Who is the Subject of Palestinian Liberation?

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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