Choosing independence over apartheid

After decades of struggling to get Palestinian national rights recognised at the international level, any new initiative to abandon what has been achieved should be viewed with scepticism.

December 1, 2003
4 min read

A bi-national state is a fine ideal, yet the loss of international attention and credibility likely to result from such a change of direction could set the Palestinian cause back many years. It would certainly invite further suffering upon our people.

Since Oslo the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become so widely accepted that governments the world over are now committed, verbally at least, to establishing a viable Palestinian state.

With such assurances, the implementation of a two-state solution appears imminent – even if Israel deliberately ignores this likelihood and blindly follows its path of expansionism, colonisation and destruction.

Forced to live in poverty, fear and unceasing humiliation, many Palestinians today despair of ever having a viable state of their own. The separation wall compounds this by physically confining Palestinians into tiny cantons cut off from the necessities of daily life such as school, work, family, healthcare and water.

The failure of the road map threatens a permanent state of apartheid, with temporary occupation transformed into enduring reality. In such circumstances, the appeal of a one-state solution is understandable.

As Palestine is carved into unrecognisable ghettos and walled prisons, notable scholars and intellectuals have started to question the feasibility of the two-state solution. Indeed, there is a growing consensus for a bi-national state shared between Israelis and Palestinians as an alternative route forward.

In the current climate, it is argued, any future two-state solution would in fact entail just one state – Israel, and a subordinate Palestinian Authority acting as a security sub-agency in an apartheid-style Bantustan.

Yet to give up on the idea of a state altogether because of Sharon’s efforts to render it meaningless would be a major step backwards. Logic dictates the opposite path: expose Sharon’s perversion of the two-state idea and fight for a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 borders.

The concept of this nation must be unequivocal. Palestine must be allowed to exist as a truly viable and independent state across the whole of the West Bank and Gaza, with its national capital in East Jerusalem.

For this to come about though, an intensification of international commitment is needed – not only to ensure the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territory, but also to dismantle settlements and outposts, remove settlers and guarantee the freedoms necessary for the development of genuinely democratic institutions.

The next step, the establishment of an elected, representative government, will strengthen Palestinian society and thus the Palestinian position vis-à-vis Israel.

In an ideal world, one state based on citizenship guarantees with constitutional protection for the religious and national identities of all its inhabitants would be an ideal solution. It would implicitly solve the issues of Jerusalem, borders, water, Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian minority in Israel.

However, it is difficult to see how the Palestinians’ surrendering their claim to their own state and throwing in their lot with the Israelis would bring this about. The assumption that demographic trends would redefine the Israeli-Palestinian balance, and that a secular democratic state would soon follow, is too easily ascribed to.

Israel remains an undemocratic state for the 20 per cent of its population who are Palestinian. Citizenship remains conditional upon ethnic and religious criteria. This is the essence of Zionism, and challenging it would be difficult.

Changing course towards such a path would not end the conflict. It would just create a new struggle on a new track. Decades of fighting for an independent state would be thrown away in favour of a 20-year battle against apartheid within one state.

It is quite possible that the geopolitical facts on the ground Israel is currently creating will curtail the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. The establishment of a bi-national state remains a virtuous fall-back position.

However, such a development would involve considerable rethinking of the state system. Either way the Palestinian people will remain optimistic. In the end, we will succeed one way or another.Dr Mustafa Barghouti is president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and spokesman for the Palestinian National Initiative


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry

Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram