This website has moved but this site will still be visible as an arhive.
PACBI-Struggle for equality

News and Opinion >
Bookmark and Share         Print   Send Email

The Guardian | December 17, 2007

Struggle for equality

n recent months a small group of Palestinian and Israeli academics, mainly in the diaspora, have prepared an intellectual bombshell to challenge the Palestinian leadership on the almost 40-year basic premise of an independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. The division over the question of one state or two states is now as dramatic as the Hamas-Fatah fighting of the last year, which split the armed resistance.

On November 29, 2007 - the 60th anniversary of the UN plan to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state - the group issued a one state declaration and are seeking co-signatories. It was a direct challenge to the Annapolis meeting three days earlier when almost the entire international community, including the Arab world, lined up - again - with the US, Israel and the Palestinian national authority behind the goal of two states (and excluding the elected political movement, Hamas).

But is that goal now an anachronism? How many of the officials from the many nations herded to Annapolis by the US have actually visited the West Bank recently - let alone penetrated the terrible siege around Gaza?

Annapolis should have begun with a presentation on the fragmentation of the West Bank, a PowerPoint produced by the UN. This short, stark visual superimposes each piece of Israel's illegal occupation infrastructure over a map of the West Bank - its 149 settlements, 460,000 settlers, 96 outposts, closed military areas, 27 military bases, nature reserves, the separation wall, settler-only roads, checkpoints, and tunnels. By the final overlay, the Palestinian areas look like slivers of flesh hanging off a skeleton.

It is these facts on the ground that have led an increasing number of Palestinians to argue that the two state solution is dead, and that Palestinians should push for one secular democratic state in all of Israel and Palestine. It is a goal that the Israeli leaders fear more than anything.

One state is a compelling aspiration for the long term, but putting it forward now as the end goal of the Palestinian struggle is causing new problems - for Palestinians. The one state two state debate is beginning to split both Palestinians and their supporters abroad. This is weakening one of the Palestinians' major sources of power, as the international solidarity movement - which now takes the anti-apartheid movement with its roots in churches and trade unions as its model - is at its broadest behind a two state solution.

In addition, the call for one state lets the Israelis off the hook in an area where they are the weakest - the illegality of the occupation under international law. The Palestinians are in dire straits, but the Israelis are stuck. They need a Palestinian leadership to sign off on their conquest, but have proved unwilling to give up enough for even the most pragmatic Palestinian to do so.

Also, while the language of the one state declaration is inclusive of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, they could be accused of treason if they support this goal. Prominent Israeli Arabs, like the Knesset member Azmi Bishara, now in exile, have experienced how easily a treason charge can uproot a life. This means a major part of the Palestinian people cannot throw their weight behind the struggle, although they, like Palestinian exiles, are best placed to do so.

Finally, Israel holds all the power on the ground, a reality brought home by the government's announcement days after Annapolis that it intends to build 300 new housing units in Arab East Jerusalem. Palestinians are light years away from achieving any of their human rights if they can't find effective sources of power. What that power consists of, and how to get it, is the most pressing topic for Palestinian strategists.

Of course a clear goal is needed so that Palestinians and their supporters know what they are fighting for and how long to keep it up. How can clear goals be set without getting stuck in the one-state two-state debate? Palestinians can frame their goals in terms of fundamental human rights, without specifying a final outcome.

Four such rights are key:

• First, under international law, Palestinians are a recognized people with a right to self-determination. Palestinians must work towards fulfilling this right in the way the majority believes best.

• Second, also under international law, Palestinians have the right of return and compensation, both as individuals and as a people.

• Third, the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem is illegal under international law based on the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. Calling for an end to occupation is not a call for two states. The occupation has to end irrespective of the final status solution. For far too long, the Palestinian leadership has allowed itself to be trapped in a situation of negotiating about the occupation, giving Israel the time to grab more land.

• Fourth, Palestinians have a right to equality: the Palestinian citizens of Israel must be equal citizens of the state. If and when there is a Palestinian state, its citizens too - its Christians, Muslims, and any Jews not there through force of arms - must also be equal citizens of the state. In other words, whether one state or two, both must be democratic states in which all citizens are equal under the law.

There is in fact a strategic statement of vision and goals that covers all these human rights: the July 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions. The call urges all Palestinians and their supporters to work for Palestinian self-determination, return, freedom from occupation, and equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel. The signatories also invite conscientious Israelis to support this call for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

The call is significant not only because it has a very clear set of goals: it also sets out a deliberately non-violent strategy to achieve those goals - boycott, divestment, sanctions. These measures are increasingly supported by churches and a range of human rights activists, many of them Jews. The call is broadly representative of the entire Palestinian people. It is endorsed by 171 coalitions, unions, and associations from across the political spectrum throughout the occupied territories, Israel and in exile. It is truly the Palestinian people speaking with one voice.

Posted on 17-12-2007

  Bookmark and Share         Print   Send Email  



Advanced search



About the Campaign

Who We Are
PACBI Call for Boycott
Palestinian BDS Call
PACBI Statements

PACBI Guidelines and Positions

Academic Boycott
Cultural Boycott
Risala Editorials
Other Key Documents
Campaign Resources

Reference Documents
Useful Links
News & Opinion



PACBI, P.O.Box 1701, Ramallah, Palestine
All Rights Reserved © PACBI