Steiman’s second argument pays awkward lip serve towards morality and justice. He claims, “[w]hat cannot be disputed is that the State of Israel (that is, the State of Israel within the Green Line) has become a prosperous, multi-ethnic democracy with a clear national identity.”
In reality, Israel is only prosperous and democratic for the few and still struggles with its manufactured national identity. Israel’s prosperity is enjoyed by a few – mainly those linked to the political, military, and economic power centers who profit directly from the occupation at the expense of both non-Jews and Jews. As for the brilliance of Israeli democracy, the prominent Israeli academic and history Ilan Pappe commented in an interview:
No, Israel is definitely not a democracy. A country that occupies another people for more than 40 years and disallows them the most elementary civic and human rights cannot be a democracy. A country that pursues a discriminatory policy against a fifth of its Palestinian citizens inside the 67 borders cannot be a democracy. In fact Israel is, what we use to call in political science a herrenvolk democracy, its democracy only for the masters. The fact that you allow people to participate in the formal side of democracy, namely to vote or to be elected, is useless and meaningless if you don’t give them any share in the common good or in the common resources of the State, or if you discriminate against them despite the fact that you allow them to participate in the elections. On almost every level from official legislation through governmental practices, and social and cultural attitudes, Israel is only a democracy for one group, one ethnic group, that given the space that Israel now controls, is not even a majority group anymore, so I think that you’ll find it very hard to use any known definition of democracy which will be applicable for the Israeli case.
As another basis for rejecting the one-state solution, Steiman speaks of the “cultural and scientific accomplishments Israel has given to the world” as “tremendous considering its small size.” Indeed, Israel has achieved a number of cultural and scientific accomplishments thanks to the financial and material support from North America and Western Europe. A number of the country’s technological breakthroughs have been made possible by the Israeli military’s ability to test prototypes against the virtually defenseless Palestinians.
Steiman disregards the significant cultural and scientific accomplishments made by the Palestinians, both in the refugee camps and elsewhere, which are that much more impressive as they have been achieved in an environment of occupation with a state divided into small islands surrounded by walls, checkpoints, and Israeli settlements.
While Steiman fears the loss of Israeli culture and scientific progress in a state with a majority of Muslims/Arabs, he has no qualms about the continued degradation of Palestinian culture within Israel’s borders. Steiman’s concerns about a “Muslim Arab state” are similar to concerns voiced by Afrikaners during the last decade of Apartheid South Africa regarding the prospects of a “Black African state” choking a ‘superior’ white culture. Steiman does not explain why Palestinian Christians, who are a minority, are some of the biggest supporters of the one state solution – would they not be alleged victims of this “Muslim Arab state” too? These realities aside, “cultural and scientific accomplishments” do not make a nation moral or superior or white wash its crimes.
Throughout his article, Steinman perverts the ideals of morality and justice to argue for a continuation of Jewish sovereignty at the expense of equal rights for all who reside under Israeli control.
As noted above, Zionism is part of the problem. For the one-state solution to work Zionism and other ideologies that do not embrace total equality have no place. The one state solution is not a solution aimed at creating another unequal power system; rather it seeks to establish a state defined by rights and justice for all. It is an undeniable fact that the majority of mandate Palestine’s indigenous population is not Jewish. However, calling for a one state does not mean calling for an Arab Muslim state, an important difference Steiman ignores.
Steiman’s solution not only denies the Palestinians their inalienable right to return, as enshrined by international law and human rights conventions, but also makes non-Jews within Israel second-class citizens whose rights are trumped by their Jewish peers. What will happen in the coming decades when the non-Jewish population, which is increasing at a faster rate and is the majority in mandate Palestine, over takes the Israeli-Jewish population within Israel itself? It will be practically impossible to sustain a Jewish majority in mandate Palestine without resorting to the tactics of ethnic cleansing and discrimination. If Israel and its supporters truly want to embrace democracy, they must do so by embracing the ideals of a democratic state, not one defined by Zionism.
It is worth repeating again and again: the one-state solution calls for a shared state in which the rights of all are protected and ensured. It is the only practical and viable solution that offers justice and fairness for all parties, whoever they may be.
*Yazan Al-Saadi is a staff writer at Muftah.