Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Okay, I guess I am just not all that cool.  I know I am not all that intellectual.  Still I do read a whole lot, so how come I just can't get the deal with James Ellroy?  I mean, I long ago decided to read the Underworld USA trilogy.  Made my way through book one.  Eventually started book two...several times...but I just cannot get past all the white supremacist, sexist, patriarchal, Jew hating, Mexican hating, homophobic rhetoric and portrayals which fill these books.  I know, I know, it's supposed to be some sort of a literary device meant to shock the likes of me and all that.  Well, I guess it works.  What I can't figure out is where does one draw the line.  When does all the bigotry exemplified by the characters actually exemplify the bigotry of the author?  I mean, who thinks up and writes every racial slur imaginable...and to what end.

The story lines of these three books are intriguing.  The Weekly Standard says,

The books focus on the malign role played in that history by organized crime, rogue elements of the CIA, and (above all) J. Edgar Hoover, who is the central character of the trilogy. 

All three novels explore vicious American racism—Mafia chieftains and J. Edgar Hoover being among the most vicious racists. All three novels indicate that American involvement in undeveloped countries (Cuba in the first book, Vietnam in the second, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the third) consists largely of support for Third World dictators who brutalize and oppress their impoverished subjects. Ellroy does not romanticize communism, but all of the books’ anti-communists are either far-right fanatics or greedy businessmen. Admirable, principled opponents of Communism on moral grounds are nowhere to be found.

Finally, the books embrace conspiracy theorizing in a big way. American Tabloid culminates in the assassination of JFK—murdered at the behest of organized crime, which was angered by Castro’s expropriation of its Cuban casinos (and then by Kennedy’s unwillingness to continue to try to oust Castro after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion), and by Robert Kennedy’s crusade against organized crime. (The assassination is given tacit permission by J. Edgar Hoover, who refers to it obliquely as a measure “of great boldness.” Lee Harvey Oswald was a fall guy; the real assassin, we learn in the next volume, was a rightwing French extremist.)

Mutatis mutandis, the next volume, The Cold Six Thousand, tells a similar story. This book culminates with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Both of these assassinations again receive tacit permission from Hoover: King’s assassination is an offshoot of an FBI campaign (orchestrated by Hoover) to discredit the civil rights leader; Mafia leaders are responsible for the RFK—as for the JFK—hit, because they know of (and fear) his intention to fight organized crime if he is elected president in 1968. (James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhan are, like Oswald, patsies, made use of by the actual assassins to obscure their own guilt.)...

When you read the back cover you are sure you are going to want to read them.  The writing itself is dark, evocative, noirish, and all that.  Ellroy proclaims himself to be sort of a right wing Marxist...and I mean right wing.  What the hell does that mean.

I understand at the end of book three if I ever get there, we come to "love" some female lefty or something.  Boy, there is a whole lot of shit to plow through before we get there.

Again, every time I pick it up and start reading book two, I feel dirty, and I don't mean nasty.  I mean slimed.

Did I mention the violence, the violence directed at women, at blacks, at just about anyone really?  I am not afraid of violence in books, in TV, in movies, in life, but it gets old and it gets sickening after a while.

They tell me Ellroy has changed his perspective from his youth as a neo nazi loving a-hole via a period one could call right wing talk radio ideology to...well, I don't know what.

Ellroy likes to describe himself as a Tory.  Meaningless...

But then there is the "other" Ellroy, the one who in one interview stated correctly that,

America itself as an entity was founded on a bedrock of racism, slavery, land-grabs, and the slaughter of the indigenous people.

Can't argue with that.

But where is any hint of another possible world?  Nowhere, that's where.

Some fellow at the Straight Dope writes:

I've read a bunch of James Ellroy's novels, including the L.A. quartet, American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and a couple of others. I find his writing to be extremely intelligent, densely plotted, and remarkably thought provoking. I think that American Tabloid is the best novel I have ever read about the JFK assassination.

However, one thing disturbs me about his work, and that is the rampant racism of most of his characters, even his ostensible protagonists. Now I understand that he is depicting the thought processes of specific characters set during a specific era (usually cops in the 1950's) and I don't confuse the attitudes of a character with the attitude of the author, but I have also noticed that Ellroy never seems to depict any black character who is not a pimp, a drug addict, a rapist or a murderer. Granted, he is portraying seedy underworlds, but wouldn't at least ONE good black person pop up once in a while, even in this milieu. 

The same goes for homosexuals in his novels. They are routinely sneered at by his protagonists and are often portrayed as amoral.

The poor guy likes Ellroy's books and wants to know if he should feel guilty.  I understand the feeling.  I wanted to like the books, but that went away the more I read.  I wonder how I would feel if I were an African American reading this stuff.  I know how I feel when I read the Jew hating parts, disgusted, appalled...not good.   And the Jew hating is nothing compared to the white supremacy.

Mike Riggs writes at ArtsDesk,

Ellroy has professed a love of racist language, and in (a) video of a pre-election lunch with Rose McGowan and Bruce Wagner, the crime novelist says that Obama "looks like a lemur."

That says to me, at least that Ellroy's actual views on race deserve as much attention as his fictional depictions of race.

I think Ellroy is obsessed with himself.  I think the man believes he is a legend.

Mike Davis thinks he is something else.  In the Chicago Review  of Books Davis wrote:

Now let me tell you who I can’t stand, and to top the list I would put that neo-Nazi in American writing who is James Ellroy… And to begin with he’s not a good writer. He’s a kind of methamphetamine caricature of Raymond Chandler… Each of his books is practically a Mein Kampf, it’s anti-communistic, it’s anti-Mexican, and it’s racist.

That is what it seems like to me, too.  

Here is something from an interview Ron Hogan did with James Ellroy:

RH: When I read critics of your work, they often react: "Oh my god, he's writing these horrible homophobic, racist, misogynist, psychopathic books." And I'm thinking: "No, he's not writing from his perspective. He's getting into the heads of these ugly characters." You're not endorsing their world by any means.

JE: I think I know what's behind this, especially some of the views expressed by Mike Davis. These are fully rounded characters, and the racism and homophobia are casual attriubutes, not defining characteristics. These are not lynchers or gaybashers, toadies of the corrupt system. When you have characters that the reader empathizes with, who are carrying the story, saying "nigger" and "faggot" and "spic", it puts people off. Which is fine. I would like to provoke ambiguous responses in my readers. That's what I want. There's part of me that would really like to be one of Dudley Smith's goons and go back and beat up some jazz musicians, and there's part of me that's just appalled.

What is your take on that?  Mine says, I do not want to be a reader who "... empathizes with (charachters), who are carrying the story, saying "nigger" and "faggot" and "spic"...," Mr. Ellroy.  There is no part of me that wants to beat up some jazz musicians, Mr. Ellroy.

Ellroy gets away with his schtick because, I think, liberals lap it up to show how "cool" they really are.  Ellroy, meanwhile, laughs his way to the bank, his money made on his "talent" to write bigotry.  I think he is a gasbag.  I think he exposes himself as a racist yet again during  interview found on the Venetian Vase conducted by Steve Powell when asked about his opinions on the Rodney King case.

Interviewer: Would you say that current, or moderately current LAPD scandals like Rodney King or O.J. Simpson are more beyond the pale compared to the good work the LAPD does in the majority?

Ellroy: Well a couple of things. First of all, I wouldn’t call O.J. Simpson a scandal, it’s just, it’s not even a botched murder case—it’s a bad acquittal. And the second thing, Rampart wasn’t much of a scandal when truly dissected. Same thing with Rodney King if you see the entire three-minute tape. The fifty-six hammer blows that put Rodney on the ground, and the contact slash don’t look good, but moment to moment the entire three minute tape leads me to say, and I realize this is revolutionary, I don’t think they did anything wrong. There’s a moment when one of the policeman, and it might have been interestingly enough a man named Powell, kicked Rodney King in the head, which was the only out-of-line and out of policy thing that they did. Yeah he attacked Stacy Koon. The other people in the car were led to safety. He kept attacking: he took a taser, he kept getting up, getting up, getting up. He’s six foot five, two hundred and fifty pounds, and on angeldust, and you don’t engage people like that in one-on-one fights. And I think it was an aesthetic call that people made: they could either see this in the context of white racism and police corruption or overall police misconduct, or they could see it in a more localized context, which in this case, I think, is also a more broader context—that these are the exigent factors of police work, ad hoc, day to day. And you can’t let angeldust-addled shitbergs drive around at one hundred and ten miles an hour on the freeway, where they will kill people: interdict and suppress them. It doesn’t look good, the footage a million people have seen, many millions of people have seen. In a larger context, it reveals itself to be something entirely different, and so pointing to these things, and Rampart’s a crock of shit, and accepting them as historical fact is very dangerous and specious. And so what I’m morally obligated to do with interviewers is try to give them a different view of these speciously alleged facts.

Here is what Ellroy had to say about the movie "Panther" about the Black Panthers.

 I believe it is stupid. I think the movie Panther is a joke. They were a bunch of dope-dealing idiot thugs, the Panthers themselves. And the cops were the relative good guys in that whole operation.

Or from the same interview with Robert Birnbaum, we have this nugget, 

RB: Read a lot?

JE: No. I think a lot. I listen to classical music. I exercise. I watch boxing on TV and go to the fights occasionally. The only television show I watch is “The O’Reilly Factor.” I like O’Reilly. I profiled him for GQ.

RB: What do you think about his political ambitions?

JE: Let me put it this way. If Bill O’Reilly ever decides to run for office, I will reach into my checkbook make the maximum allowable individual campaign contribution and assist him in his quest for public office to the limits of my ability. He is not a Republican and is no where near as right-wing as most people think he is. He shares my hatred and moral concerns about the death penalty among other things. And he is a pro-environment guy.

I could go on and on with this bit of Scission Cultural Monday on Wednesday, but I have said enough.  Surely you understand my problem with Ellroy, his works, his supporters, those who fawn over him.  

Me, I wouldn't give this blowhard the time of day.

I've answered my "question" from up top.  Yeah, I think Ellroy is a bigoted turd hiding behind a "literary" veneer. 

But what do I know?  I'm just some guy who lives in Kansas City and as I recently learned after reading the blog of some "old friends" from California who visited the area a few weeks back, that pretty much makes me just some yokel. 

But, wait, Ellroy lives here in the metro area, too.  In fact, it is only a few miles  from my home in the city itself to his in the wealthy suburb of Johnson County, Kansas.

All that said, like here is a different view, which I don't get at all, from the Jacobin.


by Peter Berard

“It’s time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define their time. Here’s to them.”
So James Ellroy intones at the end of a soliloquy opening American Tabloid, the first volume in the Underworld USA trilogy. The bad men he hugs close include the Mafia, J. Edgar Hoover, assorted politicos, and tycoons like Howard Hughes. The novels illuminate a conspiratorial hidden history of the United States from just before the Cuban Revolution in 1959 to the Watergate break-ins in 1972, told across two thousand pages in Ellroy’s signature style: strings of tight, telegraphic phrases interspersed with police-report exposition and Grand-Guignol violence. The style — experimented with in his earlier work, but perfected in Underworld USA and his first memoir, My Dark Places — is innovative enough to be worth the price of admission for anyone who values literary invention.

Anticommunism — as an ethos and a way of life, more than as an idea — drives the action of the books. Ellroy’s performance as a public figure over the years has sometimes verged on talk-radio-style right-wing ranting, and his fiction is at times calculating in its violation of liberal sensitivities through racial stereotyping.

Yet readers who picked up the Underworld trilogy as the novels appeared between 1995 and 2009 found themselves — after nearly two thousand pages, and in the wake of more bloodshed perpetrated by assorted “bad men” later than anyone would want to remember — reading the elegy for an elusive American Communist femme fatale that ends Blood’s a Rover, the final volume.

This is a major transition: the consequence of a rigorous pursuit of knowledge of one’s self and of one’s world, as undertaken by a strange, conflicted, highly talented man. In City of Quartz, Mike Davis wrote of Ellroy that “in his pitch blackness there is no light left to cast shadows and evil becomes a forensic banality.” There is a grain of truth in Davis’s criticism, even if his subsequent characterization of Ellroy as “a neo-Nazi in American writing” goes overboard. But Ellroy is canny and honest enough with his darkness — and willing to allow in the light of historical inquiry, if not of morality — to be able to say something important.

