Two Cheers for Democracy, Three for One-State
The two state solution is dead. There are a few who haven’t gotten the memo, including Tony Blinken, Joe Biden and most of the rest of the Democratic Party. Also including liberal Zionists, meaning most of the Israel Lobby i.e. all the leading UK and American Jewish organizations
There’s a reason one-state is especially attractive that’s rarely, if ever, noted. Currently, Israel is not a democracy. It is at best an ethnocracy and at worst a theocracy, in which the religious parties and the settlers essentially control all major levers of power.
In this, it shares much in common with other religio-supremacist states like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Despite the latter being a monarchy and the former a republic, all three privilege a single religion over all others; and reject many, if not all, the bedrock principles on which true democracies are founded: religious tolerance, full equal rights for all citizens, representative democracy with power deriving from the will of the people.
It also shares much in common with other religious exclusivist movements like the Christian evangelicals and the white Christo-supremacist parties in power in Poland and Hungary.
Despite (or because of) my strong Diaspora Jewish identity, I abhor defining Israel as a Jewish state. I do so for one reason only: the only form of Jewish state on offer is a Judeo-supremacist apartheid state. It privileges Jewish Israelis and offers Palestinian citizens inferior rights. This is a racist, anti-democratic, even anti-Semitic (since Palestinians are, like Israeli Jews, Semites) state.
We must continually drive home to liberal Zionists that their dream of a “Jewish democratic state” is a chimera. It will never happen. Jews and Palestinians can have a joint homeland for two peoples. But any state that is dedicated to one people, as Israel currently is (or another) is doomed to be anti-democratic.
Israel must be a secular state, but one which recognizes and respects the rights of all religions; while permitting none to dominate or oppress the others. A single state would dilute the power of religious parties, whether they be Palestinian Islamist (Hamas, Raam) or Orthodox (United Torah, Shas, Yamina, etc.). The combined numbers of secular Palestinians and Jews would far outweigh the religious.
The Orthodox and Islamist parties would have a great deal in common and perhaps try to form their own alliance. But their numbers would not match the secular parties. This would in effect remove religion as an inciting force splitting the population and setting it against one another.
Of course, the secular Jewish and Palestinian parties would not automatically have common interests, since there is so much dividing them. But a single state would permit the coalescence of a secular progressive alliance among Jews and Palestinians, which currently is not possible due to Jewish-Palestinian fear and mistrust.
Another factor to consider is that normally Israeli Palestinians do not vote in the same numbers as Israeli Jews because many see politics as “fixed” against them. Why vote when your party has no hope of entering a governing coalition, where true power is concentrated? Why vote when your MKs will be interrogated by police and either thrown in jail or lose their Knesset privileges merely because they represent your interests as Palestinians? But in a single state, Palestinians inside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza would have tremendous motivation to vote and participate. This too would strengthen the secular parties.
It would also set the formerly exclusivist Jewish parties (Likud, Labor, Blue and White, etc.) on a new path, because they would need to find allies among Palestinians if they wished to form governing coalitions. It would especially weaken far-right ultra-nationalist parties like Likud, whose platform clearly rejects cooperation with Palestinians.
One state offers hope for a truly democratic future. Two-states, even if it were not rejected by Israel, offers to duplicate in the Palestinian state the same level of dysfunction, intolerance, and corruption found in Israel itself.
27 thoughts on “Two Cheers for Democracy, Three for One-State – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Regarding … “But in a single state, Palestinians inside Israel and in the West Bank would have tremendous motivation to vote and participate.”
What about Gaza?
About Gaza, I was thinking that too when I read this. Other than that, this is very well said.
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What country should the Jews and Arabs of Israel/Palestine look toward as an exemplar?
Where and when have two widely disparate peoples successfully bonded together to form a viable and successful State?
They don’t have to look toward any country. They can chart their own path.
Jews and Palestinians are not “widely disparate.” This is the same thinking that divided whites and Blacks in the US, South Africa and elsewhere. The superior race or religion looks down on the minority, finding it inferior or “widely disparate,” in more polite language. Jews & Palestinians are both human beings. They have as much or more in common than what divides them.
