There’s Nothing Idealistic About the One-State Solution
A Response to Michael Neumann
by JONATHAN COOK
Counterpunch NOVEMBER 08, 2011
This is at least the third time in the past four years that philosophy professor Michael Neumann has used these pages to lambast the supporters of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. On each occasion he has offered a little more insight into why he so vehemently objects to what he terms the “delusions” of those who oppose – or, at least, gave up on – the two-state solution.
In his most recent essay, Neumann suggests that his previous reluctance to be more forthright was motivated by “politeness”. Well, I for one wish the professor had been franker from the outset. It might have saved us a lot of time and effort.
Even though I have identified myself as a supporter of the one-state solution, I find much to agree with in what Neumann writes on this occasion. Like him, I do not believe that a particular solution, or resolution, will occur simply because the Palestinians or their wellwishers make a good moral case for it. Success for the Palestinians will come when a wide array of regional developments force Israel to conclude that its current behaviour is untenable.
There are plenty of signs that just such a power shift is starting to take place in the Middle East: Iran’s possible development of a nuclear warhead; an awakening of democratic forces in Egypt and elsewhere; the fraying of the long and vital military alliance between Israel and Turkey; the exasperation of Saudi Arabia at Israel’s intransigence; the growing military sophistication of Hizbullah; and the complete discrediting of the US role in the region.
Neumann is wrong to assume that one has to be an idealist – believing in the political equivalent of fairies – to conclude that a one-state solution is on the cards. It does not have to be simply a case of wishful thinking. Rather, I will argue, it is likely to prove a realistic description of the turn of events over the next decade or more.
While Neumann and I agree on the causes of an Israeli change of direction, his and my analyses diverge sharply on what will follow from Israel’s realisation that its occupation is too costly to maintain.
Neumann proposes that, once cornered by regional forces it can no longer intimidate or bully, Israel will have to concede what he terms the “real” two-state solution.
He does not set out what such a solution would entail, but he is adamant that it – and only it – must take place. So let me help with an outline of the apparent minimal requirements for a real two-state solution:
• Israel agrees to pull out its half a million settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, presumably assisted by lavish compensation from the international community;
• Israel hands over all of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, while the city’s holy places, including the Western Wall, pass to a caretaker body representing the international community;
• The Palestinians get a state on 22 per cent of historic Palestine, with their capital in East Jerusalem;
• The Palestinians are free to establish an army – with Iran and Saudi Arabia presumably competing over who gets to sponsor it;
• The Palestinians have control over their airspace and the electro-magnetic spectrum. If they have any sense, they quickly turn to Hizbullah for advice on how to neutralise Israel’s extensive spying operations, its overhead drones and listening posts currently sited all over the West Bank;
• The Palestinians get unfettered access to their new border with Jordan and beyond to other Arab states;
• The Palestinians are entitled to an equitable division of water resources from the main West Bank acquifers, currently supplying Israel with most of its water;
• And the Palestinians have, as promised under the Oslo accords, a passageway through Israel to connect the West Bank and Gaza.
Let us leave aside the social problems for Israel caused by this arrangment: the huge disruption created by an angry and newly homeless half a million settlers returning to Israel, as well as the dramatic aggravation of the already severe housing crisis in Israel and the rapid deterioration in relations with the large Palestinian minority living there.
Let us also not dwell on the problems faced by the Palestinians, including the potentially hundreds of thousands of refugees who will have to be absorbed into the limited space of the resource-poor West Bank and Gaza, or their likely anger at what they will see as betrayal, or the inevitable economic troubles of this micro-state.
Doubtless, all these issues can be addressed in a peace agreement.
In his essays, Neumann only factors in what Israelis are prepared to accept from a solution. So let us ignore too the “idealism” of those critics who are concerned about whether a “real two-state solution” can actually be made to work for ordinary Palestinians.
The assumption by Neumann is that, faced with a rapid escalation in the political and financial costs of holding on to the Palestinian territories, Israel will one day understand that it has no choice but to jettison the occupation.
He offers nine reasons for why the one-state solution is “blatantly nonsensical”. Though numerically impressive, most of his arguments – such as his discussion of the right of return, or the representativeness of a Palestinian government, or the nature of legal and moral rights – appear to have little or no bearing on the practical case either for or against one state. The same can be said of his ascription of the sin of idealism to those he lumps together as one-staters, and his allusion, yet again, to the vague formula of a “real two-state solution”.
His other three arguments – the first he lists – are no more revelatory. In fact, they are variations of the same idea, one that can best be summarised by an analogy he offers in one: “If I’m making 50,000 dollars, I might demand 70,000, but not 70 million. It is not clever to demand the whole of Israel when Israel won’t yield even the half that almost the whole world says it must surrender – the occupied territories.”
I am no professor of logic but something about this analogy rings hollow. Let us try another that seems closer to the reality of our case.
