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Idealism Without Illusions




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Issue No. 106 (April 2007) -- Mark Satin, Editor

The one-state solution is the most
visionary AND the most sensible

Whoever has eyes to see and ears to hear knows that the choice is between another “hundred years of conflict” ending in annihilation, and a partnership among all the inhabitants of this land.
-- Olga Document (Israel), June 2004

When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her latest “peace trip” to the Middle East last month (four decades & counting after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War), so little progress was made that even mainstream reporters waxed cynical. On March 25 the New York Times’s Helene Cooper described diplomats’ efforts as a “crawl,” and on March 27 Shmuel Rosner -- chief U.S. correspondent for the respected Israeli daily Ha’aretz -- titled his article “Disagreement is convenient.”

On the ground, though, things were more hopeful . . . if you knew where to look.

Behind the headlines

Publicly, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and every major Western government all support the two-state solution. Vociferously and unbendingly. But behind the headlines, the one-state solution is gaining traction. Here’s what Hobart College political scientist and democracy activist Virginia Tilley recently discovered (n.b.: ALL sources are cited and linked-to in the “Re:Sources” section at the end of this article):

My own recent experience in [Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Europe, and South Africa], not to mention extensive Internet activism, has confirmed that the death of the two-state solution has become the elephant in the room for diplomats, human-rights activists, and the “Arab street” alike. Judging by confidential reports, belief that a one-state solution has become inevitable is circulating within the Palestinian Authority. . . . Nor is this analysis confined to Palestinians: broad layers of diplomats and other staff from European states and the U.N. are privately discussing the one-state solution. Moreover, some of the most eloquent endorsements for such a solution are from prominent Jewish professionals in Israel and abroad.

Tilley’s observations are confirmed by a wide variety of thinkers and activists. For example, Ha’aretz Online editor Peter Hirschberg notes that “a growing number of Palestinian intellectuals” are taking up the one-state model. And Palestinian-American writer and Internet activist Ali Abunimah contends that ordinary Palestinians are significantly more supportive of the one-state solution than are Palestinian intellectuals!

In Israel, syndicated global affairs columnist Helena Cobban detects “increasing numbers of intellectuals” moving to the one-state solution. And one-state supporter Miko Peled -- son of famed Israeli General Matityahu Peled -- happily reports that “a tremendous amount of change [is] in the air.”

In the U.S., you can detect that people from every political camp may be ready for one-state:

  • Many Democrats have lost patience with the “separation wall” and the West Bank settlements (most of them still taking on settlers, btw), not to mention the never-ending violence and threats of violence by all parties to the conflict;
  • Many Republicans are appalled that after 60 years, nationalist enmity rather than economic cooperation and development is still dominating the Israeli-Palestinian agenda;
  • Many Greens are exasperated that routine everyday friendships and cooperation between the two peoples can’t seem to translate into anything larger. The U.S. Green Party has inserted into its platform a plank calling for “serious reconsideration of the creation of one secular, democratic state for Palestinians and Israelis";
  • Many Libertarians are outraged that we’re still pumping billions of dollars a year into a region full of creative and well-educated people. Jesse Walker, editor of the libertarian Reason magazine, nicely captures the spirit of the emerging one-state solution when he says, “I take a third position [on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict]: I’m pro-civilian.”

The great fear

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and many other good people are concerned that advocacy of the one-state solution is anti-Semitic, since it questions Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

In preparing this article, I came upon several texts that had anti-Semitic overtones, and I shunned them.

But the vast majority of texts I surveyed -- all from the last five years -- as well as the vast majority of thinkers and activists I’ve spoken with on this subject, do not question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Rather, they question the wisdom of its existing as a specifically Jewish state when Jewish life and culture could be equally well (and arguably more securely and benignly) preserved in that same region in a secular, democratic state that was constitutionally sensitive to the needs of all its peoples.

And lately, those thinkers and activists have gone beyond mere questioning.

