I am a Zionist
In the first days of the war against Hamas, Micah Goodman, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, asserts: “We’re at a moment in history where Israel is very dependent on world Jewry. For the first time in Israeli history, the relationship between Israelis and Diaspora Jews is upside down. The State of Israel was created and formed in order to save the Jewish world. Right now, we need the help of the Jewish world to keep Israel strong. We need their help.”
The immediate response was forceful and fierce. Support for Israel’s military objective to defeat Hamas endures more or less. Mainstream Jewish groups have finally taken proactive steps to address anti-Zionism on college campuses, which is the epicenter of Jew-hatred around the world.
But much work needs to be done. There is still no strategy to equip American Jews with the ideas and texts to increase dedication to the Zionist project. The amount of inaction on this front does not bode well for the outcome of the next stage of the battle to keep Israel strong: Anti-Zionist Jews are laying the intellectual groundwork for what I call the final state solution: a single state controlled by Palestinians where Jews could ostensibly live in peace and harmony as long as they are neutered of the Zionism that brought a Jewish state into existence.
Since at least 2018, anti-Zionist Jews have led efforts to promote ‘non-partition’ through several nonprofit and academic outlets. Daniel Levy, who founded J Street, established and runs the US Middle East Project, which includes Palestinian and anti-Zionist Jewish policy types such as Hanan Ashrawi, Robert Malley, Henry Siegman, and Peter Beinart. As part of this effort, USMEP commissioned Tareq Baconi and Dimi Reider to launch the Beyond Partition Project, which has, since 2018, assembled “action-driven networks” of academics, policy experts, and foundations to develop books, essays, op-ed policy papers” to make the case for eliminating Israel.
In October 2019, in response to the USMEP effort, the Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) housed at George Washington University’s Elliot School convened a workshop with more than a dozen scholars – Israelis, Palestinians, and others – to discuss the contours of the one-state reality. In 2020 (POMEPS) published Israel/Palestine: Exploring A One State Reality. The report’s co-editors are George Washington University professors Marc Lynch, Michael Barnett, and Nathan Brown. (The three academics and University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami subsequently published a considerably expanded version of their introduction for the report in Foreign Affairs: Israel’s One-State Reality: It’s Time to Give Up on The Two-State Solution.
Lynch said that the report was heavily influenced by Palestinian experts, who helped break a Washington “taboo” on saying apartheid. He cited Yousef Munayyer, Tareq Baconi, and Noura Erakat as intellectual leaders. Noura Erakat, a professor at Rutgers University, has consistently expressed opposition to Israel’s existence and has compared Zionism to Nazism.
Meanwhile, Munayyer and Baconi contributed articles to the publication in addition to inspiring the report. Munayyer was executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights which actively supports BDS and counts the Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the American Muslims for Palestine, which is now being investigated for raising money for Hamas. Munayyer claims that the transfer of power between the British imperial enterprise in Palestine and the adoption of that imperial enterprise by the Zionist movement” was a transition from one form of colonization to another form of colonization.”
Tareq Baconi has said that “the memory of the Holocaust is being deployed to expand Israel’s colonization of Palestine.” He also stated that Hamas was “operating within the paradigm of understanding Israel as a colonial apartheid state. I think it’s much harder to go back to a world where we think of this as just terrorism that’s unprovoked.”
The authors start with the belief that Israel is a “deeply unjust political regime based on Jewish supremacy”. Indeed, Nathan Brown regards self-determination and defensible borders, characteristics every nation has in common, as features that render Israel illegitimate:
“First, participation in democratic mechanisms is restricted. When it comes to citizenship and voting rights, the Israeli political system will have a Jewish majority.
Second, the non-citizens that it rules will not be given any tools to hold the authority of the one state accountable to any standards, procedures, or laws in any systematic way.
Finally, any internationalization of the territory—whether in a modest form, such as the use of international law, or a more robust one like trusteeship or foreign military presence—will be avoided.” (Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan deny Palestinians who live in those countries basic rights, including home ownership and voting share these three features.)
