Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur to Palestine, was featured in a special webinar on February 20, 2021 sponsored by the Canadian Voices for Palestinian Rights. This hour-long discussion is wide-ranging on many topics pertaining to Israel – Palestine, and I recommend it to anyone who especially wants to understand Canada’s role (past and present) on the occupation.
Beginning at about 48:00, in response to a question about what comes next, Professor Lynk says there are only 4 possible options. (1) Two-states, (2) One-state, (3) One-apartheid state or what Trump proposed, and (4) the status quo where nothing changes. He says there are no other options. I wonder what he would think of the concept of a confederation as Sam Bahour and Bernard Avishai spoke about today? I think I’ll ask him.
His last piece of advice at the very end of the program should be heeded by everyone who cares about making a difference in Palestine.
Professor Lynk’s strong understanding of international law and appreciation of the facts on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories make him a voice without equal for justice and dignity for Palestinians.
I first met Professor Norman Finkelstein in Albuquerque in 2012 when he spoke to a friendly audience about his book “This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion”about Operation Cast Lead. Several years later, I was serendipitously in the right place at the right time, and attended a course he taught over several weeks at the New York City public library dissecting John Stuart Mill’s classic ON LIBERTY. Finkelstein is a controversial figure in the best sense of the word. He thoroughly reads and researches before he expounds on a topic, and then he speaks his mind clearly and without reservation for the political correctness or sensibilities of his audience.
Norman Finkelstein received his doctorate in political theory in 1988 from the Princeton University Politics Department. He taught for two decades in the CUNY system, NYU and DePaul University (in Chicago). He has lectured on a broad range of subjects, and has written ten books that have been translated into more than 50 foreign editions. Finkelstein’s main fields of research and teaching are political theory, international law, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
On February 14, 2021, Finkelstein was asked his opinion about the recent ruling of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC concluded it had jurisdiction over the Palestinian occupied territories to investigate potential war crimes from Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014 as well as the 2018 Gaza border protests where Israeli sharpshooters maimed or killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protestors. Many of us have been waiting for the court’s decision for years.
The mainstream media (including the United Nations) has framed the ICC’s recent ruling as “good news” for the Palestinians. I must admit that I’ve been on cloud 9 since reading this news, thinking that perhaps there would finally be a measure of justice for the Palestinians, as well as elevating the credibility of international law and of the ICC itself.
Unfortunately, I failed to read the opinion (or even digest the entire announcement made by the ICC on February 5, 2021). Although the ICC concluded it does have jurisdiction in Palestine, it went on to say:
In addition, the Chamber found, by majority, that the arguments regarding the Oslo Agreements, and its clauses limiting the scope of Palestinian jurisdiction, are not pertinent to the resolution of the issue of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine. Such matters and other further questions on jurisdiction may be examined when and if the Prosecutor submits an application for the issuance of a warrant of arrest or summons to appear.
In this interview, Professor Finkelstein dissects the ICC’s opinion better than many who are well-versed in the intricacies of international law in the context of Israel-Palestine. Every Palestine solidarity activist would be wise to spend the next hour listening to his explanation. Without giving the punch-line away, I’ll just say that the Palestine Authority shot itself in the foot when it responded to the ICC’s query regarding the Oslo Accords.
A Palestinian man has been arrested and held in detention in Gaza for the crime of participating in “normalization” activities with Israelis. His name is Rami Aman. For the past six months, as far as anyone knows, he hasn’t been charged or given an opportunity to respond in court.
To be clear, this is nothing new for either Hamas in Gaza, or the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the occupied territories, or the civil Israeli government in Israel. All four threaten to punish civilians who collaborate with the “enemy.” Israel forbids its citizens from visiting with Palestinians. The IDF routinely arrests Palestinian children and hauls them off to military detention. Some remain in detention for many months.
Rami Aman certainly knew what the risks were when he joined that Zoom call with Israelis, but he had nothing to hide. Unlike the “collaborators” who sneak around and work with the enemy to undermine the Palestinian military objectives, Rami wants Israelis to know Palestinians; and vice versa. He understands that the future depends on both sides understanding the other.