Put the ideas of the most responsible advocates of the one-state solution together, as I’ve done here, and you’ll not only discern the outlines of a holistic solution that could make peace possible.

You’ll discern the outlines of a solution that could make daily political, economic, and cultural life more attractive -- for all concerned -- than would be possible if Israel and Palestine resolved themselves as two solitudes . . . two separate states.

Why one state? -- fait accompli

Today’s one-state advocates stress positive reasons for their advocacy, rather than negative or “inescapable” reasons. But the inescapables are there.

Abunimah emphasizes that no partition is ever going to be acceptable to a majority of Israelis and Palestinians (e.g., few Palestinians in the occupied territories would accept Israeli annexation of even the largest Israeli settlement villages).

In addition, long-time Israeli journalist Daniel Gavron, Palestinian negotiator Ahmad Khalidi, Tel Aviv University research director Gary Sussman, and Boulder CO-born Michael Tarazi (legal advisor to Palestinians) all stress that -- because of the Israeli settlements, the "security wall" built on Palestinian land, the Israeli-only highways and adjacent security zones, etc. -- there’s no longer a viable connection between territory and ethnicity.

You can find a silver lining in that, though.

Peled does exactly that when he notes that by, in effect, “ruling over two nations Israel is already a bi-national state.”

So does Tarazi when he says that Israel and the occupied territories “already function” as a single state, with the same aquifers, electricity grid, etc.

And human relations in Israel-Palestine are just as interconnected as the aquifers! Clemson University philosophy professor Todd May notes that there are “numerous acts particularly of economic cooperation between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.” Abunimah quotes an Israeli enthusing that “the two people[s] are completely interrelated and intertwined on every possible level. . . . In reality, Palestine is Israel today and Israel is Palestine.”

The former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, nicely sums up this line of thinking when he says, “The question is no longer whether [Israel-Palestine] will be binational, but which [one-state] model to choose.”

Why one state? -- beyond just sensible

The one-state solution is more than just a sensible adjustment to the facts, though. As presented by its post-Arafat, post-Zionism-as-religious-statehood advocates, it is both sensible and visionary. It is, in the terms of this newsletter, radical middle.

Both Israel and Palestine, as currently conceived, look backward to the 19th century, when states focused on ethnic or religious traits were the norm or at least the ideal. As New York University historian Tony Judt has suggested, the one-state solution is right for the 21st century, “a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law” -- a world of self-chosen identities where cross-cultural interaction and learning is the ideal.

A one-state solution would foster better discourse among the peoples, says Tilley. It would recast popular disputes “as ethnic arguments within a democratic polity rather than between polarized and mutually demonized Others.” In addition, having everyone in one state might make it easier for different interests (economic, cultural, professional, age-based, etc.) to “cross-cut the merely ethnic.”

Most important of all, a one-state solution might make all the peoples in the region more secure. Judt argues that “a legitimately constituted binational state would find it much easier policing militants of all kinds inside its borders than when they are free to infiltrate them from outside and can expect to appeal to an angry, excluded constituency on both sides of the border.”

Similarly, Gavron contends that “a combined military force, wherein the various Palestinian security organizations are integrated with the Israeli Defense Force, the Israeli police and [other Israeli] security services will surely have a much better chance of controlling terror and violence than one side acting on its own.”

Jeff Halper, an Israeli anthropologist, expects that the one state -- seamlessly combining the talents and energies of Israeli Jews and Palestinians -- would become one of the “leading forces for democratization and development” in the world. Gavron couldn’t agree more, claiming that “the integration of all the different peoples . . . into one pluralistic entity will release enormous forces of inventiveness [and] creativity.”

Cobban goes so far as to say that a binational Israel-Palestine “could be the start of a hopeful new chapter in human history.” The least you can say is that Iran or any other bad actor in the region might not feel compelled to bomb Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, etc., if those were centers of a Middle-East-committed, development-assistance-dispensing, multi-ethnic and multi-religious civilization.

