Robin Yassin-Kassab

Four Solutions

with 9 comments

artist Marc Rudin

artist Marc Rudin

This was published at The Palestine Chronicle.

I do not hate (Israelis) for being Jewish or Israeli but because of what they have done to us. Because of the acts of occupation. It is difficult to forget what was done to us. But if the reason for the hate will not exist, everything is possible. But if the reason remains, it is impossible to love. First we must convince in general and in principle that we have been wronged, then we can talk about 67 or 48. You still do not recognize that we have rights. The first condition for change is recognition of the injustice we suffered.”

– Said Sayyam, martyred in Gaza January 2009, to Ha’aretz, November 1995.

All Palestine is controlled by Zionism. The Palestinians (not counting the millions in exile) are half the population of Israel-Palestine, but they are victims of varying degrees of apartheid. The Jewish state has already lost its Jewish majority, and is more hated by the Arab peoples than at any time in its brief, violent history. Let’s take it as given that continuation of the present situation is untenable for everyone concerned. We need a solution.

There are four solutions. The first is for the Arabs to push the Jews into the sea. On the surface this seems like a reasonably just solution. It is, after all, what the Algerians and Vietnamese did with the French, what the Kenyans and Indians did with the British, what the Chinese did with the Japanese: they expelled their oppressive colonist class in order to achieve national independence. In the Palestinian context, all Jews who arrived with the waves of Zionist invasion would be sent home. And this is what most Palestinians understood by the ‘democratic secular state’ which the PLO called for until the 1980s.

There are two problems. The first is that most Israeli Jews don’t have a home to be sent to. They captured their colony not only out of desire for plunder, but also out of the trauma of displacement and genocide. Several generations of Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews have now been born in the colony. They have their own distinct culture and national identity. In these respects they are similar to the Afrikaans-speaking Boers of South Africa, to contain whom the British invented the concentration camp.

The second problem with the Swimming Jews Solution is that ‘the Jewish state’ possesses a vast fleet of war planes, massive financial, political and military support from the rich white world, and nuclear bombs. It is quite impossible for any combination of Arab or Muslim forces to physically annihilate the settlers without large chunks of the Arab world also being annihilated.

The second solution is called in Israel ‘transfer’. It means pushing the Arabs into the sea. This solution is difficult to distentangle from the present situation, as a slow ethnic cleansing – through destruction of homes, disruption of education, massacres, land confiscation, theft of water resources – has continued after the mass expulsions of 47/ 48 and 67. The ‘transfer’ solution involves another mass expulsion, of the Palestinians in the ‘occupied territories’ or of those in ‘Israel proper’, or of both. Open proponents of transfer now have more seats in the Knesset than the Labour Party. (This means that the ‘centre-left’ of the Israeli spectrum is occupied by those responsible for the Gaza massacre.) Avigdor Lieberman’s ‘no loyalty, no citizenship’ slogan points to Zionism’s growing discomfort with its existential demographic crisis. Inside ‘Israel proper’ Palestinians are 20% of the population, and more fertile than the Jewish population. If circumstances (such as a major regional war) permit, these Arabs could be driven out. If circumstances don’t permit, the Jewish state will have to intensify its concentration of these people and turn partial into total disenfranchisement. The heads of Likud, Labour and Kadima all called for Arab parties to be banned from the recent elections. The high court didn’t allow it this time, but it’s a sign of things to come. It goes without saying that a further mass expulsion will be vigorously resisted by all forces in the region. It is unlikely that even Zionised America would stand for it.

Disenfranchisement and the concentration of populations into ghettos brings us to the third solution: partition. And this looks like the consensus solution. Olmert, Barak and Livni support it. All the Arab states support it. George Bush and Tony Blair support it. Liberal ‘peace activists’ the world over support it. Abbas and Dahlan support it. Since the late 80s the PLO and then the Palestinian Authority have repeatedly declared that they would accept a state on 22% of Palestine. Hamas too has repeatedly expressed its willingness to abide by any solution accepted by the people, and has said specifically that the conflict would become ‘cultural’ if the occupation of the territories captured in 1967 ends.

