Thursday, July 1, 2010

Alexander Yakobson on the One-State Solution

There are some good arguments against creating a binational state in Israel/Palestine, but you wont find them in Alexander Yakobson's op-ed in today's Haaretz.

Instead, Yakobson uses the same tired-old arguments that the statist Zionists gave seventy years ago against Magnes and his cohorts. That was when there were around 650,000 Jews, who formed a third of the population, and who did not have a state. Now there are five and a half million Jews (!) who control all of mandatory Palestine (minus the Kingdom of Jordan). And yet Yakobson still says that inevitably the Jews will be a minority in a secular democratic state. Why? No argument is given. I suppose the assumption is that no Jews would want to share power with -- yuk -- Arabs, and that they would rather go back to Brooklyn where they will share power with - yuk- goyyim.

So what are some of the arguments that Yakobson brings? Here's one: If there were one state, then it would be swamped with Palestinian refugees demanding the right of return. But if there were two states, then Palestinian refugees would only return to Palestine. Now, in my view, Israel should recognize the right of the refugees to return to Israel proper. But let's leave that aside and ask Yakobson the simple quesiton,  "Why would five and a half-million Jews agree to their state begin swamped with Palestinian refugees? Because their "golus" mentality doesn't alow them to assert their rights?

Here's another argument: There is no Arab state in the Middle East where there is binationalism, and where the dominant culture is Arab. Ergo, any binational state in the Middle East, even if it is based on constitutional agreement, will not last.
Is it conceivable to assume that the Palestinian people will, over time,
agree to be the only Arab people whose state does not have a clear-cut
Arab character and is not considered a part of the Arab world? Is it
logical to presume that this concession, which no Arab people has agreed
to undertake for the benefit of a non-Arab minority population that is
indigenous to the land, will be granted to the Zionist "alien presence"?


The champions of the "one-state solution" pledge that all the legal
arrangements that will safeguard the binational character of the state
and protect the rights of all ethnic groups in the country will be
spelled out in advance. The problem is that written guarantees cannot
determine what will happen in practice. Does the world - especially the
Middle East - not have enough examples of the discrepancy between the
content of state constitutions and the true nature of those states'
governments?

Let's call this the argument from lack of precedent. Not exactly the sort of argument that one would expect a Zionist, of all people, to advance. What precedent is there for a viable Jewish ethnic state in the Middle East? Ergo, such a state is doomed to fail?

The assumption running through all this is that nothing has changed since Magnes debated Ben-Gurion, that the Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea,. The fact that Israel has great cards to play; that t is a in a position of strength in negotiations -- none of this means anything to conventional-wisdom folks like Yakobson.

Were Yakobson to propose a serious two-state alternative to the one-state scenario, at least he would have some positive arguments for that. But, no, his two-state differs little from the consensus Israeli position, which is one state plus (Israel) and one state minus (Palestine).

Yakobson's arguments only are valid if you supply some suppressed premises, e.g., "The Arabs cannot be trusted," "They are a mendacious lot," "They will wait for the first opportunity to break their agreements." If you are a tribalist, there are good reasons for opposing any scenario that empowers the Palestinian people. If you are a liberal tribalist, you will claim to be in favor of two-states but you will still want to control the other state.

What are good arguments against the one state solution? Well, the best so far is that neither side wants it.  That may change -- it is changing on the Palestinian side -- but majorities are for two states. And since we are talking about self-determination, that is pretty decisive.

What the one-staters should do is to flesh out, more than they have done already, just how binationalism will work. In particular they will have to convince both sides that binationalism is in their interest. And since the one state solution is favored mostly by secular intellectuals, they should also deal with the position of religion in that state.

In any event, people would to be educated, and education requires among other things, hammering out details. Of course, the idea has no chance of gaining traction now. But who knows what will happen in the future, as Israel sinks further in the moras



28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Self determination, which appears to be a given with all other nations, is also a given with the Jewish nation.

The argument that the state should be shared, does not stem from a desire to see both peoples share their self-determination's drive for a single state. Rather, it stems from a desire to "return" the Palestinians to their land or "resolve the injustice." Even if these things were true, they don't justify negating the right to self-determination of a group.

