As swastikas were painted onto nearly a hundred Jewish graves in France and the British Labour party splintered over the release of Jeremy Corbyn’s nasty 2013 remarks on Jews, anti-Semitism in Europe boiled over yet again this week. Meanwhile, in America, we continued to wrestle with our own issues of anti-Semitism in light of Representative Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) tweet last week about the Washington consensus around support for Israel being “all about the Benjamins.” These incidents are by no means equally bad—Omar’s remark, for example, seems like a genuine mistake, free of hatred—yet these incidents do all underscore a fact the Western left seems to be rapidly forgetting: the need for a Jewish state remains strong.
Seventy years after the World War Two, many Jews still do not feel safe in their nations, and rightly so. The events of these last few weeks pale in comparison to the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh last year and the 2014 siege of the Don Abravanel synagogue in Paris. Now more than ever, the Jews of the world need and deserve a strong state—a state where they are guaranteed sanctuary and a state that will advocate for their interests abroad. Unfortunately, Israel may soon no longer be that state.
Israel was always an unstable and controversial project. Its founding resulted in the horrifying expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians and, surrounded by nations that want it gone, its continued existence has forever been a fight. Yet, somehow, this parched piece of land has become a wonderful modern state. Indeed, to visit it is to fall in love with it. The energy of Tel Aviv, the beauty of Haifa, the thickness of community in the still-thriving Kibbutzim—these goods constitute the manifestation of a dream that has been millennia in the making. The chosen people have finally returned to their land and built themselves a home.
However, this home is rotten and fast decaying. As unarmed Palestinians fighting for freedom continue to be gunned down, the mask of Western values Israel has been hiding behind for decades is finally starting to slip, and the world is beginning to grasp the sorry fact that Israel is—and has been for years—an unapologetic apartheid state.
In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party gave up on preventing further settlements in the West Bank, and since then the ostensibly Palestinian territory has swollen to hold some 400,000 Jewish settlers. These settlers are full Israeli citizens, represented in the Knesset (Israeli’s Parliament), and they can drive in and out of the West Bank almost without noticing they are moving across state lines.
Palestinians, meanwhile, are subject to strict movement controls, denied equal access to water and governed by Israeli military law—not the civil law settlers are subject to. In Gaza, Jewish settlements were removed, but Israel has also maintained complete functional control, preventing the region from developing through the imposition of a decade-long economic blockade. A United Nations report recently found that the area may be rendered “unlivable” as soon as next year.
In short, Israel has conquered Palestine and unilaterally implemented its own twisted vision of a one-state solution. If you squint, Israel is the sole democracy in a region of autocracy, but if you open your eyes, it’s hard to see anything but a humanitarian disaster. J-Street, a Jewish-American lobbying organization, and the rest of the international community can continue breathlessly debating how to implement a two-state solution, but that possibility died years ago: 400,000 settlers cannot be moved, and the Palestinians are totally incapable of supporting themselves. Thus, to support a two-state solution now is to support the status quo, for there will never be any real movement towards those two states—Netanyahu has already said as much. This is a tragedy of epic proportions, but ignoring it will not solve it.
To be sure, the current state of affairs cannot be blamed solely on Israel-Palestinian leadership has been obstinate, unreasonable and flat out anti-Semitic since the beginning, and Hamas, which can only be described as a terrorist group, now controls Gaza. Further, as many Palestinians have never accepted Israel’s fundamental right to exist, Israel has been subject to brutal and unrelenting attack. Indeed, much Israeli aggression has been necessary to protect its people. However, as the interposers, the primary responsibility has always lain with the Zionists. Zionism needed to figure out how to avoid pure colonialism, and it failed. And so, Israel will soon fail, too.
Netanyahu knows this, and by allying himself with the Republican Party, he has bought himself some time—the strange alliance of American evangelicals and Israeli neo-Zionists is now one of the primary forces propping the state up. However, this move has set the stage for a break in the bipartisan American support of Israel, and it’s only a matter of time before the Democrats abandon Israel. And without American moral and military aid, Israel will finally become a pariah state and begin down the road of South African-style decline.
I love Israel—the two weeks I spent there at the end of my gap year were a wonderful mixture of meeting family, reveling in historical riches and floating in the turquoise blue waters of the Asi River—but at the same time, I’m convinced that the Israel we know today must come to an end. Even as I am reminded daily of the need for a Jewish state, I am simultaneously forced to conclude that a truly Jewish state can no longer exist. For while the Jews undeniably deserve their own state, the Palestinians’ need for basic rights and recognition is even greater. With the death of the two-state solution, the only way to meet that Palestinian need is to integrate the Palestinian people into the Jewish state—the Israeli state. In America and Israel, the right have already recognized the reality of a one-state future. The left must finally do the same. The only legitimate fight that remains is over the character of this impending, singular, Israeli-Palestinian state.
It’s beyond the scope of this column to lay out a coherent left-wing one-state solution, but morally, it is the only way forward. For the good of all, occupation must end and reunification must begin. Both peoples’ claim to the land must be recognized, and new institutions in which they can both participate and thrive must be created. It will be a long and arduous process, but it can be done.