Yousef Munayyer frames Israel’s founding in simpler but similar way: The ability of the Israeli State to prevent the return of Palestinian refugees while upholding the Law of Return for Jews is a – if not the – most crucial component of Israel’s ability to maintain a Jewish majority.
Only a single state that restricts or abolishes the law of return while granting the six million Palestinians (who are classified as refugees even if they were not among the 750,000 who left or were forced out of what became Israel between 1947 and 1948) automatic citizenship will do. Brown charts a course for building political support for such a policy shift by “replacing the proper name of Israel with an analytical category.” Brown believes that Israel is hiding behind an ambiguous description of how it governs:
“What kind of state is Israel? I will explore three possibilities: empire, dual state, and apartheid. I hope to show not only what such comparisons illuminate but also how their shortcomings are of just as much interest. Comparisons between Israel and three kinds of entities—empires, dual states, and apartheid systems—can be instructive not only for how they partially fit but also for where they do not precisely fit. ”
Brown claims that Israel fits all three types of systems to a considerable extent and is, therefore, an empire that maintains an apartheid state that uses a dual state which, like Nazi Germany, “had a “pre-existing highly legalistic state operated alongside post-1933 mechanisms that gave some structures and individuals absolute discretion to deploy violence beyond the control of any legal “norms.”
Yes, Nazi Germany. It is worth quoting Brown at length to appreciate how he deploys passive-aggressive rhetoric to dehumanize and delegitimize Israel:
“Can republic and empire co-exist, with the first based on liberty, public spiritedness, and citizenship and the second based on domination, subjecthood, and more martial virtues? That question is one that vexed those who gave us many of the names we now used for political systems in the classical world. And it is arising in Israel today.
A similar question arises from a very different analytical tradition—one that considers “dual states.” While the phrase initially seems far tamer than the alternatives examined here—empire and apartheid—those aware of its genealogy may consider it infinitely more noxious. It was coined by Ernst Fraenkel to refer to Nazi Germany and the way in Germany’s pre-existing highly legalistic state operated alongside post-1933 mechanisms that gave some structures and individuals absolute discretion to deploy violence beyond the control of any legal “norms.”
And if the comparison with the Third Reich makes you shiver, not to worry. Brown tells us“We can divest the idea” of a “dual state” of its origins and cast it far more broadly to encompass a wide range of authoritarian regimes that allow for some operation of a rule of law (understood as a part of the state apparatus that is governed according to clearly enunciated legal norms) alongside one that is governed by violence and discretion.”
We can define “dual states as divided between “normative” and “discretionary” parts: there are “instances of authoritarian rule in which a legal way of doing things co-exists with an alternative mode of behavior: a violent way of doing things; life in dual states is perched on the precipice between the norm and the exception.” Seen that way, dual states might describe Singapore, Chile, Egypt, and Korea at various points. Does it describe Israel” too?”
Brown suggests “it is the normative aspects of the Israeli state that set the border with the discretionary part. In turn, this dual state allows Israel to create a deeply unjust one-state reality and enable” the “entrenchment of an apartheid-like one-state reality.”
This assertion is absurd on many levels. In the first place, Israel has given back territory that it conquered and can legally occupy or annex if it wants. It tried to give back even more during several peace negotiations. Moreover, several Arab states still confine millions of Palestinians in refugee camps and have denied them full citizenship. In Lebanon, Palestinians face professional bans, property ownership restrictions, and high poverty rates. When Jordan lost control of the West Bank in 1967, it immediately revoked their Jordanian citizenship. Then too, Brown seems to forget that the real Nazi-like empire is Iran.
Meanwhile, data demonstrate that over the past 20 years, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have enjoyed faster growth in per capita gross national income and broader access to education, longer life expectancy, lower death rates among people ages 15-24, and have more significant growth in capital formation than many of their counterparts in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, etc. “Despite relatively low per capita GDP (West Bank and Gaza are rated as a lower middle-income country), the West Bank has a sizeable middle/upper-middle class. The West Bank and Gaza boast one of the highest per capita rates of university graduates in the Arab world.”
Meanwhile, an estimated one in five Israeli Arabs have land or a home in the West Bank where housing prices are lower and new communities such as Jericho Gate have park space and plans call for cultural centers, commercial space, and mixed-use developments.”
