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The No-State Solution

Article by David D’Amato.
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“I place the chances for the birth of a Palestinian state this fall at fifty-fifty,” says Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab for CNN. Citing the “favor” toward the idea of the “world community,” Kuttab notes that — to satisfy the U.S. — there may need to be more than just “a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood accompanied by a United Nations birth certificate.”

The assumption seems to be that, while there are marginal differences over which territories are “earmarked for Palestine,” fairly everyone now agrees that the U.N. will soon greet a new member of the world family of states. The Quartet (the U.S., the U.N., the E.U. and Russia) are always on the ready to sing odes to “self-rule” so long as the “self” in that phrase never, ever means real people as against the elite interests of states.

There has long been a consensus among most of the “reasonable” voices on the world stage that peoples are entitled to political self-determination, that they ought to enjoy the ability to craft their own institutions fit to their unique needs and wants. And while that assumption has informed the discussion as to the futures of Israel and Palestine, it has very seldom been suggested that the principle of self-determination could extend even further than a mere “two-state solution.”

Likewise, it has been little inquired as to wherefrom this vague notion of self-determination derives. We seldom call into question the theoretical basis for thinking that a people are a nation, and a nation deserves a state; it is simply regarded as true today that particular cultural, ethnic or language groups merit political arrangements that correspond to the lines that sociologists, linguists and their scholarly ilk have attempted — however roughly — to draw. That those lines are often arbitrary, or intersecting, or impossible to find as a practical matter, is to a great extent ignored.

Even more thoroughly ignored is the fact that, as a historical matter, the nation-state, where we have a unified Germany for Germans and Italy for Italians, etc., is a relatively novel idea. Perhaps the subjects of history’s many empires, larger and smaller, had a more acute understanding of the artificiality of the state, safe, as they were, from the odd idea that states should square with nations.

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