Palestine: the impact of the Arab revolt, the one democratic state solution and the solidarity movement
• Zaher Birawi, leading Islamic Palestine activist, London
• Attia Rajab, Palestine Committee Stuttgart
• Yoav Bar, promoter of the Haifa conference for One Democratic State in Palestine
• Leo Gabriel, member of the international council of the World Social Forum (WSF)
Anti-imperialist Camp, Assisi, Italy, Friday 24 August, morning session
The last years have seen a decisive shift in the global solidarity movement acknowledging the both the protagonism of the popular resistance and the impossibility of a compromise with Zionism.
Back in the 90s the mainstream of the Palestine solidarity set all its hopes on the Oslo accords operated by Fatah. It was the time of the deepest depression of the global liberation movements against imperialism and capitalism. Latter even dared to declare the end of history. But Zionism did not hop on the post-modern bandwagon of Clintonian globalism that claimed to overcome nationalism as a spectre of the past. On the contrary Zionism never intended to abide by the Oslo agreement despite the fact that it would have provided considerable political legitimacy to its accomplished colonial endeavour. Instead they have been pursuing to conquer entire Palestine intending to annihilate Arab Palestinians as a nation all together.
However, many significant forces of the pro-Palestinian solidarity movement stuck to the Oslo position throughout the decade of Bush’s terror war. Meanwhile the US and the West continued to back Zionism including its increasingly extremist moves. For the mainstream anti-globalisation movement and its pro-Palestinian wing that was just a “backlash” as the notorious guru Toni Negri happen to call it. They refused to support the popular resistance movements against the imperialist elites which sprang up again. They have been especially undesired when they were armed or inspired by Islam, let alone both. Against the Iraqi resistance they set Obama as the “good America” – a mindset which we used to call Obamania.
Obama took a line more appropriate for the American empire under the given relationship of forces acknowledging its limits. He withdrew to a certain extent but the terror war continued though less ideologically loaded. Even the Islamophobic campaign in the west set in motion by the Neo-cons continued unabatedly. By now it is led by a nearly all-party alliance and does no more need its Neo-con introducers.
One decisive event to shake this western liberal middle class pipe dream were Hamas’s electoral victory which those, who claimed to have attacked Iraq to bring democracy, simply refused to accept. Instead the democratic victors have been bombed and besieged with the genocidal blockade on Gaza.
These extreme dual standards evoked protest. Even parts of the mainstream of the pro-Palestinian movement started to understand the need not only to oppose the wars and fight the embargo but to break the political isolation imposed on the popular resistance movement and the elected representative of the Palestinian people namely Hamas. Many started to understand the political trap of Islamophobia.
The Anti-imperialist Camp was on the forefront of this struggle. The international movement against the siege on Gaza and the ensuing flotillas were emblematic for the broader change of mind among the solidarity movement. The remaining pro-Oslo people had to follow suit in order not to loose even the last traces of credibility.
After more than two decades of apparent failure the Oslo position is totally worn out by now. Yet it would be a mistake to assume its death for it is the official position of western imperialism to cover up its unconditional support to Zionism.
Under these political conditions the project of the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) came at the right moment. It originated in Asia, won the support of several significant forces across the Middle East and Palestine and reached out to Europe and the world. The GMJ was an achievement because it overcame European protagonism and attempted to build a bridge between leftist and Islamic forces. As per the political platform it was openly anti-Zionist without explicitly taking a position on the Oslo question. Unfortunately it was disturbed by the Syrian revolt. In general the established Palestinian organisations have tended to compromise with the Arab regimes today challenged by the popular masses. (See a comprehensive balance sheet of the GMJ.)
One democratic state in Palestine
So what then is the alternative to the two-state solution of the Oslo type? Already in the 60s the Palestinian National Charter stipulated a model of a democratic Palestinian state comprising Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. This was inspired by the liberation movements against settler colonialism across the world which did not strive to displace the white colonists but offered them to become part of the new democratic and independent societies under the sole condition that they broke their organic ties with colonialism. The South African example became emblematic.
The defeat of the liberations movement in general climaxing in 1989/91 generated a mainstream ranging from compromise to outright capitulation. For Palestine this was expressed in the Oslo agreement. But differently to other focal points of conflict the victors, Zionism, did not accept even the slightest compromise.
So the Palestinian resistance did not completely cede and displayed a strong vital sign by the token of the second Intifada breaking out in the year 2000. Now it were the Islamic organisations to represent the mainstream of the resistance movement.
In the international solidarity few forces held up the anti-Zionist position for one democratic state including the right to return for the expelled, among them the Anti-imperialist Camp and its predecessors. With the second Intifada and the obvious failure of Oslo the idea started to circulate again. Ever since it has been gaining ground and a wide range of initiatives have been staged. The Anti-imperialist Camp has been involved with two of them especially the Haifa conferences spearheaded by Abna el Balad within the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948 today under Israeli rule and the Stuttgart conference in Germany led by the local Palestine committee. We know that there have been several other attempts which we appreciate as well. It is necessary to let these initiatives converge into a global movement.
There remain, however, several political problems and challenges to be tackled as for example to the titulary nation(s) of the democratic Palestinian state or the relation to the Islamic resistance movements who originally called for an Islamic state but more and more tuned down and softened this concept. (Will some of them drop it all together in the course of the Arab spring?)
We are convinced that the current Arab popular democratic movement will provide a tremendous push to the democratic state movement. Not only is the Israeli claim to be the only democracy in the Middle East reduced to rubbles -- a claim that was a lie already before as it was a slaveholder-type democracy but maintained legitimacy in the west which keeps a slaveholder mentality. But as the Arab people get rid of their dictatorships why the Palestinians should stop short? Why they are continuously forced not only to accept Zionist colonialism but also a genocidal embargo only for having democratically expressed its collective will?
Zionist and imperialist ideology
We should not forget that the one state movement is also charged with the task to deconstruct and destroy the Zionist narrative dominant in the west. According to that dogma, promoted to be state doctrine, Zionism is legitimate because of the Holocaust. Full stop. The fate of the Arabs does not count. At best they should get a statelet alongside a by far superior Israel. But even this promise is only empty words.
The two-state paradigm not only fully accepts this Zionist view but is even organically based on it, for it legitimizes the exclusive Jewish state and the eviction of the native Arab residents. Therefore is unable to uproot the ideological basis of Zionism.
Actually the brazen link between the genocide on the European Jews and the legitimacy of an exclusive and colonial Jewish state needs to be broken. Liberal imperialism claims to be the historic agent of universal democracy. Why then this does not apply to the Palestinians? This obvious and appalling contradiction does upset people also in the west and evokes protest despite the media dictatorship of the Zionist dogma. The overstretch to label any criticism on Zionism as anti-Semitism will backfire. It is a majority which does not accept this blatant lie.
In a certain sense the Zionist narrative is a blueprint for the current ideological justification for imperialism in general: The west poses as a victim exerting merely self-defence. As it atoned for its past sins (represented by the Holocaust) and embraced universal democracy it is all the more entitled to fight the enemies of democracy (represented by the Palestinian resistance movement threatening to commit a new Holocaust).
The one state campaign is a shot in the heart of this self-complacent aggressive anti-democratic imperialist ideology disguised as democratic shared by both Zionism and the western liberal mainstream.