But Brown – who already prejudges Israel as “a deeply unjust political regime based on Jewish supremacy – ignores the stark comparison. From his warped worldview, Israel “erected a vast array of checkpoints impeding Palestinian movement, built roads and infrastructure exclusively for the use of settlers, and established legal and military regimes that control the lives of everyone in the territory” not to maintain security but to build an empire on a Nazi-like legal structure to impose an apartheid existence simply to manifest Jewish supremacy.
The single state advocates understand, as George Orwell said, that who controls the past controls the future, and who controls the present controls the past. Increasing the number of academics, policy experts, journalists, social media networks, and political leaders who define the Jewish state as inherently racist and cruel enables Brown and others to control “ the range of political possibilities” for responding to an “apartheid-like one-state reality.” As a result, the acceptance of the apartheid label has been “sudden and rapid,” making it easier to erode support for Israel.
Brown and colleagues claim they simply want “ policy to be based on clear-eyed analysis rather than ideological narratives, political conveniences, or wishful thinking. For some, a description of the unjust reality is evidently more upsetting than the unjust reality itself.”
In this ‘reality,’ the Palestinian leadership and citizenry lack agency. They are always the victim. And when they launch terrorist attacks or savage rampages on Israelis, the violence is a response to the “unjust reality.”
Hence, Baconi calls the October 7th massacre as provoked. At a conference co-sponsored by the Middle East Institute, where Munayyer, Barnett, and Brown are faculty, Barnett said“Israel rightly can claim self-defense, but I also want to note here that Hamas and the Palestinians also have a right of resistance.”
Meanwhile, Brown characterizes the Hamas massacre as an “offensive” on October 7 (that) and praises Hamas’ tactical brilliance (which) has just been harnessed to a set of atrocities directed against civilians that were bloodier than Deir Yassin. (Note the deliberate comparison to the battle to control an Arab village called Deir Yassin during Israel’s fight in 1948 against the five Arab countries that vowed to destroy the newly established Jewish state. Deir Yassin has been portrayed as unprovoked genocide by anti-Zionists, but in fact, it is the massacre that never was.) And this has cheered many people. For others, the immense cruelty of the Israeli closure of Gaza has long dropped from view—a closure whose origin predates Hamas’ control of the territory and has clearly been more effective at impoverishing 2 million people than making Hamas militarily incapable.”
Others stoop to create a moral equivalence between Hamas’ barbarism and Israel’s security measures against Hamas. Brown stoops lower. He claims the tactical brilliance of the raping, beheading, murdering, and kidnapping of Israelis is morally equivalent to the implied cause of the massacre: Israel’s security measures against Hamas. The suffering of the Israelis doesn’t merit a mention.
Instead, he concludes that “the people of Israel-Palestine will be left facing each other with more bitterness but with no more tools to craft a less violent future.” Note the erasure of Israel as a separate entity.” My guess is that Israel-Palestine will become Brown’s preferred pronoun for the Nazi-like dual-state reality
Brown and his fellow travelers endanger Jewish survival precisely because they are so effective in arguing that replacing Israel with a single state with a Palestinian majority will lead to peace and harmony, maybe not now, but someday. He and others hope that after several years of a steady flow of articles, books, and network activity will usher in a new generation of policymakers and government officials who will openly define Israel as a neo-Nazi, apartheid empire. The short-term results of these efforts have been substantial. Lynch notes that the “cascade” of experts’ reports on apartheid has reached policymakers, even in the White House, thanks to groups such as USMEP and POMEPS.
As Ronan Shoval, Dean of the Tikvah Fund, has written, we can only help keep Israel strong by generating and spreading “a clear and precise formulation of Zionism’s principles, goals, actions and interests that are necessary to bring about the cultural and political changes necessary to sustain Zionism’s future.“
But we are far behind the single-state solutionists in creating a set of Yoram Hazony calls “profound ideas that can withstand the results of application across many times and places.”
If we don’t rise to this occasion, Brown and his collaborators will remain unchallenged and likely succeed. The single-state solution is the final solution for Israel.