Trending Topics:

Which One Democratic State?


“The beginning is to develop something entirely missing from both Israeli and Palestinian realities today: the idea and practice of citizenship, not of ethnic or racial community, as the main vehicle of coexistence.”–Edward Said, 10 January 1999, “The One-State Solution,” The New York Times Magazine.


We are supporters of One Democratic State (ODS), some of us members of the Popular Movement for ODS, who are happy to join the Mondoweiss debate over the more exact contours of a reunited, human rights-based Palestine. On 1 March 2018 Jonathan Ofir announced the launch of the new One State Foundation, followed on 3 May by an article by Jeff Halper expressing his own vision and describing the new One Democratic State Campaign, followed in turn on 24 June by a critique of Halper’s article by Ofra Yeshua-Lyth and Naji El-Khatib, members of the Popular Movement for One Secular Democratic State.

The Popular Movement for ODS formed in May 2013; most of its members are either Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip or their supporters in England, many of whom are also members of the affiliated English group One Democratic State in Palestine Ltd, founded in July 2013, which posts thoughts, documents and news about ODS. We are writing in individual capacities. We however share with these groups and with many other ODS supporters agreement with a one-page common founding document called the Munich Declaration. In ten points it outlines the envisioned democracy and purposely omits, in contrast to Jeff Halper, any mention of the collective political rights of ethno-religiously defined groups of its prospective citizens.

Whoever now understandably feels the need for an overview of this disparate movement, including older groups like Abnaa al-Balad and newer ones organized for instance in England or Texas, can consult material at Free Haifa or this recent article in the Palestine Chronicle. We welcome the ODS Campaign, which has originated amongst Palestinians in Israel and Jewish Israelis and which, according to Halper, intends to open up to others this fall. While it is not possible at the moment to predict which groups and individuals will perceive enough common ground to work together, we would greet the establishment of an inclusive umbrella group even if some differences remain. What are some points of agreement and disagreement?

Points of Agreement

1) Right of return and property restitution for all displaced Palestinians and their descendants.  ODS is not only the most just state form, but whatever the resulting “demographic” make-up between the river and the sea, it flows logically from this key, non-negotiable right, that of return. The legitimate citizenry of any state covering Palestine must include all 12 to 13 million Palestinians, whether or not they actually return. Palestinians or the Palestine Government would also re-take ownership of the land taken from them since 1948, amounting to all but a mere 6 percent of Palestine which was then in Jewish and/or Zionist possession. Return furthermore includes compensation for lost property, income and livelihoods during the last 70 years.

2) The citizenry of the new state shall include all people now residing as citizens between the river and the sea. It should however be a matter of debate within the ODS movement whether this is a right of individuals who, like all of us, could not help where they were born, or is a generous political gift to the oppressing immigrant group. We in any case oppose any deportations, and would try possible war criminals in normal courts.

Logo: ODS in Palestine Ltd.

3) No discrimination on criteria of ethnicity or religion will be built into the make-up of the new country’s judiciary, executive or parliament, which will be elected by proportional representation within geographical electoral districts.

4) The official languages would be Arabic and Hebrew – and perhaps English, used as in India as a domestically neutral way of communicating.

5) It goes without saying that the new country, to use Halper’s word, would be “multicultural,” because this follows from the bedrock right of individual freedom of association; this includes for instance schools specific to cultural, language, religious or even ethnic groups, none of which would be privileged or restricted.

6)  Of course the two-state solution is politically “dead,” but we emphasize that this is a good thing. The point is not that it is not “feasible” or “viable” but that it is not, and never has been, politically or ethically desirable. It would deliver a small, non-sovereign “Bantustine,” would freeze in place the apartheid of the larger of the two states, and freeze out the displaced refugees from their homes and lands in the 1948-occupied territories.

7)  We fully agree with Yeshua-Lyth and El-Khatib, writing in Mondoweiss, that the one democratic state should be secular. This is known in Western countries as “separation of Church and State,” meaning that the state shall 1) not establish a state religion, 2) not interfere with individuals’ freedom of association and expression in matters of religion and 3) not privilege any religion – or ethnicity. 

