Dmitry Shumsky
Haaretz (Opinion)
February 13, 2013 - 1:00am


The results of last month's election show that without a doubt, most Israelis are not afraid of a "binational" state.

Although Meretz doubled in strength, in general those parties supporting division of the land have been shoved even further to the margins. This is primarily due to the disintegration of Kadima and the modest showing of its successor, Hatnuah, which like its predecessor aims to preserve the Jewish majority in the State of Israel through a diplomatic separation between Israelis and Palestinians.

So it must be asked why most Israelis don't seem impressed by the numbers being repeatedly waved about by the Arab-counters among us. Why hasn't the rhetoric about the demographic threat managed to persuade the public that a diplomatic arrangement is urgently needed?

The answer to these questions isn't complicated. The truth is that most Israelis are very well aware of the demographic threats, but they believe that the most efficient way to deal with the Palestinian "demographic problem" is to maintain the status quo. Those who voted for Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi would be most offended if they'd be accused of demographic complacency.

The ongoing oppression, enslavement and imprisoning of another people that the right-wing parties promote is meant to break the spirit of the people being oppressed, imprisoned and enslaved - so that more and more of them will understand that it would be in their interest to find some other country to live in.

One can assume that politicians and other public figures who support the two-state solution have adopted the language of demographic threats for tactical reasons, hoping to win the support of citizens concerned about maintaining a Jewish majority. But the demographic discourse is a double-edged sword.

By sketching out horrifying scenarios about the ongoing erosion of the Jewish population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, this kind of talk deepens the sense of dread and loathing that the Jewish public harbors toward the Palestinian people. These feelings nourish the power of the right-wing, nationalist elements who propose to continue and improve on the current methods being used to reduce the Palestinian population.

Therefore, the two-state solution must be advanced not as a way to keep as many Palestinians as possible away from the Jews - which the current occupation policy promotes in any case - but as one of the possible ways to realize the principle of equal national rights between the Jews and Palestinians who live between the river and the sea.

The problem is that the principle of different peoples having equal national rights - a primary component of Zionist ideology when Zionism was the national movement of a persecuted nation - is not self-understood by Jewish Israelis, not in this era of national sovereignty for a people who were slaughtered before the eyes of an apathetic world.

If before the Holocaust the moral basis of Zionist nationalism was that the Jews, like other nations, had the right of self-determination, since the Holocaust this Zionist ethos has undergone an incredible metamorphosis, such that it now claims that the Jews, like other nations, are entitled to steal this right from other peoples.

It's time to repair this ethical-national inversion. The distorted logic of "equal rights" with regard to the suppression of other peoples must be replaced by a renewed commitment to the principle of equal national rights among peoples.


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