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

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    Posted January 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Now Join Up the Struggles

    Every single event of the past year points to the moral bankruptcy of Israel’s rule, the urgency of ending an intolerable status quo, and the need for a new vision that will serve the needs of all the people and offer the hope of freedom and justice.

    This is, in general terms, the common thread that links the headline struggles and events of the past year: from Tunisia to Moscow, from New York to Tel Aviv, from Athens to Bahrain, from Cairo to Damascus, we’ve witnessed the mobilisation of millions of people who have had their fill of corruption, abuse of power, outrageous and violent injustice and constant assaults on their dignity and human rights.

    Palestinians too want a normal life, a secure home, healthy, educated kids, freedom of movement and travel, the right to practise their culture and religion, and an equal voice in how their country is run. And they want all their exiled kin brought back home.

    Middle-ground Jewish Israelis want normality too, not to live in the existential fear they’ve been steeped in from early childhood, not to be justifying their pariah state, not to spend their best young years in the army, not to be bullied by religious fanatics who are aiming for political power so Israel can become an Iran-style theocracy.

    Over a million (some 20% of the adult population) protested in the J14 Social Justice movement, for a more caring society, against profiteers, privatisation, contract labour exploitation and mass evictions. A staggering 80-90% of those polled said they backed them. Tens of thousands are still involved, with multiple continuing actions all over the country.

    To illustrate how close the struggles and ideas are, this poster (by One Democracy) shows many of their demands and ideas, and some of our own which are not far off. In a typical recent week of activism, inquiry and challenge to the system, there were
    ♦ anti-eviction demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Bersheva;
    ♦ a demonstration to protest the closure of the All for Peace Radio;
    ♦ a film showing of “Their Water, Our Water” with plans for direct actions to highlight Water Apartheid;
    ♦ action in support of striking public sector workers;
    ♦ several pop-up encampments and a new protest calendar on the J14 website;
    ♦ and plans launched for an International Women’s Day of civil disobedience including a walk-in to Jerusalem and sea-bathing together in defiance of borders and permits and against the Occupation;
    ♦ a demonstration in Haifa starting out from the Palestinian area of Wadi Niswas, see poster) with slogans against evictions, police violence, racist and anti-democratic laws, and proclaiming “Haifa returns to the streets, the struggle continues”.

    The Palestinian struggle is on the turn from statehood to demands for civil rights in one country. After the Freedom Riders have come drive-in challenges to the segregated roads.  With Two States off the agenda, the phony zones and the PA fig-leaf cannot for much longer mask the reality that from River to Sea there is just one country run by one authority.

    Against this backdrop, and that of the Arab revolution and the global Occupy movement, it would have been hard for Israel’s own Social Justice movement to remain for long separate from Palestinian aspirations and social justice issues.

    And now the J14 movement has indeed come out with a manifesto for a totally different Israel that echoes the demands and concerns of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. Its aims accord with a core demand of the international Boycott movement: for equal rights within Israel.

    Most Popular Movement

    Despite what appears to be a cast-iron electoral dominance of the ever-further far right, J14 has been the most popular movement in Israel’s history. Even allowing for the Israeli psyche’s ability to embrace major contradictions at both ends, this is a huge asset.

    If they can carry the goodwill, the energy, the community connections and a serious segment of the huge numbers that J14 rallied, and turn it towards consistent political campaigning rooted in its new manifesto, these radically new ideas would be placed on the national agenda.

    Every major party in Israel’s history was implicated in its brutal colonial conquest and rule. And the old Two-State “Peace” movement simply wanted Zionism Lite. Now, for the first time ever, there is a chance of a new Left opposition that talks of changing the ethnic foundational basis of Israel. If even the only legacy of J14 was to expose and ditch the old Left Zionist vs. Right Zionist script, that would guarantee its historic significance.

    And if the struggles and demands were joined up in the spirit of this third One Democracy poster, it really would be revolutionary.

    J14 has the momentum and support to set up an electoral arm to enter the party political arena with the programme it has now launched: not to get sucked into it and corrupted, but to bring its people-powered politics and experience into the equation.