22% of their own country. Has any other people throughout history made such a compromise? But the best the Palestinians have ever been offered (at Camp David 2) was 16%. According to Ali Abunimah, the Israeli offer

“…depicted a Palestinian ‘state’ in 76.6% of the West Bank, broken into pieces, with all the major settlements remaining in place under Israeli sovereignty. Israel would annex 13.3% outright and continue to occupy the remaining 10.1% for a period of up to thirty years, during which time there would be no restriction on Israel continuing to build settlements and infrastructure….It should be noted that even before these percentages were calculated, the Israelis already subtracted East Jerusalem and the territorial waters of the Dead Sea, so, in fact, the 76% offer was based not on 100% of the occupied territories, but only on those parts that Israel was prepared to discuss. Leaving aside the disjointed nature of this ‘state’, its territory would amount to just 16% of historic Palestine..”

When Arafat turned this down, Israelis including the pretend peace camp, with the help of Bill Clinton and the western media, trotted out the old propaganda line about the Palestinians never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Everyone that mattered agreed that there would never again be such a generous Israeli offer. The unofficial Beilin/ Yasser Abd Rabbo Geneva Plan – which excited liberal peacelovers so much – didn’t dramatically change the shape of the imagined ‘state’: Palestinian cities would be cramped between annexed settlement blocks and so would have no room for growth. Palestinians would have non-sovereign autonomy over little bits, following the South African bantustan model. Whatever the rhetoric, every partition plan centres on securing Palestinian agreement to bantustan autonomy.

There will never be two sovereign states peacefully coexisting between the Jordan and the sea. Gaza – cramped behind a wall, impoverished and traumatised, cut off from its natural markets – is a better image of what the two state solution would look like.

Partition would involve tremendous pain for both Jews and Arabs. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers would have to be moved. Jews would never be able to live next to their holy sites on the West Bank. (The West Bank has far greater historical and religious significance to Jews than the coastal plain where the Jewish population is currently concentrated). Palestinian refugees would never be able to return to their villages and cities in the Jewish state.

Even if the will was there, a viable partition is no longer possible. Israel-Palestine has one highly integrated transport and water infrastructure. It’s a great infrastructure; the problem is that many roads are for Jews only, and the water for settler swimming pools rather than for Palestinians to drink.

And even if partition was possible, if there was a sovereign state on all of the 67 lands and no return of refugees to Israel proper, Israel’s demographic crisis would continue to grow. Even with two states, solution number two, the transfer solution, would become inevitable.

Unless we think creatively – which means thinking beyond the dominant forms of Zionism. It means thinking of the fourth solution, which is in fact the only solution: one binational state, in which Jews, Muslims and Christians have equal rights and responsibilities, in which both Arab and Jewish histories and identities are respected and protected. It’s hard to imagine, but we can start by thinking of Israel-Palestine as it is now, but without walls, fences and checkpoints, without Jews-only roads and Jews-only settlements, without discriminatory laws. The state would still house a thriving Hebrew culture, but it would also allow a Levantine Arab culture to fully express itself.

Israeli Jews worry that, as a minority, they would be oppressed or expelled. The answer is that the constitution of the state would have to guarantee communal as well as individual rights. The constitution could in turn be guaranteed by the United Nations and a collection of superpowers. An American threat of force to defend a democratic constitution would make a lot more sense than current American threats to defend apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

It isn’t easy for a settler society to get over its fear of the oppressed. F. W. de Klerk said,

“For white South Africans acceptance of a one-man, one-vote solution evoked very much the same fears and reaction that could be expected from Israelis were they ever asked to consign their fate to a one-man, one-vote election in a greater Israel/ Palestine in which they would be heavily outnumbered.”

But still in South Africa the settler society, when faced with native resistance and international sanctions, managed to confront its fears and to move to a better future.

Israeli Jews may also worry that Palestinians intend to build an Islamic state. After all, didn’t the Palestinians vote for Hamas? This fear betrays ignorance of the Palestinian people, who voted for Hamas in protest against Fatah’s corruption and collaboration with the occupation. Many Palestinians are strict Muslims, but opinion polls show that only 3% support the establishment of an authoritarian Islamic state. Hamas knows this, which is why it has made no moves to impose sharia law since it came to power. In any case, if Islamist ideas strengthen in the future, creative thinking offers ways of allowing religious and secular, Islamic and Jewish communities to coexist. There are already three education systems available to Israeli Jews: secular, orthodox and ultra-orthodox.

