Recent news about the stepped-up Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza, and the Resolution on Friday, January 9 in the U.S. House of Representatives actually approving of such collective punishment against a defenseless people, makes clear that all the protestations about a two-state solution wherein the two states can live side by side in peace, are pipe dreams. There will never be two independent states for a couple of obvious reasons.
1) Israel will never allow a truly independent Palestinian state to exist on its border. About three years ago, with great fanfare, it withdrew its settlers and all troops from Gaza and said the Gazans were henceforth free and responsible for themselves. Subsequent events proved this to be nothing but subterfuge, especially after the people of Gaza exercised their democratic right to free elections, and chose Hamas as their government. Instantly, Israel branded this choice as illegitimate, if not a terrorist act in itself, and subjected Gaza to the illegal withholding of its earned taxes, its right to receive the supplies it depends on, and the interdiction, by both land and sea, of its people’s ability to trade or communicate with others, or to exit the tiny territory they are crammed into. Gaza has been under a brutal siege since then, and its Hamas government under Israeli assault, usually via outright arrest, or the targeted assassination of its leaders. When its militant wing began to fire home-made rockets to protest this aggression and slow starvation, Israel decided to bomb and then invade. Its conditions for stopping the bombing and invasion are simple: Hamas must go, or, short of that, Hamas must end its armed resistance to anything Israel does. In other words, all the capacities of an independent people are, according to the terms Israel insists on for Gaza, illegitimate.
2) The government of the United States—its executive in the person of George Bush, and its legislature in the persons of our Senators and the Representatives—pays lip service to a two-state solution and to democracy. And yet, when the Palestinian people freely and fairly elects Hamas, the U.S. government proves just as dictatorial and hypocritical as the government of Israel. It condemns the election of a government it does not like, and joins Israel in cutting off all aid and supplies to the Palestinian people. It has gone so far as to arm the rival government of Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian authority in the brazen attempt to bring down Hamas militarily. When that failed, it approved and continues to approve of the harshest measures implemented by the Israelis to bring the Gazans to their knees. Clearly, the type of state the United States has in mind for the Palestinians—the pathetic size of what is actually left to them for such a state aside—is one which pays absolute fealty to both Israeli and U.S. plans to dominate the entire region.
It now becomes clear why Iran, for one, refers to Israel by the derogatory term, The Zionist Entity. A state called “Israel” will never allow a state called “Palestine,” or a people called Palestinians to truly exist—for the word “Israel” signifies a Jewish state. That is to say, in a state which is instituted on the basis of a preference for the Jewish people, other people are automatically outsiders and second-class citizens. Regardless of the fact that the people called Palestinians are the original inhabitants of the land once known as Palestine, in what has become “Israel” they are second-class at best. And if they ever manage to get a state in the territory which Israel has granted them, at least so far—the West Bank and Gaza, which have been under military occupation for 60 years—they will do so only at the sufferance of the Israeli state. This will mean that they will not be allowed to have the most basic attribute of any state—the right to secure borders, the right to defend itself from invasion or domination by its neighbor.
For me, this leads to two related conclusions. It is no longer possible to employ the term “Israel” for what has evolved in the land once called Palestine. For the time being, the appellation “the Zionist entity” seems preferable, for that is what it is. It is an entity that has taken the Zionist plans for Eretz Israel—a Jewish-only state in all of former Palestine, with the complete cleansing of the Palestinian people from the area—as its covert, if not always overt final solution (it is noteworthy that Israel’s Constitution has never designated its final borders, mute testimony to the fact that its land acquisition is not yet complete). No two-state solution can divert, for more than a little while, the Zionist entity from this plan. In fact, a January 5, 2009 Washington Post opinion piece by the raging neocon and onetime U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, can be seen as a trial balloon to test this idea: Bolton proposed what he called a “three-state” solution, which he explained as a plan to incorporate Gaza into Egyptian control, and the West Bank into Jordan’s, whereupon the problem would be solved: no more Palestine, nor people called Palestinians.
The second conclusion is that the problem seems increasingly to demand a one-state solution, such as that proposed by Ali Abunimah and famously suggested in 1999 by the late Edward Said (for many historical articles on this, see http://one-state.net). As I understand it, this would require that the entire original land of Palestine be designated a single, secular state. The Jewish-only preference of today’s Israel would be abandoned, as would any other religious or ethnic preference; as Ali Abunimah put it in a 2007 interview:
“…you cannot have a Jewish state without the forced transfer of Palestinians or a Palestinian state without forced transfer of Jews.”
In the new state, all citizens, be they of Jewish extraction, or Palestinian extraction, or any other extraction, would be equal in every way. All citizens, as in every other democracy, would have the same quality of citizenship—the same residential rights, the same voting rights, the same rights to travel the roads, the same rights to legal protection, the same rights to engage in commerce or travel or anything else that a citizen enjoys. As to the name, I can imagine it being either the original one, Palestine, or, if that proved too controversial, some combination of Israel and Palestine such as “Isralestine,” or something entirely new. What it would NOT be is Israel, with all that name implies.
To be sure, this will not happen any time soon. In the meantime, I would suggest that anyone who sees the problem as outlined above begin referring to the so-called “state” of Israel as “the Zionist entity.” That, at least, would be calling an ongoing injustice by its true, and decidedly temporary name.