    One-time Knesset leader Avrum Burg has already called for the current Knesset minority to walk away, thereby exposing its anti-democratic nature as it penalises, bans and outlaws dissidence. If J14 was prevented from challenging for the Knesset, that would only add force to its argument. If enough parties are banned (as the ANC was in South Africa), an electoral boycott alliance would seriously discredit the next right wing Knesset.

    Electoral activity need not be counterposed to rank and file grassroots creativity and democracy, and J14 could ally with supporters of the campaigning human rights organisations, Palestinian political and civil society groupings, and existing parties that support its values.

    The West Bank Tent Protests

    A direct electoral challenge will also give J14 a united national focus and an international presence. The increasing engagement of young Israeli Palestinians will also help to connect ideas, goals and actions with J14’s peers beyond the Green Line and in the Middle East social justice movements. Right now, urgently, with the tent camp protests across the West Bank in support of  a massive prisoner hunger strike that has been ongoing since September.

    The J14 Manifesto is still about Israel, with no mention of the “territories” or the occupation. But if the purpose of the “New State of Israel” was not so that citizens of one race will control, exclude and subdue those of another race, then surely its borders would not have the purpose of maintaining that demographic control by artificial electoral divisions.

    Once the ideas and struggles join up, the momentum can only point to one society for all its citizens, with no separate zones or borders: one democratic country for all.”

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    J14’s Palestinian contingent

    Dahlia Scheindlin took a very bleak view of the self-declared “Israel issues only” protest at its outset. Now, with her survey in +972 Magazine of  Israeli Arab participation, she presents a radically different view. Some extracts here:

    Bucking both initial suspicion from the protest leaders, and cynicism among the Arab press and leadership, many Arabs report participating, and many more are open to joining in the future. The survey also reveals a strong core of committed and experienced activists, who support social engagement and partnership with like-minded Jewish citizens.

    The top single issue for them is “ending the Occupation”. Of other issues, 59% say they share the same problems expressed by the leaders of the J14 protests.

    63% personally support the protests even if they did not participate themselves. 71% think Arabs should participate, even when read the argument that Arabs should not participate because the protests are about Jewish issues and leave Arabs out.

    19% of Arabs reported participating in the protests – including virtually – the same rate of Jews who (in a different survey) reported participating. When asked about the main reason why Arabs should participate, the top response (29%) was that the protests were an opportunity to put Arab issues on the agenda.

    Participation encouraged cooperation: about half (49%) of people who participated in the social protests say they are now more interested in cooperating with Jews in Israel, compared to 24% of those who didn’t participate in J14.

    If the social protest leaders embrace Arab issues, this activism could rise further: Were the protest leaders to declare that ending the occupation, providing solutions to Arab housing problems, and improving the Arab education system are integral to greater social justice in Israel, large portions said this would raise their desire to participate in the future – 47%, 51%, and 57%, respectively.

    The data indicates that Arabs remain committed to creating and living in a shared and equal society. The malicious legislative and social attacks seem to be galvanizing an increasingly committed and sophisticated cadre of activists whose number and strength, I predict, stand to grow. There’s something to look forward to in 2012.

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    J14’s “New Israel Manifesto”

    We have something new to say. We the citizens of Israel, we are the people and we are creating a new State of Israel. The new State of Israel will be based on Liberty, Equality, Justice and Peace within a True Democratic regime.

    The new State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.

    The new State of Israel will assume full responsibility for all its inhabitants and ensure their right for food, shelter, clothing, proper livelihood, health, education, culture and a clean environment.

    The new State of Israel will ensure a just distribution of the economic, social and natural resources to all its citizens.

    The new State of Israel will ensure freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, culture and expression. We are all human beings. We are all equal, we are all responsible for each other.

    We will not allow anyone to divide us by intimidation and incitement. Right and Left, Religious and Secular, Jews and Arabs, Men and Women, Poor and Rich. We all live here together. Fraternity and collaboration are our flag that will bring us prosperity.

    We have the power. We shall not surrender. We will not be deterred or stopped until we re-establish a new just, fair and sane society, The New State of Israel.

    NB (Dec 2013), this Manifesto was never in fact adopted by a majority of the loose J14 movement and soon disappeared from its website.

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    1. [...] One Democracy  -  20 January 2012 [...]

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