Apartheid and One State: Discourse Shaping Behavior

Yesterday was a tough day for those who want to see a Jewish and democratic Israeli state existing beside an independent Palestinian state. Gideon Levy at Haaretz described a new poll with the sensationalist title, “Survey: Most Israeli Jews Would Support Apartheid Regime in Israel.” On the same day, Rachel Shabi at The Guardian came out with a piece with the leading headline, “The Death of the Israel-Palestine Two-State Solution Brings Fresh Hope.”

There are many problems with both pieces. Levy’s article, it has been pointed out, misinterprets the data and fits them into his own ideological preferences. There are also deeper methodological problems with the survey itself, alongside a lack of clarity in the variables discussed.

Shabi’s assumption that the two-state solution is gone forever is a self-fulfilling prophecy, where Israelis and Palestinians continue to prefer a two-state solution. It’s also not at all clear that anything but two states could genuinely meet both sides’ expectations.

There was a time when the term “apartheid” was anathema to those fighting for a two-state solution, particularly those who believed the Jewish state has a legitimate right to exist as such. Similarly, I can remember when only a few far left Israeli Jews and Palestinian intellectuals advocated a single state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

We should not underestimate the importance of discourse in shaping behavior. As Ami Kaufman notes, it wasn’t that long ago that “occupation” was a word people avoided using in respectable discourse to refer to Israel’s presence in the West Bank. The term “two-state solution” itself was, at one time, not widely accepted by either Israelis and their supporters or Palestinians and their supporters. But after Oslo it became embedded in popular discourse, forcing even Benjamin Netanyahu to accept, and publicly proclaim, it as the ultimate objective. I don’t think Bibi has accepted it because of his sudden commitment to Palestinian self-determination, but he has certainly learned that it’s no longer possible to deny or ignore the idea of two states.

The more these terms (apartheid and one state) are accepted in public discourse, the more they will become the norm. If you oppose either, it’s your duty to act now to stop them from becoming a reality.


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