Thursday, September 24, 2009

“The Times They Are A Changin’” I -- Rabbi Asher Lopatin’s One-State Solution

When a young modern orthodox pulpit rabbi in Chicago calls for an unlimited right of return of Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel, and proposes a bi-national Israel-Palestine, conjuring up the ghost of Magnes, you know that "the times, they are a changin'."

Rabbi Asher Lopatin published in June on the moreorthodoxy blog an essay entitled, "What Netanyahu Should Have Proposed." Here are some of his proposals, which he calls, in a nod to Muslim sensibilities, the Five Pillars of the One Democratic State from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.

1)      All citizens – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – can live anywhere in the land.  Jews will return to live all over Jerusalem – Muslim quarter, Christian quarter, Silwan, City of David – and all over the promised land: in the ancient Israelite cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, and Shechem, and all over Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.   Just as in America restrictive covenants are illegal, so, too in the One State: Jews and Palestinians can acquire property anywhere in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gaza, West Bank, etc.  Property rights will be respected, and returning refugees will be accommodated through new housing in or close to their original housing.  All Jewish settlements that are legal by current Israeli law will remain, with compensation where necessary.

2)      New constitution – needing a super-majority to change –  establishing a full democracy, with full separation of church/synagogue/mosque and state, with both a Jewish Bill of Rights and a Palestinian Bill of Rights guaranteeing that the state can be both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state

3)      Law of Return for Jews; Law of Return for Palestinians

4)      The IDF and internal police and security services will stationed everywhere in the One State – there will be no "no go" areas; and these forces will be slowly integrated, at a pace consistent with the security needs of the new state.

5)      Demographic issues will be negotiated with at least three possible solutions: increasing Israel's Jewish population radically by admitting millions of Jewish identifiers from Africa, Asia and South America before the One State is implemented; returning Palestinians based on an equal admission of Jewish identifiers – perhaps limited to a certain time period; allowing for a natural growth of Jewish or Muslim – or other – populations, while the constitution guarantees that the One State remains compatible as a Jewish state as well as a Palestinian state, perhaps guaranteeing a majority representation for a certain number of years.

Rabbi Lopatin goes on to explain some of the initial steps to be taken, mostly confidence-building measures for a one-state solution.

Now Rabbi Lopatin is not the first modern orthodox, or even religious Zionist, Jew to propose a one-state solution. In fact, I know of few religious Zionists who favor two states, certainly not the settlers. Usually the point of their proposals is to ensure that the settlers won't be moved from that part of Eretz Yisrael over the Green Line. The novelty of Rabbi Lopatin's plan is to accord Palestinian refugees the ability to return to areas near their former homes, if they so desire, and to provide for equal rights for the two communities. One may say that in exchange for Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Lopatin is willing to transform the Jewish ethnic state that was founded in 1948 into a secular, binational state. He will have few Jewish allies, but a whole bunch of Palestinian ones.

There are, of course, weird elements in the proposal, like the wholesale conversion of "Jewish identifiers" in order to keep a demographic balance. This is especially weird for an orthodox rabbi, who seems to drop all traditional criteria for conversion just so he can count Jewish heads. What other western democracy grants citizenship automatically after a religious conversion, a kind of "naturalization via circumcision and mikveh"?

"Millions" of unskilled third-world immigrants flooding any society carries grave social consequences. But a deeply racist and tribalist society like Israel could become unhinged. And, anyway, the counting heads business is not only silly but unnecessary, given the proposed constitutional structure.

One also wonders whether the settlers and Israel should be rewarded for illegally settling in the West Bank. Why allow Israel a sixty-year head-start on settlements at the expense of the Palestinians?

But the point of this post is not to examine in detail Rabbi Lopatin's proposal. It is to congratulate him with a great yasher koah for having the courage to think way outside the modern orthodox – nay, the American Jewish -- box.

