Palestinian Aspirations versus Zombie Geopolitics

8 Jan

Palestinian Aspirations versus Zombie Geopolitics


The mental processes that infuse zombie geopolitics with political vitality long after their viability has vanished is partly mysterious, and partly a calculated effort to deny a changed reality.  More concretely, I have in mind the afterlife of ‘the two-state solution’ to the long Israel-Palestine confrontation. It retained its status as the only practical solution for years after it became crystal clear to even semi-informed observers that it would never happen.


I remember being disturbed by Barack Obama’s frequent statements along these lines (for example, his 2013 Jerusalem speech). He asserted that everyone knew that the two-state solution was the only path to peace, but just didn’t know to make it happen. This was misleading then as the leading party, Israel, made it clear by its deeds (settlement building and expansion; Jerusalem annexation) and later its words (Netanyahu’s 2014 election promise never to allow a Palestinian state to come into being as long as was prime minister). Recall that even back in 1995, when the true goals of the Zionist Project were more obscure and the golden haze surrounding the Oslo diplomacy had not lifted, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated for even hinting that such a possibility might become a reality.


How then can we explain the durability of the two-state mantra in the domain of geopolitics? To be fairer to Trump than he deserves, Trump has moved beyond the peace discourse such anachronistic language, and if his ‘deal of the century’ ever sees the light of day, it will be a one-state proposal, although possibly slightly disguised with some two-state window dressing. Yet we are still left to wonder why Scandinavian governments, UN officials, J-Street, and even the Palestinian Authority cleave to the two-state framing of a future diplomatic process supposedly seeking peace.


A superficial response is that two-statism remains the only game in town, or more accurately, the only officially acknowledgedgame. A more sensitive answer suggests that the increasingly likely alternative to the two-state consensus is an apartheid Israel  one-state solution that seems worse in liberal eyes for Palestine, and in the longer run, even for Israel, than allowing a demilitarized Palestine state to be established.  


The most credible response would be to admit the incompatibility of a democratically constituted one-state solution with the reality of a Jewish state, which effectively means the end of the Zionist Project as it has developed since 1947, that is, full participatory equality for Palestinians.


We should not even one hundred years later forget that the colonialist Balfour Declaration in 1917 pledged to the international Zionist movement support for ‘a national home for the Jewish people,’ deliberately avoiding the terminology of ‘a state,’ although not foreclosing such a possibility. The British Cabinet and leadership were deeply divided on this question during the mandate period, and eventually floated the two-state approach as a political compromise to an untenable situation of ethnic tension in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration also promised to protect the rights and circumstances of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, an empty gesture ignored even before the ink was dry. Of course, the Balfour Declaration is a discredited historical document that has long since been superseded by later developments, but how and with what relevance remains a matter of controversy.


So what does this present situation mean for those seeking to sort out the desired and likely destinies of these two peoples? There seem to be two salient possibilities: either the indefinite prolongation of the existing apartheid ordeal of domination/victimization or some kind of embrace of a one-state outcome. If the latter, there is a second fork in the road: either an apartheid Jewish state or a one secular ethnically neutral state based on human rights and the full equality of its various distinct peoples and religions. The enactment of the Basic Law of the Jewish People in 2018 and the subsequent rejection by the Knesset of a bill affirming the equality of all peoples living within Israel make clear that the political leadership in Israel unequivocally supports the first option. It would appear that the Israeli government is no in the midst of a somewhat covert transition from the uncertainties of indefinite occupation of the Palestinian territories to their territorial incorporation into the sovereign Jewish state of Israel. There remains the possibility of leaving Gaza out in the cold to avoid Gazan resistance activity along with the awkwardness of risking a Palestinian majority population in an enlarged Jewish state. Besides, Gaza is not considered by Zionists to be part of the biblical entitlement claimed as ‘the promised land.’


It seems crucial to recognize an assured result of such a coercive and one-sided Israel ‘solution,’ the real essence of Trump’s approach and Daniel Pipes’ ‘Victory Caucus.’ If actualized such thinking would not bring peace, but at best, yet another oppressive ceasefire. As night follows day such an outcome would sooner or later produce new spirals of armed and nonviolent Palestinian resistance. In this post-colonial world atmosphere a repressed people will continue to resist no matter what the costs, and the Palestinian people have done so for more than 70 years. The Great March of Return showed the world in recent months that the Palestinian political will to resist has not weakened despite the cruel costs imposed by Israeli vindictive and deliberately disproportionate violence at the Gaza fence week after week. Beyond this, the BDS Campaign and other expressions of global solidarity have added to the international weight of Palestinian claims while overseas Zionist unconditional support of Israel throughout the Jewish diaspora, and especially in the United States, is weakening, including dramatically among younger American Jews.


