Daniel Steiman’s response to my article on the One State Solution is rife with arguments and fallacies that pay lip serve to “a just and fair solution” while excusing occupation, colonialism, continued ethnic cleansing, and the inequalities of power that benefit Israel.
Steiman writes, “[a]nyone with even a basic understanding of the conflict will recognize that the one-state solution is a sheer impossibility and could never be implemented. Should it be put into effect, it would be an unmitigated political and humanitarian disaster for both sides, though likely more for the Jews than for the Palestinians.”
To support his claim, Steiman resorts to the routine generalizations and distortions that tend to dominate the pro-Israeli narrative. His arguments can be broken down into two parts:
1) “the one-state solution is entirely unworkable, and will only lead to further violence and bloodshed in the region”; and
2) “from a standpoint of morality and justice, implementation of the one-state solution will lead to the end of Israel, a legitimate nation-state that has existed for over sixty years, and lead to an outcome where only one side, the Palestinians, achieve ‘justice’”.
In making his first argument, Steiman points to the examples of Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria to claim that the one-state solution is unworkable because multi-national states are inherently unstable and breed sectarian violence. Even if a ‘bi-national’ state was feasible, Steiman argues, the right of return for Palestinian refugees would undoubtedly create “a Muslim-majority Arab state with a small Jewish minority.” “How can this be considered the fair and just solution?” he asks in rhetorical fashion.
While it is true that multi-national states are far from trouble-free, Steiman outlines a very crude and grossly inaccurate narrative of why sectarian violence and political instability happen within multi-national states, and then makes a dramatic logical leap to conclude that such horrible suffering will be inevitable if applied to Israel/Palestine.
Putting aside the numerous well-functioning and peaceful multi-national states, Steiman pointedly ignores the unequal suffering that has characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He seems to believe that both sides have equally legitimate claims to the territory and disregards the uncomfortable historical fact that Zionism is a colonial movement born out of a Euro-centric experience which established a colonial-state, Israel, in the Levant through a process of ethnic cleansing that expelled most of mandate Palestine’s native inhabitants.
This reality is supported by a wealth of documentary evidence, spanning 60 years or more, organized and compiled by historians, journalists, researchers, archeologists, human rights organizations, and others. The writings of early Zionist settlers and thinkers, such as Theodore Herzl and David Ben-Gurion, are very clear and frank about Zionism’s colonial project and its aims.
Against this backdrop, the Israel/Palestine conflict has few parallels with the situations in Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq, or Syria, and more closely resembles the experiences of Kenya, Zimbabwe, Algeria, and apartheid South Africa. In fact, many, including those with direct experience struggling against South Africa’s apartheid regime, have argued that the Palestinian case is much worse.
The two-state solution that arose from Zionism’s European colonialist project is an outdated Western-centric approach to statehood and political-national affiliation, which fundamentally ignores the sentiments of the “natives”. While Steiman incorrectly believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents a national struggle pitting “Jews” against “Arab,” neither group is homogenous or monolithic nor has a concrete unified ‘national’ identity.
It is particularly interesting that Steiman notes “that the population of Mizrahim (Jews from Arab countries) in Palestine was negligible in the pre-state period.” One must ask why there were so few Arab Jews in Palestine prior to 1948 despite their large numbers in the rest of the Arab world. Iranian, Kurdish, Turkish, African and Arab Jews were not prevented from living and residing in Palestine during or before the Ottoman Empire, yet they did not rush to settle in this part of the region prior to the mid-20th century. Why?
As Israeli historian Shlomo Sand noted, and as Steiman touches upon, Zionism was not driven by a “universal” Jewish desire to “return home,” but rather was a response to a horrible experience of anti-Semitism, discrimination, and marginalization in Europe and Russia, unmatched anywhere else in the world. In Steiman’s words “a safe haven for world Jewry” was necessary. It was, however, a necessity for European Jews alone, as non-European Jews did not have similar experiences in terms of discrimination and violence against them. There are plenty of Jewish voices world-wide that dispute Israel’s monopolistic claims over Jewish security and criticize the emphasis on the specter of widespread anti-Semitism as a mirage to justify Israel’s continued existence and its abhorrent actions. Moreover, while Steiman’s fear of widespread anti-Semitism drives his call for a two state solution, he does not provide any basis for concluding that a shared state could not be a safe haven for both Jews and Palestinian refugees expelled from mandate Palestine by Zionist forces.
Steiman argues that, “[n]o state would voluntarily agree not only to self-dissolution, but also to accept the possibility that its people would become a minority who may be stripped of their political rights by the majority ethnic group.” This is, however, precisely what Zionism has done and what the current two-state solution would finalize for the Palestinian population, a majority group that was forcibly made into a minority, had its political and legal rights stripped away, and is now being asked to live in less than a quarter of mandate Palestine.