One day you arrive at my home and take over most of the building using force. A short time later you drive me out of the house completely, and, in what you consider a generous concession, allow me to live in the shed at the end of the garden. Over the years we become bitter enemies. The neighbours, my former friends, can no longer turn a blind eye to my miserable condition and decide to side with me against you. One day they come to your door and threaten to use violence against you if you do not let me back into the house.
What happens next?
Well, as Neumann implies, it may all end happily with you agreeing to let me live in the box room. But then again, it might not.
Sensing that the shoe is finally on the other foot, I might decide to make your life unbearable in the main part of the house in order to win more space or to drive you out. Or you might decide that, given your precarious new situation in the neighbourhood, you would be better off abandoning your ill-gotten gains and looking for somewhere else to live.
I am not a fan of such analogies. I resort to it simply to highlight that, if one wants to make use of these kinds of devices, then it is at least preferable to use an apposite one.
(Interestingly, if we pursue this analogy, it also questions Neumann’s preferred comparison of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories with France’s occupation of Algeria. In this case, Algeria appears to be the garden rather than the main house.)
The larger point is that there is no reason to assume that, just because the occupation gets too costly, Israel can simply amputate it like a rotting limb.
Part of the weakness in Neumann’s argument can be seen in his repeated references to the settlers as a group of troublesome misfits rather than a substantial chunk both of the Israeli cabinet, including the foreign minister, and of the high command of the Israeli army and security services, including the current head of the National Security Council.
Likewise, he caricatures Western support for Israel as “Zionist hysteria” in the US Congress, backed by “ridiculous” fellow travellers such as the Canadian government. If only the support for Israel among Western governments were this trivial.
Such misrepresentations make his argument that the occupation is vulnerable appear far stronger than it really is. In fact, the occupation is much more than the settlements.
It is the Messianism industry, run by the settlers, that took over Israel decades ago. Its hold extends far beyond the West Bank to the now-dominant religious education stream feeding poison to young minds, as well as to the seminaries where young religious men training to become army officers are tutored daily in their Chosenness and their divine right to exterminate Palestinians.
It is the ultra-Orthodox with their ambivalence to Zionism but their now-savage sense of entitlement to handouts from the state. They have several large urban communities in the West Bank tailor-made for their separatist religious way of life. The people who riot over a parking lot opening on Shabbat will not easily walk away from their homes, schools and synagogues.
It is a large and profitable Israeli real estate industry that has plundered and pillaged Palestinian land for decades, and which seems to implicate every new Israeli prime minister in a fresh corruption scandal.
It is Israel’s farming industries that depend for their survival on the theft of both Palestinian land and water sources.
It is ordinary Israelis, already spoiling for a fight after an unprecedented summer of social unrest over the exorbitant cost of living in Israel, who have yet to find out the true price of fruit and vegetables – and running water – should they lose these water “subsidies”.
It is Israel’s extensive and lucrative military hi-tech industries that rely on the occupied territories as a laboratory for developing and testing new weapons systems and surveillance techniques for export both to the global homeland security industries and to tech-hungry modern armies.
It is Israel’s security and intelligence services, abundantly staffed with the same Ashkenazis who will go on to become the country’s political leaders, pursuing careers surveilling and controlling Palestinians under occupation.
And it is the profligate military – Israel’s version of the West’s prodigal bankers – whose jobs and lethal toys depend on endless US taxpayers’ munificence.
None of this will be given up lightly, or at a cost that won’t make America’s current $3 billion annual handouts to Israel look like peanuts. And that is before we factor in the huge payouts needed to compensate the Palestinian refugees and to build a Palestinian state.
But these problems only hint at the argument for a one-state solution. The reality is that the elites that run Israel have everything to lose should the occupation fall. That is why they have invested every effort in integrating the occupied territories into Israel and making a “real” peace deal impossible. The occupation and its related industries are the source of their moral legitimacy, their political survival and their daily enrichment.
That is also why they are twisting in agony at the prospect of Iran acquiring a nuclear arsenal to rival their own. At that point, the occupation begins to expire and their rule is finished.
Were the regional conditions to come about that Neumann believes necessary to evict Israel from the occupied territories, these elites and their Ashkenazi hangers-on will face a stark choice: bring down the house or scatter to whatever countries their second passports entitle them to.
They may go for the doomsday scenario, as some currently predict. But my guess is that, once the money-laundering opportunities enjoyed by the politicians and generals are over, it will simply be easier – and safer – for them to export their skills elsewhere.
Left behind will be ordinary Israelis – the Russians, the Palestinian minority, the ultra-Orthodox, the Mizrahim – who never tasted the real fruits of the occupation and whose commitment to Zionism has no real depth.
These groups – isolated, largely antagonistic and without a diaspora occupying the US Congress to assist them – have not the experience, desire or legitimacy to run the military fortress that Israel has become. With the glue gone that holds the Zionist project together, both the Palestinians and the Israelis who remain will have every interest to come up with real solutions to the problem of living as neighbours.
