Israeli Professor Fears Israel-Palestine Conflict has Morphed into a ‘One-State, Three-tiered Classes’ Solution
CNN’s Christian Amanpour recently interviewed Israeli popularist Yuval Noah Harari. He purported that the Israeli public no longer believes in the two-state solution. Rather, they now believe in one state with three classes. Palestinians would be at the bottom with few or no rights. The article contrasts Hariri’s ideas with a newly published article by Columbia University’s Joseph Massad. In that article, the author avers that Zionist ideologues have all along believed in their own supremacy, which would ultimately lead to delegitimizing Palestinians’ rights to their own land.
By John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
CNN Interview with Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli Author Reveals Israel’s Fatigue with Status Quo of Israel-Palestine Conflict
Christian Amanpour of CNN recently interviewed Yuval Noah Harari on the cycle of violence between Israel’s Defense Force and Palestinians on the West Bank. Recent attacks on Israeli children on the way to school were referenced. Harari claimed he “cannot get into the minds of the terrorists behind it.” He suggested the problem was one of “motivation–when many people, even maybe most people on both sides, just don’t have the motivation to solve this.”
Harari believes the problem is political. In politics, he averred, “All political problems have solutions. It all depends on how much motivation people have. And unfortunately, we are in a time when they have no motivation.” Amanpour responded that the problem is exacerbated by the reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu to head of the government. She noted how far to the extreme side of politics Netanyahu has moved.
The extreme right, Amanpour noted, includes the likes of Itamar Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu’s potential security chief. He was convicted of inciting anti-Arab racism and supporting terrorism. These extremist types who will surely comprise the new government, “won’t shake hands with women. They say the Torah has to rule. They want to annex the whole of the West Bank. What is going on here?”
Harari responded, he believes the Israeli public has “gradually switched from a belief in the two-state solution to, at least, an implicit belief in the three classes solution. That you have just one country, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, with three classes of people living there. Jews, who have all the rights, some Arabs who have some rights, and other Arabs with very little or no rights. And this is increasingly the situation on the ground. And this is increasingly also the aspiration or the mindset of even people in the government. And this is extremely worrying, but this is what is happening.”
Amanpour challenged Harari by suggesting he sounded fatalistic. He returned to the subject of motivation. He replied, “This is not deterministic. It’s not written in the stars or anywhere else. It’s a human choice. I hope that people will make different choices. But that’s — it’s — we have to, first of all, acknowledge what is the reality before we can think of ways of improving it.” He attributes Israelis’ choice to their upbringing. Harari even admitted, “when I grew up, I took it for granted that Jews are better than everybody else. And that we are more important than everybody else. And it took me a lot of years that actually, this is not necessarily true.”
There was significant media backlash to Harari’s comments. According to The Jerusalem Post. One Israeli Twitter user said that the three-class system claimed by Harari was not part of most Israelis’ thinking. No poll seems to support that claim. Another user said, “It’s not solvable with the current political system that allows governments to be changed all the time.” Harari’s ideas are not accepted universally, but he has a large following both inside and outside of Israel.
Zionist Ideologues’ View of the Palestinian Question: Jewish ‘self-determination’ or ‘Jewish supremacy’?”
Just prior to the CNN Harari interview, an important article appeared that bore on the subject of how Israelis perceive Palestinians. Published by Joseph Massad in The Middle East Eye, it avers: “Zionist ideologues did not argue for Jewish self-determination but rather sought to delegitimize the indigenous Palestinians’ right to it.” In effect, at the time of the formation of the state of Israel, it denied the rights of Palestinians. Massad is a prestigious academic, a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University.
Massad gets right to the point about how the Israeli right puts down the Palestinians. They do it through “The invocation of ‘Jewish self-determination in the land of the Palestinians [which] has been the major camouflage used to embellish the reigning regime of Jewish supremacy in Israel.” He calls such self-determination “foundational to the Zionist movement.” Massad suggests that in some quarters, Jews invoke the Holocaust to explain, even justify “the ongoing Israeli violation of Palestinian human rights.”
Massad describes Israel’s 2018 Basic Law, which refers to the “land of Israel” rather than to the State of Israel, as the “homeland of the Jewish people.” This distinction in effect gives “Israeli Jewish colonial minority’s eternal control over the whole of historic Palestine.” He attributes this law as the culmination starting in 2009, with Netanyahu’s rise to power. The 2018 Law “elevates Jews to a higher status than all other citizens.” This is the place and time when Jewish self-determination transformed into Jewish supremacy.
Harari, a popularist who supposedly turns complex subjects into simple ideas, believes Israelis have changed their minds about a two-state solution. Rather, he suggests they believe more and more that Israel will remain a one-state entity. But it is not one state that affords equal rights to all residents. The one state will simply reify the present conditions of Israel’s occupation of Palestinians. But even if the occupation technically ends, Palestinians would simply become the third-tier people they already are.
Interview With Author Yuval Noah Harari, Christian Amanpour, CNN, 11/23/2002
“Yuval Noah Harari to CNN: ‘Israeli public has moved on from two-state solution,’” The Jerusalem Post, 11/26/2022
“Jewish ‘self-determination’ or Jewish supremacy?”, Joseph Massad, Middle East Eye, 11/22/2022
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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