Behind new ‘human rights’ critique of Israel is a push for one state -analysis

Written by on April 28, 2021

New reports slamming Israel for “apartheid” have been driven by a desire to reset the definition of apartheid and redefine Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank as one state. This attempt to shoehorn several different areas, run by three different authorities into one place is at the heart of new human rights reports about Israel.

This appears timed for the new Biden administration which came into office in January. The message to Israel is also clear: Even if Israel withdraws from the West Bank, as it did Gaza, it will still be defined as “apartheid” by these groups. The goal appears to provide no way for Israel to extricate itself from this new definition, which calls into question whether the real goal is to try to force Israel to assume control of Gaza and rule over millions of people without their consent.  

The new Human Rights Watch report, released this week says that it examines Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “It presents the present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government, ruling primarily over the area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, populated by two groups of roughly equal size, and methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory.”  

It is important here to note that the definition here is predicated on defining Israel as including the Gaza Strip and West Bank. As it notes, a “single authority.” It does note that Hamas runs the Gaza Strip but somehow still maintains the fiction of a “single authority.” 

In January the group B’Tselem also released a report claiming “this is Apartheid.” That report claimed that there is “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” The report uses similar language as the Human Rights Watch report.

“More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule… the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. All this leads to the conclusion that these are not two parallel regimes that simply happen to uphold the same principle. There is one regime governing the entire area and the people living in it, based on a single organizing principle,” B’Tselem claimed.  

It appears the two reports are linked by this new theme which seeks to present Israel as controlling not only the autonomous Palestinian Authority, but also Hamas-run Gaza. It is unclear why, after decades in which the Palestinians ran their own affairs, controlled their own cities and became more separate from Israel, that reports seek to shoehorn these areas back into Israeli control. It may be linked to arguments in the US that once again support a “one state solution.” Note the language in the HRW report says “single authority” and in B’Tselem’s says “single rule.” The term “between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River” appears in both.  

The terminology that portrays this area as one single entity appears to dovetail with the term “from the river to the sea.” This slogan was adopted by Palestinian nationalists, including Hamas.  

Israel’s human rights record regarding control over and treatment of the Palestinians has largely improved in recent decades. Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians rarely result in deaths of civilians, a major change from how events unfolded during the First and Second Intifadas.

An entire Palestinian generation has grown up under PA schools and under Hamas rule. Someone born when the Palestinians first began to administer their own affairs in a new authority under the Oslo Accords is now 25 years old. Someone born in Gaza when Hamas seized power will soon be graduating high school. Yet the fiction of a “single” authority is presented as evidence of apartheid.  

The message appears to be that no matter how much authority Palestinians have, even in a state, that Israel will never be permitted by some to extricate itself from Gaza or the West Bank. This is because the definitional concept of “control” now includes controlling two out of Gaza’s three borders. Such minor level of control is still enough to argue that Gaza is “part” of Israel. Under such logic, even if Israel wanted there to be a fully functioning Palestinian state, Israel would still be said to “control” it. Even if it did come into existence, Israel would still “occupy” Jerusalem, much as Israel is accused of “occupying” the Sheba’a Farms in Lebanon and thus justifying the Hezbollah “resistance.”  

It’s unclear why the “one state” concept has returned despite the vast separation that exists between Israel today, far more than in the past. It appears. Timed for the new US administration and designed to set up a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby Israel will be told that even if it doesn’t control Gaza and Ramallah it will be defined as controlling them.

The more Israel seeks to separate, the more it will be told it must reincorporate Palestinian areas into Israel. This may be due to the fact that the two state concept enabled Israel to exist as a state with a Jewish majority. The only way to prevent that is to continue to claim millions of people in Gaza are part of Israel, so as to create the fiction of Israel having a population that is half Palestinian.  

In the end of the day the Palestinian leadership doesn’t want to surrender its autonomy and become part of Israel and neither does Hamas in Gaza. The illusion that these areas are all seeking to be part of one state is used to present the area as a single entity.

There is no way, presented within these new human rights reports, for Israel to ever not control the “single entity.” Despite the fact that various accords and UN plans and resolutions have indicated that these are not the same entity, but rather defined as two states or an autonomous region, or “occupied” territory, the new reports seek a one state analysis.

This definition may be designed to delegitimize Israel because forcing Israel to retake all these areas and thus arguing it must grant citizenship to millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank inevitably creates a road to a so-called “binational” state which is no longer an Israeli majority.

Pro-binational arguments have been advanced for years without any evidence that the vast majority of people want this future. It would make more sense if half the people in the “single” area wanted a binational one state end-result. That they do not and that they have lived apart for decades, and that Israel has improved its human rights record across the “single” area, indicates that advocating for this analysis has an agenda.

It remains to be seen if this new push will catch on among western countries, who are the natural targets of this talking point. Given the fact that large parts of the world have less interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and many states already recognize a Palestinian state, as opposed to recognizing the Palestinian state as part of Israel, would appear to negate the “river to the sea” analysis.  

The reports may have been designed to pre-empt the fact that Palestinians and Israelis are growing apart and to prevent a Palestinian state becoming more autonomous. It’s not clear if the Palestinians are on board with this idea. Israel is not.  

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