The strangest aspect to Neumann’s claims against the one-staters – repeated in all his essays on this subject – is the argument that they are not only deluded but propagating an idea that is somehow dangerous, though quite how is never explained.
If as Neumann argues, correctly in my view, Israel will only change course when faced with significant pressure from its neighbours, then the worst crime the one-staters can be accused of committing is an abiding attachment to an irrelevant idealism.
Iran will not discard its supposed nuclear ambitions simply because the one-state crowd start to make a compelling moral case for their cause, any more than Hizbullah will stop amassing its rockets. So why should Neumann get so exercised by the one-state argument? By his reckoning, it should have zero impact on progress towards a resolution of the conflict.
Nonetheless, even on Neumann’s limited terms, one can also make a serious case that advocacy of a single state might produce benefits for the Palestinians.
If nothing else, were a growing number of Palestinians and international supporters persuaded that demanding an absolutely just solution (one state) was the best path, would this not add an additional pressure to the other, material ones facing Israel to concede a real two-state solution – if only to avoid the worse fate of a single state being imposed by its neighbours?
But I think we can go futher in making the practical case for a one-state solution.
Although the main cause of Israel changing tack will be the alignment of regional forces against it, an additional but important factor will be the emergence of a political climate in which western states and their publics are increasingly disillusioned with Israel’s bad faith. Congress’ support is not paid in the currency of hysteria but in hard cash. And that support won’t dry up until Israel and its “mad dog” policies are widely seen as illegitimate or a liability.
One of the key ways Israel will discredit itself, following it and Washington’s recent decision to block any Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations, is by cracking down – probably violently – on any political aspirations expressed by ordinary Palestinians under occupation.
History, including Palestinian history, suggests that populations denied their rights rarely remain passive indefinitely. Palestinians who see no hope that their leaders can secure for them a state will be increasingly motivated to claim back their cause.
Ordinary Palestinians have no power, as Neumann notes, to force Israel to establish a state for them. But they do have the power to demand from Israel a say in their future, and press for it through civil disobedience, campaigns for voting rights, and the establishment of an anti-apartheid movement. Such a struggle will take place within – and implicitly accept – the one-state reality already created by Israel. If Palestinians march for the vote, it will be for a vote in Knesset elections.
None of this will win them either a state or the vote, of course. But the repression needed from Israel to contain these forces will serve to rapidly erode whatever international sympathy remains and to further galvanise into action the regional forces lining up against Israel.
In short, however one assesses it, the promotion of a one-state solution can serve only to hasten the demise of the Israeli elites who oppress the Palestinians. So why waste so much breath opposing it?
After Palestine’s Statehood Bid
Resolutions and “Solutions”
by MICHAEL NEUMANN
Counterpunch, November 7, 2011
It’s odd that the Israel-Palestine conflict always calls up talk about solutions rather than resolutions, as if some moral puzzle bedeviled the future of the Palestinians and Israel.
Perhaps this is because no state has come into existence amid such paroxysms of morality.
Times change, and the moralizing about Israel is now obsolescent. The 20th Century agonies of genocide and dispossession that initiated the conflict have begun to lose their bearing on the course of events. Even the post-1967 debates about settlement and occupation are, whether we like to admit it or not, settled. The injustice of the occupation, the aggressive cruelty of the settlements, Israel’s lack of interest in peace – these now pass almost for established facts in the mainstream media. Abbas’ appearance at the UN simply highlighted how Israel is running out of friends, not to mention credibility.
As for the United States government, there are other facts to be faced: that the executive branch has been against the occupation and the settlements from their beginning, and that the United States Congress, the very motherland of Zionist hysteria, is, for all the damage it does, making a fool of itself. Even this hysteria will abate somewhat as the Arab Spring and the increasing entrenchment of Muslim and Middle Eastern people in American society alter the negative stereotypes of ‘Arabs’. As for Canada, the more it apes the US Congress on Israel, the more ridiculous it will appear on the international stage.
Something else has changed, some years ago. Israel may want US support, but, as one of the world’s strongest military powers, it no longer needs it. It has a large, sophisticated arsenal of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. With luck it could probably wipe out the United States, never mind the tiny occupied territories. It has proven ruthless and its strategists apparently contemplate nuclear retaliation in the face of defeat by conventionally-equipped forces. It is hysterically eager to defend ‘threats to its existence’, i.e., attempts to deny it anything it may want. Its arms industry is so advanced that many cutting-edge American projects – drones, missile and anti-missile systems, surveillance software – are co-developed with Israel.[i] Faced with economic sanctions, it would happily conduct a land-office business selling weapons systems to all comers. The Western world may dream and pro-Palestinians may fantasize about imposing a solution on Israel, but that won’t happen.
The internal politics of Israel are no more promising than the external circumstances. Israel has moved further and further to the right over the years. Its opposition is evanescent except when demanding better conditions for Israeli Jews. Its Arab population, despite discrimination, is utterly unwilling and/or unable to challenge the existing order. All the desperate, self-sacrificing attempts by the Palestinians to change this power balance have failed, so thoroughly that even Hamas makes great efforts to contain those who seek to confront Israel with force. In short, Israel has all the power; the Palestinians have none.
The failure to ‘get tough’ with Israel is only in a very extended sense a matter of political will: the sentiment to impose a peace is there, but so is the danger that Israel’s response would be catastrophic for the region and beyond. It is this unspoken risk that, most likely, deters any action on the part of the traditional ‘Great Powers’. At the end of the day, there is no longer any point talking about ‘solutions’, as if the real world will miraculously contort to solve some moral conundrum. There is no conundrum. The morality is clear; and if anyone wants to be useful in helping the Palestinians, he would do well to admit that Israel will yield only when the balance of power alters. Either the regional powers, one way or another, will eventually pose a real and perceived threat to Israel, or nothing will change. This does not mean that morality has been somehow superseded; of course the rights and wrongs are still what they are. But the pointless, endless, obsessive exhortations that pass for morality no longer have any bearing on events, or any potential to accomplish genuinely moral ends
Yet the traditional friends of the Palestinians are unwilling to face such cold facts. Finding themselves impotent, they seek refuge from the realities of power in the comforting world of ideals. Here too, things have changed. The realization that negotiations will go nowhere has prompted some commentators and activists to posit a miraculous detour around Israeli power and intransigence. They reject the ‘two-state solution’ – a mere resolution which would give the Palestinians less than they deserve, but a place to live their lives. The so-called one-state solution, once a marginal view, is becoming mainstream. It is deployed against Palestine’s bid for statehood, which is said to concede too much to Israel. Its partisans include a number of Palestinian expatriate academics and a wide range of well-wishers, all of whom have, in the changed climate of opinion, gathered a much wider audience.
For that very reason, it is time to stop being polite about their position, which has the potential to damage Palestine’s future. Respectful disagreement doesn’t seem enough to shake these people from their delusions.
It’s hard to grasp just what particular embrace of unreality drives this ‘proposal’ or its faithful companion, the notion that PLO leaders from Arafat to Abbas needed to be ‘tougher’. Tougher, that is, like the university professors and other verbal warriors standing behind their comfortable, far-off barricades. I see a lot of ways – nine of them – in which the ‘tough’ one-state solution is blatantly nonsensical. I will present them as a guide to the illusions which obscure a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
First is the confusion of wishes with political platforms. I wish for all the world to live in harmony. This is a wish. It is not a political demand, because it won’t happen (see below). Wishing for mountainously more than the Palestinians can get is not being more radical than demanding only a little more than they can get. In the same way, it would not be ‘tougher’ or more radical to come out in favour of world revolution in the midst of the Arab uprisings. This would not be a radical stance; it would not even be a political stance. It would simply be a wish mistaken for a political demand, a retreat into childishness.
Second, it is bizarre to suppose that, because someone won’t concede half of something, they are likely to concede all of it. Some Israelis at least claim to favour a two-state solution; some reject it. But none say: “we cherish Greater Israel; we will not yield one inch of it, but we will yield all of it, if only we can abandon the ideal of a Jewish state. We look forward to the prospect of being swamped by Arab demographics and to minority status in the country we built.” There is no sharing here: in a single state, one side or the other would prevail. In a democratic state, the ‘Arabs’ would prevail and hold sovereignty over the Israeli Jews. It is a real feat of willful blindness to suppose that, somehow, the Zionists who would not share in 1948 will share today, when they are much stronger and no less fanatical than they were at the start.
Third, childishly exaggerated demands are not a canny negotiating tactic. If I’m making 50,000 dollars, I might demand 70,000, but not 70 million. It is not clever to demand the whole of Israel when Israel won’t yield even the half that almost the whole world says it must surrender – the occupied territories.
Fourth, the two-state solution is not a bad solution because it won’t give the Palestinians true sovereignty, or because it will result in Bantustans, a Palestine cut into miserable islands by strands of settlements. That’s not criticism, it’s word-games. By ‘the two-state solution’ is meant two sovereign states; otherwise it would be called the one-state-one-non-state-solution. No advocate of the two-state solution has shown any disposition to accept Bantustans. The ‘collaborationist’ PLO and PA have consistently rejected such proposals. [ii] The attempts to make a Bantustan ‘solution’ stand for the two-state solution are a particularly sleazy example of bad faith.
Fifth, a good test case for the one-state solution is not South Africa. In South Africa, blacks and colored vastly outnumbered whites; land and resources were abundant; and the government was unable to control either township violence or the emergence of a Cuban-supported threat on its borders. Most important, the Boer régime was the mere colonial excrescence of the supremely powerful white nations of Europe and North America. South Africa was not the sole sovereign territory of a race determined to maintain its one and only nation against all challengers. A better test case lies just next door, Lebanon. In Lebanon, even if you don’t count those massacred under Israeli sponsorship at Sabra and Shatila, or those killed by Israeli bombs, far more Palestinians have died than in Palestine under Israeli rule. This should be an antidote to the poisonous theory that, if two peoples are locked in deadly conflict, it’s a great idea to pack them into a single state.
