A historic choice for Mustafa Barghouti
Mustafa Barghouti has joined the chorus of voices warning of the “fast approaching” end of the two-state solution. In an article for the Washington politics journal The Hill, he writes that “The demise of the two-state solution is right there with climate change: It’s staring us all in the face.” He says “I do not know precisely when a younger generation of Palestinians will decide that two states is an outdated pipe dream of their parents’ generation, nor when Fatah officials will reach the same conclusion.”
There is in fact no earthly chance of a Palestinian state — defined as pre-1967 lands, with capital in East Jerusalem and refugee rights of return — of any sort let alone a sovereign state. No amount of warnings can resurrect it, even supposing it was ever alive. And far from being allied with any “peace process” whose demise is to be regretted, the Oslo era has seen Palestinians suffer unremitting violence, insult, economic damage and deepening racism.
Barghouti knows that Greater Israel is already here as one apartheid country. He asks “What will be the rights of Palestinians in a West Bank no longer regarded as occupied? Will we be afforded full voting rights or subjected to a system of apartheid?”
But Barghouti is still in the chorus, lamenting rather than burying, the two state solution, as if it were real and not a cynical smokescreen to cover for Israel’s land-grab. He could be at the front of the stage as a soloist to sing the praises of the only alternative, the single democratic state. But still he remains in the chorus warning of the tragic missed opportunity slipping away.
It’s understandable if pundits and academics take up a passive position. As a famous political thinker once said, philosophers have so far only interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it.
But Mustafa Barghouti is a political figure and aspiring leader. He challenged Abbas for the Presidency of the PA and came in a very creditable second with almost 20% of the vote. Together with Edward Said, he launched the Palestinian National Initiative. He is an elected member of the “Palestinian Parliament”. And he courageously positions himself on the front lines of the popular resistance movement.
As a political figure, Barghouti is well placed and well able to lead. Not merely to interpret and comment; certainly not to wait for Fatah officials (who have a vested interest in the two-state charade) — but to raise the banner himself, to call on the “next generation” to rally and organise with him for the full voting rights that he now poses as a rhetorical question.
On both sides of the Green Line, around a third of voters are already open to the idea of uniting the whole country into one equal, democratic entity. This is a huge resource of potential talent and energy that no political party has tapped, nor attempted to consolidate or enlarge. So one democratic state remains in limbo, the subject of lots of heated talk and debate but not yet the engine of action on the ground that could magnify and focus that interest and project it into the international arena to challenge the “consensus” for re-partition.
And this chance to catch the tide of change may not last for ever. With the region in turmoil, who knows how long we’ll have the opportunity to switch the points and re-position the movement, or if a new political landslide could close off the way forward. Will the option still be there for the next generation, and how much irreversible damage will have been done to the land and its people?
Barghouti would be a wholly credible leader for such a move: independent and untainted by the repression and corruption of the Ramallah regime, part of the grassroots struggle, a doctor who knows about healing, a fervent advocate of non-violence, and well in with international media. He’s even been nominated for the Nobel Prize. Instead of being a minor player unable to affect the only game in town, if he freed himself from the two-state snare he could transform and refresh his position, attract worthy co-workers and allies, start to build a mass following, and maybe, maybe, even make a historic difference.
His website carries the 1968 Palestine National Charter. Not all of it is still right for today, but its 2nd Article rings just as true after 45 years, and the proof is out there for all to see: “Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.” Though Barghouti has frequently said that his heart was with a Palestinian state but his head was with one state, perhaps he could now not only abandon the “outdated pipe-dream” of two states but also imagine the creation of one whole, indivisible and undivided country not as an awful fate like climate change, but as an inspiring and restorative vision.
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