Sunday's New York Times gave the front page of its Sunday Review to Professor Ian Lustick to make a case against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
From his ivory tower, Lustick displays an incredible disconnect to the reality of Israel and its people. Going way beyond a critique of the two-state solution, Lustick suggests that the best way of achieving peace would be to dissolve Israel in its current form and replace it with an Arab-majority state. The article is simply a complicated and lengthy pantheon to a one-state solution – essentially the end of the State of Israel.
The AJC's David Harris asks why the New York Times should give prominence to such an article at a time when Syria is imploding, Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted, unrest and violence continue in Iraq and Egypt, along with a multitude of problems afflicting the region.
Lustick envisions a future in which "Israelis whose families came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as 'Eastern,' but as Arab." Zionism, he asserts, has become "an outdated idea," and Israelis should accept that "Israel may no longer exist as the Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders."
So, from his rarefied perch in West Philadelphia, Lustick dispenses with the foundational Jewish link among a people, a land, and a faith.
He suggests that a nation whose population has grown from 650,000 in 1948 to over eight million in 2013, has been a member of the UN since 1949, belongs to the OECD club of the world's most industrialized nations, has more start-ups listed on NASDAQ than all but one or two other nations, has the most potent military in the region, and continues to have a powerful national ethos, Zionism, in reality has no future.
Jonathan Tobin addresses Lustick's article in Commentary magazine:
The core conceit of Lustick's piece is to put forward the idea that a radical transformation of the conflict is not only possible but also probable. Thus, he claims that "the disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project through war, cultural exhaustion or demographic momentum" is a plausible outcome. Indeed, though his essay occasionally hedges its bets, his enthusiasm for the prospect of the end of the Jewish state is palpable. Indeed, he compares it to the end of British rule over all of Ireland, the French hold on Algeria, or the collapse of the Soviet Union, historical events that he claims were once thought unthinkable but now are seen as inevitable outcomes.
These analogies are transparently specious, but they are telling because they put Israel in the category of imperialist projects rather than as the national liberation movement of a small people struggling for survival. That tells us a lot about Lustick's mindset but little about the reality of the Middle East. Unlike the Brits' Protestant ascendancy in Ireland or the French pieds noirs of Algeria or even the Soviet nomenklatura, the Jews of Israel have nowhere to go. That he also compares Israel to apartheid South Africa, the Iran of the shah, or Saddam Hussein's Iraq shows just how skewed his view of the country has become and how little he understands its strength and resiliency.
Lustick's piece is also torn apart in Commentary by Jonathan Marks who writes:
Let me set aside Lustick's argument against the two-state solution and begin with what is most shocking in his op-ed, his own proposed solution. Lustick argues that the U.S. and others should abandon the two-state solution and let the parties fight it out. The key passage must be quoted at length:
"With a status but no role, what remains of the Palestinian authority will disappear.Israel will face the stark challenge of controlling economic and political activity and all land and water resources from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The stage will be set for ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel (my emphasis)."
Lustick makes explicit the nihilism of the anti-Israeli left. He has no strong reason to believe that the bloodbath he wishes on the Israelis and Palestinians will have results favorable to either. But why not break a few eggs if there's some prospect of an omelette? Like many on the anti-Israeli left, but more explicitly, Lustick is prepared to entertain a morally satisfying position, which costs him nothing but means a blood sacrifice for those whose best interests he professes to have in mind.
Lustick does not really think a two-state solution impossible. Instead, he thinks that when confronted with a choice between two difficult ways forward, one should choose the one that results in the end of the State of Israel. Again, Lustick says out loud what his crowd thinks:
"The disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project, through war, cultural exhaustion, or demographic momentum, is at least as plausible as a two state solution."
Lustick's op-ed should be required reading for anyone who thinks that to stand with the anti-Israeli left is to support of the rights of Palestinians. To stand with the anti-Israeli left is instead to hope for an open conflict that will result in the end of Israel. It is not just friends of Israel who should be disgusted with academics who hope to foment such a conflict, knowing, unless they are complete fools, that in making a poorly thought out, long-odds bet on a one-state solution, they gamble with the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.
Lustick's article is a complicated piece of pseudo-academic speak. There is no disguising, however, the New York Times' penchant for publishing op-eds that don't just criticize Israeli policies or actions but strike at the very heart of Israel's existence and identity as a Zionist and Jewish state.
You can read Lustick's full piece in the New York Times here.