Wednesday, October 1, 2008

False Universalisms

Over at South Jerusalem:
“But that would be suicide,” said Shaya, and he’s almost certainly right. Some advocates of a single state sincerely mean well. (although many use the slogan as a euphemism for denying the Jews any right to live in their land). But their liberal values blind them to the realities on the ground. A single state means civil war, endless strife, and frustration for two nations that each justly demand the right to self-determination. We need only look at bi-ethnic and multi-ethnic states from Belgium to Lebanon to see what the future would hold.

See, despite his left-wing values, Shaya is a Zionist. He thinks that the Jews are a nation and that as such they deserve and need a state of their own. For all his concern for the plight of the Palestinians, he knows his Jewish history and accepts the central Zionist thesis that, to survive, we Jews must have the power of state so that our fate lies in our own hands.
I have trouble with the idea that a One-State solution could even possibly be democratic (in the sense that it protects Jewish rights as Zionists argue is necessary) given that states collectively have struggled with implementing or protecting minority rights. It seems, at least from a practical standpoint, premised on the notion that the dominant society can be generic so as to be equally acceptable to all. I know of no country where that's the case. I can't imagine a country where that's the case. Instead, the dominance of some becomes so pervasive as to be invisible. For example, white, Protestant men ignore the dominances of whiteness and Protestantness in America. Taking it for granted, they claim that America is equally open to all, but that's clearly false.

The "white racial frame," as some would call it, or simply "privilege."

The argument for a single "democratic" state really ignores the arguments Zionism has been making for over 100 years about the nature of minority status. From the idea that Jews could be successfully incorporated into a larger society if they merely convert to Christianity to this idea that Jews can be successfully incorporated into a larger society if only they give up the notion of self determination, we sometimes don't seem to have progressed very far. Jews have the right to define our own, collective interests, which is something quite distinct from a right to not be annihilated; but even the kinder, well-meaning variants of anti-Zionism never seem to consider how a society could progress beyond merely treating Jews well. Jews have been treated well at times in history - time and again between atrocities - and most of us are Zionists because we have a deep understanding of the difference between being treated well (as one might treat a pet well) and being equal.

But even without such theoretical considerations on the limits of democracy, it's clearly not the case that such a resolution is practical in the foreseeable future. The result would be a replay of Israel's War of Independence. Why anyone would call that peace is beyond me.

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