Two new books have been published this week that address the issue of Israel and “apartheid,” the discriminatory South African system that pushed Black people into bantustans on the basis of race.
Critics make a strong case that Israel’s oppressive occupation - singling out Palestinians on the basis of religion, confiscating their lands, collectively punishing the innocent for the actions of others, and killing scores of innocent civilians in military missions - is a form of apartheid.
Israelis deny the assertion and heap even harsher criticism on Palestinians.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, who hosted the Israel-Egypt peace accords, has titled his book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.” He makes a strong case that Israel’s conservative policies are turning Israel into a new Apartheid-like South Africa.
The second book is by Ali Abunimeh, a Chicago Palestinian activist I know well. He is among the Palestinian “aristocracy elite.” His book is titled “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”
The title must be a typo because it’s not “bold.” It’s “old.” Palestinians who consistently reject the two-state solution have done everything to insure peace based on two-states fails. They want to convince the world that the violence they help make happen through their rejection warrants turning back the clocks to 1947 and rejecting Palestine's Partition.
The idea is gaining steam among Palestinian moderates who are despondent over the failure of peace, and the increased suffering and the ease at which extremists on both sides can hijack and destroy peace.
Palestinians are not the only ones who dream of a one-state solution. Many Israelis support it too, calling it “transfer.” Their policies of repression are designed to provoke Palestinians to disappear. But they won't.
The two-state solution failed for many reasons. Activists like Abunimeh refused to give it a chance. So did Israelis extremists. The Israeli extremists who murdered Yitzhak Rabin and gave rise to Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu doomed the two-state peace before Palestinian extremists could destroy it themselves.
Every time peace inched forward, extremists on both sides used violence to derail it.
Abunimeh is a disciple of the late Edward Said, the renowned Palestinian intellectual and initial architect of the two-state solution. Said wrote one of only two books about the causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict worth reading: “The Question of Palestine.” The other was written by my mentor and Said’s colleague, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, “The Transformation of Palestine.”
But, when sidelined from the talks, Said began trashing the Palestine National Authority and the late Yasser Arafat as “corrupt.” Said and the Abunimeh crowd constantly harped on the corruption issue, pointing to the fact that Arafat and other officials chauffeured through Palestinian despair in black Mercedes limousines.
Of course, today, those limousines are now occupied by the Hamas leadership. You won’t hear the rejectionists talk about that because exposing "corruption" was never their real goal. It was using it to destroy pace based on two states.
One-staters want Israelis to believe they should “save themselves” from Apartheid. Today’s situation is both similar and dissimilar to the Apartheid that existed in South Africa.
But the one-state solution is not a realistic answer. It may have been in the 1950s and 1960s. Clinging to that belief is one reason why a Palestinian state was not created in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem prior to 1967.
The other reason is that Palestinians lacked an effective leadership until after 1967, and Arafat seized control of the Palestinian Revolution, forcing Israel and the World to recognize Palestinian rights.
Arafat recognized that the Revolution had gone its course. In 1988, with Said and Abu-Lughod at his side, he called for an end to the conflict based on two-states and land-for-peace. The Arafat-Rabin peace accords failed. Extremists on both sides turned that failure into worsened conflict.
But the two-state solution will always be the only option because the premise of “one state” where Christians, Muslims and Jews can live side-by-side and with equality, is fundamentally flawed.
It is a fallacy that can never be achieved not just because Israelis won’t support it. The Arab and Islamic World don’t practice it. Exactly where do Jews and Christians live in the Islamic World today side-by-side with equality? We don’t even live side-by-side with equality in the Palestinian Diaspora.
Abunimeh’s associates in Chicago and the United States engage in a form of racism themselves against moderate Palestinians like me who have openly denounced suicide bombings as criminal acts of terrorism. They denounced those who still cling to the two-state solution, despite all that the fanatics have done to prevent it.
I was pilloried by Abunimeh’s cohorts when I argued Palestinians must tell the refugees the truth: They will not be able to return to their pre-1948 homes and lands. I argued refugees should, through negotiations, receive compensation, relocation and a rightful apology from Israel for its role in their dispossession.
Jabha activists associated with Abunimeh even accused me of “burning down” the Jabha Arab Community Center in Chicago. The arson accusation was made on a Palestinian Internet list that was self-proclaimed “Free Palestine.”
The dream of one-state seems appealing but only in this environment of tragedy, escalating violence and continued suffering. In truth, the one-state solution is not a dream, but a nightmare that can never happen.
The two-state solution may be struggling to breathe, but it is not dead. Israelis will one day recognize the futility of their hardline policies and recognize the inevitability of a two-state solution based on justice and fairness.
But the burden is on Palestinians, who must embrace partner hope with reason. They must defeat the extremists who are among them who believe continued conflict is better than the “shame” of compromise.
Ray Hanania is the New America Media “Best Ethnic Columnist for 2006/2007.” He can be reached at www.hanania.com