One state is not the answer


July 7, 2008

Every so often, discredited ideas are revived in an attempt to give them a respectability they do not deserve and to disguise the reasons for their original rejection.

Such is the case with a proposal that was repudiated by the UN General Assembly in the 1940s – the so-called “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A “one-state solution” is doublespeak for the destruction of Israel as a national homeland for the Jewish people. It is a dishonest scheme to achieve through politics and the Palestinian birth-rate what the Arab world has been trying to achieve militarily for 60 years – wiping Israel off the map.

This goal is openly stated in the Arab world, but never explicitly admitted to western audiences.

Destroying Israel would mean the end of the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, and its replacement by another Arab or Islamic republic, a secular dictatorship or theocracy of the kind with which we have become depressingly familiar.

Proponents of a one-state solution rely on a misunderstanding of the concept of Israel as a Jewish State, implying that it is a theocracy. This is grossly false. Israel is the state of the Jewish people, who have been both a national and faith community for millennia.

The idea that religion can be an element of national identity has been around for most of recorded history. It is only in the modern era that rigid separation between the two has developed.

The dual identity of the Jewish people has not prevented Israel from functioning as a robust democracy in which religious law plays an important but subsidiary role, as in many Catholic-majority countries.

Israel holds free elections in which all citizens, Jewish and Arab, have an equal vote. All citizens, Jewish and Arab, have equal standing before its secular courts. All citizens, Jewish and Arab, have access to the religious courts of their faith community. And the independence of Israel’s media puts the media in many other democracies to shame.

To cast this aside in the vain hope that Jews and Arabs, each with their own deep-seated history and identity, can develop a shared loyalty to one state is illusory.

It is predicated on the fallacy that Christians and Jews as identifiable groups would enjoy complete equality of political and legal status with Muslims in a Muslim-majority state.

Not only does that not happen anywhere in the Islamic world, but Palestinian society itself is bitterly riven, with Hamas fighters recently hurling Fatah members from roof-tops in Gaza, and the two factions locked in a struggle for supremacy.

Bethlehem and Nazareth, to say nothing of Lebanon, serve as other examples where the Christian population has been decimated because of persecution by its Muslim neighbours.

Advocates of a one-state solution cite South Africa as a paradigm of a nation which evolved from an apartheid society into one in which equality for all is enshrined in law.

The flaw in the comparison is fundamental. The worldview of the African National Congress, which led the anti-apartheid struggle, was encapsulated in its Freedom Charter, which declared “that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people; national, race or colour discrimination shall be a punishable crime; all laws which discriminate on grounds of race, colour or belief shall be repealed”.

Compare that to the charter of Hamas, which controls Gaza and aspires to control all Palestinians: “The Prophet, Allah bless him, has said: ‘The Day of Judgement will not come until Moslems fight the Jews… The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’

The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (trust) consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time.”

The charter then evokes the infamous fabrication The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which purports to reveal a Jewish plan to control the world, warning Arab and Islamic countries that “leaving the … struggle with Zionism is high treason, and cursed be he who does that”.

Yet proponents of a one-state solution believe that the sizable proportion of Palestinians who support Hamas will happily coexist under one political roof with Israeli Jews. It is as unrealistic to expect the Palestinians to identify with a state of the Jewish people as it is to expect Israeli Jews to identify with a state of the Palestinians.

The two-state solution is the only game in town. Since the UN passed the Partition Plan in 1947 after exhaustive inquiry, approving separate Jewish and Palestinian states, diplomatic efforts to resolve the impasse have centred around a two-state solution.

Two states for two peoples is the only humane, just and viable solution because it is the only solution that respects the right of self-determination of both Israelis and Palestinians and will allow them to co-exist in dignity and peace.

And there is a precedent. After centuries of bloodshed, the warring nations of Europe have achieved one currency, an economic union and a shared human rights and legal system, against a backdrop of prosperity and peace. Yet even the smallest nations of Europe have retained their sovereignty and give expression to their unique culture, language, history and identity.

The Palestinians and Israelis each deserve no less.

Original article here.

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