Debating a one state solution for Palestine

After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine
Edited by Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor
Saqi Books

In their collection of essays After Zionism editors Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor rightly argue, “the idea that Palestinians and Israelis can share a single country is not a new one, but it was buried and forgotten for a long time.” After Zionism is a welcome eulogy to the two state solution and a useful contribution to unearthing the debate about the one state solution.

After Zionism puts the case for a one-state solution for Palestine

The book reflects an important shift in the discussion. For many years the two state solution dominated debate about Palestine. Indeed Loewenstein himself accepted the two state solution in 2006 in his first book My Israel Question. Today it is increasingly questioned.

The book traces Israel’s history of dispossession and denial beginning with the 1948 Nakba, through the failed Oslo peace process that has only entrenched the occupation, and discusses today’s apartheid state from different land, diplomacy and media perspectives. It is clear on three major points: the two state solution is dead, the existing Palestinian leadership is complicit in the occupation, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is key.

The sham peace process

In her chapter on the peace process Diana Buttu argues the Oslo Agreements were not well-intended negotiations that got derailed. In fact they were designed so Israel could carry on dispossessing Palestinians, confiscate their land and herd them into 22 tiny fragmented areas of historic Palestine with walls, checkpoints and daily terror. In the seven years of the process Israeli settlements grew exponentially.

Buttu further shows how the peace process has “transformed the Palestinian Authority into Israel’s security subcontractor”—so much so that Netanyahu once called Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat to thank him for his success in quashing Palestinian resistance. As a result of the negotiations Gazans have become some of the most highly policed people in the world and between 1997 and 2000 Israel was the “securest” it has ever been.

She uses the Palestine Papers to expose the “futility” of the peace process. The 2011 leaked documents revealed how the Palestinian Authority was willing to give up the right of return for Palestinian refugees, resources, Jerusalem and the settlements in exchange for statehood. Even with these severe concessions Israel refused and used the drawn out negotiations as a fig-leaf for its ongoing crimes.

Arab Revolutions

In their introduction Loewenstein and Moor state, “although the Arab Spring has brought a range of new possibilities… Palestinians have yet to feel tangible change.” Thankfully Sara Roy’s chapter brings the discussion about Palestine back into what she calls an “awakened and combustible Middle East.” She argues that both Fatah and Hamas face an ongoing crisis of legitimacy that is forcing ordinary Palestinians to look elsewhere for liberation, especially Egypt.

“The revolution in Egypt removed Hosni Mubarak and his regime as the bulwark of Israel’s position in the region, releasing popular anger against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinian people, an issue that resonates deeply throughout the region.”

She shows how Palestinians are looking to mass mobilisations that reject the sham peace process and instead connect Gazans and people from the West Bank with refugees, Israeli Arabs and groups that support their demands for rights, especially the right of return. She points to the 2011 Nakba Day when Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank along with refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria marched to the border. In fact 100 Syrians crossed the border.

Unfortunately Roy devotes much of the chapter to the UN statehood bid and abstractly concludes that Palestinian liberation requires respecting the “rule of law”. But in fact the best sections of the chapter demonstrate that it is mass people power mobilisations, not appeals to abstract rights, that can reshape Palestine and the Middle East as a whole.

The Boycott

The writers tend to agree: there isn’t yet a movement strong enough to dismantle the Israeli state, but argue that BDS is a central feature of international solidarity with Palestinians.

Co-editor Ahmed Moor emphasises that the boycott shouldn’t be seen as a way to economically undermine Israel, “because moneyed interests run too deep.” Instead he argues that cultural boycotts, for example, help to expose Israeli apartheid and make it harder to ignore around the world.

But very few contributors connect the struggle for Palestinian liberation with the convulsions across the Arab world. This means the book says little about how to translate the current juncture into liberation for Palestine. The popular movements in Egypt and the region have shown how popular revolutions can challenge the hold of imperialism on the region. The deepening of the revolutionary wave is the key to ending Israel’s position of dominance and liberating the Palestinians.



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