Earlier this month, an American university professor wrote an editorial for The New York Times about the failure of the two-state solution in Palestine and the need to consider alternatives.
The editorial provoked various discussions in the media, but I was disappointed that every time someone has this epiphany, the ensuing discussion neglects the movement-building and dialogue that have been happening for many years among Palestinians, Israeli Jews and others who are committed to decolonization and equality in a democratic secular state.
It was serendipitous that I found a video featuring a presentation by Omar Barghouti that dispenses with the “peace process” and “two states” completely and focuses on the ethics and mechanics of decolonization.
Barghouti refers to the work of the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire when explaining the moral responsibilities of the oppressed, and he proposes “indigenizing” the settler-colonial population through a process of “ethical decolonization.”
“Indigenizing” the settlers
The argument escapes the common traps about “Jewish self-determination” and the “Jewish state” by outlining a path where the settler-colonial population becomes entitled to determine the future of the state through joint struggle with the indigenous community and on condition that the settlers abandon their colonial privilege.
The excerpt below is edited slightly for readability:
Accepting modern day Jewish Israelis as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society — free from all colonial subjugation and discrimination, as called for in the democratic state model — is the most magnanimous, rational offer any oppressed indigenous population can present to its oppressors. So don’t ask for more.
Only by shedding their colonial privileges, dismantling the structures of oppression — the laws and the policies and so on — and accepting the restoration of the rights of indigenous people of the land — especially the right of Palestinian refugees to return and to receive reparations and the right of all Palestinians to unmitigated equality — only then can settlers be indigenized and integrated into the emerging nation and therefore become entitled to participate in determining the future of the common state.
I make a distinction between self-determination for Jewish settlers in Palestine, which I categorically oppose — never in history was a colonizing community ever allowed self-determination not in South Africa, not in Algeria, not in Ireland, not anywhere. Colonizers are not entitled to self-determination, by any definition of self-determination, but post-colonialism, post-oppression, after justice has happened, then we must envision integrating the former colonizers into a common nation that can determine its future. So they are part of the future determination of the state if they are indigenized.
The indigenous population on the other hand must be ready after justice has been reached and rights have been restored to forgive and accept the settlers as equal citizens enjoying normal lives, neither masters nor slaves.
Barghouti’s talk was part of a round-table organized by Networkers South-North, an “organization with a goal to generate, disseminate and mobilize critical knowledge in the field of human centered development engagement and values in international cooperation with a particular view for perspectives from the South.” The entire series of videos from the event is listed in sequence below.
- Tshepo Madlingozi - Truth and Reconciliation - South Africa’s unfinished transformation from apartheid
- Omar Barghouti - Strategies for change (the video embedded above)
- Stiaan Van der Merwe - The need for painful structural and moral change
- Debate on Transformational Justice