(No) One State Solution (Europe & Israel)


Among a certain smart set, talk about a One State Solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict was launched by Tony Judt’s article here in the New York Review of Books comparing Israel and the Zionism to the European Union.  It seemed to many like a good idea. Here was “The Alternative.”  For Judt, Europe was presented as the model of a progressive multicultural reality upon which a new, emergent political class among Jews and Arabs alike could one day build a binational state. A Jewish state Judt thought was not just an “anachronism,” but a “dysfunctional” one. Judt was too quick to argue that “`Christian Europe,’ pace M. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, is a dead letter.” Indeed the European Parliament elections, for now it would look like anti-globalization won, led by the radical right, not by the radical left.

Responding to the European Parliament elections, Bernard Avisahi notes here how rightwing analysis-opinion in Israel will use the European Parliament elections to argue against liberal values like peace and co-existence. But that kind of rightwing analysis only misses the point. In Israel, effectively it’s the rightwing, not the leftwing, that is creating the conditions for a binational reality in Israel-Palestine that one might argue can be nothing but destabilizing. This means that under current political conditions, Judt might still be right about Israel if not about Europe. The rise of identity politics, rightwing xenophobia, and racism in Israel and Europe travel along parallel tracks. Today with the surge of the far right in the European Parliament and right wing racist fringe movements, Israel is not, alas, what Judt claimed it to be. That is to say, Israel no longer appears so much to be an “oddity among modern nations… in an age when that sort of state has no place.”

If a multinational reality begins to dysfunction in Europe there’s no reason to think a binational one is ever going to work in Israel-Palestine. Whereas in Europe one might have thought that there were deep social foundations for the EU architecture, in Israel-Palestine there are none. Recent events in Europe suggest in very clear terms that a multinational political structure led by new political class is not something that many people seem to want; nor is it something that seems actually to work, and that reactionary things happen when you try to impose this kind of structure. One guesses that the more rightwing governments in Israel impose a binational reality stitching the country together with the West Bank, the more you’ll see the surge of fringe, racist social movements in Israel, just like in Europe. For now, the forces that represent Marine le Pen are “the first party” in France, just like in Israel.

But there’s another side to this mirror image, where the comparison gets scrambled and confusing, politically and morally. Between Europe and Israel, right aligns to left, and left aligns to right. In Europe the extreme right resists the creation of a one state reality, whereas in Israel the right seems hellbent on creating one. Maybe the dynamics in Europe are more coherent because the western European state system enjoys coherent, internationally recognized borders. On the one hand, in Europe, the extreme right seeks to secure a xenophobic identity-state on the basis of separation based on national borders, whereas in Israel, the center-left wants to secure a liberal identity-state…on the basis of separation. On the other hand, it’s in Europe that the liberal center might want in opposition to the right to create a liberal commonwealth by blurring national borders, while in Israel, it is the extreme right that in opposition to the liberal left wants to erase the borderlines separating one people from another…in order to create an illiberal state dominated by what might most probably be a soon to be minority national sovereign.

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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2 Responses to (No) One State Solution (Europe & Israel)

  1. Michael says:

    “For now, the forces that represent Marine le Pen are “the first party” in France, just like in Israel.” So you mean to say that the Likud is about the same as Front National? I’d say it has much more in common with the Christian-Democrats (the largest fraction in the EU parliament).

    As to the results of the elections in Europe – yes, the non-aligned and anti-EU parties have gained. But in a European perspective, pro-EU parties still got 80 to 90 percent of the votes, and I see the influx of other ideas as a sign of maturity of the parliament, not its weakening. Maybe the opposition will have a real voice and not a bleak “we differ on the minor details” we’ve had so far.

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