I agree with what Ygz, Spencer, and Rob say on the one-state solution as far as it goes. Obviously, a binational state would be an utter disaster and result in the relocation, most likely forced, of one or the other ethnic group between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. And I agree whole-heartedly with Spencer when he says that the real threat to Israel’s continued existence comes from continued occupation of the West Bank, not Iran or some invisible army of Tony Judts coming to give Abu Mazen a seat in the Knesset.
My problem comes when we start making statements like this one of Matt’s:
Readers will know that I’m not a big fan of nationalism and I am a big fan of trans-national projects like the European Union and the United Nations. And it’s even true that I really kind of hope that hundreds of years from now there won’t be national states at all, instead we’ll all be lumped in with the Vulcans and the Andorians in a United Federation of Planets and off we’ll go. But there’s clearly no prospects for the abolition of the nation-state in the short-term. And the Jewish people’s claim to a nation-state is just as strong as the Finnish or Dutch or Thai claim. Or, for that matter, as the Palestinian claim. By far the best way to secure a just resolution of those conflicting claims is through a two-state solution—an independent Palestine, and a democratic Jewish Israel.
There’s something bizarre about a two-headed cosmopolitanism that accepts the end of the nation-state as its goal while backing all manner of nationalist claims in the short-run. And more to the point, the comparison to Finland and the Netherlands seems quite off base. This is a live issue for Israel in a way it simply isn’t for, say, Finland. You don’t hear Finnish politicians referring to the reproductive rates of ethnic minorities as a “demographic threat” and frantically planning ways to thin their ranks. I suppose if some of the Russians who stayed in Finland after the partition began reproducing at a clip that threatened to end ethnic Finns’ hold on the country, one could say that the Finland will cease to exist as a Finnish state in some technical sense. That said, all cosmopolitans would condemn as racist calls for expelling Russo-Finns or for a redrawing of Finnish borders in order to make them Russian citizens again. Cosmpolitans would similarly condemn an argument that Russian refugees from the war should not have a right to return based not on the grounds that the historical moment is too far gone or that such relocation would be wholly impractical, but on the grounds that such a right would threaten Finland’s Finnishness.
Yet these are precisely the conversations going on about Arabs, both (second-class) Israeli citizens and those suffering occupation. To be sure, one can dismiss the expulsionist rantings of Benny Morris and Avigdor Lieberman as representative of the extremes (though given Lieberman’s current gig as foreign minister, the latter’s a stretch). But even Matt endorses the notion that we should reject the right of return not on practical grounds but to “preserve its Jewish character”. Unless one advances some form of Israeli exceptionalism, I can’t see how this can be reconciled with what cosmopolitans like Matt and I believe about ethnicity and national identity. In any other society, this endorsement of policymaking based upon preserving an ethnic majority would be seen as completely repugnant. Because it is.