But since you’ve asked, the following countries include minorities which have lived with varying degrees of respect from the state and the majority religion/ethnicity:
US (Black, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, etc)
Northern Ireland (Catholic minority)
New Zealand (Maori)
UK (South Asians)
Ghana (6 major ethnic groups)
No further comments in this thread.
Well, Northern Ireland does not seem a viable example here. What about Lebanon or ex-Yugoslavia? They are understandably omitted from this list as they negate your message.
@ Eli Gal: Northern Ireland is a quite viable example.
Lebanon is a special case. It was a European colony for decades, then a Syrian satellite for decades. It went through a civil war as well. It was occupied by Israel for nearly 20 years as well. It’s a country which is a victim of exploitation by outsiders, and not to blame for its dysfunction.
I’ve named a full list of countriew in wich minority and majority religions co-exist peacefully. Israelis and Palestinians can certainly do the same. I’ll leave it there.
No more comments in this thread from you.
Richard, I don’t think you’ve answered Amnon’s query. Your list of peoples in the USA have not, in his words “bonded together to form a viable and successful State” and the years of President Trump have made that VERY clear. Canada, where I live, is a better example as is Begium. But as you know there always has been serious tension between French Canada and the rest of the country and there is to this day a strong separatist movement in Quebec that almost won a 1995 referendum (49.4%) for Québec to separate (there had been an earlier one in 1980 which also lost but much more decisively), as well as spawning a violent insurrectionist movement, the FLQ (Front de Libération du Québec), whose members were responsible for over 200 bombings and robberies (and kidnappings) from early 1960 to 1970 that resulted in several deaths, including that of a minister of the provincial government in Québec. The Canadian Constitution underwent significant changes in 1982, but without the agreement of the government of Québec, leading to ongoing tensions to this very day. And in Belgium, there also has been an ongoing tension since the 19th C., sometimes leading to significant violence in the 20th C., between the Dutch speaking Flemish Community in the north (31.8% of the population) and the primarily French speaking Walloon Community in the south (57.6%). The Brussels Capital region in the centre has about 10.6% of the total population. Northern Ireland and the UK are also not significant examples. I do not know about Ghana.
Be like Belgium!
Be like Belgium, a colonialist State that got rich committing colonialism’s most heinous crimes exploiting the Congolese rubber trade. Belgium, who fielded two divisions of the Waffen SS, and that helped in the deportation and extermination of 25,000 Belgian Jews.
You see what Flems and Wallons can do when they put aside their differences and work side by side!
Be like Belgium!
@ Borukh: The US is an example of an eminently successful multi-cultural nation in which Hispanics, Blacks, Muslims, Jews, etc co-exist in relative harmony. Yes, considering the country was founded on the sin of slavery, the US continues to struggle with its legacy. But it has made remarkable strides and will continue to do so.
The fact that there is ethnic tension within a country like Canada or Belgium does not mean that it has failed in its attempt to accommodate minority ethnic or religious groups. It means that relations are being negotiated and resolved. That is natural in any heterogenous human community. It takes a long time and lots of constructive energy.
You’ve had 3 shots in this thread. So let’s end the discussion here. You are welcome to participate in other threads.
The incidents you point out happened largely decades ago and don’t reflect current circumstances.