In the end the only question worth pondering is this: what kind of one-state will exist in the territory of Palestine administered between the two world wars by the United Kingdom as the mandate holder?  Will it be a Jewish state that fulfills the Zionist Project? Or will it be a secular state based on human rights and a governing spirit of equality? At least posing the choice in this manner lifts the cloud cover provided by the Zombie maneuvers of the past 20 or more years associated with continued advocacy of long moribund, and never promising, two-state negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the state of Israel. It would clarify the diplomatic impasse if Mahmoud Abbas and the Ramallah leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza leadership of Hamas could be persuaded to affirm this new realism. It might restore for the Palestinian people respect for the PA and Hamas as legitimate representatives of Palestinian national aspirations, and provide strong incentives for achieving a unified diplomatic Palestinian presence in international venues, including the United Nations.


8 Responses to “Palestinian Aspirations versus Zombie Geopolitics”

  1. Kata Fisher January 8, 2019 at 10:52 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    I truly believe that two state solution is most practical way to solve the conflict, and still, what is hoped to achieve – by this approach is nothing that is good or can be good. That two-state solution, in hope, and work is not only misleading, but also is a grave evil to the generation that implements it. This same grave evil that a generation implements is as well the same, and a worse grave evil for the generation of the people that will be inhabiting the Holy Land. One should have nothing to do with two state solutions.

    However, the question of the status of Jerusalem and foreign embassies – may be difficult due to the post WWII views that translated themselves in bindings and the laws. One should truly understand these things and truly understand what these things are. Then.

    One cannot legitimately restrict any nation from establishing their embassy in Jerusalem – for many reasons – and not just religious or Faith reasons.

    Since then, WWII – both Israeli and Palestinians have come far ahead from their prior generation and have made clearly (on world stage) what was their exaptation from each other (both good and bad one). In reality there is no conflict between two peoples.

    Still, it is not granted to this generation to live in peace with each other.

    Further, both Evangelical Zionist and Israelis have by misleading taken grave tithings to the Holy Land. By the first, by their misrepresenting of the Jewish refugee in the Holy Land, and by the second – just recklessly maiming Jewish people to the illegitimate returns to the Holy Land by things that are nothing better than casino slots offers and winnings. It’s outrageously wrong.

    And all of this while American child is left to wiles of the wild, and more and more loses its humanity.

    These things should be corrected – for many will see their children cursing their ancestors in their graves. For those who do not believe those things could ever be possible – it is nothing but a religiously good luck upon them.

  2. Beau Oolayforos January 9, 2019 at 7:55 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    You posit 2 types of one-state solutions, one domineering and apartheid; the other open and democratic. Can we not hope that, however the Zionist Project might seem to have “won”, that over time, the second option will eventually, inevitably prevail? You mention, for example, that younger American Jews are often less militant than their elders – some of them are articulate advocates for Palestinian rights.

    We oldsters may not live – probably won’t – to see it, but we can have faith that the enmity in Palestine will go the way of anti-German & Japanese hatred, Jim Crow, separate-but-‘equal’, etc.

    • Richard Falk January 10, 2019 at 8:32 am #

      I wish that I could share this confidence. In this post-colonial colonial situation I expect
      an indefinite spiral of resistance and repression, not acquiescence and accommodation. Of course,
      I would hope for you to be right, or at least I think I would. It would depend on what kind of
      accommodation emerged.

      • Kata Fisher January 12, 2019 at 12:57 am #

        Dear Professor Falk –

        This is a old-times debate. Going back into the history – its more then interesting. I was laughing because the only thing human species do not go tough in physical terms is evolution – but human species are definitely required to evolve – or are bounded to eternal end.

        So, I will argue that human species experience evolutional growth – once they learn to accommodate.

        I will also argue that racism is deeply a genetically inborn trait! And the first instance of this trait is scientific – and is scientifically recorded in the Book of Genesis! Specifically, and un-mistakingly … when Adam and Eve saw that they just look differently . I am absolutely a believer in a process of evolution – and how is more then sufficient to fix – or to regress the racist traits in human species.

        Racism is a in-genetic trait – its almost as old as humanity.

  3. davidhillstrom January 12, 2019 at 4:40 pm #

    This is an important article and a significant contribution to policy discussions. The two state solution was always a hedge that ran contrary to modern political philosophy. Defining contiguous states on the basis of nationality and religion is to turn history backwards, to scoff at the concept of equal rights and separation of church and state.

    Historically the proposed solution at the conclusion of Britain’s mandate in Palestine did not produce peace, but rather conflict. And the conflict was exploited by the greater preparedness on the Israeli side to allow expansion of their territory and the expulsion of the indigenous population, that is the Oalestiniabs. The renewed two state proposal following the Oslo Agreement offered less land to the newly recognized Palestinian Authority and still left the Israeli government in charge. Israel continued to expand its settlements. And, the Israeli government has effectively confessed via legislation and electoral promises that it will remain a Jewish state and will never allow the formation of a Palestinian state. Hence the political reality is apartheid, as even President Carter had foreseen.

    Consequently, as Professor Falk rightly asks, the question is what sort of one state should exist within Palestine? Poised in these terms the answer is clear. No, to apartheid. Yes, to a secular state with equal rights for all.

    • Richard Falk January 13, 2019 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks for the clarity of your analysis, and favored solution. I share your assessment of the past and prescription for the future.


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