A former research consultant with Amnesty International in Gaza saw the zoom meeting and tagged Hamas officials to bring to their attention this forbidden “normalization” activity.
“So what’s wrong with talking? What’s normalization?”
Mike Merryman-Lotze with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) answers both questions in this excellentpiece he wrote in 2018. My personal understanding of the subject was greatly improved after reading Mike’s story this Spring and his words of caution; I highly recommend it.
Mike ends with the following points:
“First, we should recognize that Palestinians and Israelis are getting together and cooperating but on their own terms. One of the key problems with many past people-to-people programs is that they were initiated and led by outside actors who imposed their own goals and terms on interactions. The normalization framework pushed forward by Palestinians is a reassertion of ownership of the terms of interaction by those most impacted by the systematic injustice of Israel’s occupation and inequality. Normalization principles transform interactions, moving them from coexistence-focused dialogue sessions to action-based interaction with the goal of transformation through co-resistance against injustice. If you are thinking about supporting dialogue or people-to-people programs, it is important to consider who “owns” the process and how it resists structures of injustice.
Second, we should understand that dialogue is not an end in and of itself and that dialogue can be harmful. Particularly in situations of ongoing injustice, attempts to bring people together can’t simply focus on building understanding if there is no corresponding effort by all involved to end the injustice and inequality that stands between people. While dialogue and exchange can be important parts of transformation, they can also be tools used to block change; reinforce existing imbalances of power; and erase legal, institutional, and structural injustices. Whether we are setting up panel discussions or working to pull people together, we always need to understand issues of power. Dialogue is not a neutral process, and we must carefully consider how dialogue pushes toward action for change.
Third, it is important to understand that the normalization discussion is largely not about us. Normalization concerns do not place blocks on Quakers listening to, interacting with, or dialoguing with any party. Challenging normalization initiatives is not aimed at silencing select viewpoints or limiting who is able to speak. Indeed, listening to and engaging with those with whom we disagree is an important part of building understanding as we push for change. The normalization discussion is about addressing power imbalances and injustice in relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, not shutting off all dialogue or ending conversations that build understanding.
Finally, the normalization conversation points to the fact that dialogue and listening are not enough. To achieve peace and justice there must be political change that ends the system of inequality and oppression that exists between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as U.S. complicity in that injustice. To address this, Quakers must then move beyond positions that express concern for both parties and that encourage dialogue and listening but that don’t lead to direct action. Quakers should support direct action to end injustice, such as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and AFSC-led No Way to Treat a Child Campaign. We can support discussions, but we must back up our support for talk with support for action.”
I agree with Mike’s observations and words of caution, with the exception of his conclusion. He writes: “It is political change and an end to injustice that will lead to dialogue and understanding, and it is political action that is needed to bring change.” Which comes first — the chicken or the egg? I believe dialogue and understanding are the precursors to a political change and an end to injustice. But the dialogue must occur with Mike’s caveats in mind.
On September 9, 2020, a group of NGOS submitted a 24 page petition at the UN on behalf of Rami Aman. Check it out here.
The group that filed the petition — UN Watch — is an apologist for Israel’s crimes and human rights abuses in the occupation, and regularly calls out anyone or any country that stands up in support of Palestine in the United Nations. Sadly, Hamas’ actions in Rami Aman’s detention have given the UN Watch and the State of Israel fodder for their campaign.
Anyone familiar with the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians will find the following words from the petition hypocritical in the extreme coming from the UN Watch, but no less true.
The Applicant is a Palestinian peace activist who resides in Gaza. He was arrested by Hamas security forces on 9 April 2020, three days after his peace group, the Gaza Youth Committee, held a two-hour video call with Israeli peace activists via Zoom. He is accused of holding a “normalization” activity with Israelis. Normalization refers to cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, including peace dialogue. According to both the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) and Hamas, normalization is a crime which is tantamount to treason. The criminalization of peace dialogue is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association pursuant to Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). Likewise, detention on that basis is a violation of ICCPR Article 19.
