After Zionism: Debating the One-State Solution

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A picture shows the shadows of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men praying on the beach in the coastal city of Tel Aviv during the ritual of "Tashlich" on 24 September 2012. (Photo: AFP - Jack Guez)

By: Rebecca Whiting

Published Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: After Zionism Edited by Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor, 2012 Saqi Books

Last September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas bid for Palestine to receive full member-state status at the United Nations, based on the pre-1967 borders. After enraged reactions from Israel and the US, the UN member states voted against it. Now, Abbas is preparing to make a down-graded request for Palestine to be a non-member observer state, a move that if accepted would grant the PA leadership participation in General Assembly debates and improve their international standing and sway. Debates are raging as to what these political constructs and terms would mean on the ground for the Palestinian people.

After Zionism is a collection of essays by academics, activists and journalists analyzing the present day Israeli state and the ongoing daily suffering of the Palestinian people. The book’s main aim is to encourage debate surrounding the one-state solution to the conflict engulfing historic Palestine, demanding an outcome in which all Israelis and all Palestinians would live as equal citizens.

The authors by no means share a single vision on the issue; their essays range from advocating a one-state democracy as an inevitability to others explaining why this possibility, which would render Israel no longer a Jewish majority state, would never be allowed to come to pass. The scope of the subjects and views addressed in the collection allows for meaningful analyses of the current landscape, how it was reached, and what the possible future outcomes might be.

The introduction, written by the two editors Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor, argues that talk of a two-state solution has now been empty for some years. In their view, the voracious colonial expansion on both sides of the Green Line as well as deep divisions among Palestinian factions serve to endorse this position.

The first few essays divulge in detail the narrative expounded by the Israeli state since its inception and its denial of the Nakba. The authors explore the mechanisms by which the Israeli state so effectively erased the collective memory of the ethnic cleansing that was an essential element of its birth.

In the thread of explaining the background to the present day situation, the next essays dissect the Oslo Agreements negotiations. The negotiations were designed to ensure that the Israeli state could control the demographic, consolidate its hold over Palestinian land and lives, and maintain its international diplomatic standing. It was a “peace-process” according to a Zionist agenda and the protracted talks allowed for continued Israeli settlement expansion with political impunity.

By this stage in the book, one feels quite overwhelmed by Israel’s seemingly unstoppable hegemony, the strength of the establishment machine in effecting the Israeli state’s refusal to recognize Palestinian rights, and at how impossible to confront the status quo is. At this point comes the first essay that characterizes the power wielded by the Palestinians, citing their unique ability to garner support and solidarity. The crescendo is sadly short-lived as the essayist, Saree Makdisi, goes on to call for a battle in the field of symbolism and imagination that is hard to feel compelled by.

Several of the essays are optimistic in their conviction that this era is a time of great change in global thinking. From the internet allowing more access to truth and reality, uncensored by propagandists to the uprisings across the Arab world amid demands for democracy, they feel certain that they global community is becoming increasingly aware and simultaneously less tolerant of human rights abuses.

In a discussion of the evolving environment, several of the essays argue that as more American Jews feel they have to choose between their liberal humanitarian views and supporting the state of Israel, the Israel lobby with its powerful hold on American policy will gradually lose its sway. Most interestingly, the realization is made that the Zionist movement has in fact sabotaged itself. With its ravenous expansion of colonial control and its wars of aggression it can no longer maintain its mask of democracy and its appeal to the Diaspora Jews and is hence becoming increasingly isolated in the international arena. More than one writer, however, tempers the optimism by remembering that amid this change in sentiment, no change has yet been noticeable in America’s policies.

It is not until one of the last essays in the book, a dissection of the legal possibilities and ramifications of a one-state solution, that it is mentioned that Palestinians living in the 1967-occupied territories can be expected to oppose a unitary state, not wanting to co-exist with their long-time oppressors. Then, in the essay, ‘How Feasible is the One-State Solution?’, Ghada Karmi notes that in a 2009 poll, only 20 percent of Gaza and West Bank Palestinians favored a bi-national solution. These are the first acknowledgements that for all the theorizing, the wishes of the people whose lives are under debate must be considered.

Israeli academic and activist Jeff Halper makes the crucial point that it is absolutely essential for the Palestinian people to have representative political leadership backed by civil society movements and organizations, as “Non-Palestinian civic players, numerous, articulate and active though they may be, can neither represent the Palestinians nor take an independent leadership role. It is the Palestinians themselves who must provide the leadership and direction.” These factors call into question the value of an international academic debate on the subject, though, as repeatedly recognized by the writers, Israeli policies will never change without external pressure being exerted.

Nearing the end of the book, the reader might well feel frustrated by the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to real change being implemented. At this point a bold strategy is suggested: “voluntary annexation of the Occupied Territories to Israel, thus transforming the struggle against occupation into one for equal civil rights within an expanded Israeli state.” The challenges and outcomes of such a move are discussed here in one of the most interesting parts of the book.

In an anti-climatic finale, the last essay propounds that the early, pre-formation of the state of Israel Zionist ideology was not inherently statist or colonial and explores the Israeli psyche of victimhood and staunch “ethnic-exclusivist nationalist ethos,” and argues that change will never come about without a dramatic shift in the national ethos. Although interesting and valid points are made, the reader is again left sensing unconquerable obstructions barricading the way towards positive change.

Throughout the compendium, calls and suggestions for action are somewhat thin on the ground. The Boycott, Division, and Sanctions movement is widely supported by the authors, though their views differ as to the strength of its efficacy. The power of the book lies instead in its approach to this debate that through becoming more widespread can lead to action on both civil and legislative levels.