Precedents! -- Jewish side

Although certain militants want you to believe that Jews and Arabs have always been at odds, a bit of digging reveals otherwise, as Gavron recently showed:

The Israel of the Bible was a pluralistic multi-ethnic entity. . . . King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites, and then proceeded to share it with them. He bought the site of his main alter, a threshing floor, from Arauna the Jebusite. He expanded the building of the city to admit his family, court, and administration, without necessitating the massacre or expulsion of the inhabitants. He made use of Canaanite officials, had a Hittite general, and -- after some fierce battles against them -- deployed Philistines in his army.

The second Jewish commonwealth was inhabited by the Samaritans, by settlers brought in by the Assyrians, by Hellenistic colonizers starting from the time of Alexander the Great, and others. King Herod and his successors were Idumeans, and the Nabateans inhabited the southern regions. . . .

If we think of Zionism [as the past summoned back and made to live again], then, we are not necessarily thinking of a Jewish nation-state.

Probably my favorite book about Jews is Lucy Dawidowicz’s anthology The Golden Tradition: Jewish Life and Thought in Eastern Europe (orig. 1967). It consists of over 50 snippets of memoirs of Jewish thinkers and activists from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries, and what’s striking is how few of them are Zionists. The vast majority are assimilationists, “privately” religious, or socialists of one stripe or another.

Even among the early Zionists, many appear to have shared the conviction of the influential Zionist thinker Ahad Ha’am (1856-1927) that the Jewish community in Palestine needed to serve as a “spiritual center” nourishing global Judaism. It did not need to become a Jewish nation-state. University of Montreal history professor Yakov Rabkin doesn’t overstate the case when he claims that Zionism-as-Jewish-statehood “was a minority movement shunned by most Jews.”

And even after Hitler’s rise to power, many prominent Zionists (including political philosopher Hannah Arendt, theologian Martin Buber, and Hebrew University President Judah Magnes) were calling either for one secular, democratic state from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, or for some sort of Arab-Jewish confederation. “Underlying their Zionism,” U. Mass. political science professor Leila Farsakh recently explained, “was a quest for a Jewish renaissance . . . with a determination to avoid injustice in its achievement.”

Here’s what Buber had to say to what he called “contemporary [Jewish] Samsons” in Palestine in 1939:

When we returned to our land after many hundreds of years, we behaved as though the land were empty of inhabitants -- no, even worse -- as though the people we saw didn’t affect us, as though we didn’t have to deal with them, that is, as if they didn’t see us. But they did see us. . . . We didn’t say to ourselves that there is only one way to forestall the results of [their] ever-increasing clarity of vision: to form a serious partnership with that people, to involve them earnestly in our building of the land, and to give them a share in our labor and in the fruits of our labor.

Precedents! -- Arab side

Many Palestinians remember their past in the same inclusive way as Gavron, Rabkin, and Buber. Historically, Palestine “was multicultural, multireligious,” Abunimah recently told an audience at the Palestine Center in Washington DC. And here’s Tilley in a 2006 article in a British political journal: “‘Palestinian’ has always been a multi-sectarian and multi-ethnic identity, as it is based on indigeneity to a territory whose population has always included Christians, Jews, Druze and others.”

Aron Trauring -- whose mother was a refugee from the Nazis -- praises al-Andalus, “the Islamic civilization in Spain that lasted for over 700 years. [It was] a Muslim Arab culture, where Arab rulers let Jewish and Christian culture flourish. It [was] a jewel in human history.” And Rabkin praises “elements of Ottoman rule, which had managed diversity and preserved peace in the region far better than most of its successor states.”

Abunimah harks back to the pre-1948 past, to many Palestinian Arabs’ “ordinary friendships with Palestinian Jews.”