The Applicant has now been in Hamas detention for more than four months. His due process rights are being egregiously violated. He has not yet been charged and has never had an opportunity to challenge his detention in court. Moreover, he is a civilian who will be subjected to trial in a Hamas Military Court in violation of ICCPR Article 14.
Then the petition begins its propaganda campaign against Hamas by equating “collaboration” with “normalization” which I will not recite here. These are two very different activities but even many Palestinians can’t tell the difference!
Consistent with the above, the PA and Hamas reject any “normalization” with Israel. Normalization includes joint economic activities, joint sports activities and meetings to promote peace. As detailed below, Hamas considers “normalization” to be a form of treason and uses various provisions of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979 to prosecute that crime.
Mr. Aman was held incommunicado for at least one week. According to a statement published by Amnesty International on 6 May 2020, Mr. Aman was permitted to speak with his family for the first time by telephone on 26 April 2020—more than two weeks after the arrest. According to information provided to us, he has had one visit with his family since then. Also, Mr. Aman has had three visits with his lawyer, the first on 16 April 2020—one week after the arrest. The Amnesty International statement added that Mr. Aman was likely to be charged under Article 164 of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, which refers to “propaganda aimed at weakening the revolution” and that he was likely to be tried in a military court. In addition, Mr. Aman has not yet been charged or brought before a court.
A good number of Palestinians in Gaza have locked the door and thrown away the key, refusing to participate in any dialogue with Israelis. Rami Aman is not one of them.
Rami Aman has an open mind, a curious mind, a well-developed sense of self-worth and personal dignity which he wants to share with Israelis who are interested in learning more about his world, his people and his culture.
The State of Israel forbids any Israelis from visiting Gaza where the enemy and terrorists reside. The de facto ruling elites of Gaza forbid Palestinians from visiting and communicating with Israelis, the enemy and occupier.
Fortunately, there are people on both sides of this divide who understand this type of ostracization is medieval and counterproductive.
Rami Aman sits in a prison cell in Gaza, silenced by Hamas and many of his peers because he participated in a group Zoom chat between Israelis and Palestinians who were interested in learning about each other.
My hope is that the youth in Gaza and Israel will be able to rap to their hearts content; and more importantly, be able to hear each other’s rap.
Israel used to be a “safe” bipartisan issue for members of Congress to rally behind. Israel’s lobbying arm in Washington (AIPAC) proudly touted this broad support.
If any members of Congress had the courage not to join in AIPAC’s love-fest for Israel, they merely abstained from voting. Certainly, a vote in opposition was unthinkable.
The support for the State of Israel has been slowly eroding over the years, but this summer it appears the dam has broken.
On June 30, thirteen members of Congress (all Democrats) sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo urging him to stop Israel’s planned annexation of a large part of the West Bank.
We write to you to express our deep concern over the planned annexation of occupied Palestinian territory by the government of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said annexation could begin as early as July 1, 2020. Should the Israeli government move forward with these plans, they would actively harm prospects for a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians can live with full equality, human rights and dignity, and would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state, as your predecessor John Kerry warned in 2014.
We call on you to take all necessary action available to reverse course on this proposal, which will cause more tension and conflict for decades to come. While the full scope and details of the plan are not yet public, Palestinians have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of annexation, and have understandably refused to participate in a process that is not grounded in a recognition of their national rights under international law.
Spearheaded by Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., they ended with strong words.
Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way. We will include human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them.
Read the entire letter here. The other House signatories to the letter included Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., André Carson, D-Ind., Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., Bobby Rush, D-Ill., Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., Danny Davis, D-Ill., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Reach out to thank them for their courage for standing up for human rights and international law. I’m writing my Congresswoman from New Mexico and asking her to join them.
