Monday, March 01, 2010

Tony Judt's 2003 article advocating one state in Palestine

I'm very late to find this article and write about it, but it is an analysis that is correct in every point.
The time has come to think the unthinkable. The two-state solution—the core of the Oslo process and the present "road map"—is probably already doomed. With every passing year we are postponing an inevitable, harder choice that only the far right and far left have so far acknowledged, each for its own reasons. The true alternative facing the Middle East in coming years will be between an ethnically cleansed Greater Israel and a single, integrated, binational state of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. That is indeed how the hard-liners in Sharon's cabinet see the choice; and that is why they anticipate the removal of the Arabs as the ineluctable condition for the survival of a Jewish state.
I disagree with calling a post-Zionist Israel a "binational" state, but that is a nitpick. More significantly, Israel's right wing is wrong if it thinks either that it could pull off the removal of the Arabs or that the removal of the Arabs would contribute to Israel's safety.

Expelling the Arabs of Palestine will decrease the perception of Israel's legitimacy and make Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia more expensive and difficult-to-manage colonial burdens for the United States. The United States has historically in the post-WWII era been unimaginably wealthy and unimaginably resourceful. In a real sense, the United States has been conducting Middle East diplomacy and advancing its regional interests with one hand behind its back. Israel has always made US objectives more difficult to meet, but the US has accepted that increased difficulty effectively for sentimental reasons - because the alternative is irrationally tied in the US psyche to anti-Semitism and even to Nazism.

However the United States likely will never be as powerful or resourceful as it was for the second have of the 1900s ever again. Either the distorted US perception of the region will crash into the wall of reality when US initiatives fail at an unacceptable rate, or the US will release itself from its commitment to ensure that there is a Jewish state. In this environment, Israeli plans, I guess not publicly expressed for now, to vastly complicate the US' job in protecting it by expelling more Arabs would at least threaten to either push US support for Israel past its breaking point, or probably more likely cause the US to face a situation where it simply does not have the resources it needs to continue its role as Israel's guarantor.
For many years, Israel had a special meaning for the Jewish people. After 1948 it took in hundreds of thousands of helpless survivors who had nowhere else to go; without Israel their condition would have been desperate in the extreme. Israel needed Jews, and Jews needed Israel. The circumstances of its birth have thus bound Israel's identity inextricably to the Shoah, the German project to exterminate the Jews of Europe. As a result, all criticism of Israel is drawn ineluctably back to the memory of that project, something that Israel's American apologists are shamefully quick to exploit. To find fault with the Jewish state is to think ill of Jews; even to imagine an alternative configuration in the Middle East is to indulge the moral equivalent of genocide.
A substantial amount of US support for Israel derives from this irrational connection between opposition to Zionism and anti-Semitism or even genocide. Addressing this irrational connection - putting the connection out into the open where its advocates can either succeed or fail at supporting it is a necessary step towards dismantling it.
In the years after World War II, those many millions of Jews who did not live in Israel were often reassured by its very existence—whether they thought of it as an insurance policy against renascent anti-Semitism or simply a reminder to the world that Jews could and would fight back. Before there was a Jewish state, Jewish minorities in Christian societies would peer anxiously over their shoulders and keep a low profile; since 1948, they could walk tall. But in recent years, the situation has tragically reversed.

Today, non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn't do. But this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions. Diaspora Jews cannot influence Israeli policies, but they are implicitly identified with them, not least by Israel's own insistent claims upon their allegiance. The behavior of a self-described Jewish state affects the way everyone else looks at Jews. The increased incidence of attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere is primarily attributable to misdirected efforts, often by young Muslims, to get back at Israel. The depressing truth is that Israel's current behavior is not just bad for America, though it surely is. It is not even just bad for Israel itself, as many Israelis silently acknowledge. The depressing truth is that Israel today is bad for the Jews.
Rafael Frederic later discussed this idea of Jewish people universally benefiting from Israel. The suffering of the vastly more numerous non-Jewish people in the region - 200 or 300 million non-Jews in Israel's greater region compared to fewer than 15 million Jewish people worldwide - I guess is selfishly ignored by this calculation. But it is real, and the US has paid and continues to pay a price for its implicit position that 15 million Jewish people outweigh many many more non-Jews in the region. But for US support for Israel, there is no reason the World Trade Center would not be standing today. There are more costs of Israel, including the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that will put a trillion dollars of costs that US taxpayers will eventually absorb.
To convert Israel from a Jewish state to a binational one would not be easy, though not quite as impossible as it sounds: the process has already begun de facto. But it would cause far less disruption to most Jews and Arabs than its religious and nationalist foes will claim. In any case, no one I know of has a better idea: anyone who genuinely supposes that the controversial electronic fence now being built will resolve matters has missed the last fifty years of history. The "fence"—actually an armored zone of ditches, fences, sensors, dirt roads (for tracking footprints), and a wall up to twenty-eight feet tall in places—occupies, divides, and steals Arab farmland; it will destroy villages, livelihoods, and whatever remains of Arab-Jewish community. It costs approximately $1 million per mile and will bring nothing but humiliation and discomfort to both sides. Like the Berlin Wall, it confirms the moral and institutional bankruptcy of the regime it is intended to protect.

A binational state in the Middle East would require a brave and relentlessly engaged American leadership. The security of Jews and Arabs alike would need to be guaranteed by international force—though a legitimately constituted binational state would find it much easier policing militants of all kinds inside its borders than when they are free to infiltrate them from outside and can appeal to an angry, excluded constituency on both sides of the border. A binational state in the Middle East would require the emergence, among Jews and Arabs alike, of a new political class. The very idea is an unpromising mix of realism and utopia, hardly an auspicious place to begin. But the alternatives are far, far worse.
Bravo, Tony Judt.

Reconciliation between Jewish people and non-Jews in Palestine is no more difficult than reconciliation between Blacks and Whites in South Africa seemed in 1980. If the United States continues to perceive that outcome, in a very confused, muddled but unspoken way, as somehow related to Nazism or genocide, the United States will just continue to bring unnecessary costs upon itself, US soldiers will die, US taxpayers will divert resources away from their own benefit.

1 comment:

lidia said...

I have to admit that I almost hate Judt, for many reasons, his anti-goy racism being only one of them. But if even such whitewasher of Zionism could speak about the end of "Jewish state" it is a good sign, really. It means that Zionsim is really near its end, and it is the best news.