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Pappe v. Avnery / One State v. Two States

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Here are my two cents' worth to add to this debate, based on some
knowledge of modern South African history, which causes me to disagree
with Pappe's use of that analogy. There was no major constituency in
America that had a stranglehold on U.S. policy toward that country that
was able to thoroughly dominate U.S. policy toward apartheid South
Africa (that is, to protect that regime).  The opposite is true of
American policy toward Israel.  Pappe seems to believe that
international public opinion can change the situation in
Israel-Palestine. He may have a point about Europe, but not about the
United States. There is no way there will ever be a boycott of Israel by
the U.S. government. There was a serious boycott of apartheid South
Africa and it eventually worked. And it included the United States.
Pappe, not Avnery, is the dreamer in this argument.
   (I speak from some personal experience. In 1979-80 one of my main
jobs as a Deputy Assistant Secretary (a DAS) in the African Bureau of
the State Department was to make sure our Congress renewed the sanctions
against the Rhodesian apartheid regime of Ian Smith when Margaret
Thatcher was trying to lift them in Britain. We succeeded, and Lord
Carrington then rescued Thatcher from her folly by organizing and
orchestrating the transformation of Rhodesia into independent Zimbabwe.
This established the precedent for what then happened in South Africa.
The recent history of Zimbabwe 27 years later does not negate what was
accomplished in 1980. It is ludicrous to imagine that at some point a
DAS in State's Near East Bureau would have the job of working to get our
Congress to renew sanctions against Israel.)

Robert V. Keeley

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck

In the article transmitted below, one of the Israelis whom I most admire
(but have never met), Ilan Pappe, locks horns with another of the
Israelis whom I most admire (and consider a personal friend), Uri
Avnery, on the fundamental issue facing those who seek peace with some
measure of justice (or justice with some measure of peace) in
Israel/Palestine -- whether to continue trotting after the perpetually
retreating "political horizon" of a two-state solution or to refocus
hopes and efforts on the pursuit of a single democratic state in
Israel/Palestine with equal rights for all who live there.

I understand that Avnery and Pappe have scheduled a public debate on
this issue for May 8.

Those of my distinguished recipients who have been paying close
attention will have noticed that, after almost two decades of promoting
my personal vision of a two-state solution which would unite rather than
divide ("Two States, One Holy Land"), I have, during the past two years,
crossed the aisle to join the small but growing minority of those who
advocate pursuing the objective of a single democratic state.

I have, however, done so subject to a significant nuance.* I strongly
believe that, if I am wrong and a decent two-state solution is still
possible, the best (indeed, probably the only) way to make Israelis and
their political leadership willing to offer a two-state solution on
terms which Palestinians could possibly accept is to brandish a
"credible threat" that, if an acceptable two-state solution is not
offered and agreed within a very short timeframe, the Palestinian people
will shift their objective from the one that their enemies purport to
support, two states at some vague time in the future, to the one that
their enemies fear but would find it very difficult to publicly oppose,
a democratic state free of any discrimination on the basis of race,
religion or national origin and with equal rights for all.*

In a few weeks, the occupation will be 40 years old. Enough is enough.* *
*  *

*Looking for alternatives to failure: An answer to Uri Avnery
*Ilan Pappe, /The Electronic Intifada,/ 26 April 2007

Still waiting for justice: A young resident of Balata Refugee Camp in
the West Bank. (Matthew Cassel <>)

/The following is Ilan Pappe's response to Uri Avnery's essay "Bed of
published by Hagada Hasmalit on 22 April 2007:/

Uri Avnery accuses the supporters of the one-state solution of
forcefully imposing the facts onto the "Bed of Sodom". He seems to
regard these people at best as daydreamers who do not understand the
political reality around them and are stuck in a perpetual state of
wishful thinking. We are all veteran comrades in the Israeli Left and
therefore it is quite possible that in our moments of despair we fall
into the trap of hallucinating and even fantasizing while ignoring the
unpleasant reality around us.

And therefore the metaphor of the Bed of Sodom may even be fitting for
lashing out at those who are inspired by the South African model in
their search for a solution in Palestine. But in this case it is a small
cot of Sodom compared to the king-size bed onto which Gush Shalom and
other similar members of the Zionist Left insist on squeezing their
two-state solution. The South African model is young -- in fact hardly a
year has passed since it was seriously considered -- while the formula
of two states is sixty years old:  an abortive and dangerous illusion
that enabled Israel to continue its occupation without facing any
significant criticism from the international community.

