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Two Cheers For Democracy, Three For One-State – OpEd


Anyone in their right mind knows that the two state solution is dead. That excludes obviously Tony Blinken, Joe Biden and most of the rest of the Democratic Party.  It also excludes liberal Zionists, which means most of the Israel Lobby ie. leading UK and American Jewish organizations


There is a reason it is especially attractive that is rarely, if ever, noted. Currently, Israel is not a democracy. It is at best an ethnocracy and at worst a theocracy, in which the religious parties and the settlers essentially control all major levers of power.

In this, it shares much in common with other religio-supremacist states like Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Despite the latter being a monarchy and the former a republic,  all three privilege a single religion over all others; and reject many,  if not all,  the bedrock principles on which true democracies are founded: religious tolerance,  full equal rights for all citizens,  representative democracy with power deriving from the will of the people.

It also shares much in common with other religious exclusivist movements like the Christian evangelicals and the white Christo-supremacist parties in power in Poland and Hungary.

Despite (or because of) my strong Diaspora Jewish identity, I abhor defining Israel as a Jewish state. I do so for one reason only: the only form of Jewish state on offer is a Judeo-supremacist apartheid state. It privileges Jewish Israelis and offers Palestinian citizens inferior rights. This is a racist, anti-democratic, even anti-Semitic (since Palestinians are, like Israeli Jews, Semites) state.

We must continually drive home to liberal Zionists that their dream of a “Jewish democratic state”  is a chimera.  It will never happen. Jews and Palestinians can have a joint Homeland for two peoples.  But any state that is dedicated to one people, as Israel currently is–or another–is doomed to be anti-democratic.


Israel must be a secular state,  but one which recognizes and respects the rights of all religions; while permitting none to dominate or oppress the others.  A single state would dilute the power of religious parties, whether they be Palestinian Islamist (Hamas, Raam) or Orthodox Jewish (United Torah, Shas, Yamina, etc.). The combined numbers of secular Palestinians and Jews would far outweigh the religious.

The Orthodox Jewish and Islamist parties would have a great deal in common and perhaps try to form their own alliance. But their numbers would not match the secular parties. This would in effect remove religion as an inciting force splitting the population and setting it against one another.

Of course, the secular Jewish and Palestinian parties would not automatically have common interests, since there is so much dividing them. But a single state would permit the coalescence of a secular progressive alliance among Jews and Palestinians, which currently is not possible due to Jewish-Palestinian fear and mistrust.

Another factor to consider is that normally Israeli Palestinians do not vote in the same numbers as Israeli Jews because many see politics as “fixed” against them. Why vote when your party has no hope of entering a governing coalition, where true power is concentrated? Why vote when your MKs will be interrogated by police and either thrown in jail or lose their Knesset privileges merely because they represent your interests as Palestinians? But in a single state, Palestinians inside Israel and in the West Bank would have tremendous motivation to vote and participate. This too would strengthen the secular parties.

It would also set the formerly exclusivist Jewish parties (Likud,  Labor,  Blue and White,  etc.) on a new path, because they would need to find allies among Palestinians if they wished to form governing coalitions. It would especially weaken far-right ultra-nationalist parties like Likud, whose platform clearly rejects cooperation with Palestinians.

One state offers hope for a truly democratic future. Two-states, even if it were not rejected by Israel, offers to duplicate in the Palestinian state the same level of dysfunction, intolerance,  and corruption found in Israel itself.

This article was published at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

One thought on “Two Cheers For Democracy, Three For One-State – OpEd

  • July 7, 2021 at 9:01 am

    It will never work due the nature of the beast! Islam cannot be diluted! Islam is incompatible with democracy! It either conquers or is conquered ! The Israel you describe will end up in a civil war in no time! I do respect and share your desire for peace but I am also a realist!


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