“The Times They Are A Changin’”
When a young modern orthodox pulpit rabbi in Chicago calls for an unlimited right of return of Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel, and proposes a bi-national Israel-Palestine, conjuring up the ghost of Magnes, you know that “the times, they are a changin’.”
Rabbi Asher Lopatin published in June on the moreorthodoxy blog an essay entitled, “What Netanyahu Should Have Proposed.” Here are some of his proposals, which he calls, in a nod to Muslim sensibilities, the Five Pillars of the One Democratic State from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
1) All citizens – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – can live anywhere in the land. Jews will return to live all over Jerusalem – Muslim quarter, Christian quarter, Silwan, City of David – and all over the promised land: in the ancient Israelite cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, and Shechem, and all over Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Just as in America restrictive covenants are illegal, so, too in the One State: Jews and Palestinians can acquire property anywhere in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gaza, West Bank, etc. Property rights will be respected, and returning refugees will be accommodated through new housing in or close to their original housing. All Jewish settlements that are legal by current Israeli law will remain, with compensation where necessary.
2) New constitution – needing a super-majority to change – establishing a full democracy, with full separation of church/synagogue/mosque and state, with both a Jewish Bill of Rights and a Palestinian Bill of Rights guaranteeing that the state can be both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state
3) Law of Return for Jews; Law of Return for Palestinians
4) The IDF and internal police and security services will stationed everywhere in the One State – there will be no “no go” areas; and these forces will be slowly integrated, at a pace consistent with the security needs of the new state.
5) Demographic issues will be negotiated with at least three possible solutions: increasing Israel’s Jewish population radically by admitting millions of Jewish identifiers from Africa, Asia and South America before the One State is implemented; returning Palestinians based on an equal admission of Jewish identifiers – perhaps limited to a certain time period; allowing for a natural growth of Jewish or Muslim – or other – populations, while the constitution guarantees that the One State remains compatible as a Jewish state as well as a Palestinian state, perhaps guaranteeing a majority representation for a certain number of years.
Rabbi Lopatin goes on to explain some of the initial steps to be taken, mostly confidence-building measures for a one-state solution.
Now Rabbi Lopatin is not the first modern orthodox, or even religious Zionist, Jew to propose a one-state solution. In fact, I know of few religious Zionists who favor two states, certainly not the settlers. Usually the point of their proposals is to ensure that the settlers won’t be moved from that part of Eretz Yisrael over the Green Line. The novelty of Rabbi Lopatin’s plan is to accord Palestinian refugees the ability to return to areas near their former homes, if they so desire, and to provide for equal rights for the two communities. One may say that in exchange for Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Lopatin is willing to transform the Jewish ethnic state that was founded in 1948 into a secular, binational state. He will have few Jewish allies, but a whole bunch of Palestinian ones.
There are, of course, weird elements in the proposal, like the wholesale conversion of “Jewish identifiers” in order to keep a demographic balance. This is especially weird for an orthodox rabbi, who seems to drop all traditional criteria for conversion just so he can count Jewish heads. What other western democracy grants citizenship automatically after a religious conversion, a kind of “naturalization via circumcision and mikveh”?
“Millions” of unskilled third-world immigrants flooding any society carries grave social consequences. But a deeply racist and tribalist society like Israel could become unhinged. And, anyway, the counting heads business is not only silly but unnecessary, given the proposed constitutional structure.
One also wonders whether the settlers and Israel should be rewarded for illegally settling in the West Bank. Why allow Israel a sixty-year head-start on settlements at the expense of the Palestinians?
But the point of this post is not to examine in detail Rabbi Lopatin’s proposal. It is to congratulate him with a great yasher koah for having the courage to think way outside the modern orthodox – nay, the American Jewish — box.
Once again we have evidence that some of the younger generation, which doesn’t have the hang-ups of the Jewish baby-boomer generation that lived through the traumas of 1967 and 1973, recognize that the two-state solution leaves much unsolved, and that it’s time to go back to 1948.