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The Country of Palestine: A Zero State Solution


For over half a century the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the centre of the world's three Abrahamic monotheisms, has raged. Space is not sufficient here of course to detail the main events of this conflict, except in title alone: The British Mandate in Palestine and the Balfour Declaration, the Arab revolts of the 1930s, the declaration of the State of Israel (with scant regard of local opinion) and the subsequent war in the late 1940s, raids and counter-raids in the 1950s, the 1956 Suez Crisis, the 1967 Six Day War, the 1973 Yom Kipper War, the 1982 Lebanon War, the First and Second Intifada, the 2006 Lebanon War, and the Gaza War of 2008-2009. With over 100,000 casulties since 1945 and with economists estimating that the opportunity cost of the various conflicts representating trillions of dollars [1].

The dead are many, the costs are high and the divisions are deep. David Hacohen, a supposedly left-wing member of the Israeli Knesset for six terms once described Arabs as "... they are not human beings, they are not people". At the start of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the first secretary-general of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, announced: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades" [2]. These are just illustrative examples of how deep the hatred has often reached; there are plenty of others and from equally senior positions.

Peace efforts have only had a modicum of success. The two United Nations Security Concil Resolutions, 242 and 338, have provided a temporary cessation of hostilities, but have not been unable to unravel the continuing damage, let alone implement, the original UN General Assembly Resolution 181 for the partition of Palestine. Resolution 242 called for Israel to give up the occupied territories and the resolution passed was passed 15 to 0. It has not, of course, ever been implemented. Indeed the opposite has been the case; there are now 0.5 million Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jersualem, turning the region into a "pastrimi" [3] of harshly discriminatory settlement policy, of restricted movements, of concrete and iron 'separation barriers' - of kibosh ha'adama - "conquest of the land". The 1993 Oslo Accords fared somewhat better - they allowed for the formation of the Palestinian National Authority, providing the 'right' for Palestinians to police their own imprisonment.

Born of desperation and hopelessness some Palestinians fight back against this systematic, grinding humiliation with the predictable tools of people in such a situation; the use of violence against non-combatants for political ends, better known as terrorism. A tragic shortlist can easily be rattled off - the 1972 Munich Olymipics massacre, the 1974 Ma'alot massacre, the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, the 1989 Tel Aviv-Jerusalem bus attack, the 1993 Mehola Junction bombing, the 2003 Maxim restaurant suicide bombing, the 2008 Mercaz HaRav massacre, along with thousands of Qassam and similar rockets being launched indiscriminately into civilian areas. All, it must be grimly accounted, with relatively few fatalities and absolutely no threat to the Israeli State. But of particular note as the conflict drags on, the desparation of the Palestinian people grows, along with their acceptance of the use of violence against civilian targets and support for less flexible religous doctrine [4]. Without freedom, there is nothing left to lose.

Ending Hafrada

Is it even possible under these circumstances to hypothesise, let alone work towards, a lasting peace and acceptance? What real possibility is there for a mainstream two-state solution, when half a million Israeli settlers are in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and any proposed Palestinian state is non-contigious? [5] What will Israel do within its own borders, even if such a state is established? How will it retain a Jewish majority, as so many of its hardliners desire, when a faced with changing demographics that strongly favour Arab Israelis? [6] What possibility is there for the right of return of Palestinian Arabs, many now the children and grand-children of the original refugees? What to do about the even more massive expulsion of Arab Jews - eight hundred thousand in all - from Arab Muslim countries with the establishment of Israel? Can there be any prospect of unity from the twin narratives of the Shoa and the Nakhba?

The former speaker of the Knesset, Avrum Burg, understood with exceptional clarity the challenge that the State of Israel faces [7]; Israel simply cannot be Jewish and democratic at the same time. Either Arabs (excluding Jewish Arabs of course) are expelled en masse or full democratic and citizen rights are provided to all. As Noam Chomsky notes: "The Zionist dream is to construct a state which is as Jewish as England is English and France is French. At the same time, this state is to be a democracy on the Western model. Evidently, these goals are incompatible. Citizens of France are French, but citizens of the Jewish state may be non-Jews, either by ethnic or religious origin or simply by choice ... To the extent that Israel is a Jewish State it cannot be a democratic state" [8]

Disingenous defenders of the status quo claim that Israel is a secular and democratic state, where Arabs can enjoy a citizenship of sorts, election to the Knesset and so forth. Comparisons are made between Israel and the multitude of despotic regimes in the region, including the Palestinian National Authority itself a government which is corrupt in the West Bank and authoritarian in Gaza [9]. But what is the purpose of such comparisons? How do they help the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories itself? [10] Would the genuine introduction of democratic and human rights in Yemen, to give an example of a country that could do with some, bring stability to the Middle-East? The special attention granted to Israel by various human rights activists has nothing to do with the ethnic makeup of the country, but rather because it is a nuclear-armed colonial power that is disruptive to international peace.

Being attentive to Israel means offering support when it engages in activities which encourage universal rights, and condemning it when it seeks to engage into the policy of hafrada (or, in the language of the Afrikaans, apartheid), of which the separation walls on the West Bank and blockade of Gaza are most infamous. Israel has a long way to go in this regard, for the same rights of citizenship are not applied universally. Instead of treating all citizens equally, Israel has a multitude of varying rights depending on membership to one of over 130 "nationalities", some of which are based on religion, some of which are based on language, but none of which are based on being an Israeli. It is through discrimination on these nationalities that prejudicial rights are allocated [11]. It will only be through ending the discrimination within these policies that the Israeli state can end being divided among itself in terms of political rights.

Towards The Zero State Solution: A Beacon Unto Nations

But an equality of rights only provides an end to hafrada, of Israeli apartheid in Palestine. It does not mean that the people who live in the country of Palestine is free. A State can be equally oppressive to all and indeed, to the degree that a State enforces laws over and above the natural rights of the inhabitants of a country is the degree that the State can be distinguished from government, in the meaning of Claude Henri de Rouvroy's dictum. When various State-based solutions of the Israel/Palestine problem are versed, this most important question is overlooked. It is from this vantage point the various solutions can be examined.

The "Three State Solution" argues that Israel should give the West Bank to Jordon and Gaza to Egypt, changing boundaries back to the 1949 Armistace, some variation of the Allon Plan or, as an alternative, independent governments of Palestinian Gaza, Palestinian West Bank and Israel. The former has been advocated by Benny Morris[12] who argues that Muslims in particular are culturally inept in their ability to adopt to secularism. The position ignores that the people of the West Bank and Gaza do not want it, nor does Jordan, and nor do the half a million Israeli settlers are in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In contrast the mainstream "Two State Solution", also suffers the problem of practicality. This is the option with the greatest degree of plurality support according to opinion polls [13], and the official policy from the 1991 Madrid Conference to the 2007 Annapolis Conference. Yet it is plagued with impossibilities; there is next to no chance that the half million Israeli settlers are going to move from East Jerusalem or the West Bank. There is next to no chance that a Palestinian state without contiguous borders would ever be viable.

Thus enter the "One State Solution", which in many ways Israel and the Occupied Territories already are, in a de facto sense. One one hand this is an argument used by both religious fundamentalists who advocate either an Islamic state in Palestine, such as Hamas, or the total ethnic cleasing of Arabs from a Greater Israel, potentially from the Biblical "from the brook of the Nile to the Euphrates", as expressed by the Revisionist Zionists. The alternative however is the "One State Solution" of equal and advanced rights (e.g., the Isratin option [14], the historic Brit Shalom), which is in the direction of a "Zero State Solution". At least on this level there are those who argue that the number of States is of less significance than the political rights of those who have to live in them, a consideration that rulers often forget. Whilst in both contemporary Israel an Palestine it is not the first preference choice, it is gaining support and is increasingly the most viable - ex factis jus oritur.

In a "Zero-State" solution, governance would be secular and democratic. There would be no special benefits on the basis of nationalities, real or imagined, or religious affiliation that were separate from the rights of all citizens. Of course the region would remain a Jewish homeland just as other regions and cultures have their homeland too; but that is quite distinct from a Jewish (or Islamic, or other) state. Organisations like the Israel Land Administration would retain their role in holding natural resources as a public good, but without the horrendous prohibitions on leasing rights that currently exist (this is a particularly clear example of the difference between "the governance of people" and "the administration of things"). Finally, in a "zero-state solution", there are no standing armies only reserve militia and emergency services; the purpose is local defense and civil order, not invasive war. The path to peace will never exist without the abolition of the means to war.

