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How to Deal With People Who Deny Palestinians Their Right to a State

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A Palestinian protester facing Israeli security forces waves a national flag during a demonstration against illegal Israeli outposts in Beit Dajan, east of Nablus last week
A Palestinian protester facing Israeli security forces waves a national flag during a demonstration against illegal Israeli outposts in Beit Dajan, east of Nablus last weekCredit: ABBAS MOMANI - AFP

Long before the rise of the term "cancel culture," critics of Israel have been judged by the strictest standards of political correctness, including by people who decry PC when it is applied to racists and sexists.

The most heinous crime one can commit in this regard is denying "Israel’s right to exist" or "Jews’ right to self-determination." Of course, this almost never means the expulsion of Jews, but rather letting Palestinians into the body politic, and giving them full equality, which may or may not eventually and naturally result in Israel’s losing some aspects of its Jewish character.

Still, this view is an absolute taboo and can earn you a label of an antisemite in the wink of an eye. This is probably a good moment to clarify that I personally don't share it.

On the other hand, denying Palestinians their statehood is still somehow OK. But why, exactly?

Palestinians are several million people, living in the West Bank, Gaza, and diaspora, whose right to self-determination on a clearly defined territory is more deeply ingrained today – in international resolutions and popular opinion – than Jews’ right to a part of Palestine was back in 1947. The only thing that keeps Palestinians from executing this right is an oppressive occupation regime.

Why is it still considered normal when representatives of Israel's occupation and its apologists pontificate that a Palestinian state should never materialize?

Not only a Palestinian state has no lesser right to exist than Israel has, but I would argue that acting to deny Palestinian statehood is even less moral than rhetorically denying Jewish statehood today, if we are to judge by the consequences of such denial.

It is simple: Israel already exists and is more than capable to defend its existence and independence. Whoever denies its right to exist, does not threaten it in any way. These are just empty words, however illegitimate. The Jewish people's right to a state has been realized and secured, full stop.

In complete contrast, Palestinians are still waiting for their right to be realized. While they are waiting, they are being governed by a cruel regime recognized by many as apartheid-like. This regime denies them not just their right to self-determination, but many other basic human rights as well. As a result, Palestinian life is a never-ending calamity of epic proportions. Those who deny Palestinians a state of their own knowingly contribute to this suffering.

This is especially true in the case of top Israeli officials who hold those reins of power over Palestinians. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said many times that Palestinians should not be allowed to have a state. Likud, Israel’s biggest party by far, agrees with that, and except for a brief blip in a speech he made at Bar Ilan University in 2009, Netanyahu has led this démarche.

A Palestinian man waves his national flag next to the Israeli outpost of Evyatar, as Palestinian and foreign volunteers and activists pick olives in the village of Beita, north of Nablus Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH - AFP

So not only is this view still inexplicably condoned by the West, but it has been adopted by large swaths of Israeli society and by their representatives in the Knesset and in the government.

How do we fix this giant moral blind spot? Obviously, it is not nearly enough to meekly praise the two-state solution, as the Biden administration has been doing.

Those, including Israeli leaders and officials, who deny Palestinians’ right to a state must be dealt with at least as firmly as those who deny Israel’s right to exist. They must be canceled, bashed, shamed, and confronted – and those who insist that "the time for a Palestinian state is not ripe yet" should be put on notice.

The resulting pressure, far from helping the denialists and rejectionists, could even help return the beleaguered two-state solution to the world's attention.

Arkadi Mazin is a contributor to Re:Levant Israeli website (in Russian) and a staff science journalist at Lifespan.io, a news source on longevity research, and currently based in Seattle. He was previously a journalist at Vesti, Israel’s leading Russian-language publication, and a freelancer for Yedioth Aharonoth, Haaretz, and YNET. Twitter: @ArkadyMazin