One Democratic State: the Conference
The Conference held 22-24 October in Dallas marks a milestone for One Democracy and those fighting for Justice, Unity and Peace. It adopted a comprehensive Declaration outlining the legal and ethical shape of a single state for Palestine and Israel, and made plans for study and research to flesh out the aspirations and examine how they can work in practice.
It was a measure of good preparation that the time was used to develop these plans:
♦ brainstorming a mass of possible actions;
♦ setting up an exciting and dynamic media group;
♦ making provision for local groups;
♦ starting to draw together the loosely connected existing media, groupings, writers and thinkers already committed to ODS;
♦ and producing publicity and outreach materials to interact with the wider Palestine support movement.
The Conference heard video messages from eminent proponents of One Democracy, and a video interview with historian Ilan Pappe recorded at the May conference in Haifa. We give an outline below, and you can watch the messages too.
Message from Virginia Tilley
The two state solution has been over since 1967. Oslo was a fraud to suppress the first Intifada and enlist the PLO in Israel’s own project to reclaim control over the Palestinian people. The PA was a Bantustan, not in the sense of an enclave but of a government without power.
The Declaration is the most comprehensive document we’ve seen. Universalism is its great strength. From the South Africa experience we know that separate but equal doesn’t work. We know it’s a trap and a lie. We’ll also need forums, study groups, projects, public meetings, reading groups.
The existing Solidarity movement knows outrage, but outrage isn’t enough: you need to know where you’re going, what is your goal. We can’t just deal with the symptoms. The goal has to be to go after the root cause, which is, in a word, racism.
Message from Mazin Qumsiyeh
Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh is a man of many parts: scientist, environmentalist and teacher, writer, and a man who studies the art of resistance both as a historian and as a committed and courageous participant. He told the conference:
The best decision I made in my life was to return to Palestine to live here. I believe that as human beings we have an obligation to make sure that the inevitable outcome, the single state and return of the refugees, happens as fast and as smoothly and with least violence possible. … Since publishing my book (Sharing the land of Canaan) I have thought about what is the best way of doing this. We need more action and less rhetoric. Having studied and written about the 130-year Palestinian resistance, I believe in the end that the endurance, steadfastness and determination to stay on the land is going to be the key factor.
People such as Rachel Corrie were not just expressing solidarity but their own highest ideals, following what they truly believe to be the nature of human beings, the nature of the common human struggle. And all of us should live to our highest ideals, in the sense of this common struggle for humanity.
These are the ideals, too, of people like Bassem Abu Rahmah who lost his life in Bil’in, or his cousin Abdullah Abu Rahmah who is now in an Israeli jail for engaging in non-violent resistance.
Message from Dr Richard Falk
Dr Richard Falk, just before giving his final UN report on human rights under Israel’s occupation, told the conference that the two state “charade creates a cruel deception that, somehow or other, there is a sincere search for a just settlement of the conflict. My judgment, coinciding with the orientation and the various assertions of the Houston Declaration, is that the genuine search for a just peace at this stage depends on building a strong political and moral consensus in favour of a one-state solution: the state being of secular character, equal to all people living within its borders.”
It was, he said, more than just a practical matter of adapting to the realities of the current situation on the ground in Israel and Palestine … but a matter of fulfilling a conception of how people should live together well. The notion of separating people by their ethnic and religious identities is a very regressive idea.
It’s “far from a quick fix … but the two-state approach is not leading to a viable or sustainable peace and is also a diversion from the pursuit of the one kind of resolution of this conflict that could produce genuine reconciliation and a better future for both peoples.”
And if the Single State were implemented well, it would overcome “this sense of hatred and hostility between these two peoples and convey the sense that they’re sharing land, resources, and political destiny, and that this represents the best hope of the modern vision of a sovereign state.”
He said the Palestinians “are now winning what I call the legitimacy war” but “it’s very important to shift the debate from the so-called peace process among governments to this more grassroots campaign to build support for a one-state solution, that initially will have to be a civil society project of advocacy, as none of the relevant governmental entities has so far been willing to endorse such a vision. And that includes the Palestinian Authority and, as far as I know, includes Hamas.” And he concluded by “urging those attending the conference to be energetic in discrediting the existing approach and equally energetic in disseminating support for the one-state vision of a just Palestine.”
Message from Gilad Atzmon
Virtuoso sax-player and anti-Zionist campaigner told the conference “I am very optimistic”:
For some bizarre reason many world leaders are still consumed by the idiotic and sinister idea of two states, an idea that doesn’t at all address the Palestinian cause, an idea that cannot lead to a peaceful resolution because there are too many opponents of such a resolution within Israel’s society, and and idea that doesn’t at all address what we are fighting for.
The issue here is very simple: Palestine, or in its current condition Israel, is one state. Israel is a state with natural borders, with one electric grid, one sewage system, one state that is dominated by rabbinical, supremacist ideology, one state that is dominated by a racist ideology, namely Zionism.
All we have to do really is to make sure that this one state becomes a state of its citizens, like Britain. I am a citizen of Britain: I wasn’t born here, but I am a citizen, and my kids enjoy all rights. It is quite peculiar that world leaders who live in democracies, and in states that regard human rights and civil rights as precious, support the idea of two states, which is totally ethnocentric and racially orientated.
I think that it is actually the facts on the ground that will make one democratic Palestine into a future state. I think that one democratic state is not a question of if, but rather a question of when. It is an inevitable concept. Israel in its current form is an apartheid state, and it will crumble. I think that it is crumbling already, and I am very optimistic.
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