On July 2, thirteen Senators filed an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit Israel from using U.S. security assistance funds to unilaterally annex Palestinian territory in the West Bank. My two US Senators from New Mexico were part of this group. I’m so proud of them! I’m writing thank you letters today.
Senator Tom Udall
Senator Martin Heinrich
In addition to Senators Udall and Heinrich, the amendment was sponsored by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The text of the amendment is here. It’s short and sweet.
None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020, this Act, or any other Act enacted before the date of the enactment of this Act, or otherwise made available for the Department of Defense, may be obligated or expended to deploy, or support the deployment of, United States defense articles, services, or training to territories in the West Bank unilaterally annexed by Israel after July 1, 2020, or to facilitate the unilateral annexation of such territories.
I heard a strong organizer – activist, Raed Jarrar, speak on Friday about these recent actions in Congress, and I knew immediately the significance of this watershed moment. Once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting her back in.
I’m pulling together resources to help with my personal education on white supremacy, policing and related topics.
I believe the Zionist history of the founding of the State of Israel and its subjugation and occupation of Palestinians mirrors the colonization of the U.S. and subjugation of the Indigenous peoples and Africans brought to this country as slaves.
Neither Israelis nor Americans have come to terms with our past, nor honestly reconciled with the descendants that continue to bear the brunt of our cruelty to this day.
I will continue to add resources to this list as I come across them. If you have recommendations to add to this list, please email me LoraLucero3@gmail.com I hope you find this helpful.
The Truth about the Confederacy in the United States (1 hour 40 minutes video) available here – Jeffery Robinson, the ACLU’s top racial justice expert, discusses the dark history of Confederate symbols across the country and outlines what we can do to learn from our past and combat systemic racism. UPDATED 7/13/20
Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources available here. Friends who are ready to get serious about our education on racism and white supremacy: There is a wealth of information included here for all ages. This resource has books, podcasts, videos and links to other resources, as well as many contacts on social media. The goal is to facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices for anti-racist work. These resources have been ordered in an attempt to make them more accessible. We will continue to add resources. UPDATED 06/12/20
Seeing White podcast (14 episodes) on Scene on Radio available here.
Just what is going on with white people? Police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The renewed embrace of raw, undisguised white-identity politics. Unending racial inequity in schools, housing, criminal justice, and hiring. Some of this feels new, but in truth it’s an old story.
Why? Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for?
Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen took a deep dive into these questions, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this fourteen-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017. The series editor is Loretta Williams.
Anti-Racism Resources for All Ages — Cooke, N. A. (2020, May 30). [A project of the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair at the University of South Carolina]. Available here.
This project emerged out of the pain and frustration associated with the back-to-back deaths of #GeorgeFloyd #BreonnaTaylor and #AhmaudArbery in 2020.
We must do better as a global society! #BlackLivesMatter
This list is not a panacea. This compilation of resources is JUST A STARTING POINT to encourage people to do their own work and have their own hard conversations.
White Privilege Checklist compiled by Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. Available here.
I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad Available here.
Me and White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on black, indigenous and people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too. The book goes beyond the original workbook by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and includes expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.
The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates was first published in The Atlantic in June 2014. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I first read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ opus magnum that summer — on my friend’s porch in Gilroy, CA. Today I listened to the audio version and was reminded of why reparations is a critical piece of the discussion Americans must have when we truly take stock of the evil of racism and white supremacy.
TheAtlantic · The Case for Reparations – The Atlantic – Ta-Nehisi Coates
This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.
“Cops and the Klan”: Police Disavowal of Risk and Minimization of Threat from the Far-Right (article by Taimi Castle published February 15, 2020) Available online here.
Critical scholars argue that contemporary policing practices reproduce colonial logics through the maintenance of racial and economic inequality. In this article, I extend the framing of policing as a colonial project grounded in white supremacy to an analysis of police responses to white power mobilization during a heightened period of activity and violence (2015–2017). Borrowing from Perry and Scrivens (2018), I identify the two most common police responses—“disavowal of risk” and “minimization of threat”—in the official investigations into the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. Based on an analysis of newspaper reports from across the United States during the two-year period since then, I found that local and federal law enforcement consistently trivialized the presence of white power groups in the community, elevated the potential threat from protestors, concentrated intelligence efforts on activists, and provided differential protection to white supremacists.
