Thursday, January 3, 2013

Zionism, the Jewish State, and an Israeli-Palestinian Settlement

My long article on this topic has just been published in the Winter 2012-2013 issue of Political Science Quarterly.  It can be found at

Unfortunately, it is not free; however, PDF versions can be ordered online for $8.50


George P. Smith said...

Jerome: I’ve long admired your many thoughtful essays on Israel and Palestine, and your essay in PSQ is no exception, despite the vigorous criticisms (including mine below) it provoked when you originally posted it, and will undoubtedly provoke again.

1. You write that “by 1947 there was essentially no practical alternative but to create that [Jewish] state in a partitioned Palestine, especially as hundreds of thousands of surviving Jewish refugees from Europe began arriving in Palestine and the British were preparing to end their [Mandate].” Really?? The ONLY way to give refuge to the Jews was to expel the Palestinians (to the maximum extent possible) and create a majority-Jewish state on their land?? What an amazing coincidence that this UNIQUE solution just HAPPENED to align so perfectly with Zionist aims of 50 years’ standing!! So let’s get the logic straight: someone took my house in Europe, so I’m going to take YOUR house in Palestine. And I’m going to take your neighbors’ houses, too, on the remote chance that at some time in a hypothetical future some of my co-religionists’ houses will be taken from them in Europe, America, etc.

2. You write that “since 1948 the only argument necessary to the Zionist case is that Israel exists, new moral as well as factual realities have been created, and the Israelis, over 70 percent of them native-born, have the right to live in their homeland.” Huh??? There won’t be any argument about the last part of your sentence: Israeli Jews (that is, INDIVIDUALS) do indeed have the right to live in their homeland. Just as Palestinians, including those who were expelled in the 1947-1949 and 1967 ethnic cleansings, have a right to live in their homeland (the same homeland), too, as stipulated by UNGA Resolution 194. But how is that an argument for Zionism??? (By “Zionism” here I mean what YOU mean by it: support for a JEWISH state of Israel, with institutionalized, necessarily discriminatory, protection for the Jewish majority.)

Anonymous said...

1. I didn't say that the only way was for the Jews to expel the Palestinians, and certainly not by by killing and ethnic cleansing--as, for example (as Roosevelt proposed) by paying them enough money so that they would move a few miles voluntarily. It's a complicated topic, I've addressed it earlier, so I won't repeat the argument here.

2. You're right to point to the homeland wording. What I meant and should have said was "the right to live in their state," defined to mean within the pre-1967 boundaries (with minor and mutually acceptable changes), and further provided that the Palestinians have the same right to their own state in the rest of Palestine

YOu still won't like my argument, of course, but we've reached the core of our disagreement.

One other point. If I have a chance to rewrite some of the article, I will emphasize that I think the best argument for Israeli to remain a Jewish state is simply that the Israelis won't agree to anything less, and without that the conflict will never end.

You won't like that, either, because you're a purist--but you want to be careful not to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians, who (as I argue) have given clear indications that they'll recognize Israel as a Jewish state, under the conditions I discuss.

Jerome Slater said...

Needless to say, the comment above is from me, not from "anonymous."

George P. Smith said...

You write that you “think the best argument for Israeli to remain a Jewish state is simply that the Israelis won’t agree to anything less, and without that the conflict will never end….You won’t like that…because you’re a purist, but you want to be careful not to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians, who…have given clear indications that they’ll recognize Israel as a Jewish state, under the conditions I discuss.”

Unfair! I’m not a purist, and I have no ambition to dictate to Palestinians. By no means do I oppose two separate states in principle, I just think such an outcome has a vanishingly low probability of realization. There’s no plausible political route to it within Israeli politics in the foreseeable future, regardless of the nature of the ruling coalition. And there are insurmountable practical hurdles, foremost among them being water rights (in any viable two-state outcome, Israel would lose control of the mountain aquifers and probably the headwaters of the Jordan River in the Golan Heights as well).

In contrast, I think a one-state outcome is inevitable in the long run. Not because Israeli Jews will see the light, but because they, like the South African Nationalists before them, will eventually come to see Democracy (i.e., abandonment of Zionism) as a better deal FOR THEM than apartheid. Maintaining the current apartheid regime will require ever more violent oppression, ensuring increasing alienation of the EU, Israel’s most important trading partner. I even think that ultimately the US will cease to stand in the way of long overdue international sanctions against the apartheid regime. Israeli Jews will in the end be COMPELLED to give up the Zionist project because it’s too costly for them.

The struggle in Palestine has long since ceased being about sovereignty over land. It’s now about Democracy, meaning equal rights for all citizens in the single state that has existed now for four decades from the river to the sea. That is what underlies Palestinians’ BDS call, and that is the natural home for international activism. Tens of thousands of internationals already rally today under the banner of Democracy. Who’s going to rally under the banner of a kinder, gentler form of apartheid?

Jerome Slater said...

I take it back, you're not a purist, you're an optimist. Take that!

George P. Smith said...

Optimist? I never refer to a one-state SOLUTION. I'm very worried about what will emerge in Palestine if steps are not taken now to prepare for what is to come. You might be interested in what I wrote about the issue in Mondoweiss: