ISRAEL: SINGLE, BINATIONAL STATE?

“You folks have sunk to a new low,” “faux criticism,” “venomous,” “extreme bias,” “utter fantasy,” “protocols of the victims of Zion,” “prescription for a bloodbath” are a few of the characterizations of Daniel Lazare’s November 3 book review, “The One-State Solution.” Readers were “shocked and appalled” and called Lazare a “propagandist.” Others were intrigued. One simply stated, “A binational state is not the answer.” –The Editors

Hamden, Conn.

Daniel Lazare’s “The One-State Solution” raises an issue that has lately attracted considerable attention in liberal and left circles in the United States and Israel. As a longtime supporter of American Jewish peace organizations in sympathy with the Israeli peace camp, I offer a view contrary to Lazare’s one-state solution.

Despite the strong nationalistic feelings in the Israeli and Palestinian communities, there are in both sizable groups that already accept the two-state solution, often expressed in the formula “two states for two peoples with a single capital in Jerusalem.” Thus the two-state solution has already gained a certain standing with many people in Israel/Palestine, whereas the one- or single-state solution has not. To introduce the idea of the single binational state now, when the hostility between Israelis and Palestinians is so sharp and embittered, is a distraction from the struggle for what is possible. Instead there would be a different struggle for an ostensibly more “ideal solution” whose outcome is most likely doomed from the start.

One of Israel’s most internationalist-minded peace activists, Uri Avnery, recently offered a cogent critique of the binational, single-state idea, arguing that neither Israelis, still haunted by the Holocaust, nor Palestinians, craving a political independence long denied them, are “ready to live together as supra-national citizens.” Two states, he writes, “are needed for two peoples. This will direct the national feelings of the two peoples into reasonable, constructive channels [and make] a genuine reconciliation possible.” As Avnery also pointed out, Israeli Jews are likely to dominate a single state, condemning Palestinians to second-class status as a reserve labor force. Far from solving the crisis, a future binational state in all of Palestine will open up a new can of worms by continuing the present ethnic conflict over a wider territory. Would it really not be better to work for a two-state solution that would have all or most of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza removed back to Israel proper so as to allow a viable, contiguous state for the Palestinians alongside the Israeli state? To quote Avnery again: “Perhaps a later generation will one day decide to live in one joint state. But today the propaganda for this utopia diverts attention from the practical, immediate objective, at a time when the whole world has accepted the idea of ‘two states for two peoples.'”

SID RESNICK
Advisory board, Jewish Currents magazine


Brooklyn, NY

Call me a liberal nationalist. Israel has a lot of problems, not least of which is the need to withdraw to the original 1948 borders. But Daniel Lazare’s proposal that the Jews, who make up approximately 80 percent of the population within Israel’s original borders, give up their state to live as a minority in a Palestinian state, which by Lazare’s own admission is what the so-called one-state solution ultimately means, is more than merely utopian: It is disingenuous. The real reason some leftist intellectuals and pro-Palestinian partisans now favor a binational state is that it may represent the best chance for the destruction of the Jewish state, which many now understand cannot be achieved by military means or terrorism.

DAVID RAWSON


Salt Point, NY

Although I have been writing “brave” letters to my local paper on behalf of Palestinian justice, I have never been able to fully question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state–even to myself. Daniel Lazare’s fine essay makes me realize how brainwashed I have been–and I consider myself an independent thinker. Yet from the time I first read the great theologian Martin Buber, I realized that if his desire for co-existence with the Palestinians had not been considered “unrealistic,” the Middle East could be a different place today. I agree with Lazare except for his concluding thought that intelligent people find it logical to “throw in their lot” with the madman Sharon. Dumping him would be the first step in breaking out of their “ideological cage.”

JULIE ADAMS


LAZARE REPLIES

New York City

As Sid Resnick sees it, the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simple. The two sides heartily dislike one another. Each wants to live in its own separate state. Since this is just about the only thing they can agree on, therefore, separate states it will have to be. Anything else would be “a distraction from the struggle for what is possible.”

But who decides what is possible and what is not? As things stand now, it is impossible to imagine a two-state solution that did not lock in the current power imbalance between the two sides. Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate a Palestinian state that in any way poses a threat to its security, and that the only state it will tolerate is a truncated, disarmed bantustan crisscrossed by Israeli patrols and dotted with Israeli checkpoints. Since it has the military clout (not to mention the endless backing of the United States), Israel will undoubtedly get its way should such a “settlement” come to pass. Palestinians would have to put up with the sort of daily humiliation that no other nation would tolerate for a moment–or else be accused of busting the peace. Is this the art of the possible that Resnick has in mind?