8)  Finally, there is strong agreement with Halper and the nascent Campaign that an “end-game” yielding “direction” and requiring “strategy” is at this stage necessary. We reject the recently oft-heard injunction against “talking about solutions,” advised by people who are playing off a “rights-based” approach against one which explicitly formulates and works for a final state of affairs consistent with all the Palestinians’ rights. (In our view BDS’s three pillars, in fact, imply ODS.) Anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, anti-Apartheid and, alas, Zionism needed a clear and inspiring end-vision in order to succeed.

If this sounds like a bog-standard liberal democracy, with separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, that is because it is one; there is actually no need to re-invent the wheel.

Palestinian refugee Abdulrahim Saad, 82, holds the keys of his former house in the city of Lod as he sits at his home in the West Bank refugee camp of Askar, near Nablus, May 13, 2015. Many Palestinians keep the keys of their former properties as a symbol for both, of what they had to leave behind and to where they once intend to return. (Photo: Nedal Eshtayah/APA Images)

Points of Difference

We disagree with Halper’s view that collectives should have constitutional rights. He writes: “The ODSC promotes a one-state concept that is both democratic and just but that also acknowledges… the collective rights of the peoples living in the country, Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews.” He sees a “the fundamental reality that two national groups – Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews – inhabit the country.” The ODS Campaign’s “Program” provides that “the Constitution will also protect the collective rights of Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews to freedom of association.”

In contrast, we believe it is strong enough and sufficient to recognize fundamental individual rights, two of which are the rights of free association and free expression. Any legal standing of associations, groups, companies or “collectives” is derivate – reducible to individual liberties. It is  category mistake, moreover, to classify “freedom of association” as a “collective right”; in all constitutions known to us this is an individual right. We believe such collectives can be a euphemism for sectarianism and even lay a platform for the continued socio-economic superiority of one group.

That is, all groups – not just Halper’s “ethno-national” ones – should go about their business privately and within the law. One relatively minor problem, by the way, is that there are more than just two “peoples” in Palestine (think for example of Arab Jews, Druze or Baha’i) and there are also individuals claiming their right not to self-identify in any ethnic or religious terms, for which there is no place in Halper’s concept. But mainly, we believe that dividing citizens formally up into “nations,” races, ethnicities, and religions (or even languages) not only takes away from the advisable unity of citizens, it takes a step on the slippery slope of the ethno-nationalism that has underlain so much war, hegemony and suffering.

We are glad that Halper’s vision no longer foresees bi-nationalism, which would have to be applied through quotas for his ethno-religious “collectives” in state institutions such as legislatures (as in Belgium and very few other countries). But we indeed wonder what concrete, tangible form the advocated “collective rights” might take. Indeed, how are the collectives which should enjoy explicit legal protection or “rights” be defined? Which rights, indeed, adhere to collectives over and above any which constitutionally adhere to individuals? These definitions, and what the “collective rights” in the ODS would be, is not made clear by Halper.

The collective Halper is concerned about is the self-defined Jewish one which would comprise a minority of individuals. He understandably both wants to “sell” ODS to Jewish Israelis and “protect” the Jewish “national, ethnic or religious collectivities” in some special way. In our view, however, named and protected minorities, somehow defined, would receive no greater protection than that in reality provided by successful individualist constitutions all over the world.

But Halper then correctly sees a “dilemma” for the Campaign, because the “collective rights” doctrine applied to the group which has colonized, brutalized, expelled and humiliated them would make it impossible to “sell” ODS to Palestinians: “While the vast majority of Palestinians recognize the permanent presence of Jewish Israelis, to be forced to acknowledge them as a national group places Palestinians in a position of having to legitimize settler colonialism in its Zionist form, which is a bridge too far.” Indeed, but unfortunately, he does not pursue this point. We reject granting of special rights on the basis of genetics or religion – e.g. to Jews because they are Jews, or to anybody else on that basis.

