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The Israel/Palestine Mission Network Responds to ‘Two States for Two Peoples’

“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying ‘Peace, Peace,’ when there is no peace.” -Jeremiah 6:14

A group of Presbyterians recently distributed a free, glossy, 80-page position paper entitled, Two States for Two Peoples. The paper advocates for a two-state solution as the best way to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In making its case, the paper offers an analysis of the history and contemporary politics of Israel/Palestine.

We are concerned that Two States presents a systematically distorted perspective on the situation and an equally flawed version of a two-state solution. The paper’s position is highly reflective of the stance of the current extremist Israeli government, employing a variety of “blame the victim” strategies to distract from the military occupation, settlements, and other rights abuses, which hinder even the possibility of a two-state solution.

The IPMN does not necessarily oppose a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Nor do we necessarily oppose a one-state solution. Our focus is on working in solidarity with our partners in the region to ensure that equal rights, justice, and peace reign supreme among both Israelis and Palestinians, regardless of whether there are one, two, three, or fifteen states.

The two-state solution that Two States for Two Peoples proposes would ensure neither rights nor justice, nor peace nor equality, and thus offers no real solution to the conflict at all. “Two states” here seems a mantra for “let Israel do what it wants.”

1.) Redrawn Borders

The paper proposes that the border between the “two states” not fall upon the internationally recognized 1949 armistice (or “green”) line that divides Israel from the occupied West Bank. Two States suggests that most of the Israeli settlements within the Palestinian West Bank—all of which are considered illegal under international law—should be incorporated into the state of Israel. This is not the “two state” solution envisioned by the United Nations or international law; it is a crude baptism of the Israeli government’s “facts-on-the-ground” power play.

Israeli settlement in Palestinian land Photo by Noushin Framke

Israeli settlement in Palestinian land
Photo by Noushin Framke

You cannot have two states when one of those states is built on stolen land.

2.) No End to the Occupation

Two States argues, “simply ending the occupation will likely lead the West Bank into the morass that is the Gaza Strip.” The authors, however, offer no proposal for how Palestine can obtain an autonomous state without Israel ending its military occupation of the territory. One state controls it all now and is constantly taking more, hardly a democracy for those dispossessed.

You cannot have freedom without liberation.

3.) Incomplete Peace

Two States repeatedly calls upon the Palestinians to renounce violence so as to ensure Israel’s security. But the paper never calls upon Israel to do the same, even as Israeli Forces have killed at least 2,800 Palestinians since 2008, while Palestinian attacks on Israelis have killed fewer than 100.

You cannot have peace unless all sides renounce violence.

Palestinian cars have green and white license plates - and are not allowed within Israel. Photo by Erin Dunigan.

Palestinian cars have green and white license plates – and are not allowed within Israel.
Photo by Erin Dunigan.

4.) Institutional Inequality is Ignored

Two States recognizes that “integration and genuine equality for all remains a work in process in Israel, just as is the case in the United States.” But unlike in the United States, where discrimination based on race or religion is illegal, more than fifty Israeli laws explicitly discriminate against non-Jewish citizens. The institutional racism is worse in the occupied West Bank. Israeli settlers there receive the full protection of Israeli civil law. But Palestinians live under Israeli military law, without those same civil rights or basic freedoms. In occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinians lose their Israeli-issued permit to live in the country if they go out of the city for an extended period of time. Almost any Jewish person from anywhere in the world can enter Israel and immediately become a citizen while even Palestinians who were born there are almost entirely prohibited from entering Israel, much less gaining citizenship.

You cannot have two states without equality between the two peoples.

5.) Refugees are Excluded

The paper makes little reference to Palestinian refugees, the majority of the Palestinian population. As most historians now recognize, Israel ethnically cleansed about 750,000 Palestinians from their homes when Israel was founded in 1948. [1] The refugees, their children, and their grandchildren now live mostly in United Nations camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. UN Resolution 194 guarantees the right of these refugees to return to their homeland or receive negotiated compensation, yet neither Israel nor Two States has honored this right.

UN Dheisheh Palestinian Refugee Camp Outside of Bethlehem Photo: Erin Dunigan

UN Dheisheh Palestinian Refugee Camp Outside of Bethlehem
Photo by Erin Dunigan

You cannot have any “solution” unless the rights of refugees are respected.

6.) Biased Sources

Of the 151 footnotes in Two States, only four of them refer to Palestinian sources, two from authors who were paid by virulently anti-Palestinian organizations to speak about Israel/Palestine. [2] Of the 147 other sources Two States draws upon, most exhibit pro-Israel and/or anti-Palestinian perspectives. Not a single partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)  is quoted in Two States.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) cannot support a solution that ignores the breadth of Palestinian and Israeli voices, particularly our mission partners.

7.) Distorted History and Skewed Reality

Two States includes several factual errors and distortions of the truth. For example:

  • Two States erroneously claims that Israel has disengaged from Gaza. In fact, while Israel removed its illegal settlements and checkpoints from within the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military routinely invades Gaza, often using Caterpillar bulldozers to destroy Palestinian farmland. Israel exercises absolute control over Gaza’s airspace, using constant drone surveillance and prohibiting Gazans from using their now dormant airport. The Israeli Navy, aided by Hewlett Packard technology, controls Gaza’s coastline, regularly firing upon unarmed Palestinian fishermen to impose narrow nautical restrictions. Israel and Egypt exercise total control over Gaza’s borders, allowing an alarmingly small trickle of food, medicine, and building supplies to enter. Palestinians are largely prohibited from ever leaving Gaza, thus leading Palestinians and international observers alike to describe Gaza as an “open air prison.” Thus, Palestinians must endure not just the repressive rule of Hamas but also the deadly external rule of the Israeli and Egyptian militaries.
  • Palestinian woman and child at the YWCA in Jericho Photo Credit: Ray Roberts

    Palestinian woman and child at the YWCA in Jericho
    Photo Credit: Ray Roberts

    The paper falsely suggests that most Palestinians are immigrants to the land they call home, thus tacitly questioning the legitimacy of their claims to Israel/Palestine as their homeland. In fact, Palestinians have been continuously living in Israel/Palestine since before Abraham immigrated in from Chaldea (Iraq).

  • Two States fails to mention a single Palestinian death at the hands of the Israeli military during 2014’s “Operation Protective Edge,” choosing instead to only discuss Hamas’s rocket fire into Israeli territory. In fact, according to the United Nations, the Israeli military killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 551 children during the war. Sixty five percent of the Palestinians killed by Israeli missiles and bombs were civilians. Hamas and its allies killed six Israeli civilians, one foreign national civilian, one security coordinator, and 67 Israeli soldiers. Hamas rockets also killed at least 13 Palestinians, according to Amnesty International.

You cannot have freedom without the truth.

You cannot have two states without an honest analysis of the past and present.

And you cannot stand for any solution that does not allow for a truly just, peaceful, and equal future.


[1] See, for example, Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
[2] Bassem Eid, whom the resource guide cites numerous times, recently went on a speaking tour of American college campuses that was sponsored by the right wing pro-Israel group, CAMERA. Eid also regularly contributes anti-Palestinian commentaries to the right wing Israeli newspaper, Jerusalem Post. Khaled Abu Toameh, one of the other Palestinian sources cited in the Two States for Two Peoplestoured American college campuses on behalf of the pro-Israel group, StandWithUs. StandWithUs recently received $250,000 from the Israeli government to disseminate “Israeli hasbara [propaganda] on social media platforms,” according to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. Toameh also writes for the Jerusalem Post.

This article was originally published on Justice Unbound.



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