This adapted article is the intellectual property of Benny Morris from a work published in 2009.
In 2003, Tony Judt, a distinguished professor of modern European History at New York University, and someone who had never worked academically on the Middle East, wrote an article for the New York Times titled “Israel: The Alternative”.
In it he posited that
“the one-state idea”— and the idea of Israel, buried, in effect, since the late 1940s, had lost traction and was no longer adequate to underpin the continued existence of, and support for, a Jewish state. We are living “in an age” that rejects the idea of a state in which “one community—Jews—is set above others.” The Jewish state, he argued, had been established “too late,” “a characteristically late-nineteenth-century separatist project” superimposed on “a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law.” Judt implied that, at least intellectually, the nation state was dead and “the very idea of a ‘Jewish state’ . . . rooted in another time and place . . . is an anachronism . . . [in] a world where nations and peoples increasingly intermingle and intermarry . . . ; where cultural and national impediments to communication have all but collapsed; where more and more of us have multiple elective identities . . . in such a world Israel is truly . . . [a] dysfunctional [anachronism].”
To this he added that the Israeli-“Palestinian” Oslo peace process of the 1990s, based on an assumed ultimate outcome of two states, had died, essentially because of Israeli obstructionism, and could not be resurrected. There could and would be no partition of Palestine/Israel into two states. And the demographic facts on the ground, given the Arabs’ far greater birth rate, as well as the current demographic reality of Israel’s Jewish population of 5.4 million and 1.3 million Arabs and the West Bank–Gaza Strip’s combined population of 3.8 million Arabs meant that Israel could not long remain both Jewish and democratic.
For pro-Palestinians, this was a public relations coup, and set the agenda for self-interested European states and noisy elements on the Left of politics to pursue this thesis with vigour.
Judt’s article unleashed a tsunami of mostly negative responses. Many argued that if Judt, himself a Diaspora Jew, felt that nationalism was anachronistic, why start with Israel? Why not with France? . . . The French had pioneered this political structure that, in violation of all the tenets of advanced opinion, privileged a particular people, history, and language and infected the world with like anachronistic notions. . . Or with the Germans, or the Swedes, or the Bulgarians . . . all of whom had enjoyed these ‘privileges’ much longer than the Jews.
Others argued that if Israel was an anachronism in terms of defining itself as a nation state, why could not the likes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Iran also be encouraged to remove their borders for the benefit of the new world order. Or, if one were looking at Europe, what particular entitlements did Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo have which precluded them from being turned into flourishing post-national, globalised multiethnicities of the sort Judt had in mind for “anachronistic” Israel.
And still others posited that Judt’s proposal was not really pointing the way to a binational state at all but “would simply replace one nation-state with another,” on the highly debatable premise that there would be more Arabs than Jews between the Jordan and the Mediterranean in a decade or so.
Fifteen years after Judt’s forecast, nothing could be further from the truth.
However, this, of course, now became the explicit stated goal of Palestinian nationalists, and the recent history of the movement hardly suggests that they have given it up.
Besides, it was argued that Judt had “crossed the line” from “criticism of Israel’s policy to the criticism of Israel’s existence”; the “alternative” in the title was not “for Israel” but “to Israel.” And, in failing to describe the character of his desired polity, Judt’s “Alternative” would quickly devolve into an Arab majority state with a diminishing Jewish minority.
Judt’s weighted article of a post-national, transcultural, globalized paradise in which the state had become redundant, and where the abolishment of the State of Israel would serve as the paradigm change notwithstanding, spawned a torrent of similarly argued theses in the Arab world and in the Left and Right in the West that sought, simply, not Israel’s reform or the reform of its policies, but its disappearance, however affected and however camouflaged. Many of these publications were written by anti-Zionist, not to say anti-Semitic, Arabs and their Western supporters, though some professed to be doing this also for the sake of Israel’s Jews….
One such caring individual was Omar Barghouti who, in 2004, published a piece entitled “Relative Humanity: The Fundamental Obstacle to a One-State Solution in Historic Palestine.”
Barghouti, asserted that “the two-state solution . . . is really dead. Good riddance!” and that “we are witnessing the rapid demise of Zionism, and nothing can be done to save it.”
What remained, he said, was, “a secular democratic state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean…[which would] first and foremost facilitate the return of . . . all the Palestinian refugees.”
Thus, at a stroke, he assured that the “binational” state he was proposing would instantly become a state with an overwhelming Arab majority.
Oslo is indeed dead.
However, Judt spawned yet another false Arab narrative where, together with believing that the Arabs did not really lose three wars against a tiny Jewish state, Western intellectuals and their “Palestinian” acolytes believe that new world order intellectualised by Judt and financed by Soros would actually work despite two millennia of bloody and violent evidence to the contrary.
Meanwhile, lasting peace between Israel and its Arabs remains as distant as ever.