December 31, 2007

One state is better than two

Here's a Comment is free piece from Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti on the deadness of the so-called two-state solution. It's titled Democracy: an existential threat?. Of course there was to be an interesting debate on this at the Oxford Union but it was nobbled by the Israel lobby. It's actually surprising who the Union had to speak up for the two state solution given the racist idea behind a state for the world's Jews in 78% of what was Palestine and a state for Palestine's Arabs on the remaining 22%. Regulars here might remember that the zionists cried foul over the fact that Norman Finkelstein was to argue on the two states side. They didn't like the fact that Finkelstein was noted as an Israel critic. Things get messy immediately here. Israel could have ceded a two state solution at almost any time over the last 30 or so years so anyone who truly wants a two state solution will be a critic of Israel and anyone who doesn't criticise Israel can't really want a two state solution. Yes? No? That actually means that the only people who are acceptable to zionists to argue for a two state solution are people who don't particularly want one or who want the two state solution as a way of maintaining Jewish supremacy. That's what I say. Now let's see what Abunimah and Barghouti have to say.

First up they demonstrate the racism underpinning arguments against a one state solution:

As two of the authors of a recent document advocating a one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli colonial conflict, we intended to generate debate. Predictably, Zionists decried the proclamation as yet another proof of the unwavering devotion of Palestinian - and some radical Israeli - intellectuals to the "destruction of Israel". Some pro-Palestinian activists accused us of forsaking immediate and critical Palestinian rights in the quest of a "utopian" dream.

Inspired in part by the South African Freedom Charter and the Belfast Agreement, the much humbler One State Declaration, authored by a group of Palestinian, Israeli and international academics and activists, affirms that "the historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status". It envisages a system of government founded on "the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens".

It is precisely this basic insistence on equality that is perceived by Zionists as an existential threat to Israel, undermining its inherently discriminatory foundations which privilege its Jewish citizens over all others. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was refreshingly frank when he recently admitted that Israel was "finished" if it faced a struggle for equal rights by Palestinians.

For the superficial observer, as long as Israel can have Jews out-settle the Arab natives, or as long as it can restrict or reverse the growth of the Arab population (aka the demographic threat) then Israel can't be accused of being an apartheid state. But of course, it's not the racial ratio that counts, it's the supremacy of one group over others by force of the laws that counts.

The next paragraph shows the sheer hypocrisy of those who claim to be anti-apartheid whilst supporting Israel as a state for the world's Jews at the expense of the Arabs from and/or in the area Israel now rules.

But whereas transforming a regime of institutionalised racism, or apartheid, into a democracy was viewed as a triumph for human rights and international law in South Africa and Northern Ireland, it is rejected out of hand in the Israeli case as a breach of what is essentially a sacred right to ethno-religious supremacy (euphemistically rendered as Israel's "right to be a Jewish state").

Palestinians are urged by an endless parade of western envoys and political hucksters - the latest among them Tony Blair - to make do with what the African National Congress rightly rejected when offered it by South Africa's apartheid regime: a patchwork Bantustan made up of isolated ghettoes that falls far below the minimum requirements of justice.
But it's not just hucksters, liars and racists who tout the two state settlement and condemn advocates of one state:
Sincere supporters of ending the Israeli occupation have also been severely critical of one-state advocacy on moral and pragmatic grounds. A moral proposition, some have argued, ought to focus on the likely effect it may have on people, and particularly those under occupation, deprived of their most fundamental needs, like food, shelter and basic services. The most urgent task, they conclude, is to call for an end to the occupation, not to promote one-state illusions. Other than its rather patronising premise - that these supporters somehow know what Palestinians need more than we do - this argument is problematic in assuming that Palestinians, unlike humans everywhere, are willing to forfeit their long-term rights to freedom, equality and self-determination in return for some transient alleviation of their most immediate suffering.

The refusal of Palestinians in Gaza to surrender to Israel's demand that they recognise its "right" to discriminate against them, even in the face of its criminal starvation siege imposed with the backing of the United States and the European Union, is only the latest demonstration of the fallacy of such assumptions.

A more compelling argument, expressed most recently on Cif by Nadia Hijab and Victoria Brittain, states that under the current circumstances of oppression, when Israel is bombing and indiscriminately killing; imprisoning thousands under harsh conditions; building walls to separate Palestinians from each other and from their lands and water resources; incessantly stealing Palestinian land and expanding colonies; besieging millions of defenceless Palestinians in disparate and isolated enclaves; and gradually destroying the very fabric of Palestinian society, calling for a secular, democratic state is tantamount to letting Israel "off the hook".