A Practical Task

It is common for individuals and organisations to claim "we support position X". A legitimate rejoinder is "How?", which often goes without answer. For those advocating political rights without discrimination in the Levant and recognise its international importance direct involvement with local organisations and direct support with those organisations "on the ground" who support secular, democratic principles is imperative. This includes the request for Boycott, Disinvestment and Sacntions made by 171 Palestinian NGOs until Israel complies with international law and universal human rights (neatly summarised as "boycotts are commonly carried out by individuals, divestment by institutions and sanctions by governments." [15] It is a movement which has its roots in the international anti-apartheid campaign then, and can certainly repeat that success again against the new "bantustans" and the policy of hafrada. It is a movement which treats the primary issue as being the concrete rights of individuals, rather than abstract loyalties of ethnicity, religion or state.


[1] Barry Buzan, Regions and powers, Cambridge University Press, 2003 and Cost of Conflict in the Middle East, Strategic Foresight Group, 2010
[2] Hachohen remark in recorded in UK Hansard (Commons, 18th October 1973), Pasha remark reported in the New York Times, May 16, 1948
[3] Ariel Sharon was once asked how Israel should deal with the Palestinians. "We'll make a pastrami sandwich out of them," he replied. "We'll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank, so that in twenty-five years' time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart."
[4] Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (27), 2008
[5] Even a proposed land swap of the Arab majority region of Israel of Wadi Ara for the "Seam Zone" of barried colonisation areas in the West Bank would still result in a non-contigous, and therefore dysfunctional, state. See Aluf Benn "Trading Places", The Washington Post, August 14, 2005
[6] Ari Shavit Interview With Benny Morris, "Survival of the Fittest?", Haaretz, January 16, 2004
[7] Avrum Burg, Avrham Burg, A failed Israeli society is collapsing: The end of Zionism?, International Herald Tribune, September 6, 2003
[8] Noam Chomsky, The Arabs in Israel (fwd), Adalah, Legal Violations of Arab Minority Rights in Israel, 1998, p. 9
[9] Mel Frykberg, Fatah, Hamas rule increasingly authoritarian, The Electronic Intifada, 28 July 2009
[10] A distinction should be made between the significant differences in human rights in Israel proper as distinct from the Occupied Territories. For a summary see "Israel and the Occupied Territories", Israel and the occupied territories Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 2006.
[11] See Dr. Israel Shahak, Israeli Discrimination Against Non-Jews Is Carefully Codified in State of Israel's Laws, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Jan/Feb 1998, pp88-89 and Jonathan Cook, Lawsuit challenges Israel's discriminatory citizenship definition, The Electronic Intifada, 6 April 2010
[12] Benny Morris, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict, Yale University Press, 2009
[13] On Palestinian attitudes towards the Formation of the National Unity Government, Jerusalem Media & Communication Centre, Poll no. 61, Part One, 2007
[14] Muammar Qaddafi, "The One-State Solution", The New York Times, January 22, 2009
[15] Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss, The Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement, The Nation, June 28, 2010. See also: The Global BDS Movement


Pretty good. Of course I agree that we should be for a "one state" or, rather, a no-state, solution, although I see this as compatible with some sort of binaitonal solution (two peoples living together). I would make three caveats: (1) this is not a near-term practical proposal; it is what we should be for. It will only be won throiugh a Mideastern region-wide revolution led by the Arab working class. And (2) right now, the Israeli Jews have the power. I do not deny the right of the Palestinians to make a deal to live better. They are the ones under the gun, after all, not us. That does not mean that I agree with any particular deal, just that I accept their right to make one (not the right of the Israelis to impose their interests). (3) It should be stated that anarchists should defend the right of the Palestinians to national self-determination, that is to chose what solution they want, whether or not we agree with what they chose. They probably would chose a state of some sort right now; we do not agree with this choice, but it should be their choice, not ours. Between the Palestinaians and the Israelis, we are on the side of the Palestinians in almost any conflict.

A new journalist assigned to her paper's Jerusalem bureau. Upon her arrival, she takes an apartment overlooking the Kotel, the historic Western Wall. Everyday when she looks out, she sees an old bearded Jewish man praying vigorously. Certain he would be a good interview subject, the journalist goes down to the Wall and introduces herself to the man. She asks, "You come every day to the Wall, sir, how long have you been doing that and what are you praying for?"

The old man replies, "I have come here to pray every day for 25 years. Every day I pray for the same thing. I pray for peace, justice, and understanding between the Jews and Christians and Muslims."

The journalist is very impressed. "How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for these things?" she asks.

