When Palestinian-American politician Rashida Tlaib voiced her support for a one-state solution for Palestine/Israel, pro-Israeli advocacy group JStreet canceled their endorsement of Tlaib’s electoral campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. Insisting on the “two-state solution” as the core of their advocacy for Israel, JStreet underscores one of liberal Zionism’s greatest continuing fallacies.
On August 7, Tlaib made headlines after winning the Democratic primary for Michigan’s 13th district. The progressive lawmaker instantly faced criticism from pro-Palestinian advocates, however, as she had accepted an endorsement from JStreet. To be eligible for JStreet’s approval, candidates have to support U.S. military assistance to Israel, oppose the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) movement, and favor a two-state solution.
On August 14, Tlaib expressly took a one-state position on Palestine/Israel in an interview with In These Times: “One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work.” In response, JStreet issued a statement on August 17, expressing its appreciation for Tlaib’s commitment to social justice, but clarifying that the group “[could not] endorse candidates who conclude that they can no longer publicly express unequivocal support for a two-state solution and other core principles to which [JStreet] is dedicated.”
This commitment to the two-state solution is emblematic of liberal Zionism. While it rhetorically supports separate, sovereign states for both Palestinians and Israelis, the two-state narrative’s real value is in distracting the outside world from the brutal reality in Palestine/Israel. Under the veil of this rhetoric, Israel has aggressively expanded its reach through settler-colonialism and military force and occupation. Aided by the international community, the Zionist state has long created facts on the ground through a system of ethnocracy and apartheid. As a result, Israel is in de facto control of all of historic Palestine. Thus, for Palestinians, the reality is already that of a single state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
For many Israelis, all of Palestine is also one state, i.e. Israel. Indeed, Israeli political elites, including prime minister Netanyahu, have long admitted that a two-state solution is an illusion. Throughout the years, several surveys have shown that the majority of Israelis support the occupation of Palestinian territories, which they see as a legitimate part of Israel. Official Israeli annexation of the West Bank is a continuous topic in Israeli politics and media, reflecting Israel’s ignorance of international law.
The rhetoric behind the two-state solution helps frame colonialism as diplomacy, perpetuating the lie that if there were stronger political efforts from the Palestinians, they would be rewarded with a state. Given its role in silencing Palestinian anti-colonial ambitions and perpetuating the status quo of absolute Israeli hegemony, the two-state solution must be confronted as the myth it is. Rashida Tlaib’s latest comments are an important example of the gradual mainstreaming of this critique of the two-state narrative – one which will hopefully find a platform in the U.S. Congress sometime soon.