Operation Establish a Sovereign Bantustan

I chose to include the term “bantustan” in the title because it literally describes the desperate move the Palestinian leadership is leading Palestine into:

“But it’s no exaggeration to propose that this idea, although well-meant by some, raises the clearest danger to the Palestinian national movement in its entire history, threatening to wall Palestinian aspirations into a political cul-de-sac from which it may never emerge. The irony is indeed that, through this maneuver, the PA is seizing — even declaring as a right — precisely the same dead-end formula that the African National Congress (ANC) fought so bitterly for decades because the ANC leadership rightly saw it as disastrous. That formula can be summed up in one word: Bantustan,”  wrote Virginia Tilley in “Bantustans and the unilateral declaration of statehood.”

If we can’t learn from recent history, what will we ever achieve? We are being lured into a trap where the rights of millions of dispossessed refugees are at risk, but who is listening?

I said it before and I am willing to say it a thousand times more: Our struggle is not a struggle for symbolic statehood; it is a struggle to gain Palestinians’ basic rights! For more than six decades we have been fighting for our right of return, our right to live in our ancestral homeland, our right to be treated as equal citizens, our right to live in dignity. And our leadership is risking all of that in order to establish a sovereign state on a tiny piece of land of our much bigger homeland.  

It was only a few months ago when I published my first ever widely-read article on my personal blog, which was later published on +972 magazine. In that article, originally titled “How do you define coexistence” and later titled “Letter to Israeli Left: chose one state, not apartheid,” I questioned the motives of many Israeli anti-occupation leftist groups, and asked them to endorse the one democratic state solution as it is the only solution out there that could end the struggle and guarantee justice and equality for both sides.

If I have learned anything from debating with my Palestinian friends in the last few weeks about the September move, it is that I should address them, my fellow Palestinian countrymen, in the same tone, if not harsher regarding this topic. Let us get over talking hope, and move to understand actions and consequences of this move.

I believe that if I was to see the West Bank and Gaza instantaneously liberated as soon as the United Nations recognizes us as a state, I wouldn’t worry as much because then the leadership would be slightly more able to sort out bigger matters related to refugees. But the ground reality says something else.

Quoting Ali Abunimah’s opinion piece on Aljazeera English news site, he says:

Lebanon has been a member state of the United Nations since 1945 and yet this did not prevent Israel from occupying southern Lebanon from 1978 until 2000. Israel’s occupation of Lebanon ended not because of any international pressure, but only because the Lebanese resistance drove Israel and its collaborating militias out. […] Similarly, since 1967 Israel has occupied the Golan Heights, which belong to Syria (also a UN member since 1945). There has been virtually no armed resistance on the Golan Heights nor has there been any international pressure for Israel to withdraw or for Syrian refugees to return to their homes. […] Why would the situation in the “State of Palestine” be any different?

Legal perspective

Besides the fact on the ground in the West Bank that the Israeli occupation is going nowhere after 20 September, our leadership insists that this is the time to declare statehood ignoring many consequences of this action. The Palestinian delegation to the United Nations has been warned that the September move risks the rights of all diaspora and 1948 Palestinians as it officially “terminates the legal status held by the PLO in the UN since 1975 that it is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

In his seven-page legal document, Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of international law at Oxford University, sheds light on the legal risks behind the recognition of the Palestinian state. He said that millions of Palestinian refugees are at risk of losing their representation at the UN if the bid succeeds. He concludes:

“In my opinion, current moves to secure recognition of statehood do not appear to reflect fully the role of the Palestinian people as a principle party in the resolution of the situation in the Middle East. The interests of the Palestinian people are at risk of prejudice and fragmentation, unless steps are taken to ensure and maintain their representation through the Palestinian Liberation Organization, until such time as there is in place a State competent and fully able to assume these responsibilities towards the people at large.”

It is worth mentioning too that Guy Goodwin-Gill is a member of the team that won the 2004 non-binding judgment by the International Court of Justice that the route of Israel’s wall was illegal.

Meanwhile, the Boycott National Committee has issued its own statement warning of harsh consequences to the UN statehood bid.

Bad move

Many non-Palestinian activists, rights groups, politicians, and lawyers are voicing their concerns, but not all are able to protest the Palestinian leadership’s decision because it is an exclusively Palestinian matter. Unfortunately, not many Palestinians are fully aware of the risks, and currently over 6.5 million Palestinians in the diaspora are going to face the consequences of an action taken by someone they didn’t vote for or agree that he speaks for them. The UN move for the state is an action a low percentage of Palestinians agree upon, but unfortunately it is going to be forced upon them.

The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is fully aware of the consequences of this move, but personally I feel that their action is coming from anger towards the failing peace process that they went into for decades. This anger is pushing them for an irrational move, anything that they’d be able to claim as a success of their own, ignoring consequences. This move aims to separate and break the bond between Palestinians all over the world, the Palestinian leadership should know better and seek a solution that guarantees the rights of all the Palestinians they “represent.”

Security Council Veto

Whenever you talk about the September bid for the state, you hear Veto. Everyone is almost certain that the United States will use its veto power to halt any unilateral attempt seeking a declaration of a Palestinian state on 1967 lines; some say the Palestinian UN delegation will seek other routes to bypass the Security Council, and others say it will be the end of the road.

Most Palestinians I meet claim that the move for the state in the United Nations is a win-win situation. If we succeed, we get our state. If we don’t succeed, we’d avoid the consequences of having succeeded and we can seek another solution. It is irrational, I know. But those Palestinians are ready and will gladly accept any outcome from the September move.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the Palestinian move because he benefits when he maintains control over all of the illegal settlements in the West Bank. He wants to maintain control over all strategic areas and water wells and springs. He aims to maintain our status quo living in many separate, open air prisons across the West Bank. But, in my opinion, I believe there is no reason US President Barack Obama would oppose the move for two states.

Personally, I doubt the United States will use its veto power. The United States is able to put an end to 64 years of continuous struggle and favor the Zionist end of the equation in this solution. Of course, having said this, putting an end to our struggle in this way will harm us a lot as I have argued earlier.

The two-state solution will cause fragmentation of the Palestinian people, more separation between those in the West Bank and Gaza, those in Israel, and those living in the diaspora. It will forcibly take away the rights of millions.




interesting article. I agree with several points, nonetheless I doubt that with 1 state solution, we will have a better situation (from a legal point of view). Did you think about the consequence of this step, what this would mean for Israeli settlements (that were built on public land for example) or the status of east jerusalem. and in one state solution, can you imagine that around 5 mil. refugees will be able to return to 3% of Palestine (1948). Although I would love to live in a one democratic state, but after reading different articles and books, I am now more and more convinced that people didn't thought about the details, as much as the "Oslo group" didn't think about the consequences of the agreement...


Are you sure about the details of your response? I do not know where the 3% (1948) Palestine came from. These are the actual percentages: 1948 Areas: 78% of Palestine out of which Tel Aviv alone is 3% (TLV metropolitan area is 18%) the size of the area yet nearly 50% of Israel's 7.7 Million live! (close to 3.5 million residents!)
Historic Palestine is STILL vast and nearly empty! The Palestinian Arab villages and towns which were ethnically cleansed can easily be repopulated OR amalgamated with other already established Israeli municipalities in order to preserve historic sites and farmlands used for agriculture.
PLEASE check your details before making any empty assumptions. The size of the West Bank and Gaza are 22% the size of Historic Palestine. Palestinians have control of only less than 40 Percent of that, the proposed state WILL not have access to the remaining 60 percent of mostly remote towns and villages and ALL of the roads connecting ANY two Palestinian town and village.
Please do not spread misconceptions. Palestinians are very peaceful and even today, after all the violence they have faced from Israel, they are still willing to be next door neighbors to peaceful Jewish people. To prove my point just check out how many aquire passes to go to "Israel" for vacation, and how many workers jump the wall for work and come back in peace.
Factually, we live in a single state but we are simply denied equal rights. What the PA and PLO have been doing was white-washing occupation and denying us the right to demand equal rights! The PA HAS endorsed the idea of Bantustans when they signed OSLO, I will accuse them of fully knowing the consequences and knowing exactly what they were getting into. Unless they were complete ignorants in which case we should revolt against them. Hopefully sooner than the proposed state's date.


by 3%, I mean that Palestinians in 1948 only own 3% (if not 2%) of the land. Try to have documents from Palestinians living in th diaspora about their land ownership, you will not find much. I was in a refugee camp and I know what I am talking about. Regarding the West Bank, if you propose the one-state option without any legal consideration, we might loose the rest of the West Bank (currently considered according to international law as occupied), since in a one state everyone can live everywehre and Israelis "own" much of this land...

For Land in 1948, I can't find a legal TEXT, that would give us our land back (check recent European judgments regarding refugees from Cyprus, they will not get their land back!).

It is complex and I think you would need to make your proposal on a one state solution more solid and make some references to legal texts, ao that we do not lose everything...


by 1947, less than 4 percent of historic Palestine was owned either by the Jewish Federation or Jewish Palestinian-nationals (mostly Europeans who acquired the Palestinian passport). When arounf 90 percent of the Palestinian Arab population was depopulated (ethnically-cleansed), the entire land that became Israel was divided into either private property or public property. The Private property owned by Palestinian Arabs was either sold or, in case of buildings ONLY, was protected under the absentee law (nullified around 2007). This said, ALL of the Israeli owned lands purchased from the government is illegal and stolen property, whether it was that formerly owned by Palestinians or purchased via the nullified absentee law. Israel IS a pirate state, and everything it owns has been stolen from the Palestinians. This said, Palestinian refugees do have deeds to confirm their ownership, and those with missing deeds can (with little effort) find some at the British government archive, the Jordanian archive, or even the Turkish archive (going back to the time of the Ottomans.) You cannot deny this fact. My grandmother ALONE owned 2 square kilometers in an area known as Qubeibeh (currently a crossroads north of the Negev and vast properites in al-Manshieh (Tel Aviv). My grandfather ALONE owned over 10 km2 in the areas of Beit Jibrin all the way north of Ajjur, both towns are ethnically cleansed. Those are only 2 individuals. Now think of the thousands of Palestinians who owned vast properties in over 450 ethnically cleansed towns and villages. Dude, get some mathematical facts.


Thanks for this article, I do not plan (not at all) to attend any so-called "marches" or "rallies" to support this false statehood plan, in which Israel would have complete, military control, and inflict more suffering. It is a shameful show, and it also reinforces to me that the two-state plan will never work anyway, as the USA is going to vote it down. One-state seems to be the only solution. It was the solution for S. African apartheid, its the solution for Israeli apartheid...


Arabs, for centuries, protected Jews while in Europe Jews were slaughtered by the Christians. It is very sad, to see Jews persecuting Arabs, in essence back
stabbing those, who took care of them, rather well for centuries. Very sad.

Jalal Abukhater

Jalal Abukhater's picture

Jalal Abukhater is a Jerusalemite, he is a graduate MA(hons) International Relations and Politics from the University of Dundee, Scotland.