/ Published May 11, 2011
Does Israel Have a Future? The Case for a Post-Zionist State by Constance Hilliard. Potomac Books, 2009, 208 pp.
This book is an attempt to awaken the United States, Israel, and the world in general to the serious potential for Israel’s destruction if events continue down their current path. Hilliard states in her preface, “This book will show how a trap was set for Israel at the time of its founding” and “the American foreign policy establishment refuses to talk about it” (italics in original). She describes a situation where the Israelis themselves and their Western, primarily US, allies are either oblivious to or are consciously ignoring the potential calamity of a two-state solution that awaits all involved: Israeli, Arab, and outsider.
Hilliard begins with a historical overview of the founding of the modern state of Israel, tracing its roots to Zionism and the often unspoken but nevertheless very real anti-Semitism of Western nations that prevented significant immigration. The author discusses current and proposed policies of the major players (Israel, the United States, and Arab states) and how those either are or may impact prospects for peace. A significant part of her argument focuses on the Holocaust and its impact on (1) Jews and their desire to create a homeland where they could defend themselves and (2) those that eventually supported Jewish efforts to establish a national homeland as a result of their guilt over their inaction or acquiescence in the Nazis perfidy. These mindsets factor in throughout the discussion as she argues that many Israelis have developed a fortress mentality, while their Western allies’ deep-seated sense of guilt in essence forces them to support Israeli policy even when it appears contrary to their own interests. She draws a lengthy analogy between Israel and South Africa, arguing that each has two disparate populations, one looking to supplant the other while the real solution is to create a state where there is room for everyone. She discusses both the strengths and missteps in that process in mapping out an alternative solution for Israel.
Hilliard has a definite purpose beyond simply educating the reader on the current situation. She makes quite clear her intent to propose an alternative to the current two-state solution, which she argues is unworkable and will eventually result in Israel’s destruction and regional chaos. Dr. Hilliard’s position as a professor of African and Middle Eastern history at a public university does not indicate any obvious bias, and while her previous work for Senator Tower might suggest a particular bent, she does not subscribe to the conservative fundamentalist support for Israel. Instead she argues for a single-state solution she believes will be fair to all concerned, Arab and Jew alike, and will help stabilize the region for future generations.
The argument is well crafted as far as it goes, but the author’s comparison between South Africa and Israel seems dated. She also uses the Belgian system as a potential model despite that country’s internal problems. I found it interesting that although published in 2009, the book never refers to either Iraq or Afghanistan, where there are some obvious parallels with diverse populations trying to establish a single polity despite their differences. She thinks the Belgian government provides a useful template for a single-state solution. Unfortunately Belgium’s government has been deadlocked for some time over the very issue of sovereignty and minority rights. The author also throws an offhanded suggestion at one point that NATO troops could be deployed as security forces to help keep the peace! She does not elaborate, and I question why her editors did not require her to either delete that reference or explain more fully. She also discusses the Swiss canton system but at only the most superficial level. These issues detract from the main focus of her argument, but overall her single-state concept is well articulated. The proposal would have benefitted from better examples and more in-depth discussion.
This is an interesting discussion of the current Israeli-Arab conundrum, but I would not recommend it as a first read for someone with only passing knowledge of the region and its politics. The reader needs a more solid grounding in regional history and politics to better gauge the strength and soundness of the author’s arguments. This issue remains central to US policy in the region, so any reasonable discussion of the issues and possible solutions is worthwhile.
Golda T. Eldridge Jr.
Fort Worth, TX
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."