Support for the “two-state solution” is the pious cover invoked by senators and members of Congress whenever they are asked to support Palestinian rights. Our politicians talk about two states even though Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long spoken of “less than a state” to describe his vision of a future for Palestinians who demand equal rights in their ancestral land.
Now, with Netanyahu promising to annex a third of the West Bank Palestinian territory, illegally occupied by Israel since 1967, we are at the end of the zombie two-state myth. The choice for Israel and for its U.S. supporters is now clear: an apartheid Jewish-supremacist nation with millions of Indigenous people denied self-determination, freedom of movement, equal justice and other basic human rights — or the alternative, two peoples with equal rights living together in one state.
Many Jews will regard the latter as failure of the utopian Zionist dream of creating an exclusively Jewish nation state in a land inhabited by others.
The Jewish writer Peter Beinart, once a loyal two-state liberal Zionist, recently horrified supporters of Israel with his articles in the New York Times and Jewish Currents confessing that he no longer believes in a Jewish state. For that, some Jews are calling him a traitor.
Beinart’s sin seems to be letting his humanity override his liberal Zionist instincts. He has now declared his belief in a single, binational state with equal rights for all, explaining in the New York Times: “I knew Israel was wrong to deny Palestinians in the West Bank citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote in the country in which they lived. But the dream of a two-state solution that would give Palestinians a country of their own let me hope that I could remain a liberal and a supporter of Jewish statehood at the same time.”
Beinart and many others have seen that hope extinguished by Israel’s relentless building of Jewish-only settler colonies on Palestinian lands throughout the West Bank territory that Israel has occupied for 53 years, in violation of existing international law. Israel’s formal annexation that is planned would leave only noncontiguous enclaves for Palestinians to inhabit in their ancestral lands, erasing all hope for a viable, independent state of their own.
“It’s time,” Beinart concluded, “to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. It’s time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state.”
Palestinians have been imagining such a state for a long time.
In his latest book, “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine,” Columbia University historian Rashid Khalidi reframes the long struggle for control of Palestine as a colonial war on the Indigenous population that has rationally resisted displacement by Zionist settlers for more than a century.
“With the establishment of Israel” Khalidi writes, “Zionism did succeed in fashioning a potent national movement and a thriving new people in Palestine.” But, despite a campaign of Zionist terror and the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians, the Zionist movement “could not fully supplant the country’s original population, which is what would have been necessary for the ultimate triumph of Zionism.”
The fundamental colonial nature of Israel in Palestine must be acknowledged, Khalidi writes, but “there are now two peoples in Palestine, irrespective of how they came into being, and the conflict between them cannot be resolved as long as the national existence of each is denied by the other. Their mutual acceptance can only be based on complete equality of rights, including national rights, notwithstanding the crucial historical difficulties between the two. There is no other possible sustainable solution, barring the unthinkable notion of one people’s extermination or expulsion by the other.”
In general, Americans have not viewed Israel as a domineering colonial power. And considering our own colonial history, some Americans think we have no right to criticize Israel. No matter that U.S. taxpayers provide at least $4 billion a year to support Israel, a prosperous country that is the largest recipient of our foreign aid.
Our representatives in Congress refuse to put conditions on this aid for Israel’s behavior, be it annexing occupied land or imprisoning Palestinian children. They justify unqualified support for Israel by saying it is the “only democracy in the Middle East.” It is, however, a country that does not provide equality to all its people. Israel grants full rights only to a specific ethno-religious group, and it denies all rights to millions of other people under its control. That is not the kind of democracy embedded in the U.S. Constitution. That is apartheid.
As Israel prepares to formally annex the most fertile, most water-rich third of the Palestinian West Bank, will America continue to enable Israeli apartheid and the Hundred Years’ War on Palestine? Or will we help birth a true democracy based on equal rights? That is our choice.
Mary Christine Bader is a writer in Wayzata.