by Justine McCabe
First published in Green Horizon Magazine / Spring Summer 2012
For we belong to a single body –
Arabs and Jews
Tel Aviv and Tulkarem,
Haifa and Ramallah –
What are they
If not a single pair of shoulders,
(Our Land by Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai in J’Accuse, 2001)
As we note the anniversary of the “Arab Spring’s” revolts against repressive regimes in the Middle East, democracy remains uncertain. But a linchpin around which these regimes have long operated continues: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Indeed, as Egypt’s revolution began, James Jones–former commander of all NATO forces, former national security advisor to President Obama, and former special ME envoy to President George W. Bush–addressed the 2011 Herzliya Conference in Israel insisting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the “knot that is at the center of the mass” of all regional and most global diplomatic problems today, . . . ” 1 According to Israel Today, “Jones rejected the notion that the current turmoil in Egypt proved that even without Israel and its land dispute with the Arabs the Middle East would not have peace. 2
That report criticized Jones for ignoring that “before 1967, Israel did not control the so-called ‘West Bank,’ and yet there was still much conflict.” However, the conflict’s origin is not the 1967 war. Rather it begins with Zionist colonization of historic Palestine from the late 19th century, culminating in the 1948 Nakba—”catastrophe”: Palestinian dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the majority native population from 1947-49 by a newly-created Israeli state, documented by many scholars, including Jewish Israeli historians. 3
Acknowledging this history is not only essential to resolving the conflict but also points to the solution: “One Democratic State” (ODS) in the land between the River Jordan and Mediterranean Sea. ODS is also the “Green” solution”—most just, legal, non-violent, sustainable. For these reasons, ODS was formally endorsed by the Green Party of the US in its 2010 platform.
The Two State Solution: Intention, Practice and Demise
The “two-state solution” is a chimera, at best meant only to end Israeli military occupation in parts of the West Bank (WB). It is not now, nor has ever been, a sustainable solution to the core problem between Israelis and Palestinians: Israel’s continuing dispossession of Christian and Muslim natives of Palestine and refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes because they are not Jews.
This solution is premised on legitimizing permanent inequality between Israeli Jews and Palestinians who would remain dependent on Israel. Concomitantly, it would legitimize ethnic cleansing and seizing territory by force.
How can this not be a recipe for ongoing insecurity, conflict and violence?
Ironically, because of its structural inequality and “facts on the ground,” the two-state solution is already dead. The WB has been integrated into Israel demographically, economically as well as territorially. Palestine-Israel is one de facto state, where one group dominates another. Israel’s orgy of settlement building following the 1967 war have now created 600,000+ Jewish-Israeli colonizers in the WB, many in what are now large cities engulfing Jerusalem. Israel continues to evict East Jerusalem Palestinians to build 13,500+ new homes for Jews only, a policy publicly condemned by South Africa as reminiscent of “forced removals” of their apartheid era. Thus, 2.4 million Palestinians are left scraps–fragmented Bantustans–in the WB, separated from 1.7 million besieged Palestinians in Gaza.
Describing the WB as the egg that cannot be unscrambled, 4 former Israeli Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti recognizes the “Inevitable Bi-National Regime”
One must therefore seek a different paradigm to describe the state of affairs more than forty years after Israel/Palestine became one geopolitical unit again, . . . The term “de facto bi-national regime” is preferable to the occupier/occupied paradigm, because it describes the mutual dependence of both societies, as well as the physical, economic, symbolic and cultural ties that cannot be severed without an intolerable cost. Describing the situation as de facto bi-national does not indicate parity between Israelis and Palestinians–on the contrary, it stresses the total dominance of the Jewish-Israeli nation, which controls a Palestinian nation that is fragmented both territorially and socially. No paradigm of military occupation can reflect the Bantustans created in the occupied territories, which separate a free and flourishing population with a gross domestic product of almost 30 thousand Dollars per capita from a dominated population unable to shape its own future with a GDP of $1,500 per capita. No paradigm of military occupation can explain how half the occupied areas (“area C”) have essentially been annexed, leaving the occupied population with disconnected lands and no viable existence. Only a strategy of annexation and permanent rule can explain the vast settlement enterprise and the enormous investment in housing and infrastructure, . . . 5
Similarly, former national director of the American-Jewish Congress, Henry Seigman, regards Jewish settlements in the WB as having created an “irreversible colonial project” intended to prevent a viable Palestinian state: “Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the Western world.” 6
Even if Israel supported a sovereign Palestinian state in the WB, there are other legal, environmental and moral problems with the two-state solution.
