(This is an opinion piece. It reflects solely the views of the author. The LSESU Grimshaw Club is committed to academic neutrality.)
Last Thursday, the Grimshaw Club and the Politics and Forum society co-hosted a panel debate on the Future of Palestine, which was kindly chaired by Prof. Kukathas of the LSE Government Department. The official title was “One State Reality/ Two State Utopia” with three speakers debating for each side of the argument. For me, it seemed interesting that generally throughout the debate, the “One State Reality” speakers used far more utopian language and made far more idealistic arguments than those arguing in favour for a supposedly “Two State Utopia”. I believe that this debate really illustrated that age old tension: the conflict of what there is and what there ought to be. Fundamentally, there are two distinct groups (Palestinians and Israelis) and the notion of coexistence and integration within the One State Reality is far more utopian than working towards a Two State Solution.
I think all of the panelists (perhaps with the exception of Neuman) acknowledged the current injustice and bloodshed that the current One State Reality is fostering. Neuman’s extreme argument in favour of a One State Reality to “punish” Arabs for their “belligerence” was extremely problematic and lacked the balance and evidence needeto discuss the Palestine/israel issue on a professional academic level. Yet, his polemic statements did effectively illustrate the ongoing conflict between the two groups. Other than this, the panelists arguing in favour of One State Reality could not and did not justify the current inequality. Dr Rooney argued for “integration over isolation” but of course this in itself accepts that we need change in the form of increasing integration. Dr Kharmi sought to bring about an “end to apartheid”, drawing parallels with Israel and South Africa, and highlighted how there is a lack of justice and lack of equal rights for Palestinians living under Israeli rule. I would agree with the fact that there is an unjust reality. But while it seems wonderful to talk about increasing integration and abolishing the institutional inequality, it became clear to me that ridding the one state of inequality and manufacturing integration between two different groups is actually far more utopian than the creation of two separate states. If we “imagine” (as John Lennon did) the world living as one and everyone getting along, perhaps we would see a one state reality working. But, let’s get back to reality, we are fundamentally living in a world of conflict and both the Palestinians and the Israelies have their own history, their own cultures and they both believe they have a fundamental right to live in Palestine/Israel. Two states are needed to accommodate these conflicting claims.
Fundamentally, we cannot ignore the fact that there are two distinct groups with very different national identities, who are both very nationalistic and ideologically committed. Lyndon’s comparison with the conflict in Ireland is also worth considering. To me, it seems clear that with two such highly developed and distinct identities, clash has been and will continue to be inevitable within one state. Even if, we imagine that within the current One State Reality, Palestinians and Israelis manage to end the bloodshed and live peacefully, there would still be immense entrenched privilege. Lyndon perfectly illustrated this point with the figures that within a roughly 50/50 ethnic split, the GDP per capita of the Israelis would still surpass the GDP of the Palestinians by over 20%. The institutional injustice, which Choudry recounted according to her own experiences in the Occupied Territories, would inevitably endure and it is far too idealistic to think otherwise. In addition, as the Head Spokesman of the Israeli Embassy Curiel pointed out, the two-state solution is the only one advocated by the parties who will ultimately negotiate the peace, i.e. both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, we need to look past what there ought to be within the one state and deal with what there is. There is immense violence from both sides and the continuation of bloodshed illustrates the urgency of the situation. Both nationalistic groups need the right to national self-determination; Palestine deserves the right to prosper as its own nation and escape institutional prejudice. Political rights, human rights, economic and social opportunities cannot be equally shared in the current One State Reality.
Unlike the title of the debate suggests, utopian thinking does not actually come from the notion of a two state solution. Rather, it is far more idealistic to dream of manufacturing equality, peace and justice in the current One State Reality in which two different nationalistic groups are continuously clashing.
Full video can be seen here: