Mearsheimer and the Right Wing of the Israeli Left

By Edwin Rutledge – Munich

Professor John Mearsheimer, co-author together with Professor Stephen Walt of the well known book "The Israel Lobby" gave a speech on "The Future of Palestine" at the Palestine Center in Washington DC on April 29. His words ruffled the feathers of several members of the Israeli left.

In his speech Professor Mearsheimer maintains that Israel will be unable to agree to the formation of a viable Palestinian state; instead, it will incorporate the West Bank and Gaza into a greater Israel similar to the apartheid state of South Africa, and will at some point in the future succumb to world pressure and failing US support to become a Bi-national democratic state. This would mean the end of the Jewish Zionist state.

It is, in fact, this very assertion that splits the left wing of Israel. On the left side of the left there are those who think that all those living in Israel and the occupied territories should have equal rights in a Bi-national democratic state, to which Palestinian refugees should be granted the right to return.

As for those on the right side of the left, they want to maintain their Jewish Zionist state with its “right of return” reserved solely for Jews but not for Palestinian refugees. Those supposed leftists realize that the only way to this goal is the formation of a Palestinian state as in this day and age, the world would no longer tolerate the continued expulsion of 5.5 million people; those refugees can be found among the non Jewish population of Israel, most Palestinians in occupied territories and millions living in refugee camps throughout the Middle East.

One of the first to criticize Professor Mearsheimer´s prediction is a the leading proponents of this group, those on the right side of “left”. In his article “Apartheid State or a Bi-national State”, Uri Avnery agrees with Mearsheimer´s position that inhuman Israeli politics are leading the way to an apartheid situation, but disagrees with his conclusion that it will eventually become a Bi-bational state. His main reason for this assumption is that the Jews and the Palestinians don’t want to live together, thus a two-state solution.

Avnery seems to have forgotton that Jews, Muslims, and Christians have lived together peacefully in this region for centuries, prior to the establishemnt of the Jewish State, and that one half the Israeli population are oriental “Arab” Jews from middle eastern countries who were “encouraged” to immigrate to Israel after 1949 for demographic reasons, and therefore have much in common with Palestinian Arabs ie. language, customs etc. In many ways the Ashkenazi or European Jews are a kind of powerful minority who have never really integrated into the Middle East and remain more like a western quasi colonial enclave.

Further, Avnery forgets some of the other advantages of a Bi-national state such as that water and other resources would be more equally distributed, that the holy sites would be equally accessible to all, the “Diaspora” Palestinians could travel freely to and from Palestine and, and, above all, the refugees would  be granted the right to return to their homes.

And finally he forgets that it was both Jews and Palestinians who brought the Bi-national discourse back into the public arena, and continue to defend it. They include Toni Judt, Meron Benvenisti, Ilan Pappe, Joel Kovel, Michel Warschawski, Alfred Grosser, Eitan Bronstein, and Uri Davis, together with Edward Said, Joseph Massad, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Nur Masalha, Ghada Karmi, Ali Abunimah Saree Makdisi, Virginia Tilley, and Jonathan Cook.

Professor Mearsheimer analysis is then very close to being “right on”, even though one hopes that the resulting Bi-national state will come to be sooner than he predicted. But one is confidenct: it is the only moral and just solution.

And perhaps the right wing of the Israeli left will have the strength to step over the line onto, to quote Edward Said, “the moral high ground” of one state.

– Edwin Rutledge is based in Munich, Germany. He contribtued this article to

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