One Unrepentant Zionist and the Two State Solution

That one Zionist would be me, but I know that I'm not alone. Take President Obama: he sounded like another unrepentant Zionist in Cairo this week.

Zionism is an 19th Century political (agrarian socialist) idea that Jews - particularly those residing in Europe - should establish a "Jewish" state in some or all of the area that is currently the footprint of Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Jews of the day came to the conclusion that the Europeans weren't thrilled with - and never had been - our presence in their counties. The English evicted us, the Spanish offered us the opportunity to convert to Christianity (or die), the Eastern Europeans repressed us and the French scape-goated us in the Dreyfus Affair. (The Crusades weren't too wonderful for us either.) This was all well before Nazi Germany got around to creating the mother of all genocides at our expense. Had it not been for that last fact, the modern state of Israel might not exist. Nevertheless, it is hard to get around the reality that more Jews died in the Holocaust than live in the state of Israel today.

Many of those who died, I might add, shared my atheist tendencies and were ethnically identical to those living all around them. But when the whip came down, others decided who was a Jew and who was not: the facts, religious practices or personal beliefs of the individual had little or nothing to do with it. The lesson imparted by this experience is that it doesn't matter whether you think that you are Jewish or not: what matters is the opinion of those who have the power to kill you. Further evidence of this is supplied by the genocides of Rwanda, Cambodia and Sudan - all massive tragedies in their own rights. Knowing all this, I'm thankful for the creation of the modern state of Israel and believe that its continuity is of vital importance to Jews the world over.

What I do not support is the idea of a theocratic, apartheid regime that represses the right of Palestinians to have their own state. Small as Israel, the West Bank and Gaza may be - collectively, a bit smaller than the landmass of New Jersey - it is better for the Israelis to help the Palestinians establish their own state than to attempt to be a functioning democracy that denies equality to what will be shortly be the majority of inhabitants. The faster we can all make that a reality the better.

Stopping the expansion Jewish settlements in the West Bank will help create the conditions in which a Two State solution is possible. It is not all that the Israelis need to do, but it's a concrete step in the right direction. I believe that this is precisely why the Obama administration is being suitably firm on the issue.

Of course, Israel cannot achieve peace on its own and it requires responsible partners in the process. That means that the Palestinians will have to make plenty of difficult concessions of their own; it also means that Israel's Arab neighbors and other Muslim countries will have to stop appealing to their "main streets" with anti-Semitism to distract people from their own theocratic, monarchical and despotic misdeeds. Peace will not easy, but it's only likely to occur when two states exist where currently there is one.