Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government plans to host a symposium this weekend entitled “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution”.
At first glance, such a vision seems highly attractive. Why not all live together in peace rather than fighting one another?
Indeed, in an ideal world, there would be no national borders, no attempts by nations to keep out illegal immigrants and an egalitarian distribution of resources between all human beings wherever they lived. However, it doesn’t work that way.
It doesn’t even happen in democratic countries, where elected governments pursue their own narrow political and economic agendas even when they run contrary to the interests of those who voted for the parties in opposition. Ultimately wherever you go, it is the strong who dictate the agenda. That’s true not only in government, but also in all human and animal interactions.
Anyone with a sense of history understands that the return to Zion after two thousand years of wandering was primarily brought about because Jews had had enough of being kicked around as a minority, whose wellbeing had been dependent upon the goodwill of the indigenous population and its rulers.
The events of the late 19th century in Eastern Europe, anti-Semitism even in an enlightened country like France as highlighted by the Dreyfus Trial and, of course, first and foremost, the Holocaust convinced most Jews that we needed to be masters of our own destiny (to the degree that that can be true of any of us!)
In an ideal world, there would be a secular state in the Middle East extending from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean – why not also include Jordan, the whole Middle East and, indeed, the entire world? – in which Jews and Palestinians and all religious, ethnic, racial and tribal groups would live together in peace. As the Psalmist wrote: “How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” However, we shall have to wait for the Messiah to come for that to happen!
For the meantime, the establishment of one state between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean would inevitably result in the Jews becoming a minority in their own land. Given Islam’s political and religious agenda, it is not too difficult to imagine the consequences. One need only look at the decimation of Christian communities in Arab lands and the persecution of the Copts in Egypt to understand the picture.
Of course, there are Muslims who remind us of the Golden Age in Spain, forgetting the fact that, more than 300 years before the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella expelled our ancestors, Moses Maimonides had already fled that country for Egypt, because of the forced conversion of Jews to Islam by the Almohads under pain of death.
Therefore, while the One-State Solution may seem like a wonderful idea, it is only seventy years since a very different “solution of the Jewish question” was proposed by Heinrich Himmler with appalling consequences. As the British philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke quite rightly pointed out: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”