A galvanizing vision for Palestine-Israel could help stop the war in Gaza

By Andy Bichlbaum


In 2017, Banksy painted these angels breaking open the West Bank separation wall using a crowbar. (Facebook/A Land for All)

The Palestine solidarity movement has been an important voice for justice in recent months. It has mobilized millions behind the call for a desperately needed ceasefire, and has successfully pressured some key politicians, like Bernie Sanders, to take a stronger stand against Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza. 

That said, the Palestine solidarity movement, and the American left more broadly, don’t seem to have a practical, pragmatic or achievable long-term vision for the future of Palestine-Israel. 

That’s unfortunate, because the two options topping the news — maintaining the status quo and a carceral (suggesting a jail or prison) two-state solution — are both bad. 

Not having a workable vision could be one reason pressuring Biden to demand a ceasefire in Gaza has been less successful than, for example, pressuring him into meaningful action on climate issues. Unlike with Palestine-Israel, activists working on the climate have long had informed, reality-based and entirely practical visions for a fossil-free future (such as the Green New Deal). 

The only vision that’s united the American left on Israel-Palestine is the “one-state solution,” in which Jews and Palestinians form one secular, democratic state like the ones we already know — as if with a ginormous copy-and-paste. 

Unfortunately, neither Palestinians nor Jewish Israelis actually want that.

Support among Palestinians for a one-state solution has hovered around 10 percent since 2020. For one thing, they understandably seem to fear that discrimination against Palestinian citizens would continue. Also, could it be that after 750 years of occupation by various non-Arab powers, from Mamluks to Jews, Palestinians have some longing for real self-determination?

As for Jewish Israelis, a recent poll by the conservative Jewish People Policy Institute shows that 97 percent — whether left or right, secular or religious — want Israel to remain “a Jewish state.” Even allowing for a generous margin of error, it’s clear that very few Jewish Israelis are ready to give up their political self-determination. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Europe are pressuring Israel to accept a carceral “two-state solution” in which Jews and Palestinians are restricted to their own bunkered territories by an increasingly reinforced border wall — like today, in other words, but with “autonomy” for the Palestinians. That could be better than nothing, but it won’t lead to any lasting peace, either, since both peoples will continue to consider the land beyond the wall theirs. 

Neither violence nor separation will bring freedom to either people, as Oct. 7 and what’s followed have amply demonstrated.  Luckily, Netanyahu is extremely unpopular for his immense failures before, on and after Oct. 7 — like propping up Hamas in order to divide Palestinians. (He was already deeply unpopular for his attempts to cripple the Israeli Supreme Court, which generated nine months of huge protests.) 

While the trauma from Oct. 7 has blinded much of the Israeli public to the carnage in Gaza, there’s recently been a renewed surge of direct action and protest against Netanyahu. If the American left can help pressure Biden to obtain a real ceasefire, Netanyahu’s career will be over, along with the war — and the momentum that ousts him could well sweep away those with similar views.

It would be a pity to squander such an opportunity by pushing for a hugely unpopular one-state or a deeply flawed two-state solution. 

Fortunately, the American left doesn’t have to come up with their own great plan, because there’s already a homegrown left vision in Israel-Palestine, that’s supported by a large and increasing number of Arabs and Jews. It’s utopian but also deeply pragmatic, and I believe it has the strongest chance of working of any “day after” plan.

A Land for All, formerly known as “Two States, One Homeland,” is a group advocating for two completely autonomous states, each with its own institutions and citizenship, with clear but open borders between them. Citizens of Israel and Palestine will have full access to live, work, travel and worship anywhere in their mutual homeland, with non-discrimination in housing enforced by a mutual judicial institution. 

This vision of an Israeli-Palestinian confederation is the same, with only slight differences, as what worked to bring relative peace to many formerly violent places on earth — like Northern Ireland, or for that matter Europe, where countries that warred for centuries would now never consider fighting each other. It can work in Israel-Palestine too: Two million Palestinians are currently living with Jews within Israel, as Israeli citizens, obviously with no walls to keep the two peoples apart.

Eight years ago, I met one of the founders of A Land For All, Meron Rapaport (the other is Palestinian activist Awni Al-Mashni, who spent 12 years in Israeli prisons). I was instantly captivated by the simplicity, obviousness and justice of the idea. Rapaport didn’t think it had much chance of success at that time, but he thought the day might come when the status quo would be widely seen as untenable, and a pragmatic but beautiful vision might fill the gap. 

Now is such a time. 

Composed of both Israeli Jews and Palestinians, with an equal number of each in leadership positions, A Land For All’s annual conferences, public and academic events, and publications have already resulted in the option of confederation entering the vocabulary of activists, experts and opinion makers. 

The group’s Palestinian and Jewish directors, Rula Hardal and May Pundak, recently toured the U.S., speaking with audiences and meeting with leaders of several progressive Jewish and Palestinian groups, who reacted warmly to the Land For All vision. 

A Land For All is continuing to work with progressive groups in the U.S. to help make this vision more visible to movement grassroots. (On Feb. 20, I am co-hosting a public Zoom session, together with the Center for Artistic Activism and members of A Land For All, to start brainstorming ways to spread a much-needed vision of justice and freedom into our movements.) 

When the war ends — if Netanyahu goes to jail for massive corruption and Hamas loses its murderous hold on Gaza — the vision of A Land For All will still face huge challenges from extremists. The support and pressure of the American left will be critical to ensuring that, despite the opposition, this deeply pragmatic (yet utopian) vision can gain traction and win — an outcome the whole world needs.

Andy Bichlbaum is a co-founder of the Yes Men, an ever-expanding, increasingly diverse group who, these days, mainly partner with activist groups on creative tactics to further campaigns. The Yes Men have made three feature films about their stunts, which give mainstream journalists humorous fodder for covering important issues.

This article was published on February 16, 2024 at wagingnonviolence.

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