Sixth, the Right of Return is not, as one-staters claim, precluded by the two-state solution. It has nothing to do with the two-state solution: it has to do with Israel in its pre-67 boundaries. That there is a Palestinian state in the occupied territories in no way implies that dispossessed Palestinians – individual Palestinians – forfeit their rights. To think otherwise is to fall for the Israeli debating gambit of insisting, whenever convenient, on regarding the Palestinians as one collective lump. ‘The Palestinians’ can, collectively, have a state, some kind of political representation. Acquiring collective political representation in one state has nothing to do with honouring individual property rights in some other state.
Seventh, there is confusion about the relation of rights to political ‘solutions’. Neither ‘The Palestinians’ nor anyone else has a legal right to Palestine, because international law – lacking a sovereign body to enforce it – is a polite fiction. ‘The Palestinians’, in my opinion, have a moral right to all of Palestine, and to expel all Jews who are there because of the Zionist project. No agreement which merely declares a state in the occupied territories can change this moral right, because having such a state doesn’t even resemble compensation for the loss the Palestinians have suffered. Maybe quite a few billion dollars in reparations would do this, but not the mere establishment of a state. The two-state solution therefore cannot be seen as some substitute for morality or justice. It resolves a conflict. It does not solve a moral problem.
Eighth, a two-state solution does not mean that any Palestinian rights are abandoned, because however that state is formed, those who form it cannot be held to represent the Palestinians. The reason is simple: you only get representative government after you have a state, not before. So there will always be grounds to repudiate whatever arrangements the founders of the state have made. Inevitably there will be attempts to refute such reasoning, but they don’t matter. Either the Palestinians will eventually get the real-world power to determine their own engagements, or they won’t. What people say about those engagements won’t tilt the balance one way or the other.
Ninth, the two-state solution does indeed perpetuate the Zionist state – in the sense that it fails to abolish Israel. My mortgage and car rental agreement also have this failing. It is beyond silly to suppose that, therefore, the two-state solution is ‘Zionist’. You might as well say that the Palestinian refugees of 1948, who left Israel to the Zionists, were also perpetuating Zionism, were collaborating with it. Yes, they had no choice. Neither do Palestinians today, when Israel is immeasurably stronger than in 1948. That is why the two-state solution fails to implement the Right of Return, enforce the rights of Palestinian Israelis, end world poverty, and many other things. To suppose otherwise it to conflate radicalism, not with good wishes, but with studied obtuseness masquerading as trenchant critique and tactical acumen.
How can so many misconceptions and feats of obfuscation crowd into one ‘solution’? The culprits seem to be two large delusions.
The first, often repeated, is that the two-state solution is now impracticable because the settlers are ‘so deeply entrenched’. Let’s suppose that for most one-staters, this is not a bad-faith manoeuvre to permit the settlers to hang on to their ill-gotten colonial existence. What then explains such spectacular blindness? In 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians left the homes their families had occupied, in some cases for centuries. What exactly makes it impossible for today 500,000 Jewish settlers to move in the opposite direction? Amid so much silliness, nothing is sillier than the claim that only a one-state solution is possible because the settlements are ‘too deeply entrenched’. Maybe they are, but they don’t have to go anywhere. It’s the settlers, not the settlements, that have to get out. One would have thought the whole trip to Israel would take, oh, between fifteen minutes and a couple of hours. Will it destroy their psyches to leave? so we were told about the settlers in Gaza, who seem to be recovering nicely. Is Israel’s commitment to the settlements unshakable? Then why were the Gaza settlers expelled and their settlements abandoned?
In Algeria, French settlers had established themselves for twice as long as their counterparts in the occupied territories. Their government was firmly behind them:, as one historian writes: “‘Mendès France [the prime minister] was determined to ‘maintain the unity and indivisibility of the Republic, of which Algeria is a part’, and in January 1955 appointed the tough former Resistance leader, Jacques Soustelle, governor-general of Algeria. Soustelle, affirming a policy of ‘integration’, argued that ‘It is precisely because we have lost Indo-China, Tunisia and Morocco that we must not, at any price, in any way and under any pretext, lose Algeria”‘[iii] As for the settlers themselves, I have provided an appendix, should anyone be interested, with some touching testimony to how deeply rooted they were. Colonists, settlers, always swear that the colonised land is ‘part of them’, that they will never leave, that they would sooner lay down their lives.
Like the settlers in Gaza, they always either leave or submit to the new régime. So it has been all over British Africa, with the Boers in South Africa and the Dutch in Indonesia. The only difference is that these colonists could not expect to be showered with the sort of money and sympathy that the Israeli settlers will get.
The second delusion underlying the one-state solution has to do with a fetishism of non-violence. It is neither courageous nor even intransigent to suppose that, somehow, a resolute Palestinian stance can conjure up whatever is wanted – a sovereign state, full Palestinians rights everywhere, Jews and ‘Arabs’ living side by side in happy harmony. Absolutely no facts about Israel do anything but refute this article of faith. What is really behind all this idealism? My guess: the one-state solution belongs to those over-protected souls who simply cannot face the idea that anything should ever come down to physical force. Somehow, somehow, if the right words are spoken, if the right positions taken, if enough saintly non-violence blooms, all will be well, all can be overcome. I have argued elsewhere[iv] that there is no historical basis for this dogma.
Perhaps this is behind all the talk about how the two-state solution is ‘dead’. What are dead are the negotiations for two states; they died long ago. But only someone whose whole world is statements and empty verbal ‘support’ and positions and moral authority would think that a solution must emerge from negotiations. No, a solution will emerge when Israel has had enough, and withdraws, as it did in Lebanon, as it did, though not fully, in Gaza. No negotiations are necessary. The two-state solution emerges full-blown when Israel ceases to have a military presence in or over the occupied territories, and in those territories there arises a truly sovereign state. This can perhaps be formalized through negotiation, after the fact, but it can never be obtained by negotiation. It can be obtained only by making the current or anticipated cost of occupation, in one way or another, too high.
The Palestinians can never prevail militarily against the Israelis, but they have had at least this much success: Israel already finds it too costly to maintain permanent forces in the occupied territories. Though Israel will listen only to force, force can speak without actual violence. Perhaps Israel’s enemies will find greater unity and more power: for example, Turkey and Egypt might cooperate not only economically but in the enhancement of their militarily capacities. Or perhaps Hizbollah will prove itself so enduring a threat that Israel, finally, decides it prefers peace to cheap real estate and the joys of trying to bully a defenseless people in oblivion. In these hopes lies the life of the two-state solution; indeed of any solution. The good wishes of the one-state solution play no role in any future reality.
Today, those who would like to help Palestine must stop fighting a propaganda war they have already won. They must realize that the principal targets of their exhortations, the Western nations, will never dare to put serious pressure on Israel until the region itself is transformed. Hope lies only in the emergence of strong regional powers: in Turkey, and in any country in which the Arab spring proves successful. The emphasis here, quite frankly, has to be on obtaining at least an equilibrium of force. This means focusing on Israel’s military and especially its nuclear power, and on propagating the idea that, given this power, Arab nations would be not simply be within their rights to develop nuclear weapons: they almost have a responsibility to their populations to do so. It is Israel, after all, that boasts of its willingness to exercise a Sampson option that will take down the whole region in a nuclear holocaust. Such talk and such threats will be curbed only when Israeli learn to fear the nations for which they have such contempt.
What then might advance the cause of Palestinian independence? The best course is to argue that Middle Eastern countries can expect nothing from Israel until they pose a low-key and restrained but genuine threat to its existence. These nations should feel free to abrogate the nuclear non-proliferation agreements as long as Israel retains its own nuclear arsenal. This should not be considered a radical step. It would only be to assert the strategies of deterrence that all announced nuclear nations have embraced without compunction. It is not a path to war but to peace. Only when Israel sees it really cannot persist in defying the world, will the agony of the Palestinians end – if not in a solution, at least in a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann’s views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche is published by Broadview Press. He contributed the essay, “What is Anti-Semitism”, to CounterPunch’s book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. His latest book is The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are a very few of many testimonies to the depth of the Pieds-Noirs ‘commitment ‘to Algeria:
“Car les pieds-noirs s’étaient tellement identifiés à la terre d’Algérie qu’ils ne pouvaient pas concevoir de vivre ailleurs que sur leur sol natal. En ce sens, leur âme était aussi algérienne. Je pense que pour la plupart d’entre eux, elle n’a jamais cessé de l’être. Une partie de votre âme est restée en Algérie…Et le temps n’a pas effacé votre filiation avec ce pays. L’avouer, c’est aussi dire combien vous aimez l’Algérie, combien elle vous manque depuis cet été 62…”
For the pieds-noirs were so at one with the land of Algeria that they could not conceive of living elsewhere but on the soil of their birth. In this sense their soul, too, was Algerian. And time has not effaced your attachment with that land. To acknowledge it is also to say how much you love Algeria, how much you miss it, since that summer of 1962.
“Je suis née à Oran (Algérie) où :
La vie était belle !
Où le soleil brillait toujours !
Où il faisait bon vivre normalement !
Où l’on se sentait toujours en vacances !
Où l’on avait de belles plages !
Où l’on était heureux !
Où on avait des amis !
Où nos parents, sont nés, enfin toute une génération ! Que de bons souvenirs d’enfance, mariages, naissances
Enfin le pays que l’on croyait ne jamais quitter.
Quitter n’était pas pensable, on nous avait promis que l’Algérie resterait Française “?”
Leaving was unthinkable, hadn’t we been promised that Algeria would remain French”?
“Si les colons ont construit et bien construit, c t pour eux et leurs enfants, il pensait ne jamais quitter notre pays.”
