First Thursdays - international updates on ODS on the 1st Thursday of every month
2 November 2017
100 years ago today Arthur Balfour sent his letter - Declaration - to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild as leader of the Jewish Zionists in Britain promising 'the Jewish people' political rights and presence in Palestine. The biggest UK event supposedly critical of the Balfour Declaration, held on 31 October 2017 at Methodist Central Hall Westminster, attended by 1,200 people and organised by the Balfour Project, unfortunately had at most one Palestinian speaker, the rest being the elite of Britain's two-state lobby. That Declaration affected all of Palestine, yet the Balfour Project prominently approves of a statement by prominent Israelis who, in the interest of preserving the Zionist state, support "two states, living side by side along the 1967 borders". Leaving the Palestinians one room of their 5-room house is good enough, it seems.
A piece of good news is that S. Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, has in
strong language called for
international government-level sanctions against Israel. It is time for the 'S' in 'BDS' to be strengthened. The bad news is that, as his job title says, the whole thing is limited to the West
Bank and Gaza Strip, leaving the rest of Palestine ('Israel') and most Palestinians off the remit. If sanctions and boycotts led to Israeli abandonment of its West Bank settlements, would all
then be OK? Lynk himself in his report bemoans that Israeli actions have "put the two state solution on life support, with fading pulse..." From an ODS long-run point of view that's good
5 October 2017
Mahmoud Abbas reportedly ‘threatened’ Israel with a ‘one-state solution’ if the two-state solution is not given to him mighty soon. What did Abbas actually say at the UN on 20 September? Throughout he sticks hard and fast to the two-state solution and correctly asserts that it is Israel that never wanted this solution. Then, “if the two-state solution were to be destroyed due to the creation of a one-state reality with two systems – apartheid – [then] neither you, nor we, will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine.” The last paragraph’s apogee repeats this: “It will either be the independence of the state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel on the 1967 borders, or equal rights for all of the inhabitants of the land of historic Palestine from the river to the sea.” This as usual ignores the half of the Palestinians in exile.
A few days later Haaretz weighed in supporting the “simple, fair” two-state solution in which land is traded for peace and cementing a “free and strong Israel alongside an independent Palestinian state” (perhaps not quite so free and strong). “The gates are closing on the two-state solution” (let's hope); Abbas has rung “a wake-up call” and has “warned” that Israel will be faced with the “one-state solution”. The downside for Israel is that the apartheid within its de facto borders (all of historic Palestine) would be unavoidably visible to all. Haaretz, too, ignores the refugees.
To witness the present condition of two-state advocates in Ramallah check out these short videos on the site of the Geneva Initiative: http://www.geneva-accord.org/mainmenu/-i-am-your-partner-are-you-my-partner For these people, again, neither the refugees nor the Palestinians in Israel are worth a word.
The bi-national as opposed to the ODS approach is having a slight renaissance, witness a long article in the summer 2017 issue of the journal Middle East Policy. First Ian Lustick argues for the “equal legitimacy of both Jewish and Palestinian aspirations” (in Palestine). Co-author Hady Amr next opines that only the two-state solution can “fulfill both the joint national aspirations of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples.” On the US Academic Boycott site, similarly but without supporting the two-state solution Richard Falk argues for solutions “embodying the overlapping rights and self-determination of these two long embattled peoples.” Problems: 1) The 'peoples' are here ethno-religiously defined (at least the Jewish one), opening various cans of worms involving identity politics and collective rights - a regression from the Englightenment. 2) There might be an abstract Jewish collective, ethno-national right to self-determination somewhere, but not in Palestine because that necessarily happens at the expense of the Palestinians. 3) The language moreover implies a false ethical parity between the two groups.