It is a fact, he says, that many Jews were murdered by an Arab mob in Hebron in 1929 -- an incident that’s long been used to justify controversial Israeli policies. “But as the Jews of Hebron testified in 1929, most of the city’s Jewish community were saved because Muslim neighbors protected them in their own homes and tended to the wounded. How would history look today had that been the signal lesson of the event . . . ?”

Palestinian Arabs’ and Jews’ rich memories of peaceful coexistence before 1948, Abunimah contends, is “key to the new future.”

Vision -- governing

One sign that the one-state solution is becoming a popular cause -- a genuine movement -- is that advocates are not just arguing their case. They’re coming up with concrete visions of a one-state government and society.

Benvenisti says there are basically two ways you can govern a joint Israel-Palestine state. You can set up a classically “binational” structure with, e.g., separate voting lists for Arabs and Jews, or you can have one person-one vote.

Sussman agrees: “One [alternative] is a binational state, offering power-sharing to two separate peoples with distinct collective identities within one polity. . . . The [other] alternative proposes a single democratic polity, where there is no ethnic or national distinction between citizens.”

On the traditional left -- among commentators like Halper, Sussman, and U.S. journalist Daniel Lazare -- the choice is clear. As Halper puts it, “The most practical solution seems to be a unitary democratic state offering equal citizenship for all.”

Most one-state advocates are looking at governance structures that are a little more nuanced, though; a little more open to ethnic autonomy. You can’t spend much time with them or their writings without hearing references to the governance structures of Belgium, Switzerland, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and even Canada.

Abunimah waxes eloquent about Belgium:

About 60% of Belgium’s population lives in the Flemish region, while the once politically dominant Walloons comprise about a third [the parallel with Arabs and Jews in a future One State is obvious - ed.]. At the federal level, Belgium has a parliamentary system with universal suffrage. . . . It has long been a convention, however, that the federal government should have an equal number of Dutch-speaking and Flemish-speaking ministers who take decisions by consensus, and it became a constitutional requirement in the early 1990s. Other “alarm bell” procedures in the Belgian constitution include a mechanism to hold up decisions opposed by three-quarters of the people in either community. . . .

In addition to federal and regional layers of government . . . , Belgium has a parallel system of “community government.” The constitution recognizes that the country is made up of three communities: Dutch speakers, French speakers, and German speakers. Each group is entitled to elect a [national] community government with its own parliament and executive that has responsibility in education, culture, language, and even international relations in some spheres. . . . A system combining nonterritorial community governments, alongside a national government representing all citizens, if carefully crafted, could provide the basis for a stable, peaceful, and prosperous country.

Other one-state supporters, including Rabkin, the creators of the U.S. Green platform, and Mark LeVine, professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of California - Irvine, take Switzerland as their model. Rabkin says the new state “could consist of cantons sovereign in matters of culture, education, worship, internal security [? - ed.], and local law.” LeVine says,

My basic idea is . . . that the country would be split into two administrative “cantons” that would follow the current division of the territory. Of course, Jerusalem would be the capital of both the State and the two cantons. Geographically, there would obviously be at least three cantons. I say at least, because areas within Israel or Palestine (such as Jewish settlements or the Palestinian majority areas of the state of Israel in the Galilee) that would like to be part of the “other” canton could vote to join it. This is the arrangement in Switzerland, where Italian, French, and German enclaves exist within the territory of a canton whose majority is of one of the other two language groups.

The best part of the canton system, according to my Swiss friends, is that most of the tax revenues remain at the local level, which increases the power of local communities to develop along the lines most suited to them. This I think would work quite well for Israel-Palestine.

One-state advocates may be eager students of other nations’ governance structures, but they don’t feel bound by them. “Novel structures can be created,” Gavron says enthusiastically.

Vision -- military

Several one-state advocates have taken up the thorny issue of civilian protection and military defense. We’ve already described Gavron’s idea for a combined Israeli-Palestinian military and police force. LeVine wants an additional layer of security, at least at first -- the presence of “at least 100,000” NATO troops.

