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I was stunned by Ian Lustick’s front page above-the-fold NY Times Sunday Review (September 15) article of 2339 words (long by most standards) with huge graphics not only because of the immense space The NY Times gave to a very small minority position within any community, but also because of its timing – the day after Yom Kippur and in the middle of serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to find a two-state solution. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/opinion/sunday/two-state-illusion.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I knew Ian Lustick when we were students together at UC Berkeley in 1970-71. We were both part of a left-wing Zionist group on campus that published a newspaper called “The Jewish Radical.” Ian was a brilliant and charismatic graduate student in Political Science, as I recall, and he was a strong Zionist at that time.

What happened? I honestly do not know as we were only acquaintances and I have had no contact with him since. But, in reading his article, he has clearly changed and given up on the most extraordinary phenomenon in modern Jewish history, the restoration of the Jewish people in the historic homeland, the establishment of a Jewish state for the first time in 2000 years, and the dreams of Israel’s founders as expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

Ian’s analysis of the growth and number of Jewish settlements in the West Bank is not wrong. As he says, the United States should have put pressure on Israel to stop this long ago when a two-state solution would have come more easily.

It did not happen, but that does not mean that all is lost, and Ian’s conclusion that a two-state solution is an illusion is defeatism in the extreme especially at a time when the United States is engaged actively in negotiations that represent the only chance there is to preserve Israel as a democracy and the national homeland of the Jewish people.

I am including, by permission, a “Letter to the Editor” penned by my friend and teacher, Rabbi Richard Levy, past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, who has been involved in the peace movement reaching back to the days of “Breira,” (the first American Jewish organization calling for a two-state solution in the early 1970s) and who is now an important voice amongst J Street Rabbis. Richard shines a strong light on the absurdity of Ian’s prescription for a one-state solution. I hope the NY Times Letters page publishes Richard’s piece. They should!


Seldom have I read a crueler, more heartless prescription for the Israeli-Palestinian struggle than Ian Lustick’s condemnation of Israelis and Palestinians to enduring the horrible trials of the Irish under Great Britain and South African blacks under apartheid. If the two-state solution is illusory, what are we to make of Mr. Lustick’s fantasy that if Israelis and Palestinians are forced to endure mutual violence long enough in a single state that “anti-nationalist Orthodox Jews might find common cause with Muslim traditionalists,” bridging a huge abyss not only of political but religious animosity, and “Israelis whose families came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as ‘Eastern’, but as Arab”–when the way Jews were treated in those countries led them to be among the Israelis most hostile toward Arabs? Furthermore, secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank are already finding allies among secular (and liberal religious)

Israelis–allies for a two-state solution. And if diplomacy has to give way to decades more of “blood and magic”–what are we to make of the successful diplomacy ending the strife in Northern Ireland? Why should the Israelis and Palestinians be denied the opportunity to attempt diplomacy once more in the quest for two states?

Perhaps the answer to these questions lies in Mr. Lustick’s comments about “post-Zionist” and “statist Zionism.” For him, Zionism would appear to be the main culprit, for which a two-state solution is but a scapegoat. For a two-state solution would preserve a Zionist state, run democratically by a Jewish majority–and Mr. Lustick wants to eliminate that possibility.  Not only to eliminate it, but to crucify it on a one-state platform of “ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel,” all of which would result in the withdrawal of American support.

It is easy to condemn a policy of supporting two states if the only state that currently exists is the one a person wishes to be destroyed. Mr. Lustick’s piece was well titled. It is an illusion to think he opposes a two state solution–it is the Zionist state that he opposes, and sets out a blueprint to destroy.

Rabbi Richard N. Levy

Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles