The Two-State Solution is Neither

Photo Source Social Justice – Bruce Emmerling | CC BY 2.0

Is the Two-State Solution now the zombie of Western political-thought–an idea long dead, yet still walking the landscape, with bits of it rotting and falling off, while reason and history shoot holes in it, but it keeps staggering on, infecting the political discourse? Who can sincerely believe in it anymore?   Least of all, Israel and the Zionists, since the idea’s basic post-Madrid concept has been so thoroughly abused and violated,  perforated with holes so big you can plant a settlement in them.  The idea has been rendered  no longer materially feasible, to put it politely–well and truly screwed to pieces, not so politely– while any lingering confidence by the Palestinians in the good-faith intentions of Israel and the United States has been replaced with mistrust and despair, and the cold realization that US policy does not have any interest in a just or fair outcome for the Palestinians.   It never really has had any interest in helping the Palestinians. What killed the Two State Solution, we might ask?   The settlements killed the Two-State Solution–but NOT as an accidental by-product of Israeli “security” issues, as if the settlements were a casual, reversible mistake.  But rather they killed the Two-State Solution as part of a calculated agenda from  the very start of the Zionist project to capture, de-populate and settle Jews on ALL the land of Palestine.  Zionism’s early generation of founders always envisioned the large-scale removal of the Arab population, and the settlement of their own descendants in land belonging to others–you can read it in their diaries and letters, in their unguarded moments when they are talking among themselves.  Herschel, Jabotinsky, Ben Gurion, Meir–they all spoke privately of what they understood: that all of Palestine would be theirs, and that it would be a state for the Jews alone. This has not changed.  The Israeli political establishment is today far more racist and authoritarian than the original Zionists ever dreamed of being.  We see today how the orthodox right wing has taken over the official agenda entirely, with predictable results: more walls, fences, checkpoints, prisons, military forces, deadly raids by helicopters and fighter planes, and dehumanization for the occupied people.   When the Israeli Occupation Forces start getting their first shipment of drones from the US arsenal, it will only get worse. The settlements–whose population has roughly quadrupled since Madrid–were ALWAYS part of the plan historically, even though the agenda of settlement has always been directly at odds with international law, and counter to the creation of a Palestinian state, or any “peace process.”  This contradiction has stymied forty years of negotiations–and any continued talk with settlement-building part of the equation is simply contrary to common sense.

Speaking as an American, I must note for you here today that it is fundamentally difficult to understand why Americans ever believed in the Two-State Solution at all–I don’t mean the deep political establishment in my country, which is essentially pro-Zionist, strategically and sentimentally, and has used the Two State Solution as a stalling ruse to buy more time for Zionism’s plan.   But rather, I mean the thinking, commenting, “chattering class” of intellectuals, television hosts, and so on, tasked with the job of “selling” the idea over the last forty years or so, and those average Americans targeted for this deception.    Because for Americans, a fundamental cognitive dissonance has always surrounded the very idea of   Israel as an exclusive “state for the Jews”: and that is the fact that American political culture and civil polity are founded on the sacrosanct, bedrock value of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which essentially says that a democracy does not establish ANY religion as the religion of the state, and may not favor any faith over another.   We can’t claim credit for this idea–we got it from the French revolution, and from English philosophers before them.  It was a radical idea in the 18th century, but today it’s a mainstream, default concept in the West.  It’s how we do government in the West. So how did the United States become the proponent and guarantor of the zombie idea of Israel–an exclusive state which bases citizenship on membership in one religion, while reserving a degraded, second-class citizenship for those who are not Jews?    Everything about this is antithetical to the American political tradition.   It has been one of the great, triumphant acts of cynical political salesmanship in my lifetime: that the exclusive “state for the Jews” has been rendered as acceptable in polite quarters– even just and fair!–to Americans, within the context of our political discourse, even though every ten year old in American Civics class learns in school that we are a nation where all people are equal, and no religion controls, but you are free to worship as you please. Selling this idea to Americans has taken decades and lots of money and influence, operating sometimes quietly, sometimes openly. US President Harry Truman in 1947 was extremely skeptical of any “state for the Jews,” and generally objected to the Zionist plan on purely fundamental American values–that the establishment of a religious state was counter to what America stands for, and he didn’t want any part of it.  He thought he had worked out with his British counterparts a solution for partitioning Palestine that would allow 100,000 Holocaust survivors from Europe to move there, but would create a federal, democratic government with the existing majority Arab population controlling the majority of the land, in a secular state, among which the European Jews would be permitted to live.  Truman even went so far as to remind advisors that “religious wars” had ravaged Europe for centuries, and had been the very thing the American Revolution had got us all away from in 1776, and that a “Jewish State” was not an American idea.  Eventually, Truman went along with partition, but only if it awarded Palestine mostly to the Palestinians, with a small enclave for the Jews.  He expressed his doubts that any creation of a Jewish state could ever be fair to the Arabs.