A fatal problem for this “two peoples” doctrine is that it of necessity, constitutionally and explicitly, grants the two collectives parity. Politically and ethically, the scheme is giving the two groups equal status. But there is no such parity between oppressor and oppressed, colonizer and colonized, cleanser and cleansed. Yet Halper writes for instance of “we, the stakeholders, Palestinians and Jewish Israelis together” – the picture being one of two equally legitimated groups in an overall group of “stakeholders,” which must “offer our own peoples a mutually acceptable way out.” The parity principle is likewise reflected when Halper twice uses “Palestine/Israel” rather than “Palestine” as the name of the re-united country. (We believe the name should be restored to Palestine for its inclusivity and historic significance.)

There is one last problem with the “two peoples” or “two collectives” idea: While the “Jewish Israeli” group is defined in terms of genes and religion, the “Palestinian” or “Palestinian Arab” group is defined in terms of land, historical rootedness and (Arab) culture and language, including as it does Christians and Jews as well as Moslems. The first group justifies its presence in Palestine on ethnic, or racial, or religious, grounds, while the second group can make the infinitely stronger case based on belonging to the land and unbroken descent over millennia from the indigenous residents. To talk of “two peoples” is to compare apples and pears.

Some less weighty issues remain. One involves how we use the term ‘occupation’: Since all of Palestine is occupied, to employ the term “OPT” as Halper does is an implicit recognition that de-facto Israel is legitimate “within the 67 borders.” We, on the other hand, refer to the 1948 occupation (nakbah) and the 1967 occupation (naksah); the Occupied Palestinian Territories are geographically congruent with Palestine.

There is some difference in our idea of the political task, as well. Halper writes of the task’s being “to sell to, or impose upon, Jewish Israelis” the ODS idea. But in our view these are two radically different things. Palestinians and other democrats have been arguing in vain with Zionism for over a century. And the Jewishness as opposed to the democracy of the Israeli state has gained ground enormously even since ODS started becoming well-known over the last two decades. Of course, the more Jewish-Israeli ODS supporters the better, but we believe it is a necessary condition for the replacement of Israel by a democracy that it be imposed.

We are also skeptical about placing emphasis at this stage on what Halper writes of as “reconciliation,” a “new society,” “mutual trust,” “building a shared civil society” and even “economic justice.” If such thoughts are now pursued, we must of course say with no ifs and buts that Zionism threw the first stone and that the Palestinians have done nothing requiring forgiveness; there is no symmetry of reconciliation. We furthermore worry that by aiming beyond the political into these realms of feeling and socio-economics is biting off more than the ODS movement can chew. To put it perhaps too provocatively, we are willing now to settle for a less ambitious principle of “Hate me, don’t hurt me.” That is, harmony and forgiveness would be wonderful, but mainly we want a just solution and peaceful behavior.

A final issue concerns the danger of treating Palestinians paternalistically. After affirming right of return Halper asks “how do we prevent the refugee population, traumatized, impoverished, severely under-educated and unskilled, from becoming an underclass in their own country?” First, the unskilled, undereducated Palestinian refugee is largely a myth. Second, we believe that once the political rights and emotional stability of living in their homeland have been restored, Palestinians will be perfectly capable of fending for themselves, the more so as they would share relatively open borders with an Arab region where Arabic is the dominant language.

Logo: Haifa Conference

Which ODS Platform?

There is of course always something new to be said against Israel, against Zionism, and against the (Zionist) two-state solution. But we would like to suggest to other ODS supporters that we should also try switching the discourse from negative to positive. That is, in addition to attacking settler-colonialism and apartheid, etc., we should begin with, and build the argument on, the positive rights of all the Palestinians, then ask what solution is compatible with them. Then, if we show that if this logically leads to the demise of Israel, then so be it. But it puts Palestine, rather than Israel, in the centre of the discussion. Accordingly, we support the Campaign’s project of painting in as much detail as possible what the ODS would look like, and refer to the comprehensive 2010 Dallas Declaration for ODS.

