Monday, February 15, 2010

One state solution

Regarding Israel, Norman Finkelstein puts forward a very pertinent argument when he says in his book 'Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict', "..... the Zionist case for a Jewish state is as valid or invalid as the anti-Semitic case for an ethnic state that marginalizes Jews."1 Implicit in this statement is a link being established between Zionism and that type of nationalism which went to bed as a sleeping beauty and woke up as an ugly demon.

Of course, in retrospect, a nationalism that spawned  "La Grande Nation" in 1789 and accompanied those positive liberal forces for change until the revolutions of 1848, was always going to seek its legitimacy in race, religion and language and, indeed, with the wisdom that hindsight affords us, we might not be surprised that it was to culminate in the excesses of Nazism. Where was there to go once people identified with "their race", "their religion" and "their language"? Furthermore, where could those people who could not identify with the "nation" go?

It is in this context that we should view Zionism and, indeed, it is in this context that it might have some justification. Unfortunately, unlike those Czechs, Poles, Slovaks and Hugarians who felt marginalized not only by the philosophical Pan-Germanism of Fichte and Herder but later also by the very real political consequences of a German state, there was no "Kernland" in Europe which Jews could call their own. That is why the academic caution implicit in the "might" and the quantifier "some" in the first sentence are appropriate, although it should be added that Europe too was plagued by population transfers. Indeed, there are those "Ewiggestrige", who still hold on to their national dream.

Nevertheless, even for those diehards in Europe who prefer to live in the past the Zionist "solution" is not on the cards. No, we might be grateful that this "solution" died in Europe along with the "Endlösung itself and what is that Zionist solution? Well, it was implied by David Ben-Gurion when he said, "Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can bridge it... We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs." For Zionism, there could be no compromise and just as a nationalism that was based on race, religion and language culminated in the excesses of Nazism, so too was a Zionism that had its roots in European nationalism and romanticism always destined to culminate in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Fortunately, in Europe today, there is enough evidence to suggest that it is those who would marginalize minorities are themselves being increasingly marginalized. The idea of a homogenous state based on race, religion and, yes, even language is becoming anathema to many Europeans and it would appear that we are moving towards a multi-cultural state; in some countries it is already both de jure and de facto a reality. Indeed, is Europe itself not a multi-cultural entity? It is this model that offers hope to the people who live in all of Palestine, or "Israel" if you will. However, it is a model that implies that that "two state solution", which is increasingly utopic considering the realities on the ground, should be at least reconsidered and in doing so we will discover that one state or a bi-national solution is indeed the only solution.
1 Norman Finkelstein, 'Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict', p 101

No comments: