As we organize support for One Democratic State (ODS) in Palestine, there is one, almost unexpected, refreshing response that we encounter everywhere. After many years of “battle fatigue”, proposing ODS as a political perspective makes people, Palestinians and Israelis, think again about what they really want and how to get there.
Many people may support ODS for many different reasons – and this is a great thing. After all, the whole idea of building the ODS movement is to form the widest possible unity in order to save ourselves from the perils of Zionism. After this, and after the refugees will return to their homes and lands in Palestine, we might still have all the other problems that everybody else have in this complicated world. The only thing that ODS says about the rest of the problems is that we better solve them by democratic means…
While I welcome people to support ODS for all their varied reasons, I’m still concerned about one of the most popular arguments that we commonly hear for justifying this support. Many people now say that Israel has gone so far with its policy of planting Jewish settlements in the West Bank that this process is irreversible. The conclusion is that these settlements leave no space for an Arab Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. As a consequence, the Palestinians, devoid of the option to separate, should seek full citizenships and civil rights in the state of Israel.
There are several reasons why this argumentation may harm the cause of ODS:
- It assumes that the balance of power will stay skewed in favor of the Zionist state. If it will be up to the will of the Zionists, no Palestinian refugee will return to Palestine and no Palestinians (or other non-Jews) in Palestine will have full civil rights. The logic of adjusting our aspiration to accommodate under the roof of Zionist supremacy brought the two states proposition to a dead end. It will not open any real space for ODS. The perspective for ODS is based on victory of the liberation struggle against Zionism.
- The Zionist aggression forced the division of the Palestinian people and caused each section of the Palestinians to strive for its self survival. The main idea beyond the Israeli and US “peace process” is to trade some self rule in the West Bank for a Palestinian legitimization of the 1948 ethnic cleansing and to exclude the Palestinians in the 1948 occupied territories from any political solution (or to throw them away from their lands into the Palestinian semi state). The first benefit of the ODS perspective is to reunite the Palestinian people in the whole of Palestine and in the Diaspora in one struggle for a common goal.
- At the heart of ODS is not the irreversibility of the settlements in the West Bank but the reversibility of the 1948 Nakba and ethnic cleansing.
- Recognizing the settlements as irreversible is granting the Israelis a sense of immunity with any crimes they commit. It may only encourage them to robe more lands and try even more to drive the Palestinians out of Palestine. In order to bring the Israeli public to recognize the Palestinian national and civil rights in Palestine, they should be convinced that usurpation will only cause more conflict and will never be the source of legitimacy.
- The question of the illegitimacy of the settlements in the West Bank is the only issue on which the Palestinian rights are widely acknowledged in the (imperialist controlled) international “community”. Our fight now is to gain international rejection of the crimes of ethnic cleansing and racist apartheid. It will not be served in any way by giving up the struggle against the illegal settlements.
This argument is important because the ODS movement can develop only as a new surge in the Palestinian struggle, which will bring the revolutionary democratic spirit of the Arab Spring to Palestine. ODS is not the last resort after the failure of the two state illusion. It is a renaissance of the old vision of Palestinian independence, overcoming the tragedies caused by Zionism and building for a bright future.