Saturday, October 28, 2023

#301 / The One State Solution

Yesterday's New York Times, as it was delivered to my doorstep in hard copy form, carried a column by David Brooks, entitled, "Searching for Humanity in the Middle East." That's Brooks, pictured above. 

To me, at least, Brooks' column made a plea for the kind of politics that I wrote about in this blog yesterday, in a blog posting I called, "Lead Like Lincoln." Quoting Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep, I featured one of the rules that Inskeep contends was key to Abraham Lincoln's political leadership: "Lincoln didn't tell his supporters they were morally superior to the other side."

Brooks' column - which I advise you to read, if you can do it, understanding that The Times may well have fortified itself with a paywall that might make it difficult or impossible for non-subscribers to see what Brooks said - gives us Brooks' thought that "the Israel-Gaza conflict has pushed us closer to nihilism." It seems to me that Brooks' commentary reflects the kind of vision that Lincoln brought to the Civil War, and that Inskeep highlighted in the quotation I have replayed above.

Brooks' column is not, I guess, totally "despairing," but his evaluation of where we are, as we "search for humanity in the Middle East," is not exactly optimistic about where the world is headed. Here are Brooks' final words, in his column from yesterday: 

It feels as if we’re teetering between universalist worldviews that recognize our common humanity and tribal worldviews in which others are just animals to be annihilated. What Israel does next will influence what worldview prevails in the 21st century.

Brooks, in other words, seems to acknowledge that the situation in the Middle East (and around the world, as people "pick sides") reflects the exact opposite of what Abraham Lincoln proclaims is needed. 

Brook's column (again, I advise you to read it in its entirety, if you can) discusses three "paradigms" that he says have collapsed, or have come close to collapsing, this past month, as events in Israel/Gaza have unfolded. Here is the "third conceptual paradigm" that Brooks says has become "shaky":

The third conceptual paradigm under threat is the one I have generally used to organize how I see the Middle East conflict — the two-state paradigm. This paradigm is based on the notion that this conflict will end when there are two states with two peoples living side by side. People like me see events in the Middle East as tactical moves each side is taking to secure the best eventual outcome for themselves.

After this month’s events, several assumptions underlying this worldview seem shaky: that most people on each side will eventually come to accept the legitimacy of the other’s existence; that Palestinian leaders would rather devote their budgets to economic development than perpetual genocidal holy war; that the cause of peace is advanced when Israel withdraws from Palestinian territories; that Hamas can be contained until a negotiated settlement is achieved; that extremists on both sides will eventually be marginalized so that peacemakers can do their work.

Those of us who see the conflict through this two-state framing may be relying on lenses that distort our vision, so we see the sort of Middle East that existed two decades ago, not the one that exists today.

In fact, and this is what Lincoln's admonition recognizes, we are living in "one world," and we must find some way to do that. The idea that we can successfully live in different "states," each state hating the other, is an illusion. 

As Israel was created, after World War II, Hannah Arendt argued for a "One State" solution. Abraham Lincoln would have been on her side, I think. After all, that is what our Civil War was all about. It seems to me that Brooks, as a longtime observer of the politics of the Middle East, has arrived at the same destination as Hannah Arendt. Perhaps we should all get to that understanding (and quickly, too) and start figuring out how to make it work. 

The alternatives to doing so, which include a worldwide nuclear conflagaration, are not attractive. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Gary, for your clear summary of the David Brooks article, which makes some good points. I also read the article on Hannah Arendt in the link you provided. My reading of the article was that she was of two minds regarding the one state vs. two state question. The author, Susie Linfield's, conclusion was that the Left is mistaken in their belief that, because Arendt rejected certain aspects of the Zionism of her day, she clearly favored a one state solution. Linfield makes a plausible case that Arendt argued both sides of the issue, suggesting that she was never able to resolve the question in her own mind. In other words, we cannot use Hannah Arendt’s voluminous writings on the subject to provide any clarity on the issue. We have to accept her indecision about this complex problem, as well as our own. Right now, neither option seems feasible. We can only hope that in the future conditions and attitudes will change sufficiently to make a decision possible.

    Lincoln Taiz


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