Open Zion

03.14.12

The Other One Staters

Sometimes I love right-wing Christians. In the past few weeks, in the wake of pro-BDS conferences at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, American Jewish groups have been venting their outrage about the legitimacy that powerful institutions are giving to people who support turning Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into a single state. This Jewish outrage is not surprising, explains the Anti-Defamation League, because the “ADL has consistently expressed opposition to any notion of a one-state solution.”

Consistently? As it turns out, two other powerful institutions—the state legislatures of Florida and South Carolina—have recently been hosting one state conferences of their own. As Josh Nathan-Kazis reports in the Forward, both houses of Florida’s legislature and one house of South Carolina’s have now passed non-binding resolutions insisting that, in the words of the resolution’s South Carolina sponsor, “we consider Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem to be part of Israel.” (It’s less clear if the Christian Zionist crowd includes Gaza in their one-state solution—what was Samson, chopped liver?) Yet there’s no trace of condemnation of Florida and South Carolina’s actions on the web site of the ADL or the American Jewish Committee, which also “voiced deep concerns” about one-statism at Harvard.

In truth, mainstream American Jewish groups have never consistently opposed a one-state solution. They didn’t give Benjamin Netanyahu a hard time when he ran for prime minister, formed a governing coalition and met with Barack Obama in May 2009 all without having endorsed a Palestinian state. (Something he subsequently did a month later at Bar-Ilan University). They don’t publicly oppose settlement policies that make the two state solution ever harder to achieve. They don’t call on Likud to rewrite its party platform, which—at least as of 2006, which is the most recent reference I can find—explicitly opposed the two state solution.

But that’s easier to do because there’s a general understanding in the American Jewish establishment that even if you don’t really support a two state solution, it’s better not to say so, and instead blame the Palestinians for opposing one. It’s more diplomatic that way. Yet here come these blunderbuss Christian Zionists—the same ones that AIPAC and Malcolm Hoenlein (though, to be fair, not the ADL and AJC) have been courting for years—messing everything up by shouting their one-statism from the rooftops.

It’s possible that I’ve misunderstood the ADL and AJC’s position. Maybe they’re not against all one-statism, just one statism that dismantles Israel as a Jewish state. Perhaps one-statism that dismantles Israel as a democratic state is fine. I think that’s a wildly self-defeating view, since over the long run an Israel in permanent control of millions of citizenship-less Palestinians will be easy prey for the BDS dismantlers. But if that’s really what Abe Foxman and David Harris believe, it would helpful if they said so.

If they don’t—if they really do oppose all one-state solutions—then sooner or later they’re going to have to confront the Christian one-staters who play such an important role in the “pro-Israel” movement. (And who are being egged on by right-wing Jewish groups like the Zionist Organization of America). Already, the ADL and AJC—unlike AIPAC or the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations—have criticized some of the anti-democratic legislation pushed by Avigdor Lieberman. Good for them. If they criticized “Pro-Israel” one-statism too, it might be the beginning of a genuine, and immensely healthy, split in the American Jewish establishment: between organizations like the ADL and AJC that take seriously their stated commitment to a democratic Jewish state and organizations like AIPAC and the Presidents’ Conference, which don’t. 

But a word of warning: Once groups like the ADL and AJC actually began subjecting “Pro-Israel” types in the US and Israel to the same two-state scrutiny to which they subject Palestinians, they’d be on the slippery slope to J Streetism. See what happens when those meshuggah, Israel-loving Christians don’t leave well enough alone!