In actuality, the only reason one needs to believe there should be a Jewish state with a Jewish majority is that a majority of Jews, particularly Israeli ones, want one.

Also, in order to get that state, they have had to fight bitterly for over a century and have lost countless men and women, not to mention fighters in that endeavor. What more do you need?

I wonder though, can you tell me why Jordan shouldn't be the Palestinian state. Yes, even with the premise that the West Bank sans the Holy Basin is joined to Jordan in one way or another.

Jerry Haber said...

"Self determination, which appears to be a given with all other nations, is also a given with the Jewish nation."

There is a whole list of people/nations that do not have states. Some of them have been agitating for states for centuries. So the absurd Zionist claim that "every nation has a state; why can't the Jews have one?" is simply false.

You may want to draw you comparisons with other settler nations, like the Afrikaaners.

And then there is the further question of whether the Jewish people are the sort of people/nation who should have their own state. What other nation requires religious conversion in order to become a member of the nation? And how does that fit in with liberal nationalism?

Ah, the things they don't teach you in Hasbara 101...

Jerry Haber said...

Jordan shouldn't be the Palestinian state for the same reason that Israel should not be the Palestinian state. The majority of Israelis don't want Israel to be the Palestinan state; the majority of Palestinians and Jordanians don't want Jordan to be the Palestinian state.

It's called "S-E-L-F D-E-T-E-R-M-I-N-A-T-I-O-N"

Rachel Lever said...

Well, first, according to Israel's law "the Jewish Nation" is every Jew in the world. The fact is that a two-to-one majority, including most of the leading, eminent and respected Jews, don't even want to live in Israel, which knocks quite a hole in the original Zionist premise of ingathering.

For Palestinians, self-determination would mean asking all the people trying to get back home what they think.

"Self determination" is not a fancy word for self-government in a separate state. A group can determine that its future lies in giving up sovereign government to some extent or another, ranging from international alliances to federations to bi-national government to multicultural democracy e.g. South Africa's whites who "determined" to give up power.

In the case of One state or Two, so far this has only been guessed at via opinion polls. Yes, Israel's Jews have loyalty to the state as a Jewish state (try saying "white state" and you can see what's wrong with that, but let that pass for now) and if it didn't affect anyone else we wouldn't be discussing it here.

But the fact is that there is a problem to be solved, which is how to achieve a sustainable long term peace and a normal non-militarised life. This requires some changes: either a change of constitution and attitude for One state; or a serious withdrawal from a serious amount of territory, which will at best achieve one and a half states but little normality for either side and no guarantee of permanence.

So far, and even without the merits of a single state being spelled out and debated (e.g. peaceable and pleasurable access to the whole territory, freedom from military service, the benefits of multi-culturalism, the potential of two peoples working together, the potential for regional travel, power, influence and commerce etc, not to mention that nobody would have to be evicted and Jerusalem would stay whole), polls show that some 34% of Israeli Jews would actually favour the one state option rather than two states.

Yes, that's still a minority. But I think Jerry and all the others who make it their bottom line that "nobody wants it" are wrong not to campaign and argue for it: on that basis, Zionism, women's suffrage, an end to slavery etc etc would never have been even argued for on the grounds that nobody agrees with it.

So I'm sticking with One Great Country, not Two Hostile Camps. I think it would be a joyous thing for Jews to picnic by the Jordan and Palestinians to swim in the sea.

As to the mechanics, the demography and the nuts and bolts, this isn't rocket science. Constitutional parity regardless of birthrates could be guaranteed, supported by fully integrated armed forces bound to serve such a constitution, and to resolve any ethnic upsets quickly and firmly. And even the god-fearing Americans keep a strict separation between church and state, so why not Israel/Palestine.

Most voting would be cross-ethnic in different groupings and coalitions, but if "Arabs" outvoted "Jews" on some issues it might be no bad thing: maybe it could stop outrages such as a "Museum of Tolerance" being built on top of a Muslim cemetery.

If Jerry will kindly allow, you can read more on www.onedemocracy.co.uk

Michael said...

Also, in order to get that state, they have had to fight bitterly for over a century and have lost countless men and women, not to mention fighters in that endeavor. What more do you need?

Since when did the effort or even lives expended in pursuit of a cause determine whether it was just or unjust? A thief may make an investment in hardware, spend a great deal of time planning a heist, and risk his life to carry out armed robbery, but does that give him any entitlement to the proceeds?

The measure of lives lost in Israel/Palestine would give Palestinians a far greater entitlement to the whole territory than Israelis. It doesn't.

However though this measure may not in itself grant entitlement, there is a very good reason it should worry you:

The Irish nationalist Terence McSwiney, said (before he died on hunger strike in 1920), "It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will prevail." This was accurate with respect to his own cause in Ireland - but it is true also of many other conflicts since then, from Algeria to Vietnam. There is every reason to believe it will prove equally true in the case of Palestine.

Sydney Nestel said...

Right now, a majority of Israelis and of Palestinians want(or at least say they want) a two state solution. Thats what people of good will should work for - EVEN if the personally think a one state solution would be better. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and all that ...

This was not always the case, and it may not always be the case in the future. That is why this window is so important.

I can easily imagine more and more, eventually a clear majority, of Palestinians coming to support a one state solution. I can't so easily imagine most Israelis coming to that conclusion. Then we will have a REAL impasse - one with even less hope (is that possible) that today.

So I don't see why you should be educating/advocating for a one state solution. Even if you personally think it is preferable.

Peter Schwartz said...

Jerry, is it true that one has to be/become a Jew to become an Israeli citizen?

Peter Schwartz said...

In terms of which people get to have a state or deserve a state, the whole question seems murky to me.

One can almost always argue for a given people having a state--or against it--but those reasons alone are not enough for either result actually to occur. Lots of effort is required, too.

So while it's true that some number of peoples want a state, but don't have one...that isn't an argument AGAINST Jews having one, either.

Anonymous said...

Jerry, for somebody who displays such hubris, I'm not sure why you walked exactly into what I had hoped you'd say, but I thank you for it. Self-determination as opposed to Jordanian confederation indeed.

Sadly for you, I've never attended Hasbara 101 because I'm self taught. Also, let's be perfectly honest here: what I write is a tad less hasbaratic than your apologia for terrorists and their terrorism (you did write yesterday that you're surprised the Palestinians don't use suicide bombing more than they have).

Now, you wrote:

"There is a whole list of people/nations that do not have states. Some of them have been agitating for states for centuries."

Cue in the Kurds! Yup, you will agree with me, then, that the Palestinians are getting far too much attention and support considering their nationalistic movement is just a little older than you while the Kurds have been waiting around for just about ever? Hey, you could use your gifts of apologia to support the Kurds in their justified mission!

"So the absurd Zionist claim that "every nation has a state; why can't the Jews have one?" is simply false."

You must have been thrilled to catch me in a semantic slip-up. But that's not what I meant. I meant that most nations desire a state, and you can include "groups" if the notion of "nation" bothers you. Since this is so, why should the Jews be different? The answer is, they shouldn't be and it is a historical accident that they are. Just as it's a historical accident that Jerusalem was made judenrein for 19 years and now a whole bunch of people wish to claim that those years settled borders for eternity even if that area hosts some of the key sites in Jewish imagination.

Anyway, who are you to decide whether the Jews are or aren't deserving of the right to determine for themselves that they should have a state? Your voice in opposition is permitted, certainly, but you represent a tiny minority and the majority has correctly deemed the nationalistic project a good one. In part, by the way, for the reasons I've brought up that bother you so, the fact that Jewish refugees were able to arrive there safely and rebuild their lives.

Anonymous said...

As for religious criteria used for permitting access to the country, it is actually no different than any country that sets up rules at its borders regarding who may and may not enter to live permanently. You may feel that religion should have no part in this, but it's a choice like any other.

Finally, I took your advice regarding drawing comparisons with other settler nations, like the Afrikaaners.

You will be fascinated to learn that they were a pitzkelech of a minority in a sea of people they saw as others. Israel's Jews, on the other hand, are the majority of that area between the sea and the river. In fact, if, like me, you believe that the PA has been fudging Palestinian numbers for years and years, then you will have to wait a long time before this imbalance is corrected, if ever.

I also learned that buses were segregated by the ruling Afrikanners, but I know that isn't true in Israel because the US State Dept. has a policy of disallowing their employees from traveling on Israeli buses. It seems that the Israelis allow their minority on all buses, even though at times - not so long ago, mind you - members of that minority regularly blew themselves up on these buses for political purposes.

I could go on, but really, this is such a stupid comparison that I'm shocked you would pursue it. If you haven't figured it out, "Apartheid" is not what's happening here. "Apartheid" is just a shorthand that people use to replace the hammer with which they beat on Israel's tiny head. It's like the Holocaust or Nazi comparisons; more shorthand. But any serious historian, which I assume you are, can identify when history is being discussed and when propaganda is being promulgated.

How can a professional historian, particularly a Jewish one, promulgate this type of ogrish propaganda? Surely there are plenty of other harsh claims you can make without tossing your credibility out the window?

Jerry Haber said...

Folks, I wasn't advocating for one state or two state, just commenting on some arguments. I am agnostic on the political parameters of a solution; whatever can be agreed on and which gives a maximum amount of justice and freedom to both peoples, and which aspires for parity -- well, that would be a nice start, wouldn't it?

Peter, I wasn't arguing against giving people a state because other peoples don't have one. I was just saying that the Zionist inference "Every nation has a state; the Jews are a nation, ergo, they deserve a state" is invalid and has a false major premise. Obviously each case has to be judged on its own.

And please, people, do not confuse having the right to self-determination with having the right to a state. There are other ways that a nation can have self-determination without a nation state.

Peter, one has to convert to Judaism in order to be part of the Jewish nation, if one is not born a Jew. And Israel is the state of the Jewish people.

One can be a citizen of Israel without being Jewish either by a) being a Palestinian who resided there during the first few of the states and beforehand; b) by having one Jewish grandparent; c) by being married to a citizen, unless you are a Palestinian, in which case spouses are not allowed to become citizens; d) by decision of the Minister of Interior.

Anonymous, just because you are self-taught doesn't mean that you haven't taught yourself Hasbara 101.

Michael said...

would give Palestinians a far greater entitlement to the whole territory than Israelis. ... There is every reason to believe it will prove equally true in the case of Palestine.

To clarify (and return to the main topic of the post), the second sentence of my earlier comment was not intended to refer to the first. Like Rachel (good site by the way), I advocate the one-state solution.

Jerry's agnostic position is one that, in principle, decent people can agree with. However, even ignoring "facts on the ground", I believe the current power imbalance means that any support for a two-state solution is co-opted and turned into support for (at best) the status quo, or something even more unequal, in which group rights, through prior group-based aggregation of property and other mechanisms, triumph over and limit the parameters of individual civil rights. The present situation can be changed only by confronting it fundamentally on the principle of equal human rights for all. Security depends not on power for some but equality for all.

Those who think that the current weight of public opinion makes a one-state solution impossible need to think about why, with the majorities they point to wanting a two-state solution, there isn't already such an arrangement - after all, by their reasoning, shouldn't it be impossible that their wishes are not already realized? Is the problem not one of power rather than majorities - and shouldn't that power therefore be challenged? And are these majorities even supporting the same thing, or do Israelis see themselves as supporting something merely "realistic" - and yet not so realistic that it will ever be offered by any Israeli government?

The two-state solution isn't possible - at least as reasonable and decent people would understand the word "solution". Support for it will never bring it about, for the same reasons that support for it has not brought it about before now (something that at least some of those paying lip service to it are well aware of).

Meanwhile, despite its supposed impossibility, there is already one state. The goal must be to turn that one state from a problem into a solution.

Peter Schwartz said...

Rachel says: "Yes, Israel's Jews have loyalty to the state as a Jewish state (try saying "white state" and you can see what's wrong with that, but let that pass for now) and if it didn't affect anyone else we wouldn't be discussing it here."

While I like much of what Rachel says, this is the kind of statement one finds frequently in these discussions that leaves me shaking my head.

