Imagine the following scenario: In response to the peaceful African-American civil rights movement in the United States, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s, a large segment of white Americans figured that the best solution to the issue would be to form a new country on a small part of US territory in the north, where African-Americans would be segregated and live on their own.
Any of these African-Americans who lived for generations in the American South, but at some point had to flee to the American North (or to Canada or Mexico) because of violence and discrimination perpetrated against them, would not be able to return to their homes in the South. They would only be permitted to “return” to this new African-American state.
Any of the African-Americans already in the South could stay there, but would become second-class citizens, facing institutionalized discrimination in a country dominated politically, economically and socially by white Americans – much as was the case during the Jim Crow era following centuries of enslavement.
On top of this, any of the white Americans who recently colonized parts of African-American territory could stay and continue to exploit the natural resources, whether the African-American population liked it or not. This new country would also be demilitarized, landlocked (or denied a port) and would have no true sovereignty over its territory.
In other words, the fate of this predominantly African-American country would largely remain in the hands of the white American one.
Unless one is a racist or white supremacist, this scenario would sound preposterous not only to most Americans, but also to most people in the world. Sadly, this imaginary situation is very similar to the one that many Israeli, and more disappointingly, American Zionists would like to impose on Palestinians – the so-called two-state solution.
Leading to peace?
One might ask, what is the problem with a two-state solution, if it will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis?
For one, Israel is unwilling to fully evacuate from the West Bank territory that it seized during the 1967 war, despite its obligation to do so under UN Security Council Resolution 242. This is land that Palestinians would expect for their own state.
However, since 1967, Israel established more than 200 settlements on tens of thousands of hectares of Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, with a total population of more than 600,000 Israeli settlers.
Due to these “facts on the ground,” Israel would demand to keep much of this occupied land in a two-state solution scenario. But according to international law, as outlined by the principle that territory cannot be acquired by force, Israel has no right to one square inch of Palestinian land in the West Bank.
In a two-state solution, Palestinians would expect their capital to be East Jerusalem, which was seized by Israel during the 1967 war. However, Israel considers the entire city of Jerusalem to be its “eternal and undivided” capital and it has remained firm on this position.
It has been reported that Israel would try to make the nearby neighborhood of Abu Dis the future Palestinian capital. This would be completely unacceptable to Palestinians as Jerusalem has tremendous religious, cultural and historical significance for them.
Another major problem with a two-state solution is that Israel would agree to a Palestinian state only under the condition that it is demilitarized. This has been emphasized by numerous Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Even former US President Bill Clinton proposed in 2000 that Israel be able to maintain some military facilities in Palestine and to deploy military forces in cases involving a “national security” threat to Israel. In other words, Palestine would be a neutered state with no true sovereignty, and Israel would always maintain significant control over Palestinians.
Last but not least, a two-state solution would almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin for the issue of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. This right is a cornerstone of the Palestinian struggle.
Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee, both in 1948 and in 1967, have an inalienable right to return to their homeland as do their descendants.
This right is enshrined in international law. The UN General Assembly in December 1948 adopted Resolution 194, and in June 1967, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 237, both of which call on Israel to allow the return of refugees.
Yet Israel continues to violate its obligations under international law. It has no intention of correcting its historic injustices that created the Palestinian refugee problem.
The right of return has been one of the key issues preventing a just settlement of the conflict. In the rare instances that Israel even considers Palestinian statehood, it regards the right of return as out of the question, save for return to a new hypothetical – and truncated – state of Palestine rather than to the areas where refugees once lived.
The problems with a two-state solution mentioned above lead to an obvious question: Why not form one democratic state where both Palestinians and Israelis could live with equal rights?
This would be the most fair and equitable solution.
The answer to this question is quite simple. Zionism, the political ideology that is the basis of the state of Israel, is inherently intolerant of equality. Its main goal was to create a Jewish state in Palestine, where Jews would be the majority and dominate all others.
Jews would receive special rights and treatment. For example, a Jewish person from China who has no connection to Palestine has the right to emigrate there and become an Israeli citizen, while a Palestinian refugee whose family lived there for generations has no right to do so.
If that seems racist or discriminatory, it’s because it really is.
One might assume that such a prejudiced ideology is primarily espoused by a small segment of hard-line, right-wing Jews. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.
A perfect example is J Street, which is a supposedly liberal lobbying organization that “mobilizes pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who want Israel to be secure, democratic and the national home of the Jewish people.” The organization indicates that its policies reflect the views of the majority of American Jews.
But J Street is not shy about its support of the discriminatory philosophy of Zionism, as can be seen in its official policy regarding the two-state solution:
“With the Jewish and Arab populations between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea at near-parity, demographic trends preclude Israel from maintaining control over all of Greater Israel while remaining a democratic state and a homeland for the Jewish people. As then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in November 2007, ‘If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.’”
It might seem unbelievable, but J Street is in fact stressing that equality for Palestinians and Israelis would spell disaster for Israel. It also adds that “there is no such thing as a ‘one-state solution,’ only a ‘one-state nightmare.’”
If this is the “liberal” Zionist position, and the position of Americans who theoretically should be more democratically minded, one can only imagine how bigoted the hard-line conservative Zionist view is. Indeed, hardcore right-wing Zionists would like nothing more than to permanently annex the West Bank and proceed with the “transference” of Palestinians to Jordan.
These people do support a one-state solution, but it is one that involves ethnic cleansing and no equality whatsoever.
Ironically, President Donald Trump made a remark that fittingly illustrates why Zionists are so opposed to a one-state solution. During a recent meeting in June, Trump half-jokingly told King Abdullah of Jordan that a one-state solution would lead to an Israeli prime minister named Muhammad.
This is the “demographic threat” that motivated Netanyahu to warn Israeli voters in 2015 that “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.” And this is the nightmare scenario that a former director of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign spy agency, referred to when he warned that the “Jewish and Palestinian populations in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are nearly equal, and Israel must act to separate itself.”
Zionism simply cannot stand the idea of equality between Jews and non-Jews.
The fact of the matter is that Israel was established at the expense of the non-Jewish indigenous Palestinian population – Muslims, Christians, and others – and it continues to subjugate and discriminate against them. This is precisely what Israel started in 1948, when at least 750,000 Palestinians were expelled and denied their right to return.
Since then, it has methodically engaged in the near starvation of Palestinians in Gaza, occupied and oppressed those in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and imposed institutional discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Through other tactics, such as the confiscation of Palestinian property and the demolition of homes, Israel has forced many Palestinians to emigrate, resulting in subtle ethnic cleansing.
As long as Israel remains committed to this racist, Zionist system, there will never be a truly just solution, no matter the number of states.
Mohamed Mohamed is the executive director of The Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center in Washington, DC. Views expressed are his own.