The Palestinian group closest to ODS ideologically remains the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). No, ODS is not Marxist like the PFLP, but rather focuses on Palestine’s reunification and liberal democratisation. However, the PFLP fully embraces Right of Return, rejects the non-sovereign West Bank/Gaza Strip statelet being pushed harder than ever by the Palestinian Authority (PA, led by Mahmoud Abbas), and will never recognise Israel as a legitimate state. Early leaders were George Habash, Nayef Hawatneh, Ghassan Kanafani, Leila Khaled and Abu Ali Mustafa. Current leader Ahmad Sa’adat has been in Israeli jails since 2002. Here is a sample: http://pflp.ps/english/2016/12/27/barakat-call-to-action-for-ahmad-saadat-and-the-palestinian-prisoners-supports-the-true-leaders-of-palestinian-struggle/
6 September 2017
1) From the History Department: Shafiq al-Hout in his posthumous 2011 book My Life in the PLO writes of the PLO's clear ODS position throughout the 1960s and 1970s: "
The PLO presented a democratic solution in the shape of a single, democratic, and secular state for
Arabs and Jews, where all citizens would live with equal rights and duties. It was a blow to the Zionists and their allies, as who could possibly refuse coexistence rather than adhering to the option
of war? What could be more magnanimous than this position, where the victims, the dispossessed owners of the land, called for coexistence with the aggressors, forgetting all the tragedies of the past
and looking forward to a new future? Israel was cornered." (pp 128-29) While "forgetting" is not really necessary for ODS, it is unfortunately the case that, by 1988, with the adoption of its sad
Declaration of Independence, the PLO had totally abandoned the ODS position. (p 232)
2) In Counterpunch Shlomo Sand replied to French President Emmanuel Macron's recent libelous assertion that we democrats are antisemitic, concluding that "being a democrat and a republican [as the French President is supposed to be] I cannot - as all Zionists do, Left and Right, without exception - support a Jewish State.... I am a citizen who desires that the state he lives in should be an Israeli republic, and not a Jewish-communalist state." If Sand would go along with 'Palestinian' republic, and support unconditionally the Right of Return, he would be an asset for ODS.
3) Rasmea Odeh, the Palestinian woman and US citizen now being deported from the US for not revealing during her naturalisation process that she had been "a political prisoner who was brutally tortured and raped by Israeli soldiers and prison authorities", thanked all those from Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, and Jewish anti-Zionists who "support me as a survivor of torture and injustice, but also because they support the much more important cause of the liberation of all of Palestine—a democratic, secular Palestine for all." (her emphasis)
4) There is apparently a US-based group called Jews for Palestinian Right of Return who on their Facebook page publicise amongst other things the Nakba Tour of the US undertaken by Palestinian refugees who want to correct the fact that the solidarity scene is aware only of the injustice done to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (and perhaps Israel). Since ODS follows rigorously from RoR, this group will perhaps become allies.
3 August 2017
1) The Jewish State vs One Democratic State: Back on 10 May the Knesset passed by a vote of 48-41 the ‘Jewish State’ law which finally put down in so many words, black on white, what was til now only in Israel’s Declaration of Establishment, that Israel is Jewish. If passed it will become Israel’s 12th ‘Basic Law’. ‘Basic Laws’ are in effect Israel’s constitution. Along with the recent amendment to the “Basic Law: The Knesset”, enabling the banning of political parties and candidates for public office who do not pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state, this new ‘Basic Law’ will provide the legal basis for expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who must either sign on the dotted line to declare allegiance to the Jewish state, or get out. The silver lining is that this makes ODS look sane; as with the West Bank settlements and the creeping take-over of the ‘Temple Mount’, this makes things clearer to the watching world. The Knesset as of 3 August had not yet voted on this law.
2) According to Joel Beinin’s 1990 book Was the Red Flag Flying There?, in the 1940s the Jewish-Arab Palestine Communist Party (PCP) fought within itself over a binational state vs one democratic state. Most of the Jewish members, led by Shmuel Mikunis, believed in the national (collective) rights of the Jewish people in Palestine. But they opposed territorial partition (until the Soviet Union supported it in late 1947!) and wanted that unclear thing called binationalism, “an independent democratic state with equal national and civil rights for both peoples; neither an exclusive Arab nor an exclusively Jewish state…”. (p 45) That is, parity – like the non-communist IHUD group led by Judah Magnes.