Variations in style and address from the eloquently academic analyses to the recounting of personal experiences give the book an accessibility and human aspect. The validity of the subjects covered is enforced by the political pragmatism intertwined with the reality and emotive accent of personal experience, giving the reader an arsenal of information, analyses and theories.

The collection of different approaches could leave the reader bewildered as to which line is the most plausible, most realistic, most just. And in this we find an accurate reflection of the moral and legal contradictions entangled in the situation. There is, however, one point on the authors unanimously agree: the fight now cannot be for power or for territory – it must be a fight for human rights.


This book is just plain awful. Not only does it repeat amsolt every anti-Israeli conspiracy theory, that Israel had a technological advantage in the 1956 War (both they and the Egyptians were using WWII Shermans, a model that wasn't even the best tank of the war), that Israel deliberately displaced the Arabs living in Palestine in 1948, that the Israeli Army outnumbered the combined Arab armies of Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon during the War of Independence (!!!), that the first World Trade Center attack was an Israeli operation, etc. etc. but is also notably silent on the anti-Jewish riots in 1930s Palestine which very nearly reached pogram level, of the terrorist attacks in which Jewish women and children are target (in an effort to force the Zionists to negotiate) of Arafat and his routine lies while holding himself up as a statesman. The author doesn't just try to use moral relativism he does entire backflips in order to justify the idea that everything is Israel's fault.One notable line, in trying to justify terrorists Ron David says on page 162 More Americans die in their bathtubs than are killed by terrorists in a year. This book came out in 2001, I'm guessing before September. I hope that those 3,000 deaths makes Mr. David feel better. At last the terrorists are catching up!

In an anti-climatic finale, the last essay propounds that the early, pre-formation of the state of Israel Zionist ideology was not inherently statist or colonial and explores the Israeli psyche of victimhood and staunch “ethnic-exclusivist nationalist ethos,”

It doesn't even require outside observation and deduction to conclude Zionism was always a colonial project; early Zionist figures themselves used the word directly to describe what they were doing.

The internal bank of the Jewish National Fund was originally called the Jewish Colonial Trust.

An early proto-Zionist organization (I say proto because it focused on South America as well as Palestine, although its activities became essentially Zionist all the same) was called the Jewish Colonization Association and was incorporated in London.

Aharon Eisenberg headed two companies which staffed first aliyah plantations. He made this smoking gun remark: ""colonizing work is difficult all over the world, especially in [deserted] places where new colonizaton has to be instituted from [scratch]. Such work is generally directed by large colonization-societies which obtain material and moral support from the governments by which they are authorized. Even then the full development of a new [colony] requires much labor, money and energy. If that is the rule in all the countries it is much more true in Palestine, where the laws of the country and esp. the land laws have not yet attained the stage of full development." (Shafir, Land, Labor, 97)

Jabotinsky referred to the concept in his infamous 'Iron Wall' article: "Colonization itself has its own explanation, integral and inescapable, and understood by every Arab and every Jew with his wits about him. Colonization can have only one goal. For the Palestinian Arabs this goal is inadmissible. This is in the nature of things. To change that nature is impossible. (...) Therefore it would be necessary to carry on colonization against the will of the Palestinian Arabs, which is the same condition that exists now."

Herzl used the term in writing Cecil Rhodes: "How, then, do I happen to turn to you, since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial, and because it presupposes understanding of a development which will take twenty or thirty years. (...) What is the plan? To settle Palestine with the homecoming of the Jewish people."

Now, one common disingenuous argument is that the early Zionist settlers were not colonists because they did not come on behalf of a mother country. However, they used the capitulations system, which granted privileges to European nationals operating in the Ottoman Empire, to circumvent various restrictions on land buying and development. In doing so, they relied on their British/French/German/Russian nationality for protection. The Yishuv colony only attained the power of an emerging state under British occupation. If Israel is not a colonial settler state, neither are the United States nor Australia.

I love the 1 state solution the Arabs and their supporter are proposing.
What, 22 countries isn't enough for the Arabs.
The Arabs already took all of North Africa from the Berbers in the 7th century. Yes, Algeria, Libya, Tunisa and Morocco used to belong to the Berbers.
The 1 state solution is just part of the Arabs stages policy to eliminate Israel.
Just to remind people, the 1 state solution was tried by a Kurd named Saladin. Saladin won the wars but opposed a state for his people the Kurds, cause he wanted a 1 state solution with the Arabs, Turks and Iranians. How did that work out for the Kurds?
Today the Arabs have 22 countries, Iran and Turkey are 2 large countries and the Kurds have nothing.
There was a play written by a Kurdish writer a few years ago called “The Trial of Saladin.” In it Saladin is brought back from death to appear in a Kurdish court. Realising what the Arabs, Turks and Persians did to his people, he apologises to the Kurdish nation and commits suicide knowing he was responsible for all the Kurdish suffering by opposing a Kurdish state.

The one-state is clearly the only solution at this point. The smoke-and-mirrors talk of a "Palestinian state" was been a clever Zionist ploy aiming at buying time. Well, the time is up. Granted, it won't be an Israel "for Jews only" a'la "Germany for Germans only", remember?.. but then nothing lasts forever. What did Ben Gurion expect - a "Thousand-year Israel"?

You live in the past, the imaginary "Palestinian" people interest no one.

But apparently it interests you so much that you feel compelled to comment on this right? It's ok zionist, the future Palestinian state will take care of you too

The lies that Zionists have to tell themselves to keep out reality are astonishing.

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