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Tel Aviv University
Yoav Peled admires Palestinian democratic values: One state solution is "The Way Forward in the Middle East"


TAU Professor Yoav Peled poli1@post.tau.ac.il and  Dr. Horit Herman Peled, art, Oranim College  




Posted on 01/29/2012 by Juan

Yoav Peled and Horit Herman Peled write in a guest column for Informed Comment

The Way Forward in the Middle East

Reversing a bi-partisan US policy in effect for the last two decades, the Republican National Committee recently endorsed the one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, resolving that “peace can be afforded the [Middle east] region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.” In all likelihood, this was an unintended consequence of the Republican party’s election-year pro-Israel frenzy. But, intentional or not, the RNC statement is correct. The Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” that aims at the establishment of two independent states, Israel and Palestine, bounded, more or less, by the 1967 borders, is totally bankrupt. If any evidence is needed, just look at the seventeen futile initiatives meant to revive Oslo process since its demise in 2000.

What makes the two-state solution unachievable is the fact that since 1967 Israel has settled close to three quarters of a million Jews in the territories it captured from Jordan in 1967. About one-third of those are in the area Israel defined as Jerusalem and annexed in 1967, declaring it to be non-negotiable. Of the remaining five hundred thousand, the lowest estimate of the number that would have to be removed in order for a viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state to be set up in the West Bank is one hundred thousand. This is a task that no Israeli government, committed as it may be to the two-state solution, would be able to carry out, politically. To this day no Israeli government has removed even one of the West Bank “outposts” that are illegal by Israeli law (all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal by international law), despite promises to the US and several decisions by Israel’s own High Court of Justice.

The declared purpose of the settlement drive in the West Bank (as in the other occupied territories) was to change demographic realities in order to make Israel’s withdrawal from those territories impossible. This purpose has been achieved. Not only are the settlers, their family members and their supporters an electoral power block that cannot be ignored, settlers and their supporters now make up a significant proportion of the command structure of Israel’s security forces, the same forces that would have to carry out a decision to remove the settlers.

To counter this argument, critics may point to the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza in 2005. That example, however, actually supports our argument. In order to remove 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza, an easily isolated region of no religious significance to Jews, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a military hero idolized by both the settlers and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had to deploy the entire man and woman power of all of Israel’s security forces. Moreover, the Gaza withdrawal was not done in agreement with the Palestinians, or in order to facilitate peace with them. It was done unilaterally, in order to make Israel’s control of Gaza more efficient. Judging by this example, removing 100,000 settlers from the West Bank, in order to enable the establishment of a Palestinian state, would be an impossible task.

Instead of pursuing the mirage of a two-state solution, would-be peace makers should recognize the fact that Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in fact constitute one state that has been in existence for nearly forty-five years, the longest lasting political formation in these territories since the Ottoman Empire. (The British Mandate for Palestine lasted thirty years; Israel in its pre-1967 borders lasted only nineteen years). The problem with that state, from a democratic, humanistic perspective, is that forty percent of its residents, the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, are non-citizens deprived of all civil and political rights. The solution to this problem is simple, although deeply controversial: establishing one secular, non-ethnic, democratic state with equal citizenship rights to all in the entire area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

Supporters of the two-state solution have always used the prospect of one state as a threat, and still do. If a two-state solution is not implemented, world leaders from President Obama on down have warned, Israel will have to face the reality of being a state that could be either Jewish or democratic, but not both. But instead of a threat this could be seen as an opportunity. The Arab Spring has, for the first time, opened up the possibility of true democratization in several Middle Eastern and North African countries. Instead of viewing this development with alarm, as it has been doing, Israel could join this process and democratize the entire territory under its effective control.

The stability of the future secular, democratic Israeli-Palestinian state would depend not only on it being truly democratic, but also on the strictest constitutional separation between state and religion. This should not mean forced secularization or placing restrictions on the free exercise of religion, but it does mean that the state will neither sanction nor subsidize religious activities and institutions, nor will it tolerate religious practices that are discriminatory towards women. In the present state of affairs this idea sounds utterly utopian, because both Israeli and Palestinian societies are becoming more and more religious and suspicious of each other. But as the young activists of Tahrir Square and elsewhere have shown, powerful liberal, democratic, emancipatory undercurrents exist underneath the placid façade of many Middle Eastern societies. These forces, we are convinced, exist in Israel and Palestine too and, given the opportunity, could transform the political reality and bring an end to the hundred-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Yoav Peled (
poli1@post.tau.ac.il) teaches political science at Tel Aviv University.
Horit Herman Peled (
horithp@gmail.com) teaches art at Oranim College.







Sun Jul 18, 2004


Join us for an evening with Tel Aviv media artist and peace activist 
Horit Herman Peled and political scientist Yoav Peled discussing digital cultural production and civil rights.

Wednesday, July 21, 7pm

601 West 26th Street
New York, New York 10001
Tel: 212-937 0443
Email: info@thing.net
(organized by Trebor Scholz in collaboration with The Thing)

Horit Herman Peled is a net artist and PhD student in media philosophy at the European Graduate School. She teaches digital art and theory of digital culture at the Art Institute at Oranim College in Israel. Her work deals with Israeli colonialism and the ways in which it renders an artistic terrain that makes it imperative for artists to choose to engage their work as responsible citizens.

Yoav Peled is professor of political science at Tel Aviv University. His work deals with issues of citizenship and identity, primarily in the Israeli-Palestinian context. His book, co-authored with Gershon Shafir, Being Israeli, received the Albert Hourani award of the Middle East Studies Association in 2002.
Response/ Ability in the Age of Digital Terror
Horit Herman Peled
Advanced technological means of industrial production render a shift in the traditional relationship between art/cultural producers and the social means of production.  This paradigm shift endows cultural producers with a non- alienated working perspective: creating within the means of production, abolishing the artistic speculative exchange value and producing works with a social use value tag.  Engaging in such an endeavor calls for a commitment to human/political involvement, in contrast to the prevalent commercial engagement in non-social or seemingly social digital works, whether individual or collaborative.
Peled conceives of her work to be a cultural production in search of use value folded in the social/political domain.  Her work can be viewed at:
Homo Sacer in Globalization 
Chained displacements -- ground zero for terror 
Gaza Checkpoint 
Checkpoint Watch 
Checkpoint Watch is her latest work, to be discussed at The Thing.

The land of the occupied West Bank is injured by hundreds of checkpoints. The system of intervention in the Palestinian public space is all-pervasive. It is designed to harass and humiliate the Palestinians in order to make them relent on their struggle against the occupation. Rather than fighting terror, this network of checkpoints actually encourages it, in that it turns human beings into helpless objects of oppression and drives them to the point of total despair. These military transit barriers are transparent, non-existent, for Jewish Israeli settlers living in the same territories.  The inhuman intervention in the daily, routine, life existence of the Palestinians impelled the formation of a non-hierarchical collaborative group of Israeli women from all walks of life and all ages.   While the majority of Israeli citizens are complacent, the MachsomWatch (checkpoint watch) group monitors and intervenes on behalf of the Palestinians at the checkpoints, at regular time intervals.  Devoid of any specific political association, the women write reports describing in detail their witnessing accounts and post them on a collaborative online list, thus creating an archive for the future. 
What is the bodily, material witnessing funct'ion of this collaboration?
Each woman in the collaboration carries her own personal views and their collaboration as a group is based on the principle of unanimous consent. Therefore, the group is not committed to any specific political ideology.  Thus, while clearly opposing the oppressive Israeli government with its cruel treatment of the Palestinians, the group has not committed itself to any political position with regard to Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.  However, as events unfold, the women's intervention at the checkpoints on behalf of the Palestinians intensify, in negotiations with the Israeli soldiers. In numerous cases attempts are made at preventing live bullets from shooting Palestinians kids who are throwing stones on Israeli soldiers, at the Qalandia Checkpoint near Jerusalem, as an example. The bodily risky and brave engagement at the checkpoints, and the active live collaboration in the virtual, form a model that may proliferate to other stressed public spaces as well.What's Exceptional About the State of Exception?

Reflections on Citizenship Rights in the Post-Liberal Era 
Yoav Peled

The post-war era was characterized, at least in the West, by profound optimism regarding the trajectory of both economic prosperity and the expansion of freedom. This optimism was captured in T.H. Marshall‚s famous 1949 essay on citizenship and social class. In that essay Marshall analyzed the development of civil, political and social rights in the course of three centuries, and confidently predicted that the antagonism of social relations under capitalism would be transcended by the further expansion and consolidation of these rights in social institutions. This optimism was transformed into triumphalism after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, leading even to declarations of the end of history. Today, fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, history, appearing as the slaughterhouse of nations, seems to have made a grand comeback. 
In this presentation Yoav Peled will argue that the fall of the Soviet Union, far from signifying the triumph of liberal freedom, actually heralded its demise. There are at least three main reasons for that:
-- Deadly violence has struck not only on the periphery of the Soviet block ˆ Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Afghanistan ˆ but also at the very heart of the liberal West ˆ New York City. This burst of violence was not only an inevitable geo-political consequence of the collapse of a great power. It also stemmed, in large measure, directly from the very efforts to undermine the Soviet Union. This can be seen most vividly in the career of one person ˆ Osama bin-Laden ˆ who transformed himself from a recruiter of Jihadi warriors to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan to a dispatcher of suicide bombers to the US. Reaction to this violence was swift and predictable, if not always rational, and resulted in a permanent state of exception being imposed, in different forms and to different degrees, in many parts of the world.
-- The opening up of the entire globe to capitalist exploitation has made the movement of capital practically free, while the movement of labor remains tightly controlled. The lack of an alternative economic model to capitalism has eroded the welfare state and labor unions. All of this has resulted in the diminution of social rights at the center of the world system, and in greater misery in its periphery.
-- If the old dictum that all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, is true within the confines of one society, it is all the more true in the international system, where no enforceable norms for regulating the use of power exist.


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