Social Justice: Fifteen titles to address inequity, equality, and organizing for young readers | Great Books by Taylor Worley (March 5, 2020) Available online here.
Documentary film “Birth of a Movement” available here.
D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” was America’s first epic blockbuster, and the first feature film to screen at the White House. The 1915 film’s plot glorified the Ku Klux Klan in a re-imagined post-Civil War America. Packs of white men wearing hoods thunder through “Birth of a Nation” on horseback while white actors in blackface play slaves who turn lawless and violent after being freed. The new documentary “Birth of a Movement” explores “Birth of a Nation” through a modern lens.
If you don’t know Razan, please take a moment to learn her story. Gaza Fights for Freedom is Abby Martin’s film that I highly recommend.
The documentary tells the story of Gaza past and present, showing rare archival footage that explains the history never acknowledged by mass media. You hear from victims of the ongoing massacre, including journalists, medics and the family of internationally-acclaimed paramedic, Razan al-Najjar.
In March 2019, a UN mandated Commission of Inquiry (CoI) found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli military snipers had intentionally shot at health workers, children, persons with disabilities and journalists at protests in Gaza.
Rule 25. Medical personnel exclusively assigned to medical duties must be respected and protected in all circumstances. They lose their protection if they commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful to the enemy.
AFSC has planned a day of action, and provided ideas about how everyone can participate. I plan to join them. Look here for more information and resources.
The status quo in Palestine & Israel is an interminable nightmare for Palestinians living under military occupation for 70+ years, and a shameful failure of the human rights framework adopted and promoted during that same time.
Our failure (the international community’s failure) to secure a just and lasting resolution in Palestine & Israel cannot be swept under the rug and forgotten. It’s an indictment upon all of us.
Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American living in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, captured a succinct history of the military occupation and the current struggle when he spoke with his daughter. (He shares that beginning at 18:50).
How does the unbearable status quo change?
In reality, the status quo is bearable to Israel and that government has no incentive to change it.
In reality, the international human rights regime is impotent and won’t change the status quo.
In reality, the U.S. is a hindrance, not a facilitator, to ending the status quo.
In reality, the Palestinian political leaders (Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah) have proven themselves to be incapable of rising to the challenge and have not earned the respect and recognition from the Palestinian people they purport to represent.
There are individuals within Palestine and Israel who are asking and answering that question: how does the unbearable status quo change?
Jeff Halper, an American Jew who has lived most of his adult life in Israel, thinks the two state solution is no longer feasible. He and his compatriots are currently traveling around the world to build support for the One Democratic State program.
Sam Bahour frames the question differently. It’s not a matter of two states or one state, but a matter of political and individual rights in either case. What Sam fears is that more time will be lost (time measured in decades) as people and governments negotiate territorial jurisdictions while the rights of Palestinians continue to take a back-seat in those discussions. Sam writes:
We must get political. Civil society must build the necessary alliances to bring Palestinian rights to the forefront of the international agenda on Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. Today, we have no choice but to accept the apartheid one-state reality that we are living in now, and keep the two-state door open, while simultaneously bringing the issue of rights to the forefront of our demands. Our strongest ally is international civil society, but we cannot stop at civil society; it would be stopping short of affecting change. Instead we must leverage the widespread support of civil society in all corners of the world to get states to act, politically and otherwise, to support our just and internationally aligned struggle for freedom and independence.
In May 2016, Mr. Bahour spelled out the dangers and opportunities available to the Palestinian civil society in changing the status quo. (The paper is available here.) I hope the next generation of Palestinian leaders (whoever and wherever they may be) will read the paper.