On the one hand, she condemns Jews' loyalty to a Jewish state as racism--a pretty strong charge --but then says it wouldn't merit a raised eyebrow if other people weren't involved.

I guess she means...if Israel had been founded in a place where there were no other people...which would be where exactly? Antarctica?

But isn't racism ALWAYS to do with other people, even when those other people aren't apparent? Perhaps she's referring to places like Saudi Arabia, where "the people" are uniformly Muslim and like it that way. Or Japan--where my good friend married a Japanese, but can't become a citizen--where all the citizens have yellow skin, slanty eyes and black hair?

The point leaves me wondering about the actual, as opposed to professed, values of the one state movement.

Leaving aside a tribal desire to see Israel TRULY become a light unto the nations, I see two points:

1) We can pressure Israel to fulfill its promise as a democracy because it IS a democracy already.

2) Power and size. We can pressure Israel to become a true democracy because she's small and, in fact, wields very little real power. Trying to reform a racist Saudi Arabia (with all that oil and sand) or Japan (with all that economic might) or China, which has annexed an entire country, and owns America doesn't get any excited.

It's interesting to contemplate all the fuss the IP conflict generates, but it leaves me wondering why...

Eric said...

Remember both Moldova and Cypress have one state solutions which are two state solutions only the world refuses to recognize Transnistia or Turkish Cyprus. Is Israel headed for that?

Anonymous said...

I'd rather be doing hasbara 402 or 101 than declaring understanding for suicide bombings. I guess, Jerry, that you are a self-taught propagandist and apologist for the targeting of civilians. Do you know the equivalent word in Arabic to "hasbara?" Then we can dismiss all of your writings with a wave of the hand and utterance of that word with 101 at the end.

How many errors did Rachel make in her comment which you conveniently ignored because of your political motives?

Michael, your points are well made, but I believe there is a serious problem when the "weak" are considered those who have the resources of the Arab and Muslim worlds supporting them. It is true that in the current state of affairs, appearances are that Israel is the strong party, but that's only if you are willing to buy the fictions presented. For example, are Hizbullah and Hamas independent or vassals of Iran and Syria? If one answers that factually, then it appears Israel with its 7 million people is at war with countries with 12 times the population and that have the support of a much broader coalition of nations with related ideological and economic interests.

Sidney is, of course, correct.

Anonymous said...

Some nations with no states of their own:
English, Scots and Welsh share the same state (with certain autonomy to each nation).
Catalans, Valencians, Castelians and Basques (I probably got some spellings wrong) also share the same state with certain autonomy to each nation.
Switzerland, Belgium and Canada are more examples of states that are being shared by more than one nation (Belgium, which is given as an example against one-state solution, is "breaking apart" since 1960 and is still miraculously there).

Michael said...

Anonymous: the idea that Hamas (or Hizbollah) is a vassal of other states, as distinct from getting support from them, is sustainable only if one regards them as having no interest, grievance, or support base of their own. (How and when did Hamas come into existence? Which non-Arab, non-Muslim government provided it with early support? Who won the last Palestinian elections?)

Which leads back to the question: why would a growing number of states be hostile to Israel? Solve the Palestinian issue and the enmity of other states, founded on (or driven by) popular sympathy for the Palestinians, no longer has any basis.

In short, you cannot justify the perpetuation of an injustice by citing the strength of opposition to it!

However, the notion that Israel faces more powerful warlike opposition doesn't pass any rational test. Have you noticed the continuing settlement activities, the Palestinian house demolitions in Jerusalem? Why have relations with the Turkish government, which tried to serve as an intermediary for peace talks with Syria, deteriorated so far? What was the reaction of Israeli governments to the 2002 Arab Peace iniative, repeated several times since then (despite the fact that Hamas wasn't exactly happy with it) - and which, since we are on the subject, embarrassingly offered Israel a 2-state solution? No engagement, and the quiet hope that people would forget about it, generally fulfilled in the West - and so the threat of peace dodged yet again.

Israel is a regional conventional and nuclear superpower, unconditionally supported by the US. Arab governments - not only Egypt and Jordan - are in general highly desirous of peaceful economic relations with Israel, and would accept just about anything that wouldn't lead to their overthrow by popular insurrection. A state of open or official conflict is in the interests only of the stronger party, which can use it as cover to continue changing facts on the ground.

