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Yes, John Kerry, there can be a single, democratic state in Palestine

AliAbunimah10292013

US Secretary of State John Kerry is in despair over the all-too-predictable fact that negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel have made no progress.

He should get used to that. The only thing his renewed “peace process” was ever likely to achieve was to provide a convenient cover for ongoing Israeli theft and colonization of Palestinian land.

Kerry seems to know this. In an interview he gave jointly to Israel’s Channel 2 and the PA-controlled Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation on 7 November, he addressed this rhetorical question at Israel:

How – if you say you’re working for peace and you want peace and a Palestine that is a whole Palestinian [sic] that belongs to the people who live there, how can you say we’re planning to build in the place that will eventually be Palestine? So it sends a message that somehow perhaps you’re not really serious.

“No such thing as a one-state solution”

So with hopes of a “two-state solution” slipping away, Kerry is having to reckon with growing talk about a single, democratic state in historic Palestine – a “one-state solution.”

During the interview, Kerry was asked by Palestinian journalist Maher Shalabi about the growing support among Palestinians for a “one-state solution.” Kerry’s answer was categorical:

Secretary Kerry: Well, there is no one-state solution. There’s no such thing as a one-state solution. You cannot have peace on any one side with the concept of a one-state solution. It just won’t happen. You can’t subsume other people into one state against their will. And it simply is not a reality. And anybody who’s talking about it doesn’t know really what – it’s just not possible. So you’ll have a perpetual state of conflict if somebody tries to achieve that.

Kerry is wrong

Kerry’s answer is predictable, but is it convincing?

On 29 October, I addressed precisely the question of the likelihood and possibility of a single state outcome in a lecture I gave at Middlebury College in Vermont.

The above video includes my talk titled “Palestine, Israeli Jews and the One-State Solution,” followed by questions and answers.

I go through the arguments why I believe Kerry – and so many others – have got it wrong. They fail to understand that the seeming impossibility of alternatives to partition is a symptom, not a cause, of the present settler-colonial regime.

I argue that as the Palestinian struggle changes the balance of power (it’s already happening), so the political possibilities will also shift and open up.

The talk is an abridged preview of a chapter in my forthcoming book (to be published early next year) from Haymarket Books.

I’d love to know what you think too.

Comments

The problem is less with Kerry's conclusions than the racist assumptions that underpin them. Will it be easy for Israelis to give up their colonialist privileges? For them, of course not. You can see this from the way the vast majority of them for for pro-apartheid political parties. But the question of the exiled Palestinian refugees and the imprisoned Palestinians inside the west bank and Gaza can be solved in only two ways. Either they continue to be reduced to bare life, and continue to have no say in the government that exercises sovereign over their land, or they are included in the civic community that is represents itself through that sovereignty. The notion that Jewish Israelis must exclude Palestinian subjects from their community in order to maintain a Jewish state is an ideology based on fear and tending towards fascism, if it is not there already.

If we still have to define how the State of Palestine should be, we are far from achieving what is right for the Palestinian people. As long as the interested aren’t clear on the Zionist ideology and what follows on the material and social level, they aren’t clear about the goal that must be reached, ie the Palestinian State under Islamic Palestinian sovereignty only of the fact that majority of the Palestinian population is Muslim. It is not because the Zionists were able to invade and usurp Palestine and create an entity with the complicity of the UN, that we must accept it as an irreversible fact!
We must always remember the history and respect this history. This brings us back to Arab Palestine before Zionism and its first colonies which no one had imagined the terrible following.
If we are aware of the harmfulness of Zionism and if we are consistent with ourselves, we would arrive at the natural idea to eradicate this Zionist evil root of the land Palestine. Following this reasoning, the two-state solution is unthinkable, but also a one-state solution where live Zionists.
I regret that today, nobody wants to hear about Historic Palestine as the Holy Land: politicians and also well-intentioned activists believe that Palestine is a country like any other land they can treat only politically and that G’d has nothing to say about His land. And precisely because Palestine is a holy land that the Zionists have nothing to do there. The Zionists aren’t’ the Jews, they aren’t part of the Jewish people; the Zionists are a political movement composed of renegades for those who have a Jewish origin and of non-Jews who have adhered to the Zionist ideology, among them many Christians. Their purpose is only to appropriate domination wherever possible and all means are good (lies, arrogance, even through charities to have big money). They are a source of conflict and also bring Western impurity in the region.

Kerry and many others come from an assumption that one state would have to be an imposed solution, "against their will". If that were true, he might have a case. But the more natural and obvious way for such a change in direction to happen is if it comes to be seen as beneficial and positive by a critical mass of the people.

Much anecdotal evidence and opinion polls point to the savage levels of racism in Israel. But for every action there is a reaction: a very substantial minority of Jewish Israelis are appalled by the rightward drift of the country, and in despair over the failure of the two state project, which they had thought would bring closure. Polls also show that almost a third of Jewish Israelis either favour a single democratic state (about 12%) or are open-minded. And that is before anyone has started organising for it and before it comes to be seen as the ONLY alternative to eternal instability, conflict, trouble, extreme religiosity and international isolation.

Palestinians in Israel have long favoured a state for all its citizens. For Palestinians elsewhere the single state with right of return for exiles is a no-brainer.

Before the tide turns is not the best time to judge the possibilities. But everything points to the very real potential that a mass movement for unification CAN happen from below, through political organisation and action backed by international pressure. From that point the only argument against it (that "nobody wants it") will give way to questions of how best to manage the transition, and we'll hear less about the non-existence of something that several million people are very curious about, or are actively working to create.

Without forgetting that for everything that the Zionists do, they do it in the name of the Jews or of Judaism!
Thus, a Palestinian State where the Palestinians decide who among the foreigners is allowed to live with them, and under what conditions. This is especially valid for Jews who anyway are in Exile and to whom G’d has laid down conditions for those who anyway wish to live in the Holy Land, I speak of Jews, not of religious Zionists.

I was happy to see Joseph Massad's most recent talk published in AJE, I would love to keep a rush of this one too!

Hi Sami, if you can hold on a couple of months it will be out in book form! 

It would of been beautiful if when the British left Palestine, The Jews and Palestinians worked together to create one new state. A state which was Democratic and had a constitution to protect people of all faiths and backgrounds. One that was dedicated toward peace and offering any human being on the planet that requires shelter from persecution for their beliefs or race.

That didn’t happen and now the blood and blind hatred on all sides has become so much that I can’t see any hope for anyone there. For anyone who has family and friends and loved ones in that area I wish you and them peace.

It's not only possible but inevitable, formed largely between Palestinians and Mizrahi Jews who are culturally compatible, with most Askenazim returning to Europe or the US.

You are amazing, Ali!

The one-state solution could be set up with a variety of different structural arrangements-- ranging from a sharia-based fascism to a torah- based fascism,
with centralized and decentralized democratic alternatives in between, and a parallel states alternative thrown in for good measure. We need to begin delineating these differing models, and hopefully come up with more than one that
encompasses equal rights for all, and fairness for those that were dispossessed.