Some Arab PCP members led by ‘Abd Allah Bandak, Ay’qub al-‘Armani, and Emile Habibi, supported by Tawfiq Tubi and Emil Tuma, formed the National Liberation League with a pure ODS programme: “a democratic government guaranteeing the rights of all inhabitants… without distinction’ and opposed Zionist immigration, settlement, and a Jewish state, while distinguishing between the Zionist movement and the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.” (pp 42, 43) At a London conference in March 1947 Tuma “advanced… an independent democratic Palestine with neither partition nor parity arrangements between the two communities.” (p 44) At the March-April 2017 Cork conference on Israel’s illegitimacy the binational scheme was presented by Jeff Halper and opposed by several audience members. Halper never replied to a post-conference letter explaining ODS’s objections to his vision.
6 July 2017
1) According to Jonathan Cook’s analysis the strengthening Usrael-Egypt-Saudi alliance aimed against Iran is also against Palestine because it means even stronger support for the two-state solution than that of the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. And especially if Trump/Kushner/Greenblatt really lean on Israel and the PA to do a two-state deal, we have no time to waste putting the one-democratic-state narrative on equal footing with the two-state one. I think we need to be bolder and talk clearly: Israel should be replaced by a democracy. By contrast:
2) By contrast, even strong supporters of most of the rights of some of the Palestinians feel compelled to assure the world that they affirm Israel’s right to exist, that there should be a Jewish state in Palestine – which ODS by definition does not because it prefers a democratic state. According to blogger Robert Cohen’s account the Church of Scotland is one such group. It was pressured by the Board of Deputies of British Jews to withdraw its relatively pro-Palestinian view of the Balfour Declaration, although the Church’s report “makes it very clear that the Church has no intention of denying the right of the State of Israel to exist and it also remains committed to ‘two States’.” One of those states happens to be a colonial-apartheid one...
3) Same theme again: Jonathan Cook’s superb long piece on Marwan Barghouti shows him as the best of Fatah, yet even he supports the Zionist two-state solution. Cook: “Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa [says]: ‘My and Marwan’s generation still harbors a spark of a hope that the conflict will end with a two-state solution. My children don’t believe in that; they aspire to a single, democratic state.’ Indeed, many young activists have come to view the two-state solution as an illusion, one that derailed the national struggle for more than two decades. They are increasingly interested in a one-state solution, harking back to the original aims of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under Arafat.”
4) Straight anti-Zionist talk as always from current member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council (and the Palestinian National Council) Uri Davis, who describes himself as “a Palestinian of Jewish descent.” He is a Board member of the Popular Front for One Democratic State on the Land of Historic Palestine who decades ago wrote pioneering works on right of return, the Jewish National Fund and, already in 1987, Israeli apartheid. And about the term ‘occupation’, today absurdly used only in reference to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Back in 1972 in both the Village Voice and the Journal of Palestine Studies (vol 1, issue 4) Uri wrote that when he was Vice-Chairman of the Israeli League for Civil and human Rights (Israel Shahak was Chairman) he “first had to come to grips with [the fact] that, essentially, the right-wing Zionist contention that there was no essential difference between the colonization of Tel Aviv and Jaffa prior to and immediately after 1948, and the colonization of Hebron in 1967, was correct.” One Occupied Territory.
1 June 2017
1) On 2 May 2017 in Middle East Eye David Hearst wrote a great analysis of last month’s Hamas document wherein he embraces ODS. http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/palestinian-state-1967-borders-hamas-going-hajj-everyone-leaving-2072066433 Hearst, Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, the PFLP, and Hamas and Tajamoa more or less explicitly, support ODS. Let us hope for a broad, organised front.
2) On 3 May 2017 Dena Takruri interviewed Bernie Sanders on Al Jazeera TV: “Do you support BDS?” Our hero Sanders: “No, I don’t.” Takruri: “Hopes for a two-state solution are almost dead. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza increasingly support the one-state solution, with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and equal citizenship. Is that something you support?” “No, I don’t. If that happens then that would be the end of the state of Israel, and I support Israel’s right to exist.” So Sanders and the British Labour Party see eye to eye. http://www.timesofisrael.com/why-bernie-sanders-defending-israel-on-al-jazeera-is-a-big-deal/ US Congressmen Justin Amash, whose father is Palestinian, and Keith Ellison, a Moslem who is critical of Israel, might do better on these questions.
3) On 5 May 2017 Gideon Levy quoted Marwan Barghouti in 2002 quoting a friend: “You Israelis have a present but no future, and we Palestinians have a future but no present. Give us the present and you will have a future.” Probably true, and certainly in line with the ODS vision. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.787244?utm_source=smartfocus&utm_medium=email&utm_content=israel-news/.premium-1.787244&utm_campaign=Gideon+Levy&utm_term=20170505-00:36&writerAlerts=true Unfortunately, Barghouti joins the PA, Sanders, Corbyn, Tzipi Livni, Ari Shavit, Jonathan Freedland and, most likely, Trump, Jared Kushner and Jeremy Greenblatt in supporting the two-state solution.
4) In May Shibley Telhami and Stella Rouse of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll published their poll of 2,138 US-American “panelists” in April 2017: 37% for two states, 31% for one democratic state, 9% for one undemocratic state, 15% for the status quo, 9% who “refused”. Removing the two-state option from the poll got: 63% ODS, 10% OUndemocraticS, 27% status quo. 1/3 of US voters for ODS!
5) On 10 May 2017 the Palestine Chronicle reported that the Dublin and Sligo city councils will fly the Palestinian flag this Nakba Day. The Dublin statement said this was “a gesture of our solidarity with the people of Palestine living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, with the Palestinian citizens of Israel denied basic democratic rights, and with the over seven million displaced Palestinians denied the right of return to their homeland.” All 3 groups of Palestinians! http://www.palestinechronicle.com/ireland-capital-votes-to-fly-palestinian-flag-above-city-hall-for-nakba-day/ Another solidarity action also explicitly mentioning ALL Palestinians and embracing with no ifs and buts the Right of Return was an Open Letter to US NFL footballers persuading them to cancel their visit to Israel. https://www.thenation.com/article/open-letter-to-nfl-players-traveling-to-israel-on-a-trip-organized-by-netanyahus-government/ Are you listening, PSC?
6) Back on 12 April Al-Shabaka writers Nadia Hijab and Ingrid Jaradat Gassner argued that we should not talk about solutions at all, but about rights, using approaches emphasising Israel apartheid and BDS, and we should by no means erase the Green Line. This deserves an exact critical reading for anyone who believes democracy in historic Palestine needs a motivating vision captured in a single idea, as was done by anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, the ANC and… Zionism. https://al-shabaka.org/commentaries/talking-palestine-frame-analysis-goals-messages/
7) Alas, we come to ODS’s rival, the Two States, One Homeland “initiative”. While its positions are are somewhat vague, the idea seems to be two Green-Line states with exclusive citizenships but free movement, employment and residence, but no Right of Return. http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/The-perfect-deal-to-end-the-conflict-492363 Their site is here.
4 May 2017
1) Hamas's new A Document of General Principles and Policies is very close to ODS: Hamas aims for 1) official reunification of Palestine, 2) return and restitution for the externally and internally displaced, and 3) an end to the "Zionist entity" (the Jewish state in Palestine). §20 says that the "establishment of a... Palestinian state" bordered by the 1949 armistice lines is "a formula of national consensus". Most of the press is inaccurately calling this an acceptance of the two-state solution, just as it inaccurately says this Document replaces the 1988 Hamas Charter. (ODS is however not religious and our Munich Declaration takes no position on the tactic of armed resistance.)
2) The Reut Group and the Anti-Defamation League wrote a January 2017 update to the Reut Institute's 2010 report on how to combat the denial of Israel's right to exist. The new report's title, 'The assault on Israel's legitimacy: The frustrating 20X question: Why is it still growing?', refers to the fact that although Israel is spending 20 times as much on the PR battle against us than in 2010, "results remain elusive". BDS and ODS are demonised, and §39 correctly says that BDS entails ODS. Reut/ADL's main tactic is to "drive a wedge" between "hardcore de-legitimizers" of BDS and ODS and those who don't object to Zionism in principle but merely to Israeli policies.
