“After Zionism” puts forth debates on one-state solution

After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine is a new collection of essays edited by Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor. It is important to start by saying that this is an important and timely book, a significant contribution to the literature on the one-state/two-state debate and a useful reader on the main arguments and strands of support for one-statism.

However, the book falls into the same, perhaps unavoidable, pitfall as many edited volumes, of a slight sense of incoherency and bolted-togetherness, and connected to this there are some significant gaps.

The book’s blurb says that it “brings together some of the world’s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution.”

The former is certainly true; the contributor list includes such names as Ilan Pappe, Ghada Karmi, Omar Barghouti, Diana Buttu, Saree Makdisi and Sara Roy. There is a good mix of academics, legal/political practitioners, journalists and activists, and also of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals.

Whether the second half of the claim is so true is one of the main problems. After Zionism starts with a fair amount of scene-setting — Ilan Pappe writes about the history of and attitudes within Israel to the Nakba, the 1948 mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. This is a fine chapter in itself, but familiar ground to anyone who’s read his previous work.

Then we get trenchant critiques of the Oslo process, of Israel’s history of cynically undermining any attempts at negotiations, and of the weakness of the Palestinian “leadership,” particularly as revealed by the Palestine Papers. The latter chapters contain a fair amount of repetition — indeed, they could probably have been collapsed into a single section. The same problem accompanies a lengthy discussion of the opinions and activities of American Jewish communities.

Then there is a certain amount of argument and polemic. The best comes from Saree Makdisi, in a spirited romp through the impossibility and injustice of a two-state solution and his perceptions of the under-rated power of the Palestinian position. One might disagree with his analysis, but the book is worth buying just for this joyful, defiant shout, along with Omar Barghouti’s clear, cold evaluation of the need for a “decolonization” process that grants equal rights to all citizens of the new state, while facing its violent colonial past head-on.

Single state possibilities haphazardly explored

But where, then, is the promised “explor[ation of] possible forms of a one-state solution”? It is there, sort of, but because of the structure of the volume, it is peppered rather haphazardly through the book. John Mearsheimer demolishes the idea that one-state debates are all about starry-eyed visions of co-existence. He foresees the nightmare twin of the one-state solution that many activists aspire to, believing that “the Palestinians are not going to get their own state any time soon. They will instead end up living in an Apartheid state dominated by Israeli Jews” (136). Along with several other contributors, he believes that there will be a de facto one state, with Israel annexing the West Bank.

The only divergence is on how far there is scope for Palestinians within this new entity to challenge its racist nature and, eventually, turn it into a place in which both Jews and Palestinians can live a just existence. Mearsheimer thinks that a “democratic bi-national state” will be the long-term outcome, but given the untrammelled violence perpetrated by settlers in the West Bank, as well as the Israeli army’s abuses, this is a chilling prospect for the short to medium term.

One of the drawbacks of the book is that there is never any coherent overview of what the different proposals are, or evaluations of how they compare. Some are presented only by their proponents and therefore never subjected to the criticism and scrutiny imposed on the two-state idea — such as Jeff Halper’s “’Two-State Plus’ solution … in which self-determination is disconnected from economic viability. Less elegant than the others … it is also far more workable” (125). And, except for Halper’s chapter and to some extent those of Barghouti and Karmi, there is little engagement with the real nitty-gritty of what a one-state solution might actually look like, and how it might be implemented.

History of one-state idea merits more exploration

It would also have been nice to have a little pre-Oslo historical background to the one-state idea. There are passing references -– including in Ahmed Moor’s introductory piece (11) — to the fact that, until the late 1970s at least, some form of one-state solution was the norm amongst most Palestinian movements. An overview of those visions, and why they were sidelined for several decades, might shed light on current attitudes and the challenges one-state campaigners might face.

Finally, more in the way of references would have been useful. A volume like this should serve as a stepping-off point, where the reader can be introduced to new ideas and take their curiosity further. To do that, one needs to know where to go for more information. To take one example, Ahmed Moor’s stylish, broad-brush chapter, for example, contains a multitude of interesting points and citations — but scant direction on where they come from.

Despite its flaws, After Zionism is an important, informative, sometimes inspiring, sometimes infuriating, collection. But it does need to be read as a set of debates, and falls short of being the definitive text it could perhaps have been.

Sarah Irving is a freelance writer. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06. She is the author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine and co-author, with Sharyn Lock, of Gaza: Beneath the Bombs.




