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political theory for palestine current during the british mandate, 19221948.

Binationalists asserted that Palestine belonged equally to Palestinian Arabs and Jews and that its ultimate political disposition should be based on this principlethat Palestinians and Jews are equally entitled to national self-determination within the full territory. Constitutional arrangements for any binational state should be based on parity, regardless of the relative numbers of each group, to assure equal representation for both in all the institutions of the national government.

The original supporters of binationalism formed a small but articulate minority within the political spectrum of the Yishuv (Palestine's Jewish community). Among the leading proponents of binationalism were idealists and humanists, rather than political tacticians: Judah I. Magnes, president and chancellor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; world-renowned philosopher Martin Buber; and land-purchase agent Chaim Kalvaryski. The most notable of the associations formed to advance binationalism during the mandate period were Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace; founded in 1925), the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation (founded in 1939), and Ihud (Unity; founded in 1942). Two left-wing workers' parties, Poʿalei-Zion Smol (Left Faction, Workers of Zion) and ha-Shomer ha-Tzaʿir (the Young Watchman), also took an active part in advocating a binational solution.

Binationalism never became a strong force within the Zionist movement, within the Yishuv, or among any Palestinian political groups. The idea reached a high point in the year 1946, when the arguments advanced by Magnes and Buber before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry influenced the committee's report, which proposed that "Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew," and that "Palestine shall be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab state." But the committee's recommendations soon proved unworkable and, subsequently, the United Nations opted for the partition of mandatory Palestine (i.e., Palestine under British Mandate). Faced with the reality of the State of Israel after 14 May 1948, Magnes reluctantly abandoned binationalism and began advocating instead a confederation between the new Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state-to-be-created. Thereafter, the concept of binationalism surfaced from time to time (e.g., following the 1967 ArabIsrael war), usually in academic discussions of alternative approaches to resolving the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Binationalists were opposed to the partition of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states on the grounds that it would fragment the integral unity of the small country and would give rise to irredentism (where a territory ethnically related to one political unit comes under the control of another). Likewise, they rejected as unjust and unworkable the mutually exclusive quests for either an Arab or a Jewish state, each with its recognized minority. Finally, binationalismwith its essential stress on the rights and status of Arabs and Jews as coequal but autonomous national communities living in a single stateshould not be confused with either a "two-state" solution or Palestinian proposals for a non-sectarian, secular democratic state.


Cohen, Aharon. Israel and the Arab World. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1970.

Flapan, Simha. Zionism and the Palestinians. New York, 1979.

Goren, A. A., ed. Dissenter in Zion: From the Writings of Judah L. Magnes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

Hattis, Susan Lee. The Bi-National Idea in Palestine during Mandatory Times. Haifa, Israel: Shikmona Publications, 1970.

Hurewitz, J. C. The Struggle for Palestine, reprint edition. New York: Shocken Books, 1976.

Neil Caplan