He also wants the state of Israel-Palestine to become a member of NATO. Not only would it then be under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Its nuclear weapons could be transferred to NATO control, ideally as part of a “Nuclear-Free Middle East” initiative that would include the simultaneous dismantling of the nuclear weapons program of Iran.

Vision -- the return

Israel insists on the “Law of Return” (permitting all Jews to immigrate to the state of Israel). Palestinians insist on the “Right of Return” (permitting all Palestinian “exiles” and their progeny to return to their homeland). These entitlements are often seen as mutually exclusive.

But not by most one-state advocates.

Gavron wants Israel and the Palestinians to relinquish both entitlements (“Israel / Palestine is already overcrowded” and the new naturalization law could leave room for the original Palestinian refugees and Jews in actual danger). But Abunimah, Halper, Khalidi, LeVine, Rabkin, Tilley, and Trauring want to preserve both, at least in some form.

Abunimah makes the basic case when he says,

Although the dangers faced by Jews around the world have clearly diminished, the Law of Return should nonetheless be preserved in order to recognize the special connection Jewish communities have with Israeli Jews. . . . As for the rights of Palestinian refugees [and their relations, 4.2 million strong], implementing them is a necessary part of justice and reconciliation. The right of return belongs to Palestinian refugees as individuals and it is not for other Palestinians or Israelis to seek to abolish it. . . . Israel has gained practical experience absorbing large numbers of immigrants, experience that will be needed to make that return successful.

Many Law of Return / Right of Return advocates offer variations on that basic case. Tilley, for example, would convert the Law of Return into a Law of Asylum (e.g., for refugees from racism, including anti-Semitism), and would ensure that the Palestinian Right of Return rewarded “indigeneity" as opposed to mere “ethnicity.”

Rabkin would broaden the Law of Return to include “Palestinian Arabs who would be entitled to reclaim their homes or obtain compensation for lost property,” and he’d require the Jewish National Fund (possessor of over 90% of the territory of Israel) to sell its lands “without discrimination to Jews and Arabs. Compensation for lost property would constitute a major source of funds to help Arabs buy real estate and reduce the existing development gap between the two groups.”

Exactly how would lost property be returned and / or compensated? Abunimah takes a very sensible position when he says, “In [many] cases it may not be in the public interest to allow return to original properties [so Palestinians] will have to accept compensation. . . . Impartial bodies could be set up to adjudicate claims, and a commitment made by all that no one will be left destitute by the process. . . . Once there is a commitment to equality and a system for enforcing rights, it is possible to devise many solutions that do justice without creating new victims.”

Vision -- society

Some one-state advocates, such as traditional leftists and libertarians, foresee what Walker calls “one binational country with . . . separation of church and state.” But most one-state advocates add caveats.

Abunimah, for example, wants a state that’s “neutral among religious groups” and “does not interfere in the affairs of religious communities,” but does provide assistance to religious schools and other religious institutions. His main concern is making sure that all state aid is distributed in a “nondiscriminatory, transparent, and equitable manner.”

LeVine hopes that the new state “would commission a new school curriculum and other public education measures designed to educate all the people of the state about the most accurate understanding of the history of the country and its two peoples.”

A more colorful way of trumpeting the mutual respect of the peoples in the new state was recently suggested by Gavron -- introducing the three-day weekend!

“Ancient Israel gave the world the Sabbath,” he explains. “The [new state] could offer the world the three-day weekend, [derived from] Muslim-Jewish-Christian [practices]. A four-day working week . . . interspersed with constructive leisure.”

One of the diciest tasks of the new state’s Founding Mothers and Fathers will be coming up with an appropriate name. My own suggestion, “Palestein” (an ethnically enriched variant of “Palestine”), is dead on arrival, I’m sure. But Gavron’s suggestion, the “State of Jerusalem” -- “Yerushalayim” in Hebrew, “Ursalim al-Kuds” in Arabic -- has merit. So does Rabkin’s suggestion, Abrahamia (or Ibrahimia) -- as he explains, “it would recall an important common ancestor recognized by Muslims, Christians, and Jews.”

