One Democratic Secular State for all its citizens in Israel and Palestine


Posted January 5, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Q: Shouldn’t this be for the Palestinians to decide?

A: Absolutely, when a decision is to be made, it should be voted on by every Palestinian who can be found: by post, on foot, online, wherever they are. Someone should probably be registering them now for a vote. But everyone should be free to express and fight for a political viewpoint they believe to be just and beneficial. And without a vote, how can we be sure of Palestinian views, given that they are fragmented and scattered, and some of the people who speak for them are way past their elect-by date. We try here to explore some of the issues:

* Among the main enthusiasts for a single state are the Al Awda groups, who are dedicated to the Right of Return and may be speaking for a substantial diaspora constituency. Of the four best known books advocating one state, three are by Palestinians (Ali Abunimah, Ghada Karmi and Mazin Qumsiyeh). Several leading BDS activists such as Omar Barghouti and Haider Eid are One Staters. The BDS aims, formulated by representatives of Palestinian civil society before the Fatah-Hamas division, are only achievable in a single state. The “1948″ Palestinians within present-day Israel would be left utterly vulnerable if Israel is defined by the re-partition as being “the Jewish state”: if settlers had to move from the West Bank, the pressure to have reciprocal evictions from Israel would be huge. And a Ramallah-based West Bank statelet would not be able to defend Gaza from Israel’s bombardments and blockades.

*  The period during which the Palestinian people accepted partition is a fraction of the total time in which Zionism has been active in their country, and only a third of the period since 1948. It looms large only because it is closest to us in time, and for anyone under 30 it’s the only position they have known.

*  While slightly more people polled in Gaza and the West Bank (by JMCC, last April) still supported two states, there had been a considerable drop since June 2009: in West Bank from 55% to 48%, and in Gaza from 55% to 37%. Those supporting a single state had risen in that period: in West Bank from 20% to 30%, and in Gaza from 15% to 41%. That’s in just ten months.

* The PA is now two years overdue for elections.  Both Fatah and the PLO (of which Fatah is the largest party) have been gathering rust over the years. In August 09 Fatah’s General Assembly held its first meeting in 20 years and saw a partial renewal of its leading body. Many of these new leaders are believed to lean towards a single state. The PLO, still regarded as the voice of Palestine, has not renewed its structures in the past 50 years, carrying  dozens of “rotten boroughs”: representatives of organisations that no longer exist. Polled in September, 30% of people in Gaza and West Bank said they do not trust any of the leading factions. The most supported party was Fatah with 40%, while Hamas had 13%.

* So, there is no decisive majority in West Bank or Gaza in favour of a separate state (or believing that one is possible) and a substantial minority that favours a single state (despite none of the parties campaigning for it), and neither of these positions is a firm principle but both are volatile and subject to change. The leadership’s pursuit of such a separate state is not viewed with great confidence. And the exiles and the ‘48 Palestinians are not even counted in the equation.

* None of this indicates that we all have to fall in behind the re-partition of Palestine merely because it has a slight edge over restoration of the original country, especially given the huge pressures to support the default position that we hear about, daily.

* The proposal of One Democracy is that both sides must approve by referendum any decision to unite into one state. We believe that a campaign for a single state, with full information, debate and discussion to rectify the long silence about it and bring the ideas to a younger generation that’s grown up with the Two State solution, is the best way to empower Palestinians to make an informed decision.

* The injunction not to campaign on this because “Palestinians must decide” seems often to come from left zionist two staters, who know all the right-on phrases but are more concerned with somehow redeeming the Zionist dream via the granting of a Palestinian mini-state. It looks for all the world just like an attempt to retain the two-state monopoly and to silence and delegitimise the one state position, and possibly to divide its supporters between Palestinians who are authorised to campaign for it, and others who may not.

* Having said that, it’s absolutely true that only when Palestinians make the appropriate demands  –  for the right to vote in the electoral, legal and administrative system which runs and ruins their lives –  will the one state issue really hit the agenda. Until that time, all we can do is gather our forces, write, think and network, and propose ideas and actions that will clarify and light up the one state vision in all its simplicity.

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  1. [...] ♦♦ New in One Democracy’s FAQs: Isn’t it for Palestinians to decide on One State or Two? We say yes of course, only the Palestinians can decide, but others may speak and campaign. We look at what’s known of Palestinian support for one state in the scattered population centres and at the credibility of the leaderships that still promote separate states. We argue that knowledge and discussion of the alternative to partition is needed to empower Palestinians to make an informed decision. But the fight for one state will only take centre stage when Palestinians raise the demand for full and equal civil and legal rights. Read it here [...]

    Pingback by One Democracy – Newsletter 3 — January 8, 2011 @ 12:12 am