Friday, March 14, 2008

The One State Illusion: Reply to My Critics


"Editors’ note: On Monday we ran Michael Neumann’s argument against the so-called “one state” solution for Israel and Palestine. The following three days featured critiques by Kathy Christison, Jonathan Cook and Assaf Kfoury. Michael Neumann now wraps up this series with some comments. AC/JSC

What follows is blunt, but this is not an expression of contempt. To the contrary, I have great respect for these critics........

Christison says: "Probably most disturbing is Neumann's dismissal of any concept of justice as a reason for attempting to find an alternative solution." Hell no, I think that's a terrific reason. I merely think that, in the case of the one-state solution, the attempt fails miserably: just or unjust, one state is not an available option.......

Finally Cook says: "The solution... reduces to the question of how to defeat Zionism.It just so happens that the best way this can be achieved is by ...explaining why Israel is in permanent bad faith about seeking peace." This conflates metaphor with reality. Zionism doesn't conquer, starve, dispossess and kill. The state of Israel does that. It is not fought, much less defeated, by explanations, nor by exposing bad faith. Nor is it defeated by "discrediting Israel as a Jewish state, and the ideology of Zionism that upholds it." The Palestinians have fought Zionism, not metaphorically. They may succeed in pushing Israel back to 1967 boundaries. To suppose they can go further, no doubt by moral suasion, presupposes such a good-hearted world that one wonders why there ever was a problem to start with......

Kfoury's position amounts to this: 'One-State is now an escapist fantasy, whatever form one would like to give it, while Two-State is stigmatized by the failed Oslo Accords, a discredited Palestinian leadership, and an "international community" that never enforced its own UN resolutions on Palestine.' In fact he spends most of his time attacking the one-state solution. Moreover his claims about the two-state solution do little to support the view that it's not a live option. That an option is 'stigmatized' doesn't mean it's not viable - indeed I write in fear that a viable option has been stigmatized. Besides, it's not clear why bad leadership, bogus accords, and bad enforcement should stigmatize the two-state solution, any more than, say, crappy musicians stigmatize music.

I do share Kfoury's belief that our discussions are sterile. Perhaps our opinions have some microscopic influence in the US - certainly not in Israel - but events are moving beyond our reach. More and more, what counts is the ability of the Palestinians, in the occupied territories and through Hezbollah, to create facts on the ground. No longer is that the prerogative of Israel and the United States. I also agree that it is not for us to tell the Palestinians what to do. Since most Palestinians appear resigned to a two-state solution, I see the one-state advocates as doing just that."

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