The South African model is good subject matter for a comparative study
-- not as an object for a hollow emulation. Certain chapters in the
history of the colonization in South Africa and the Zionization of
Palestine are indeed nearly identical. The ruling methodology of the
white settlers in South Africa resembles very closely that applied by
the Zionist movement and later Israel against the indigenous population
of Palestine since the end of the 19th century. Ever since 1948, the
official Israeli policy against some of the Palestinians is more lenient
than that of the Apartheid regime; against other Palestinians it is much

But above all the South African model inspires those concerned with the
Palestine cause in two crucial directions: by introducing the one
democratic state, it offers a new orientation for a future solution
instead of the two-state formula that failed, and it invigorates new
thinking of how the Israeli occupation can be defeated -- through
boycott, divestment, and sanctions (the BDS option).

The facts on the ground are crystal clear:  the two-state solution has
dismally failed and we have no spare time to waste in futile
anticipation of another illusory round of diplomatic efforts that would
lead to nowhere. As Avnery admits, the Israeli peace camp has so far
failed to persuade the Israeli Jewish society to try the road of peace.
A sober and critical assessment of this camp's size and force leads to
the inevitable conclusion that it has no chance whatsoever against the
prevailing trends in the Israeli Jewish society. It is doubtful whether
it will even keep its very minimal presence on the ground, and there is
a great concern that it will disappear all together.

Avnery ignores these facts and alleges that the one-state solution is a
dangerous panacea to offer to the critically ill patient. All right, so
let us prescribe it gradually. But for God's sake let us take the
patient off of the very dangerous medicine we have been forcing down his
throat the last sixty years and which is about to kill him.

For the sake of peace, it is important to expand our research on the
South African model and other historical case studies. Because of our
failure we should study carefully any other successful struggle against
oppression. All these historical case studies show that the struggles
from within and from without reinforced each other and were not mutually
exclusive. Even when the sanctions were imposed on South Africa, the ANC
continued its struggle and white South Africans did not cease from their
attempt to convince their compatriots to give up the Apartheid regime.
But there was not one single voice that echoes the article of Avnery,
which claimed that a strategy of pressure from the outside is wrong
because it weakens the chances of change from within. Especially when
the failure of the inside struggle is so conspicuous and obvious. Even
when the De Klerk government negotiated with the ANC the sanctions
regime still continued.

It is also very difficult to understand why Avnery underrates the
importance of world public opinion. Without the support this world
public opinion gave to the Zionist movement, the /Nakba/ (catastrophe)
would not have occurred. Had the international community rejected the
idea of partition, a unitary state would have replaced Mandatory
Palestine, as indeed was the wish of many members of the UN. However,
these members succumbed to a violent pressure by the US and the Zionist
lobby and retracted their earlier support for such a solution. And
today, if the international community alters its position once more and
revises its attitude towards Israel, the chances for ending the
occupation would increase enormously and by that maybe also help to
avert the colossal bloodshed that would engulf not only the Palestinians
but also the Jews themselves.

The call for a one-state solution, and the demand for boycott,
divestment and sanctions, has to be read as a reaction against the
failure of the previous strategy -- a strategy upheld by the political
classes but never fully endorsed by the people themselves. And anyone
who rejects the new thinking out of hand, and in such a categorical
manner, may be less bothered by what is wrong with this new option and
far more troubled by his own place in history. It is indeed difficult to
admit personal as well as collective failure; but for the sake of peace
it is sometimes necessary to put aside one's ego. I am inclined to think
that way when I read the false narrative Avnery concocted about the
Israeli peace movement's 'achievements' so far. He announces that 'the
recognition of the existence of the Palestinian people has become
general, and so has the readiness of most Israelis to accept the idea of
a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital of both states'. This
is a clear case of amputating both the leg and the hand of the patient
to fit him to the Bed of Sodom. And even more far-fetched is the
declaration that 'We have compelled our government to recognize the PLO,
and we shall compel them to recognize Hamas' -- now that the rest of
patient's limbs have been dispensed with (sorry for the gruesome
metaphor but I am forced into it by Avnery's choice). These assertions
have very little in common with the position of the Jewish public in
Israel towards peace from 1948 until today. But facts can sometime
confuse the issue.

But in order to stifle any debate on the one-state solution or the BDS
option, Avnery draws from his magic hat the winning card:  'but beneath
the surface, in the depths of national consciousness, we are
succeeding'. Let us thus provide the Palestinians with metal detectors
and X-ray equipment -- they may discover not only the tunnel, but also
the light at its end. The truth is that what lies in the deepest layers
of the Israeli national consciousness is far worse from what appears on
the surface. And let us hope that this remains there forever and does
not bubble to the surface. These are deposits of dark and primitive
racism that if allowed to flow over will drown us all in a sea of hatred
and bigotry.

