Publicly disavowing the idea of two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea garnered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu widespread support from the Israeli public. It became clear beyond any doubt that large swaths of the Jewish Israeli population are interested in continuing the Israeli colonial experiment, which denies civil rights and national freedom to millions of Arab Palestinians in their homeland.
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In light of this situation, more and more individuals and groups from among the remains of the Israeli left wing are leaning toward new ideas for fighting the occupation and settlement enterprise. They are considering openly supporting the Palestinian Authority’s nonviolent diplomatic moves of the Palestinian Authority in the international arena in a bid to gain recognition as a state and self-determination for the Palestinian people.
At this point, Israeli believers in human and civil rights are facing a difficult nation-state question: Will continued Israeli rule over the Palestinians damage Israel, and will that damage be so severe that it justifies such harsh tactics as putting Israel on trial in the International Criminal Court in the Hague?
If a few of those who oppose the occupation manage to decide on questions of proportionality regarding the pressures to be placed on Israel for its ongoing colonialist policy, it’s no doubt that central players in the international arena, friends of Israel, are having trouble deciding on the same thing. They’re opposed, in principle, to continued occupation, but they’re not convinced that radical steps like economic or cultural boycott of the settlement enterprise, or actions against the occupation in the UN Security Council, are in Israel’s best interest.
Routine arguments that have come for years from those opposed to the occupation and settlements are sounding less and less convincing. We must admit that the worn out phrase “occupation corrupts” is too simple: It’s not easy to prove a causal link between the corruption that characterizes Israel no more or less than any other society, and its continued rule over the Palestinians. On the other hand, the argument that ongoing occupation could lead to a potentially fatal binational state without a Jewish majority is becoming a double-edged sword. The reason is that dealing with the “demographic threat” does not mean ending the occupation. On the contrary, it’s possible that some might try intensifying the oppression and subjugation to encourage Palestinian emigration.
In truth, the existential threat facing Israel in the continued occupation and settlement enterprise is out in the open. Simply put, since 1967, the occupation and settlement project are reversing Israel from a sovereign nation-state into a national movement struggling for its legitimacy to exist.
For decades, the Zionist movement’s fight for existence was the fight for international recognition of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. With the creation of Israel, the Jewish people got their recognition from most of the international community – save the Arab peoples, whom the Zionists didn’t ask before beginning to settle in their midst – and this was the most important achievement for modern Zionism.
But as soon as Israel distorted its national boundaries, conquered another people and began “tower and stockade, chapter two,” it retroactively nullified that achievement, and chose to become yet again an “emerging state” with unclear boundaries and an uncertain future.
In its current situation, Israel is an anomalous hybrid. It has both the characteristics of a nation-state and a national movement, its sovereignty unraveling and its future ambiguous. This dynamic trend picks up momentum from day to day: With every legal tender and every illegal outpost, Israel’s sovereign-state traits are disappearing, while its traits resembling those of a movement awaiting international recognition are becoming more and more prominent. Thus, with unparalleled stubbornness – under the flag of Zionism and in the name of the national interest – the captains of the occupation and settlement enterprise are marching Israel in great strides back to the pre-state and pre-Zionist age.
It is thus difficult to overstate the damage that the occupation and settlements are doing to the foundations of Israel’s existence. Israel is sacrificing its status as a recognized state whose self-determination is not in doubt in order to continue a colonialist adventure which gives rise to old questions regarding the legitimacy of its existence.
In the age of the national movement, into which we are being thrust back, we will face the same challenge that faced the Zionist movement before 1948 – whether or not to (re)create Israel as a legitimate state, recognized by the “laws of nations.” It will be possible to do so only after we’ve fully divorced ourselves from the occupation and settlements, and a free, sustainable Palestinian state is formed. That is to say that the nonviolent war of independence being waged by the Palestinian Authority in the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court in The Hague is a new war of independence for Israel, too.
Therefore, those who oppose the Israeli occupation must join the PA’s diplomatic efforts without hesitation, and with true patriotic commitment. This must be done from an explicit understanding that all-out war and boycott of the occupation and the settlement enterprise is the only way Israel can become a legitimate, sovereign state yet again.