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Excerpts from discussion between ODS supporters

Discussion of the One Democratic State (ODS) for Palestine, like many other political discussions, tends sometimes to stay abstract, Utopian, even dull. When there is some sort of controversy it may sharpen minds. So please tune to the following fast exchange of ideas about ODS and how to get there.

(It was a private discussion between friends… I enjoyed it so much that I thought the public may benefit. I omitted the names and some practical details. If you happen to find yourself between the contributors you may (a) hate me, (b) ask for your section to be omitted or modified, or (c) ask for your name to be specified.)

It all started with an interview by Rami Almeghari from “The Electronic Intifada” with Noam Chomsky (while on a welcomed visit to Gaza).

Rami Almeghazi:

Some call for a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel, while others call for a one democratic state solution. Which is more workable for you?

Noam Chomsky:

It is not a choice. I have been in favor of the what’s called a one-state-solution or binational state solution for seventy years and, so ok, I’m in favor of it. I am also in favor of peace in the world and … getting rid of poverty. There’s a lot of things I’m in favor of.

But if you are serious, you say, “how do we get from here to there?” That’s the question. We can all say it’s a wonderful idea. In fact I don’t think one state is a good idea, I think there should be a no-state solution that should erode the imperial borders. There’s no reason to worship French and British decisions on where to draw borders. A no-state solution would be much better, but again we ask, how do we get there?

Over the past seventy years I have been involved, there have been different ways in which you could move to that direction. Circumstances change, so your tactics change and under current circumstances, in fact since 1975, there is only one way that has ever been proposed, and that is in stages, through a two-state solution as the first stage. If there’s another way, nobody’s told us. They can say “I like this outcome,” but they don’t tell us how we get there. Now that’s as interesting as someone [who] says I’d like to have peace in the world.

Prosecutor:

Chomsky needs to be completely thrashed, exposed and cut down to size. His “anarchism” is just a cover for clinging to the Jewish state, and for blatant shoring-up of racism: would he have said to Rosa Parks “why bother to ride on the white folks’ buses, let’s just get our own black buses”? Saying that one state is a non-starter because there’s so much hatred is just pandering to race hate, accepting it as an unchanging fact of life, as a natural phenomenon.

I’m not sure a debate would really expose him, because he would throw his “anarchist” smokescreen up to create confusion. If you could put him in the dock facing some sharp questions you might get somewhere. But how significant is he anyway?

Defense:

To suggest that Noam Chomsky panders to race hate and accepts it as “an unchanging fact of life, as a natural phenomenon” is, in my opinion, absurd. And for you to ask how significant Chomsky is only seems to reveal to me how little weight your argument has. All those Palestinians in Gaza, who filled halls for three nights to listen to Chomsky speak, let alone all the others in many parts of the world who take the time to listen to him, realize how significant he is. I do not and need not agree with his every position including ODS, but I certainly greatly respect him and can say with thanks that I have learned a great deal from him. Many other people in many parts of the world correctly share my view of Chomsky. I do not think that Chomsky
deserves to be “thrashed, exposed and cut down to size (sic),” and I am not at all convinced that you could accomplish that feat.

More evidence:

Here’s an interview Chomsky gave to Israel’s Channel 2 in May 2010 from Amman: At about 4 minutes into the interview he supports ODS, but later several times ‘supports Israel’. I reckon a linguist should see that there is some ambiguity here and immediately clear it up! Many Old timers like Chomsky have an emotional bias towards Israel/Zionism; even the great Tony Judt didn’t rid himself of all the baggage. [The interviewer is almost in tears towards the end.]

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25571.htm

The simple question to Chomsky is, ‘How do you get to one democratic state after there are two states?’ Or: ‘How would having a Palestinian ‘state’ [joke] help in getting to ODS?’ Until that case is made at least in outline why don’t we just stick to working for what’s right and let time tell what’s possible? [Remember universal suffrage, remember abolition of slavery, remember South Africa, remember smoking bans – they were all ‘impossible’.]

Challenger:

Quoting Chomsky on one v. two states is a bit like quoting the Bible: you pays your money and you takes your choice. Take just one thing: this man is supposed to be the arch anti-imperialist yet a major reason he gives for two states is that it is “the international consensus”, i.e. the choice of the international military-economic-political powers. He should choke on words like “international consensus”.

It may be tactically worth debating with him but he will not debate with any degree of intellectual honesty or consistency, and will never be pinned down. It actually makes me quite sick to hear him say that he is against supporting Palestinian right of return because he has their best interests at heart and doesn’t want to see them disappointed. Again, always carefully phrased: yes, he says, there is legally and morally the right of return, but no, we shouldn’t campaign for it or take it seriously.

This sort of sophistry comes easily to some of the (“major”) big beasts of the intellectual jungle, whereas a simple person would simply say:  if one state is the right way, I’ll put my back into it and do what I can to win it.

Defense:

I think that you do not understand Chomsky’s positions regarding opposition to a Jewish state and support for Israel’s becoming a better state than it is. In actuality, our desire for ODS is for this present state to become a better state than it is, regardless of the name applied to the state. There is in reality no difference between Chomsky’s position on this point and the position that Israel Shahak advocated. I wonder if you would have argued against Shahak in the same way that you are arguing against Chomsky.

Chomsky believes, as do many others, that two states could and would lead ultimately to one state. You, I and other ODS advocates believe otherwise. There nevertheless is a rationale for the Chomsky et. al. position.

Countrapunkt:

Chomsky not an ‘enemy’? I don’t know, he certainly gets personal in the electronic intifada interview. He impugns the motives of those arguing for academic & cultural boycott, saying we don’t care about the victims (Palestinians) and do it just to feel good; he talks down to us, saying we should ‘think about the consequences for the Palestinians’. Really? Wow! Who would have thought?

He then goes on to ridicule ODS rather than argue against it: it’s great, like mom and apple pie and peace. And we’re ‘not serious’ because we allegedly haven’t asked how to get to ODS. I’m sorry, this is arrogance. And he’s serious about preferring the no-state solution. Who is less realistic?

And: he says Abbas’ new effort to get status allowing access to the International Criminal Court is good and proof that it’s good is that Usrael is so vehemently against it. Hmm. What is the criterion here? Isn’t Usrael also against ODemocraticS? And isn’t Usrael vehemently against boycott, which therefore must be good? I’m sorry, this is not coherent.

Free Haifa:

1) The main issue is the Right of Return – because the refugees are the people that suffer most from Zionism. Noam Chomsky, as far as I know, is not for the return of the refugees, and the main reason is that the Israelis don’t want them to return. He actually campaign politically against the ROR, so he serves Israeli propaganda on this single most important issue.

2) No – ODS is NOT democratization of Israel. ODS is liberation of Palestine from Zionism and the establishment of a democratic state that will open the way for Israelis to be assimilated as equal citizens. This is not the same thing and not even similar. If it is about democratization of Israel, NC may be right that the limit of our dreams is what Israelis are ready to allow. But if you think so – just take care to hear the real Israelis and not invent your favorite virtual Israelis. As far as the Israelis set the rules of the game, not only ODS and ROR are not on the cards, neither do TS (Two States), HR (Human Rights) – or whatever decent idea you may have in mind.

Voice of Reason:

1)        It seems to me that the most important ODS advocates are clearly
the Palestinians and Israeli Jews who presently live in
Palestine-Israel (my terminology) and those who have been displaced
and live elsewhere. They are the insiders, and they are the ones who
need to lead the ODS movement for what I consider to be obvious
reasons. I and other outsiders can offer ideas and agree or disagree
on issues that arise, but we need to realize that the activist
leadership must come from the insiders. I and those like me, who are
outsiders, of course retain the right to accept or reject to follow
the leadership. Palestinians, including Palestinian leaders, are the
most important people to take leadership roles. Palestinians-first and
foremost-must be able to show and to demonstrate that they are in
favor of ODS.

2)        Understanding the proposition that the Right of Return is the primary issue for some, I suggest, as I and others have for a long time, that this principle requires definition and specificity whenever advocated or argued. This point is far too important, far too broad in possible meaning to be advocated
solely, most of the time or even some of the time merely by stating
the three words and arguing in terms of an invoked principle. Is the
argument for the Right of Return to mean that all Palestinians who
have been displaced since 1948 and their children and grandchildren
have the right to return, reclaim and occupy the land from which they
were displaced? If the answer to this question is “no” or “not
necessarily,” then what are the parameters of another answer? I
realize that many answers and approaches to answers to this question
have been offered orally and in writing by numerous individuals, but I
nevertheless say that some guidelines of definition and specificity
need to be stated whenever the call for the Right of Return is made.
Otherwise, this advocacy is inadequate and incomplete from a rational
perspective. Otherwise, there is almost no hope in convincing the
great majority of Israeli Jews and their supporters to accept either
the Right of Return for displaced Palestinians and/or ODS, based upon
the Right of Return.

3) The difference that FH draws between advocating the “democratization of Israel” and the “liberation of Palestine” must be carefully and more completely explained. I am not sure that I understand the difference from what FH has written. The democratization of Israel, if fairly and fully achieved, could from my perspective mean that the exclusive, Zionist state would be changed into one democratic state. I, and probably others as well, would like to be able to consider a more complete comparative explanation.

Free Haifa:

I think this is a very important discussion. It involves (a) moral position, (b) analysis of the dynamics of developments and (c) political strategy.

For me it starts with the moral position of taking the side of the oppressed. Our struggle, in order to correct some of the injustice that was done, and create the base for more just order (and hence more stable one) can’t pretend to have artificial symmetry between two “rights”. Ethnic cleansing, specifically, is wrong, and its reversal will be at the expense of the acquired “rights” (spoils) of those who benefited from it.

Then we should ask ourselves what are the possible scenarios on the ground and in what conditions we may achieve our goals. I think you may all agree that now Israelis have the land and all the privileges because they have the physical power (i.e. military superiority). You can also agree that this military superiority is possible only because of massive military, economic and political support from the Western powers. Now, to put it all very simply, there are two distinct options for change: (1) Power (superiority) will stay with the Israelis, but they will somehow be convinced to give rights to the Palestinians. OR (2) There will be a major shift in the regional balance of power and the Palestinians will be able to decide their own fate.

These two scenarios are both predicting major change, and none of them is clear to come at any specific time. In my humble view, the second is much more probable and may happen much earlier.

Of course people may work on the two scenarios – to see which will come first. There is no essential contradiction – but… Naturally, the people that try to convince the Israelis to give some rights to the Palestinians from a position of power tend to (1) try to press the Palestinians to lessen their demands so as to fit the Israelis comfort, (2) Object to specific steps that will dent Israeli superiority as it may impede the expected Israeli “generosity”… So, actually, they tend to work against real change on behalf of an illusionary one.

What are the processes that may bring real change?

1) Crumbling US-EU dominance of the world as a whole and the Middle East in particular.

2) Strengthening of 300 Million Arabs, in alliance with the Turks and Iranians, as a result of the Arab Spring, to become the natural rulers of the region.

3) Palestinian unity, end to all illusions in imperialist sponsored solutions and reliance on the real – mostly regional – allies.

These are not theories and no abstract speaking on “no state solution” – it is the real geopolitical processes that take place just in front of our eyes.

In this sense I speak of “liberating Palestine” – when the relationship of forces will be such that Palestinians will be able to decide their own fate.

It is time to tell the Israelis that the game is over – as the signs were raised for their allies in Tunisia and Egypt. They will be lucky if they will grasp it fast enough in order not to fight it to the bitter end. If you maintain the illusion that Israeli superiority can last for ever – you actually prevent them from preparing for the future change.

While South Africa was liberated as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when imperialism was at its highest point of world dominance, Palestine will be liberated as a result of the collapse of imperialist control of the Middle East. The world is changing – don’t say that the bastards changed the rules and forgot to tell you.

I hope this looks like optimistic to you…

Voice of Reason:

I disagree in numerous ways with your description of the two possible scenarios you described. I point out that you are wrong in charging that all those people, including myself, whom you obviously fit into your first scenario, object to “steps that will dent Israeli superiority.” Simply put, that allegation is unfair and untrue. It seems to me that in your argument you construct and use your first scenario to act as a mere prelude to advocacy of your second scenario. I, for one, object to such argumentation.

In regard to your second scenario you assume the ideological position that imperial control of the Middle East is an obvious proposition, which must be seen in your indicated manner and which has created and maintains the problematic and tragic situation for Palestinians. Imperialism, I suggest, is a far more complex phenomenon than you indicate and is actually only one of the factors responsible for oppression of Palestinians. There is much more to be said and discussed here. The bottom line is that, in my opinion and in the opinion of numerous other observers and commentators, including both Palestinians and Israeli Jews, your two stated scenarios are from my perspective incorrectly stated. There are other  and better ways to view and to oppose Zionist oppression of Palestinians and to advocate a one democratic state approach.

Finally, you previously emphasized the importance of the principle of the Right of Return. You, however, did not answer my comment in response to your lack of definition of what the Right of Return should mean in practical terms and what ODS supporters should advocate specifically in regard to this principle.

I suppose that our discussion will continue.

Free Haifa:

Of course the world is too complex to be covered by any two simple scenarios, And most good ODS supporters, like you and me, work on both fronts: Struggle to empower the Palestinians and cut the power of Israel, while trying to convince the Israelis to change their ways.

But sometimes things should be sharply analyzed, and adopting any future perspective projects on our daily activity. In this sense the Palestinians, and their supporters, should decide whether their main hope is for change in the balance of power, or should they hope only to get whatever the Israelis will be ready to give from their position of superiority.

It is this assumption of perpetual Israeli superiority that drives Chomsky and others to “advise” the Palestinians to give up their right of return “for their own sake”.

According to my reading of the development on the ground, the balance of force is SURE to change in historic perspective, and is LIKELY to change very much as a result of the current Arab Spring.

I don’t think that we have to deal now with all the technical details of the Right of Return, as with many other practical aspects of building the ODS (or the Free Palestine). What should be clear is that the implementation of this right will be one of the top priorities of the state. It is also clear that the returning refugees, through their parties and organizations, will be one of the major forces that will achieve this state and lead it when it comes. So they should know best what they need, and we all should help as much as we can.

As for the integration of the Jewish population in the future Palestine – it is the common interest to prevent chaos and help them be integrated and participate in all aspects of building the political system, the economy and society. But they will have to completely change their state of mind in order to build their future through integration in the region instead of controlling or terrorizing it. This is another reason why we should state it clearly now and in every occasion that Israeli superiority is doomed.

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