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The realities of Jabotinsky’s vision of a Jewish state leaves no place for Palestinians

February 19, 2024 at 2:00 pm

Hundreds of people gather in front of the Maryland State House to protest against Israeli attacks over Gaza and to show their support for Palestinian people in Annapolis, Maryland on January 07, 2024. [Yasin Öztürk – Anadolu Agency]

Even as Israeli warplanes bomb the Gaza Strip indiscriminately and Israeli settlers terrorise Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Western officials, state actors and the international community discuss the future and the possibility of “peace” and resolving the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. Reuters reported that, “Senior US, Arab and European officials met in Munich on Friday to discuss progress on formulating a plan for post-war Gaza that would be linked to normalising ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, officials and diplomats said.”

China’s Xinhua pointed out: “Top international organisations and government officials called for a permanent settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the ongoing 60th Munich Security Conference (MSC), saying that only the two-state solution can make the region achieve lasting security. The two-state solution guarantees an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 [nominal] borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Building upon the above, many state actors and international NGOs that endeavour to promote peaceful solutions and stop Israeli violence in Palestine misunderstand — deliberately or otherwise — the intricacies of the situation. The same actors generally ignore the fact that the Israeli government is pursuing a novel paradigm in the occupied Palestinian territories that aligns with the far-right’s objective of eliminating Palestinian society, annexing all of the West Bank and also rebuilding Jewish settlements — abandoned and destroyed in the 2005 unilateral “disengagement” — in Gaza. This framework basically eliminates any possibility of a two-state solution and represents a significant divergence from the current international status quo.

OPINION: Breaching the ‘Iron Wall’: How Palestinians crushed Jabotinsky’s century-old ideas

I believe that vindictive Israeli leaders do not consider the option of the two-state solution any longer (if, indeed, they ever did).

Nor, however, do they talk about a single, democratic state for everyone living between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea as a viable solution. They are actually attempting to construct and legitimise a state as envisaged by Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940) in his 1923 essay The Iron Wall. Jabotinsky saw Israel as a single state for Jews from the river to the sea. If there were to be any Arabs within the state, they would be a distinct minority. This Israel would acknowledge the rights, self-determination, religion, existence, culture, language and identity of one people only: the Jews.

After 76 years of settler colonialism of Palestinian land and around three decades of a so-called “peace process” between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Palestinian “issue” remains apparently insoluble. With the ongoing Israeli brutality and cruelty in Gaza, it has also become even more of a humanitarian catastrophe for the 2.3 million Palestinians penned in what is effectively a massive concentration camp, especially in Rafah. The political horizon related to Israel’s control of the air, land and water in Gaza remains unclear. Thus, the failure of peace in the case of Palestine can be attributed to several reasons.

Several participants in the peace process have concluded that the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is uncontrollable and intractable. On the other hand, some participants have attributed the failure to find a solution to the ineffectiveness of US intervention, which is openly and brazenly pro-Israel.

In recent discussions about the failure of the peace process between Israelis and the PLO, a controversial issue has been whether the Oslo Accords were enough to establish a positive peace, or insufficient to end the injustice and, in fact, allow it to continue.

Some argue that the main reason for the failure of the Oslo process was that the third parties (mediators, such as the USA) failed to address Israeli injustices towards the Palestinians. From this perspective, the conflict will remain intractable if Israel does not comply with international law. Furthermore, Israel must accept responsibility for the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homes and land during the ongoing Nakba in the late 1940s. Israel should also allow the Palestinians to exercise their legitimate right of return to their land, which would be a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. Despite the need for peace, Israel has refused to meet Palestinian demands as a basis for conflict resolution.

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Others, however, argue that Israel, as a settler-colonial state, does not acknowledge Palestinians as a political community with the right to self-determination. Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe takes the view that when the first Zionist immigration to the Palestinian lands began in the 19th century, Palestinian self-determination was already at stake due to ethnic cleansing as the primary strategy for the Zionist mainstream. According to this view, the current situation in Palestine is not something that started in October; instead, it is rooted in Zionist discourse, summarised in Golda Meir’s infamous statement, “I don’t say there are no Palestinians, but I say there is no such thing as a distinct Palestinian people.”

In my opinion, one of the most important reasons for the failure of the peace process is the language that is used to describe the oppression in Palestine. There aren’t two parties in the equation; there is only one party, which is the settler colonial state of Israel, that has enforced colonial domination since 1948. Moreover, using the term “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” for what is Israeli aggression — being an occupier is an aggressive position by default — normalises the solutions.

I also believe that when discussing potential solutions to the Palestinian issue, it is essential to consider the state of the Arab countries. Although I accept that resolving the Palestinian issue is in the interest of Arab countries for their own political stability, I still maintain that they lack the political will to do so. The failure of the Arab Spring is a powerful example of how much the West still controls the “Middle East” in the shape of coloniality rather than direct colonialism. Although some might object and insist that the Arab people support Palestine strongly, I would say that this is true, but how much can they affect the behaviour and policies of their political leaders? This issue is vital because Arab nationalism is crucial to building pressure on the Western states that support Israel unconditionally in its military occupation of Palestinian land.

To address the question of whether the Arab Spring revolutions failed or were driven to fail, we need to take a practical and empirical approach. We also need reflection and introspection. Gaza provides a perfect answer to the question of Arab Spring. For example, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario wherein the democratic process in Egypt succeeded, or the Syrian Revolution achieved its goals. If such outcomes were achieved, a successful democratic transition, genuine representation of pluralism, and legitimate leadership resulting from people’s voices could potentially reshape the current grim reality of the Gaza blockade. In the case of such scenarios, would the blockade of Gaza be what it is today, with Palestinians being bombed and killed in the south of the enclave, while those in the north are dying of hunger?

The question of the Arab Spring in the context of Gaza stands as a legitimate inquiry; it is not arbitrary. It underscores that in the realm of national liberation, neighbouring Arab countries are not merely complementary to the environment, but also organic elements. Their absence poses a significant challenge, implying that the concept of liberation becomes unattainable or, at the very least, intricately convoluted. For this reason, Israel and America are both pushing for increased normalisation of relations between the occupation state and its Arab neighbours because they believe that detaching Palestine from the equation would lead to a new solution to the issue. Based on Jabotinsky’s vision, this solution would not be the one-democratic-state or two-state solution, but the strengthening of a Jewish nation-state between the river and the sea. This state would have a Jewish majority and an Arab minority and have the potential to change the regional geopolitical landscape.

To sum up, the current displacement of Palestinians in Gaza and the realisation of settler-colonialism’s third solution — the Jabotinsky option — emphasises that Israel’s intended trajectory extends beyond the West Bank. It could target and colonise a neighbouring Arab state as a strategic settler expansion rather than mere self-sufficiency.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.