Challenging partition: Palestinian citizens of Israel
In November 2022, the Israeli public will once again go to the polls to vote for yet another government. This will be Israel’s fifth election in three and a half years, reflecting a protracted state of political deadlock that has revolved around the question of whether or not Benjamin Netanyahu should rule. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, they will have little consequence for Palestinians.
Indeed, Israeli apartheid seems to be cemented further with every passing year. Four years ago this summer, the Israeli Knesset ratified the Jewish Nation-State Law, affirming that national self-determination is the exclusive right of Jewish citizens. After a long legal battle, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the law in July 2021 in a near-unanimous decision. In June 2022, the Israeli Education Ministry even cited the law to justify a new discriminatory policy that will ban external providers of school programs who “refuse to sign a statement adhering to Zionist values,” further limiting the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to free speech.
While Palestinian citizens of Israel have faced legalised discrimination and marginalisation since the state’s inception, the Nation-State Law reaffirms Jewish supremacy, reinforcing a basic fact: Palestinian citizens can never achieve equality in a Jewish ethnostate, and no amount of dissolved parliaments or elections will put an end to this apartheid policy so long as the Zionist project is left unchallenged.
More broadly, the law confirms the fundamental moral problem with any nation-state and the bankruptcy of the partition paradigm – the idea that colonised Palestine should ultimately be divided into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. Over the last three decades, the quest for a two-state solution did not only abandon Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinian refugees, and Palestinians in exile; it also aligned with and legitimised the very logic of the Nation-State Law: exclusive Jewish self-determination within a bounded territory.
As Hannah Arendt famously argued, the state as a juridical entity is what ensures people’s “right to have rights.” But as soon as the state adopts an exclusive ethnic character, it inevitably leads to widespread exclusion of those who do not belong to the “nation” and, thus, inevitably institutionalises inequality among its citizens. And in the four years since the Jewish Nation-State Law was passed, ongoing Israeli annexation of Palestinian land continued and the expansion of apartheid policies have ensured that a two-state future is not only morally unjust, but also practically impossible.
In this reality, it has only become more apparent that Palestinians must renounce the partition paradigm entirely to achieve their right to live in freedom. This does not mean that they should disavow the concept of statehood itself; rather, Palestinians should unify around the idea of a civic, democratic state of equal citizens in all of colonised Palestine.