’s imperative that such fascistic tendencies are not treated as fringe views. Rather, they characterise the Israeli establishment’s strategic objective, and the settlers are facilitating it. 

In fact, the idea of Palestinians being killed or emigrating is precisely what Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich considers the only logical option available for Palestinians. He calls this the West Bank’s end game: complete Israeli seizure of the territory in order to make the Jewish state an accomplished fact.

The West Bank was always deemed an intrinsic part of any future, independent Palestinian state. But the options Palestinians face are all on the spectrum of cruelty: remain under permanent occupation or be subjected to ethnic cleansing and land usurpation. 

One option that is being viciously ruled out is self-determination.

Importantly, this crystallises why the genocide in Gaza must not be viewed in isolation and is inextricably linked to what is happening in the West Bank. 

When Israeli ministers openly boast about “rolling out the Nakba” whilst other former ministers go on television to underscore that “we all need 2 million to leave” in reference to the optimal scenario for Gaza’s future, signs of a sweeping land grab become painfully noticeable.

When both Netanyahu and Smotrich hint that Israel will retain operational and security control of Gaza — effectively synonyms for occupation — the outlook for residents in Gaza already grappling with so much destruction is compounded. 

Worse still, in deplorable circumstances, like in the West Bank, draconian Israeli occupation seemingly represents the least bad option.

A think tank with close ties to Netanyahu issued a report shortly after 7 October advocating the “relocation and final settlement of the entire Gaza population.” It cited Israel’s war on Gaza as a “unique and rare opportunity” to carry it out.

The methods may differ in the scale and speed of enforcement. But the fundamental intention is multi-pronged and in full swing: systematically obliterate any prospect of a Palestinian state by leaving no Palestinians, nor land for them to inhabit.

For politicians to sincerely place Palestinian rights at the heart of any campaign would be to acknowledge the deep-seated settler colonial ethos that has long instructed Israel’s operations and the apartheid structures that sustain it.

Jewish Supremacy

The bare minimum should be a demand for a reversal of the one-state reality defined by Jewish supremacy that has long been structurally embedded in Israeli law, politics and society.

But a Labour and Conservative political class that firmly voted against a ceasefire, overwhelmingly opposes and criminalises non-violent avenues that seek to isolate Israel, like imposing sanctions, and have no qualms about arming Israel’s war machine

These figures also fundamentally reject the description of apartheid, showing they are only interested in maintaining the British foreign policy tradition of propping up a colonial regime.

Two definitive points become unavoidable: That whilst the two-state paradigm is defunct, the struggle for Palestinian freedom will not disappear no matter the circumstances.

And secondly, that the British political establishment are certainly not allies in that struggle.

As Israeli officials demand Gaza becomes “a place where no human can exist” whilst the military sings from the same hymn sheet, it would be erroneous to suggest that is merely an unconventional hardline attitude to Palestinian existence and freedom that 7 October gave birth to.

Hamza Ali Shah is a British-Palestinian writer and journalist whose work focuses on Palestine. He has reported on daily life under occupation for Palestinians including home demolitions and forced expulsion and the conditions for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. He has also extensively covered the British political establishment’s legislation and policies towards Palestine. He has contributed to Tribune Magazine, Jacobin, +972 Magazine and New Internationalist.

This article is from Declassified UK.

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15 comments for “Israel’s ‘Two-State’ Smokescreen for Ethnic Cleansing

  1. CaseyG
    December 8, 2023 at 18:28

    Maybe people should look at how big the original land was for the Jewish people. I doubt that the entire land mass which Israel claims now took up so much land space back in ancient time. Historically Israel had land long ago– but remember there were other people from different lands living there too. Give Israel back their original land—but the rest should belong to the Palestinians.

  2. jamie
    December 8, 2023 at 11:48

    Israel is a product of the western-European culture. Expansionism and land grabbing had been a major factor in European “success”. Why change now a winning horse?
    Look at US, the biggest and richest colonial state in history, look at Australia that just recently voted against more voice to indigenous people, look at Canada, etc. Look at Ukraine, a product/disaster (a result of the European expansionist cultural trait). Without expansion people in western culture think they won’t be able to survive, a pragmatic way of thinking for an inefficient culture, incapable of accepting limits and failures as indicators for proper growth, incapable of accepting that some other cultures might become better, incapable to show respect and understanding, incapable of cooperating despite differences.
    It is a culture which has been devastated by fear, perhaps even a sense of guilt.
    I have always wondered how Americans, Canadians, Australians can live a normal life while they know they are walking over a ground in which the blood of thousands if not millions have been spilled, massacred, enslaved, and buried without names.
    Perhaps that is why consumerism has developed rapidly in the west as a way to silence the screams of all those people, to try to forget all the crimes and guilt.
    I believe that to “kill” the western culture, the rest of the world need only to isolate it. It is a culture incapable to live in harmony even less within a boundary, it is a culture that has suffered through centuries of wars, filth, diseases, poverty… the sense of superiority must have developed as a “defense” mechanism against fear and chaos.
    Israel like the west believes they have a mission on earth, that they are superior to others, thus they are legitimized to do whatever they please without regard to the “others”. An extremely dangerous thinking, a perversion of the normal mind.
    Jews have suffered for centuries, but it is not by doing to others what others have done to them that thing will change, that is a way to perpetuate suffering and oppression.
    There is a saying, something like this, “if you go through fire, you either come out bitter like ash or precious and strong like a diamond” and diamonds are rare we know that. I hope the next Israeli leadership, the new generations will break the vicious cycle in which their society has been sucked in for centuries, by doing to others what they expect others to do to them.

    • Caliman
      December 8, 2023 at 15:26

      There are very few places on earth indeed where previous groups of human settlers have not been supplanted by future ones, usually violently. Certainly, in almost all of Asia, Africa, and Europe and the Americas, the dominant populations you see now are supplanters of previous peoples.

      The key is not original sin … the key is how the current state treats its current inhabitants. Do people have equal rights and representation or do they not?

  3. Curmudgeon
    December 8, 2023 at 11:30

    “The indirect implication is that as a result of 7 October, when Hamas attacked Israel, changed political circumstances render a Palestinian state problematic.”
    Unwittingly, perhaps, the author defeats his own arguments by making this statement. Hamas did not attack “Israel”, it attacked Israelis occupying Palestine. The only change since November 1967 when UN Security Council 242 calling for the withdrawal of Israeli occupation to pre June 1967 borders, is Israeli expansion. As the late King Faisal (assassinated in 1974) stated, the Israel-Palestine conflict would be over in a week if the US stopped funding the Israeli military. The UK is the US poodle, just as the rest of NATO countries are. Israel owns the US Congress and has a damned good grip on the House of Commons. A vote to implement, thereby exposing the US and UK opposition in implementing UNSC 242, which was accepted by both the PLO and Hamas, will isolate the real problem – the current economic system – and speed the implementation of the BRICS, which will collapse the US economy. King Faisal will be proven correct.

  4. Ace Thelin
    December 8, 2023 at 01:58

    The whole world must demand an end to aparteid and a one state solution. However high that mountain may be to climb, it is the only solution because it directly faces down the fundamental issues of colonization and racial superiority. Two states is a ruse and must be condemned, Israel had its chance for a two state solution.

  5. Zoltan - Sadeeq
    December 8, 2023 at 00:59

    I can agree with Tzipi Hotovely in a way.

    That is one state called Palestine with equal rights to all citizens, Palestinian arabs, muslims or christians, Jews and any other religions or ethnicities.

    The Palestinian refugees must have the right to return.

    The zionists must give back Palestinian lands and other properties were in Palestinian possession before 1947 or buy them at a fair price if their righteous owners wish to sell them.

    The world must not support or accept theft of land or any other properties, not even in a capitalist system.

  6. Lois Gagnon
    December 7, 2023 at 19:34

    The good people of conscience in the world must bring enough pressure to bear on the ICC and the ICCJ to begin the process of war crimes charges against all those who have supported the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians everywhere it is taking place. There can be no excuses to avoid this responsibility to humanity. If those who serve on these international courts don’t have the spine to do so, they must be fired and replaced with judges who understand the magnitude of the situation and carry out their duties regardless of political pressure from the Western global empire. We simply cannot afford to allow this genocide to continue without consequences to its perpetrators.

  7. SH
    December 7, 2023 at 17:46

    This piece simply describes something that has been quite obvious for quite some time …

  8. Jim McSporran
    December 7, 2023 at 16:06

    And sadly Jeremy Corbyn advocated for the long-defunct two state solution while Labour leader. I’m not aware he has changed that view.

    • firstpersoninfinite
      December 7, 2023 at 23:55

      Every American president over the last 55 years has advocated for a two-state solution, most of them without really meaning it. And meanwhile, they funded the Israeli military that ensured it could not happen. I’m not sure why Corbyn should be singled out when no other option was on offer, and when every US president might have done differently. The UK is just a client state of US power. It does nothing without permission from the military-industrial complex and the banking industry which alone is making the British 1% richer. The two-state solution is international policy, and not “long-defunct” by anyone involved until now. The two-state solution is now a debate between corpses and marauders. A one-state solution is hard to realize when the other side is reduced to silence.

  9. Rudy Haugeneder
    December 7, 2023 at 15:20

    Persian Gulf oil monarchies refuse to help Palestinians, preferring instead to build shiny multi-billion dollar cities on the desert, cities built by temporary workers, often Muslims from poor nations, who they refuse to give rights and citizenship to under any circumstances. If you look at the demographic date, these temporary immigrants make up the overwhelming majorities. It is time Muslim religious leaders took up the cause of both Palestinians and the plight of temporary immigrants, and see them as equal humans.

  10. Caliman
    December 7, 2023 at 14:03

    One state on the historic borders of Palestine, welcoming people of all faiths and ethnicities to live in peace. It may take a while, but a single state with equal rights for all its citizens is the future.

    • SH
      December 7, 2023 at 17:45

      it may not be the future – but it is the only right answer …

      It is quite something to see that so many States who decry the Holocaust in Europe have no difficulty with one in Palestine

    • December 7, 2023 at 18:28

      I believe there have been settler colonial, apartheid states similar to Israel that have successfully made the conversion to one state with equal rights for all. However, if I am not mistaken in most, if not all of them, once the colonial settler class lost their former position of superiority over the indigenous people they left and went home to wherever they came from. I don’t believe you will find any Zionist Jews willing to do that.

    • Andrew Nichols
      December 8, 2023 at 00:53

      Thats what WILL hapoen. It will take US disintegration to occur. Hopefully a Spost Trump civil war will do it. Once Israel loses its pet superpower,it’s all over for the Apartheid state.

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