This, the utter mayhem today, is the one-state reality. The one-state reality extends over Israel and the West Bank from the River to the Sea, and not excluding Gaza. You can dream about the possibility and the promise of a better one-state reality. But, in the meantime, there is no other one-state reality. This is what it looks like: violent, unequal, and violent. The one-state reality has no way forward. If the 2ss solution is a delusion, the one-state reality is a horrid place that turns people into human monsters. There is no fair and just 1 state solution to the one-state reality.
The one-state reality was the term proposed a couple months ago by distinguished Middle East and foreign policy analysts based in Washington DC writing about the territory. The article they wrote here at Foreign Affairs dusted up some angry commentary in the rightwing pro-Israel community. But the dustup subsided. Because there is no other way to model the cementing into place a single permanent sovereign state system of rule across these territories. Against but open to agnosticism regarding the possibility of a 2ss, the bottom line for the authors is equality, citizenship, and human rights in the one-state dominated by Israel. But this too feels like a pipedream. Because the one-state reality is inherently violent. The one-state reality is not something natural. It didn’t just happen. The one-state reality is an ugly political object engineered by Netanyahu and the religious right. In concert with Hamas, the one-state-reality is designed to scuttle self-determination for the Palestinian people as a basis of mutual recognition. As a violent artifact, the one-state reality tears up all the old conceptions that have heretofore determined the last 20+ years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
–The violence of the one-state reality tears up the old conception of the Israeli right and religious right. Seeking to undermine Palestinian independence in the West Bank, the Israeli right bolstered Hamas while intentionally weakening the Palestinian Authority. Violent and rejectionist, Hamas was an invaluable partner to the Israeli right and religious right in Israel, which is itself not interested in coming to a peaceful resolution to conflict. They thought that Hamas could be contained in Gaza behind a security apparatus and that the occupation could be “managed.” The conception has left Israel radically insecure.
–The violence of the one-state reality tears up the old conception of Palestinian victimhood and resistance. Naïve at best is the notion that explains Hamas violence as a “natural reaction” of a people living in an “open air prison.” Nothing is natural in politics. None of this simply happened. Political communities are, by definition, not passive. This includes political communities that operate under very restricted conditions of possible action. These conditions were engineered by Hamas, part and parcel of horrific terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians that stretch back to the mid-1990s. Those miserable conditions suffered by the Palestinian people might explain support for Hamas terrorism in Palestinian and Arab society without explaining the terrorism itself. Going to war against Israel in 2023 was a deliberate decision. Counting on support from Iran and Hezbollah, Hamas is an active political agent, the junior partner to a political axis, that undermines Palestinian freedom from the inside out.
–The violence of the one-state reality rips up the conception of the anti-Zionist left which promotes the 1ss against Zionism. This conception is committed to colonial postcolonial, settler-colonial, and decolonial paradigms that have eaten the minds of the academic left. Anti-Zionists are left celebrating, defending, or denying the full weight of the indefensible: indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, including babies and old people, use of rape and abducting civilian, young and old alike. These are war crimes, which the hardcore of the anti-Zionist left names under the banner of “resistance” and “decolonialism.” The violence underscores that there is no viable 1ss solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The one-state reality is an unlivable human place.
–The violence of the one-state reality tears up the conception of the anti-Zionist Jewish left whose members must now confront allies in the movement for whom Jewish lives in Israel don’t matter. The anti-Zionist Jewish left centers Palestinian lives. Not an independent Jewish left, the anti-Zionist left looks to create alliances. It sets Jewish life under the banner of Palestine imagined as a place of possibility. Crimes against humanity by Hamas and the non-critical response to it from the anti-Zionist left are a clear index to what the realization of “Palestinian freedom,” “Palestinian liberation.” “Free Palestine,” “from “the River to the Sea” means when put into practice.
The one-state reality is an opaque object. No one can see through its violence into the future. But I do not believe in the possibility of a 1ss as a viable outcome. Because I do not believe that the incoherence of the one-state reality can be made coherent. The violence that marks it is a feature, not a bug. Not for Jews and not for Palestinians, the one-state reality, engineered by malicious actors, Israeli and Palestinian, was never designed to function as a ground of equality and freedom. Undoing the violent one-state reality would have to depend upon the creation of a two-state reality secured as part of a mandate backed up by the authority and power of international and regional actors.