Where would millions of Palestinian refugees go? According to BADIL, the WB refugee rights center, there are about 7.6 million Palestinian refugees, 4.6 of whom are registered with the UN. Notwithstanding Palestinians’ inalienable right under international law to return home, there is already high population density, insufficient land in the proposed fragmented Palestinian “statelet” to humanely and environmentally accommodate those refugees, most originating from inside Israel.
The “Demographic Threat”
Zionist Israelis speak of ongoing threats to Jewish majority: growing numbers of non-Jews, a higher Palestinian than Jewish birth rate, increasingly low Jewish immigration relative to Jewish emigration resulting in estimates that by 2015 Palestinians will be the majority in historic Palestine.7
Israel has responded to this threat by escalating its apartheid-like regime: racist incitement like repeated calls for “transferring” Palestinian-Israeli citizens out; a 2003 law prohibiting Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians from the OPT from living with their spouses in Israel while Jewish Israelis marrying Jews from the OPT can live with them in Israel; a 2010 law requiring non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”; and outlawing support for the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and publicly-funded activities commemorating the Palestinian Nakba. 8
Given these demographics, Israel can only maintain a Jewish majority by killing or expelling non-Jews from Israel and continuing to make life so difficult for Palestinians they would leave.
Environmental Degradation of Two Unequal States
The unequal division of natural resources characterizing the two-state solution portends ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Water security has been most negatively impacted. Since 1967, Israel has not only arrogated regional water supplies and diverted over 80% of WB water for Israeli use, but the whole area now faces an absolute shortage of water because of over consumption and development. Meanwhile, (Mediterranean Sea) salt water is seeping into Gaza’s water as its water table falls. Under the two-state solution, USAID is expected to fund an Israeli plan to retain WB water sources in exchange for a desalination plant providing (privatized) water to the Territories. According to Stephen Lendman, “New Scientist points out that if these two projects become reality they’ll make “Palestine more dependent on desalination than almost any other nation in the world.” And given the cost of desalinated water, it will be out of reach for the great majority of impoverished Palestinians.” 9
Similarly, former US Green senatorial candidate Joel Kovel describes the environmental disaster resulting from Israeli efforts to maintain a Jewish state by dispossessing Palestinians:
“This has led to an ecological situation unique in history, one that hurtles toward environmental ruin. Human beings are ecosystems, too, and their capacity to fit into the great regulatory patterns of nature depends upon their internal integrity, manifest in mutual recognition and coherent communication. Estrangement, or alienation, is the human form taken by ecological breakdown; it is a failure of recognition between human agents, which makes cooperative action impossible and splits humanity from nature as well as itself. It follows that the most severely estranged society will also be the most subject to eco-disintegration. This more or less describes the State of Israel, and certainly its Occupied Territories, which comprise one of the most bizarre social formations ever planted upon the earth. Here, on a tiny plot of ground, dwell two people with two radically different legal and social systems, one the beneficiary of a powerful state and living in comfort while it works to terrorize and strangle the other who is stateless and bent upon surviving; the two are therefore as radically denied any cooperative arrangement as can be imagined, and primed to be an eco-destructive accelerant to the State of Israel as a whole. . . . Here we find deliberate actions taken to destroy the filaments of human ecosystems, by legal and extralegal means of expulsion, by removing, violently if necessary, the grounds of another’s communal existence, and by introducing physical means of disrupting the other’s relation to nature.” 10
The Clinton administration jettisoned international law in 1994 under the Oslo Accords, thereby dismissing equal protection for two grossly unequal parties. As Edward Said wrote, “So great has Israeli-US cooperation become on issues of illegality in defiance of the entire world community that it’s a gratuitous murder of language –its logic and meaning– to speak of a ‘peace process’ at all.”
In sum, this duplicitous process has mainly provided cover for Israel to seize more Palestinian land, fully aided by the US and often by a quisling Palestinian leadership. It only promises more dispossession and racism.
One Democratic State (ODS)
One Democratic State (ODS) in Palestine-Israel addresses the heart of the conflict: A Zionist Israel seeking to rid itself of non-Jews. Unlike any other state in the world, Israel defines itself as the state of Jews worldwide rather than the country of all its citizens, including approximately 25% who are non-Jews, mainly Palestinians. By law, Israel has institutionalized privilege of Jews over non-Jews. Like South Africa and Jim Crow US, this is institutionalized racism or apartheid under the UN’s 1973 International Convention.
