By Rabbi David Cooper
One of the hot topics of discussion about Israel/Palestine in the last few weeks has been two essays by Peter Beinart about his turn to a one-state solution in regard to the impasse toward any resolution. The shorter of the two essays is in the New York Times of July 8 which summarizes a much longer development of his thesis in Jewish Currents magazine.
It has received a lot of attention because Beinart is internationally respected as a commentator/analyst and has been and remains a steadfast Zionist who until now has advocated for a two-state solution (which he did at Kehilla a few years ago). His Jewish identity and credentials are impeccable and so he just cannot be credibly charged with antisemitism.
Given that he cannot be easily dismissed as such from those on his right, much of their critique has gone into dismissing his vision of what a one-state would look like, or critiquing his claim that a one-state of equal rights and citizenship for all its inhabitants is neither un-Jewish nor anti-Zionist. What I found interesting is that none of those criticizing him from the right propose a realistic solution to the disenfranchisement and occupation of the Palestinian people. [Peter is also critiqued from the left for not going far enough in his analysis and for not critiquing Zionism itself more fully.]
Two weeks ago, I watched a Zoom panel between Peter Beinart, Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street, and Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah. Jeremy adamantly defended the two-state solution and demonstrated how unrealistic obtaining and maintaining a one-state solution would be. And Peter convincingly demonstrated that obtaining a meaningful two-state solution was unrealistic and that it is becoming even more so as Israel establishes what is already a one-state reality (but with unequal rights and power). I found both of them convincing. (Don’t you hate that?)
Rabbi Jill indicated her preference for a two-state solution, however she did not voice opposition to a one-state answer either. Rather she indicated that in the present moment and in whatever future configuration there is, T’ruah’s emphasis will continue to be human rights for all.
How I see it. Peter has faced squarely into the reality that Israel keeps moving haltingly but inexorably toward a one-state reality from the river to the sea. One-state has a choice: it can either be Jewish and not a democratic state, or it can be democratic but not a Jewish state. Two-states was a way for Israel to be a Jewish state and democratic because a majority in the Jewish state would be Jews, and Palestinians would be a majority in their state.
In the 1980’s Kehilla came out in favor of a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel when this was anathema in the Jewish community. Interestingly, our Values Statement on Israel/Palestine of 2016 takes no position of one versus two states but asserts that the outcome must recognize the equal rights of all the people of Israel/Palestine.
However you stand on his proposed answer to the impasse, I do recommend reading and wrestling with his principled and honest analysis that took some guts to put out.
Rabbi David on Jewish Currents Magazine
And while I am directing you to the Beinart essay in Jewish Currents magazine, let me encourage Kehilla folks to be regular readers [and subscribers] of Jewish Currents because it is now a center for left-Jewish discourse which reflects on many issues – spiritual and political – that are of concern to Kehilla folks. Current issue.
The magazine has an interesting history. It was started in 1946 as a Jewish “old-leftist” journal with contributors often pulled from the Communist Party USA. It was largely disregarded by the Jewish New Left although many of us would check it out from time to time. Then in 2018, the magazine was completely taken over and redesigned by millennials causing it to have a resurgence of readership and writership.
Kehilla Official Resolution Against Annexation
by Rabbi David J. Cooper
Our resolution against the annexation of land in the West Bank is not a political analysis but a simple statement of why any support for the annexation of West Bank land is contrary to our values as a Jewish community.