The two-state approach is not evenhanded but structurally biased. Yet the real problem goes even deeper: Rather than challenging Zionism, it accepts it as a given and in fact seeks to replicate it by creating two ethnically driven states where currently there is only one. My review argued that Zionism is bad not only for Palestinians but for Jews. As an increasingly aggressive and paranoid form of nationalism, it strengthens the most backward aspects of Jewish culture while undermining all those free-thinking, forward-looking elements that have distinguished it in the modern era. The two-state approach leaves this issue unaddressed. It is also silent on the question of the 1 million Palestinians who now reside within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. In an explicitly Jewish state, they will never be more than second-class citizens. Yet as far as the two-state solution is concerned, this is an internal affair and of no relevance to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. National sovereignty, the principle underlying the two-state approach, requires that the Palestinians not interfere in their neighbor’s business by linking their cause with that of their fellow Arabs (although we can all rest assured that Israel will not hesitate to interfere in its neighbor’s business by demanding safeguards for Jews who find themselves within Palestinian boundaries).

People like Resnick should be careful what they wish for. A two-state solution, should one ever be instituted, might very well be even worse than the status quo. Still, I couldn’t help but be amused by his paraphrase of Uri Avnery to the effect that “Israeli Jews are likely to dominate a single state, condemning Palestinians to second-class status as a reserve labor force.” Zionists complain that Jews would soon find themselves swamped in a binational state because Palestinians supposedly breed like rabbits, but here is Resnick informing us that it is the Palestinians who should be worried because Israeli Jews, with their extensive experience in parliamentary politics, will soon wind up in control. But I would argue that both fears are misplaced. The brilliant thing about democracy–real democracy, that is–is that it allows Jews to take their place on the political stage not as Jews per se, but as atheists, socialists, feminists or whatever. It depoliticizes Judaism rather than extolling it and raising it to the level of state policy. Rather than condemning the Palestinians to second-class status, similarly, democracy provides them with the ability to organize and thereby challenge the elite’s monopoly on power. Instead of leaving them to stew on some impoverished reservation, it permits them to join forces with Jewish workers in order to challenge the very idea of a reserve army of labor. Democracy is more important to the poor and oppressed, not less.

As for David Rawson, his letter perfectly illustrates the Masada complex that the pro-Israel camp has done so much to cultivate. On one side is the Jewish state, while on the other are various leftists, “pro-Palestinian partisans” and terrorists seeking its destruction. All criticism of the Jewish state is therefore disingenuous and can be safely disregarded. The more the world complains about Israel’s behavior, the more justified it feels in hollering “anti-Semitism!” and reaching for its gun.

Finally, let me assure Julie Adams that I fully share her desire to see Ariel Sharon tossed out on his tuchus. My point was merely that Israelis and Palestinians should jointly change the rules of the game so that his sort of politics are nipped in the bud.

DANIEL LAZARE


EDUCATION FOR SOME

New York City

In David L. Kirp’s “No Brainer” [Nov. 10], the President’s education bill is referred to as a “leave no child behind” act. “Leave No Child Behind” is actually the trademarked slogan of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), an organization that has given children a voice in the halls of power for thirty years. The Bush Administration cleverly named its single-issue education bill No Child Left Behind. The word games may fool some people, but the inadequate funding for this bill fools no one. There is little chance it will improve outcomes in most school districts. Neither will it prepare children to enter school ready to learn.

On the other hand, the comprehensive Dodd-Miller Act to Leave No Child Behind (S. 448/H.R. 936), which CDF supports, recognizes that children don’t come in pieces and addresses all the needs of children, including childcare, health insurance for all children, Head Start for every eligible child who needs it, housing, nutrition and prevention from child abuse and neglect. The Bush Administration’s word games make children the losers.

DONNA A. LAWRENCE
Children’s Defense Fund


DeKalb, Ill.

David Kirp says, “Today’s male college graduates make $32,000 a year more than those with only a high school diploma, up from a $15,000 difference in 1975, after adjusting for inflation. This leaves public officials more inclined to perceive the BA not as a social investment but as a ticket to personal financial security.”

In 1975 I was a student at the City University of New York, paying $41.20 for a full-time semester, in the last year before the city went broke and CUNY started charging tuition. I will always be grateful to the taxpayers for footing the bill, because I would otherwise never have attempted college. But when I was in college, when the BA was perceived as a social investment, the majority of college students were men. Today, when it’s perceived to be a ticket to financial security, the majority of college students are women. I see it in my own classes. I teach in a university program for under-prepared students from low-income families. Their loans will crush them six months after they graduate. They are overwhelmingly female, in some sections by a ratio of ten to one. By the way, I don’t make $32,000 more than those with only a high school diploma. I make $30,000, period.

GEORGIANNA HENRY


HEALTHCARE IN HAITI

Evergreen, Colo.

I really appreciated Tracy Kidder’s “Trials of Haiti,” about that neglected “fourth world” country [Oct. 27]. I traveled to Haiti for the first time on a medical service trip this past January. We opened a small clinic near the village of Petit Trou de Nippes. We saw more than 1,000 Haitians in two weeks. I have never seen such abject poverty, and I’ve been around a bit. Kidder did not mention the 350 Cuban doctors, sent by the Cuban government for two-year stints, mainly in rural areas, who provide the only public healthcare there. We worked hand in hand with some of those doctors and admired their dedication and fortitude in a pretty rough environment.

F.G. POSNER