In this paper, I will argue that a rights-based approach is the most conducive one to the current Palestinian national agenda and that a political end-game cannot be open-ended. Moreover, I will also argue that the struggle for national self-determination cannot come at the expense of the struggle for rights – and vice versa. I view these two processes as simultaneous dynamics: one process focuses on the rights of the individual (political, human and civil rights), while the second focuses on the rights of the nation (national rights, specifically self-determination). My argument is based on the mutuality of these two processes: the ‘individual’ sphere centered on rights, and the ‘national’ sphere focused on independence.
About ten or twelve years ago I had an interesting conversation with an American Jew in Albuquerque, New Mexico about the future of Israel and Palestine. He expressed the view shared by many Americans at the time that the Palestinians were getting the short end of the stick but Israelis really had no choice but to maintain the occupation in order to protect themselves.
He knew I’d visited Gaza for a week or two in 2004, and had traveled through the West Bank and Jerusalem as a tourist. So he asked me what I thought the future held in store for both peoples, intimating that his vision of two states with a permanent occupation of one was inevitable. Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied “one country between the river and the sea where every person is treated equally”. I’m not sure where I got that idea, whether reading or talking with someone more knowledgeable than me. But even then I knew that a big part of the problem was a failure of imagination. My Jewish American friend thought I was nuts; we haven’t talked since.
Now, thankfully, there are many so-called nuts traveling around the world promoting the idea of a one democratic state in Israel – Palestine. Last week I listened in to a Zoom meeting with some of the leaders of the One Democratic State Campaign. Check out their website in Arabic and English. I learned that this one state idea is not new. The Palestinian liberation movement, before the Nakba of 1948 and after, had promoted this vision in the PLO’s National Charter, abandoning it for the two-state solution only in 1988.
The proponents of the One Democratic State (ODS) campaign believe that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a good strategy but the Palestinians lack an end goal. To paraphrase what I heard on the Zoom call: “If you don’t have a political goal, all of the strategies in the world won’t accomplish anything.” The One Democratic State campaign provides the goal.
“The only way forward to a genuine and viable political settlement is to dismantle the colonial apartheid regime that has been imposed over historic Palestine, replacing it with a new political system based on full civil equality, implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return and the building of a system that addresses the historic wrongs committed on the Palestinian people by the Zionist movement.”
The One Democratic State campaign has ten key points:
A Single Constitutional Democracy. One Democratic State shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as one country belonging to all its citizens, including Palestinian refugees who will be able to return to their homeland. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the consent of the governed. All its citizens shall enjoy equal rights to vote, stand for office and contribute to the country’s governance.
Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in Israel or the Occupied Territory. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from where they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property of the refugees and/or compensate them. Normal procedures of obtaining citizenship will be extended to those choosing to immigrate to the country.
Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices may discriminate among its citizens on the basis of national or social origin, color, gender, language, religion or political opinion, or sexual orientation. A single citizenship confers on all the State’s residents the right to freedom of movement, the right to reside anywhere in the country, and equal rights in every domain.
Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and culture can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group, party or collectivity have the ability to leverage any control or domination over others. Parliament will not have the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community under the Constitution.
Moving from Decolonization to Post-Colonialism. The genuine liberation of Palestinians and Israelis requires a process of thorough decolonization through which we may reach collective justice, peace security and reconciliation. A new national narrative must be constructed that “writes the native Palestinians back in.” Israeli Jews must acknowledge both the national rights of the Palestinian people and past colonial crimes. In return, and based on an egalitarian democracy, Palestinians will accept them as legitimate citizens and neighbors, thereby ending Zionist settler colonialism and entering into a new postcolonial relationship of accommodation, normalization and reconciliation.
Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The State shall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve justice, and this includes social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the land. The income distribution in Israel/Palestine is more unequal than any country in the world. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The State shall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The State will sign and ratify all international treaties on human rights and its people shall reject racism and promote social, cultural and political rights as set out in relevant United Nations covenants.
Our Role in the Region. The ODS Campaign will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination. The State shall seek democracy and freedom in a Middle East that respects its many communities, religions, traditions and ideologies, yet strives for equality, freedom of thought and innovation. Achieving a just political settlement in Palestine, followed by a thorough process of decolonization, will contribute measurably to these efforts.
