There can be no peace without justice, and no justice without rights: the most powerful right is the right to vote. These truths apply on both sides of the border. It’s time to unite all the scattered Palestinians behind the one demand Israel is really afraid of, the demand for one person, one vote, for equal rights and equal citizenship.
A 43-year military occupation, violence, expulsions, impoverishment and injustice. That is a toxic dead end, a problem that requires a solution. Within Israel, discrimination and increasing repression. And it’s getting worse by the day.
For 20 years, the “two state solution” has given Israel a win-win dual strategy: Plan A, play for time, destroy what’s left of Palestine to abort and prevent a state; Plan B, if in the end it has to withdraw its army, it will leave behind the ghost and travesty of a state: fragmented, walled in, waterless, powerless, its population impoverished and systematically depleted, surrounded and controlled by Israel.
This scorched earth “solution” will satisfy neither the aspirations for justice nor the most basic daily needs of the Palestinians, and will inscribe anger, instability, violence and possible catastrophe into the future of the region for generations to come.
Yet few agencies, campaigners or leaders will contemplate the wholly viable alternative vision of one democratic state which can genuinely create a new start.
This is a solution with no territorial issues, no re-drawing of maps or population “transfers”, no security zones, access tunnels or supervised corridors. It addresses Israeli anxieties and redresses Palestinian wrongs. But it must be embarked upon with willing consent and optimism: a sea-change in attitudes so that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians will choose to coexist and collaborate in a modern-day multicultural and democratic country.
Despite polls showing up to a third of Jewish Israelis already accept One Democracy in principle, there is a general insistence that Israel will never ever contemplate it and that even the case for this solution should remain off the agenda. Thus the warning that we can’t talk about it because it is a non-runner becomes self-fulfilling. There is no safety net for when the Two State myth is finally laid to rest.
It is our aim to remove the taboo and help the case to be heard.”The real issue for the international community now is to look the one-state solution full in the face, and sort out its obstacles” Virginia Tilley
If there is no viable re-partition of Palestine into two states, the best alternative is a political rather than a territorial peace. ONE DEMOCRACY proposes the following principles, which could be supported by both sides. These have been distilled from many such programmes proposed in books, articles, declarations and model constitutions.
1. A democratic state that guarantees constitutional principles, freedoms and rights, that can only be changed by an overwhelming majority and which apply to all people of any religious or ethnic group or identity. One person, one vote will mean that no-one is tied to vote for an ethnic list, and everyone can have full choice of how to cast their votes in a secret ballot.
2. Freedom of movement, no evictions, “transfers” or land swaps, no internal borders, equal right to benefits of citizenship and nationality, land and property, social, health and education services.
3. Freedom from discrimination, and equal esteem in civil, political, social and cultural matters, and on permits, papers and passports.
4. This union will be entered into with full consent and a process of reconciliation, recognising the human value of each future citizen. It is neither a defeat nor a victory for either side but a victory for good sense.
5. A milestone in reconciliation will be acknowledgement of the Nakba and the right of, and orderly provision for, exiles to return with honour and comfort; recognition of the pain and loss suffered by victims of violence on both sides is also essential for reconciliation.
6. The state guarantees religious freedom and does not discriminate against or in favour of any faith.
7. The state will recognise the special ties that both Jews and Palestinians have with their broader communities worldwide, and will welcome especially members of those communities who wish to immigrate to the country and help to build it, or who request asylum from persecution.
8. Institutions of justice, law enforcement and army will integrate at all ranks.
9. The state will maintain free and equal access and protection for holy sites.
10. The state will establish fair, transparent and accountable mechanisms to compensate victims of the conflict.
11. Violence and coercion will not win consent nor aid reconciliation. Common struggle, however, forges bonds, as do common cultural and social projects. People who share political, commercial, professional, educational and cultural interests can start now on liaison that could lead to shared endeavours in a Single State.
12. Meanwhile we demand an immediate end to the siege of Gaza and withdrawal of all occupation troops, the release of all prisoners of the conflict including the Refuseniks, and the rescinding of all military orders that govern the subjected Palestinian people.