Prof. Boehm's new book is latest in the two-state fantasy - opinion

In his new book, Prof. Omri Boehm claims that a Jewish state is not the answer to Jews' rights to self-determination.

 HAIFA, 1930s. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
HAIFA, 1930s.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

There’s something about the Jewish state that drives leftist academics nuts. Is there any other country that makes presumably rational professors claim that its founding was a crime? That its very existence is an injustice? That it must be abolished?

The latest example of this craziness is Prof. Omri Boehm’s new book Haifa Republic: A Democratic Future For Israel. Boehm argues that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer possible. Therefore, “True Israeli patriots must now challenge Zionist taboos as we have come to know them, must dare to imagine the country’s transformation from a Jewish state into a federal, binational republic.” (The book’s title comes from his theory that Haifa provides a model for what Palestinian-Jewish cohabitation could one day look like.) 

Boehm makes the unsupported claim that while Jews have a right to self-determination, the assumption that this right is best defended and can only be defended by a sovereign Jewish state is, to say the least, debatable, and quite probably mistaken. A Jewish home is OK, but not a Jewish state. However, as Shany Mor has written in Fathom, “There was a Jewish national home in Palestine from the 1920s right through the Holocaust itself. It was and remains perfectly reasonable for Jews to conclude that a ‘home’ is insufficient.”

TRYING TO GET around this dilemma, Boehm asks, “How can the memories of the Holocaust and the Nakba serve not as impediments, but as supports to a new binational dream?” The answer, he says, is the notion of remembering to forget. The two sides must develop a willingness to forget all that might pull them apart. For Jews, this means an end to Holocaust transference – the tendency to think of the Palestinians as proto-Nazis. 

Boehm maintains that if Israelis can just get past the Holocaust, they will be able to take responsibility for the Nakba, see Palestinians in a more positive light, start to trust them and learn to live with them in a binational state. However, the murder of six million Jews is not an unfortunate distraction. It’s what best demonstrates the need for a Jewish state.

A woman holds a Palestinian flag during a protest marking the 71st anniversary of the ‘Nakba’ at the Israel-Gaza border fence in 2019. (credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)A woman holds a Palestinian flag during a protest marking the 71st anniversary of the ‘Nakba’ at the Israel-Gaza border fence in 2019. (credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)

Boehm doesn’t say exactly how Palestinians should go about forgetting the Nakba. The closest he comes is suggesting they show the willingness to put one’s own memories aside, and remember as a citizen, whatever that means. As well, he makes no suggestion that Palestinians take responsibility for starting a genocidal war of aggression in 1948; rather, he places the burden of reconciliation almost entirely on the Jews, insisting that they own up to various Zionist crimes. 

Thus, Boehm ignores the history of the conflict, buying into the Palestinian narrative of Nakba victimhood. Here, he disingenuously purports to rely on the work of historian Benny Morris, which in fact does not support that narrative. Boehm is not the first to do so and Morris has reacted against such misuse of his scholarship. In a letter to Irish Times, he has written, “Israel-haters are fond of citing – and more often, mis-citing – my work in support of their arguments. Let me offer some corrections.” The Palestinian Arabs, Morris said, were responsible for their own fate.

IN DEFIANCE OF the will of the international community, as embodied in the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 29th, 1947 (No. 181), they launched hostilities against the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. However, they lost and one of the consequences was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes.

That displacement, Morris asserted, was the result of a national conflict and a war, with religious overtones, from the Muslim perspective, launched by the Arabs themselves. There was no Zionist plan or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population or of ethnic cleansing. As Morris wrote, “such demonization of Israel is largely based on lies – much as the demonization of the Jews during the past 2,000 years has been based on lies. And there is a connection between the two.” Sadly, writers like Boehm are joining in that demonization now, using it to support their arguments in favor of a binational state.

In Boehm’s utopian fantasy, Jewish Israelis don’t need to fear sharing a state with an Arab majority. Do you buy that? Me neither. For 100 years, Palestinians have violently opposed any Zionist presence in the region. They continue to teach their children that Jews have no right to be there. Even now, they make clear their intention to achieve Arab domination from the river to the sea. Sorry, but that’s not a recipe for fair and equal treatment of a Jewish minority. Nor is it a recipe for the peaceful Palestinian-Jewish cohabitation that Boehm somehow envisions.

The writer is an attorney, writer and member of the Board of Directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI), an affiliate of B’nai B’rith International.