Can you be Zionist and pro-Palestinian at the same time?

Many in my social milieu, have been raised on a steady diet of Zionism and support for Israel. Mollycoddled within the cosy confines of the “Jewish ghetto”, our unequivocal support for our homeland is instilled from childhood and to a large extent unquestioned. However, as we become more exposed to the political realities of the Israeli-Arab conflict, our naïve kindergarten views buckle under the barrage of narratives and sound-bytes thrown at us from all directions.

It is in this context, that I wish to raise the painful but unavoidable facts on the ground:
Israel’s closest allies, including Australia (and many Jews & Israelis too) are pressuring the Israeli government into establishing a Palestinian state alongside it in the West Bank and Gaza (or as some prefer: biblical Yehuda, Shomron v’Aza). The reasons for such a move are numerous, and the pros and cons can be debated until tomorrow morning. Yet as time passes, and Palestinian statehood looks increasingly likely, we must ask the question:

“Can we be Zionist and pro a Palestinian state at the same time? :

In other words, are we still supportive of Israel if we support the establishment of an Arab state alongside it?

Many will argue that if Israel withdraws from the West Bank, it will be used as a launching pad to attack Tel Aviv. Conservative Jewish communities bewail the idea of giving up the biblical lands of the Tanach – the majestic hills of Shomron in which our forefathers modestly herded cattle, or the rolling deserts of Yehuda where King David mounted his attack upon the ancient Canaanites. The half a million Jews living in these areas question the viability of Jew-vs-Jew, Gush-Katif-style expulsions, or conversely, receiving Palestinian citizenship in a new Arab state.

Currently, the ratio of Jews to Arabs in the Land of Israel is roughly equal. Considering the higher Arab birth-rate, there is a strong possibility that Jews may become a minority in their own country. So when demographic realities are taken into account, the answer becomes simple: Either establish a Palestinian state at the expense of a physically smaller Israel – but ensure a Jewish majority (Two-state solution), or force Israel to decide between remaining “democratic” (give all Palestinians Israeli citizenship; i.e. one state solution) or exclusively “Jewish” (an apartheid state with no voting rights for Israel’s Arab citizens).

Indeed, the perpetual dilemma facing the Zionist movement since its inception over 100 years ago, has been the reconciliation between establishing a Jewish state in Israel, whilst seeking to uphold the democratic rights of the local Arab inhabitants. Initially, the issue had been ignored or glossed over with the popular Zionist maxim: “A land without a people, and a people without a land” – portraying Palestine as an uninhabited backwater of the Ottoman empire. But immigration and the Arab womb had other ideas.

Upon capturing the “Yehuda, Shomron v’Aza” in 1967, Israel was faced with an internal dilemma. To annex these territories and so provide their 2 million Arab inhabitants with Israeli citizenship, return them to Jordan, or establish another Arab state. Neither was done. Instead, Israel maintained a military presence in the territories (branded as ‘The Occupation’ by the media), and eventually built Jewish towns and cities on the newly conquered lands.

It is in these cities that today, nearly half a million Israeli Jews now call home. Many of us have visited and stayed in one of the numerous towns, communities and Yeshivot that now dot the landscape. Many of the secular, religious and unaffiliated Israelis call these communities home – communities that form a portion of Israel’s economic, political and social life. But what is more important – a homeland for the Jewish people, or holding on to pieces of land we captured in a defensive war?

Theodore Herzl - founder of political Zionism

In these regions live 3-5 million stateless Arabs. As heart wrenching as it may be, for the ultimate goal of preserving the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic, we must seek a two state solution (albeit with territorial adjustments along the ’67 borders). Anything less would be an affront to the Zionist movement and the Jewish pioneers who paid the ultimate sacrifice to establish Israel.

I say this, knowing that there are many who strongly disagree with the idea of giving back any land. Ultimately, even though the creation of the “State of Palestine” may not end the Israeli-Arab conflict (on the contrary, Iran’s toxic tentacles encroaching ever closer is a more probable outcome) – it will ensure Israel remains a Jewish-democratic state. Our people have always successfully faced external threats when united – and the left-right political divide is tearing Israel apart.

So yes, being Zionist and supporting Israel, in effect makes you in favour of a Palestinian state.
Because unless a Palestinian state is established, Israel will be forced to choose between surrendering it’s Jewish character or abandoning democracy – and that’s a choice that none of us want her to make.