My conclusions related to a "One-State Solution" are the following. With all the respect I feel toward Palestinian intellectuals like late Edward Said for example, I cannot understand how such an utopian proposition can be put forward, especially in 2012, after so much barberry perpetrated by Israel since 1948 on the Palestinian people. Of course, there has been “violence” (resistance!) on the part of the Occupied People of Palestine but when you look at the facts, it is nothing! Israel counts the rockets that fall in empty spaces whereas the Palestinian people have been counting their thousands and thousands of dead since 1948. When I see how Israel treats its "Arab citizens" (for me there is no "Arab Citizen" but Palestinians citizens of Israel, not by choice, of course!) I think that the "One State Solution" would not be a solution but an eternal nightmare for the Palestinian people! For me it is not a question of friend-enemy; it rather raises the question of how a victim can voluntarily decide to live eternally beside its torturer... Would a Jewish person live voluntarily side by side with a Nazi? I think it is humanly impossible.
I know that there are honest Israeli activists in Israel who are not just fighting against their own "conscience malheureuse" but who really take a courageous stand for the Palestinian People from whom everything was stolen, with the help of the Occidentals, without which Isreal could not have achieved such a great disaster! But I never heard (or read) a single Israeli activist claiming that the “least of justice” would be Two States according to the United Nations unjust partition of Palestine... I never could understand how can someone - be it an entity or a person - give to someone (something) else something that never belonged to it (him)... When I will hear a single Israeli activist coming back to the United Nations’ 1948 partition plan, then I might be start thinking about a “One State Solution”, be it in a book or elsewhere… My respects.


The problem with this book is that it advocates the destruction of an existing sovereign nation-state (Israel). But it is precisely this mantra that is the root of the conflict in that it provides Israelis with the drive to continue the occupation. Hence, the book helps to perpetuate the very jail that it claims it wants to knock down.

That's why its a silly book, in my humble opnion.


The Zionist entity must be dismantled; sine qua non condition to start the peace process.

I wrote a comment in which I defend the Palestinian people and I had put the finger on the problem of the Zionism, and it has not been published. I was the first to comment this article.
Who can explain me this? I'm surprised from EI.


I place my initial comment here.

We should not debate.

The only correct solution is a state for Palestinians only. For Palestinians, I mean the native inhabitants, whether they are Muslim or Jewish, who were in Palestine before the first settlers in the early 20th century.

The Jews, because of the Exile by Divine decree, mayn’t live, in mass, in the Holy Land; they live dispersed throughout the world until the Creator himself brings back them into the Promised Land. Of course, after having made Teshuveh and have fulfilled their task.

With regard to the Zionists, they certainly don’t belong in Palestine, they aren’t the Jewish people; they’re an expansionist political movement. Their people, most of whom have Jewish ancestry, have turned to this satanic ideology which is Zionism, and turned away from Judaism, they excluded themselves from the Jewish people.

Why should they be in Palestine?

There are only hurting the Palestinian people and they are also a threat to the entire region of M-E!

If there is already debate, this must be based on the history of peoples (not since 48), the history of Zionism and its goals on justice for all. We should reach the same conclusion, ie a Palestinian state under Palestinian sovereignty. That this is soon!

Alice Bach's picture

Nobody asked me to comment.  But I am surprised that neither the book (confession, I skipped a couple of articles) nor the reviewer mention Ali Albunimah and the wide influence of his book One Country, published almost seven years ago to the day August 21, 2007.  This book inspired me to teach my students that there are new ways of looking at old problems, and perhaps the new ways are the only way to pull the world out of the morasse.  Let’s not forget the book simply because it is not new. I still read George Eliot, and she published even longer ago than Abunimah.

Also I would like to urge peole to read Sara Roy’s piece.  As usual her writing is clear, accurate, well documented, and without cant.


Given the history of conflict between the two peoples, it is a fantasy to imagine that they could coexist peacefully as equals in an undivided state. In my view the only way forward is for the two existing states to join to form a united state of two largely autonomous nations, similar to the way in which Scotland and England are two distinct nations within a single state, the United Kingdom. See my article at
http://religion-science-peace.... for some ideas as to how this may work.


Yes, but you can’t compare the Historic Occupied Palestine with another country; Palestine is the Holy Land! History must be respected and also Justice.

I am always surprised and disappointed as when I hear politicians make decisions. I noticed that politicians, as well as activists who are well-intentioned, know so little about the history of the two nations, the Palestinian people and the Jewish people. What they know is what the Zionists have dictated them, or what they read, ie what has been manipulated by the Zionists, on Internet (in the sites Zionists, there is the blue and white flag that floats), education, media ... They impose themselves everywhere, even in the Jewish communities!

The Zionism is an attack on the authentic Judaism, and the Zionist entity with its population is an accident of the History. Zionists are not Jews; they’re a political movement expansionist which uses exterior aspects of Judaism, but they deny the Creator, the Torah, and they fight the Faith, Judaism and Islam.

The Zionists know neither faith nor law. It isn’t possible to live with them, they have no respect for anything, for anyone; they bother the anti-Zionist Jews and the Muslims who resist them in Palestine, and also in other countries. Everywhere Zionism is infiltrated, there is conflict! The solution is to eradicate the root of this evil, the Zionism.

We must find at least our Palestine as she was before the first Zionist pioneers. In those days, nobody had seen the Zionist danger! Palestinians must get up and expel the Zionist occupier!