LeVine suggests the more prosaic “State of Israel-Palestine” (Eretz-Yisra’el-Palestina in Hebrew, Filastin-Isra’il in Arabic). Why in that order in English? “Because in both ancient and modern history, ‘Israel’ existed before ‘Palestine’ as a political and geographic category.”

Abunimah also prefers the joint name, at least for now. “Perhaps in time,” he says, “when a more common identity has developed, some other term will emerge.”

Emerging strategy

Over the last few years, a strategy to convince the residents of Israel-Palestine to move in the one-state direction has begun to emerge. It consists of at least 10 prongs:

1. Develop a vision of common citizenship. The Olga Document puts it beautifully when it speaks of “advancing the vision of living together.” Abunimah is on the same wavelength when he states, “It is only through shattering taboos [and] questioning long-held assumptions . . . that we can move the idea of coexistence in a single state from the far margins to the center of discussion.”

2. Develop a vision of the worldly future. It is not enough to imagine peace within; it is also necessary to imagine an exciting common worldly future. Otherwise you’ll end up with two mutually accepting peoples who are both overinclined to look backward and feel oppressed and apart! Gavron is getting at one such future when he says, “Israel is famous for being second only to the U.S. in high-tech start-ups. Less well-known is the fact that, until the [second intifada], the Palestinians produced most of the world’s Arabic software."

Similarly, Israeli futurist Tsvi Bisk (see very end of Re:Sources section below) foresees a future focused on providing services and expertise -- rather than agriculture or even manufactured goods -- to other nations. In the Gavron-Bisk future, Israel-Palestine would help usher developing and even developed nations into the globally interconnected world of the 21st century!

3. Initiate public discussions of the one-state solution. So far, the Olga Document -- signed by over 100 Israelis in 2004, and explicitly intended “to start off a genuine public discussion” -- has been the most successful initiative along these lines. A genuine public discussion “is exactly what needs to happen now,” says Abunimah, “not only among Israeli Jews but among Palestinians and all who desire peace.”

4. Reassure Israeli Jews of their security and rights. Because Israeli Jews would be outnumbered in a joint Israeli-Palestinian state, one-state advocates need to work overtime to convince them that they won’t lose out in the future. Farsakh and Halper caution activists to criticize current policies, not Israeli Jewish society or culture. Tilley suggests a “range of conciliatory gestures” as was done in South Africa -- e.g., formal “statements toward a ‘rainbow nation’” and “international guarantees.”

Abunimah, too, looks to South Africa, and notes that the Freedom Charter adopted by the African National Congress in 1955 put forward -- against the wishes of militant black nationalists -- the claim that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.” Abunimah laments that the early Palestinian national movement was unable “to build a consensus around a clear, simple, and inclusive alternative like the Freedom Charter.”

5. Organize a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The authors of the U.S. Green Platform call for establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission “whose inaugurating action would be mutual acknowledgement by Israelis and Palestinians that they have the same basic rights, including the right to exist in the same, secure place.” LeVine wants the Commission to help citizens learn an “accurate” history of Israel-Palestine and its peoples.

Tilley agrees that the discussions and experiences a Truth Commission could generate “might [help] surmount the legacy of violence and hatred,” but cautions that “the process will take generations.” I suspect few one-state advocates share her pessimism. The U.S. South transformed itself in under one generation, once the U.S. government finally put its shoulder to the wheel there.