Avnery is right when he asserts that 'there is no doubt that 99.99
percent of Jewish Israelis want the State of Israel to exist as a state
with a robust Jewish majority, whatever its borders'. A successful
boycott campaign will not change this position in a day, but will send a
clear message to this public that these positions are racist and
unacceptable in the 21st century. Without the cultural and economical
oxygen lines the West provides to Israel, it would be difficult for the
silent majority there to continue and believe that it is possible both
to be a racist and a legitimate state in the eyes of the world. They
would have to choose, and hopefully like De Klerk they will make the
right decision.

Avnery is also convinced that Adam Keller debunked most successfully the
argument for a boycott by pointing out that the Palestinians in the
occupied territories did not give in to boycott. This is indeed a fine
comparison:  a political prisoner lies nailed to the ground and dares to
resist; as a punishment he is denied even the meager food he received
hitherto. His situation is compared to a person who occupied illegally
this prisoner's house and who for the first time is facing the
possibility of being brought to justice for his crimes. Who has more to
lose? When is the threat mere cruelty and when is it a justified means
to rectify a past evil?

The boycott will not happen, states Avnery. He should talk with the
veterans of the anti-Apartheid movement in Europe. Twenty years passed
before they convinced the international community to take action. And
they were told, when they began their long journey, that it will not
work -- that too many strategic and economic interests are involved and
invested in South Africa.

Moreover, adds Avnery, in places such as Germany the idea of boycotting
the victims of the Nazis would be rejected out of hand. Quite to the
contrary. The action that already has been taken in this direction in
Europe has ended the long period of Zionist manipulation of the
Holocaust memory. Israel can no longer justify its crimes against the
Palestinians in the name of the Holocaust. More and more people in
Europe realize that that the criminal policies of Israel abuse the
Holocaust memory and this is why so many Jews are members in the
movement for boycott. This is also why the Israeli attempt to cast the
accusation of anti-Semitism against the supporters of the boycott has
met with contempt and resilience. The members of the new movement know
that their motives are humanist and their impulses are democratic. For
many of them their actions are triggered not only by universal values
but also by their respect for the Judeo-Christian heritage of history.
It would have been best for Avnery to use his immense popularity in
Germany to demand from the society there to recognize their share not
only in the Holocaust but also in the Palestinian catastrophe and that
in the name of that recognition to ask them to end their shameful
silence in the face of the Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories.

Towards the end of his article, Avnery sketches the features of the
one-state solution out of the present reality. And thus because he does
not include the return of the refugees or a change in the regime as
components of the solution he describes today's dismal reality as
tomorrow vision. This is indeed an unworthy reality to fight for and
nobody I know is struggling for it. But the vision of a one-state
solution has to be the exact opposite of the present Apartheid state of
Israel as was the post-Apartheid state in South Africa; and this is why
this historical case study is so illuminating for us.

We need to wake up. The day Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush declared
their loyal support for the two-state solution, this formula became a
cynical means by which Israel can maintain its discriminatory regime
inside the 1967 borders, its occupation in the West Bank and the
ghettoization of the Gaza Strip. Anyone who blocks a debate over
alternative political models allows the discourse of two states to
shield the criminal Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories.

Moreover, not only are there no stones left in the occupied territories
with which to build a state after Israel ruined the infrastructure there
in the last six years, a reasonable partition is not offering the
Palestinian a mere 20 percent of their homeland. The basis should be at
least half of the homeland, on the basis of the 181 partition route, or
a similar idea. Here is another useful avenue to explore, instead of
embroiling forever inside the Sodom and Gomorrah stew that the two-state
solution has produced so far on the ground.

And finally, there will be no solution to this conflict without a
settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem. These refugees cannot
return to their homeland for the same reason that their brothers and
sisters are being expelled from greater Jerusalem and alongside the wall
and their relatives are discriminated against in Israel. They cannot
return for the same reason that every Palestinian is under the potential
danger of occupation and expulsion as long as the Zionist project has
not been completed in the eyes of its captains.

They are entitled to opt for return because it is their full human and
political right. They can return because the international community had
already promised them that they could. We as the Jews should want them
to return because otherwise we will continue to live in a state where
the value of ethnic superiority and supremacy overrides any other human
and civil value. And we cannot promise ourselves, as well as the
refugees, such a fair and just solution within the framework of the
two-state formula.

/Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer in the University of Haifa Department of
political Science and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian
Studies in Haifa. His books include, among others,/ The Making of the
Arab-Israeli Conflict
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