“Geography is destiny,” Ellroy occasionally likes to proclaim in his public appearances and interviews, an interesting position for a man who has also claimed to have never looked at an atlas until middle age, when his second wife bought him one. But it rings true. He has a nose for the geography of power. The power structure that the characters work for is an array of fiefdoms, a “democratic feudalism,” to use Corey Robin’s term, that makes the Holy Roman Empire look sane by comparison. Ellroy’s America is Charles Portis’ “pelagic America,” the land-sea at the heart of North America where the odds and ends of Europe, with the help of a little capital and a lot of forced labor, could make society in its own image. In Underworld USA, this is a welter of parochial mini-worlds, governed by sleazy thugs and stitched together by a skein of national institutions. (Ellroy and Portis, whether they want to or not, definitively rebuke Burke’s vision of small “organic” communities.) This is the nexus between the Mafia and the corporate world that takes the people’s money, the police forces headed by Hoover’s FBI that monitors them, and mass entertainment that keeps them pacified and spending.
These forces also drive pelagic Americans into the cities, where their various hatreds rub up against each other. Underworld USA lingers on Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami, cities where the management of arriviste rural Americans through violence, segregation, bread, and circuses was turned into an art. Like Ellroy’s parents, most of his viewpoint characters are middle Americans who came to cities. Dwight Holly, Wayne Tedrow, and Kemper Boyd are the sons of pelagic nobility (Indiana Klansmen, Nevada Mormons, and Tennessee aristocrats, respectively — and Ellroy himself might be the last American to actually give a damn about being of WASP descent, as opposed to a generic whiteness). Pete Bondurant comes to Los Angeles from perhaps the most isolated part of prewar North America: rural Quebec. Perhaps because of this, Bondurant, the terrifying animating force of the first two books, is clearest on what anticommunism is about: “anticommunism is good for business.” J. Edgar Hoover, overseeing the whole thing like a terrifying cross between Gollum and Sauron, is a good small-town Indiana boy himself. The Mob figures, though Italian and Jewish, speak the same language of big money and small, personal domination as do the Mormon bigwigs with whom they hobnob in Las Vegas. The only figures in the book that don’t — Bobby Kennedy (Jack could fake the same noblesse), the blue-blooded CIA men, French mercenaries, and towards the end, a cabal of those rare birds, effective American communists — give off a faint otherworldly aura.
This, then, is the “Free World.” The actions taken to uphold it fall under the rubric of anticommunism. “Anticommunism makes strange bedfellows,” J. Edgar Hoover says early in American Tabloid, and it’s the consequences of these strange couplings that drive the action in the books. Anticommunism in Underworld USA isn’t a matter of ideology or geopolitics. White American leftists (for the most part — more on this below) figure as harmless and well-meaning; Soviets don’t figure at all. Anticommunism is about keeping the suckers fat, ignorant, and happy, and their masters — those at the nexus of organized crime, politics, and the corporate world — secure.
Some communists, like the Cubans, threaten the system directly by cutting off Mafia and United Fruit profits. That said, most forces targeted by the anticommunist strange bedfellows — the civil rights movement, student radicals, those liberals who believe enough to get in the way — threaten the system not monetarily but ontologically: by attempting to make it kinder, gentler, less ignorant. They would disrupt the existence epitomized by the brilliantly nauseating scenes Ellroy depicts of Teamsters and those other parts of the working class favored by military Keynesianism enjoying their idea of paradise: all slot machines, cigars, booze, and prostitutes, with cheap lounge acts affirming — over and over again in leering, unsubtle terms — the white working man’s whiteness and masculinity. Racism, sexism, violence, sleaze, and chintz are not by-products of the system: they are the system, they are what make it worthwhile. They are what bound pelagic America into a superpower; the New Deal, the Atlantic Charter, and Fordism are incidental, or necessary but banal, conditions of existence.
Most of the protagonists in Underworld USA affect a superiority to the system they protect. The masses enjoying the show are dismissed as “geeks,” and most of the masters — gauche Sam Giancana, insane Howard Hughes, closeted voyeur Hoover — are depicted as little better. Partial though they are to posh hotel suites and drugs, Ellroy’s heroes aren’t in it for the money. The terror they wreak is its own end, as crucial to their sense of self as the vile and open racism of their society is to that society’s functioning. Pete Bondurant is constantly violently putting things in order: tabloid magazines, paramilitary camps, taxi-services-cum-crime-rings. This order consists of keeping races and genders separate, unequal, but functioning together, typically to make money via blackmail and violence. Bondurant is personally invested in this order, and the way in which his systems need the disorderly — black people and “geeks,” Cubans who just can’t seem to run a cab stand properly, the list goes on — to function seems to rub his always-tender temper raw. Still, only geeks (like the Klansmen everyone holds their noses and works with) suggest eliminationist solutions. The system needs to be maintained, not overturned. The system’s violence needs to be applied to the nonviolent so that the capacity and will to use violence remains intact. It’s circular, but if conservatism has one truth, it’s that the circular exists and sometimes we need to cope with it. Rarely, one of Ellroy’s tough guys can opt out, when they meet the right woman and the violence gets a tad much for them, but the world can no more opt out of systemic violence than it could opt out of gravity.

Ellroy once criticized Raymond Chandler by saying that Chandler wrote the man he wished he was, where Dashiell Hammett — a Pinkerton thug-turned-Communist Party member — wrote the man he feared he was in fact. Turned back on its originator, that criticism works well in evaluating Ellroy’s characters. Stone killer Pete Bondurant, sly charmer Kemper Boyd, lantern-jawed enforcer Lyle Holly are all good characters that move the action along, the sorts of men Ellroy would have liked to be. Don Crutchfield is a more honest character, closely reflecting Ellroy himself: an LA kid with a missing mom and a wino dad, spurned by nice girls and hippie girls alike, scared, resentful, obsessive. From there, the progression from peeping tom to cop groupie to junior private snoop to right-wing thug-in-training seems wholly natural. Crutchfield, before getting in with president killers and coup plotters, seems to be drawn from Ellroy’ own experience; his mother was murdered (a case still unsolved) when he was a child and he, too, snooped and perved his way around 1960s Los Angeles. Crutchfield is the opening for Ellroy’s real-life vulnerabilities to come through into his written work.
Womankind exists at the center of Ellroy’s universe of men. Ellroy has called himself a romantic, seemingly meaning a mash-up of two senses of the word: philosophical romanticism, with its disavowal of formal rationality, and romantic love as thought of by twentieth-century Americans. By using romantic love as a deus ex machina, redeeming racist thugs with body counts in the triple digits, Ellroy is both copping out and being entirely true to himself and his philosophy; his goals are not ours. Those viewpoint characters who do not acquire a true female love die violently and without any real redemption. The love of a good woman allows a few characters to get away from the violence altogether, and some to die in a state of grace.
As it turns out, a particular kind of love does most of the redeeming in Blood’s a Rover, the last and most compelling of the trilogy: the love of leftist women. The plot of Blood’s a Rover is a fascinating fractal complex mess, as complicated as the rest of the trilogy put together, but at the center lies the sort of Red conspiracy that might have justified some of the anticommunist violence that motivated the action in the rest of the book. However, it’s clear Ellroy admires these communists, and so, eventually, do his characters.
At the center of the action is a confederacy of femme fatales led by the enigmatic Joan Rosen Klein, and Jack Leahy, a red-diaper baby who wormed his way into the FBI directly under Hoover’s nose. Jack’s father “was a Red with an FBI badge. He was grooming Jack to become a cop revolutionary.” Both Jack and Joan are veterans of an endless struggle, and have acquired the scars and gravitas to distinguish themselves from the callow liberals Ellroy complains about in fiction and in interviews. Joan and other left-leaning female figures are the engines of most of the redemption the series has to offer. Love for Joan makes Dwight Holly turn on Hoover, love for a black woman makes Wayne Tedrow into an anti-imperialist guerrilla. Don Crutchfield, the character closest to the author, delivers his elegy decades after the events in the trilogy, when he is a successful private detective, but still searching for the elusive Joan (as Ellroy searched for his mother in My Dark Places). Ellroy famously disbelieves in closure. Joan doesn’t bring closure, but strong women bring redemption throughout Ellroy’s work — in Crutchfield’s case, the pursuit of her, rather than her actual presence.
It would be a mistake to make more out of this than it is. Romantic love and violence burnout as ethical answers to the world is obviously insufficient, though if such forces can turn right-wing thugs the way Ellroy seems to think they can, more power to them. The closest Ellroy has come to a real statement of political intent is his self-description as a “Tory mystic.” Elsewhere he has described himself as a mixture of Marxist and conservative. What these have in common is a rejection of liberalism and the bourgeoisie, for better and for worse. This is in keeping with Ellroy’s love of shock (and schlock) and his deeply pessimistic worldview. He’s been at it again recently as his next book nears print, ranting against Obama, hipsters, “rock-and-rollers” (the man is aging) and making much of his Tory leanings.
Some of this elicits yawns and some of it chuckles, but unlike other right-left straddling provocateurs (Christopher Hitchens comes to mind), Ellroy’s work continues to impress and improve, both in terms of his craft and in terms of clarity and humanity of vision. Compare Underworld USA with the earlier works in the LA Quartet (most famous for LA Confidential). While good reads, the novels that comprise the quartet — The Black DahliaThe Big NowhereLA Confidential, and White Jazz — were much more conventional works. Ellroy engaged in significant historical research for these novels — his 1950s Los Angeles feels gruesomely real — but he did not surrender himself to it as fully as he did later on. Or perhaps the history of LA simply brought out something different in him than did the history of the United States.
In the LA Quartet, leftists are pathetic, not worth anyone’s time — neither that of the perpetrators of the Red Scare or of those the leftists would purportedly help. In fact, there’s even a leftist femme fatale in The Big Nowhere, but she’s the opposite of Joan — a fake leftist, a rich girl playing Red and seeking authenticity by sleeping with Mexican men, a spiteful caricature in a series full of them, but more memorable for the seemingly deeply-felt resentment behind it:
The woman hated her father, screwed Mexicans to earn his wrath, had a crush on her father and got her white lefty consorts to dress stuffed-shirt traditional like him — so she could tear off their clothes and make a game of humiliating paternal surrogates. She hated her father’s money and political connections, raped his bank accounts to lavish gifts on men whose politics the old man despised; she went to tether’s end on booze, opiates and sex, found causes to do penance with and fashioned herself into an exemplary leftist Joan of Arc: organizing, planning, recruiting, financing with her own money and donations often secured from her own body.
All the same, this represents a step up for Ellroy from his real right-wing kook days (he was a supporter of the American Nazi Party at one point in his youth, according to his memoirs), but was still well within right-wing tough-guy shock jock territory. Glimmers of the writer he would become exist in the LA Quartet, but he was not there yet.
This development shows in Ellroy’s public persona, as well. He doesn’t gadfly as much as he once did; he’s toned down both his love for throwing around vile racist and sexist epithets and the ain’t-I-a-stinker justifications for doing so. His obsessive stalker quality can still make one’s skin crawl, but turned towards historical inquiry, it drove him to some actual truths: his understanding of what made anticommunism has truth to it that other (nicer, more formally educated) people would — and have, and do — miss.
The study of history made him a better writer and (somewhat) less of a troll in the bargain. Ignorant self-love was a key support for the white man’s hell-paradise seen in Underworld USA. Ellroy kicked out the prop of ignorance from his own persona in order to rhapsodize that world, and in so doing changed his perspective, and has followed that change to some fruitful and logical conclusions. That’s a decent first step for anyone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


It's true.  Even yours truly gets tired once in a while of writing about all the crap in the world.  Even I get tired of being the heavy every now and then.  Somedays, when that happens I just bail out.  But not today.

I gotya with the title for today's blog...admit it...

It's true though.

USA Baseball Collegiate National Team managed just 4 hits and left 7 runners on base as Cuba claimed a 1-0 victory and swept the five-game series on Sunday at Capitán San Luis Stadium.   Cuba starting pitcher Yasiel Sierra was dominant, pitching 5.2 innings. He held the U.S. off the scoreboard while yielding just four hits and striking out seven before a blister forced him to exit the game.

Now continue reading below from the Havana Times.