6. Engage in civil disobedience. Abunimah urges mobilizing large numbers of people in “civil disobedience and mass demonstrations that [would] make the system of walls, checkpoints, land confiscations, and new settlements ungovernable and unworkable.” And he adds, “There can be no place in this struggle for violence that targets Israeli civilians.” (What about human beings, period?) Walker urges a Martin Luther King-like strategy of prolonged civil disobedience. “The Palestinians are not strangers to such methods,” he explains. “The tactics of the first intifada, after all, included mass protests and a tax revolt.”

7. Form a political party calling for the one-state solution. This may happen sooner rather than later. According to Sussman, Fatah leader Qaddura Faris “claims that he has [already] been approached to form a party promoting a one-state solution.”

8. Have the human-rights community apply pressure. Halper, Khalidi, and others are banking on this. Tilley goes so far as to say, “The transnational human-rights community may now comprise the only agent capable of creating the political space in which the diplomatic community might be brought to [publicly] consider a one-state solution.”

9. Have the U.S. apply pressure. Why not? It’s in our long-term interest to see not just peace but reconciliation and synergy among creative Semitic peoples. Even the U.S. Green Party platform -- hardly a shill for U.S. government involvement in other nations’ affairs -- states, “We encourage a new U.S. diplomatic initiative to begin the long process of negotiation, laying the groundwork for . . . a single-state constitution.”

10. Have both diaspora peoples apply pressure. “Diaspora Jews . . . should make their real voices heard in the European Union, Russia, and the U.S.,” says Rabkin. “The vast majority of Jews are citizens of these political entities, which gives their governments more than a geo-strategic interest in . . . transform[ing the Israeli] nation-state and the territories it occupies into a confederation that would ensure the safety of all its inhabitants.”  As I write, Abunimah is attempting to reach and move the Palestinians of the diaspora -- through his book, his speeches across the U.S., and his relentless Internet activism.

Prospects -- the “chosen peoples”?

Polls measuring support for the one-state solution are notoriously changeable and unreliable, among Palestinians and Israelis both. (Recent polls are discussed at some length in Abunimah’s book and in Tilley’s 2006 article.) Probably the most you can say for such polls is that -- as Tilley puts it -- their “very fluidity” over the last 10 years suggests an intense sensitivity to the “political context.”

So our task, as one-state advocates, is to work on that political context. To make the kinds of arguments that do not demonize Israelis or Palestinians, but that encourage them to join together, face the future together, and realize that -- as the Olga Document puts it -- “we are brothers and sisters, not eternal enemies as the well-poisoners profess.”

In that sense, Israelis and Palestinians may be the “chosen peoples” of our time. For we all urgently need to learn that lesson.



For some fascinating responses to this article, see HERE (look under May 15 and May 1, 2007).


This article was based on the following texts. I confined myself to texts from the last five years that address difficult issues with a minimum of animus. All but the Abunimah book are freely accessible online:

Ali Abunimah (American Web activist & children’s services researcher), “One Country,” speech at the Palestine Center, Washington DC, 28 November 2006

Ali Abunimah (bio above), One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, Metropolitan Books / Henry Holt, 2006

Meron Benvenisti (Israeli political scientist & former deputy mayor of Jerusalem), “Which Kind of Binational State,” Ha’aretz, 20 November 2003

Martin Buber (theologian & philosopher, 1878-1965), “Our Pseudo-Samsons” [n.b.: you’ll have to scroll two-thirds of the way down], orig. Davar newspaper, 5 June 1939; reprinted in Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, eds., Wrestling with Zion, Grove Press, 2003

Helena Cobban (British-born author & syndicated columnist on global affairs), “A Binational Israel-Palestine,” Christian Science Monitor, 9 October 2003

Leila Farsakh (assistant professor of political science at University of Massachusetts), “Time for a Bi-national State,” Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2007

Daniel Gavron (Israeli author & journalist), “The Real Fault Line,” Ha’aretz, 19 August 2005

Daniel Gavron (bio above), “The State of Jerusalem,” HopeWays.org, c. 2005

Green Party of the U.S., “A Real Road to Peace in the Middle East,” pp. 13-14 of Green Party Platform 2004, June 2004