Once again we have evidence that some of the younger generation, which doesn't have the hang-ups of the Jewish baby-boomer generation that lived through the traumas of 1967 and 1973, recognize that the two-state solution leaves much unsolved, and that it's time to go back to 1948.


ben azzai said...

I wonder whether the coming years could see a rise in Orthodox (even modern Orthodox) support for a one-state solution (especially among Jews in the diaspora). That is, since rabbinic Judaism was traditionally based the notion that there does not need to be (and in fact ought not be) a Jewish state prior to the coming of the Messiah, it might be that 'orthodox' Jews are not dependent on an ethnic state for their identity and so could be more open to other options. In contrast, secular Zionists, having rejected a 'religious' form of Jewish identity, could have a harder time separating themselves from the idea of an ethnic state.

Such a shift could also remove the theological cognitive dissonance that orthodox Jews may currently experience in supporting a Jewish state when the Messiah (so for as I can tell) seems pretty clearly not yet to have arrived.

fiddler said...

Ben Azzai, wasn't political Zionism a secular movement from the start?
Ben Gurion certainly was a staunch secularist, and while Shas has been part of ruling coalitions, I don't see Israel having been at any point on the verge of theocracy. To me, it seems rather that the religious types fell for the trappings of power, while they and religious "themes" generally were conveniently used by secularists for their own game.

writer-editor said...

The concern for demographic balance could be eliminated by having two states on the same land--a condominium. Each state would take care of its own population, and the governments of the two states would coordinate as equals on matters related to the common territory, economy, and communal relations. See to see how this might work. Jews could call the whole place Israel; Palestinians, Palestine. Each would have representation in the United Nations.

Anonymous said...

i just love it when people from abroad tell us we should support the "one state"solution.
how come we haven't seen the light yet?

ben azzai said...

I think you may have misunderstood my comment. I was just saying that 'religious' Jews could be open to accepting a state that was secular and non-Jewish, because their Jewish identity is grounded in their religious practice. In contrast, connection to a Jewish state seems to function for secular Zionists as a *subsitute* form of Jewish identity after having consciously rejected a religious form, and so they could find it harder to 'kick the habit' of a Jewish state, since they would then be left with no structure of Jewish identity.

Y. Ben-David said...

"Jerry" says:

"Millions" of unskilled third-world immigrants flooding any society carries grave social consequences. But a deeply racist and tribalist society like Israel could become unhinged

But, Jerry, what about the Palestinians, who are FAR more racist and tribalist than the Jews? How will they react? Lopatin's dream state will end up like Lebanon, a supposed "democracy" (they do have free elections there) that has a huge, undigestable mass of dhimmis (in their case, the Maronite Christians) who refuse to disappear, thus leading to a bloody civil war and ongoing political stagnation.

You claim that Jews are racists while ignoring the fact that Arabs are bigger racists is typical of "progressives"; for you guys, the "little dark-skinned third-worlders" are nothing more than children whom you have a paternalistic interest in helping, while you, the big, well-intentioned white man knows whats best for them, in the meantime, ignoring their bad habits while you attempt to educate them the be like you. This is in line with your earlier posting explaining why your switched your political support from MERETZ to HADASH, in which you explained that you feel better in HADASH since you "allow" the Arabs to run the party.

Good luck. G'mar Hatimah Tovah.

fiddler said...

Most religious people in the world seem to be open and content to live in secular states; I'm sure Jews are not - or need not be - any different. Like you say, a part (not necessarily all) of religious people's identity is grounded in their religious practice and faith.

OTOH, secular people who stake their whole identity on the existence of a particular state are to be pitied, for depending on such superficialities like political constellations. Have they forgotten that without a Jewish identity both independent from religion and preceding the modern state there would never have been a "Jewish state" in the first place, or is it that they draw their pre-state identity from being The Eternally Persecuted People? Then they'd be equally pitiable, finding their identity not in themselves but in their enemies.

Tobias said...