Cuba Regains Dominance Over USA

CubanDefenseUSA[2]HAVANA TIMES — It didn’t take long for the Cuban baseball forces to regain the momentum and fully atone for last summer’s embarrassing whitewashing on North American soil versus the USA Collegiate All-Stars. In a renewal five-game set that proved even more one-sided than last year’s blanking by the Americans, the youth-studded Cuban squad swept to five straight wins, including a trio of classic one-run-margin gems, and in the processes regained full control of the mid-summer showcase “Friendly Series” now in the third year of its present incarnation. With this year’s romp the Cubans now hold a commanding 9-3 overall lead (the 1991 affair ended in a six-game split) and a 39-28 individual game victory margin.
The complete reversal of last summer’s embarrassing five setbacks comes as something of a surprise since this time around manager Alfonso Urquiola and technical director Victor Mesa featured a squad of hopefuls entirely devoid of the big name stars of recent years. There were only three holdovers here from the 2013 World Baseball Classic roster (catcher Frank Camilo Morejon, outfielder Guillermo Heredia, and infield José Miguel Fernández) and 20-year-old Norge Luis Ruiz was the only returnee from last summer’s Friendly Series mound staff.
But given a shot at first-time national team glory a number of front line prospects proved their potential – not the least of which were pitchers Julio Alfredo Martinez (Pinar del Río), Yasiel Sierra (Holguín), Yunieski García (Artemisa), and 19-year-old Rookie of the Year (for the 2013-2014 season) Vladimir Gutiérrez (Pinar del Río). The showing of these talented young arms indeed bodes well for the future, and the impressive victory also reverses a recent string of lamentable setbacks that included an early exit by league champion Villa Clara from last winter’s Caribbean Series in Venezuela.
Cuba-USAPinarAction[3]This year’s key for the Cubans was stellar pitching, although sloppy American defense (12 errors) played no small role in the ultimate outcome. In the opener the host team took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning in Matanzas on the strength of six solid frames by Norge Ruiz (reprising his brilliant outing during a 1-0 defeat last summer), then barely hung on for a 4-3 nail-biting triumph. Ramón Lunar’s two-run single in the fourth provided the eventual margin of victory and Chis Okey smacked the only homer of the entire series for Team USA in the seventh.
After a Game 2 Thursday rainout in Matanzas, the series moved to Pinar on Friday for what proved to be the series-defining match. A pair of hometown Pinar aces (starter Julio Alfredo Martinez for seven frames and closer Vladimir Gutiérrez for two) authored shutout mastery and catcher Frank Camilo Morejón paced the offense with a pair of hits and 2 RBIs in the impressive and tone-setting 5-0 whitewash.
Saturday’s day-night doubleheader wrapped things up for the Cubans with a series-clinching 2-1 daytime lid-lifter sparked by a four-man pitching rotation that yielded only four hits (Yunieski García picked up the victory). The deciding moment unfolded when a wild throw by outfielder Bryan Reynolds escaped the USA cutoff man and allowed Guillermo Heredia – who had tripled to deep right – to scamper home on the error with a deciding tally. Defensive woes continued for the Americans in the nightcap when they posted four miscues for the second straight game and fell 7-3 in the process. Yadiel Hernández was the Cuban hitting star with a double and a trio of RBIs (the exact margin of victory). Yoanni Yera continued the showcase pitching for the Cubans with a solid 7-inning effort that yielded but five hits and a pair of earned runs. The Cuban’s 4-0 series led at the end of Saturday’s action set up the surprising scenario of a second straight host-team five-game sweep.
YadielHernandezHero[4]The USA-Cuba “Friendly Series” – initiated back in 1987 on the eve of the Indianapolis Pan American Games (in which the two clubs would meet in an unforgettable finale) has a brief but intriguing history and has featured matchups much closer that the 9-3 overall Cuban lead might suggest. Cuba’s first pair of victories were earned by single-game margins (see the below summary) and the first “sweep” did not come until the third edition. There have now been five whitewashings, two falling in favor of the Americans in 1995 and again last summer.
The first two events were single-country affairs but between 1989 and the 1993 the squads traveled back-and-forth for home-and-away games in the same year. It all came to an end with the 1996 matches on U.S. soil just before the Atlanta Olympics, due in no small part to the “defection” of star Cuban hurler Roland Arrojo on the eve of the Atlanta Games.
Under the continued efforts of USA Baseball executive director Paul Seiler, the dormant series was finally revived when the two squads met in Havana three summers back before both moving on to the Haarlem Baseball Week in Europe. That 2012 renewal saw the Cubans take the series 3-2 on the strength of Freddy Asiel Alvarez’s Game 4 pitching gem, then also oust the Americans in the Haarlem semifinals before moving on to a Gold Medal victory over Puerto Rico.
YasielSierraHero[5]This year’s final game in Pinar on Sunday afternoon might have appeared anticlimactic (if viewed from afar), but it indeed held a good deal of significance. A Cuban victory would mean a 3-2 margin in “sweeps” and also a huge dose of redemption for last summer’s meltdown in Iowa, Nebraska and North Carolina. Sunday’s winner would also hold a boasting-point 8-7 edge in total games won during the current three-year renewal phase. Starting hurlers Yasiel Sierra (4 hits, no runs, 7 Ks) and Kyle Funkhouser (2 hits, 1 run, 8 Ks) both worked brilliantly through identical 5.2 inning stints. The slim decisive margin for the Cubans came in the sixth frame when Yadiel Hernández singled sharply to left off reliever A. J. Minter to send Pinar’s David Castillo scampering home from second with the day’s only marker.
Nay-sayers will quickly point out that this year’s USA squad was not as potent as a year ago (the earlier team featured big-league-bound hurlers like Carlos Rondon and Luke Weaver), but the same might be said about last year’s Cuban squad headlining Yulieski Gourriel at third, Freddy Alvarez on the mound, and recent defectors Erisbel Arruebarrena, Rasiel Igelsias and Yasmani Tomás also in the fold.
This year’s American squad was 18-3 coming into these games and fresh off a 7-1 record and Gold Medal win at the Haarlem event. Cuban League baseball may indeed still be suffering from a recent noticeable player drain (Jose Abreu, Arruebarrena, Iglesias, Tomás, Alex Guerrero, Rusney Castillo, etc.) but this past week’s emergence of a corps of impressive young pitchers has to send out positive signals for a still-bright future.
Cuba-USA Friendly Series Historical Summary
Winning Years for USA in Boldface
1987     Cuba (Havana, Artemisa) Cuba 3, USA 2
1988     USA (Millington, Indianapolis, Virginia, North Carolina) Cuba 4, USA 3
1989     Cuba/USA (Millington, Havana) Cuba 6, USA 0
1990     USA/Cuba (Havana, Millington) USA 2, Cuba 1
1991     Cuba/USA (Millington, Santiago) Cuba 3, USA 3
1992     USA/Cuba (Holguín, Denver, Minneapolis, Millington) Cuba 5, USA 2
1993     Cuba/USA (Wichita, Millington, Sancti Spíritus) Cuba 4, USA 3
1994     USA (Millington) Cuba 2, USA 0
1995     USA (Millington) USA 4, Cuba 0
1996     USA (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia) Cuba 3, USA 2
Suspended (1997-2011)
2012     Cuba (Havana) Cuba 3, USA 2
2013     USA (Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina) USA 5, Cuba 0
2014     Cuba (Matanzas, Pinar del Rio) Cuba 4, USA 0
Cuba Totals: 9 series wins, 38-28 (.578) overall record
USA Totals: 3 Series wins, 28-38 (.424) overall record
Series Sweeps: Cuba 2 (1989, 1994), USA 2 (1995, 2013)
(*) PETER C. BJARKMAN is author of A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864-2006 (McFarland, 2007, 2014) and is widely recognized as a leading authority on Cuban baseball, past and present. He has been reporting on Cuban League action and Cuba’s national team as Senior Writer for [1] for nearly a full decade and is currently writing a groundbreaking book (The Yanqui in Cuba’s Dugout) detailing his two decades of travel throughout Cuba and his adventures covering the Cuban national team abroad. His work as a “Cuban baseball insider” has also been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Travel Channel episode of “No Reservations Cuba” (2011) and with a 2010 front page profile in the Wall Street Journal.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Okay, I am going way long here. I have decided to print two pieces, the first of which is very long and the second just long.  The first is an article by Oren Yiftachel taken from the Middle East Institute.  The second is a speech by Yiftachel taken from the same place.  Both of these deal with trying to find a solution to what seems the unsolvable Palestine/Israel dichotomy.  Both move beyond Two States, to One State and Confederation.  Neither are utopian.  Neither claim any of this would be easy.  Who could say if the ideas expressed here are even or ever possible?  We can hope, but when one looks out at the world today, well, we can always hope.

Again, you will have to WANT to read these if you are going to read these.  Take your time.  On one hand it seems we need to figure this out today, on the other we all know that isn't going to happen.

Anyway, in the end it will remain up to the people directly involved as to what happens.

It is Theoretical Monday at Scission and these are certainly theoretical pieces, but they are theoretical pieces with a reason, with a basis in the real world, with a purpose beyond speculation and academic debate.

By the way, in general, this is the model to which I have become attached en lieu of a No States solution world wide.

NOTE: If you choose to read only one of the pieces below, I suggest the first one which is far more detailed and which presents an excellent historical analysis as well.

NOTE II:  There is nothing here that means much as far as stopping the killing and the suffering in Gaza that is going on right now.  Further, until the killing stops, few people are going to have the time to sit around thinking, talking,or acting on any real solutions.  I know that!  On the other hand, merely signing a cease fire, a truce, whatever while it may halt today's horror, won't alone stop tomorrow's.

Between One and Two: Debating Confederation and One-State Solution for Israel/Palestine

