I’ve been grappling with the refugee issue for a long time now. I’ve mostly avoided writing about it because I don’t know what the right and workable solution is. So many thanks to Ben Zakkai for forcing the question – and more introspection. The right of return is sacrosanct and inviolable, but it’s not a coherent policy on its own. I hope to write about Palestinian refugees in the near future, but for now I want to address the substantive question of how to bring about a one-state solution which Zakkai (and Chomsky) also raised.
Zakkai’s call for a Palestinian enfranchisement campaign in the Occupied Territories is a no-brainer so far as I’m concerned. I’ve written before that I believe that the ‘two-state’ solution exists purely in the feverish minds of Zionists and their clients in the West Bank. That belief has resulted in a kind of lazy faith in the organic rise of a Palestinian enfranchisement movement. My thinking was that it’s only a matter of time before everyone everywhere realizes that there will never be a Palestinian state. And because people resist systemic repression, they will continue to agitate for freedom. Taking a long historical perspective and a fluid view of global public opinion, well, how can we not end up at the one-state solution?
We can and should take a decidedly more active approach to bringing about the one-state solution. Talking and writing about Palestinian enfranchisement is one kind of advocacy work, but there is more we can do.
There are factors whose bearing on the one-state solution – or rather, the movement for Palestinian voting rights – is unknowable. Mahmoud Abbas’ militia in the West Bank has done an admirable job of putting a Palestinian face on the Israeli occupation. Dissent in the West Bank today means a call from Yuval Diskin to Mohammed Dahlan and an uncomfortably intimate rendezvous with a Coke bottle. Meanwhile, Fayyad cannily co-opts BDS forms, if not goals. That may seem innocuous at worst, but it really means The Functionary hopes to gain control of something that isn’t his for use as leverage against the Israelis. The last time a hapless Palestinian leader succeeded in doing that, we plunged from popular Intifada to malignant Oslo. Call it the desperate and vainglorious stench of an old man’s last appeal for relevance.
So we’re confronted by important questions: How does a movement whose purpose is to undo the Jewish state take root and take off in a Vichy environment?; How do we abolish the Palestinian Authority?; How do we reform the PLO (an organization designed to liberate a colonized people, not to enfranchise them)?; and other related and corresponding questions on the Israeli side.
People on both sides are making progress in advancing the cause for Palestinian enfranchisement. The impact of conversations like this one shouldn’t be underestimated, if only to concretize proposals and isolate the rough crags. The recent launch of Takamol is very encouraging as well; it’s the next step in studying and presenting a positive political program in digestible form. Yet, none of these mitigate the problems implicit in the questions I’ve posed above.
The answer may be in an idea proposed to me by an Israeli woman. She suggested that we create a supranational political party to run in both the PNC and Knesset on a one-state platform. I responded that I thought that the time may be premature, but that the idea itself was a very good one.
Elections are to polls what a biopsy is to an X-RAY. Creating a political party is a way to simultaneously gauge and promote support for the full enfranchisement of Palestinians in Palestine/Israel. Doing so also presents an opportunity to encourage the fuller participation of Palestinian-Israelis in Knesset elections. A one-state party with a unified Palestinian and Jewish leadership can also undermine the endemic corruption in Palestinian national institutions like the Palestinian Authority. By seeking to participate in elections, supporters of the one-state solution can more directly impact the political agenda in Palestine/Israel.
But I do think it’s a little too early for this approach. There’s no reason to believe that free and fair elections like those conducted in 2006 will ever take place again so long as the Abbasniks are on the scene. Yet, declaring the formation of a party will still capture the attention of large segments of the population. Heretofore supportive but bashful segments of the population (I know they’re out there) may take heart in witnessing the development of a formalized charter. Party congresses can be organized to elect the leadership and formalize bylaws, programs, etc… While elections aren’t going to happen, it’s worth waiting until the Abbas/Fayyad exilarchy is slightly more discredited before making that declaration. Neither one of those gerontocrats is likely to subordinate his ego to the public good. Furthermore, the Merkava tanks that sustain them are still too widely prevalent in Palestinian streets for anyone to publically call for their early retirement (to the south of France?).
Likewise, I’m not sure that the Israelis will permit a non or anti-Zionist party to register for elections in their state, particularly now that Israel is demonstrating openly fascist tendencies. It’s impossible to predict where Israel is going, but my guess is that we’re in for a total or near-total collapse of Jewish-Israeli society before something gives. Jewish Israelis have exhibited a remarkably high threshold for atrocity (of course, they’re not the first stupidly vicious and narcotized population in human history). And despite Gideon Levy’s best efforts, too many Israelis continue to snort Zionism in large doses. One is reminded (somewhat ironically) of the title of Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s famous book, “What is to be done?”
Right now, in the short term, the best thing we can do is promote and explore the idea through forums like this. Ben Zakkai’s Articles should be developed further so that we end up with a constitutional outline (my personal preference is for federation) – the point is to develop something concrete. Probably a working group comprised of well-intentioned people from both sides can develop a host of preliminary drafts and the best ideas from each can be lifted to create an aggregate proposal. At that stage, an abbreviated version can be presented in newspapers, ads, and other widely consumed public media. Civil society organizations can be contacted for feedback and encouraged to endorse core principles, if not the comprehensive plan itself.
It’s worth cultivating a one-state leadership even at this likely distant juncture. I know Azmi Bishara is widely popular among the Palestinians in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. And he’s voiced interest in the one-state solution, if not outright support. Maybe Avraham Burg will one day identify publically as a non, post or anti-Zionist and he could represent the sane portion of Israeli society.
I’m aware that one-state conferences have been organized in the West in the past. I haven’t heard of any others being organized (I’d be very grateful to learn of any that are). Perhaps it’s time to begin thinking about organizing another one in either Amman or Cairo so that both Palestinians and Israelis can ‘freely’ attend (what do we do about Palestinians from Gaza?).
The point is that we’re already engaging in diffuse education and organizing around the cause for Palestinian enfranchisement in Palestine/Israel. There is no reason we can’t take a more active approach to organizing around these conversations.