They worry about weakening an international solidarity movement that is "at its broadest behind a two-state solution".

Really, and the demand for a two state solution, the demand by almost everyone bar the wackiest fringes of the zionist movement has been a rip-roaring success?

But even if one ignores the fact that the Palestinian "state" on offer now is no more than a broken-up immiserated Bantustan under continued Israeli domination, the real problem with this argument is that it assumes that decades of upholding a two-state solution have done anything concrete to stop or even assuage such horrific human rights abuses.

Since the Palestinian-Israeli Oslo agreements were signed in 1993, the colonisation of the West Bank and all the other Israeli violations of international law have intensified incessantly and with utter impunity. We see this again after the recent Annapolis meeting: as Israel and functionaries of an unrepresentative and powerless Palestinian Authority go through the motions of "peace talks", Israel's illegal colonies and apartheid wall continue to grow, and its atrocious collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza is intensifying without the "international community" lifting a finger in response.

This "peace process", not peace or justice, has become an end in itself -- because as long as it continues Israel faces no pressure to actually change its behaviour. The political fiction that a two-state solution lies always just around the corner but never within reach is essential to perpetuate the charade and preserve indefinitely the status quo of Israeli colonial hegemony.

We'll take that as a no, the two state solution hasn't been so successful. The illusion, indeed the lie, that zionists truly want it has put the alternative on the back burner, not the other way round. Ludicrous, bogus rounds of phoney peace talks has allowed Israel to dig deeper into the occupied territories than if there had been no talks, particularly no talks on this illusory basis. And what's to stop the supporters of two states working together with supporters of one state on that which unites us? Supporters of two states can argue that one state won't be achieved, but two states hasn't been achieved and there seem to be much land left for it to be achieved on. But what do we do now? Do we accept that because Olmert is in a panic that if Arabs come to outnumber Jews in Israel and the occupied territories combined, what's to stop him falling back on the old zionist expedient of ethnic cleansing? It's worse than the ghettoisation policy we have in place at the moment but if the two states supporters are going to compromise on basic equality for all the people of Israel and the occupied territories and accept Jewish supremacy, how far are they in accepting ethnic cleansing as a solution to Israel's "demographic problem"? Ok, that was over the top but what does unite us, that is those of us who want a genuine solution and not just a guarantee of Jewish supremacy?
To avoid the pitfalls of further division in the Palestinian rights movement, we concur with Hijab and Brittain in urging activists from across the political spectrum, irrespective of their opinions on the one state, two states debate, to unite behind the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, as the most politically and morally sound civil resistance strategy that can inspire and mobilise world public opinion in pursuing Palestinian rights.

The rights-based approach at the core of this widely endorsed appeal focuses on the need to redress the three basic injustices that together define the question of Palestine - the denial of Palestinian refugee rights, primary among them their right to return to their homes, as stipulated in international law; the occupation and colonisation of the 1967 territory, including East Jerusalem; and the system of discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Sixty years of oppression and 40 years of military occupation have taught Palestinians that, regardless what political solution we uphold, only through popular resistance coupled with sustained and effective international pressure can we have any chance of realising a just peace.

Hand in hand with this struggle it is absolutely necessary to begin to lay out and debate visions for a post-conflict future. It is not coincidental that Palestinian citizens of Israel, refugees and those in the diaspora, the groups long disfranchised by the "peace process" and whose fundamental rights are violated by the two-state solution have played a key role in setting forward new ideas to escape the impasse.

Rather than seeing the emerging democratic, egalitarian vision as a threat, a disruption, or a sterile detour, it is high time to see it for what it is: the most promising alternative to an already dead two-state dogma.

Ah now here I have to disagree with their use of one word and that's "dogma". The zionist supporters of the two state solution are certainly fanatical in their devotion to dogma. What kind of self-consciously ideologically driven society is it that plots, plans, corrals and kills to maintain a certain ratio of Jews to non-Jews? The zionists are certainly dogmatic as far as that goes. But few seem to envision the Palestinian state on, at best, 22% of what used to be Palestine. This is the area to which a few million exiles are to be allowed to return. Is it really expected that such a space could accommodate them? The Palestinian state area seems not to have been thought through at all. It's almost as if no one truly wants it but certainly no one is arguing that it is just. I think I have to agree that the two state idea is dead though. Ironically, it's a zionist solution, a racist solution, and it's the racist war criminals of the State of Israel that killed it.

Apart from that quibble over one word, I can't see much to argue against there but there are 135 comments so far. I can't bear to look at them just now but if anyone fancies a peek, here's the link again.

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