By Oren Yiftachel
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of MEI
This lecture was first given at the conference “One State between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River – A Dream or Reality?” at Tel Aviv University, May 2012 and at MEI in October 2012.
As far as I know, this is one of the first times that the subject, which is so central to the future of the society in Israel/Palestine, has been discussed in the Israeli academic world in an open forum with many participants. The courage to discuss this issue deserves highlighting these days, and it represents the real and free academic spirit that has recently been under strong attack.
We can begin our journey by noting the symbolic date of our meeting, the 17th of May. On this date, two revolutionary political events took place in Israel. The first, in 1977, brought Menachem Begin to the reins of power; the second was the election of Ehud Barak as prime minister, in 1999. These two governments had a disastrous effect on the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace. My cautious hope is that today’s conference is an omen of revolutionary change – in the opposite direction.
My talk is based on much research and writing, over many years, on the political geography of Israel/Palestine. Some of what I will say appears in my book Ethnocracy published a few years back, and in follow-up articles. In that book, I analyze in depth the regime prevailing between Jordan and Sea, and interpret the major dilemma in sketching the future political geography of this space, that is– Israel/Palestine: On the one hand, the Jewish colonialism in the West Bank prevents, and apparently will continue to frustrate, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state as a foundation for conciliation; on the other hand, the existence of Israel as a recognized state and the strength of Zionist nationalism prevent the coming of the one-state-solution (bi-national or secular) between Jordan and Sea. These factors have created a structural situation in which neither the standard solution of two-states nor the one-state solution provides a reasonable framework for the needed and urgent Zionist-Palestinian reconciliation.
Consequently, I will argue that we urgently need, now, to create a third space–conceptually and politically–that leads to creation of an Israel-Palestinian confederation. This arrangement is the most suitable for creating a geopolitical foundation for a viable peace, since it provides a framework that enables each of the two states to realize its right to self-determination, while considering the territory’s complex geography and history. The Palestinian state will realize the right to self-determination for the Palestinians and the Israeli state the right to self-determination for the Israelis, with the full rights of the minorities living in both states being ensured. The inhabitants of the confederation will maintain a joint economy and benefit from freedom of movement between the two entities. An autonomous, jointly-run capital region will be established in Jerusalem. A similar political plan, with somewhat different geographical borders, was laid out in UN Resolution 181. Despite the political opposition at the crucial time, both sides ultimately accepted the resolution. In the present political setting, this idea can offer a new path for ending the present colonial grip over Palestine, secure Israel’s existence, and protect human rights for all living between Jordan and Sea. Below I shall elaborate on my argument, focusing on conceptual points, as much as time permits.
At the request of the organizers, I shall concentrate primarily on criticism of the one-state solution, as worded in dozens of articles and books in recent years, and in the One-State Declaration that was published in 2007. I will not dwell on the deep problems entailed in the standard two-state solution, which I have criticized on numerous occasions. I will state only in brief, that a solution that seeks to attain stability and legitimacy by forcing complete separation of Israelis and Palestinians is an illusion. Since the Oslo Accords, in the framework of purported discussions on establishment of a Palestinian state, Israel has done almost everything it could to destroy that possibility, principally by deepening the Jewish colonization and restricting development of a national Palestinian leadership. Under current settings, should a Palestinian state be established, it would be highly dependent on Israel; geographically split, and lacking real sovereignty. Hence, it’s likely to become a source of constant instability. This being the case, continued discussion of the two-state solution in its present format is a certain recipe for continuation of the conflict, rather than its solution.
In addition to the important substantive elements of the confederation framework I propose, it unsettles the problematic dichotomy dominating the political debate between proponents of the one- and two-state solutions. By sanctifying the final format, the dichotomy prevents serious and frank discussion of the various possibilities to move toward a political geography of conciliation between Jordan and Sea. The confederation model, on the other hand, is more open and flexible. In several places around the world, confederation has served as a stabilizing bridge in the time between conflict and conciliation.
Confederations at a Glance
You are no doubt asking now–“What is confederation?” There are several technical definitions which appear in encyclopedias and lexica, but they all share the notion that a confederation is a framework for close association and cooperation between sovereign states, held by a covenant or treaty. Confederation is created in a “bottom up” process, in contrast to a federation, which is “top down.” In a federation, powers are delegated from the central sovereign body (government, parliament) to the states or provincial sub-units. In a confederation, the states, which retain their sovereignty, allocate powers “upward” to create the ‘higher’ body to govern joint affairs. Hence, in a confederation, as opposed to federation, the states maintain veto power on the existence and nature of the joint political framework …
Sounds promising? Maybe. But research on the confederation model is insufficient, and the historical record of this solution is uneven. Let us elaborate on a couple of the known success stories.
Switzerland and Canada were established as confederations after 19th Century ethnic wars resembling the Zionist-Palestinian conflict. In those cases, a strong ethno-national group gained control over weaker groups, but rather than continue to oppress them, offered a framework of self-determination, and a decentralized form of government, by way of compromise and cooperation. In recent decades, Belgium, too, has transformed (unofficially) to a model resembling a confederacy: the Walloons and the Flemish enjoy self-determination and self-rule in almost all spheres of life. Brussels–possibly in a status similar to Jerusalem, with local, national and global significance–is a shared autonomous capital region.  In Bosnia-Herzegovina, vicious ethnic conflict stabilized following establishment of the Dayton confederation framework in which the Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats enjoy autonomy and separate territory while operating a joint economy and security apparatus, with a strong European umbrella. The last two examples are far from ideal, but their confederal system, which combines separate ethno-national existence with joint management of the space, enables them to create a non-violent democratic space after generations of bitter ethnic conflicts.
The key to these models is a combination of freedom of movement throughout the entire space, statutory and political self-determination for the different groups in various regions, and establishment of a “layer” of joint governance management and administration of the whole territory.
The European Union is the most famous and ambitious confederation “in the making”. The EU is an incredible precedent: strong nation-states with a chauvinist past of nationalist wars and racist colonialism, which have given up some of their sovereignty for the sake of a supra-national entity. The unprecedented success of the EU–now the most peaceful region in the world–has provided a major geopolitical foundation for the long era of international cooperation and prosperity. In this context, it should be mentioned that the EU began as a very “thin” confederation, with only six countries in the 1950s. It began with the intent of instituting uniform trade laws on the import and export of coal and steel, and later created a common economic community. On these modest foundations an enormous political organization was later built, one that institutes confederation arrangements between Estonia in the east to Portugal in the west.
The list of confederations throughout history is not long. Poland and Lithuania had extensive confederation agreements that evaporated with the rise of the Soviet Union. For many years, Norway was part of a confederation with Sweden, and later with Denmark. The United States began as a confederation of thirteen states, and Egypt and Syria created the United Arab Republic (a union of the two countries) in the 1950s. The United Arab Emirates created confederations, albeit not democratic. Benelux and Czechoslovakia were confederations that were replaced by the European Union.
The confederation model, therefore, exists in practice, though it is not widespread. It has succeeded primarily in stabilizing ethno-national relations to some degree, following a period of conflict and war, and thus is a proper “candidate” for entering the debate on the future of Israel/Palestine.
Israel/Palestine – Political Geography
Before discussing how to reconstruct the desired future, we should briefly examine a few questions about the structure of the past and present: What is the political geography of the territory we are discussing? What is the political regime in Israel/Palestine, and how did it come into being? Without answers, progress would rest on shaky grounds. Just like in medicine, diagnosis must precede treatment. So, what are the dominant views on our political geography?
One, and possibly the most common view at the international level, portrays the Israel/Palestine space as a site of struggle between two national movements. This symmetrical approach views Israel as a legitimate homeland of a Jewish nation in which it exercises its sovereignty “like all other nations” after generations of persecution. A similar view is applied to the Palestinians, whose homeland is considered to be the West Bank and Gaza. The main manifestation of the conflict appears in this view to be a long-term border dispute. This approach gives the conflict the symmetry of “Israelis versus Palestinians” by treating Israeli control of the “colonized” (occupied and settled) Palestinian territories as “temporary,” and by ignoring the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 and the situation of the Arab-Palestinian minority within Israel, when discussing solution of the conflict. This attitude, which is characteristic of the Zionist left, some Palestinians, and most of the international community, maintains that a stable solution can be achieved in the form of two nation-states on the basis of the 1967 borders.
A different perspective held by most Zionists (in Israel and around the world) sees Israel/Palestine, primarily as the historical-religious homeland of the Jewish people. The process of settling and controlling Palestine is considered a “return” to the “promised” homeland, and a realization of the “historical right”. It is achieved by a ‘natural’ course of events free of ethical problems, and with almost no mention of the Arab history of the land. The return is to the entire homeland, between Jordan and Sea–a territory belonging to the Jews, and to the Jews alone. Minorities in this view can coexist with Jews, as long as they accept Jewish political supremacy.
In addition, the Zionist view links the need for Jewish sovereignty to recent history of murderous European anti-Semitism ,Arab ill-treatment of Jews in the Mideast, and persistent Arab rejectionism. Most Zionists do not ignore that Jewish immigration and settlement created problems for Arabs, but blame Arab intransigence and aggression. At the same time they refuse to recognize Palestinian historical rights to the land, and deny Israeli responsibility for the problems created by the founding of the state and its discriminatory policies. Recently, as a result of political pragmatism, some Zionist rightists became willing to recognize certain Palestinian collective rights, though these rights are far from granting them sovereignty in the occupied territories or full civil and communal equality. Any discussion on questions of return of the refugees, the events of the Nakba, and the Jewish character of the country are taboo in the narrative of this approach.
The prevalent Palestinian perspective, on the other hand, views the space between Jordan and Sea as one political entity, referred to as “Palestine”, which was legally created by the British Mandate. However, the newly created would-be state was immediately and unjustly offered to, and settled by foreigners–Jewish colonials. This state was later cruelly partitioned in a process accompanied by massive ethnic cleansing, turning most Palestinians to refugees. According to this perception, Mandatory Palestine was supposed to become an independent Arab state like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, but was ultimately divided among various predators–Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. After 1967, the entire land remained in the hands of one conqueror–Israel. The prolonged denial of Palestinian rights, so this perspective holds, has occurred with the support of western imperialist powers.
While this perspective concurs with much research on the history of Israel/Palestine, it also has some glaring blind spots and denials. For example, it conveniently ignores the flight of Jews in Europe and the Arab world (without which one cannot understand their flight to Palestine); it scoffs at the historical and religious connection of Jews to the land; it overlooks the disastrous 1947 Arab rejection of the chance to establish an internationally recognized Palestinian state; and hardly deals with the use of incessant terrorism against Israel. These factors are taboo in the Palestinian narrative, as much as the Nakba and present colonialism are taboo among Zionists.
Today, moderate Palestinians view the struggle for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and for civil equality in Israel, as worthy politically, but not as historical justice or genuine reconciliation. The current official Palestinian struggle is viewed by moderates as protecting ‘the crumbs’ left from Palestine for the Palestinians, rather than historical correction. Meanwhile, the one-state solution is rapidly gaining popularity among Palestinians on both the Islamic right and the secular left. This increasing support, and the unlikely alliance it brings from such distant political wings, is due to the potential of the one-state future to achieve justice and historical correction for the Palestinians. However, as elaborated later, both camps tend to ignore that historical justice must consider now a powerful factor that did not exist in the 1940s–the existence of the state of Israel, and the just rights attached to such existence.
My framework seeks to be precise and not polemical in discerning the political geography of the conflict, for which I attempt to combine these perspectives. My analysis shows that Israel/Palestine is indeed a land of religious and historical attachment to Jews, and that Zionism dressed this belonging in modern-political and territorial garb. Zionism, which was a movement of a small minority of the Jewish people until the 1930s, correctly identified the destructive potential of anti-Semitic racism, and sought to create a safe haven for Jews in the historical homeland. Historically, given the ways in which Jews were stripped of their rights, evicted, and were victims of a genocide, almost before they became Zionists, and inasmuch as most of the Jews who came to Israel had no alternative, one can conclude that Jews were actually “expelled to the homeland”. This observation, somewhat ironically, is ignored by both Zionist ideologists, who wish to make us believe that Jews always longed to return to Zion, and most Arab research and narratives, who wish to portray Jews as ‘normal’ colonials.  As a side comment, and with a touch of sad irony, one can observe that the state of safe refuge created by Zionism, has now become the least safe place for Jews in the world.
Zionism managed to create in the reconstructed Jewish homeland, a strong viable ethno-national community, albeit one that is fragmented unevenly along lines of ethnicity, religion and class. Zionism managed to plant in Zionist Jews a real and legitimate sense of homeland belonging, while politically realizing the right to self-determination of the Jewish-Israeli nation that was actually created anew in the country.
However, these observations, that are closer to the Zionist narrative, do not contradict the Palestinian perspective that the conflict over Israel/Palestine is also the result of a clash between a Jewish colonial society, whose aim is to colonize the land, and its indigenous Palestinian population. The literature defines colonialism as the organized expansion of a group to new territory, generally accompanied by conquest, settlement, appropriation, and exploitation of local population and resources. The current Jewish regime in Israel/Palestine fits this definition. It was established on the foundational process of Jewish expansion, settlement and appropriation, while receiving the general support of world powers, primarily Britain and the United States, which served for long periods as the “metropole” for the Zionist colonization project. Thus, the Zionist-Palestinian conflict is both a clash between colonizers and indigenous peoples, and between two nations battling over the same territory. Any progress towards a solution must take into account this deep structure.
In addition to understanding this structure, and for the sake of precision, we must refine the definitions and point out that over the past century the nature of the Zionist project has changed in significant ways. Until 1947, it could be conceptualized as “colonization by refugees” that developed through the immigration of Jews who were forced out of their previous states due to persecutions and racism. To be sure, there was a small nucleus of ideological Zionists who came voluntarily, but the majority became Zionists only once their lives in the original homeland became unbearable. Zionism colonization in that period was advanced by using all the loopholes existing under Ottoman and especially British rule–by purchasing and receiving land, erecting settlements, and building a military and demographic force.
Over the next twenty years, the project became one of “internal colonialism,” which includes ethnic expulsion and Judaization of the Israeli territory within the Green Line. After 1967, it changed shades again and became almost classic “state-led” or “external” colonialism in which the state settles its citizens beyond the state’s sovereign borders and seeks to appropriate it. Simultaneously, Israel deepened its liberal-democratic character inside the Green Line, primarily for its Jewish population. This factor aided in building a broad consensus around defining the regime as a “Jewish and democratic state”, while ignoring the eviction, colonialism, and the oppression of the Arab citizens living inside the Green Line, most conspicuously the Bedouins in the south.
In the past two decades, the regime between Jordan and Sea has been transforming into a new stage, I have termed it ‘oppressive consolidation’. Since the Oslo Accords, Israel has sought to stabilize the situation by carrying out strategic withdrawals–from Area A, from Lebanon, and in 2005, from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. In doing this, it has shown a certain willingness to allow the existence of a quasi-state Palestinian unit that would grant a degree of self-determination to the Palestinians, while legitimizing an “agreed-upon solution” that maintains Jewish control over most of the land between Jordan and Sea. To this we can add the proposals for a Palestinian state made by Barak and Olmert, and most significantly by Netanyahu in his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech and several statements following the 2013 elections, vowing to advance towards a situation of “two states, for two peoples”.
The present stage marks the weakening of Jewish colonialism in the face of international condemnation, Arab resistance, and the shrinking of direct Israeli rule. Some exceptions exist, such the establishment of outposts in the West Bank or new towns and villages in the Galilee and Negev, but the overall picture is of selective withdrawals. This stabilizing stage is taking place alongside accelerating globalization, development, and the onset of liberal tendencies of the Jewish population inside the Green Line. However, these withdrawals have not changed the structure or ideology regarding the Jewish aspiration to control the entire space between Jordan and Sea. Rather, at this stage, they constitute only a change in the methods of control over the Palestinians, from direct to partially indirect.
One of the most blatant expressions of the colonization and Jewish control is the issue of land. Israel has been laboring for sixty years on what Sandy Kedar has called “judicial land redemption”, in which Israel has registered more than 93 percent of the country’s territory and some one-half of the land in the West Bank as state land. As a result, the Palestinians, who amount to about one-half of the population between Jordan and Sea, control only some 15 percent of the land area. Inside the Green Line, the situation is worse–the Palestinians constitute 18 percent of the population but control only three percent of the land. This is the tip of the iceberg of deep and structural Judaization, which creates intense pressures and tension. These arise not only because of the prolonged dispossession, but also because the “state” became an entity that, rather than representing the whole population, represents almost exclusively its Jewish citizens.
The regime that characterizes all the stages is one I conceptualize as “ethnocracy” and it has ruled for 64 years inside the Green Line and for 45 years, somewhat differently, between Jordan and Sea. The cultural and economic details of this regime are laid out at length in my books and articles, but here I emphasize the observation that now in Israel/Palestine there is one regime–an ethnocracy that controls, in various means, the diverse populations, consistently giving preference to the Jewish population, and ranking the other groups according to their attitude toward the Zionist project.
However–and here I begin my argument with those who favor the one-state solution–who claim there is already one state between Jordan and Sea. Conceptually, it is necessary to distinguish between regime and state. Although there is one regime with sovereign powers vested in Israel and its institutions, there is not one state, since about half of the inhabitants are not, and apparently will not be, citizens. These people live under military rule or in a temporary status of one kind or another. In any event, this structure contains no political program that will bring all the permanent inhabitants of the area under one law, citizenship, or culture, as in customary in a modern state.
Furthermore, “beneath” the political geography of one colonial regime there are, according to international law, two states–Israel and Palestine. This was reinforced by the well-known 2004 decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague regarding the separation barrier, and many decisions of the UN Assembly and of the Arab League for the establishment of Palestine, which is yet to be fulfilled but receives the support of nearly all the international political and legal institutions. The territory between Jordan and Sea is home to two robust national movements that seek to realize their right to self-determination. Therefore, the Jewish ethnocratic regime between Jordan and Sea is not viable and cannot, at this stage, constitute a normative or legal basis for a joint state. We shall return to this later.
This analysis leads me to understand the geopolitical situation in Israel/Palestine as comparable to regimes in which only part of the territory is under their colonial control, and thus illegitimate, while the other parts are under legitimate sovereignty. This is a more complex view of the situation, comparing Israel/Palestine to, for example, the case of Britain in Ireland until 1921, the French in Algeria until the early 1960s; Jordan and the West Bank until 1987; and, recently, the situation in Serbia and Bosnia and Kosovo, Morocco and the Western Sahara, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and elsewhere. In the past, solutions to such partial colonial conflicts generally arose when the regime retreated from territories it held illegitimately and remained in control of its legitimate sovereign lands. In none of these cases, however, did the illegitimate occupation of territory lead to a threat to the existence of the mother state. This implied by the one-state proponents, who claim that Israel’s colonization of the West bank is irreversible. You don’t have to throw out the baby with the bath water.