The old man replies, "Like I'm talking to a wall."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing for a loyalty oath that would require non-Jewish candidates for Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to Israel as a 'Jewish state.'

I’m impressed. Very informative and trustworthy blog does exactly what it sets out to do. I’ll bookmark your weblog for future use.


A scared country that doesn't believe in itself anymore

Saudi Arabia belongs to the Muslims!!! The Jews pray facing Jerusalem, the Muslims pray facing Mecca!!!

... we don't think that any country belongs to any religion. People can pray facing whatever direction their own religion or conscious dictates. But when a requirement is placed on people according to the laws of the land, then you'll find that isocrats will object.

On the livejournal group free-palestine.

Albert Einstein wrote in 1939, "There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people. Despite the great wrong that has been done us, we must strive for a just and lasting compromise with the Arab people.... Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs." Einstein was opposed from the start to the setting up of a Jewish state and to mass emigration into Palestine. He was also one of the signatories to an Open Letter to the New York Times in 1948 denouncing the terrorist activities of Menachem Begin and the massacre carried out in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. (Source:

Now that the "greater calamity" has occurred, Einstein's prescience takes on a heartbreaking dimension, because it could have been avoided. A "just and lasting compromise" was possible, and it would have benefited both peoples. Jews and Arabs could be living in harmony, mutually benefiting from their different cultural gifts. But the imposition of a Jewish state, mass immigration, and ethnic cleansing destroyed that possibility, and now they are dying from nationalism and mutual atrocities.

Worldwide we are caught in the deadly fallout of the Holocaust. It traumatized the Zionists to the extent that they lost standards of justice and ethics that had been built up over centuries. Their efforts to turn Palestine into Israel have led to 60 years of fighting which is spreading to more and more countries. This battle is a major but unstated reason for US military aggression in the Muslim world, and the trillions of dollars wasted in that is a major but unstated reason for the global economic crisis.

Germany was the site of the previous act of this tragedy. But what unfolded there had its roots in the trauma the Germans went through in the 1920s and '30s. At the outbreak of the Second World War, W.H. Auden looked back on the suffering imposed on the Germans by the Versailles Treaty and wrote in his poem "September 1st, 1939": "Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return."

The former victims become the perpetrators, now in the Mideast. We are trapped in an ongoing chain of linked cataclysms.

To understand this chain and break it, we need to view it historically. What each link has in common is powerful financial interests relentlessly fighting to expand. The First World War was primarily a struggle between the established imperial states of Britain and France and a newcomer in the game of empire, Germany. The fascism that arose in its aftermath was financed by German capitalists in order to destroy the rising socialist movement and to rearm for another war. The Second World War in Europe was a continuation of the imperialist struggle of the First, and in the Pacific it was an imperial battle between the USA and Japan for control of Asia. After the Holocaust the demands for a Jewish state were supported by the USA and Britain mainly to extend their power over the Mideast and its oil. All this aggression with its millions of shattered lives was disguised under banners of idealism, but its fundamental impulse was economic domination.

How to break the chain? War and many other forms of violence are generated by the underlying structural violence of capitalism, which is intrinsically unjust and inevitably produces conflict. This outmoded, destructive system chains us also into working to make its owners rich. To have peace and to have fulfilling lives, we need to replace it with a democratic socialist society that emphasizes the humane in humanity. As Einstein wrote, "I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy." (Source:

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has raged. This is really an interesting post since I wasn’t aware of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I have book marked your page for further updates. Expecting more from you. Keep up the good work.

Dr. Virginia Tilley, on apartheid in the Palestinian occupied territories. Dr. Tilley is one of the world's foremost experts on this subject, so it was with some pleasure that her reviews on my essays on the subject were positive to say the least....

I'm going to be honest here. After working and writing for some 27 years on Palestine, when I meet someone out of the blue who writes on the conflict and go to their writings to see what's up, I do so with trepidation, as so much out there is redundant or silly or pointless or something else bothersome. What a shock to read your two pieces and find them so erudite, eloquent, rigorous, deep and devastating of the other side! How on earth did you get to be so well-versed in this conflict as a kind of sideline? Your piece on Israeli apartheid includes material about nationality and identity that very people people have a handle on, your grasp of South African apartheid is better than the great majority of people writing on this, and your "zero-state solution" is wonderful as well. And sheer courage here, too. Gosh! What an unexpected pleasure!
July 2012