FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is a new opinion article of mine which was published
today in the ARAB NEWS (Jeddah).
My own title for this article, in conscious evocation of Jimmy Carter's
book /Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid/, was "Palestine: Democracy Not
*Time to Think of ‘One-State’ Solution*
John V. Whitbeck, Arab News
Sept 8, 2007
With some sort of “meeting” or “conference” to “kick-start” the “peace
process” (date, place and participants to be determined) now being
touted by the Bush administration, there is at least the appearance of
an understanding in Washington of the importance for the region and the
world of solving the “Palestinian problem.”
clearly understood. Those who truly seek justice and peace in the Middle
East must dare to speak openly and honestly of the “Zionism problem” —
and then to draw the moral, ethical and practical conclusions which follow.
When South Africa was under a racial-supremacist, settler-colonial
regime, the world recognized that the problem was the ideology and
political system of the state. Anyone outside the country who referred
to the “black problem” or the “native problem” (or, for that matter, to
the “white problem”) would instantly have been branded a racist.
The world also recognized that the solution to that problem could not be
found either in “separation” (apartheid in Afrikaans) and scattered
native reservations (called “independent states” by the South African
regime and “Bantustans” by the rest of the world) or in driving the
settler-colonial group in power into the sea.
Rather, the solution had to be found — and, to almost universal
satisfaction and relief, was found — in democracy, in white South
Africans growing out of their racial-supremacist ideology and political
system and accepting that their interests and their children’s futures
would be best served in a democratic, nonracist state with equal rights
for all who live there.
The solution for the land which, until it was literally wiped off the
map in 1948 was called Palestine, is the same. It can only be democracy.
The ever-receding “political horizon” for a decent “two-state solution”,
which, on the ground, becomes less practical with each passing year of
expanding settlements, bypass roads and walls, is weighed down by a
multitude of excruciatingly difficult “final-status” issues which
Israeli governments have consistently refused to discuss seriously,
preferring to postpone them to the end of a road which is never reached
— and which, almost certainly, is intended never to be reached.
Just as marriage is vastly less complicated than divorce, democracy is
vastly less complicated than partition. A democratic post-Zionist
solution would not require any borders to be agreed, any division of
Jerusalem, anyone to move from his current home or any assets to be
evaluated and apportioned.
Full rights of citizenship would simply be extended to all the surviving
natives still living in the country, as happened in the United States in
the early 20th century and in South Africa in the late 20th century.
The obstacle to such a simple — and morally unimpeachable — solution is,
of course, intellectual and psychological. Traumatized by the Holocaust
and perceived insecurity as a Jewish island in an Arab sea, Israelis
have immense psychological problems in coming to grips with the
practical impossibility of sustaining eternally what most of mankind,
composed as it is of peoples who have themselves been victims of
colonialism and racism, view as an abomination — a racial-supremacist,
settler-colonial regime founded upon the ethnic cleansing of an
Indeed, Israelis have placed themselves in a virtually impossible
situation. To taste its bitter essence, Americans might try to imagine
what life in their country would be like if the European settlers had
not virtually exterminated the indigenous population and put the few
survivors out of sight and out of mind and if almost half of today’s
American population were Indians, without basic human rights,
impoverished, smoldering with resentment and visible every day as the
inescapable living evidence of the injustice inflicted on their ancestors.
Americans might try to imagine further that Canada and Mexico were
independent Indian states, still unreconciled to the European conquest
and colonization of the land between them and with populations much
larger than that of the United States. This would not be a pleasant
society in which to live.
Both colonizers and colonized would be progressively degraded and
dehumanized. The colonizers could, rationally, conclude that they could
never be forgiven by those they had dispossessed and that no “solution”
was imaginable. So it has been, and continues to be, in the lands under
Perhaps the coming “meeting” or “conference” will be the last gasp of
the fruitless pursuit of a separationist solution for those who live,
and will continue to live, in the “Holy Land.”
Perhaps those who care about justice and peace and believe in democracy
can then find ways to stimulate Israelis to move beyond Zionist ideology
and attitudes toward a more humanistic, humane, hopeful and democratic
view of present realities and future possibilities.
No one would suggest that the moral, ethical and intellectual
transformation necessary to achieve a decent “one-state solution” would
be easy. However, more and more people now recognize that a decent
“two-state solution” has become impossible.
It is surely time for concerned people everywhere — and particularly for
Americans — to imagine a better way, to encourage Israelis to imagine a
better way and to help both Israelis and Palestinians to achieve it. It
is surely time to seriously consider democracy and to give it a chance.
/— John V. Whitbeck, an international lawyer who has advised the
Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel, is author of
“The World According to Whitbeck”./