Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The breathless headlines that the reelection in Israel of far right prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu of the fascist Likud Party has doomed the two state solution are wrong.
The two state solution was doomed by the late 1990s, as Israel doubled its squatters in the Palestinian West Bank after the 1993 Oslo Accords. That is, it doubled the number of squatters over the years it had promised in the accords to withdraw entirely from the West Bank and let the Palestinians have a state there and in Gaza. Or let them have a statelet would be more accurate.
In the years since 2000, as the Israeli far right regularly dominated the government and coddled what Rashid Khalidi has called a “settler-industrial complex,” the idea of a Palestinian state became a sick joke. Americans kept invoking it, pretending that Israel had not become worse than Apartheid South Africa or the Jim Crow Deep South, but it is just empty rhetoric. The reality is Apartheid or a one-state solution. Given US perfidy on the Palestine issue and European pusillanimity, a decades-long Apartheid looms.
The Palestinians don’t have a state. The Palestine Authority is not a state. It does not control land, air or water. It is so little a state that aliens can waltz into its territory and with impunity steal the property of the people over which it is supposed to have authority. The squatters routinely engage in sabotage of Palestinian orchards, pulling down trees and trying to bankrupt them. They are armed, while the Palestinians are not, and also routinely take potshots at the hapless Palestinians. Sooner or later the militant squatters will start a civil war in the West Bank with the aim of driving the Palestinians out entirely, creating a new wave of millions of refugees.
Who rules over the 3 million people of the Palestinian West Bank? Who surrounds the 2 million people of Palestinian Gaza, denying them a port or an airport or freedom of movement or the ability to import key materiel or even to catch enough fish to keep up their protein intake?
The Israeli Army. The Israeli Army rules the Palestinians.
The West Bank and Gaza Palestinians do not have citizenship in a state. Those in Lebanon are likewise stateless, and the Palestinians are the largest group of stateless people in the world.
Statelessness on this scale was common in the period 1917-1945, when brutal governments wielded the weapon of denaturalization (stripping people of their citizenship and making them de facto refugees) against millions of people.
After the Communist Revolution in October, 1917, Eilish Hart writes, a million Russian refugees fled to Europe and
- “the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (a precursor to the USSR) issued a decree that resulted in the mass denaturalization of former citizens of Imperial Russia. Rendered stateless, Russian refugees were left without legal protection, representation or valid travel documents.”
The million Russian “émigrés” were the first instance of massive denaturalization in twentieth century history.
In the era from 1936 forward, a million Spaniards fled the Spanish Civil War and the Fascist rule of Francisco Franco. Some 300,000 of them ended up in Argentina. Most of them lost their Spanish citizenship and had to take that of their host country (at least that option was open to them; it mostly is not, to the Palestinians). Spain has recently begun offering dual Spanish citizenship to this vast diaspora.
The National Socialists in Germany went wild with denaturalization, stripping citizenship from German Jews and then from Jews in the countries they subjected to their jackboot.
I would argue that the denaturalization of Jews, the stripping from them of their citizenship, was what allowed for the Holocaust, in which the Nazis murdered 6 million of them. Stateless people don’t have recourse to authorities or the courts in upholding their basic rights. They are made into legal flotsam.
Ironically, the 1917 promise by Britain to allow Jews to come to Mandate Palestine was invoked in the late 1930s when Hitler annexed the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia and promptly denaturalized 100,000 fomerly Czech Jews. It was hoped by many in the European Jewish community that those who had lost their citizenship and so become flying Dutchmen without national rights might be able to flee to British-ruled Palestine. But in 1936-1939 the Palestinians staged a revolt against harsh British colonial rule and the British project of displacing the Palestinians in favor of bringing in European Jews.
The solution proposed by the British, French and German elites for the murderous beastliness of European Christians toward their Jews was not reparations for the Jews or more enlightened policies toward Jewish Europeans but rather dumping them in the Middle East amid hundreds of millions of anti-colonial and by then rather angry Arabs.
The dumping itself led to a civil war in Mandate Palestine in 1947-48, where it is by now clear that the Zionist leadership plotted out the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The Hagana claimed that 75 percent of Palestinian displacement was the result of their military operations. Massacres like Deir Yassin, where Menachem Begin and his Stern Gang terrorists shot down hundreds of unarmed children, women and men, were intended to create panic among Palestinian peasants and to drive them out. Some 750,000 were driven out of their homes in this way by the Zionists.
In the post-1945, United Nations-ordered world, denaturalization has been rare and usually fairly easily repaired. The post-war institutions and norms viewed denaturalization negatively. It mainly affected individuals, especially women who married foreigners (sometimes thereby losing their own citizenship but not being offered that of their husbands).
The Palestinians are not the only stateless people. But they are the biggest single population that is stateless, and their plight is the only one that seems to have no foreseeable resolution. The racist, Arab nationalist Baath Party of Syria denaturalized a lot of Kurds in the 1960s, but Bashar al-Assad has offered them their citizenship back if they will accept it.
I once heard an Israeli historian say that the Israelis had by now done to the Palestinians everything the Nazis did to the Jews by 1939. (The Holocaust began in the early 1940s, but in the 1930s before the systematic genocide Jews were made stateless, fired from jobs, beaten or had their shop windows broken, chased from property, and sometimes began being herded into camps).
Now we only await the Second Civil War (with the first being 1947-48) to see the Palestinians yet again ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homeland of millennia.
The Palestinians were likely doomed to this fate even if Netanyhu had not won another term. But his reelection sets in motion forces that will reinforce and accelerate this process over the coming decades.