USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

EI — Israel-Palestine: Time for a bi-national state

Posted by uscsjp on March 24, 2007

Leila Farsakh, The Electronic Intifada, 20 March 2007

Partition has never been the solution: The wall near Qalandia checkpoint, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, 28 December 2006. (Fadi Arouri/MaanImages)

There is talk once again of a one-state bi-national solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oslo peace process failed to bring Palestinians their independence and the withdrawal from Gaza has not created a basis for a democratic Palestinian state as President George Bush had imagined: the Palestinians are watching their territory being fragmented into South African-style bantustans with poverty levels of over 75 percent. The area is heading to the abyss of an apartheid state system rather than to a viable two-state solution, let alone peace. [1]

There have been a number of recent publications proposing a one-state solution as the only alternative to the current impasse. Three years ago Meron Benvenisti, Jerusalem’s deputy mayor in the 1970s, wrote that the question is “no longer whether there is to be a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel, but which model to choose”. [2] Respected intellectuals on all sides, including the late Edward Said; the Arab Israeli member of the Knesset, Azmi Bishara; the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe; scholars Tanya Reinhart and Virginia Tilley; and journalists Amira Haas and Ali Abunimah, have all stressed the inevitability of such a solution.

The idea of a single, bi-national state is not new. Its appeal lies in its attempt to provide an equitable and inclusive solution to the struggle of two peoples for the same piece of land. It was first suggested in the 1920s by Zionist leftwing intellectuals led by philosopher Martin Buber, Judah Magnes (the first rector of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Haim Kalvarisky (a member of Brit-Shalom and later of the National Union). The group followed in the footsteps of Ahad Ha’am (Asher Hirsch Ginsberg, one of the great pre-state Zionist thinkers).

Underlying their Zionism was a quest for a Jewish renaissance, both cultural and spiritual, with a determination to avoid injustice in its achievement. It was essential to found a new nation, although not necessarily a separate Jewish state and certainly not at the expense of the existing population. Magnes argued that the Jewish people did not “need a Jewish state to maintain its very existence”. (continued)

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