3) The One Undemocratic Staters have become stronger within Likud and in the Jewish Home and Israel Is Our Home parties, and for instance within Ramallah's Jewish-only settlement Beit El. They oppose the two-state solution and want to annex the West Bank to make a clear-cut apartheid state - which, intriguingly, would be easier for us to fight because the world knows how to deal with unhidden apartheid.
4) Trump and his team in taking the two-state solution down off its pedestal might be also going for One Undemocratic State, but who knows? There are signs this businessman-led team is sick of losing money on Israel and might pressure it towards the two-state solution. This would be a game-changer, also for ODS. At any rate the PA - Abbas and Saeb Erekat - have since February not stopped screaming against abandoning the two-state solution. Funny that it was Erekat who in 2009 said that "the two-state solution is no longer an option" and that Palestinians should "refocus... on the one-state solution where Muslims, Christians and Jews can live as equals".
5) Several analyses of the Cork Conference: by Haim Bresheeth in BRICUP Newsletter 109, by Andy Simons available at email@example.com, and by Blake Alcott in the Palestine Chronicle. The messages of most of the speakers are in line with ODS and against Zionism in principle.
6 April 2017
1) More and more and more one reads that the two-state solution is dead. One reason given is that the fictional Palestinian state made up of the Gaza Strip plus a few Bantustans in the West Bank is too small and fragmented to be 'viable' or 'feasible'. Whereas the point is that it was never desirable. But if the partition option is closed, at least the 'One' in One Democratic State is agreed. Next comes the 'Democratic' part.
2) The Cork Conference from 31 March - 2 April 2017, which the Zionist lobby twice forbade at the University of Southampton, was a success. Most of the 38 speakers brought evidence that Israel is indeed illegitimate - because it is a European colony, because it is racist, because it is an apartheid state, because its creation went over the heads and hearts of the indigenous who were thus denied their self-determination, etc. Many lawyers spoke on which documents of international law render Israel illegal. Not just its actions, but its essence. And illegitimate states don't have the right to exist, so the territory will be freed for some version of One State - an unpartitioned Palestinian homeland
3) Ramzy Baroud, editor of the Palestine Chronicle, recently wrote an analysis of the two-state solution, which was never alive, and calls for One Democratic State without any ifs or buts.
4) In September 2016 about 56% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip thought the two-state solution was no longer an option. In early 2017 the percentage had risen to 66%. Warning: reports of these polls by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research consistently claim they are revealing the opinions of 'the Palestinians'. This is rubbish, because the Palestinians in Israel (1.7 million) and in the diaspora (6 million) are not even surveyed!
5) On 24 March 2017 in Washington D.C. quite a few supporters of ODS spoke at a conference on the Israel lobby, including Ilan Pappe who said living with the idea of a two-state solution 'is like sleeping with a corpse'. Hanan Ashrawi said, 'There is zero time for the two-state solution.'
2 March 2017
1) Billboards advocating One Democratic State in Palestine have been erected in the West Bank town of Kafr Aqab, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, according to this Ma'an News report. Who is behind it is unknown.
2) Donald Trump's declared indifference over the two-state/one-state debate is making the world realise the two-state solution is (fortunately) dead and making it ask the question: What kind of single state? Democratic (ODS) or Undemocratic (OUS, the status quo, apartheid)?
3) Saeb Erekat and the PA are still publicly supporting the two-state solution, even if Erekat's comments on Trump's statement have been reported differently by different news outlets. The Guardian's clueless reporter, Peter Beaumont, has Erekat speaking bluntly against democracy, while Haaretz, probably more accurately, has him both advocating ODS and warning direly of any abandonment of the two-state solution.
4) The Popular Movement for ODS, founded May 2013 and with its Secretariat in Ramallah and Bethlehem, registered itself in 2016 as a Swiss Association, Handelsregisteramt Number CHE-390.290.948. It held its first General Assembly on 14/15 January, in Istanbul, where it elected a 10-person Board. The only condition for membership is support for the Munich Declaration and being nominated by 2 present members. To join get in touch through the link above or the ODS England contact page.