15 May is Nakba Day. It’s been 72 years and there is still no justice in the land. Many say the two-state solution is long dead. Others say to move ahead with annexation and then there will be one apartheid state and workers for justice can move towards a one-state solution EPF PIN member Steve France reports on a program where the founders of the One Democratic State Campaign reflect on next steps.
Activists and others who long for real change in the Israel-Palestine horror show generally agree that BDS is by far the most effective available strategy to press the issue. The proof, of course, is the rage and ferocity of Israel and the discomfort it causes even the most liberal of Zionists.
The sad part is that BDS reigns supreme because everything else seems almost useless. Israel is running the table on the ground and in its rhetoric and happily defying all diplomatic critics. It must seem like 1948 and 1967 all over again, in many Zionists’ minds.
From the Palestinian perspective, the situation “has returned to its existential roots,” before 1948, when all Palestinians faced the same threat of exile or subjugation. Those were the words in February of more than 80 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza polled by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
From the perspective of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have 70 years of experience living inside the Jewish State as a despised non-Jewish minority, the original existential moment has been their daily reality. “We show that Israel has not been normal ever. We expose the inherent Apartheid nature of Israel,” Awad Abdelfattah says. He is the coordinator of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC).
But Abdelfattah has a bigger, far more important message. Along with his ODSC colleague Jeff Halper, an Israeli Jew who founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, he believes this moment will see ’48 Palestinians take a leading role. They plan to spark a mobilization of all Palestinians worldwide – along with what they call “global freedom partners” and civil society – to press for “One Democratic State” (ODS) for all the people from the River to the Sea.
The two veteran opponents of Israel were interviewed online in April by Mike Spath, director of the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Green Line Palestinians never had much hope for Oslo, Abdelfattah said. The “Marxist Nationalist” group of which he was deputy secretary-general from 1986 to 96, Abnaa Albalad, “always wanted one democratic state.” It helped form the National Democratic Party (Balad) in 1995, of which he was secretary-general from 1997 to 2016. “We always viewed Oslo’s two-state program as a catastrophe.” Aside from being “a big illusion,” it left out “internally colonized Palestinians inside the Green Line,” like himself, and it marginalized refugees in camps outside Palestine. “Every family inside the Green Line, including mine, has relatives who are refugees and cannot come home,” he said. His point is that ’48 Palestinians connect intimately to all segments of the Palestinian people.
Sadly, “the ’48 Palestinians have always been considered an internal domestic issue for Israel to deal with,” he told Spath. “We have been marginalized three ways, first, by the Israelis; then, by other Palestinians, who have seen us as forgetting our Palestinian identity; and finally, by the larger Arab world. But we never forgot our identity.”
Halper believes, “It’s natural for those Palestinians to take the lead. Plus, they have more space to move around and organize. They don’t get interference from the Palestinian Authority,” not to mention Hamas. Other Palestinians seem inclined to agree, Abdelfattah emphasized. Recently, he heard from groups in Gaza and Ramallah that his group inside the Green Line should lead the ODS Campaign.
“Things are changing. The mindset is changing,” Abdelfattah said. “If Hamas and Fatah can’t work together, we should start from below at the grassroots for mass mobilization.” Moreover, united support for the democratic vision “can capture the imagination of certain sections of Israeli society – and also freedom partners and civil society around the world.”
“Our whole [ODS] plan … is based on a settler-colonial analysis,” Halper said. In that analysis, “the Palestinians never really were a side.” In that sense “this really isn’t a conflict with two sides arguing over something they could compromise about. … With settler-colonialism there’s really only one side and that’s the way Israel has always seen it … this country belongs to the Jews exclusively.” The upshot is that “conflict resolution doesn’t get to the problem. The only way you can resolve this is through decolonization.”
In light of Israel’s reveal of its sweeping ultimate goals, along with the manifest impotence of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, as well as of the surrounding Arab nations, ODS supporters see the potential for a massive reorientation of the Palestinian struggle in their direction.
“We can’t just stay on BDS and protests all the time,” Halper said, though, like other ODS leaders, he strongly supports BDS. Abdelfattah noted that BDS pulled its three key points from the Balad Party platform. In fact, the ODS leaders are eager for the BDS leadership to formally endorse One Democratic State. “We’ve got to have a political program,” Halper said. “And the Palestinians have to lead.”