by: Timothy Villareal on September 15th, 2013 | 13 Comments »
In the summer of 1995 I had the opportunity to “intern” with the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) in Jerusalem, a think-tank devoted to Israeli-Palestinian peace. I put “intern” in quotes because I never actually did anything constructive, as I was much more in absorbing-mode than in doing-mode. Most of the time I just read the volumes of the material available on the Arab-Israeli conflict at IPCRI’s office, then in an old Jerusalem home a stone’s throw from the Damascus Gate, and observed the staffers go on about their work. One of those staffers was IPCRI founder Gershon Baskin, a man with a big mind and a big heart.
I thought about Gershon today upon reading Professor Ian Lustick’s eye-popping and already widely-discussed op-ed in the New York Times titled “The Two-State Illusion.” In addition to shortsighted politicians with petty interests in the U.S., Israel and the P.A., Lustick argues that the two-state solution, or “illusion” as he puts it, still enjoys official political backing because of the career needs of a cadre of “peace process” professionals, though he is careful not to mention names. Lustick writes:
Finally, the “peace process” industry – with its legions of consultants, pundits, academics and journalists – needs a steady supply of readers, listeners and funders who are either desperately worried that this latest round of talks will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, or that it will not.
Reflecting on this particular assertion, I’m so glad I once got to meet Gershon Baskin and to see him in his element: I can say I have met at least one person in the “peace process” industry who does what he does not out of a love for mere process, but for no other reason than that he simply hates human suffering, and believes all peoples are entitled to peace and freedom.
Yet there are two far more worrisome aspects to Lustick’s NYT op-ed: He is entirely rational in his larger political diagnosis of the conflict, which will give him much street cred among those in the West who are Mideast truth-seekers with no pre-existing axe to grind with Israelis or Palestinians, and yet, his political remedy amounts to a full-scale erasure of the Jewish state.
For the last three and half weeks, since August 21st, the international community has been essentially dithering after the Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad and his henchmen gassed to death over 1,400 people with sarin gas. Of late, the strongest superpower in the world, the United States, which supposedly has an “Israel Lobby” that “controls everything” is negotiating with the said despot’s Russian enablers to “dismantle” his chemical weapons. Under the banner of peace, the international community has left an entire people, the Syrian people, to the “mercy” of a dictator and his henchmen who have already demonstrated their willingness to execute them with poison gas.
The very notion, intrinsic to Lustick’s outlook, that the human agonies that have arisen from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict somehow nullifies the necessity of statehood for the Jewish people is incomprehensible.
Equally incomprehensible about Lustick’s prescription – an end to Israel and a birthing of a binational state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean – is that he fully recognizes how quickly geopolitical winds can change. From the rapid demise of the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia, Lustick cites previously unpredicted, dramatic turnabouts in territorial and political landscapes. Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry said just a few weeks ago that he “could not imagine” the United States Congress not giving the president military authorization in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
Political winds and public sentiments, domestic and foreign, are always shifting.
Dictators who gas innocent civilians and get away with it, in real time, still exist.
Relatedly, petty moralists, religious and secular, more concerned with portraying themselves in a Jesus-Ghandi-Budda light than in doing what is necessary to stop despots from mass murder will continue to do what they do best: play church while kids get gassed and burned with napalm. Watch this below:
Rather than toying around with Lustick’s one-state solution, my sincere hope is that spiritual progressives will remain steadfastly committed to standing up for the rights of the Palestinian people to enjoy the fruits of peace and freedom, while simultaneously pointing to Bashar al-Assad’s recreation of hell on earth and asking every Israel rejectionist in the Muslim world, as well as every Israel rejectionist in the halls of American academe, the following question: What part of the human condition are you not getting, ladies and gentlemen?