NONVIOLENCE INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON “BEYOND THE TWO STATE SOLUTION”

[On December 16, 2020, Nonviolence International held a webinar on Jonathan Kuttab’s book Beyond the Two State Solution. The following highlights are lightly edited excerpts transcribed from the YouTube recording of the entire webinar, which readers are encouraged to access here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4zm_VwZPm0&feature=youtu.be]

David Hart, Co-Director of Nonviolence International: I am Jewish and was raised being told of a land that was taken from us in a war when the whole world was against us. And still, somehow, we prevailed. International law made clear that no nation may keep land taken in war, but we were defending ourselves and we certainly would not hold the land long. When I learned something of the reality of everyday Palestinian life and came to see it as a deep affront to those basic values Jews are taught are at the heart of our faith, I was somehow more able to accept this contradiction because it came with the story that land would be traded for peace, and the occupation would end soon. That was decades ago. Sadly actions that have reshaped facts on the ground have made the call for a two-state solution more of a cover for oppressive policies than a realistic path towards peace with justice. Jonathan’s book attempts [to implement] a fundamental principle of creative conflict resolution.  He takes seriously the basic needs of both parties. What will it take for us to extend our compassion to the Palestinian people? Maybe we could start with the recognition that they are fully human, Radical, I know, but true nonetheless. My hope is that those willing to grapple with this complex and difficult issue will read Jonathan ‘s book and help us change the conversation.

Jonathan  Kuttab, Co-founder of Nonviolence International, practicing attorney in Israel Palestine, and the United States: I think this project started when Bob Herbst and I started thinking about: What does really take? What does each side really want? Can we create a new vision that makes sense for both people? It was a painful conversation, because I was one of those who believed in a two state solution before it was [widely advocated].  I thought it was a pragmatic way to deal with these two narratives, these two ideologies, that were mutually exclusive. “The more we get the less they get.” “The more they get, the less we get.” “One additional immigrant means one fewer person for us.” “One more Palestinian birth is a demographic threat to the other side.” After a while it became clear to me that the two-state solution not only doesn’t work, because it has been thoroughly and consistently undermined, but that it has become an alibi for the status quo, an alibi for refusing to address the injustices, an alibi for dealing with the discriminatory and sometimes very racist ideologies that totally negate and demonize [the “Other.”]

This book has three parts.  The first part explains how the two-state solution was created, and how it was undermined and collapsed and is no longer workable, because I think it is important to get rid of false hopes before we create new hopes. The second part, the most important part, is to set out a vision. People ask, “Is it even possible to think of a vision that satisfies the needs of both?” I think it is possible, but it is very painful. It requires that we give up the idea of exclusivity. Rather than argue if your narrative is correct or incorrect it requires asking what is it that your narrative provides for you? What is it that you want? Zionist Israelis tell me, “We want a Jewish state.” But what is a Jewish state? What does that mean?  You can’t circumcise a state! What is the irreducible minimum that you want out of this state. And, yes, the Palestinians also. “What is it that you want out of a Palestinian state?  For a long time we were told that the goal of Palestinian nationalism was statehood, but you can give me a state that means nothing. You give me a passport, but I can’t travel. You give me a Parliament but I can’t vote for it. You give me airport, but I can’t fly out of it. So, what is it I want out of statehood.  I want something very concrete. I want freedom; I want equality; I want freedom of movement; I want self-fulfillment; I want participation in my life; I want empowerment. A state is supposed to give me that; but if you give me state without any of those contents you give ne nothing.  I make no judgements; I claim no symmetry between the two parties. I simply ask can we come up with a vision that will accommodate the other rather than negate and demonize and criminalize and delegitimize the “Other.” The third part of the book, which I think is the weakest, is a chapter that I was almost forced to add at the end, which is “How do we get from here to there.” This book is not for anyone who insists on their maximalist ideology. If I say, “Filistiin Arabia, Palestine is Arab,” that all these Zionists from all over the world should go back to wherever they came from, then this book is not for me. Similarly if you think Israel should be as Jewish as France is French, if  you aren’t willing to accept Palestinians’ right here, then this book is not for you. This conversation is for those who say, “Despite what I believe, despite what I think, despite what I have grown up with, despite my  historic/religious/national/whatever rights, I recognize that there is this other group who are living in this land today and I can’t get rid of them, an dits not right to get rid of them. I need to find a way to accommodate them [and] t incorporate them into my visions.” I am totally open to those who disagree. I am totally open to this conversation.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, faith-based activist, one of the first women to become a rabbi: I ant to begin by doing a land acknowledgement … to understand a root cause. When I am on Turtle Island I acknowledge that I am a guest on Ohlone land, and when I travel to Palestine I acknowledge that I am a guest on Palestinian lands. We can begin the healing with a vision of radical inclusion and equity.

Robert Herbst, Jewish Voice for Peace, human rights lawyer: I’m in my seventies and for decades I was uncomfortable about the oppression over there, [but] I only really expressed my concerns within the tribe until  when the Gaza operation “Protective Edge” became too much for me to bear. In 2016  I met Jonathan and we bonded very quickly over the one-state idea. A caste-based society in which Jews dominate over non-Jews is not kosher.

Azmerah Hammouri-Davis, Friends of Sabeel, Black-Palestinian poet: It was not until I was arrested an airport while leaving Israel that I realized how insensitive my teacher’s joke [about being a terrorist seven years earlier] really was. I was contained for an hour, strip searched, patted down [for the crime of having] a Palestinian grandfather whom I had never met. When I asked why I was arrested I was told, “This is Israel, what do you think?” How naïve of me. [Since then,] I have net so many Jewish colleagues who are committed to this work. There is a wave of people ready to dismantle old logic, to cultivate, to see the joy and humanity in each of us, and to say this can be different.

Rabbi Gerald Serotta: The brilliance of what Jonathan writes about is that it is not a solution but a vision. It is an attempt to bring justice and dignity [to the] forefront.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

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