Returning to the cases of the Israeli regime, we must admit that the analysis offered above is too “clean,” since it is hard to make a clear distinction between the different stages through which the Israeli regime has developed. This situation must trigger warning lights, inasmuch as the current regime continues to institutionalize the colonial situation in the West Bank, in the form described by Lev Grinberg through the oxymoron “democratic occupation”. I may add that one cannot make a clear distinction between both sides of the Green Line since Israel is also colonizing and Judaizing parts of its own legitimate territory, particularly the Negev and the mixed cities, in a process I describe as ‘internal colonization’.
The result is the gradual institutionalization of “separate but unequal,” and a structural process I have termed “creeping apartheid” that we have witnessed in the past decades. Naturally, Israel does not declare that such a process is in train, and continues to flag the hollow definition of a “Jewish and democratic state,” but it still settles Jews in the West Bank and Arab areas inside Israel, nationalizes Palestinian land, and enacts statutes separating Jews and Arabs in Israel and separating the two groups from Palestinians in the occupied territories. Thus, without formal declaration, Israel is, one step at a time, institutionalizing a de jure (and de facto of course) system that classifies populations between Jordan and Sea based on their ethnic origin and geographic place of residence, and imposes on each group a different system of control and privileges. In other words, as noted, a quiet but continuous and ‘thickening’ process of ‘creeping apartheid’.
This situation, needless to say, poses serious structural danger, but one that can be stopped. The confederation framework can stop it, and return fundamental democratic structure of full and equal citizenship to the entire population, as one would expect of a viable regime in the twenty-first century.
Return of the One State
In conjunction with these structural changes, the one-state idea, which had been seriously discussed in the 1930s and ‘40s, arose again. The books of Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ali Abunimah, and Virginia Tilley, published a few years ago, sparked a flood of writing on the subject. The one-state solution claims to guarantee an honorable way out of the contradictions described above. Proponents of the idea argue that Israel’s control in the occupied territories (reflected by the settlements, the military deployment, and the infrastructure for the most part) is irreversible and no longer enables establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
The alternative to two states, then, is to treat Mandatory Palestine as one “natural” political unit that will enable all its inhabitants to live in peace. The framework would, the proponents contend, eliminate one of the main obstacles in the conflict–the question of the refugees. The entire land of Israel/Palestine would be open to those who were forced from it. The other heated questions–the settlements and Jerusalem, for example–will be easier to resolve in the one-state strategy, which will neutralize the ethnic competition over territory, resources, and power that now characterize the relations between the sides.
The one-state idea has various hues. The democratic version offers a secular-liberal, bi-national, or multicultural state. The nationalist brand offers a Jewish or Arab ethnocracy with a sizeable minority; the religious version offers a state governed, interchangeably, by the Muslim Sharia or Jewish Halacha.
On the face of it, the one-state framework has great appeal. It is based on important ethical arguments; it is comprehensive, inclusive, and even elegant. It treats the political territory created by the British in 1917 as the basis future regime, and properly contends that for almost one hundred years (since 1917), with the exception of only nineteen years, the whole country was under one regime (though they do not give proper weight to the fact that, in the course of that nineteen-year period, the legitimate sovereign state of Israel was created).
Proponents of the plan also correctly identify the area between Jordan and Sea as the object of belonging and national aspiration of both Jews and Palestinians, who feel that the entire country is their homeland. A quick look at the Palestinian and Zionist maps, symbols, and publications indicate again and again the image of the entire land of Israel/Palestine as a single unit.
The attractive idea has spread rapidly. In recent years, it has been the most “bon-ton” proposal among Arab academics, and some Jews, primarily outside Israel. Among the Palestinians supporting the idea are researchers such as Nur Masalha, Ghazi Falah, Nadim Rouhana, George Basharat, Assad Ghanem, Ali Abunimah, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Omar Barghouti, Samira Esmeir, Ghada Karmi, Leila Farsakh, Huneida Ghanem, Islah Jad, Saree Makdisi, Azzam Tamimi, Nura Erekat, and Jamil Hilal. It is also interesting to note who has not supported the idea to the best of my knowledge–Samil Tamari, Rima Hamami, Rashid Khalidi, Saleh Abd al-Jawal, Sari Hanafi, Manuel Hassassian, and Beshara Doumani–all prominent thinkers who have refrained, for the time being, to hop on the one-state bandwagon.
The popularity of the idea among Palestinians is not surprising. It fits well with the long history of Palestinian opposition to partition recognition of a Jewish political entity in Israel/Palestine, fueled from the outset with some elements of political Islam. This stance stood until 1988, when the mainly secular PLO accepted the partition decision and recognized Israel. Since the rise of Hamas in the 1990s, and its victory in the 2006 elections, the Islamic agenda is again salient in Palestinian politics and with it the one-state idea. As we know, most Islamic movements view all of Israel/Palestine as sacred Waqf, which must be liberated, sooner or later, peacefully or violently. The one-state agenda fits well with these deep currents in Palestinian spatial imagery and aspiration.
Support for the one-state idea exists to a much lesser degree among Israeli Jews. It includes researchers such as Meron Benvenisti, Yehouda Shenhav, Niv Gordon, Ilan Pappe, Haim Braishit, Gabi Piterberg, and, recently, Yoav Peled. Less important are those who are not proponents, since most Jewish researchers continue to support two states, or even one Jewish state between Jordan and Sea, possibly with a few Palestinian enclaves. There is also international support for the idea, including among prominent researchers who have written extensively on the Zionist-Palestinian conflict, such as Virginia Tilley, whom I have already mentioned, the late Tony Judt, Ron Greenstein, and Judith Butler. Here, too, a number of prominent researchers oppose the idea, some of them critical researchers: Ian Lustick, Joel Migdal, Norman Finkelstein, and Noam Chomsky, for example.
Critique: Apolitical Political Geography
I agree with many of the aims and values of the democratic proponents of one state–equality, the creation of a common space for peace and trust, historical justice, and the peaceful reintegration of Israel and Palestine. The state, according to most progressive theorists, is a modern political entity whose goal is improvement of human life. A state–in and of itself–is not a worthy goal unless it advances human welfare. Yet, given the geopolitical settings in Israel/Palestine, and particularly the existence of Israel, the path to conciliation and acceptance cannot, I contend, be achieved by a one-state framework, but through gradual integration by means of two sovereign entities, within a confederation format, as I shall elaborate.
The main problem of one state is–ironically–that the idea is a-political: it does not properly cope with the political, legal, and violent forces holding the system it seeks to change–first and foremost–the existing (Israeli) state. None of the texts I have read offered any explanation why and how Israel would allow it to be replaced by a new political entity, which would completely change its identity and dramatically reduce the power of its dominant elites. A serious political analysis seeking to bring about change needs to deal with the validity and strength of the apparatuses it aspires to topple. The one-state strategy simply ignores this need.
Let us remember that following the establishment of the United Nations, the right of a state to exist under international law is inalienable. So is its right to territorial integrity and self-determination. These are the very arguments that make Israeli colonialism in the occupied territories illegal: it prevents realization of the Palestinian right to self-determination. But international law also ensures the validity of the Israeli state, which the one-state proponents seek to change completely. The one-state framework clashes with the rights of Israel as enshrined in international law, forming a serious flaw in a process that seeks to bring about political change.
From the historical and comparative perspective, a merger of type projected for Israel/Palestine by the one-state solution is without precedent in the present era. The historical record shows that only three unions of two states have been successful since 1945–North and South Vietnam, East and West Germany, and North and South Yemen. Each of these cases, we readily see, involved union of states populated by the same nation of people, previously split as a result of imperial policy. The merger came about with the consent of the peoples in the two uniting states. In contrast, there has never been a successful union of two states of different ethno-national character, certainly not after a century of bloody conflict.
Quite the opposite: partitioning, splitting and devolution of states are more common in world politics than ever before. Since the founding of the UN in 1945, thirty-five states have officially split (not including liberation from a colonial/imperial state, which occurred in some sixty other cases). The splits occurred in a number of principal waves:
(a)          The anti-colonial wave and its aftermath, which led to division of the colonies from the metropolitan states, and later to splits within the new states themselves, such as in India-Pakistan-Bangladesh, Korea, Ethiopia, Singapore-Malaysia, and Cyprus.
(b)          The post-Soviet wave, in which primarily the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were divided; at the same time, a number of states in Asia and Africa were established, among them East Timor and Eritrea.
(c)           The “ethnic-conflict” wave of recent years, in which new state-like entities (official or semi-official) have split following bitter ethnic fighting, such as Kosovo, Montenegro, Abkhazia, Ostia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kashmir, Gaza and South Sudan.
One-state proponents, then, seek to run counter to the grain of history, and create an entity that is without precedent, in which an ethnic state merges with a neighboring rival nation. The lack of precedent does not by itself prevent the one-state option, but one may still ask–why should the first such union occur in Israel/Palestine? Is it reasonable that a state comprised almost completely of (Jewish) refugees and descendants of refugees following genocide be the first to give up its cultural and ethnic dominance? It appears like one-state proponents are not attuned enough to the almost sacred status of the Israeli state in the eyes of most Jews, given their recent historical trauma and the nature of Zionist response to that trauma. In other words, it is hard to imagine any nation giving up its sovereign power, let alone imagine Israeli Jews acting in this way.
Another common argument of one-state proponents describes Israelization of the West Bank as irreversible. Indeed, there are now some two hundred settlements and outposts, towns have been founded, infrastructure laid, and industrial areas created, which annexed de facto large sections of the West Bank to Israel.
This thesis is problematic. It is built on an ethnocratic mind-set, which assumes a-priori that every area on which Jews have settled will remain under Jewish sovereignty, and that every Jew must continue living under Israeli rule. This mind-set fits well with the assumptions of the Israeli colonial regime in the occupied territories, but contradicts the long experience of liberal democracies, where minorities live among a majority having a different culture. Also, a recent report of B’Tselem, which I helped prepare, shows that the gross built-up area of the settlements covers less than two percent of the West Bank. So, despite the attempts of settlers and their supporters to destroy the Palestinian national space, the situation is not irreversible.
I do not ignore the bloody history of conflicts between the settlers and the Palestinians, but I also do not negate the possibility of coexistence with some (although not all) of the settlers, if they accept Palestinian sovereignty and give up their weapons. The confederation framework proposed here makes it easier for them to do this, in return of Palestinian guarantees for their safety and community.
The irreversibility thesis also assumes that, if no Palestinian state is established, there will arise in its place, almost by default, a joint (democratic) state for Israelis and Palestinians. The experience of the past four decades puts a question mark over this assumption. If a Palestinian state is not established, Israel will most likely continue to administer the area, possibly allotting crumbs of sovereignty to Palestinian groups in areas that will continue to function as “Palustans” (Palestinian Bantustans). The option, then, is not between one state and two, but between reconciliation (based in part on Israeli sovereignty) and deepening apartheid. It goes without saying that the Israeli sovereignty will apply only within the recognized borders of Israel, the area inside the Green Line, and that Israel must ensure the full rights of the Arab-Palestinian minority in the country, as well as the rights of other significant communities, the foremost being the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community.
Simultaneously, one-state proponents want to change the boundaries of the political debate, and to depict establishment of a Palestinian state as an arbitrary attempt to partition the country, echoing fears that draw on the trauma the Nakba events. This view again ignores the fact that, under current circumstances, establishment of a Palestinian state on all the occupied territories would be, first of all, an act of decolonization and not partition. This course of action also leaves open the possibility of recognizing Israel inside the Green Line as a legitimate political entity, after eliminating its colonial components, and upon granting equal citizenship to all its minorities.
Between South Africa and Serbia
Another important element of the comparative discourse is the difference between Israel/Palestine and South Africa. One-state proponents often compare the two cases. In both cases, dangerous conditions of racist apartheid developed. But, as I have written elsewhere, apartheid regimes, like all forms of governmental regimes, come in a variety of versions. Hence it’s not too strange that different models of apartheid–a regime based on principle of ‘separate and unequal’–developed in South Africa and Israel/Palestine.
Geopolitical analysis indicates a significant structural difference: South Africa was created as a single, recognized state that became a member of the United Nations, which at some stage denied citizenship to most of its black citizens. The blacks demanded a return of full citizenship in their state, which eventually was aided by the country’s move to democracy. In contrast, the juridical foundation of Israel/Palestine is two states, and Israeli citizenship was never granted, and hence never revoked from the Palestinians of of the West Bank and the Gaza.
A similarity to the South Africa case is found with respect to neighboring Namibia, a territory over which South Africa received an international mandate in 1920. When the mandate ended, South Africa refused to leave and imposed the apartheid laws on that territory. South Africa fought to put down an uprising that broke out in 1973 with international backing. In a situation that recalls the regime over Palestinian territories, the whites living in Namibia received full rights, and were even represented in South Africa’s parliament, while the blacks were denied their rights. Following the long period of rebellion and release of Nelson Mandela from prison, South Africa left Namibia, which became independent  in 1990.
Patterns of Serbian control over neighboring territories also show some important similarities. For several generations Serbia attempted to dominate surrounding states and regions. Territories held by Serbs outside the Serbian state included sections of Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Kosovo. Following the disappearance of Tito, Serbs enjoyed privileges over other ethno-national groups in these territories. During the 1990a Serbia gradually retreated from these territories, shrinking to its recognized borders, and ending the ‘separated and unequal’ conditions.
Political Geography of Morality
Proponents of one-state justifiably base their arguments on ethical considerations of historical justice and human rights–all highly worthy in the shaping of desirable political future. But at the same time, they tend to ignore countervailing ethical arguments. For example, the dissolution (some may say–disappearance) of a state like Israel (even a “soft” dissolution by uniting it with a neighbor in a way that does not entail occupation or violence) seriously violates the rules of international morality as they exist in the present global political-legal international system. Israel is not “just another” state, but a political entity created by and for refugees after an unprecedented genocide committed against the Jews. The one-state plan will gravely harm a supreme value of international law, and Israeli Jews. Under such circumstances, it is hard to imagine the one-state plan as an option for peace.
Furthermore, in most of the peace frameworks based on one state, such as the One-State Declaration, which most of the proponents have signed, there is no explicit recognition of the Jews’ right to self-determination (except in the writings of Assad Ghanem and Nadim Rouhana). The leading thinkers in this sphere, George Basharat, Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Saree Makdasi and Virginia Tilley, for example, and the late Edward Sa’id, relate generally to the one future state as non-sectarian. The collective rights of Jews, for example, in the one-state declaration, arise only from a number of references to “the concerns and fears of the Jews” as a protected religious (or ethnic) minority, or as a protected community (perhaps in accordance with the dhimmi tradition in Islam). In the present reality, the one-state framework, regardless of the ethical rhetoric in which it is wrapped, significantly denies existing and legitimating  political rights. I am not referring to privileges that the Jews enjoy (which should be revoked), but to the basic right of self-determination, inside a recognized state. Have the one-state theorists considered if this denial is morally justified?
Another moral issue concerns the following question: is it ethical to demand that Israel, with the traumatic past of its citizens, to lose its state identity for the sake of merging with a state of a nation with which it is in a bitter conflict? A generous interpretation would consider it a naïve demand; showing a lack of historical awareness. A more sinister interpretation would consider it an attempt to undermine the foundation of Israeli existence. My comments should not be understood as approval for the immoral acts committed by Israel–expulsion, ethnic oppression, settlements, prevention of Palestinian self-determination, and so forth–against which I have fought for decades. But a distinction must be made between a critical analysis of Israel’s criminal policies and its existence itself, which should not be a subject for discussion between people interested in reconciliation and peace.
A personal piece of history would shed light on another problematic aspect of the one-state strategy.  In the 1960s and ‘70s, my father had extensive ties with Arabs in the Galilee. He had a particularly close relationship with the Shufani family in M’ilia, to which he went for weddings and other family occasions. The family had an elderly uncle who would talk at length about his pre-1948 travels to Beirut and Damascus, (and on the beautiful women there). I remember how he would sigh, again and again: “Lesh fi hadol el-hudood! Ragh’uni li’lbilad a-sham!” [“Why do these borders exist … take me back to ‘greater Syria’ (the area of Palestine-Syria-Lebanon, which was once a seamless political unit).” This longing for an open Middle East is of course shared by many individuals, including myself. For the private person, the non-political person, open and accessible space is far better than borders and restrictions. But this is a nostalgic hope, not to say illusory, detached from juridical and political settings of our times. Hoping to erase structural or legal elements that came into being since 1948 (such as modern states) is not a political program or serious analysis, but wishful thinking.
In this context, the Jewish researchers often quote the heritage of Brit Shalom, the impressive organization of intellectuals that was active in the country during the British Mandate and worked hard to prevent partition of Mandatory Palestine and for a binational state. Without delving into the fascinating writings of Magnes, Buber, and Schalom, I will mention that there is a big difference between a discussion on a Jewish-Arab state before the founding of an independent Israeli state, and the discussion on that option after the state was established. At present, the one-state solution must entail the negation of Israel’s existence as an independent state. This is a major obstacle.
Further–good ideas are not sufficient. To most prominent scholars who deal with the links between theoretical writing and political recruitment, such as Gramsci, Fanon, Lefebvre, Sartre, Russell, Gandhi, and even Edward Sa’id, the role of the intellectual is, first, to courageously expose publically unjust and oppressive reality. Second, the intellectual must also create a political avant-garde that can be translated into action in the political arena. The intellectual is active in the public arena in the discourse of producing ideas and tools for transformation, liberation, and ending oppression. But these are developed within the spheres of social or political systems. That is, they challenge the institutional powers and the resources through which skewed power relations are determined. Where only esoteric or theoretical thought is involved, Gramsci argues that the intellectual becomes marginal, mired in the swamp of hollow discussions, thereby serving the hegemony that continues to rule unchallenged in the political and economic reality.
This is, of course, an evasive line. It is very hard to assess, in real time, the ability of new ideas to break into the political field. I am convinced that most writers at the forefront of the one-state strategy believe that their efforts are politically influential. Still, since we are involved in a debate about the foundations of the existing geographic-political-legal systems, within which we all work, ideas that seek to make the existence of a legitimate state redundant appear too far from political or legal feasibility, and hence from the ability to jointly mobilize Israelis and Palestinians.
Attitude toward Present Struggles
By its nature, the one-state movement does not take part in contemporary struggles on both sides of the Green Line. Although most of its leading figures certainly oppose all types of oppression, they are in a dilemma since it is harder for them to battle against the expansion of Jewish West Bank settlements, for example, if on the horizon they share a geopolitical goal with these settlements–the prevention of the two-state solution.
Therefore, is there not a danger that the one-state movement would actually assist, with its relative indifference to contemporary Palestinian struggle for sovereignty, in strengthening the oppressive status quo? Wouldn’t the demand for a new political framework enable continuation of Palestinian suffering? Wouldn’t the intellectual journey toward one-state harm the struggle for a Palestinian state and equality for the Palestinian minority inside Israel? These are complex questions that proponents of one state must address.
Take the ‘vision documents’, charted by leading Palestinians inside Israel only a few years ago. These made an uncompromising demand for civil equality and collective rights for Palestinians within Israel, and caused much uproar for demanding (rightly) an end to Jewish hegemony. The documents mentioned the present state of Israel (without the occupied territories) as the political framework, and the basis for their struggle, and hence, as a legitimate entity. But, over the course of just a few years, some of the writers of the vision documents have changed their opinion and now support a one-state solution, meaning that they advocate the establishment of a new political domain and negate their own recent call. This change is surprising, and lessens the credibility of the vision documents.
Another problem is that most proponents of the one-state solution ignore the geographical congruence of the one-state solution with the messianic visions for the future of Israel/Palestine, especially Jewish settlers, and the Hamas. The growing volume of writings on a future democratic one-state solution focuses on human rights, and a benign transition to an all-inclusive democracy. They ignore, however, the very possible scenario that once a single political unit is established from Jordan to Sea, the democrats and liberals may be pushed aside in favor of fundamental religious powers from each nation, vying to fulfill their messianic visions. The leading writers in the field, such as Abunimah, Basharat, Ghanem, Tilley, Rouhana, Shenhav, and Benvenisti, ignore almost completely this dire possibility.
As we know, Hamas won the Palestinian elections and remains firm in its opposition to recognize Israel. Some of the talk is tactical, but some represents deep Palestinian and Islamic aspirations. How can one ignore this plan to turn Israel/Palestine–the framework sought by the one-state proponents–into a Shari’a state? Would it be possible to separate between Hamas’s vision and the vision of the liberal Palestinians for one state? Wouldn’t the possibility of one state increase support for Hamas’s vision among Palestinians? And let us not forget that in Israel too, strong political elements (led by the ruling Likud’s convention) seek to use the same territorial unit, between Jordan and Sea, to create a ‘greater’ Jewish state–ethnocratic or religious. From an ethical perspective, are the advocates of a democracy between Jordan and Sea ready for the possibility that religious or counter-colonial entities gain control over Palestinian politics, as they have done in many other countries in the Mideast, most notably Iran and Egypt?
I am convinced that the one-state proponents do not intend to cause further suffering in our land, or advance the agenda of messianic and anti-democratic political parties. Most, I assume, seek peace and justice. But a serious discussion must deal with the troubling truth that mobilization for one state induces serious researchers and writers to join the fray, thereby weakening the struggle to end Israeli colonialism and establish a Palestinian state. Simultaneously, the one-state mobilization promotes the geographic agenda of fundamental religious (Muslim and Jewish) movements. These factors significantly reduce the democratic appeal and political feasibility of the one-state vision.
Practically speaking, it is hard to imagine the one-state solution gaining serious momentum. It is of course a type of ‘default’ destination, hanging over Israel’s unending colonial rule, but not a convincing political agenda, for several reasons. First, as already noted, its proponents do not answer the key question: Why would the Jews forgo Israel as the state of the Jewish/Israeli nation? Since approval of Israeli citizens is vital for a democratic process that leads to one state, what sensible or utilitarian reason can be raised to convince Israeli Jews that one state will benefit them when it will almost certainly, sooner or later, have an Arab majority? I leave aside the weighty ethical question of the legitimacy of ethnic considerations in democratic politics. Rather, I ask a practical question, the answer to which is, I believe, clear. Public-opinion surveys taken among Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel indicate that, despite the dissatisfaction with the ethnocracy and oppression in Israel, a stable and large majority prefer the two-state solution. Is it not obvious, then, that most Israelis would prefer, if they had to choose between annexation of the settlements and the continued existence of the state, to shrink geographically rather than become “Isra-stine”?
Furthermore, as it stands now, there is not one official political body, Palestinian or Jewish, that has adopted, as a recruiting and crusade framework, the concept of one democratic state (some religious groups support one state, but not a democratic one). This is understandable, since the framework for discussion so far has been based on the idea of two states as the action plan of the left, and a meeting point for the political elites opposing Israeli control in the occupied territories. However, I may add that the lack of a meaningful movement towards two states, some twenty years after the Oslo Accords, raises serious doubts about the simplistic two-state option. The confederation option is offered below to address this weakness.
Still with practical considerations, what do the one-state proponents demand from the Israeli regime? Give up its control on its accord? Dissolve the Knesset and establish a substitute parliament? And if so, is the Knesset–the sovereign body–expected to dissolve itself? Is the Zionist Knesset supposed to repeal all the Basic Laws and amend the Zionist Declaration of Independence?
Or, alternatively, will the immediate demand be to grant citizenship to four to five million Palestinians and millions of refugees? Will this action be taken by the same Knesset that enacted the racist Citizenship Law? To remind you, even Abir al-Sana, wife of Murad al-Sana, my neighbor and friend from Beersheba, and mother of his children, who was born in Bethlehem, cannot obtain citizenship after ten years of marriage to an Israeli citizen. What will convince the ethnocratic Zionist sovereign to take such actions? Possibly, international pressure can assist, but, as I noted previously, it is highly likely that most Israelis would prefer retreat to losing Jewish sovereignty, and to admitting millions of Palestinians as citizens.
So, at this stage, it is very doubtful, to say the least, that Israel will take these actions. To be sure, Israel acts in a deceptive and cynical manner,-“colonizing”. It continues to colonize the West Bank, thereby preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, and simultaneously shedding crocodile tears over the purported threats to the “fragile and endangered” Jewish state. Here, too, it is clear to most thinking persons that this is self-deception, and that Israel’s colonial rule and “creeping apartheid” are not sustainable and must end. However, the battle against Israel’s wrongdoing, and in favor of Palestinian rights, must be based on the legitimate foundation of Israel as a state, confined to its recognized borders.
Let us return in the remaining minutes to the concept of confederation. The need for such a horizon begins with the justifiable fear of one-state proponents that the Palestinian state will not be genuinely sovereign. It appears that if it ever comes to being, Israeli (and US) policies and demands will devoid it from controlling many aspects of its sovereignty–such as borders, security or water. The deep split between Fatah and Hamas and between the West Bank and Gaza contributes to Palestinian weakness and the grim prospects of establishing a Palestinian state, as an end state strategy.
The classical two-state path is also threatened by structural deficiencies in the citizenship of Palestinians in Israel. The value of this citizenship is being undermined by the prolonged oppression of Arabs in Israel, and of the natural inclination to support their brethren in the occupied territories. This persistent tension is a complex challenge to the internal strength of the Jewish state. The cracks have widened significantly in the Negev, where Israel attempts to remove many unrecognized Bedouin villages, which sit on their ancestors lands; thus deepening the polarization between Jews and Arabs inside the Green Line.
It appears as if these structural difficulties can be resolved, neither by one state, nor by two, but by development of a third space–conceptually and politically–that is located between these options. Such a space combines elements of the other two options, but does not violate the principle of Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty. The confederation option overcomes many of the geographic and security complexities and the complicated historical and community settings in the shared homeland.
Confederation enables progress by maintaining the logic and significant symbolism of two sovereign spaces for two national communities, while developing a “layer” of joint administration on key matters that may include: environment, external security, economy, transportation, immigration, and even a joint body to protect human rights. The confederation model creates a single economic market and freedom of movement for purposes of employment, tourism, trade and even limited residence. The model, in accordance with international law–can rely on the foundation of two states. On this basis, progress can be made to create a functioning system that will not only be economically beneficial for the two nations, it will also advance historical justice for Palestinians and Jews.
The confederation framework, with international support, will enable the two sides to move toward reconciliation. It will be easier for each side to proceed from Point A (the existing colonial ethnocracy) to Point B (reconciliation and inevitable compromise), when both sides see Point C (the confederation arrangement). In this arrangement, the two sides provide each other invaluable assets: Israel allows, at last, Palestinian sovereignty, movement in the entire homeland and economic development; and the Palestinians provide safety for the existence of the Israeli state. Hence, the sovereignty and security of each nation will be profoundly assisted by the existence of joint arrangements that will ensure for coming generations not only their political rights, but also development, water, infrastructures, natural resources, environmental quality and personal security. In other words, realization of full citizenship, security, and development for Israeli citizens entails also realization of those benefits for citizens of Palestine, and vice versa.
According to the framework developed in detail in several articles, the confederation model is based on two sovereign entities in the 1967 borders, in which the laws of Israel and Palestine would apply accordingly. This is accompanied by the establishment of an autonomous and shared capital region in metropolitan Jerusalem/al-Quds (the Capital Region). The Israeli-Palestinian Confederation Council (probably under a different name such as Council of “The Union” or “The Treaty”), elected by citizens of the two states, will be created and empowered to set policies on agreed subjects. Inhabitants of the two states will be guaranteed freedom of movement throughout, for purposes of employment, leisure, trade, and tourism, but without automatic right for long-term residency which will have to be approved by the host state.
Another possibility, raised now and then, is to bring Jordan into the arrangement and develop the Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian space of joint management of economic, security, and environmental matters. Given the complexity and sensitivity of the proposed setup, and past failures to advance confederations with Jordan, I recommend that in the first stage at least, Jordan will be left out of the equation.
The confederation model is flexible enough to assist the resolution of ‘core issues’ in the Zionist-Palestinian conflict. As for the Palestinian Right of Return, Israel already recognized the right when it was accepted into the UN in 1949. However, there is no need, I believe, to demand its current implementation, since it would rectify one injustice by creating another, and would completely change the character of Israel and consequently harm the right of Israelis to self-determination. So I propose that the right of return will be exercised, in the spirit of the solutions reached in most comparable cases, primarily to the nation-state to which the refugees belong–Palestine.
The refugee issue may even offer an opportunity for promoting historic reconciliation: in the name of a new symmetry, Israel will allow residency to Palestinians returnees in a number equivalent to the amount of Jewish settlers remaining in Palestine. Israel’s absorption of these refugees will be based on criteria the Palestinians set, which may include, for example, giving priority to refugees from Lebanon, who suffer from harsh living conditions, and to persons born in Palestine prior to 1948.
Regarding Jewish settlements, the confederation model allows most of the settlements to remain, provided they do not challenge Palestinian sovereignty. The objective is to prevent a deep crisis in Israel and mass uprooting, which would undoubtedly have a negative effect on Palestine as well. In researching the recent report by B’Tselem, which I mentioned earlier, we found that the built-up area of the settlements covers one percent of the land area of the West Bank, and the settlements’ built-up surrounding areas, which include necessary infrastructures, cover an additional two and a half percent. In principle, it is possible to include these settlements in the Palestinian state, after they are demilitarized, and the confiscated land is paid for, with the Palestinian state being responsible for their security. The public infrastructure (roads, industrial areas, purification facilities, and so forth) that was built for the settlements will be transferred to the Palestinian state and made available for the use of its inhabitants.
Presumably, as a result of the establishment of Palestinian sovereignty over the settlements, a large proportion of their settlers will leave the West Bank, and Israel will have to make plans for absorbing them. Upon Palestinian consent to allow settlers to remain in their homes, a significant number of them will stay and become residents or citizens of the Palestinian state, reducing the shock to Israeli society and sending an important message, that a new page in Israeli-Palestinian relations has been turned. The ability of a Palestinian state to protect a small Jewish minority will also be a positive step towards genuine reconciliation.
Simultaneously, the confederation plan must promote democratization of Israeli and Palestinian regimes. Israel should be redefined as belonging to the Jewish-Israeli nation as well as the Palestinian minority. Democratization of the space must also ensure full and equal citizenship for the minority population, including a fair share of the state’s resources and budgets, return of confiscated land, recognition of all the Bedouin villages, representation in public institutions, and cultural and educational autonomy. The status of the Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel is crucial to stability of the system, not only because the minority is entitled to these rights, but because internal ethnic conflicts can easily undermine political systems, as has occurred around the world – from Turkey to Thailand, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Cyprus, Spain, Georgia, Iraq, and to India and Sudan.
Returning to a point already mentioned, it is worth repeating that the plan I propose resurrects the political framework of UN Resolution 181, of 1947, which was called at the time “partition with economic union” and established Jerusalem as an autonomous region. True, at the time, the resolution appeared hostile to the Palestinian people and imposed on them harshly. However, in an historic reversal, the confederation scheme allows Palestinians, more than six decades later, to regain most of their political rights, while advancing toward cautious and responsible reintegration of the Israeli and Palestinian spaces. This historical reversal symbolically began on 29 November 2012, precisely 65 years after the original UN decision, when the UN Assembly decided to award Palestine the status of “a non-member state”.
To repeat, Resolution 181 is one of the only resolutions regarding Israel/Palestine that was endorsed by both sides–by the Zionists in 1947, and by the Palestinians in 1988. It is worthwhile quoting from the declarations of independence of the two peoples, which relate to the UN resolution in question. The Israeli Declaration of Independence, of 1948, declares:
. . . by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.
The Palestinian Declaration of Independence answers it, forty-one years later:
… historical injustice was inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people … following upon UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947).. . . yet it is this Resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty. . .
In addition to UN resolutions, the confederation solution will jumpstart what I referred to in my writings as a process of “gradual bi-nationalism,” the vital element for moving our land into a post-colonial and democratic stage on both sides of the Green Line. The two sovereign states, the autonomous Jerusalem region, as well as other urban regions, such as Haifa, Nazareth and Beersheba, would be binational and multicultural.
I do not have time here to discuss the many inevitable problems in implementing the confederation governmental structure. These begin, first and foremost, with security arrangements, and the management of state violence and terror, which requires a lecture of its own. Other key problems will involve the absorption of Palestinians in the Israeli labor markets and the relaxation of civil relations between remaining Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West bank. The management of Jerusalem, based on equality will also be a major challenge. The many inevitable difficulties can be countered by three key points. First, the confederation framework is flexible and the depth of cooperation is likely to gradually strengthen over time, as security and relations between the sides improve. The confederation model is typically characterized by decentralization, enabling the existence of autonomous regions and diverse and multicultural forms of government, which is suitable for Israeli and Palestinian societies, composed of many different cultural and regional communities. One promising possibility, raised by attorney Hassan Jabarin, is drafting and adopting a democratic overarching-constitution between Jordan and Sea as a foundation for administering Israel and Palestine. Such a constitution will ensure the right to self-determination of the two peoples and also the rights of the individual citizen and of the minority communities, on both sides of the border. The political structure, if based on viable foundations, will lead to the gradual integration of the Israeli-Palestinian space, possibly leading, later down the road, to the making of a federation.
Second, the proposed model allows for a gradual decentralization of many aspects of governance into metropolitan spaces, which would reflect the high degree of urbanization in Israel/Palestine. The urban scale is promising, as it neutralizes the “burden” of historical, religious and territorial issues, so dominant in other scales. We can picture, for example, such functioning metropolitan regions around Nazareth-Karmiel, Haifa, Nablus, Ramallah, Gush Dan, and Beersheba, along with the autonomous metropolitan region of Jerusalem/al-Quds. Urban spaces are generally open and encourage movement and mixing; they can introduce more direct, inclusive and democratic forms of government less dependent on fixed identities; they can reorient public discourse to present future issues, rather than burdening history and identity.
Third, confederation opens the possibility for novel and original thinking that may rekindle the hope for peace which has been all but extinguished over the past decade. The framework proposed here provides a better (albeit imperfect) answer to the deep problems of the conflict than the other proposed solutions, in a way that does not impinge on Israeli or Palestinian sovereignty, which still forms the basis for global political-geographic order. Most importantly, the proposed arrangement entails acceptance of Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian sovereign entities, not only in our homeland but throughout the Mideast–two objectives for their attainment no stone should remain unturned.
Yes, the confederation path sounds utopian, for the time being. Yet, it enables us to imagine and plan a third space, post-colonial and democratic, between the polarized and unachievable one- and two-state solutions. It also allows the mobilization of wide public support among both Israelis and Palestinians, unattainable by all other political agendas. Under confederation, Israel and Palestine will be able to advance toward real reconciliation, for which generations of Palestinians and Israelis have been yearning in their shared homeland. The path to realizing this horizon may be best captured by the gentle words of the poet Yehuda Amichai, “the two of us together, and each one of us alone.”
Since the lecture, conditions for peace in Israel/Palestine continue to be confusing. On the one hand, the Israeli government has sustained its unabated colonization of the West Bank, and deepened its attempts to control Israel’s Palestinian citizens, most notably the Bedouins in the south. On the other hand, Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed his (vague) commitment to a ‘two states for two nations’ solution, and agreed to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, still headed by Mahmoud Abbas.  On the Palestinian side Hamas maintains its rejectionist position to recognition of Israel, while opinion polls show growing Palestinian support for the one-state solution. Israel’s elections, held in early 2013, did not bring a major change on the Palestinian issue, returning Netanyahu to power, with a slightly modified coalition. The new government appears to promote both further liberalization of economy and society and continued colonization of Palestinian territories. The stalemate has thus not broken, causing a growing sense of despondence among both nations. It appears as if the confederation idea outlined above is one of the only viable options to break the deadlock. During the last year, a group of Palestinians and Israelis, including the author of this paper, was formed to promote the idea. The group plans to produce a series of documents and public debates, in an effort to inject new life into the effort to transform the colonial setting in Israel/Palestine into a process of reconciliation and peace.
Professor Yiftachel teaches urban studies and political geography at Ben-Gurion University, Beersheba. He has published over 100 articles and ten authored and co-edited books, including Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Palestine/Israel (2006), Planning as Control: Policy and Resistance in Divided Societies (1995), and Indigenous (in)Justice (co-author, 2012). Yiftachel serves on the editorial boards of such journals as Urban Studies and theInternational Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. He has taught at a range of universities, including the University of Melbourne, Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Cape Town. He is also chair of B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO that monitors human rights violations in the Palestinian Territories.
Further readings:
Abunimah, A. 2006. One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. New York: Metropolitan Books.
Abu-Odeh, L. 2008. “The Case for Binationalism.” Boston Review. Retrieved at
Avneri, U. and I. Pappe 8 May 2007. “Gush Shalom Forum – Two States or One State.” Retrieved at (Hebrew).
Azoulai, R. and A. Ofir 2008. This Regime that is Not One: Democracy and Occupation between Jordan and Sea. Tel Aviv: Resling (Hebrew).
Benvenisti, M. 23 January 2010. “How Israel became a binational state.” Haaretz Magazine. Retrieved at
Ghanem, A. 11 June 2007. “One state is enough.” Haaretz Magazine. Retrieved at
Ghanem, A. 2003. “The Status of the Palestinians in Israel in the Era of Peace: Part of the Problem but not Part of the Solution.” Israel Affairs 9(1-2): 263-289.
Grinberg, L.  2010, The Israeli-Palestinian Union: The “1-2-7 States” Vision of the Future
Grinberg, L. 2008. “Democratic Occupation Army?”, Sociologia Yisraelit 7:1: 297-323 (Hebrew).
Hanafi, S. 2003. “The broken boundaries of statehood and citizenship.” Broken Boundaries 2(3). Retrieved at
Hilal, J. 2007. Where Now for Palestine?: The Demise of the Two-State Solution. London: Zed Books.
Judt, T. 23 October 2003. “Israel: The Alternative.” The New York Reviews of Books. Retrieved at
Khalidi, R. and A. Abunimah 2009. “One or Two?” Democracy Now. Retrieved at
Lustick, I. 2002. “The Cunning of History, A Response to the Case for Binationalism.” Boston Review. Retrieved at
Makdisi, S.  2010. Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation. New York: W.W. Norton.
O’Leary, B., J. McGarry, and S. Khaled (Eds.) 2005. The Future of Kurdistan in Iraq. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Peled, Y. and H.H. Peled 29 January 2012. “The way forward in the Middle East.” Informed Comment. Retrieved at
Piterberg, G. 24 October 2011. “Annex the territories already.” Haaretz Magazine. Retrieved at
Plosker, S. 22 February 2012. “Finkelstein on BDS: A Cult of Dishonesty.” HonestReporting. Retrieved at
Qumsiyeh, M.B. 2004. Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. London: Pluto Press.
Shenhav, Y. 2010. In the Trap of the Green Line: A  Jewish Political Essay. Tel Aviv: Am Oved (Hebrew)..
Tamari, S. 1 April 2004. The Two-State Solution – Argument and Political Consequences. Jerusalem: Passia.
Tamari, S. 2012. “Is there a Palestinian Strategy?” Jaddaliya. Retrieved at
Tamimi, A. 2007. Hamas: the Unwritten Chapters. London: Hurst.
The One-State Declaration 2007. Retrieved at
Weiss, P. 4 April 2009. “Chomsky: I’ve been for one state all my life, but we need two states first.” Mondoweiss. Retrieved at
Yiftachel, O. 2005. “Neither Two States Nor One: The Disengagement.” The Arab World Geographer 8(3):125-130.
Yiftachel, O. (2006) Ethnocracy: Land, and the Politics of Identity Israel/Palestine (PennPress – the University of Pennsylvania Press
Yiftachel, O. (2012). ‘Between Colonialism and Ethnocracy: ‘Creeping Apartheid in Israel/Palestine’, in Jeenah, N. (ed),Pretending Democracy: Israel, an Ethnocratic State, African Middle East Centre, Johannesburg, pp. 95-116.
© MEI Singapore 2013.

