Liberal critics of Israel often think that, to achieve peace with Palestinians, all Israel needs to do is better respect international law. Noura Erakat’s new book, Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine, powerfully corrects this narrative by showing how international law has done more to entrench Israel’s settler colonialism than impede it. I reviewed the book for Jacobin.
Taken at face value, President Trump’s nonsensical declaration of his IDGAF position on a solution to Israeli apartheid –– “I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.” –– seemed to signal a slight departure from more than 20 years of U.S. support for the politically acceptable two-state solution.
After the 1993 Oslo Accords made the two-state solution popular, Bill Clinton became the first president to endorse it in January 2001. George W. Bush then made it official U.S. policy, where it remained until Trump’s press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday.
Corporate media reacted with deep concern. Both the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards used the word “dangerous” to describe Trump’s shift away from what the former called “the only just answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“There is no conceivable one-state solution that both parties will like,” the Times asserted. “The likeliest outcome, given the growth rate of the Arab population, is that Israel would be confronted with a miserable choice: to give up being a Jewish state — or to give up being a democratic state by denying full voting rights to Palestinians.”
The Post made the same point: “there is no workable one-state formula under which Israel would remain both a Jewish state and democratic.”
These rebukes to Trump’s statement sound exactly like what John Kerry said in his final speech as Obama’s secretary of state in December. After delivering perhaps the strongest criticism of Israeli settlements by any U.S. official, he affirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution: “The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Explaining his rationale, Kerry said, “here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both. And it won’t ever really be at peace.”
But rather than an argument for a two-state solution, this point should be viewed as an argument against it. In fact, this oft-repeated argument is the two-state solution’s death knell or, as Ali Abunimah put it, its “eulogy.”
When the New York Times, Washington Post and John Kerry describe what Israel “giving up” being a democracy looks like — “denying full voting rights to Palestinians,” as NYT put it; or, “Most Israelis who favor [one state] imagine an apartheid-like system in which Palestinians would live in areas with local autonomy but without either sovereignty or the same democratic rights as Jews,” in the words of the Post; or, “If there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives of them of the most basic freedoms. Separate and unequal is what you would have,” as Kerry put it –– what they’re actually describing is the current reality for Palestinians. If Israel were to “give up” being a democratic state after implementation of a one-state solution, it would look no different than it does now.
The conception of a two-state solution, as the Times, Post and Kerry see it, would “cosmetically repackage this injustice as Palestinian ‘independence,’ without fundamentally altering it,” Abunimah wrote. “What [Kerry] offers Palestinians is a demilitarized bantustan with the singular purpose of preserving an all-powerful Israel as a racist state with a permanent Jewish majority.” In other words, a two-state solution would not solve the problem of apartheid. It would also allow the racism inherent to Israel as a Jewish state to persist.
Without doing so explicitly, the argument made by the Times, Post and John Kerry acknowledges that Israel, under a one-state solution, would be morally indefensible as a Jewish state. The only realistic solution, therefore, is one state with equal rights for all.
It’s worth noting that Trump’s lack of explicit support for a two-state solution in the press conference yesterday does not mean the United States has all of a sudden abandoned support for it. In fact, today Trump’s team has already began to clarify or walk back Trump’s comments during the press conference, affirming U.S. support for a two-state solution.
“We absolutely support a two-state solution,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said.
The two state-solution is the “best possibility for peace in the region,” said David Friedman, Trump’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Outside of Facebook’s office at 770 Broadway in New York on Friday afternoon, activists protested Facebook’s recent partnernership with the Israeli government to crack down on “incitements to violence.”
Despite the constant heavy rain, nearly two dozen protesters showed up to the event, organized by the Samidoun Palestinian Political Prisoner Solidarity Network and NYC Students for Justice in Palestine.
“We’re here today in solidarity with Palestinians who have been protesting Israel’s new agreement with Facebook, as well as its deletion of Palestinian content, which has been an ongoing problem for years,” Joe Catron, one of the event’s organizers, told me.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that Facebook and the Israeli government have teamed up to “tackle incitement” online “as the government pushes ahead with legislative steps meant to force social networks to rein in content that Israel says incites violence.”
As Alex Kane reported in The Intercept in June, Israel has been aggressively monitoring the content of Facebook posts by Palestinians. Human rights groups have documented that as many as 400 Palestinians have been arrested in the past year for the content of their social media posts. “This is a brutally effective form of censorship in the Middle East, where online communication is a popular organizing tool that’s generally seen as independent of government interference,” a Huffington Post reporter wrote.
The AP report prompted journalist Glenn Greenwald to ask, “Do you trust Facebook — or the Israeli government — to assess when a Palestinian’s post against Israeli occupation and aggression passes over into censorship-worthy ‘hate speech’ or ‘incitement’?” He also pointed out that “it’s actually very common for Israelis to use Facebook to urge violence against Palestinians“:
In 2014, thousands of Israelis used Facebook to post messages “calling for the murder of Palestinians.” When an IDF occupying soldier was arrested for shooting and killing a wounded Palestinian point blank in the head last year, IDF soldiers used Facebook to praise the killing and justify that violence, with online Israeli mobs gathering in support.
According to Israel’s Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked – who, ironically enough in a now-deleted genocidal Facebook post, called for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes” a day before six Israelis kidnapped and burned alive Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khudai – Facebook has granted 95 percent of Israel’s 158 requests to remove content in the last four months.
More than a week after the AP report, the Electronic Intifada reported that Facebook, undoubtedly a hugely influential force in journalism, had deleted the accounts of editors at two prominent Palestinian publications. “We believe this is the result of the agreement between Israel and Facebook. It is very strange that Facebook would take part in such an agreement, given that it is supposed to be a platform for free expression and journalism,” one of the newspapers said. The next day, Facebook admitted the editors’ accounts were deleted in error.
“Facebook is a private company, with a legal obligation to maximize profit, and so it will interpret very slippery concepts such as ‘hate speech’ and ‘inciting violence’ to please those who wield the greatest power,” Greenwald wrote.
The protest outside Facebook’s office lasted from 4 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m.
See my coverage of the protest on Periscope here.