Jeff Halper (Israeli anthropologist), “One State,” speech at the UN International Conference on Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People, New York NY, 5 September 2003

Peter Hirschberg (editor of Ha’aretz Online), “One-State Awakening,” Ha’aretz, 16 December 2003

Tony Judt (British-born historian & director of the Remarque Institute at New York University), “Israel: The Alternative,” New York Review of Books, 23 October 2003

Ahmad Khalidi (Palestinian writer & former negotiator), “A One-State Solution,” The Guardian (Britain), 29 September 2003

Daniel Lazare (New York author & journalist), “The One-State Solution,” The Nation, 3 November 2003

Mark LeVine (professor of modern Middle Eastern history at University of California-Irvine), “The State of Israel-Palestine,” History News Network, 29 July 2006

Todd May (professor of philosophy at Clemson University), “Toward a True Democratic State in the Middle East,” CounterPunch, 9 September 2004

Olga Document (Prof. Anat Biletzki et al.), statement issued at Giv’at Olga, Israel, June 2004, and signed by over 100 Israeli Jewish academics and activists

Miko Peled (Israeli living in U.S. & son of Israeli General Matityahu Peled), “The Answers Have Changed,” Znet, 10 January 2007

Yakov Rabkin (professor of history at University of Montreal), “A Glimmer of Hope, a State of All Its Citizens,” Tikkun Magazine, July / August 2002

Gary Sussman (director of research and program development, Hartog School of Government and Policy, Tel Aviv University), “The Challenge to the Two-State Solution,” Middle East Report, Summer 2004

Michael Tarazi (Colorado-born legal advisor to the PLO), “Two Peoples, One State,” New York Times, 4 October 2004

Virginia Tilley (associate professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges [one entity in upstate New York] & chief research specialist in democracy and governance at South Africa’s statutory research agency), “The One-State Solution,” London Review of Books, 6 November 2003

Virginia Tilley (bio above), “The Secular Solution,” New Left Review, March-April 2006

Aron Trauring (U.S.-born Israeli software developer now returned to the U.S., one of whose sons was an Israeli military “refusenik”), “Al-Andalus: The Promised Land,” Aron’s Israel Peace Weblog, 6 January 2003

Jesse Walker (managing editor of Reason Magazine, “the libertarian monthly”), “Burying Yasser Arafat: Let’s Bury More than His Body,” Reason, 16 November 2004

Besides the Abunimah book above, at least two other books favoring the one-state solution have been written by the authors above over the last five years: Daniel Gavron, The Other Side of Despair: Jews and Arabs in the Promised Land (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), and Virginia Tilley, The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock (Univ. of Michigan Press, 2005).

For brief pieces by Ahad Ha’am, Judah Magnes, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, I.F. Stone, and other early supporters of what I’m calling a one-state solution, see Section 1 of Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, eds., Wrestling with Zion (Grove, 2003). Section 1 is partially online HERE.

For rebuttals to the one-state solution, see Alan Dershowitz, Peace in an Unpeaceful World,” American Jewish Life Magazine (September / October 2006) (also available as chap. 2 of Dershowitz, The Case for Peace, Wiley, 2005), and Leon Wieseltier, What is Not to be Done,” The New Republic (27 October 2003). Note the many debater’s tricks in both of these.

For the standard Israeli “narrative,” see Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (Wiley, 2003). For the standard Palestinian “narrative,” see Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Beacon, 2006).

Although Israeli futurist Tsvi Bisk supports disengagement from the occupied territories (as distinct from the one-state solution), his exciting, positive vision for the future of his land -- high-tech and humane -- is shared by many one-state advocates. See the reviews of his $75 book Futurizing the Jews by Lane Jennings in The Futurist (January-February 2005) and Natalie Dian on the Jewish Futures Network Web site (31 May 2004). He runs the Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking in Kfar Saba, Israel.


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