Why the “Two State Solution” is Apartheid 320

I expect you are all familiar with the maps showing the radical shrinking of Palestinian land over 70 years due to the expansion of colonial Israeli settlement. Startling and appalling, yes, but to me they bring back strong memories of other maps, in a precisely analogous situation, which goes to the heart of why Israel is an apartheid state.

The original apartheid state of South Africa created “homelands”, known colloquially as “bantustans”, and proposed that, as the apotheosis of apartheid, these “homelands” would become independent states and house the majority black population of the country in fenced-off areas which had been too arid, rocky or commercial mineral free to attract significant white settlement over three centuries of theft. South Africa actually did recognise some of these as Independent states, while the rest were supposed to be on a course to recognition.

The maps really do bring out the startling similarity between these two attempts to formalise the dispossession of the original people. Thankfully, even though the “Homelands solution” had its supporters including Thatcher, it never achieved support beyond what was then an extreme right wing view, and none of the “independent states” ever achieved international recognition.

I worked in the FCO as the South Africa (Political) desk officer from 1984-6, and seeing off right wing Tory lobbying to adopt the Homelands policy was a major problem. It is simply symptomatic of the extraordinary right wing shift in western politics over the intervening three decades, that a “Bantustan” solution for Palestine, laughably called a “two state solution”, is now the accepted wisdom of the political and media class.

The proposal is precisely analogous to South Africa not only because of the displacement of the original population into separated enclosures, but because it leaves the bulk of the land in the hands of a colonial population, whose identity and exclusivity is specifically enshrined in law by ethnicity. Israel’s adoption this year of a new nation state law putting the state on an officially racist basis only confirmed the reality encapsulated in a raft of hundreds of other laws and regulations. The harsh discriminatory regime faced by non-Jews in Israel has been exhaustively documented, and it is not my purpose to repeat it here. I recommend this lecture by Ben White:

Many of the practices Ben describes have strong echoes of the apartheid regime, as do the disregard for Black/Palestinian life, the regular use of disproportionate lethal force against protestors, the mass arrests and detentions, the impunity for both law enforcers and “master race” civilians who attack blacks/Palestinians. These features are highly analogous.

But what I want to address here is the striking similarity between the arguments used by supporters of apartheid, with which I dealt every day at the FCO, and the arguments used today by supporters of Israel. They came by post thirty years ago not internet, and we did not use the word meme, but the key arguments are exactly the same.

We are outnumbered, we will be murdered in our beds.

Supporters of apartheid argued constantly that, as there were more black than white people in South Africa, they would be powerless in a single, democratic South Africa and would be dispossessed and murdered. Bloodcurdling quotes from black nationalists, some real, some invented, would be recycled continually as evidence that a peaceful united South Africa was not possible. A unitary democratic state, it was frequently asserted, would inevitably be followed by a massacre of the white population.

I think it is extremely important to state that the white South Africans arguing this, and their overseas supporters, genuinely believed it at the time. In 1984-6, they really did think majority rule would mean massacre.

I hear precisely the same argument from Israelis and their supporters today. A single state encompassing Israel and Palestine is not possible because they would be outnumbered. Exactly as in South Africa then, these assertions are often accompanied by an obsession with racial demographics and birth rates. And exactly as in South Africa then, the Israelis today really have been taught actually to believe this – that they will all be massacred unless the original population is corralled and viciously controlled.

In fact, of course, no such thing occurred in South Africa. The capacity of a subject people for forgiveness once released is generally surprising. It turns out that it is vicious racial overlordship, as opposed to subjection, which sooner develops psychopathy in a nation. Indeed, remarkably the South African government is only now taking the first tentative steps towards long overdue land reform.

The Land Was Empty Before We Colonised It

White supremacists had put an enormous amount of effort into arguing that the part of Africa most free of disease and amenable to human population, was remarkably free of humans before the arrival of the colonists. The amount of historical distortion involved in this was mind-boggling, and it has been comprehensively debunked since.

It is however remarkable how exactly the same arguments are repeated by Israelis and their supporters who make a variety of ahistoric claims: that the Naqba never happened, that the Palestinians always lived herded together in the Gaza strip, that there is no such thing as a Palestinian identity, and that illegal West Bank settlements are built upon previously unoccupied land.

The Only Democracy in the Region

This claim was made repeatedly by both South Africans and Israelis. It depended on the notion that black South Africans were not South African citizens, but could exercise their democratic rights within the “Homelands”, precisely as Israel argues that the millions of displaced Palestinians are not Israeli citizens but can exercise their democratic rights within the Palestinian occupied territories they were herded to. And again, this argument was rejected with derision by the Western media and political class in the South African case, but to query it in the Israeli case is well outside the Overton window.

The Original Population Are Better Off

A rehash of the Imperial argument that governance by the master race brings economic benefits to the colonised, it was continually asserted that Black South Africans enjoyed better working conditions than any other Africans. Similarly Israel claims that by permitting its caged Palestinian labour force to commute into Israeli factories from their camps, it is helping the Palestinian people.

If you scroll down the replies to this tweet, made at the time of the Gaza demonstration massacre, you will find numerous examples of all of the above arguments being put forward by supporters of Israel. I really had not expected to find myself still fighting apartheid in 2018, let alone in a situation where it is viewed by the Establishment as the acceptable solution.

I do not accept the arguments of any proponent of a “two state solution”, any more than I accepted the arguments of the supporters of apartheid South Africa. It is an essential work to convince people that, despite the massive backing of the media and politicians for it, the “two state” solution represents nothing but the ultimate sanctification of apartheid Israel.

The disgraceful shift of Saudi Arabia to close alliance with Israel and the USA to pursue an obsessive fight against the interests of Shia Muslims everywhere, has hopefully lost some traction after it has become impossible to deny that Mohammed Bin Salman is the psychopath his actions, especially in Yemen but also against peaceful democratic dissidents, had long revealed him to be. The Salman/Kushner plan for an ultra-fragmented Palestinian “state” with its capital in an obscure outer suburb of Jerusalem may have been dealt a mortal blow in the diplomatic world.

The only potential resolution of the situation in Palestine must involve justice and dignity for all. That solution requires the abolition of apartheid Israel and its replacement by a unitary, democratic state blind to race and religion. That is no more impossible in Palestine than it was in South Africa. The fears of those who believe it is not possible, are just as implausible as the fears of apartheid supporters 30 years ago,

320 thoughts on “Why the “Two State Solution” is Apartheid

1 2 3 4
  • Harry Law

    Imagine if the UK had in its statutes, and the USA had in its constitution measures to ensure only white people had the right to immigration [one of Israel’s basic laws is only Jews have the right to immigration into Israel]. Continuing the analogy with Israel’s recently passed ‘Nation-State’ [basic law].

    1. “The states of the UK and the US are the nation-states of the ‘white people”.

    2. “The actualization of the right of national self- determination in the states of the UK/USA is unique to white people”

    3. “The UK/USA will labour to ensure the safety of sons of white people”.

    4. “The UK/USA will act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious legacy of white people among the Diaspora”.

    5. “The UK/USA views ‘white’s only’ settlement as joint national values and will labour to encourage and promote its establishment and development”.

    Now let us look at one of the IHRA examples which the Labour Party have incorporated into the Labour Party rule book:

    “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination – e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

    Who could deny that examples 1 to 5 above if incorporated into UK and US law would prove 100% that the UK and US were inherently racist and that their ‘existence were racist endeavours’ and that anyone in the UK/US [including Jeremy Corbyn] who disapproved of 1 to 5 above, and said so, would fall foul of the IHRA definition, be accused of being Anti Semitic and drummed out of associations like the Labour Party and possibly ostracised from society for life. Disgraceful.

  • Blunderbuss

    I’ve been trying to find out why anti-J_ism is called anti-Semitism and I’ve been told that the term was coined by Wilhelm Marr (1819-1904).


    Wilhelm Marr seems to have been strongly anti-J_ish and, in 1879, “he founded the League of Antisemites (Antisemiten-Liga), the first German organization committed specifically to combating the alleged threat to Germany posed by the J_s and advocating their forced removal from the country”.

    I find it bizarre that a term coined by a vehemently anti-J_ish person is used by the IHRA in preference to the more accurate term anti-J_ism.

  • Hoi Polloi

    As a South African there are lots of parallels with Israel/Palestine and a few differences. The differences are never in Israel’s favour. The one thing that I always convinced myself of was that Palestinians were not controlled like our Bantustan leaders were – like Buthelezi managing the Zulus into good little darkies.
    But now I am not so sure when I see the deliberate shut down of electricity.
    Those in Israel will tell you that it is a better life than a Black South African experienced living in the madam or master’s house. There are Palestinian Doctors working in real jobs in real hospitals alongside real jews. That never happened in South Africa.
    Those in Gaza will tell you that it is a worse life than living in a Homeland. That I can believe, we could at least grow food, tend animals, create a community.

  • John2o2o

    I just found this comment on twitter, apparently made that nice man who has just taken over Brazil:

    THE PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL PLANS TO CLOSE THE PALESTINIAN EMBASSY “Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no Embassy here.”

    “Cough!” … it’s easy to say that a two state solution is aparteid, Craig and that Israel should be abolished. (How on earth would you propose to achieve that?!) But it seems some powerful people in the world may to agree with you that the “two state solution” is not workable, but think that it is Palestine that should be abolished and not Israel.

    I wonder if Mr Bolsonaro has ever heard of Scotland. At least no-one has ever proposed it’s abolition … might upset one or two folks, don’t you think?

    The Israel-Palestine conflict is almost impossible to sort out. Resettling either population is not workable and not practical. Oh, hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it!

  • John2o2o

    Israel-Palestine, Scotland-England. Tsk, nationalism! Who wants it?

    Since we’re on the subject of ludicrous ideas (eg, the abolition of Israel) i thought I’d propose one of my own.

    Before I start I would point out that I claim Scottish citizenship on the grounds of being the son of a proud Scotswoman who has been denied her birthright – on the pathetic grounds of residency – to be allowed to vote on the future of the country in which she was born and raised and in which she lived for the first eighteen years of her life. (Maybe just as well you’re not still a diplomat, Craig).

    I trust that if Scotland does ever become an independent kingdom again that my mother will at least be granted her citizenship rights, though in the Irish model even her granddaughter would have the right to citizenship. You try to cheat at football by allowing non-native Scots to play for you. Give Scots people their birthright at least.

    If Scotland does achieve independence (and I want to assure any spooks that might be reading this that I am, indeed joking when I say that) I will start agitating for an independent Pictish republic. Eamon de Valera, I must remind you was born in New York City to an Irish mother and he is generally regarded as the founder of the Irish Republic.

    You Scots can keep Glasgow and Edinburgh and those repulsive electric windmills that infest the Scottish lowlands and we, the Picts will keep the highlands. Aberdeen will be our capital. We’ll keep the oil and gas as well. (Raspberry).

    Our flag will be a green saltire and Glasgow Celtic and Hibs will be moved to brand new state of the art grounds in the capital. Orange Scots will be gently relocated to the plush estates of Glasgow. (Easterhouse is an up an coming location, I am told.)

    Out national religion will be Roman Catholicism and our salute will be a two fingered one aimed at Edinburgh.

    Workable Craig? Yes, it’s about as daft as the abolition of Israel.

1 2 3 4

Comments are closed.