The concept of a ‘two-state solution’ has been proposed as a means to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The proposal for creating Jewish and Arab states in the British Mandate of Palestine can be traced back to the Peel Commission report of 1937. However, this proposal is fundamentally flawed as it stems from historical injustices, particularly European imperialism, civilisation and racism.
The British government established the Peel Commission to investigate the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine and recommend its resolution. Its recommendations set the stage for the later United Nations partition plan in 1947, which eventually led to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The birth of Israel contributed to the ongoing disputes and tensions in the region.
Israel was in response to the global Zionist movement, a political and ideological movement that advocated for establishing and supporting a Jewish homeland. Zionism emerged in the late 19th century as a response to the increasing ‘persecution’ of Jews in Europe. Theodor Herzl published ‘The Jewish State’ in 1896, arguing for establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. At the time, Jews had no single place where they were found as a single group but claimed the Middle East as their historic homeland.
Zionism’s claim to the land of Israel is or was premised on four elements, ie, the Jewish people settled and developed the land; the international community granted political sovereignty in Palestine to the Jewish people; and the territory was captured in defensive wars.
Nevertheless, Herzl’s work laid the foundation for the Zionist movement. The political step towards this goal was the encouragement of Jewish immigration to Palestine, known as Aliyah.
To understand the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is essential to recognise the impact of European imperialism. The British Empire, among other colonial powers, played a significant role in shaping the Middle East in the aftermath of World War I. The Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration are crucial historical documents that set the stage for the Zionist movement’s advancement in the region.
The 1917 Balfour Declaration, issued by the British government during World War I, expressed support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. This declaration also had profound consequences for the indigenous Arab population of Palestine. This marked a significant step in the international recognition of Zionist aspirations. Furthermore, the declaration laid the foundation for the subsequent influx of Jewish immigrants from Europe.
The mass migration of European Jews to Palestine in the early 20th century is contentious. It not only resulted in one of the world’s longest-running conflicts but also in the trampling on the rights of the people these European migrants found in Palestine. The displacement of millions of Palestinians and their ongoing struggle for recognition and justice is a significant concern that cannot be ignored. Therefore, the recent tendency to frame the conflict as an Israel-Hamas struggle oversimplifies the complex nature of the situation.
The aftermath of World War I saw the reshaping of the Middle East, with colonial powers like Britain and France dividing territories and imposing their interests. The West’s support for the Zionist agenda and the formation of Israel has been a source of contention in the region. It is also important to recognise that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not solely a product of the Hamas-Israel dynamic. While Hamas controls Gaza, the West Bank has a different political authority, the Palestinian Authority, and lacks Hamas's direct influence. Yet, the people of the West Bank still suffer the consequences of the Israeli occupation.
The latest spate of violence has renewed calls for a ‘two-state solution’ to end the conflict and rectify injustices.
However, this suggestion can be described as illogical, preposterous, ahistorical and unsustainable. At worst, it perpetuates the very injustices by legitimising the forced displacement of Palestinian Arabs from their homeland.
The ‘two-state solution’ proposes the coexistence of Israel and a future Palestinian state. This solution is not viable and preposterous for several reasons. Firstly, the division of territory between Israelis and Palestinians, with Israel retaining most of the land and resources, perpetuates inequality. If likened to the settlement after apartheid, whites would keep the land and the economy while the black population stayed in Qwaqwa and Alexandra. Understandably, organisations such as Afriforum and the DA would be content with such.
Secondly, it is fair to question whether two states can coexist peacefully despite the deep-seated mistrust and historical grievances between the two parties. The analogy to German reunification suggests that one group is asked to leave or move elsewhere, which does not address the fundamental issue of historical injustices. The ‘two-state solution’ is more than just an illusion but a well-orchestrated plan to implement the Yinon Plan.
Fashioned in the 1980s by the former Ariel Sharon advisor Oded Yinon, the Yinon Plan serves as a blueprint for the expulsion of Arabs from Palestine. Most people think that Adolf Hitler was defeated, whereas his ideas of a ‘Reiner Deutscher Staat’ (Pure German State) were embraced with the formation of Israel. Neo-Nazism catalysed the process of solving the Jewish ‘problem’ in Europe, which easily dovetailed with the Zionist ideology. After the atrocities of the Third Reich in Germany, it was easier to rationalise European racism and tribalism.