Richard Silverstein is not on the right track imo. The problem is NOT the concept of Israel as “a Jewish State”. The problem is Israel as a democratic state. Great Britain is a democratic state made up of distinct geo-political ‘units’ – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All are Christian dominated, with the head of state – the monarch – also being the being the head of the English state church, the Anglican Church. The history of all this of course goes back to the 16th C. when Henry VIII broke with the Church of Rome, or Catholic Church of Rome, and established the Church of England, or the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church is the official state church, it’s most senior clerics under the level of the monarch are the Archbishops of Canterbury and of . They sit in the House of Lords in Parliament in London. The “Anglican Communion” is made up of world-wide Anglican Churches, from the Church of England in Britain to the Episcopal Church in the USA, the Anglican Church in Canada, Australia, etc. and everywhere else. The Anglican Communion is the 3rd largest Christian Communion in the world (Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox are nos. 1 and 2). But there are MANY OTHER Christian denominations, and major ones too in GB. And there are all sorts of non-Christian religions in GB — even though GB officially is a Christian country with a specific state religion whose leader is also the official head of state! The key thing is that GB is a democracy and the other religions (Christian and non-Christian) are accepted, not just tolerated. But non of them have the ‘status’ of the Church of England. And Great Britain is not the only country like this. In Norway, for example, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway is the official state religion and has been since it was established in the early 11th C. For a very long time, in fact “until 2012 parliamentary officials were required to be members of the Church of Norway, and at least half of all government ministers had to be a member of the state church. As state church, the Church of Norway’s clergy were viewed as state employees, and central and regional church administrations were part of the state administration. Members of the Royal Family [of Norway still] are required to be members of the Lutheran church” (Wikipedia). And though the Church of Norway was made “independent of the state” on Jan. 1st, 2017, “it retains its special constitutional status and other special ties to the state, and the constitution requires that the reigning monarch must be a member” (Wikipedia). But Norway also has many other Christian churches and other religious communities. One can find similar situations in Sweden and Denmark. The point I am making is that the key factor in all these countries is NOT whether they are officially secular or religious states, Christian or non-Christian states, it is whether they are DEMOCRATIC states in which every religion is accepted and given the same operational status.
@Borukh: While I value all the information you’ve offered and it’s most interesting, I think you’ve missed a key point: yes, of course there are ways for democratic states to have a state religion that can co-exist with minority religions. But that cannot happen because of the way the Israeli state has defined Jewishness. It has done so by declaring the state exists by and for Jews only. None of the states you’ve mentioned with state religions declare other religions to be inferior. In fact, in most of these countries the state religious authorities go out of their way to show respect to non-state religions. That never happens in Israel except in very rare circumstances.
Thank you for your response Richard. Please clarify for me just where that Israel state definition of Jewishness exists that limits its existence as you have stated? After all Israel does not have a real constitution, but only “Basic Laws” which are simple to amend relative to a true constitution. So where does Israel “declare[… that] the state exists by and for Jews only”? After all, the 1948 declaration of Israel’s independence says:
“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Is it in the 2018 Basic Law commonly referred to as the “Nation-State Law”? If so, I note that this was passed in the Knesset by only 7 votes – 62 to 57, with 2 abstentions (seems that someone did not vote). That’s not very definitive! Also, isn’t the full 11 member Israeli High Court still considering whether it violates another Basic Law, that of “Human Dignity and Liberty” which was passed by the Knesset in 1992? I know of course that there has been great concern and agitation over this Basic Law. But in the few years since it was passed, it seems that the higher courts in Israel have seen it in a different light than your “the state exists by and for Jews only” comment. For example, the 2020 case of Karmiel, where a magistrate level court declared that it was a “Jewish city” citing the Basic Law as reason to deny providing busing for Arab Israeli children to attend school there and I think even to attend Karmiel schools, because that would induce non-Jews to movce to Karniel thus changing its national character as a Jewish city. As you likely know, this judgement was not only reversed by the Haifa District Court as being an incorrect application of the Nation State Basic Law, the Attorney General himself said that.
So please explain the basis for your response.
@ Borukh: The Declaration of Independence is an irrelevant document. It is routinely flagrantly violated daily. Read the text of the Nation State Law which clearly states (though perhaps not verbatim) that the state is of, by and for Jews. It doesn’t matter whether the law passed by 1 vote or 100 votes. It’s the law of the land and enforced as such.
Do not depend on the Supreme Court to redeem Israel from its sins. Among its members are settlers and it is dominated by Likud judicial functionaries. Appointment to the Court is also for sale as I showed in my post on Effie Naveh.
You’re cherry picking individual cases and evidence to support a reality that simply doesn’t exist. The overwhelming evidence (as proven by hundreds of posts here based on events covered by Israeli media or stories broken here) shows that Israel is racist and that religion is a weapon used to enforce Jewish superiority.
since Jews practice endogamy is this racist in you eyes?
The United States Constitution is routinely flagrantly violated daily, and we have an independent judiciary to respond to the violations. Israel’s Judiciary does the very same thing in the context of her Basic Laws.
“It doesn’t matter whether the law passed by 1 vote or 100 votes “
It does very much matter, because the very narrow vote shows that Israel isn’t the monolithic racist and religious triumphalist State you daily make it out to be.
