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The 'Two-state Solution' Only Ever Meant a Big Israel Ruling Over a Palestinian Bantustan. Let It Go

When the Jewish 'hard' left leads the battle for one state, pushing the only political horizon that isn't apartheid, U.S. Jews attack us - for fighting for the same democratic values they prize so highly back home. The Netanyahu government has already deliberately, systematically and effectively eliminated the two-state solution.

One of several proposed flags for the unified state of 'Isratine',Wikimedia

In his Haaretz op-ed (What the 'One-state Solution' Really Means: Israeli-sanctioned Apartheid or Eternal, Bloody Civil War) Eric Yoffie asks: "Are there not sane Israelis - left, right, and especially center - who comprehend the dangers of [a one-state solution]?"

That question could be posed just as well in reverse: What else has to happen before Israelis, left, right and center, finally realize that their government has already deliberately, systematically and effectively eliminated the two-state solution?

Yoffie proposes a false symmetry: a "hard" left and a "hard" right both supporting, de facto or explicitly, a single bi-national state, while a putative future Israeli government will once again embody a "proud, liberal and democratic Jewish homeland," living peacefully alongside its Palestinian neighbor in a two-state solution.  

This is a skewered view, to say the least. In fact, every Israeli government since 1967 has failed to live up to those proud liberal values by pursuing an expanded Israel ruling over a truncated Palestinian Bantustan, even if they did it under the guise of a "two-state solution."


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Palestinian girls play at their family's house in Khan Younis, Gaza. March 10, 2015

credit: רויטרס // Haaretz

Within weeks of the start of the occupation in 1967, the Allon Plan (under Labor prime minister Levi Eshkol) already proposed Israel annexing territory surrounding and isolating the Palestinian population centers.

This plan has guided Israeli settlement policy these past 50 years and is today an irreversible fait accompli. When the Oslo "peace process" began, there were 200,000 settlers (and, yes, I do include East Jerusalem, which is occupied, regardless of what Israel and the Trump Administration claim).

By Oslo’s end in 2000, there were 400,000 settlers in massive "settlement blocs" that fragmented the Palestinian territory into some 70 tiny enclaves of Areas A and B, plus the prison that is Gaza. Today, the settler population approaches 800,000.

A banner supporting the creation of a single state for Israelis and Palestinians: 'If I had to choose between one state and two states, I would choose one state.' Ramallah, West Bank. Feb. 23, 2017

credit: Nasser Nasser/AP // Haaretz

If the two-state solution is gone, it is because of successive "sane" Israelis in government, in particular those of Golda Meir and Ehud Barak, as well as of the Likud, Kadima and the religious right, and the Zionist left, "hard" right, and the always malleable center that put them into office.

Netanyahu and the religious right proclaim the end of two states from the rooftops, while both parties of the Zionist left, Labor and Meretz, have effectively abandoned the struggle for peace, declaring themselves "social democratic" parties concerned primarily with domestic Israeli affairs. Labor leaders, particularly, have for several years explicitly agreed with the Likud that "the time is not ripe for a two-state solution."

If any sector of Israeli society ever genuinely supported the two-state solution, it was the "hard" left - to the left of Meretz - which fought tirelessly for it outside of every government (and let’s be honest, the Palestinian Authority under Arafat and Abbas have also supported it, even when Israeli governments were eating away at it).

Who, if not the extraparliamentary left, continually demonstrated against the building of settlements, an enterprise pursued as vigorously by Labor as by the Likud? 

When, in 1999, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared after the collapse of the Camp David negotiations, that "There was no [Palestinian] partner for peace," the Israeli Jewish public, including Meretz, Peace Now and the rest of the "Zionist left," abandoned the search for a just peace – but not the "hard" left that has stayed engaged even as the two-state solution has disappeared before our eyes.

But Yoffie is also wrong about how he characterizes what he calls the "hard left's" one-statism. Left groups who acknowledge the death of the two-state solution have not moved to a one-state alternative – at least not yet. Jewish Voice for Peace, which Yoffie demonizes because of its support for BDS, does not actively advocate for such a solution. And the rest of the "hard" left is still wrestling with where to go.

