(Israel-Palestine) The Zero-Sum-One-State-No-State Solution


I’m trying to make sense of this sinking feeling of mine that it’s impossible to say anything reasonable or right about Israel and Palestine. Above and beyond the occupation, I would trace this specifically to the first Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government and then to the current Netanyahu-Lieberman-Lapid-Bennet government. Israel is not Apartheid, but democracies don’t occupy other people’s land or settle their citizens there without violating the constitution of their own democracy. Since the Israeli government won’t agree to settle on 1967, the entire debate is allowed to be moved back by Palestinian activists and their supporters on European as well as on the Israeli and Jewish left back to 1948. But apart from brave principled words about equality and justice, there’s no actual roadmap for a 1 state solution, a genuine bi-national state that is more than Jewish majority state replaced by a Palestinian one. I have seen no such 1-SS plan based on mutual recognition, one that recognizes a Jewish right to self-determination in Palestine. Almost to a fault, the anti-Zionist left will have reduced the entire Zionist project to settler colonialism and Ashkenazi racism.

Which leaves one to do what once the center has institutionally and politically collapsed? The 2 state solution has been put by the Israeli government on life support, if it’s not already dead, while activists call for a blanket right of return for the descendants of the original Palestinian refugees at the very moment when the entire state system in the Middle East is fragmenting violently along sectarian lines. Meanwhile, a government minister just the other week flies off the rails from the Knesset podium, standing on national honor. BDS begins to edge into the political and social mainstream. For about a month everyone’s talking about SodaStream. To even think about a 2-SS is a joke almost as bitter as the cant that surrounds activist talk about a single, democratic state in Palestine.

There’s nothing to say, nothing to do when neither liberal Zionism, rightwing Zionism nor leftwing anti-Zionism have any coherence left to them. The fish rots from the head down, in this case from the government in Israel that has a monopoly on power and a deficit in justice or judgment. I think what we’re beginning to look at is not a 2 State and not a 1 State Solution, but a zero-sum game, a Zero-State Solution, or a One-State-No-State Solution. It won’t be pretty. The only hope or way out of this morass is some unexpected overwhelming symbolic act or gesture from one side that reaches out to the other, reanimating  the body politic from its current state of rigormortis. Hopefully that comes before some person or some group throws a match and creates a bloody conflagration.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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