By contrast, transforming Israel-Palestine into ODS has many advantages.
*ODS would observe international law:
- End to Israel’s apartheid-like regime in the OPT, now amply documented.11
- End to apartheid within Israel against its Palestinian citizens, also documented, including by the 2011 [Bertrand] Russell Tribunal on Palestine whose jury included former US Congresswoman and GPUS 2008 presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney.12
- Comply with international law affirming Palestinian right to self-determination. At present, a Zionist Israel violates the law by its zero-sum game– achieving its “self-determination” at the expense of the self-determination of Palestinians.
- Comply with the international human right of Palestinians to return to their homes. In fact, for refugees who wish to return, feasible plans have been proposed creating minimal displacement of the current population. About 80% of Israeli Jews live in only 15% of the country; the vast majority of refugees could return to vacant or under populated areas from which they came. 13
*ODS would transform Israel’s growing pariah status as a racist country, bringing genuine security for its Jewish citizens.
*ODS would create an authentic homeland for Jews, as well as Palestinians. Zionist Israel’s oppressive policies toward non-Jews are inconsistent with Jewish values. Jews like international law professor Richard Falk assert that ODS would restore a genuine Jewishness to the people of Israel:
“For me to be Jewish is, above all, to be preoccupied with overcoming injustice and thirsting for justice in the world, and that means being respectful toward other peoples regardless of their nationality or religion, and empathetic in the face of human suffering whoever and wherever victimization is encountered. . . . ” 14
*ODS could be a catalyst for peace, democracy and tolerance in a region that has been a source of world instability, especially between the Muslim world and the West: 15
“Under international law, practices of colonialism and apartheid are judged damaging to international legal order and seriously threaten world peace and security. Findings of colonialism and apartheid legally obligate third parties to oppose the colonialism-apartheid system.” 16
Transformed, Israel could no longer be used to deflect attention from oppressive domestic policies of regimes in the region.
*ODS has growing support. Indeed, ODS was supported by Palestinians and some Jews before Israel’s creation. Recently, there have been several international conferences devoted to this (Madrid, London, Spain, Boston, Haifa) and working groups have been established, like the Movement for One Democratic State, October 2010 in Dallas, TX 17
Also, inspired by the “Arab Spring,” Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, the OPT, Egypt and Jordan rushed the borders of Israel demanding to be allowed to return to their homes in Palestine-Israel. 18
Polls show that while more Palestinians support a two-state solution, as Palestinians recognize its futility, support for ODS is growing, 19 as it is among even Jewish Israelis like former and current Israeli Knesset Speakers, Avraham Burg and Reuvin Rivlin.20 Other polls show that many Palestinians support gaining Israeli citizenship as a way of transforming the struggle into one for equal rights, 21 while most see the two-state solution as precursor to an inevitable ODS. 22.
Finally, ODS reflects reality: Palestine-Israel is, and always has been, a multicultural society, despite Zionism’s attempts to deny or Judaize it. In truth, Israelis and Palestinians have become inextricably connected by their mutual suffering and attachment to the same land. By working together to form one democratic state, both peoples eventually could be secure, at home.
Justine McCabe is Co-Chairperson of the International Committee of the Green Party of the United States. She also serves as a point person for the International Committee on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She earned doctorates in cultural anthropology and psychology and has lived and traveled widely in the Middle East, conducting anthropological research in Lebanon and Iran. Since the mid-1990s, she has traveled regularly to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories where she has conducted respite workshops for humanitarian workers. Justine practices clinical psychology in Connecticut.
- Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2006; Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, 2004.
- 60 Minutes, January 25th 2009
- http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn5037-israel-lays-claim-to-palestines-water.html; http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/198/40391.html
- Overcoming Zionism, 2007, pp.115-116.
- Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) study, 2010 http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Media_Release-378.phtml ; UN special report, 2007; http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/B59FE224D4A4587D8525728B00697DAA
Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel
Apartheid laws privileging Jewish Israelis http://www.itisapartheid.org/laws.html; and http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article11762.htm
- UN Alliance of Civilizations 2006 report http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=3849
- 2010 poll showed 34% favoring, up from 20.6% in 2009
- http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/now-it-s-your-turn-1.403059; and http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israel-official-accepting-palestinians-into-israel-better-than-two-states-1.287421
- http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/07/west-bank-palestinians-say-yes-to-israeli- citizenship.html;