31 Jul 2006

Beyond the Two-State solution

Zionism can be used in a racist sense, there are anti-conspiracy anti-semites, the existence of Israel can be seen as a product of the need for a Jewish homeland after the holocaust....so any discussion of Zionism is going to be difficult and sensitive but unfortunately necessary.

The two state solution which of course is Green Party policy may be in practical terms necessary....the idea of Pal-Isreal, with the two very antagonistic communities living in peace may seem idealistic, especially given the kind of polarisation which grews with the appalling war we see at present.

Nonetheless as Joel Kovel notes here, ecosocialist should have the vision to call for a single state which transcends ethnic identities.

Kovel inspired me to energise my commitment to ecosocialism and is one of the most important ecosocialist activists and writers on the planet, he is also Jewish and a strong campaigner against anti-semitism, we have a common interest in how anti-semitic nationalism can infect the fringes of the anti-globalisation movement.

Any way see what you think of this, a portion of a longer essay from his website....however one state or two, we have to work to stop this war which could spread and burn the world.

Greens need to become far more active in the anti-war movement.

Beyond the Two-State solution
The claim that it is anti-Semitic to go too far in one's critique of Israel stymies a deeper structural analysis. But it also leaves us in the dark as to just what is far enough in the critique of Israel. The above line of reasoning may be deemed as going too far by many who hold to the view that there is an essential core of virtue to Israel, rooted in the great ethical traditions of Judaism, in Israel's many cultural and technological achievements, and in the fact that it has offered a homeland to a persecuted people. This view, which may be characterized, using Lerner’s phrase, as the fundamental legitimacy conception of Israel, is undoubtedly held by the great majority of American Jews, and accounts for the fact that they cannot bring themselves to believe that Israel would have a drive to transfer, ethnically cleanse, and expel Palestinians.

This notion also presupposes the horizon of the acceptable defined by the "two-state" proposal, a solution in which Israel stays essentially the same with some territorial adjustments, and a Palestinian state is hewn out of the occupied territories or some fraction therof. Two-state logic is what allows Lerner to say that he is "pro-Israel [and] pro-Palestine." It enables him to lay out his political program, confident that there is something in Israel on the basis of which a decent two state solution can be developed. For it is Israel, holding the cards of military power, that will have to be petitioned, reasoned with, and won over, if there is to be a Palestinean state worthy of human beings.

The facts of the case indicate, however, that Israel as it exists cannot be petitioned, reasoned with, or won over to a just solution to the crisis. The reader may study the particulars, with copious references to Israeli commentators, in Tanya Reinhart's superb Israel/Palestine: Ending the 1948 War, (Seven Stories, 2003), and learn about the endless chicanery and manipulation carried out by successive adminstrations from Center-left to Far Right in order to thwart Palestinian statehood. Israel's behavior during the Second Intifada (which it almost certainly deliberately provoked to accelerate its occupation according to the rules laid down by Perle and Feith) makes clear that it merely toys with the idea of Palestinian statehood to throw occasional sops to world opinion. In the meanwhile, Sharon and company-with the certain approval of Bush, Perle, Wolfowitz, et. al.-have been busy annihilating the miserable conditions of occupied Palestine, with a tripling of the poverty rate in the past two years, utter devastation of civil society, and a toll in malnutrition, injury and disease that greatly exceeds the killings directly carried out by the Israeli army. This process, played out against a backdrop of screaming F16’s and the roar of monster bulldozers destroying homes and burying people (including Rachel Corrie) alive, only makes sense if viewed as part of the process of ethnic cleansing, i.e., “transfer.”

Even if this were not the case, the proposed Palestinian state is frankly unworthy of self-respecting human beings. How can there be any pretence to justice when one side is asked to settle for a fragmented domain completely surrounded by its oppressor, utterly dominated by the oppressor's economy, laced with roadways reserved for its troops, where vital resources like water remain under the oppressor's control, and where there are no real guarantees for the withdrawal of the fanatical settlements cynically augmented during the “peace process?”