What is not often said is that many locations were considered for establishing a Jewish state long before Hitler’s rise that purportedly changed history.
At first, diverse places such as Uganda, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Argentina were considered possible places for the Jewish homeland. Within the Soviet Union, there were also considerations for an ersatz Zion for Soviet Jews, but this would go against the state policy of atheism. Nonetheless, Birobidzhan or the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, was established in 1934 after the proposal to create it in Crimea or part of Ukraine was rejected for fear that it would cause resentment and conflict among the non-Jewish population.
What is somewhat puzzling is that human rights-obsessed Europeans have never attempted to create a homeland for the Sinti, the Yenish, the Kale and other groups who speak Romani. Commonly known as Roma (Gypsies) and estimated at over 15 million, it is claimed that they originated in the Punjab region of northern India as a nomadic people and entered Europe between the eighth and tenth centuries C.E. They are exactly in the same situation as the Jews before 1948, but the only difference is that they are not wealthy.
They continue to suffer economic, political and cultural discrimination at the hands of Europeans. Timothy Waters claims that Gypsies “are fantastically overrepresented in prison populations and unemployment figures, adding to the financial burdens on European society”. He adds that “the Gypsy communities are living laboratories for theories of national identity formation.” Unlike the Zionists, they lack psychological identification with some homeland as a ‘place of pilgrimage’ or even a common political ideology.
Nonetheless, the Western World has turned a blind eye to this community and does not spend billions of dollars on them as it does on Jews, let alone finding a homeland where they can rule themselves. In the 1930s, the USSR considered giving the Roma their very own republic to be known as the Gypsy Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, or the Gypsy ASSR. However, the Bolsheviks regarded them as “profoundly culturally backward”. In their eyes, the Roma “jeopardised socialist modernity as a peculiar ethnic menace”.
In the end, the fortunate Jews were awarded both the state of Israel and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. All over Europe, Gypsies continue to be rejected from the Iberian Peninsula to the Danube River. The Gypsy victims of the Nazi genocide are estimated at 200,000 to 500,000 but got no recognition. In Switzerland, they faced
“cultural genocide”, where children were forcibly taken from their families, like in Australia. On the positive side, the Gypsy discourse persuaded the Indian government to acknowledge the Gypsy people’s Indian origins and the UN to grant them permanent consultative status.
On the other hand, the Jewish treatment has been rather interesting since Jews benefit handsomely from European public policy not only for the Nazi crimes but also for other historical events, such as their expulsion during the Spanish Inquisition between 1478 and 1834. Anti-Semitism is a punishable crime in many European countries. Germany, the US and the West financially and politically support the aggressive state of Israel.
Sephardi Jews have had the option of seeking Spanish or Portuguese naturalisation. In October 2023, however, Portugal moved to end Sephardic Jewish citizenship law in January 2024.
Following many years of apartheid and internal colonialism, South Africa created a single secular state in 1994.
Of course, the imperfections of racial separate development are evident in class and wealth, but issues such as citizenship and political rights are equally available to blacks and whites. Some voices within the Israeli and Palestinian communities, as well as internationally, call for a single, secular state where all residents have equal rights regardless of ethnicity or religion.
In this regard, Miko Peled advocates for a one-state solution to address the issues of inequality and historical injustices that have fuelled the conflict. As of March 2023, the Arab community accounted for 21% (around 2.048 million) of the Israel population. Although they have the same legal rights as Jewish citizens, many continue to face discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages. Palestinian American historian Rashid
Khalidi likened their situation to a “Jim Crow–type segregation”. Something massive must still happen within Israel for a one-state solution to be viable.
A one-state solution still appears to be a much more sensible option than the controversial Yinon Plan or even the disbandment of Israel by removing its population from the Middle East. However, the continued presence of Zionist territorial expansion and Western neo-imperialism only strengthens the Arab nationalists’ resolve to dismantle the state of Israel.