This article was originally published in the Palestine Chronicle. It has been used here with permission from the author.
Part of the dilemma in Palestine is that the more the “peace” process is delayed, moving nowhere, the more Israel gains in the way of confiscated and settled land. There are two basic solutions: either a one state solution (whether bi-national or otherwise); or a two state solution with Palestine existing on some remnant of land left over from Israeli settlement. A recent combination of events/ideas has left me wondering if the one state solution is perhaps the only remaining solution if not the de facto situation now.
I recently attended a local presentation of Christian Peacemakers (CPT) on their experiences in Hebron in Palestine. The main presenter Johann Funk is a Mennonite who has been to Hebron several times recently. The CPT ideal as presented on their website is a powerful statement of intent:
CPT embraces the vision of unarmed intervention waged by committed peacemakers ready to risk injury and death in bold attempts to transform lethal conflict through the nonviolent power of God’s truth and love.
I was highly impressed with the stories presented, the actions of the team members, and the accuracy and depth of Johann’s historical knowledge and theological understanding. I am left with two general reactions. The first is the very positive impression of direct purposeful action of a non-violent but still very dangerous nature used to assist the people of Palestine as they try to survive the everyday suppression of their lives. It is however, one of the introductory images that remained with me the strongest, and it is an image I have seen before, but it keeps changing. That image was the juxtaposition of four maps of Israel/Palestine from before WWII to the present.
Small green dots
The first map – and I would expect that most readers are familiar with these maps – showed a small scattering of white dots representing the Jewish settlements mostly along the northern Mediterranean shores of the British Palestinian mandate. The next shows the demarcation lines as proposed by the UN, giving Israel 54% of the land. The third map is the familiar “green-line” map of the era before the 1967 war. The final map – and this is the one that keeps changing – shows what is left of actual Palestinian “controlled” territory. I use the word controlled, as the area is truly under the control of the IDF and its self-made military laws, supported by the “quisling government” [to quote Johann] of the Palestinian Authority.
What is left at the moment is a mere 12% of the original Palestinian territory, broken up into a gerrymandered arrangement of non-contiguous cantonments. These areas represent both refugee settlements from the 1947-48 and 1967 wars and indigenous settlements that have survived in one fashion or another the occupation of surrounding lands.
The 12% solution – not possible
While I have seen the latter map many times before, the green dots this time appeared to be incongruously small and divided: a two state solution – at least from the appearances on the map – is no longer possible. Twelve per cent? Five million people? Scattered villages, refugee camps, water resources confiscated by Israel, farmlands being confiscated directly as military areas or through the archaic three year vacancy rule? Off limit roads bisecting communities? A huge wall snaking its way around, through and between areas of Palestinian land, creating barriers to all walks of life?
No, this scattered confined remnant could never be considered a state except in the fantasies of the upper netherworlds of politicians and religious fanatics. What is actually on the map is one state, the state of Israel, that has incorporated a series of cantonments into the fabric of its existence. These are not benign cantonments, but are harmful to both populations, assuredly much more harmful to the Palestinian population within the cantonments. It is full blown apartheid, except for the regular intrusions of the IDF.
I cannot see in any manner or form that these scattered remnants – without a good agricultural base, without proper water resources, with highly restricted movement not only outside but inside the remnants – could ever exist as a state. Israel, unwittingly, has created a single state solution – a defacto single state solution. What now exists is a single non-democratic state, using apartheid racist tactics to confine one segment of the population (and this is a population that is genetically identical to the original Jewish inhabitants of the land) to a series of what are essentially open air prisons.
A day after the CPT meeting, I read an article in Foreign Affairs that in general calls for an immediate truce between the Palestinians and Israel in order that the other problems may be worked out. Apart from being poorly written with scattered threads of arguments intertwining and interjecting one on the other, and really offering nothing new to the situation other than a rewording of ongoing practices and ideas, two main ideas remained from the presentation.
First is the thought that the Palestinians have several times not only offered a truce, but practiced what they preached and established unilateral truces. In particular with the recent Gaza war, it was Israel that broke the truce. The Palestinians were not faultless in this, but few truces (including the long standing one in Korea) have existed without violations from time to time.
The author, Ehud Yarri, argues that the truce would “constitute a major step towards ending the occupation, fundamentally reconfigure the conflict, and make the prospects for a final-status agreement far brighter than ever before.” Sounds great, but it is not significantly different than the ongoing stages of the non-existent peace process. It would not solve the Jerusalem settlements problems, nor discuss the right of return, nor the acceptance of the green line boundaries as the truce line would be “roughly to the lines of the existing security barrier.”
A “limited truce” would allow “further actions to isolate Hamas” and operate “under a national unity government led by the PA.” Yaari argues that the Gaza campaign was a “punitive action” that “compelled Hamas to accept a cease-fire without gaining any relaxation of the siege.” So Hamas, at one moment in time the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people (described here as a “setback), is to be isolated (and supposedly eliminated, although that is not stated directly).
There is no recognition that Hamas had maintained a cease fire, and had offered a ‘hudna’ long before this article ever existed. To exclude a segment of the population is only to create or extend the hostility of that segment of the population – it is not a solution. Inclusion is a much better prospect, as one can now see in Afghanistan with the Taliban, as was done in Ireland, in South Africa, and with China in the WTO, and generally has a moderating effect on all political players.
The second idea rising from the article is the always underlying but seldom stated fear of the changing demographics of the area, that if there was a one state solution the Palestinian population would overwhelm the Jewish population. At the moment in Eretz Israel, the populations are very close to being equal, with the Palestinian population having the higher birth rate.
Yaari’s fear is that “new concepts will begin to compete as alternatives” as “support for the two-state formula that currently exists will likely erode.” He sees this as a “stealth” tactic by the Palestinians, “accomplishing…the sort of Arab demographic dominance that Israeli leaders have for decades sought to avoid by occupying, rather than annexing, the Palestinian territories,” the latter would force Israel to “coexist alongside an Arab majority within the whole of Palestine.” What a novel idea – co-existence.
The greater fear is demographics:
Israel must offer Palestinian statehood for less than peace before the Palestinians and their leaders abandon the two-state model altogether.
De facto single state
That is the essence of the article. Unfortunately, looking at the map, looking at the population statistics, looking at the actions of the admitted “occupying” forces, the actual de facto arrangement is that of a single state. It is not a healthy state, but a rogue state, a failed state, a non-democratic state, an apartheid state; one that imprisons, oppresses, tortures and denies half its population any resemblance of a decent living.
Palestinians may wish for an independent state, but available information would indicate that Yaari’s fear, and the larger Jewish fear, of a single unitary state already exists. The problem then becomes where to go from here. Continue the pretence of providing – eventually, after more land is occupied and settled, effectively annexed – for a supposedly independent sovereign Palestinian state? Look for an excuse such as Iran to create a catastrophic event that would allow Israel to evict the Palestinians under the larger media publicity of a wider war with possible nuclear consequences? Or become much more humanitarian, living within the peaceful precepts of all faiths, and accept that two peoples who are essentially and biologically brothers and sisters, could live peacefully side by side in a greater democratic state?
 Ehud Yaari. “Armistice Now,” Foreign Affairs. March/April 2010, NY. pp. 50-62.
 Michael Brown, Ali Abunimah, and Nigel Parry. “Palestinian population exceeds Jewish population says U.S. government,” The Electronic Intifada, 1 March 2005. http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3649.shtml