 Colonial Deadlock or Confederation for Israel/Palestine?

By Oren Yiftachel

At the beginning of 2013 the Israeli-Palestinian scene is once again confusing. On the one hand, Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, have announced in recent times their agreement to the principle of “two states for two peoples.” Even the hard-line Hamas has occasionally expressed support for the Arab Peace Initiative, implying a two state future. The UN General Assembly’s overwhelming support in November 2012 of the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders was another encouraging sign for peace and the end of Israeli colonial rule of Palestine.
On the other hand, concrete and political factors have been working precisely in the opposite direction. Israel has continued its suffocating siege of Hamas’ Gaza, and in response to Palestinian shelling of Israel’s southern regions, Israel recently (again) caused widespread destruction during Operation “Column of Defense.” This was answered with renewed hardening of Hamas statements, with leader Khaled Mash’al during his December 2012 visit to Gaza calling again to destroy the state of Israel and “liberate the entire Palestine, from River to Sea.” In parallel, and after a short lull during 2010, Israel has continued to settle Jews in large numbers in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and has built dozens of new “outpost” settlements, further slicing the already fragmented Palestinian Territory. Following the UN decision, Israel announced it will build more than a thousand housing units east of Jerusalem, permanently dividing the West Bank into two parts so as to prevent the establishment of a continuous state.

