The lines between separate states are blurring, argues Ahmed Moor, a student at Harvard’s Kennedy School and co-organizer of the recent One State Conference. 20% of Israelis are of Arab descent and 17% of the residents in the Occupied Territories are Jewish settlers. Israel is exercising control over Palestinian land and people in the West Bank by the construction of security walls that cleave cities and separate farmers from their land, and by destroying wells or buildings built without Israeli permits. Israeli settlements are expanding in contravention of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prevents an occupying force from moving its citizens onto occupied lands. So, the argument would go, if Israel controls who and what comes and goes in the West Bank and Gaza, exercises the right to build its own structures while destroying those built by Palestinians and maintains a security and military presence within the territories, how do we not already have a single, albeit imbalanced, state?
While the presumption that the two nations are slowly merging into one would, at first, seem to support the one-state solution, it is the method of the merger, and the conditions on the ground, that raise alarm. Israel is a military occupier, a position that gives it a daunting advantage in any negotiation or discussion with the Palestinians. As recent events with Iran have shown, Israel is not afraid to pick a fight, and the Palestinians cannot stand up to the Israeli military machine. But, Israeli society is exhausted by occupation and a full military re-occupation of Gaza and the entirety of the West Bank seems unlikely.
Within the West Bank, however, a growing problem exists in the form of the settlements. Built in violation of international law, these Jewish-only communities are being built on land confiscated from Palestinian landowners, often without the sanction of the Israeli government. But, rather than fight against these “religious pioneers,” Israel is quietly approving their actions and supporting their construction. 124 official settlements have been built in the West Bank, with more than a hundred “outposts” established without official government sanction. The settler population in the West Bank has exploded to nearly 500,000 people. These settlements continually grow onto neighboring Palestinian land, erect “security barriers” that disrupt daily life for Palestinians and establish “Jewish-only” roads throughout the West Bank, rooting themselves deeper into any vestige of a separate Palestinian state, and alienating any Palestinian resident of a future unified state. Recent plans released by the Israeli Civil Administration show that an additional 10% of West Bank land has been set aside for settlement expansion.
Within Israel itself, Palestinian (or Israeli-Arab) citizens face little better conditions. In a nation that bases its existence on being the homeland for the Jewish people, non-Jews often find themselves at a loss in society. Israel’s Christian population is often marginalized, describing themselves as treated no better than Palestinian Muslims. Laws have been passed to prevent intermarriage of Palestinian citizens and residents of the occupied territories. If a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem marries a resident of the West Bank, they face a difficult choice, the resident of the West Bank is not allowed to move to Jerusalem, and if the Jerusalem resident moves to the West Bank, they lose their residency permit in Jerusalem. A law passed in 2003 denies Israeli citizenship to residents of the occupied territories, or other Arab states, who marry Israeli citizens, further blocking their residency anywhere in Israel. Coupled with a military order that bars Israelis from living in Palestinian cities, the “citizenship law” essentially invalidates marriages between Israelis and Palestinians. Certain buses and roads in the West Bank are designated as “Jews only.” Jewish MKs recently lashed out at their Arab counterparts in the Israeli Knesset, describing them as unwelcome, “the devil” and haters of Israel. To add comfort to these people’s lives, hundreds of fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, described as “staunchly anti-Arab” recently rampaged through a Jerusalem mall, chanting “death to the Arabs” and assaulting Arab mall workers and patrons.
Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens, as well as the residents of the Occupied Territories, has earned it the label of an “apartheid state.” The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, signed (but never ratified) by Israel, defines apartheid as the “institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israel treats its Palestinian citizens as second-class citizens, and denies any suffrage to the residents of the Occupied Territories out of fear that equal rights within a single state would require the state to be either “binational or undemocratic” in maintaining its Jewish character, according to Ehud Barak, a former Prime Minister of Israel. The French government recently accused Israel of committing “water apartheid” against the residents of the West Bank.
Israel continues to make use of “administrative detention,” or detention without charges or trial, of Palestinians. According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israel is currently holding 320 Palestinians in administrative detention, including 159 below the age of 18. Among them is Hana Shalabi, a Palestinian woman held for two years accused, but never charged or tried, of plotting to kill Israelis. Hana was freed as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap in 2011, but was re-arrested soon after being freed. Still in administrative detention without charges, Hana recently passed her 40th day of a hunger strike to protest her treatment by Israel.
On the Palestinian side is 64 years of mistreatment by, and distrust of Israeli Jews. Israel allows anyone who claims Jewish heritage the right to immigrate to Israel and become citizens, whether they can trace any connection to the land or not. But, Palestinians who were forced out of their homes in 1948, 1967 or otherwise, are denied the right to return to Israel or the Occupied Territories. Israeli use of military force against Palestinian resistance groups, be they peaceful demonstrations or the actions of militant organizations have set the tone of Palestinian anti-Israeli sentiment. While certain Palestinian militant groups continue to deny Israel’s right to exist, Israeli right wing groups likewise continue to deny the existence of Palestine and argue against the right of Palestinians to settle anywhere in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank. But, as Ali Abunimah writes, “Zionism cannot bomb, kidnap, assassinate, expel, demolish, settle and lie its way to legitimacy and acceptance.”
In the next part of this examination of the one-state solution, I will look at the steps that could be taken to bring about resolution.By Ted Graham, Aslan Media Columnist