But then something happened–and this is the salesmanship of Zionism–in the circle of liberal, “progressive” Democrats surrounding the Truman White House: famous men like Judge Brandeis, or the former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.  Liberals!   They pushed on behalf  of the Zionists for a Jewish state, and against the fairness doctrine that Truman wanted.  The Liberal movement in the United States helped create Israel, and in doing so, robbed the Palestinians of their homes, their villages, their farms, their cities and towns.   Always beware of the smiling, do-gooder liberals, is the lesson there. So much for the American ideal of the Establishment Clause. Next, the US Constitution enshrines the basic idea of “equality” before the law, and due process for all citizens.  As a lawyer, I can tell you that “due process” is the mechanical operating feature of the US Constitution which triggers so many of our rights as citizens–that everyone has the same access to, relationship to, and enfranchisement under the law.    The United States has fought bitterly over these issues–including its own civil war, and many rounds of social and political rights movements–but this fundamental western Enlightenment idea has held up as the core value of all our laws in the United States. The foundation of the Zionist state, of course, was a monstrous crime against the notion of “due process.”  Who among the 800,000 Palestinians stripped of their land and homes in 1948 ever received “due process” of the law?  Who among the millions of refugees today refused the right to return to where their families come from has ever received any “due process” of the law? Speaking as a lawyer, this is the most troubling aspect of any “Two State Solution”–the constant threat by the Zionists that any Palestinian assertion of the Right of Return justifies a cancellation of all other rights Palestinians possess–it is a miserable, deceitful and coercive cruelty played out over decades by the Zionists against those displaced Palestinians and their descendants who have suffered.  It is the original crime at the foundation of the Zionist state–and the Zionists continually cry for the Palestinians to renounce their human right before any other rights can be discussed.  As if the human right did not precede all other rights. This is why the Two State Solution is dead–because the Zionists cannot admit that their state is founded on a crime, and the moral contradiction of their position does not permit a way forward.  There is only blind advancement of conquest, subjugation and Apartheid. Speaking as a lawyer, I am most troubled by the failure of the Israeli people to understand the Right of Return in purely legalistic terms:  it is a property right, and the body of law dealing with property is long and deep, and originates in many cultures and languages, including, famously, the law-giving culture of the Jews.  Much of the ancient Jewish Torah and religious teachings, after all, are concerned explicitly with property, righteousness and what is fair.  The foundation of their faith is, in essence, the story of a contract between a people and God, and what happens when contracts are not honored. Even this past year, we have witnessed the vindication of property claims by Jews against banks, insurance companies, and art collections, concerning the plunder of the Nazis–where property is concerned, many Jews have vindicated their rights across many decades of troubling history, recovering bank accounts, businesses, houses and art.  Yet where are the Israelis who stand up and say, “the Right of Return is an issue of equity and property–the land belongs to someone else.” Again, the moral failure of the Israeli state, under the corruption of Zionism, blinds all who stand on stolen ground.

Yet, the “due process” concept is even more troubling for the future that is upon us now: the Apartheid state that the Zionists have built over the years since the Madrid talks can never permit even the faintest whisper of “due process” for those who must live under it. Why do Americans support this?  Do they even know what they support?  The One State of Zionist Apartheid is upon us, and that needs to be spelled out in every way to folks in the United States. Because now, as the Two-State Solution is dead, the choice for even liberal, peace-seeking Israelis (and for the Americans who would support them) is a choice between a single state from the river to the sea, in which every single person has total and equal enfranchisement before the law, with a resulting Arab majority; or it is a single state ruled by an iron fist, with two classes of citizens–the official, enfranchised class, and the subjugated, serving class, with walls and fences and Bantustan villages to keep them in their place.  Does this sound familiar?

But still, proponents push the zombie corpse of the Two State Solution forward.  I am amazed at how hollowed out this concept has become from all the abuse it has suffered–according to the Occupiers and the United States’ right wing, the future Palestinian “state” will not have control of its own borders, or ports; exclusive highways for Jews only will criss-cross its land, connecting settlements; it will not have any army or national military force; it will not be permitted armor or airplanes; it will have fences and walls, and the Israeli army and navy, surrounding all of it.   That doesn’t sound much like a state I’d like to live in!   I wouldn’t live in that state if you made me the President. Zionist phobia of a dignified Palestinian neighbor runs deep and broad–just like racism–and would provoke laughter if it were not such a sickness.  This phobia is so powerful that the Israelis and the Americans won’t even allow the Palestinians to take their place among the organizations of nations, and have access to international cultural and political resources–as witness the temper-tantrum Israel and the US State Department threw last year when the Palestinian Authority joined various United Nations organizations. It is time for the Zionists to grow up, and stop poisoning the phony discourse–either admit your agenda is conquest, or get out.  If it’s conquest, then the apartheid system shall prevail, which–as South Africa demonstrated–will lead to a protracted battle for rights by the majority population, leading to their eventual triumphant–in A ONE STATE FRAMEWORK. This is what Palestinians have to look forward to, I’m afraid!  But I have been visiting South Africa quite a lot in the past few years as a lawyer–and I can tell you, I know of no more other society so determined to find a just and equitable future together, really struggling with the legacy of injustice and working creatively to make a real nation, than I find in South Africa.  It holds out the promise that one day Palestine will be the state we are talking about, from the river to the sea. Yet the zombie of the Two State Solution still strides the land, spawning its infected army of zombie believers–most recently the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who staggered through the region, ineffective and clueless, then made an observation back home that Israel was flirting with Apartheid.  The result?  He has paid politically in Washington, where he had to go down on bended knee and apologize publicly to the Zionist lobby, and it’s unlikely his political career has anywhere left to go now, because he dared to use the “A-word” in referring to Israel. Of course, popular cinema has taught us that to kill a zombie, you must hit it in the head, and destroy its brain.  This tells me that we must struggle now to defeat the intellectual justifications for the Two State Solution–defeat the far-flung network of bogus think-tanks and apologists who hold up Israel as a shining beacon of polite, lawful statehood, while keeping the Palestinians disenfranchised.  We must win the intellectual battle, at the same time as the fight on the ground continues–the world must learn that the American and Zionist agenda is intended to subjugate the Palestinians further, and will continue to do so until world opinion & the Palestinians themselves change that–just as happened in South Africa.

This article is adapted from an address to the “Nakba 2014” Conference in  Zurich, 15 May 2014. 

Stanley L. Cohen is lawyer and activist in New York City.