“1962 : LE JOUR LE PLUS TRISTE de ma vie. Quittez mon Algérie pays ou j’ai vu le jour..pays cher dans tout les coeurs des Pieds Noirs..”
1. Among many articles on Israel’s indigenous arms capability, this stands out because it details Israel’s arms sales to the United States. Yitzhak Benhorin, “US to purchase $700m worth of arms from Israel” http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3469677,00.html, accessed 28 October 2011.
2. The 1993 Oslo Accords did not constitute a settlement but a mere “Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements”. The settlements were among the issues deliberately left unresolved.
3. Robert Gildea, France since 1945,Oxford (Oxford University Press) p.25.
4. See “Nonviolence: Its Histories and Myths”, Counterpunch, 8-10 February 2003, http://www.counterpunch.org/2003/02/08/nonviolence-its-histories-and-myths/
Nonviolence, Its Histories and Myths
by MICHAEL NEUMANN
Counterpunch, Weekend Edition February 8-10, 2003
Sometime in the early 1960s, I decided I was too scared to participate in the Freedom Rides. I have neither the moral standing nor the slightest desire to disparage the courage of those who engage in non-violence. But non-violence, so often recommended to the Palestinians, has never ‘worked’ in any politically relevant sense of the word, and there is no reason to suppose it ever will. It has never, largely on its own strength, achieved the political objectives of those who employed it.
There are supposedly three major examples of successful nonviolence: Gandhi’s independence movement, the US civil rights movement, and the South African campaign against apartheid. None of them performed as advertised.
Gandhi’s nonviolence can’t have been successful, because there was nothing he would have called a success. Gandhi’s priorities may have shifted over time: he said, that, if he changed his mind from one week to the next, it was because he had learned something in between. But it seems fair to say that he wanted independence from British rule, a united India, and nonviolence itself, an end to civil or ethnic strife on the Indian subcontinent. What he got was India 1947: partition, and one of the most horrifying outbursts of bloodshed and cruelty in the whole bloody, cruel history of the postwar world. The antagonism between Muslims and Hindus, so painful to Gandhi, still seems almost set in stone. These consequences alone would be sufficient to count his project as a tragic failure.
What of independence itself? Historians might argue about its causes, but I doubt any of them would attribute it primarily to Gandhi’s campaign. The British began contemplating–admittedly with varying degrees of sincerity–some measure of autonomy for India before Gandhi did anything, as early as 1917. A.J.P.Taylor says that after World War I, the British were beginning to find India a liability, because India was once again producing its own cotton, and buying cheap textiles from Japan. Later, India’s strategic importance, while valued by many, became questioned by some, who saw the oil of the Middle East and the Suez canal as far more important. By the end of the Second World War, Britain’s will to hold onto its empire had pretty well crumbled, for reasons having little or nothing to do with nonviolence.
But this is the least important of the reasons why Gandhi cannot be said to have won independence for India. It was not his saintliness or the disruption he caused that impressed the British. What impressed them was that the country seemed (and was) about to erupt into a slaughter. The colonial authorities could see no way to stop it. What they could see was the increasingly violent antagonism between Muslims and Hindus, both of whom detected, in the distance, the emergence of a power vacuum they rushed to fill. This violence included the “Great Calcutta Killing” of August 1946, when at least 4000 people died in three days. Another factor was the terrorism–and this need not be a term of condemnation–quite regularly employed against the British. It was not enough to do much harm, but more than enough to warn them that India was becoming more trouble than it was worth. All things considered, the well-founded fear of generalized violence had far more effect on British resolve than Gandhi ever did. He may have been a brilliant and creative political thinker, but he was not a victor.
Well, how about the US civil rights movement? It would be difficult and ungenerous to argue that it was unsuccessful, outrageous to claim that it was anything but a long and dangerous struggle. But when that is conceded, the fact remains that the Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement was practically a federal government project. Its roots may have run deep, but its impetus came from the Supreme Court decision of 1954 and from the subsequent attempts to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The students who braved a hell to accomplish this goal are well remembered. Sometimes forgotten is US government’s almost spectacular determination to see that federal law was respected. Eisenhower sent, not the FBI, not a bunch of lawyers, but one of the best and proudest units of the United States Army, the 101st Airborne, to keep order in Little Rock, and to see that the ‘federalized’ Arkansas national guard stayed on the right side of the dispute. Though there was never any hint of an impending battle between federal and state military forces, the message couldn’t have been clearer: we, the federal government, are prepared to do whatever it takes to enforce our will.
This message is an undercurrent throughout the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. Though Martin Luther King still had to overcome vicious, sometimes deadly resistance, he himself remarked that surprisingly few people were killed or seriously injured in the struggle. The surprise diminishes with the recollection that there was real federal muscle behind the nonviolent campaign.
