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September 14, 2006



I'm not sure how much optimism there is as long as the US annually pumps billions of dollars into Israel without conditioning payment on the freezing of settlements. I think the biggest problem is with our mentality. I had a talk with a South African when I was in Jerusalem and he said something which still resonates with me. He said "why are we even talking about two states?" When you have a over a quarter million Jews living in West Bank and close to 15-20% of Israeli's are Arabs (i.e. Palestinians), its difficult to justify two states. Its ironic, following genocide in Rwanda we expected the Tutsi's and Hutus to live with each other. Following apartheid in South Africa we expect Afrikkaners and blacks. Even in the US, we expect all minorities to live with each other. The problem is that the state of Israel is premised on being a "Jewish state" rather then a state. Following that premise, diversity of religion and culture can exist so long as it does not prevail or even threaten the majority. Imagine if in the US we said "all men are created equal, so long as minorities do not threaten to exceed the population of white Christians."

Taken to its logical conclusion therefore, a religious state, or state defined by either one culture, religion, or ethnic group, is inherently discriminatory and in violation of human rights. For example, what would happen if birth rates amongst Arab non-Jewish Israeli's threatened the majority? What would you do to maintain a "Jewish state"? Already laws have been passed in Israel which do not give non-Jewish couples the same marriage rights as Jewish couples. If a non-Jewish Israeli marries a non-Jewish foreigner, the foreigner is not given the same rights to citizenship as would a Jewish foreigner who married a Jewish Israeli.

The longer we persist, therefore, to pull apart these two cultures when they are co-dependent on one another, the more we are aggravating the situation. We should expect unity and not seperation. Why is it in the US we expect all cultures to get along in one national border, and not apply that same logic overseas. In this country, we know that human rights and equality are co-terminious. And yet, we do not expect the same in Israel and in Palestine. The fact is, until we change our mentality and expect a one-state solution, there will be no resolution to this conflict.

Christopher Cassidy


Thanks for your feedback, and presentation of an interesting conundrum: "why are we even thinking about two states?"

1. Hope how?

While I entirely agree that US funding for Israel is extremely problematic, I disagree with the notion that such funding justifies pessimism on the prospect for peace. Since World War II, the nature of war has changed so as to level the playing field in the face of disequilibriums of resources. Some examples of overwhelming funding being overcome include (a) China and North Korea pushing the US back from Manchuria in the 1950's; (b) Castro's socialists ousting the US-backed government in Cuba; (c) Vietnamese defeating both France and the US; and (d) the Islamic revolution in Iran against the US-installed Shah.

In fact, the American quagmire in Iraq and Hizbullah's recent stalemate with Israel prove definitively that war is no longer a contest of pocket books and control over natural resources. This should bolster the hope of those prefering peace to imperialism, rather than compel us to cast it aside in despair.

2. Why 2 states?

Your argument, that states founded on homogeneity (of religion, ethnicity, culture, etc.) are inherently detrimental to human rights, is convincing. Where I verge from your perspective is in your conclusion that "until we...expect a one-state solution, there will be no resolution to this conflict." While you point out some examples of regions where a single state succesfully persisted through ethnic turmoil, they are dissimilar from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in some important ways.

First, South Africa and Rwanda were previously existing, unified states, prior to the end of apartheid and genocide, respectively. But Israel and Palestine have been a state and occupied territory, respectively, for generations. Thus, there would not be the asset of "continuity" shared by South Africa and Rwanda.

Second, insisting on a single-state solution from abroad seems contrary to the notion of self-determination. If a people sharing land and other common bonds seek their own state to administer that land, I do not see it as my role to deny them such liberation. This principle applies to Israelis, Palestinians, Chechens, East Timorians, Serbs, Croats, Kurds, Taiwanese, what have you. My unfamiliarity with Israeli and Palestinian suggestions that they adopt a one-state solution may reflect my own ignorance. But if this instead reflects the non-existence of such calls by the peoples affected, then it is a "solution" than I can not support. Rather, it is a proposition that I must condemn as contrary to human rights in its own right.

Lastly, the one-state suggestion for Palestine and Israel would be unimaginable in practical application. One example of obstacles a single state would encounter is the composition and command of military and police forces. Other examples that would destabilize such a state abound, and are much easier to imagine than are solutions.

Summarily, Israel and Palestine have long existed void of a single identity. They have every right to continue doing so, if the so choose. And absent broad will for a shared state, application of the notion is brow-furrowing, at best. In the name of self-determination and pragmatism, I stand behind the two-state solution for stable, sustainable peace.


Hey Chris,

I'm gonna focus on your second point, because I think it brings some interesting topics. First, the question of self-determination on a theoretical level. It should be noted that self-determination is not an absolute right, nor could it practically function as one. For example, if given full and equal rights to participate in government, could a Kurdish or Shiite population in Iraq vote for a independent country of their own? If that were to be the case, you'd essentially give all people's the right to create independent nations for themselves. Now factor in that many countries are interdependent on the provinces in their geography. Take Nigeria, the north part of the country is clearly dependent on the oil wealth generated by the South. Having the South succeed would essentially bankrupt the North, resulting in massive depletions in human rights and living standards. So self-determination cannot be an external function, it has to be internal. (of course there are times in which external self-determination is appropriate)

Second, territory is a function of international law. The ICJ has often rules on the appropriate territorial lines between two states. In fact, the Security Council has often decided what shape states often take. The creation of Israel itself, and the notion of a two-state solution was in no means historical or the product of internal self-determination.

It was the result of the nakhbah and subsequent UN resolution. The Palestinians have never been given any opportunity to determine their own statehood, and in fact the event of 1945 clearly demonstrate that their property was taken either by force or stolen from them. Prior to that time, there was no mention of "two states." There was one state, the state of Palestine, in which both Jews and Muslims lived in. Thus, if we were to look into a historical inquiry, there is greater history in a one-state solution then in two-states.

By the way, a number of polls inside of the occupied territories have shown substantial, if not majority, vote for a one-state solution. In Israel, clearly that kind of support doesn't exist. But once again, you have to ask yourself, can these two states exist independently of one another given current facts on the ground that Israel has created through years of occupation and settlement expansion?

Now is it likely that one-state will emerge. Probably not. Israel is clearly going to reject any resolution which would cause it to lose its "Jewish identity." Inevitably therefore, the notion of an Israeli "Jewish" will inherently be opposed to traditions of human rights and equality, equally as any "Islamic" or "Christian" state is similarly antithetic to human rights.

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