What, then, is the real character of the Israeli state and the Zionism of which it is the fruit? What are we to call a project which, though it boasts of being a "democracy," reserves 92% of its land for Jewish people? Where one who converts to Judaism or has a Jewish great-grandmother is automatically given full rights to the land while those others whose families merely happened to have lived there for centuries are at best second-class and landless? Where Jews have full legal rights and Palestinian rights have been "temporarily" suspended -- since 1948? Where people have to carry identity cards, specifying ethnicity (a category which may not include the identity of “Israeli”), and that determine how one is treated by the state? Where the territories are laced with "Jews-only" roads? Where political parties that question the fundamentally Jewish nature of the "democracy" are outlawed? And that is afraid to draft a Constitution because it knows it would have to declare itself defunct once it did.

Is there any word for this except racism, institutionalized at the most fundamental level of the state? Is not this the guiding logic of Israel's militarization, and its mechanism of ruthless expansion and repression--and yes, the prospect of expulsion? Does it not devolve onto society and through the Diaspora, corrupting the emancipatory legacy of Judaism and sowing chauvinism and blind prejudice?

The racist character of the Zionist state is the truth so hard to bear by those who believe in Israel's fundamental legitimacy. But it also disintegrates this belief, because racism at this level, where a whole people is destroyed so that another people might thrive, epitomizes the meaning of a crime against humanity. All claims of being “the only democracy in the Middle East,” or of saving Jews from anti-Semitic oppression, or having fine symphony orchestras and universities, fade in its glare.

What is to be done? We can begin with what is not to be done, and reject a two-state solution that solves nothing, is impossible in any humanly desirable sense within the current configuration, and serves chiefly as an illusion lying like a giant stone over the imagination. Beyond this illusion lies confrontation with the racist state and rejection of the idea that Zionism expresses the authentic calling of the Jewish people. We need, in a word, to envision a non-racist Israel, beyond tribalism and open to all. This is an old road, suffering from disuse; it is overgrown with weeds and long thought impassable: the “One State” dream of a fully democratic society where all can live together. But it has a noble history, going back to Martin Buber; and the ruin of alternatives demands that it be re-opened, as a direction if not an immediately attainable destination.

The first portion of this path resembles the demands already made by people of good will, including Michael Lerner: cease the annihilation of Palestinian society, end the Occupation, now and unilaterally. These measures clear the way to go beyond, where the need is to envision an Israel beyond Zionism. The prospect is already immanent in these immediate demands. But its realization requires engaging the principle that a racist state, because it automatically generates crimes against humanity and lacks the internal means of correcting them, cannot have that legitimacy which gives it the right to exist. In a word, the Zionist state should be radically transformed, and if need be, brought down.

The mere mention of this possibility sends shudders of horror through a collective imagination shaped by the Holocaust; this now translates the idea of overcoming Zionism into the image of "being driven into the sea," as though the vengeful Arabs would pick up Israel by its Eastern borders and dump the whole thing into the Mediterranean.

Here we need to remind ourselves that we are talking about changing the Israeli state. A state is not a society, a nation or a territory, but a mode of regulation and control, and the disposition of official violence. States control and direct society, contain nations, and command territories. The racist state aggrandizes one group by annihilating others, who essentially stand helpless before it. The Holocaust happened to state-less Jews, “Roma (“Gypsies”)”, etc, who became the victims of the nihilism of a racist, Nazi state; similarly, state-less Palestinians have become victims of the nihilism of the racist, Zionist state. Given the nihilistic violence built into the Zionist state, it is reasonable to say that such an outcome is in the interests of both the bodily and spiritual survival of the Jewish people.