For a variety of motives, both virtuous and cynical, the US government wanted the South to be integrated and to recognize black civil rights. Nonviolence achieved its ends largely because the violence of its opponents was severely constrained. In 1962, Kennedy federalized the National Guard and sent in combat troops to quell segregationist rioting in Oxford, Mississippi. Johnson did the same thing in 1965, after anti-civil rights violence in Alabama. While any political movement has allies and benefits from favorable circumstances, having the might of the US government behind you goes far beyond the ordinary advantages accompanying political activity. The nonviolence of the US civil rights movement sets an example only for those who have the overwhelming armed force of a government on their side.
As for South Africa, it is a minor miracle of wishful thinking that anyone could suppose nonviolence played a major role in the collapse of apartheid.
In the first place, the ANC was never a nonviolent movement but a movement which decided, on occasion and for practical reasons, to use nonviolent tactics. (The same can be said of the other anti-apartheid organizations.) Much like Sinn Fein and the IRA, it maintained from the 1960s on an arms-length relationship with MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe), a military/guerrilla organization. So there was never even a commitment to Gandhian nonviolence within the South African movements.
Secondly, violence was used extensively throughout the course of the anti-apartheid struggle. It can be argued that the violence was essentially defensive, but that’s not the point: nonviolence as a doctrine rejects the use of violence in self-defense. To say that blacks used violence in self-defense or as resistance to oppression is to say, I think, that they were justified. It is certainly not to say that they were non-violent.
Third, violence played a major role in causing both the boycott of South Africa and the demise of apartheid. Albert Luthuli, then president of the African National Congress, called for an economic boycott in 1959; the ANC’S nonviolent resistance began in 1952.* But the boycott only acquired some teeth starting in 1977, after the Soweto riots in 1976, and again in 1985-1986, after the township riots of 1984-1985. Though the emphasis in accounts of these riots is understandably on police repression, no one contests that black protestors committed many violent acts, including attacks on police stations.
Violence was telling in other ways. The armed forces associated with the ANC, though never very effective, worried the South African government after Angola and Mozambique ceased to function as buffer states: sooner or later, it was supposed, the black armies would become a serious problem. (This worry intensified with the strategic defeat of South African forces by Cuban units at Cuito Cuanavale, Angola, in 1988.) In addition, violence was widespread and crucial in eliminating police informers and political enemies, as well in coercing cooperation with collective actions. It included the particularly gory practice of necklacing.
Though much of the violence was conducted by gangs and mobs, it was not for that any less politically important: on the contrary, it was precisely the disorganized character of the violence that made it so hard to contain. And history of the period indicates that the South African government fell, not under the moral weight of dignified, passive suffering, but because the white rulers (and their friends in the West) felt that the situation was spiraling out of control. Economic problems caused by the boycotts and the administration of apartheid were also a factor, but the boycott and the administrative costs were themselves, in large measure, a response to violent rather than nonviolent resistance.
In short, it is a myth that nonviolence brought all the victories it is supposed to have brought. It brought, in fact, none of them.
How does this bear on the Israel-Palestine conflict?
At the very least it should make one question the propriety of recommending nonviolence to the Palestinians. In their situation, success is far less likely than in the cases we have examined. Unlike Martin Luther King, they are working against a state, not with one. Their opponents are far more ruthless than the British were in the twilight of empire. Unlike the Indians and South Africans, they do not vastly outnumber their oppressors. And neither the Boers nor the English ever had anything like the moral authority Israel enjoys in the hearts and minds of Americans, much less its enormous support network.
Nonviolent protest might overcome Israel’s prestige in ten or twenty years, but no one thinks the Palestinians have that long.
But the biggest myth of nonviolence isn’t its supposed efficacy: it’s the notion that, if you don’t choose non-violence, you choose violence. The Palestinians, like many others before them, find a middle ground. They choose when and whether to use violence and when to refrain from it. Many many times, they have chosen non-violent tactics, from demonstrations to strikes to negotiations, with varying but certainly not spectacular success. And their greatest act of nonviolent resistance is, as Israel Shamir points out, their stubborn determination to remain on their own lands despite repeated attacks from armed settlers, which Palestinian farmers are in no position to counter.
The Palestinians will continue to choose, sometimes violence, sometimes nonviolence. They will presumably base their choices, as they have always done, on their assessment of the political realities. It is a sort of insolent naïveté to suppose that, in their weakness, they should defy the lessons of history and cut off half their options. The notion that a people can free itself literally by allowing their captors to walk all over them is historical fantasy.
MICHAEL NEUMANN is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at: email@example.com
[*Even then, nonviolence was taken with a grain of salt. Oliver Tambo, writing as Deputy President of the ANC in 1966, said that “Mahatma [Gandhi] believed in the effectiveness of what he called the “soul force” in passive resistance. According to him, the suffering experienced in passive resistance inspired a change of heart in the rulers. The African National Congress (ANC), on the other hand, expressly rejected any concepts and methods of struggle that took the form of a self-pitying, arms-folding, and passive reaction to oppressive policies. It felt that nothing short of aggressive pressure from the masses of the people would bring about any change in the political situation in South Africa.”]