Before Zionism, not very long ago, relations between Jews and Arabs were generally good. Sometimes Arab sectarianism targetted Jews (and sometimes Shia and other groups), but the more representative story is of Jews living safely and prosperously in the Arab world. Nothing remotely resembling Hitler’s racist genocide or the Russian pogroms happened to Arab Jews. On several occasions Arab and Muslim powers gave sanctuary to Jews fleeing European persecution. Even after the bitterness of this conflict, Jews and Arabs could be friends again, and more than friends. A state with a large and powerful Jewish population would no more offend its Arab neighbours than a state with a large and powerful Christian population (Lebanon) or a large and powerful Shia population (Iraq). And once Palestinians receive the rights they deserve, they will have no reason to be angry and resentful. Recognise them as equals, seek to understand them, and your fear will dissolve.

This was a response to Ali Abunimah’s excellent little book “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.”

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

February 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Posted in book review, Palestine, Zionism

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9 Responses

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  1. qunfuz,

    I disagree with “the second problem” to the first solution. Israel’s military superiority cannot last, nor are nuclear weapons a guarantee of security. There are ways to suppress Israel’s nuclear response, but it would require a level of planning and finance and technology that the Arabs don’t have yet, but may one day.

    Further, I disagree that Arab-Jewish relations can ever return to the way they were. Unlike the fate of Christian Arabs after the Crusades, when things pretty much returnded to normal (for better or worse), Jewish/Israeli crimes were/are far worse and far better known (due to modern technology and media) than those of the Crusaders, so that anti-Jewish sentiments woud be harder to forget.

    Further, Arab Jews have fully integrated themselves in Israel and are today often some of the most viciously anti-Arab of Israeli Jews, while Arab Christians 800 years ago did no such thing vis-a-vis the Frankish invaders.

    I suggest that given the inherently racist nature of Zionism, and the lack of incentive/pressure for Zionists/Israelis to change, any of the “peaceful” solutions you offered are untenable.


    February 16, 2009 at 12:48 am

  2. Dar – In the long term you may be right about the military balance. Hizbullah has gone a long way to showing what could be achieved. But I still think it is unrealistic to expect all the Jews to leave Palestine. So much effort has gone into the Jewish state idea that it is bound to continue in some shape or form. And personally I have no problem with it IF IT DOES NOT DISADVANTAGE THE PALESTINIANS.

    I don’t agree with your sweeping statements about Arab-Jewish relations. What about the Jew Norman Finkelstein who met the Hizbullah leadership and then told Mustaqbal TV “Israel has to be defeated”. What about Ilan Pappe, the anti-Zionist Israeli Jew who has done more than anyone to reveal the racism and ethnic cleansing at the heart of Zionism. What about the Neturei Karta Orthodox who call for the destruction of the Zionist state? These are, in their different ways, proud Jews, and proud anti-Zionists. I would be proud to have any of these people as a neighbour. I would be disgusted to have certain Arab dictators or pro-Zionist ‘liberals’ as my neighbours. The problem is not an ethnic or religious group, but the Zionist ideology, which arose for historical reasons and will one day pass away for historical reasons.

    Are you aware how very bad relations between blacks and whites were in South Africa only 10 years before the end of apartheid? Very very bad indeed.

    Your last paragraph misunderstands me. Before there can be a peaceful solution, the racist nature of Zionism must change. Of course. And it must be changed through a combination of incentive and pressure. Of course. The incentive is the vision I have presented here, of a post-Zionist state in which Jews can be happy and free, but without oppressing the Arabs. The ANC offered white south africans a similar vision. if the choice for white south africans had been ‘leave or die’ they would have fought to the bitter end and SA today would be a wasteland. The choice offered to the whites was ‘change or die.’ I think we should say the same to Israeli Jews. And the pressure is resistance of various forms, and international sanctions and divestment. We need to build the pressure and build the incentive at the same time.

    Of course the one state seems very distant. But let’s make a start.