These seemingly conflicting trends illustrate the colonial deadlock that has typified Israel/Palestine since the 1995 assassination of Yizhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who attempted to make a breakthrough reconciliation with the Palestinians. Since his assassination, Israel has accompanied its putative pursuit of peace, with the creation of obstacles to that very “peace.” Under the empty slogan of “two states for two peoples,” Israeli actions have rendered the establishment of a viable independent Palestinian state virtually impossible. This is mainly due to Israel’s deepening and illegal colonial rule that has had major spatial, demographic, and economic consequences and to the associated phenomenon of Palestinian fragmentation, radicalization, and terror against Israeli civilians.
Against these circumstances, a strong, even-handed international intervention is needed to enforce international law, with Europe, the Arab states, and possibly Asia as key players joining or even replacing a lackluster United States, which has shown reluctance to face its aggressive Jewish lobby working against Middle Eastern peace. The recent transformations in the Arab world are likely to increase pressure on Israel once the new regimes reach internal stability. Europe too is likely to add weight to its efforts, given its close proximity to the Middle East and its historical responsibility for the welfare of the region. But will the new environment be sufficient to end Israeli colonial rule over Palestine and bring peace?
I argue that international political will is no longer enough. Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts need a new paradigm to replace the failed two-state solution while not falling into the trap of pursuing the risky one-state solution, which has resurfaced in recent years. I argue that new interventions and peace programs need to adopt a new “confederational” framework. Given the history and political geography of Israel/Palestine, such a framework is the only viable path to turn the current condition of “creeping apartheid”—in which the political status quo of deepening Israeli colonization and Palestinian resistance is creating an undeclared, yet profound, process of institutionalizing “separate and unequal” rights for Jews and Palestinians living under the same regime.
Continuing Jewish oppression and forced separation, even if accompanied by the establishment of a weak Palestinian state, is likely to continue the instability in the region. A sieged and divided Palestinian state—the one offered in the past by Israel— would most likely be hostile and greatly influenced by Hamas or other radical elements. The typical dialectics of ethnic conflict would likely produce evermore hardline Israeli governments, which would deepen the deadlock. A two-state solution would also leave a small and fragmented Palestinian state dependent on Israel, unable to properly absorb Palestinian refugees and forced to manage frustration regarding the lack of substantive progress on several core issues, most prominently genuine sovereignty, mobility, and the right of return.
Yet the “one-state solution” is also problematic and risky. This option was the main Palestinian demand until the recognition of UN decisions in 1988. It may appear logical, given the status of Palestine/Land of Israel as a natural geographical unit between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the small size of the territory in question, and the status of this land as the cherished homeland of both Jews and Palestinians. But the one-state solution also implies the dissolution of Israel into a new entity. This runs against international law and the basic rights of Israelis for self- determination, and is hence virtually a non-starter for most Israeli Jews, who would present stiff and legally legitimate resistance to the de facto disappearance of their state. The one-state solution also runs counter to the aspirations and rights of many Palestinians for the establishment of a nation-state for which they have struggled for nearly a century. Thus, both the two- and one-state “solutions” currently on the table are highly problematic.

Political geography of protracted conflict
Recent Israeli unilateral policy initiatives—backed by the United States—have continued the post-Oslo trend of Jewish territorial consolidation and Palestinian fragmentation. Such policies have included the Gaza disengagement in 2005 and the imposition of a siege over the area since Hamas took control of it in 2007; the construction of the illegal separation barrier within the West Bank that began in 2003 and is still continuing; and the rapid expansion of Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank. This phase is causing radicalization among the Palestinians, marked by the popular election of Hamas to lead the Palestinian authority in 2006 and the ongoing popularity of Hamas and its allied jihadist organizations since.
This oppressive setting is delaying the necessary dialogue between Jews and Palestinians about core issues (recognition, refugees, Jerusalem, the status of Arabs in Israel, borders, and settlements) without which reconciliation is impossible. These conditions are also a sure recipe for continuing cycles of mutual violence and terror that could endanger the entire region and beyond. The creeping apartheid dynamic is also eroding the belief of most Palestinians in the viability of a legitimate independent state in the Occupied Territories, redirecting their struggle to alternative routes, including the mobilization of an Islamic revolution or a civil struggle for a one-state solution.
Yet comparative research gives some hope. It shows that settler-colonial states have generally preferred to shrink rather than give up their regime and state power. The most famous counterexample, which has some similarities, is South Africa—but here we saw the democratization of an existing state rather than the ending of colonial occupation outside state boundaries, as is the case in Israel/Palestine. Shrinkage occurred when Britain gave up control over Ireland; when France left Algiers; when Serbia left Bosnia and Kosovo; when Jordan left the West Bank; or even when Russia gave up control over the Soviet Union. Essentially, the core national state would generally prefer to shrink rather than be dissolved. The lessons for Palestine are clear, although its historical, political, and geographical conditions are more complex and thus require fresh thinking.
However, present structural and political factors militate against the creation of a viable, legitimate Palestinian state. Structural factors include the land, settlement, demographic, security, and economic systems supporting Israeli colonialism. Other factors include undemocratic group relations within the Israeli polity, especially vis-à- vis its Palestinian citizens, whose voice is nearly totally absent from Israeli decision making forums. In contrast, the settler Jewish population that resides outside the state’s borders receives full political rights and is the most overrepresented Israeli group in the Israeli parliament and government.
In addition, the timing of public support for peace among Israelis and Palestinians appears to be persistently at odds. During the mid-1990s, the vast majority of Palestinians supported a two-state solution, while most Israelis rejected such a scenario. In the 2006 elections, for the first time in history Israel elected a parliament with a majority supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state (69 of 120). In the same year the rejectionist Hamas won the Palestinian elections, thereby continuing the deadlock. More recently, in 2009 the Israelis voted in the hard-line and colonialist Likud government and the Palestinian Authority has declared its commitment to a two-state solution and its opposition to armed struggle.
Beyond political settings reality “on the ground” has fundamentally changed the West Bank. Over 500,000 Jews have now settled there (including occupied East Jerusalem), and Israel may well be unable to transform this political geography even if it wished to do so. At the same time, 1.4 million marginalized Palestinians reside inside Israel, opposing in the main the state’s ethnocratic Jewish culture and its colonial control over the West Bank and Gaza. Clearly, the deadlock in Israel/Palestine is deep and complex. Its surface expression reveals two national movements struggling for control, but deeper currents of history, refugeeness, religion, economy, and colonial rule make the lines of conflict more profound and protracted.

Moving ahead
So, what can be done? The deadlock is indeed deep and complex, but it can be broken with determined, benign, and evenhanded international intervention in addition to the more creative approach of a Palestinian-Israeli confederation. This approach would first and foremost enforce international law and assist the two nations financially, given the huge expense associated with the resettlement of Palestinian refugees, possible evacuation of (some if not all) Jewish settlements, and the much needed reconstruction of the Palestinian space and economy. But equally important, an evenhanded international intervention would guarantee the right of both nations for peaceful fulfillment of their national goals. As noted, Europe and Asia should be key players due to their growing trade and cultural connections to the two sides and their status as neutral interlocutors.
But even within the known parameters of international law, a fresh approach is needed. The confederation of the two states would accompany the democratization of Palestine and Israel and establish a “layer” of joint Israel-Palestinian governance and management of key issues. The confederation framework would be based on the following core principles:

Establishing a joint body (possibly called “the Palestine-Israel Union”) based on parity to which the two states would allocate policy and legal responsibilities to manage joint issues, such as natural resources, economic arrangements, defense, and immigration
Granting Israelis and Palestinians full membership in “the Union” beyond full citizenship in their respective states
Establishing a united “capital region” in Jerusalem/al-Quds as an autonomous region managed by equal representation of Palestinian, Israel, and international elements
Maintaining an open border between the two entities for trade, employment, and tourism (but not for residence)
Offering Jewish settlers the option of remaining under Palestinian sovereignty while holding Israeli citizenship
Opening the possibility of Palestinian refugees to resettle in Israel as Palestinian citizens, possibly in numbers proportional to the numbers of Jewish settlers in Palestine
Ensuring the Palestinian citizens in Israel proportional share of the state resources and fair representation in its public institutions
Compensating the owners of all property confiscated as part of the conflict

Clearly, these principles must be refined and examined carefully, but I suggest that they should be part of any peace agreement from the outset. That is, the urgent need to reach “point B” (an independent Palestinian state) would be assisted by thecreation of “point C” (a confederation agreement) on the near horizon. Political experience from various regions of the world, most notably Europe, also suggests that confederations tend to “thicken” their cooperation over time and allocate more powers and responsibilities to the joint governing and judicial bodies. This dynamic is likely to make the possibility of conflict more remote over time.
Importantly, this proposal has the potential to win both Jewish and Palestinian support. It may also defuse the opposition of key actors among both Jewish and Palestinian publics. Among the Jews, the possibility of avoiding the injuring process of forcefully evacuating West Bank settlements and the continuing unity of Jerusalem could form a major breakthrough in winning the support of many who currently oppose progress toward peace. Among the Palestinians, the establishment of a sovereign state with its capital city in al-Quds, the return of some refugees, and freedom of movement throughout historical Palestine are likely to mobilize most Palestinians, including many Hamas supporters, to support such a confederation.
In many ways, the current confederation outline resembles the parameters of UN Resolution 181 from 1947 (adjusted to the Green Line). It should be remembered that that decision gave international legitimacy to the creation of Israel (and Palestine). Hence, the very decision that created Israel also created Palestine. Yet Resolution 181 was not a simple partition but stipulated that the two states would have an economic union, freedom of movement, and extensive minority rights on both sides. Jerusalem was to become a “corpus separatum,” managed internationally, while its Jewish and Palestinian populations would become citizens of either of the two states.
Critically, while rejecting this resolution in 1947 and fighting for decades against it, the Palestinians made a major change in 1988 and accepted it. Hence, and despite the violent opposition of Hamas, UN Resolution 181 remains the only major international resolution accepted by both sides. I propose returning to the agreed and still valid parameters (adjusted to the Green Line) as a legal, historical, and moral foundation for creating an Israeli-Palestinian confederation.
Moreover, the confederation proposal could overcome the inherent problem of territorial fragmentation by allowing Palestinian movement for labor, business, and tourism purposes throughout the small country under conditions acceptable to Israel. It would also ease Jewish fears about the intentions of Palestinians by granting their legitimacy for the collective and political existence of Jews in the Middle East. It would allow the development of Palestine and the gradual integration of the two economies in order to guarantee a level of coexistence necessary for sustainable peace. Under this scenario, the gradual building of joint life and mutual trust will occur after the Palestinians are liberated, thereby avoiding the pitfalls of the Oslo agreement, which wrongly demanded that the Palestinians build “trust” with the state that continued to colonize their lands.
Finally, as noted in the suggested principles, a stable resolution requires changes within Israel, particularly in regard to the deprived status of the state’s large Palestinian Arab minority, now totaling 1.4 million. Here the democratization of majority-minority arrangements is needed to prevent the eruption of internal conflict that has torn apart states the world over. Such arrangements would have to allocate Palestinian citizens acceptable collective rights of autonomous communal management, as well as proportional share of the state power and resources. The recent examples of Macedonia, Slovakia, Northern Ireland, and Spain can act as a useful guide for various possible models for stabilizing majority-minority relations.
Clearly, the scenario sketched above is only preliminary. It also presents a tall order, as it places incredible pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to reform theirdeeply entrenched ethnocratic and militarist orientations and begin a process of democratization. But the knowledge gained by extensive comparative and local research tells us clearly that it is the best way to advance toward peace and stability, thereby putting an end to one of the world’s most protracted—and most dangerous— ethnic conflicts.

Oren Yiftachel teaches political geography and public policy at Ben- Gurion University, Beer Sheva. His recent book,Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.Professor Yiftachel is a board member of B’Tselem—the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.