As the Arab Spring is making heroic (though patchy) progress on all fronts, and so many people sacrifice their freedom and lives to make it win, it is high time to ask what new order this revolution is going to bring.
Or is it?
The revolution reached its highest moments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, when people united in mass struggle to topple the old dictatorships, just because there was no other way to get rid of the tyrants, not because they had any clear concept what future system they want to establish. The actual program of the revolution was the establishment of democracy in the broadest and most abstract way: From now on the people should have the rights to speak and organize and governments should be established by winning elections and toppled by loosing elections.
This “democratic lowest common denominator” formed the widest unity around the revolution, but it also threatens to put aside the interests of the poor popular masses that need social justice not less that freedom of expression. The lack of clarity about the program of the revolution is also a source of constant tension and distrust between different layers of society, it causes feeling of insecurity within ethnic and religious minorities and it opens cracks in the mass movement that the old rulers can try to utilize.
Sometimes the lack of a clear program is a necessity to enable the promotion of real change. Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, but he didn’t declare his Socialist intentions until after the mass uprising crushed the attempted coup in April 2002. When Erdogan became prime minister of Turkey in 2002 he could advance democratic reform and distance the army from it grip on power only under the umbrella of measures to comply with the requirements of EU membership. But these leaders came to power without a revolutionary mass movement and had to build their popular support base while in power.
In the Arab Revolution, much of the delay in the development of a program may be attributed to the oppression of any from of political life under the police state. It was necessary to create some democratic space before parties could organize and open political discussion could reach the public.
One thing that the Palestinian cause didn’t suffer from was lack of talking about it. Still there is surprisingly little clarity about the proposed solution. Does the Arab Revolution today need to pose a program for the restoration of Palestinian national rights?
Clearly the plight of the Palestinian people, being expelled from their homeland or being subject to harsh colonialist military rule and subject to expropriation and racial discrimination is a crying example of denial of basic National and Human Rights on top of lack of Democracy. Clearly, also, the Palestinian cause is subject to wide support by all the Arab people.
So it is natural that the restoration of Palestinian national rights and the establishment of democracy in Palestine would be a clear part of the broad consensus perspective for the Arab Democratic Revolution.
The necessity of a clear democratic program for Palestine – the so called ODS, One Democratic State – is all the more essential because imperialism (as well as some misled well-wishers in the left) tried over the years to promote the vision, even if not the implementation, of a fake solution to the Palestinian cause: the “Two State Solution”. The “two state solution” doesn’t create the conditions for the return of Palestinian refugees to all the areas from which they were expelled, it leaves more than a million Palestinians to live as second class citizens under Israeli Apartheid and it doesn’t create the conditions for real sovereignty and self determination.
The basic assumption behind the “Two State Solution” was that Israel as a colonialist Jewish state, backed by US and European imperialisms, will remain the dominant local power and that any solution depends on its good will. The Arab Revolution created a new balance of power, a new way of thinking and a new language starting with the words: “The People want”.
The Arab revolution not only lays the standard that undemocratic regimes should be toppled and replaced by democracies; it also creates the conditions for promoting a real democracy in Palestine.
In the case of Palestine, posing the revolutionary democratic program, the ODS, is also a necessity in order to gather and unite the driving forces for democratic change. While the two state solution put the Palestinian refugees on the margins, the ODS puts not only the right of return but the actual return of the refugees at the center of the proposed solution. By promising freedom to everybody ODS is the program for the unity of the Palestinian people in struggle against ethnic cleansing, occupation and all forms of oppression and discrimination.
ODS also allows the Palestinians to speak with Jews in Palestine not through negotiations with the Israeli government but above its head, on a popular level. While making clear that any form of racist rule will never be accepted, it explodes the myth that Israel is defending the Jews in Palestine and put Israeli war mongering and colonization in the right perspective as the main source of danger for everybody.
But there are also strong reasons why this program is hardly mentioned today.
Till now the Arab Revolution concentrated on immediate democratic change in the form of government in each specific state. This type of change didn’t pose it in all-out conflict with the imperialist powers or even local powers. Even where local rulers were long-time servants of imperialism, it (imperialism) recognized the need or inevitability of political change and encouraged the armies to let it happen. Raising the issue of Palestine will threaten the young revolution with gathering enemies and escalating conflicts even before consolidating power.
In Palestine itself the daily necessities of the struggle against Israeli oppression dictates the vital need for wide unity, regardless of political program. 95% of the issues, from resisting settlements, house demolition and land confiscation, through opposing Israeli aggression till support of the prisoners’ right and commemoration of the Nakba – all may be held without much political discussion about solutions.
With all these defensive struggles that are forced on us by Zionist daily aggression – people here need also a perspective and a clear view of the future to build the most important drivers of change: Hope and Self Confidence. Even if it will not be the unified platform of the struggle in the near future, ODS should become a lively part of our thinking and discussions as the simple revolutionary democratic principle that expose and deny all the lies of Zionism and focus our sight on the big prize of a real solution.