Being "thrown into the sea” is a fantasy of projected vengeance. It is predicated on sustaining a racist state-organization into the future, forever surrounded by those it has dispossessed and humiliated. Therefore the chief condition to strive for is creation of a society in which the wheel of vengeance is put out of commission. And if this seems completely off the scale, especially so given the extreme violence built into the Israeli state, it is most important to recall the bringing down of the murderous apartheid state of South Africa-and to realize that if so great an accomplishment could be done there, then an equivalently great accomplishment can take place in Israel/Palestine.

There are of course important differences between Israel and apartheid South Africa. The latter was only a secondary (though not insignificant) client of the United States, inasmuch as it lacked strong domestic constituencies in America, and more importantly, was not a factor in controlling an area so strategic as the Middle East. Because South Africa is a wealthy and largely self-sufficient powerhouse, while Israel would collapse like a house of cards without the support of its patron, a much greater role would be given to organizing within the United States in the struggle against Zionism compared to the struggle against Apartheid. At the same time, the depth of the American-Israeli tie makes that organizing much more arduous, even as the present state of war and looming expulsion of the Palestinian people (ethnic cleansing was not significant for South Africa) gives it an immediate urgency. Prevention of the latter catastrophe necessarily provides the entry point into the struggle against Zionism, without altering the long term goal. And this is defined by the deep structural similarities between the two racist states.
Like Israel, the apartheid state was a settler-colonialist venture with messianic ambitions. And like the Zionists, the Afrikaners saw themselves as persecuted wanderers to whom God had promised a homeland, inconveniently occupied by lesser people. Like Israel, they defined their self-determination as being at the cost of the self-determination of the indigenous people. Driven by a sense of divine license for the terrible injustice that grew from this basic contradiction, they also proceeded to construct and justify the Bantustan system, their own "two-state" (to be exact, multiple-state) solution to the basic contradictions of their imperial project. And they responded, like Israel, with increasing degrees of force and cruelty as the oppressed people asserted their rights as human beings.

And they were eventually brought down, notably, without a bloodbath. Though nobody should suffer the illusion that South Africa has conquered its problems, these now chiefly come under the heading of the "normal" exploitation of a country by global capital rather than that of a murderous racism combined with imperial expansion. Squeezed by the IMF, with deep class divisions, terrible crime and sexual violence, not to mention the wrenching AIDS crisis, South Africa faces a difficult future. But at least a stable democratic polity, black and white living together, is on the ground. South Africa (which I have visited four times) today is full of struggle and vitality, and only a madman would exchange its governance for the version under apartheid.

The movement that freed South Africa under the leadership of Nelson Mandela continues to inspire hope for change in Israel/Palestine. As Lerner states, we need to appropriate the "spirit that made possible the transformation of South Africa under the leadership of Nelson Mandela." Lerner would use the example of Mandela to lecture "the Palestinians to reject all forms of violence . . .”, as these [a]cts of terror . . . drive the Israeli population into the hands of the most right-wing forces in Israeli society.”

The clear implication is that Mandela and the African National Congress abjured all forms of violence and acts of terror. But such was not at all the "spirit" which transformed South Africa under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. Early in the history of the ANC, Gandhian principles held sway (Gandhi developed the notion of Satyagraha during a lengthy stay in South Africa), nor did they ever disappear. But Mandela and his cohort, realizing the murderous implacability of the apartheid regime, introduced in 1961 a two-pronged strategy, with nonviolent resistance in some settings to be accompanied by armed struggle and acts that would have to be called terroristic in others. He assumed the command of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, and was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island largely because of this. Thus nonviolence was, however important, no more than an component of the South African freedom struggle, the victory of which was finally assured on the battlefields of Angola, when the racist regime, having met its match in the army of Cuba, made the decision to liquidate apartheid and free Mandela (as a result, Fidel Castro is the most beloved Western leader in South Africa).