    February 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm

  3. Seriously Robin,are you not being a little naive here.When people like Ali abuminah ,Ghada Karmi talk about a One state solution what they really have in mind is the Algerian solution as well.They know however that western liberals would never support this so to get them on board they talk about a Binational state.Karmi has even said this in a talk she gave in Perth last year.The real solution is to give the Israeli population American,Canadian and Australian citizenships. Im sure in time even they the Israelis will see this as the only way forward.In that part of the world minorities do not have a good time of it even groups that have been there since the start of time such as the Christian population in Egypt.Now can you only imagine how a Jewish minority would far.It would be a thousand times worse that this.


    February 16, 2009 at 10:06 pm

  4. anonymous – can you give me a reference for that Ghada Karmi lecture? It is most disturbing if she really said that, becuase it shows great intellectual dishonesty.

    Very many Israelis already have second passports, and many already live outside the country. But still, after all the effort put into Zionism, and the fact that there is a Hebrew-speaking national community which didn’t exist before, I doubt that Israeli Jews would accept the Algerian solution. The binational state, which I admit is still pure imagination, seems more realistic.

    As for minorities in the Middle East, I don’t think the current nightmares in Iraq and Lebanon need to be taken as representative. Jews in Iraq did pretty well until the parallel rise of Zionism and chauvinistic Arabism. I have a Syrian auntie (married to my Sunni Muslim uncle) who is a Jew. It’s only personal, but her comfortable existence tells me we can get over the sectarian thing which blights us all.


    February 16, 2009 at 11:55 pm

  5. It is obvious that Zionists do not want anything but the second option: mass deportation of all non-Jews from Palestine or even their physical annihilation SS-style. The recent attack on Gaza with all kind of murderous weapons may be an aperitiff of the Final Solution the Zionists may soo implement if we don’t stop them now.

    This basically excludes the two-states solution, just something to talk about while the Zionists find the occasion to go further with their genocide.

    And it’s obvious that the single state non-apartheid solution is the only viable one under the principles of Humanitarism, Democracy and Egality. And that is the option that all people of good will are for.

    The “Algerian solution” is probably not viable right now but may become a realistic option as the USA sinks in the worst economical crisis ever: the one we are living in right now. Without foreign support Israel is just as unviable as was French Algeria or white South Africa (a major accomplice of Israel by the way). True that they could also count with Russian support (nowadays Russia is as Zionist as the USA, even if it has conflicts with Israel here and there) but Russia is also not in its best moment either.

    Could the Zionists be supported by China, the rising superpower? It would not surprise me, as Chinese foreign policy appears outmost opportunistic but China is not brainwashed by Judeo-Christianism, so the grasroots support in that country for Israel should be minimal.

    But in the absence of real foreign support, what may be a reality in few years, Israel is doomed. This may in fact cause an increase in the aggresivity of the genocidal practices by the Zionist regime, as a “forward runaway” but I doubt such “Serbian option” would work.

    Additionally we should expect major convulsions in neighbouring countries, especially Egypt but also surely Turkey and even Saudia. The resulting situation will probably end in regional war, while the weakened western powers try to look to some other side, probably their own impoverished boiling cities.

    So Israel would have now two hopeful options: the single multiethnic state and the two states solutions. But they won’t take either one. They will continue and increase the genocide instead. In the end they will be pushed to the sea, naturally. But the dimensions of such process and the huge suffering it will bring to all parties escape my imagination.


    February 17, 2009 at 3:53 am

  6. […] other solution is the one state solution, the South African solution. The Palestinians are a generous people. They know that two or three […]

    Untermenschen « Qunfuz

    August 5, 2009 at 5:34 pm

  7. […] author of an important book on the one-state solution for Israel-Palestine, which I responded to here. Ali is as intelligent and humane in person as he is in his […]

  8. […] apartheid Israel in the future will not have automatic backing from the West. As pressure for a one-state solution based on rights and equality builds, Israel will also face much stronger, better organised […]

  9. […] and perpetuated by occupation and repeated massacres is not a normal state like any other. Israel will earn its right to exist when it allows the refugees to return home and when Jews, Muslims and Christians enjoy equal […]

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