International responsibility. On a global level, the ODS Campaign views itself as part of the progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that is just, egalitarian and free of any oppression, racism, imperialism and colonialism.
I personally know some Israeli Jews and many Palestinians who reject this notion of One Democratic State. In a nutshell, the Israeli Jews (the ones I know) believe it’s a security issue and (the hard core Zionists) believe their right to the land supersedes the Palestinians’ rights. On the other hand, the Palestinians (the ones I know) believe the past and present injustices are so horrendous that the occupation must be dismantled before they will even talk or entertain a One Democratic State.
Of course, I know many Israeli Jews and Palestinians who would gladly embrace the One Democratic State, but I don’t know if there’s a critical mass on either side to move this program forward.
I hope no one closes the door on the One Democratic State campaign until they’ve read the Ten Points mentioned above, and talked about the future they want to leave their children.
I suspect it will take a lot of friends from the international community to help, but InshAllah it will happen.
Awad Abdelfattah is former General Secretary of the National Democratic Assembly party (Balad in Hebrew), one of three parties in the Israeli Knesset that represents Israel’s Palestinian 1.4 million minority population.
Are these men tilting at windmills, dreaming an impossible dream? Both Abdelfattah and Halper believe that for the sake of future generations of Israelis and Palestinians a single democratic state is the best way forward, albeit something that might not happen in our life time. They agree that in order to dismantle the current settler-colonial regime, a detailed political plan is necessary. Halper, who once reluctantly accepted the idea of two-states, pointed out that “BDS” (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) is a strategy— not an endgame.
In spite of the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel (aka ’48 Palestinians) are second class citizens, their significance and influence has long been underestimated and undervalued. They are a rising force in the Knesset and in emerging grassroots initiatives related to the containment of COVID-19. Abdelfattah proudly pointed out that 17% of doctors in Israel are Palestinians who are caring for people during this frightening pandemic regardless of ethnicity or religion.
The strong Palestinian middle class in Israel can be attributed to the value they place on education. Since 1948, they have suffered the loss of ancestral lands, homes and villages. Most families have relatives in refugee camps around the Middle East. The Nakba has continued for them as well as for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. They expose the internal nature of Israeli apartheid. However, Abdelfattah remains open to working with Progressive Jewish-Israelis. He expressed great regret for the end of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid and credits this Jewish-American as having started a powerful social justice movement supported by a majority of Muslim-Americans.
In order to promote the dream of a single democratic state, a critical mass of Palestinians and Israelis is essential. At least 1,000 Palestinians are needed to sign on to this agreement, a seemingly modest number. Once embraced by the PLO, this idea is typically rejected by Israel because of “security concerns” where control of the military is the most important question for the one-state.
According to Halper, the Israeli psyche has become more Fascist and more right wing. It was profoundly disappointing to hear that even among progressive Israelis the idea of one democratic state is not strong. Palestinian-Israelis remain divided. Abdelfattah emphasized the importance of unifying ’48 Palestinians with West Bank Palestinians who are further oppressed by the Palestinian Authority, and with Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza. Arguably both movements are essential and can be worked on simultaneously.
Being an idealistic pragmatist, Halper pointed out that different models are available for the greater Middle East. “Consider bio-regionalism, bi-national, a confederation, etc. The possibilities are limited to our imagination.” Both leaders agree that the idea must be framed in a way that is acceptable to both people. Words like “secular” or “religious” should be avoided. “One person, one vote” is a more neutral description. Unfortunately human rights and international law have no teeth and the impossible dream seems to be slipping further into the future.
“We don’t even have a name for this new country,” said Halper, leaving me to ponder about the significance of names. To name someone or something is to recognize their humanity. And that’s just what is needed.
Recommended read— “The Wall & the Gate” by Michael Sfard, an Israeli attorney who represents various Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace organizations, movements and activists.