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Burying the One-State Solution in Palestine/Israel

By suppressing the one-state idea, the media are hampering the public’s capacity to comprehend and debate the full range of possible ways to reach a just and viable resolution to the question of Palestine

The one-state option is gaining traction, but media coverage consistently suggests that the only possible scenarios for Palestine/Israel are either the two-state solution or the continued regime of Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid.

The one-state solution is the idea of bringing justice and peace to Palestine/Israel by having all inhabitants of historic Palestine—the land that includes Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza—living in one, binational country, where everyone has equal rights and political matters are settled on the basis of one person, one vote. This arrangement differs from the two-state solution, which would partition historic Palestine into two states divided along ethno-religious lines, and contrasts with present conditions, in which Palestinians live as second-class citizens inside Israel, and under Israeli occupation in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza—the last of which is subject to a merciless siege.

 

The one-state option is gaining traction, but media coverage consistently suggests that the only possible scenarios for Palestine/Israel are either the two-state solution or the continued regime of Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid.

 

 

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi (4/13/18) says that “partition is the only real alternative to a Yugoslavia-like single state in which two rival peoples devour each other,” even though that quite clearly is not the “only real alternative”; there are numerous binational or multinational states whose peoples have not “devoured each other,” including Malaysia, Switzerland and South Africa.

 

A Reuters report (4/30/18) on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that he is “open to a two-state solution” lists the failures of this approach, noting:

 

Some 70 years after the creation of Israel, prospects for a Palestinian state appear dim. Israeli/Palestinian peace talks were based on the 1993 Oslo accords that envisaged a two-state solution. Those talks have been stalled for years, and Israel has built more settlements in the occupied territories, which it seized during the 1967 Arab/Israeli War. Israel has refused any right of return for Palestinians who were expelled or fled and became refugees after the country declared independence in 1948, fearing it would lose its Jewish majority.

 

However, the article fails to note that maintaining ethnic supremacy is not a justifiable rationale for denying an internationally recognized human right like the right to return to one’s home. It also excludes the idea of everyone living across historic Palestine being part of one, democratic country as a legitimate alternative to partition.

 

The Los Angeles Times (5/13/18) ran an op-ed in which Halevi, a staunchly Zionist Israeli researcher, says of Palestine/Israel that it’s necessary to “acknowledge that two rightful claimants share this tortured land between the river and the sea,” but the two-state solution is the only one he considers, ignoring the possibility of everyone living on that “tortured land between the river and the sea” doing so as equals.

 

The editorial board of the Independent (5/15/18) writes that the Trump administration’s decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem “has killed stone dead any remaining hopes of peace and a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians,” without recognizing that the two-state solution isn’t the only measure that might be taken to create a just peace.

 

In the New York Times’ editorial (5/14/18) on Israel’s mass murder of 62 unarmed Palestinians on May 14, the paper takes for granted that dividing historic Palestine into two states along ethnic lines is the answer, criticizing “successive right-wing Israeli governments” for expanding “Jewish settlements in the West Bank, on land Palestinians expected to be part of any Palestinian state,” as well as blaming Trump for failing to urge “a peace formula in which” Palestinians and Israelis “would negotiate core issues” such as “establishing boundaries between the two states.”

 

The Washington Post (5/20/18) ran an op-ed by Daniel B. Shapiro, an advisor to President Obama, entitled “Don’t Let This Gaza Crisis Go to Waste” (a phrase so ridiculous he may as well have coined the term “massacre-tunity”). Shapiro, who blames Israel’s killing of unarmed Palestinians on Hamas, supports the embassy move but says it should have been done “in the broader context of US efforts to end the conflict in a two-state solution, in which Palestinians could also realize their ambitions for a capital in East Jerusalem.” This phrasing wrongly suggests that the two-state outcome is the one to which all Palestinians aspire.

 

In Thomas Friedman’s piece (New York Times, 5/22/18) endorsing the May 14  atrocity, he (in the manner of a colonial schoolmaster) instructs Palestinians that Israel might stop slaughtering them if all 2 million residents of Gaza go to the fence between the Strip and Israel carrying an olive branch in one hand and in the other a sign written in both Hebrew and Arabic that says, “Two states for two peoples: We, the Palestinian people of Gaza, want to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish people — a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed adjustments.”

 

Later, he criticizes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for

 

implanting more settlers deep inside Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank—now 100,000 — beyond the settlement blocs that Israel might keep in any two-state peace deal. It makes separating Israelis and Palestinians increasingly impossible and therefore an apartheidlike situation increasingly likely.

 

For Friedman, the only choices are two separate states or a single “apartheidlike situation,” as the option of having all residents of the land live in one country, based on the principle of one person, one vote, is excluded from his framework. Note also that “increasingly impossible” is an oxymoron; if partition is already impossible, the only thing that is increasing is the obviousness of this fact. (One could also point out that an “apartheidlike situation” already obtains in Palestine/Israel, and is more succinctly described as “apartheid.”)

 

These cases are consistent with longer-term trends. A search of the last five years of the New York Times’ archives using the media aggregator Factiva finds 1,077 articles with the terms “Israel,” “Palestine” (and variants) and “two state solution.” Pairing “Israel,” “Palestine” and variants with “one state solution” yields 93 results. The same queries of the Washington Post produce 283 articles that mention the two-state solution and 18 with references to the prospect of one state. In the Wall Street Journal, the ratio is 595 to 20 for two states/one state.

 

By suppressing the one-state idea, the media are hampering the public’s capacity to comprehend and debate the full range of possible ways to reach a just and viable resolution to the question of Palestine, and to act accordingly.

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Gregory Shupak

Gregory Shupak teaches media studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto. His book, The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel and the Media, is published by OR Books.

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