[On January 13, 2022, Jonathan Kuttab moderated a Nonviolence International discussion of what comes next in Israel/Palestine now that the two-state solution is dead. Discussants were Jeff Halper, author of Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine: Zionism, Settler Colonialism, and the Case for One Democratic State, and Noura Erakat. author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. This is my summary of highlights of the program.]
Jeff Halper opened the discussion by asserting that the two-state solution is premised on a fallacy.Â It is an attempt at conflict resolution (or at least conflict management) to an issue with two sides, each of which has some legitimacy.Â To the contrary, he denies that Zionism has any legitimacy. He does not deny that Jews have a genuine affiliation with the land, but rather rejects the premise of Zionism that ONLY Jews have any rights in the land. His position is that as a colonial settler state Israel cannot accept granting any part of the land to which they make an exclusive claim to another party. Palestinians may leave, be eliminated, or even stay (as long as they know their place), but no claim of theirs to legitimacy to the land, or to any part of it,Â may ever be recognized.Â Â One attendee noted how this parallels Canadian (and also U.S.) attitudes towards the indigenous people, to which I replied that that is precisely the meaning of “The land without a people for the people without a land.”
Noura Erakat noted that Zionist colonization from the beginning viewed itself as part of a European project that rejects everything indigenous to the land, to the point that even the indigenous Jews were required to reject their Arab language and heritage. It is not about an indigenous resurgence, but about colonization. It was the weak position of Palestinians that led them into the Oslo trap. But Oslo was an autonomy plan, not a two-state solution, as has become clear. What is the pathway to de-Zionization? We need Jewish Israelis to reject Zionism. This is a spiritual transformation, not just a political one. It requires a rejection of the notion that Zionism is exceptional and unlike other settler-colonial movements. She called for a rejection of privatization of land in favor of making it a Palestinian commons, which, as I objected in the chat, is effectively calling for the Palestinian movement to turn into a mirror image of the Zionist project.
In response to the question of what would a solution offer Israeli Jews, Halper said he envisions a democracy with equal rights, both individual and collective, for everyone. An open question is would it be a binational state or a unitary state. Many Palestinians reject bi-nationalism as a Zionist idea. A book How Do Settlers Become Natives? puts its finger on the problem: Once Israeli Jews abandon colonialism they become “sufficiently nativized” that they can go on with their lives, which is what everyone wants. Halper does not believe that an anti-Zionist movement among Israeli Jews will happen.Â The ANC never tried to get the Whites in South Africa to overthrow apartheid.Â The FLN in Algeria also knew they would never get the French settlers to reject their status. Halper says we’ll try to bring in as many Israeli Jews as we can, but it will always be a fraction of a percent of the population and Palestinians must go to the international community which is their most powerful ally. Then the Israeli Jews will, like the Whites of South Africa, see that they have no choice.
Erakat asked why would the privileged ever give up their privileges? They need an incentive. We must offer a situation to which Israeli Jews can feel they belong and in which they can feel safe. Zionism never combatted White supremacy, but internalized a racial hierarchy that was used against them and turned it against the Palestinians. Anti-racism is an entry point for a joint movement that, unlike Zionism, can effectively fight anti-Semitism. Our battle against White supremacy in the United States in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement is part of that effort. The ANC never collaborated with the apartheid government, but the PLO has. The PLO hasn’t even endorsed the BDS movement beyond the West Bank and Gaza.
In response to an objection that the speakers offered no practical roadmap, Erakat argued that freedom movements offer visions, not roadmaps. Attendee Gerald Serotta expressed the view (with which I agree) that Jonathan Kuttab’s book Beyond the Two State Solution is very practical.
Another attendee suggested that churches need to do a better job of refuting Christian Zionism. He noted that on a global basis the churches delegitimized South African apartheid making mobilization against it much easier. Halper agreed that Christian Zionism has an impact well beyond the Evangelical movement. He felt churches need to begin to think more politically.
A member of an Israeli group seeking a federal solution the problem, asked if stressing commonality between the peoples might not be a more promising route. Erakat responded that the common ground is opposition to oppression.
One attendee asked how you deal with Israeli Jewish fears of living in a Muslim-majority state. Mary Neznek (a regular participant in the “Friends of Palestine” Zoom meetings hosted by the Minaret of Freedom Institute) argued that given America’s role as enabler, American politics is essential and asked what U.S. citizens can do.
Erakat emphasized that Palestinians do not object to Jewish presence in the land. Most Palestinians are secular and the religious ones respect Jews as “People of the Book.” Jews are welcome as neighbors, but not as conquerors. Her hope for change in the U.S. is in the effect of a transnational movement.
Halper argued that hard work and organization and “a hard-headed strategy” is what is required. There is already one state here; it is Israel. We don’t need to make one state, we need to end settler-colonialism. Why do people only ask about Israeli security and not Palestinian security, when it is the Palestinians who are the least secure? The colonized can never accept their oppressed status and will always resist. As South Africa showed, once you reach a just resolution with equal rights for everyone the security issue goes away. Those who want a detailed program will find one at onestatecampaign.org. As for a common goal, Halper noted that neither the Palestinian nor Israeli soccer teams have ever made it to the World Cup.Â A single team with the best of players from both those teams would be something for which both Israelis and Palestinians could cheer. Bi-nationalism perpetuates borders between us that he would like to see fall.
Kuttab said that what is ultimately important is to address the needs, wants, and concerns of ordinary people. States exist to serve and have no right to exist on their own. He emphasized the necessity of nonviolent tools to bring about a desirable solution.
Mubarak Awad closed the meeting with the observation that people hunger for justice and the purpose of such programs is to motivate people to work to help Palestinians and Israelis by speaking out without fear for human rights and against oppression, discrimination, and war. Noting the recent death of a great advocate of freedom and human rights, he called “for more of us to take the place of Desmond Tutu.”
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute