Israel and South Africa

Yakov Rabkin
November 2006

TO CHICAGO TRIBUNE, November 13, 2006

Dear Editor,

Your recent article titled “South Africa seen as model for Palestine” (November 12) offers hope. It argues that the Israel/Palestine conflict can only be resolved in the framework  of a single state. The Zionist settlements in Palestinian territories have made the two-state solution impossible.  There is of course another option: a final ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Many Zionists view peaceful co-existence with the Palestinians impossible. Yet, through millennia the Jewish tradition has accommodated itself to various political structures, and there is nothing in Judaism that would prevent a one-state solution, in which Jews will live as a minority. In fact, my recent book “A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism” (Zed Books 2006) shows the exceptional nature of Zionism in Jewish history and explains the vigorous rejection of Zionism among Jews that remain most loyal to the tradition. This changes the Jewish perspective on Ali Abunima’s argument expressed in his book  “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse”

that inspired your article. Seen in the context of the radical departure from the Jewish continuity, the Zionist state of Israel may indeed be transformed into a more inclusive political configuration. It would then appear less utopian to aspire for a state of all its citizens between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. The Jews have lived for centuries as a minority. The Zionist state of Israel, far from being a safe haven for the Jews, has sown hatred and conflict. It may be high time to take another look at the place of Zionism in Jewish history and consider alternatives to the Zionist enterprise in the Land of Israel. After all, the Jews have survived more than one state in their history.

Yakov M Rabkin

Professor of History

University of Montreal

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