“You’re cherry picking individual cases and evidence to support a reality that simply doesn’t exist. “
Borukh cited to caselaw. What more should he do given a limited amount of time?
Richard. Show us the surfeit of caselaw showing that Israel is racist and uses religion as a weapon?
It should be easy for you so provide some cites.
Israeli High Court decides Nation-State Law not violative of Israel’s Basic Law.
That was by a 10-1 vote.
Richard. Does that mean that Israel’s High Court is racist and using religion as a weapon to enforce Jewish superiority?
@ Jack Hoffman: The Israeli Supreme Court consists of Likud functionaries and even a settler or two. So yes, Israel’s Supreme Court is just as racist as the state itself.
[comment deleted: you apparently misconstrued my direction to end your participation in the thread with your last comment. I was telling you NOT to post another comment. You had three comments in the thread. That was enough. Yet you pushed the boundary for a fourth.
This rule exists because some people flood the comment threads and in effect monopolize them either intentionally or unintentionally. I don’t want that to happen.
You may feel that what you have to say is so important and special that you can ignore my request. But you can’t. So don’t.
@ Jack Hoffman: you clearly know little or nothing about the US constition and next to nothing about Israeli Basic Laws or the Supreme Court.
The US constitution is not routinely flagrantly violated daily. But yes, there are instances in which it is, and the Supreme Court reviews laws to determine if they are constitutional or not. Its rulings are definitive.
The Israel Supreme Court has no such standing. It may determine That a law violates the Basic Law or it may determine that an act or decision by a state entity violates the Court’s interpretation. But it has no enforcement power. It’s decision are in many cases advisory and state entities like the IDF or Shin Bet routinely ignore them when they are deemed inconvenient.
A law is approved by a majority vote. If the vote passes then the law is enacted. Again, it doesn’t matter how many votes were on the losing side. It lost. The vote passed. A racist law is the law of the land. Ergo, Israel is a racist state.
Borukh did not “cite case law.” He cited individual events which suited his argument.
“Case law?” What are you talking about? Do you even know?
An Israeli legal NGO has determined there are at least 50 Israel laws That discriminate against Israeli Palestinians. There’s your proof, and you’re right, that was quite easy. But I’m not going to do your homework for you. You find it yourself.
You are done in this thread.
[comment deleted: you are now on notice–follow the comment rules and my directions. If you don’t you will be moderated.
The purpose of this blog is not for me to have a thousands-of- words exchange with you. Respect this.]
I would like to see one state as well. There are those who say it is one state already, unequal or apartheid and should be treated as we treated South Africa to get a change to full equality for Palestinians ( including Gaza. I think so. International law is important to maintain/enforce and should be applied to Israel’s long occupation.That international law is not applied weakens it for everyone and makes a sham of the vision of world order after the horrors of World War Two. Oddly or ironically, the current form of the state of Israel was the response. And instead, post war, we have exceptionalism, might making right. So some solution to this problem has always been important for the world to progress even as people ask why should we care? The “two state solution” Israel has worked hard to destroy while it betrayed the promise (and ideals). Israel has by now succeeded in killing it. Yet there is still this pretense amongst cowardly leaders ( I am sorry to include Biden) that this is still possible.
I don’t recall if Richard, you have ever called for one state so strongly or if at all. I wonder too how you differ/ or agree with what Bernard Avishai has been proposing for years. In either case, trying one state on to see how it feels, might not be so bad if Israel was forced to do so somehow. Otherwise it’s really slow destruction and more suffering. There are so many pluses. I think, were it possible for people to just let go of their fears and hatreds. Two viable states could also have worked. But it’s not realistic anymore.
I would like to add: The US in complicit in this state of affairs. It would make a difference if we quit talking about two states and declare; we do not believe this is possible anymore.
I certainly agree with that. And I would wish that Biden would go still further, not only as I noted just a moment ago regarding the USA’s embassy, but also to strongly promote the importance and potential significance of the Arab Peace Initiative as a starting point for serious discussion between Israel and the PA. Hamas does not accept the API, but if something were to get going in that direction it would be a serious problem for them which they could not simply ignore. It could also – perhaps – restore some substantial hope to Palestinians. Perhaps I am being too hopeful and VERY naive…