Although many of us still support the two-state solution as a workable, if not just, solution, it cannot mean apartheid. If the "hard" left has indeed, moved to a one-state solution, it is simply because we have had the courage to recognize political reality and the "facts on the ground": The two-state solution died when the settlement enterprise reached a critical mass, when the fragmentation of Palestinian territory rendered a viable and sovereign Palestinian state no longer possible.

We are now left with only one way out. We must transform the single apartheid state Israel has created into a democratic state of equal rights for all its citizens. A democracy – which shouldn’t be a terribly foreign concept to an American like Yoffie, or to Israelis who claim their country is the only democracy in the Middle East.

The "hard" left must now lead the battle for a single, democratic, bi-national state in Israel/Palestine, not because we wanted to, but because it was Yoffie’s "sane" Zionists that left us with this as the only possible option to apartheid. It is the only way to prevent Jews becoming the Afrikaaners of the Middle East, or worse.

A rainbow over Palestinians in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. January 15, 2018

credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters // Haaretz


This is a challenge that will truly liberate both peoples, a positive project of a new generation of cultural Zionists. We need a state which offers equal rights to all of its citizens – one citizenship, one vote, one parliament – but which constitutionally ensures the right of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs to their identities, narratives and institutions.

There is no reason to believe this would lead to "endless and bloody civil war", as Yoffie claims. Israeli Jews would have the right to live anywhere including the settlements; Palestinian refugees can come home; a common civil society would emerge; economically, the country would flourish, supported by two parallel affluent and educated Diasporas, Jewish and Palestinian.

This is the challenge the "hard" left must work to bring to reality. Like it or not, it is all that that the "sane" Zionists touted by Yoffie, together with the "hard" right Zionists that rule us, have left us.

[Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He is an Israeli anthropologist, and the author of War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (London, Pluto Books, 2015).]

Hundreds of Israeli Rabbis Say They Will Personally Hide African Asylum-Seekers in Their Homes

By Sarah Birnbaum

January 19, 2018
PRI's The World (Public Radio International)

South Sudanese disembark from a plane from Israel after getting deported back to Juba, June 18, 2012.

Credit: Adriane Ohanesia/Reuters // PRI

Hundreds of Israeli rabbis, including the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, announced a bold initiative this week: They say they will personally hide African asylum-seekers in their homes, to protect them from a new Israeli immigration policy.

Tens of thousands of African asylum-seekers, largely from Sudan and Eritrea, live in Israel. The government has announced the refugees have 90 days to accept $3,500 in cash and a one-way ticket home to an unnamed third country in Africa, or go to jail.

Human rights groups and news reports have reported that the unnamed third country is Rwanda or Uganda. And there’s evidence to suggest that once there, the migrants face exploitation, abuse and trafficking.

Rabbi Susan Silverman — an activist, writer and rabbi who immigrated to Israel from Boston in 2006 — says it’s time to fight back. That’s why she came up with the Anne Frank Home Sanctuary Movement to house refugees in private homes.

Silverman says the name comes from a story she heard about an Eritrean refugee who came to Israel.

“When he left Eritrea, he was in an Ethiopian refugee camp where, in the library, he read 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' He had never heard of her before.” Silverman says.

She says the man was so moved by the story that he translated the book into the African language Tigrinya and decided to make the treacherous journey to Israel. “And as he was heading for Israel on this harrowing, harrowing trip he said to himself, ‘the people of Anne Frank will protect me.’”

Not everyone shares Silverman’s point of view. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the African refugees “illegal infiltrators.” He has called the influx of migrants a threat to Israel’s social fabric and Jewish character. One government minister has referred to the refugees as “a cancer.” And polling conducted in 2012 found widespread support for that statement.  

Silverman says she’s aware of the risks of opposing the government’s position on immigration. And there's the concern she and other activists could face jail time for harboring African refugees. But as she sees it, there’s no other choice.

“My dad taught Holocaust Studies,” she says. “And he always said, ‘If you want to know what you would have been doing in Germany, ask yourself what you’re doing for people at risk in the world today.’ And I always thought that’s a pretty good rule of thumb.”

To hear Susan Silverman’s entire interview with The World’s Marco Werman, click on the audio link below.

To listen to the full interview, click here.