@ Y. Ben-David
I don't think, Jerry claims that "the Jews" are racist. I don't think anybody here - except you - claims that "the Palestinians" are racist. I can only speak for myself, but I am fairly certain that my opinions are shared by many other progressives, when I say that such condemnations as "racist" cannot be applied to whole ethnicities, but only to individuals.

Like you, for example.

Arnon Shwanzinger said...

That fifth pillar is a bit shaky (Kir'ey Tarnegolet, would be more apt - a chicken leg).

Any solution that speaks of a majority - certainly a Jewish majority - is still a Zionist solution. It solves nothing.

Any solution that seeks to enshrine one ethnic group's domination over the other, solves nothing.

Any solution that claims to be democratic but still frames the main issue of conflict along ethnic/religious lines, de facto perpetuates that conflict.

How about no more immigration to Israel? Or immigration laws that do not discriminate along ethnic or religious lines?

I don't mind how many Jews live in Israel. I do mind these Jews telling me who I should marry and who I shouldn't. I do mind these Jews telling me I must treat all Arabs as my enemy as I am Jew too. I do mind these Jews telling me I am a Jew too despite having no religious beliefs of my own (Ethnically, I am Jewish on my fathers side, and bureaucratically me and my mother did get a Giur when we immigrated to Israel 33 years ago)

Having said how much I hate the Jews running my life and my country, I don't for a second believe the Muslims would do any better by me. Probably even worse.

So his solution is to separate church and state, then no state solution can have that horrid fifth pillar which enshrines the church/synagogue/mosque etc. (well, no etc. actually - it would only enshrine the church, the mosque and the synagogue - leaving everyone only one of three options. still keeping the state and religion pathologically intertwined.)

Y. Ben-David said...


This is what "Jerry" said:
But a deeply racist and tribalist society like Israel could become unhinged.

Sounds to me like he is saying we are racists.

Zak S said...

Jerry, didn't Magnes leave Israel after the Arab attack on a convoy that killed academics and medical staff? And didn't he pass away a short time after that? Surely there's a historical lesson there - that calls for a binational state aren't particulary realistic (or good for your health).

Shana Tova,


Jerry Haber said...

Y. Ben David, two clarifications.

I said that Israel was a deeply racist society; I didn't make any comments about Jews or Arabs or Americans or Germans or Roumanians. (By "racist" I include ethnic prejudices)

Were the binationalist options for Israel Palestine to mimic exactly Lebanese binationalism, you may have a point. Although one can claim that life in Lebanon for the "dhimmis" (is that their legal classification) is a heck of a lot better than life for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza (the latter is not saying much.) And, with the notable exception of the civil war, which ended 20 years ago, and given the interference of Syria and Israel, and the strength of Hizbollah, which is directly related to Israel and the refugees -- the system has worked relatively well.

But it is intellectually lazy for the right to point to Lebanon as the a failed example of binationalism, because it assumes that Israeli binationalism would have to look the same.

What about the "dhimmis" living in Canada?

Jerry Haber said...


I would love it if you could give me a source for your claim, which is preposterous.

Magnes did not leave Israel because of the convoy attack (for his reaction to that, read Dissenter in Zion, ed. Goren) but in order to get support for his Ichud organization, which switched from advocating binationalism to federalism after the state was founded. Magnes died of a heart attack in the US while trying to get financial and political support for Ichud. He envisioned a conferedation of Israel, Palestine, and other Arab states, a "United States of Palestine", each state of which would have limited sovereignty, and which would possess a federal structure. He condemned the attack on the convoy, as he condemned the Deir Yassin massacre.

Zak S said...

Hi Jerry - the source is Benny Morris' 1948.


David L. said...

I'm an Orthodox Jew & Religious Zionist who has long favored a bi-national One State solution.

pabelmont said...

Arguing about, and proposing, "solutions" makes little sense unless a way to get there exists. Why should our "talk" be more puissant than Barack Obama's, which is apparently utterly powerless.

However, I'm with the talkers and I propose a three-state solution, two tribal and one like New York city. See: