'Gaza and ODS'

 ODS has one thing in common with Hamas. Unlike Fatah, which at the moment envisions a Palestinian state alongside Israel, both ODS and Hamas envision the end of the ethno-religious regime in all of historic Palestine: no more privileges for people defined by the regime as ‘Jews’, no more military oppression anywhere between the river and the sea, and full Right of Return, i.e. repatriation of exiled Palestinians and restitution of their property in Israel. The Zionist entity, for both, would be a thing of the past.


Unlike Hamas, though, whose views on the citizenship of its envisioned Islamic state are not unequivocal, ODS explicitly includes in its vision the right of all present Israelis to remain in the single democratic state as equal citizens. This ‘right to remain’ proviso is seen by some as an acquired right of people who were simply born in Israel, by others as an act of generosity, and by still others as an act of political expediency or compromise. Some proponents would make renunciation of Zionism a condition of citizenship. No ODS advocate, moreover, could countenance the expulsion of our Jewish-Israeli ODS comrades who have fought Israeli racism for years, and whom we love.


ODS has a problem, though. Each slaughter of Palestinians, like the present one in Gaza, makes it a bigger ask for Palestinians to accept as future fellow citizens the group called ‘Jewish Israelis’, about 90% of whom stand fully behind this latest deathly so-called Operation. The models are there for sending the colonialist oppressors home: The Algerians did this in 1962 to their former French masters, and the 1964 PLO Charter still today – although it has formally been a dead letter since 1988 – states in Article 6: “The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.” Only those Jews, that is, would automatically be citizens. Others would presumably have to apply for citizenship like anyone else. Whether “the beginning of the Zionist invasion” was the beginning of the British Mandate, or 1948, is a moot point.


Some secular-democratic Palestinians went further, welcoming all residents. PLO leader Yusif Sayigh for instance in 1970 wrote,

The solution and peace we offer contain a huge concession on our part. In inviting the Palestinian Jews to build the new state and society jointly with us, we are inviting a large community most of whose members came to our country by force against our will. We make this concession because of our recognition of the fact that a large Jewish community is already in Palestine and because of our desire to seek mutual accommodation with it. The new, revolutionary Palestinians do not subscribe to any theory or notion of uprooting or expulsion. We are not Zionist. Our revolution is positive.

This is today’s ODS position: a democracy within the limits of constitutionally guaranteed human rights, Right of Return (RoR) and the ‘right to remain’.


In subtle contrast a prominent advocate of ODS recently formulated his stance thus:

While native rights supercede any privilege or land given to immigrants who came under the banner of Zionism by the unjust Israeli ‘law of [Jewish] return’, the new immigrants who arrived as such and are willing to coexist as equals will be recognized and treated equally under the laws.

Another prominent supporter has similarly said,

So if you are a third generation settler, and you were born there… , and you are willing to reframe the relationship between the settler community and the native community, of course you have the right to be there, and you should be there and you should build together a future.

That is, the right to remain is not limited to Jews whose families have been in Palestine for perhaps centuries, but there is a qualifier: Only those colonial settlers who accept a secular-democratic constitution, thereby rejecting Zionism, acquire right to remain. Perhaps citizenship – for Palestinians as well? – would be conditional on signing a pledge to uphold equal rights regardless of religion or ethnicity.


Another member of ODS England and I recently spoke for several hours with a decades-long supporter of ODS and RoR who has withdrawn his support for this tenet of ODS. Since the most recent atrocities in Gaza, a straw has broken the camel’s back, and he is no longer emotionally capable of forgiving the bulk of Jewish Israelis for their decades of murder and oppression, the more so as Israeli society overwhelmingly supports periodically ‘mowing the grass’ in Gaza. He instead again embraces the PLO Charter’s Article 6. Present Israeli citizens could apply for citizenship, but it would not be automatic. I cannot blame my friend. Can you?


The sad end to this analysis: It has become harder, at this moment, for anyone – a Palestinian, a Jewish-Israeli ODS supporter, or an outsider like myself – to preach the right to remain. The difficulty of forgiveness, the desire for revenge, and not least the deep mistrust over against all but the few Jewish Israelis opposing the carnage, these have all doubled in intensity. At the moment it is insensitive to speak of forgiving embraces.


This does not mean abandoning Sayigh’s “concession”, or what ODS views as either an acquired right or an act of generosity. Perhaps time will again soften revulsion and desire for retribution. Perhaps a pro-human-rights criterion for citizenship can be formulated. Perhaps strict application of the rules for Palestinians’ return to their land and return of their property – allowing for eviction of present occupants without their eviction from the country – will constitute enough restitutory justice to sufficiently sugar a bitter pill. It is futile and cowardly to argue that many Israeli Jews will probably not wish to remain in a non-Zionist state.


ODS should, I think, instead approach this issue on principle and treat people primarily as individuals, not as members of a collective. The issue will not go away, even after the Gaza massacre abates. We wish to know more Palestinians’ opinion on this matter. Please write us.