My essay, “One State, Two States: Who is the Subject of Palestinian Liberation?” is up at MRZine.
One state or two? Boycott of Israeli goods or goods from the settlements? Is the lobby the genesis of American wrongdoing in Palestine or is it imperialism? The questions — regarding vision, strategy, and analysis — produce sharp cleavages on the Left. Indeed, generally ones much deeper than they need to be. And they remain stubbornly unsettled.
They also congeal in the person of Norman Finkelstein, who has taken some unpopular positions — his insistent call for a two-state solution, his references to “cultish” aspects of BDS — as well as more popular ones, like blaming the occupation solely on the Israel lobby. For that reason he has become a lightning rod, attracting furious bolts of criticism and support. The core issues, however, remain obscured amidst a charged atmosphere of extravagant denunciations (catcalls of Zionism and worse) from one side and fierce defenses from the other.
From one perspective, it’s an odd contretemps. Finkelstein has spent decades fighting for Palestinian dignity and a place for Palestinians to live free of the occupation’s suffocating violence and capricious indignities. He is the maverick scholar who exposed the American intellectual community as a gaggle of hacks by dissecting Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial, showing it to be a hoax intended to deny the Palestinians peoplehood by painting them as peripatetics who had fabricated a “Palestinian” identity to ride the wave of Israel’s successful nation-building project. And his forensic dismantling of Israeli scholarly mythologies in Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict remains one of the very best primers on the prejudices that surround the conflict.
For all that time his fight has been for a two-state settlement: something that seemed reasonable in 1988 and in the early 1990s. But what seemed possible twenty years ago — with the Israeli electorate temporarily shaken by the savage repression of the 1st intifada and Israeli capital needing to recover from the aftermath of the destabilizing military-industrial accumulation patterns of the 1970s and 1980s, break through the sectoral envelope of domestic accumulation, and globalize — seems less possible now, with militarized accumulation again on the rise in the Middle East and elsewhere. In some ways, the argument for two states has become a relic when so much of the discourse (less so the organizing) of the radical pro-Palestinian Left in the West and the Palestinian Left in the Occupied Territories is oriented towards one single state.
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