What Comes Next: We need a rights-based movement with a political vision

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This post is part of “What Comes Next?: A forum on the end of the two-state paradigm.” This series was initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace as an investigation into the current state of thinking about one state and two state solutions, and the collection has been further expanded by Mondoweiss to mark 20 years since the Oslo process. The entire series can be found here.

If the two-state solution is dead, but nobody dares to declare that, then the alternative is a continuation of occupation, colonization and apartheid. Even though I completely understand the position taken by defenders of the rights-based approach, still I think that there is an urgent need for a political vision that helps put a light at the end of the tunnel for those millions of people living between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, and more than 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered all over the world.

whatcomesnextverticalI do understand the rights-based approach, but I tend to maintain that the right to self-determination should not entertain a racist solution, i.e., two states which includes a Jewish state, since it ignores the rights of two thirds of the Palestinian people—second-class Palestinian citizens of Israel and refugees. Moreover, if we, rightly, are learning from the anti-apartheid movement then we should recognize that movement had a clear-cut political vision: one person, one vote; equality and the end of apartheid. This framework ultimately lead to a secular, democratic state on the land of South Africa which, according the Freedom Charter, belongs to all South Africans. With this understanding we realize we have to deal with the political framework within which the rights-based movement has to work. The United Democratic Front (UDF) of South Africa was an umbrella under which almost all anti-apartheid organizations fought against apartheid; it had a political vision that made it crystal clear that it wanted a secular-democratic state, a goal that could only be achieved by ending apartheid, Bantustans and ethnic racism.

White-ruled South Africa was a state for Whites only, ruled by them and for them; an exclusively ethnic state. There was no coexistence with its racist nature. Israel is an ethno-religious state that is very much like Apartheid South Africa. The difference is in the fact that Israel has managed to become “far worse” than South Africa.  What boggles the mind is how those who supported the end of apartheid do not see the inherent contradiction in their support for an ethnic Palestinian state that does not fulfill the right to self-determination for all Palestinians, unless they support the right of those who only reside in the West Bank and Gaza! But, then, did they support the “right” of the four infamous Bantustans—Transki, Venda, Bophuthatswana, and Ceskei– to “independence?!”

I fail to understand the logic behind one’s support for an impossible “independent state” on a tiny part of Palestine, while at the same time, claiming that this cannot be achieved at the expense of the basic rights of 6 million refugees whose right of return is guaranteed by international law, and 1.2 million Palestinians exposed to discriminatory laws in Israel!  I strongly believe that the two-state solution is a racist solution par excellence!

We have to move beyond the one vs. two-state solution debate, and try to pursue the more accurate approach — the rights-based struggle coupled with a clear-cut political vision. At one point in time, the BDS movement will be asked to take that stand.

About Haidar Eid

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza's al-Aqsa University. He has written widely on the Arab-Israeli conflict, including articles published at Znet, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, and Open Democracy. He has published papers on cultural Studies and literature in a number of journals, including Nebula, Journal of American Studies in Turkey, Cultural Logic, and the Journal of Comparative Literature.

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