Peter Schwartz said...

Michael's best point is that one state already exists; the task, then, is to make it a democratic state. No one has to move, etc. That surely is easier than creating a second state.

(One counter to this is that proto state is being born on the WB and there are governing institutions even in Gaza.)

His most intriguing point is that, if so many Israelis really want a two-state solution, why don't they have one yet? Someone with a better grasp of Israeli and Palestinian politics could answer this better than I. But the logic would appear to be faulty: A majority supports Plan A, but hasn't implemented it, so let's move to Plan B that many fewer people support. Huh?

I guess the idea is that Plan B is the truly just solution and thus worth of a sustained effort.

As an American and American Jew, it's hard for me to fault Rachel's vision of One Great Country. Who could be against it? Not me.

I'm not an expert in this field and certainly don't have any solutions that others haven't already proposed. And, in fact, I'm not a Zionist and never have been.

That said, I do recoil at the notion that Zionism is inherently racist while, say, Palestinian nationalism is inherently just. As to Jerry's call to participate in BDS--I will have to think long and hard about it. "Motivating" Israel to do the right thing is important, but standing shoulder to shoulder with people who, by their comments, reveal themselves to be anti-Semitic is odious to me. Yes, coalitions are made up of strange partners, but he who lies down with dogs gets up with fleas.

Michael said...

But the logic would appear to be faulty: A majority supports Plan A, but hasn't implemented it, so let's move to Plan B that many fewer people support. Huh?

That wasn't the logic. "Hasn't implemented it" is only (part of) the evidence for "couldn't", even if it really wanted to.

I guess the idea is that Plan B is the truly just solution and thus worth of a sustained effort.

That aspect is certainly relevant, but it's only part of it. For a clear grasp of the decisive facts, physical and political, that make the two-state solution unattainable, I recommend Virginia Tilley's book on the subject.

I do recoil at the notion that Zionism is inherently racist while, say, Palestinian nationalism is inherently just.

No nationalism exists in a vacuum and, as the title of this blog will tell you, people have different understandings of them.

But rather than debate the particular claims, and the justice or otherwise of the actions that are required to sustain them, you might conclude that nationalism in general - or at least that strain of it which insists on associating territory with ethnicity - is the problem. Which would be another reason to support the one-state solution, rather than vainly or destructively argue which parts of the map should be inked in blue and which in green.

As for being in company with objectionable people, this seems to me far less likely in the one-state camp. It is also unavoidable, whatever position you adopt. I don't believe many Zionists imagine themselves as standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the ghost of Eichmann, for example, despite his admiration for an ideology that would put their Blut on some other Boden.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Michael and some of the others here, particularly the host of this website, should read Hussein Ibish's eloquent, logical and extremely convincing argument rejecting a single state solution and explaining why a two-state solution is the ONLY viable solution to this conflict.

He has been known to lament publicly that all of his former friends on the pro-Palestinian side no longer wish to share a public stage with him.

They should. His thesis is very strong and very hard to refute.

You can download it in full here:

http://www.americantaskforce.org/in_media/pr/2009/08/28/1251432000

Anonymous said...

Wow Michael, that was a terrifically eloquent way of saying that Zionism is racism.

But it isn't.

Michael said...

I wonder which of these Anonymice are the same person...

that was a terrifically eloquent way of saying that Zionism is racism

So you need to have "people have different understandings of [Zionism]" spelled out.

The Zionism of, say, Judah Magnes was clearly different from the Zionism of, say, Benjamin Netanyahu. People who have self-identified as Zionists haven't always understood it as requiring a state (which is one particular form of modern political organization among others) to which it is mapped one-to-one. Similarly, if Zionism is a context-free assertion that "Jews should have a state of their own", then it has no moral implications in itself (though indeed some may worry that it is not very far from saying "All Jews should live in that state"). However, ethnic cleansing is clearly racist. That racism cannot be redeemed by an appeal to an ideology, it can only extend the taint of racism to the ideology, even if you call it Zionism and categorize it as nationalism and demand equal treatment with other nationalisms. That would equally go for any flavour of Palestinian nationalism that required the ethnic cleansing of Jews.

Michael said...

Having deferred reading Hussein Ibish's "logical" article as advertised above, I finally got around to it. After a while it began to seem so familiar that I decided I had probably come across it before and forgotten it.

Disappointingly for anyone who wants something challenging to argue with, he rehearses the usual arguments, including notably the notion that the withdrawal of a few thousand settlers from Gaza indicates good intentions on the part of the Israeli government, or a demonstration that something similar is possible with half a million settlers in the West Bank - an unconscious recognition of its ultimate necessity (and feasibility), if not an explicit rehearsal for such a move. If Ibish wanted this explanation for the Gaza withdrawal to be convincing, he would need to account for its unilateral nature, with a determined refusal to coordinate with a PA desperate to strengthen itself against Hamas. More obviously, he ignores the fact that those Gaza settlers, and more with them, were effectively relocated to the West Bank, not to mention Ariel Sharon's own stated rationale for the redeployment. Virginia Tilley's book (which I recommend and which is among the books Ibish claims to refute) may have been written before his article but anyone who placed the two side by side would have to conclude that it is the former that is a refutation of the latter.

One thing perhaps worth noting is the way Ibish seeks to challenge the idea that the two state solution is now impossible: by asserting that if this is so then the one-staters should be able to say exactly when it became impossible. This was interesting insofar as it might seem to neatly turn around one of the arguments made by one-staters, namely "if you think two states are still possible, when will they become impossible?" Is this valid?

Consider an analogy. In the early days of BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, an environmentalist - call her Jane - categorizes it as an ecological catastrophe. Bob, an oil man, acknowledges that it's pretty bad but says it's not yet a catastrophe. A few days later, it's even worse, and Jane says, "Now you have to agree it's a catastrophe!" Bob demurs. Some time later, there's even more oil, but still they disagree. Jane, exasperated, asks, "Well, when will it be a catastrophe?" Bob says, "You can't expect me to say that unless you also can quantify exactly how much oil, how widely dispersed, and in what particular geographical locations, constitutes a 'catastrophe'." Jane replies that it may be impossible to define a clear categorical boundary, particularly one involving a combination of several variables, but the oil spill is so far beyond any such point that it's a needless and pointless exercise, if not a deliberate distraction from the imperative to recognize reality and act accordingly.

Leaving aside here the more important question of whether the oil spill is, by reasonable judgment, certainly a catastrophe or not (again, see Tilley et al. if you want to determine for yourself whose account is the more convincing), who can with greater logic and justice demand to know where the boundary is? Someone who continually says "soon but not yet" while the situation deteriorates ever further, or someone asking the question rhetorically - to draw attention to that infinitely extendable prevarication, and so get people to see the wood from the trees?

In a recent interview, Shir Hever reminded us that when Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister many educated Israelis were dismayed at how far Israel had fallen. They wondered if it could get any worse. They said that if Ariel Sharon ever became prime minister they would finally give up on the country and leave. They didn't. As Hever's interviewer observed, it's the frog in boiling water syndrome.

Michael said...

Having deferred reading Hussein Ibish's "logical" article as advertised above, I finally got around to it. After a while it began to seem so familiar that I decided I had probably come across it before and forgotten it.

Disappointingly for anyone who wants something challenging to argue with, he rehearses the usual arguments, including notably the notion that the withdrawal of a few thousand settlers from Gaza indicates good intentions on the part of the Israeli government, or a demonstration that something similar is possible with half a million settlers in the West Bank - an unconscious recognition of its ultimate necessity (and feasibility), if not an explicit rehearsal for such a move. If Ibish wanted this explanation for the Gaza withdrawal to be convincing, he would need to account for its unilateral nature, with a determined refusal to coordinate with a PA desperate to strengthen itself against Hamas. More obviously, he ignores the fact that those Gaza settlers, and more with them, were effectively relocated to the West Bank, not to mention Ariel Sharon's own stated rationale for the redeployment. Virginia Tilley's book (which I recommend and which is among the books Ibish claims to refute) may have been written before his article but anyone who placed the two side by side would have to conclude that it is the former that is a refutation of the latter.

