Norton Mezvinsky told students, faculty and members of the public Tuesday at Central Connecticut State University that a one-state solution is the best hope for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Prof. Mezvinsky is president and academic director of International Council on Middle East Studies, Inc. in Washington, D.C. Back from a trip to the Middle East, he recently debated Prof. Joel Kovel on the "One State Solution" at the Brecht Forum in New York. Mezvinsky said the violent resistance to "the Israeli occupation" is the wrong approach morally and practically for Palestinians.
"Unfortunately, Israeli violence toward Palestinians will continue to beget Palestinian violence against Israel," he said. "The present condition is a recipe for disaster, more continued oppression of Palestinians followed by increased violence for Palestinians, resulting in more wounding and killing of Palestinians and Israeli Jews."
He warned about an amendment in the Israeli parliament that would require everyone to take a loyalty oath to Israel — another example, he said, of oppression of Palestinians.
Mezvinsky said U.S. relations with the Arab states have worsened since President Obama's visit to the Middle East which raised hopes that his administration would no longer continue to help Israel beef up its military arsenal. Instead, the U.S. gave Israel an additional three billion dollars to purchase stealth fighter planes. Furthermore, the United States indicated it would veto in the security council of the United Nations any resolutions that threaten Israel's legitimacy.
According to Mezvinsky, the current Israeli government does not seem interested in working toward a Palestinian state. In fact, under current conditions a viable political state is a virtual impossibility. For example, the current Israeli government "with its Zionist character" has not given any consideration to returning Palestinians to land they lost when Israel came into existence in 1948.
His prescription for a resolution of the conflict: Realize there is likely to be one state, Israel-Palestine, define and specify the many human rights violations affecting both sides. Follow a humanitarian path of working toward protecting minority rights.
"The notion of separating people by their ethnic and religious identity in any kind of state is a regressive idea," Mezvinsky stated. "The idea that God gave the Jews an eternal deed to this land will continue to be rejected by Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East. This notion is not even necessarily accepted by the majority of Israeli Jews, but if allowed to persist as a major influencing factor it will almost guarantee continued conflict."
Mezvinsky emphasized that human rights for all people, would bring an end to ill will and distrust. This can be achieved by advocating one state "that guarantees equal human rights in its public policy and its laws."
During the question and answer period that followed the lecture, Alan Berkowitz, 50, of West Hartford accused Mezvinsky of "distorting the story" on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians "in an academic setting."
"Would you suggest that all Israeli Jews simply go back to where they came from?" he asked.
Mezvinsky said "No," he was not suggesting that.
"I take umbrage," he said. "What I emphasized is that we accept one state and make that state better for all the people — Jews as well as Palestinians."
Following the lecture, Berkowitz said he was "no scholar. I sell pet food supplies. But, I have been following tensions in the Middle East for many years. It upsets me when an academician such as Mezvinsky gives students little or no context for this kind of discussion."