Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

One-state in Palestine: equality, democracy and justice

Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?

March 6, 2017
7 min read


Omar BarghoutiOmar Barghouti Palestinian human rights defender and independent researcher


  share     tweet  

(Photo by Justin McIntosh, via Wikicommons)

At a recent press conference with Netanyahu, Trump casually evoked the one-state formulation as a serious option for ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His guest was hardly able to contain his elation.

After all, given Trump’s avowed bias towards Israel’s hard-right regime, the most reasonable interpretation of his position is that the US will explicitly approve the Israeli agenda of consolidating a single state, a Greater Israel that buries the question of Palestine for good.

Long before Trump came on the scene, Israeli governments have been consistently implementing a ‘strategy of territorial seizure and apartheid‘, creating the current reality whereby Israel controls the entire territory of historic Palestine while denying the indigenous Palestinian population their equal rights by policy and law.

Now, formally pulling the plug on the defunct two-state solution altogether, the thin and worn-out mask of democracy is torn.

While denying even the theoretical rights of the Palestinian people, and in flagrant defiance of international law, Israel is colonizing at full speed what is left of the lands owned by Palestinians, accelerating its gradual ethnic cleansing of entire communities, particularly in Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev) desert.

In due course, this will not only reveal the nature of Israel’s regime against the Palestinians as one that combines occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid; it may inadvertently trigger the mother of all unintended consequences.

Emancipated of the illusions of a two-state deal, the absolute majority of Palestinians will seek the most just, ethical and sustainable solution to the question of Palestine, and this cannot but entail decolonization.

Decolonization should not be understood as a blunt and absolute reversal of colonization, putting us back under pre-colonial conditions and undoing whatever rights have been acquired to date.

It should instead be regarded as a negation of the aspects of settler-colonialism that deny the rights of the colonized population.

A secular and democratic single state in historic Palestine (in its British Mandate borders) is the most just and morally coherent solution to this century-old conflict.

It offers hope of reconciling the ostensibly irreconcilable – the inalienable rights of the indigenous Palestinian people, particularly the right to self-determination, and the acquired rights of the indigenized former colonial settlers to live in peace and security.

Inspired in part by the South African Freedom Charter and the Belfast Agreement, the far more modest One State Declaration, authored by a group of Palestinian, Israeli and international academics and activists, affirms that “the historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status”.

The system of government that it advocates is founded on “the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens”.

Israel and Zionists worldwide reject such a call for equality as an “existential threat” because it undermines the institutionalized system of racism that privileges Jewish citizens by law and forms the foundation of Israel’s regime.

While the replacement of a similar system of apartheid with democracy and equal rights in South Africa was celebrated by the world as a triumph for justice, the mere suggestion of equality and democracy in the Israeli case is still often dismissed as negating Israel’s assumed “right” to maintain its ethno-religious supremacy— its “right to be a Jewish state”.

There is a rich diversity of opinion among Jewish communities worldwide on the concept of how to define a Jewish people, but the question remains, regardless, whether a Jewish people has the right, at the expense of the indigenous population, to maintain a “Jewish state” in British Mandate Palestine.

Joseph Levine, of the University of Massachusetts, addresses this sensitive subject arguing that the very idea of a Jewish state is “inherently undemocratic”, “morally problematic”, and “a violation of the right to self-determination of its non-Jewish citizens”.

A Jewish state in Palestine, no matter what shape it takes, is by definition exclusionary. It cannot but contravene the inherent rights of the land’s indigenous population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be categorically opposed.

Israel’s “unholy alliance” with the far-right in Europe, as well as the fact that Trump’s white supremacist supporters cite Israel’s exclusionary foundations to defend their own xenophobia and nationalism – “a sort of white Zionism” – are both phenomena that are exposing the often-obscured contradiction between Zionism and liberalism: the reality that Zionism is fundamentally at odds with liberal ideals.

These and other dynamics are making the inclusive Palestinian quest for justice in a unitary democratic state – the quest for equal rights – more understandable and even more appealing.

After all, accepting Jewish Israelis (subject to a process of ethical decolonization) as equal citizens and partners in building and developing a new shared society is the most magnanimous rational offer that any oppressed indigenous population can present to its oppressors.

Only by shedding their colonial privileges, dismantling the structures of oppression and accepting the restoration of the rights of the indigenous people of the land (including the right of Palestinian refugees to return, to reparations, and to the right of all Palestinians to unmitigated equality) can settlers be indigenized and therefore entitled to participation in the building of a future common state.

The indigenous population, on the other hand, must be ready, after justice has been reached and rights have been restored, to forgive, and to accept the former settlers as equal citizens, neither masters nor slaves.

In that future society, cultural particularity and diverse identities should be nourished by society, protected by law.

Palestine was, for centuries, a fertile meeting ground for diverse civilizations and cultures, a land that fostered communication, dialogue, acculturation. This heritage, almost forgotten under the hegemony of Zionist colonial rule, must be revived and celebrated.

By emphasizing equal humanity as its most fundamental principle, the vision of a secular, democratic and unitary state promises an end to the fundamental injustices that have plagued Palestine for so long and that have made it nearly impossible until now to envision an ethical coexistence.

Omar Barghouti has advocated for the secular democratic state solution for more than three decades. This article reflects his personal analysis and does not represent the views of the BDS movement.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Omar BarghoutiOmar Barghouti Palestinian human rights defender and independent researcher


#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going


463