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Report to the activists for One Democratic State in historic Palestine

About the Jaffa ODS meeting – 6.11.2012

The invitation to the meeting was purposely limited, to allow more space for the development of discussion and in order to check to what extent activists from different tendencies and of different backgrounds can work together for the program of one democratic state in historic Palestine. 14 activists attended, coming from different parties, movements and organizations, Arab and Jews.

The foundation for the meeting

We discussed the previous efforts to work for one democratic state (ODS) in Palestine, including the two Haifa conferences (2008 and 2010) and the activists’ meeting in Munich in the summer of 2012. It was made clear that there is no ready-made movement that we can join, but we are part of a common effort to build a new movement that will unite all the supporters of ODS. We take part in the design of this new movement together with similar initiatives that already started in Bethlehem, Haifa, Ramallah and Gaza.

It was stressed that the ODS initiative proposes to establish a democratic state that will belong to all the residents of Palestine and all the Palestinian refugees and their descendants. This subject should be fully clear. Without this clear position, it is impossible to build trust between Arabs and Jews in the common struggle in the reality of occupation and Apartheid.

Previous and parallel experiences

As all the participants are also active in other movements and organizations, and their experiences in these frameworks partially overlap with the proposed initiative, a significant part of the discussion was dedicated to these experiences. We paid special attention to the experience of some of the participants in building a movement for real democracy to everyone, following the social protests of 2011. They emphasized the success of this initiative to reach many different strata of the Jewish public.

We also discussed previous initiatives in support of the one state, as well as more general experiences of left movements and democratic organizations to operate within the Arab and the Jewish public. We discussed various estimates about what limited the success, or even caused the failure, of these attempts.

The issue of secularity

Many of the participants are active in organizations that promote the perspective of a secular democratic state.

Some of the participants expressed concern that without an emphasis on secularism we lose an important aspect of our criticism of Israel’s character, which is based on its definition as a Jewish state and its reliance on religion and religious coercion. Some also expressed apprehension that a new constitution, if it will not be secular, will not preserve human rights and especially women’s rights.

On the other hand, some participants argued that in the general public, Arabs and Jews, there is a strong religious influence, and that under the banner of secularism it will be harder to enlist support for a democratic solution to the pressing problems of occupation, racism and war. It was suggested that the democratic content of political secularism can be included and clarified through the definition of the democratic character of the proposed state. It was mentioned that in the Middle Eastern context, especially in light of the Arab Spring, secularism is sometimes associated with anti-democratic trends.

What we try to establish

It was clarified that we are not building a new party or ideological movement. In this sense our ODS initiative is complementary and does not contradict the whole range of parties and movements that are active on the ground. The perspective of a single democratic state is designed to meet the lack of perspective for real, just and comprehensive solution, a solution that will put an end to ethnic cleansing, occupation, racism and endless wars.

This is an unprecedented attempt to establish a single democratic movement, working for an agreed political solution, in which all the inhabitants of the country and its refugees can take an active part.

The political base should be clear and propose a decisive change compared to the existing anti-democratic apartheid situation – but it allows all partners to retain their various positions on all social, economic and ideological issues. All these topics will be subject to discussion and political struggle within the democratic state when it will be established.

Next meeting – Tuesday 4.12 in Jaffa – discussion of the Munich Declaration

The participants expressed a desire to speed up the organizational stage so that we can soon go public and try to convince the wide audience about the desirability of one democratic state. To do this we need to have further discussions between us (and other activists) and try to agree on a common formulation of the primary things with which we will approach the public.

To focus the discussion, it was decided to discuss the Munich ODS declaration in the next meeting. We should conclude to what extent it can be used as the basis for our appeal to the public or should we formulate a different text.

It was agreed to hold another meeting in Jaffa on Tuesday, 20.11. Following the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip, which required focusing all efforts in the struggle to halt it, the next meeting was delayed to 4.12.2012.

You are invited to come and bring friends.

You can read this report also in Arabic or Hebrew.

Links for the Munich Declaration



In English