One thing perhaps worth noting is the way Ibish seeks to challenge the idea that the two state solution is now impossible: by asserting that if this is so then the one-staters should be able to say exactly when it became impossible. This was interesting insofar as it might seem to neatly turn around one of the arguments made by one-staters, namely "if you think two states are still possible, when will they become impossible?" Is this valid?

Consider an analogy. In the early days of BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, an environmentalist - call her Jane - categorizes it as an ecological catastrophe. Bob, an oil man, acknowledges that it's pretty bad but says it's not yet a catastrophe. A few days later, it's even worse, and Jane says, "Now you have to agree it's a catastrophe!" Bob demurs. Some time later, there's even more oil, but still they disagree. Jane, exasperated, asks, "Well, when will it be a catastrophe?" Bob says, "You can't expect me to say that unless you also can quantify exactly how much oil, how widely dispersed, and in what particular geographical locations, constitutes a 'catastrophe'." Jane replies that it may be impossible to define a clear categorical boundary, particularly one involving a combination of several variables, but the oil spill is so far beyond any such point that it's a needless and pointless exercise, if not a deliberate distraction from the imperative to recognize reality and act accordingly.

Leaving aside here the more important question of whether the oil spill is, by reasonable judgment, certainly a catastrophe or not (again, see Tilley et al. if you want to determine for yourself whose account is the more convincing), who can with greater logic and justice demand to know where the boundary is? Someone who continually says "soon but not yet" while the situation deteriorates ever further, or someone asking the question rhetorically?

In a recent interview, Shir Hever reminded us that when Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister many educated Israelis were dismayed at how far Israel had fallen. They wondered if it could get any worse. They said that if Ariel Sharon ever became prime minister they would finally give up on the country and leave. They didn't. As Hever's interviewer observed, it's the frog in boiling water syndrome.

Michael said...

In an interview, Shir Hever reminded us that when Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister many educated Israelis were dismayed at how far Israel had fallen. They wondered if it could get any worse. They said that if Ariel Sharon ever became prime minister they would finally give up on the country and leave. They didn't. As Hever's interviewer observed, it's the frog in boiling water syndrome.

Michael said...

(Note to blog owner: had some trouble posting comment above - please forgive and discard any duplicate that comes through.)

Tobias said...

I'll do this peacemeal, without regards to who wrote what either.

"Cue in the Kurds!"

The Kurds? Who are citizens of Turkey? Who can vote in Turkish national election, same as all other Turks? Those Kurds?
No, their situation as a national minority isn't good. But it's a situation as a national minority. This is way, way better than the situation as colonial subjects without any civil rights whatsoever, which the Palestinians face.

"Just as it's a historical accident that Jerusalem was made judenrein for 19 years"

... it's a historical accident that (insert any former Palestinian village in Israel you like here) was made araberrein, right? So, full right of return, right? No? Then STFU.

"Or Japan--where my good friend married a Japanese, but can't become a citizen--where all the citizens have yellow skin, slanty eyes and black hair?"

You're either ignorant or lying. Or both. You're also apparently racist. It's quite definitely possible for people of any national background to become Japanese citizens. And there are of course "white" Japanese.
Not many, to be sure. The reason is simply that Japanese naturalization requirements are very strict - again this applies to all nationalities. Very few Westerners are prepared, for example, to give up their original citizenship in order to become Japanese.
Then of course there is this whole thing about Japan not (currently, for any moron who doesn't understand the concept of time) occupy and oppress millions of non-citizens, but that's a different story. To lump in a stable, modern democracy like Japan with Saudi-Arabia because your friend doesn't get everything he feels entitled to is nothing short of absurd.

Canadian Headhunter said...

RACHEL LEVER SAID:
"Israel's Jews have loyalty to the state as a Jewish state (try saying 'white state' and you can see what's wrong with that.

This is an invalid parallel.Jewish and white are not a matching set.

Try saying Italian state. Or English state. Or French state, instead.

Sort of cools things down a bit, doesn't it?