Lerner's sermon to the Palestinians is a reprise of a similar event in 1991. After Mandela had been freed he came to the United States and met with, among other luminaries, President Bush-pere, who similarly lectured him on the need to renounce violence in the struggle. A man of unsurpassable dignity, Mandela responded by publically scolding the Leader of the Free World for this cynical attempt to tell a people struggling for its freedom and life what to do. The reasons for doing so still apply.

First, one does not presume to call upon another people to change their ways unless one has earned the authority to do so. Respecting the "fundamental legitimacy" of their oppressor, indeed, calling (as Lerner has) for Israel to be granted membership in NATO as a consolation prize for abandoning the Occupation does not entitle one to the right to issue a ukase on nonviolence to the Palestinians-any more than G. H. W. Bush’s coziness with the apartheid state endeared him to Mandela.

Nor can rhetoric about “love and healing” obscure the painful and complicated choices we face in this hard world. Nobody, certainly the Palestinians, is above the need for criticism. But the critic, too, needs to be held before the bar. His or her obligation is to be faithful to both the historical complexity of choice and the need to choose, even if such choice means an option for armed struggle. The question is of the spiritual and political context within which this is carried forth. The source for the magnificence of Mandela’s leadership was not the renunciation of armed struggle. It lay, rather, in the scope of his historical vision, and it is here that the lesson for the liberation of Israel/Palestine lies.

Mandela’s greatness derived, it seems to me, from his rejection of South Africa's version of the two-state solution-the Bantustan system. The Bantustans represented an imposed tribalism, with indigenous Africans forcibly displaced onto reservations carved out of the country's poorest land. The whole arrangement was wrapped with racist-utopian rhetoric and secured by the development of parallel institutions of education, judiciary, etc, between the Bantustans and white South Africa. Needless to add, military force remained a monopoly of the apartheid regime, while the territories provided a pool of ultra-cheap labor for exploitation in the factories and mines across the border, much like the situation in the Occupied Territories.

Mandela would have none of it. He concluded, as his official web-site puts it, “very early on that the Bantustan policy was a political swindle and an economic absurdity. He predicted, with dismal prescience, that ahead there lay a grim programme of mass evictions, political persecutions, and police terror”--results familiar to the observer of developments in Israel/Palestine, as are the opportunism and corruption built-into those who would settle for these paltry goals. Indeed, it is here that we can account for the different levels of leadership provided by Arafat and Mandela - the one hemmed in by an acceptance, the other expanded by his refusal, of a Bantustan-type system. (In fact, Mandela rejected an offer of freedom by the Apartheid government if he would assume leadership, Arafat-style, of Transkei, one of the Bantustans.)

Mandela’s greatness was prepared by the negation of the Bantustan system, and realized by going beyond that negation; one might say, in "negating the negation." For Mandela, the essential point was to posit a society beyond racism, which means, beyond vengeance as well. He opposed this vision to all forms of tribalism and exceptionalism, and faithfully held fast to it. It is this vision that humanizes such aggression as may be necessary to break loose from the death-grip of a racist state. It infused the South African liberation struggle with a spirit of anticipated reconciliation that steadily gathered more people from the white as well as the black community, and from all across the world. The abjuring of vengeance proved morally more important, therefore, than a strict renunciation of armed struggle. It became the germ of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the guarantee that no one would get pushed into the sea.

Michael Lerner has called for a similar commission in a peaceful post-occupation Israel/Palestine. The idea is excellent, but it cannot take place within the framework of a two-state resolution presided over by the Zionist state, for the simple reason that such a resolution in any humanly worthwhile form will never take place under these conditions. The implication is starkly clear. It is futile to build a movement for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine that does not radically challenge the racist state: the goal is simply not worthy enough. In a vision of a post-racist society we find, however, the moral force capable of inspiring and drawing in people of good will from all sides of the conflict. If such people were able to demand the downfall of apartheid, why should they not do the same for Zionism, and unify themselves under this banner? It will be a long and hard struggle, and only a vision worthy of its sacrifices will suffice for the path ahead.

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