End of the Two-State Solution
In order to try to create an exclusively Jewish state in what had been the culturally diverse land of Palestine, Israel’s founders expelled or drove into flight half of Palestine’s Muslim and Christian population and seized their land, their houses, and their property (furniture, clothing, books, personal effects, family heirlooms), in what Palestinians call the nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948.
Even while demanding—rightly—that no one should forget the Jewish people’s history of suffering, and above all the Holocaust, Israel has insisted ever since 1948 not merely that the Palestinians must forget their own history, but that what it calls peace must be premised on that forgetting, and hence on the Palestinians’ renunciation of their rights. As Israel’s foreign minister has said, if the Palestinians want peace, they must learn to strike the word “nakba” from their lexicon.
Some must never forget, while others, clearly, must not be allowed to remember. Far from mere hypocrisy, this attitude perfectly expresses the Israeli people’s mistaken belief that they can find the security they need at the expense of the Palestinians, or that one people’s right can be secured at the cost of another’s.
Little wonder such an approach has not delivered peace. The only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to end the denial of rights that fuels it, and to ensure that both peoples’ rights are equally protected.
For some years it was thought that peace could be obtained by sidestepping the central fact of the nakba, and creating a Palestinian statelet in what remained of Palestine after 1948, namely, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967.
But such a two-state solution is no longer possible. The inescapable fact is that one state controls all of the land, and it has done so for over 40 years, affirming one people’s right to live, marry, work and settle by negating another people’s right to do the same, on land that two peoples—not just one—call home.
The only question now is how much longer this negation can go on, and how long it will be before a state premised on it is superseded by its opposite, an affirmative, genuinely democratic, secular and multi-cultural state, the only kind that can offer Jewish Israelis and Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike a future free of discrimination, occupation, fear and violence.
The question, in other words, is not whether there will be a one-state solution, but when; and how much needless suffering there will be in the meantime, until those who are committed to the project of creating and maintaining a religiously exclusivist state in what was historically a culturally and religiously heterogeneous land finally relent and accept the inevitable: that they have failed.
This last point is especially important, because the conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians is—and has always been––driven by the notion that hundreds of years of cultural heterogeneity and plurality could be negated overnight by the creation of a state with a single cultural and religious identity.
It hardly matters that that identity was never as homogeneous as Zionists like to claim: witness Israel’s methodical de-Arabization of its Mizrahi (Arab-Jewish) population in the 1950s and 1960s, or the perennial debate over “who is a Jew”—an unseemly question that in Israel is not merely a matter of arcane theological exegesis but tied directly to matters of citizenship, nationality, and law.
Israel’s claim to an exclusive Jewish identity—as symbolized by its flag—has been sustained ever since 1948 by denying the moral and legal right of return of those Palestinians expelled during the nakba, by forms of legalized discrimination inside the state, and by the maintenance of a much more violent system of apartheid in the territories Israel has militarily occupied since 1967.
—guardian.co.uk, July 28, 2008