However, judging by its rhetoric, we do not believe the Campaign’s Preamble and Program have made enough room for the feelings and narrative of Palestinians who have for one century suffered death, maiming, exile, transfer, occupation, imprisonment and humiliation – and who therefore reject any lingering shred of Zionism or the political rights of the group – the collective – that has killed and oppressed them. ODS should leave appropriate space for freedom of radical Palestinian expression. Finally, to include Jewish-Israeli “collective rights” in the state’s constitution – even if not on parity with Palestinians’ “collective” rights – is a further case of Jewish-Israeli “exceptionalism” wherein one fully backs human rights-based democracy everywhere else in the world, but not in Israel.

There is much to be said for the existence of several different ODS groups, each aimed at and speaking the language of a certain target group: Palestinians in Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, externally-displaced Palestinians, Jews in Israel, as well as millions of others worldwide who would not be citizens of the future state. For groups agreeing on 95 percent of the issues, a common platform would obviously be a huge asset. Which one?

As noted at the outset, the Popular Movement for ODS, along with other groups, has adopted the one-page, ten-point Munich Declaration, resolved unanimously at an ODS conference in Munich in 2012 and consistent with several earlier ODS Declarations and ODS-conference Resolutions. We are glad that the Campaign’s Program has adopted the bulk of it (its Points 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10, mostly word-for-word), and in awareness that the document can be superseded by something better, longer, or shorter, we ask the Campaign for the sake of unity to first openly endorse the Munich Declaration, then work together to add to it or improve it.

Over the last two centuries the world has had enormous experience with unified democratic states. Halper however writes that “The time is far overdue to begin formulating a genuinely just and workable political settlement…” But the “beginning” of the de-partitioned Palestinian ODS has already been formulated many times over! Since 2004 at least seven books have appeared entirely devoted to ODS (by Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ali Abunimah, Virginia Tilley, Ghada Karmi, Hani Faris, Antony Loewenstein & Ahmed Moor, and Karl Sabbagh). The political party National Democratic Assembly has during that time, at high risk, argued inside and outside of the Knesset for a state of its citizens. ODS was the platform in the 1960s and 1970s of the PLO and thinkers such as Yusif Sayigh and George Habash, as well as earlier, during the Mandate, of all seven Palestine Arab Congresses and of leaders like Musa Kazim al-Husseini, Musa al-Alami, Jamal al-Husseini and Henry Cattan. Palestinians never accepted partition – the “One” in One Democratic State. Most of them advocated the “Democratic” part in the form of proportional representation. Recognising the ODS idea’s rich history not only heightens its attractiveness but would be a step towards readiness to work with others in a broad group for the same goal.


Dr. Samir Abed-Rabbo, Dallas, from Qalandiya Refugee Camp   

Dr. Blake Alcott, Istanbul, ODS activist   

Yousef Aljamal, Sakarya, from Alnuseirat Refugee Camp 

Ghassan Olayan, Bethlehem/Battir, ODS activist  

Yousef M. Aljamal

Yousef M. Aljamal is a writer based in Gaza. He is @YousefAljamal on Twitter.

Other posts by .

Blake Alcott

Blake Alcott is a retired Swiss cabinet-maker and ecological economist living in Ayvalik, Turkey, and working for One Democratic State (ODS) in Palestine as Vice-President of the Popular Movement for ODS and Director of ODS in Palestine Ltd. He writes occasionally for the Palestine Chronicle and Counterpunch.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

15 Responses

  1. echinococcus on August 5, 2018, 3:50 am

    Hearing clear, razor-sharp thinking people, after many years, allows a modicum of justified hope.
    Watch your back.

  2. Stephen Shenfield on August 5, 2018, 6:25 am

    “Hate me, don’t hurt me” requires a very high level of civic awareness. Generally those who hate are also likely to hurt.

    • echinococcus on August 6, 2018, 8:19 am


      Not necessarily. Hatred is a frequent and useful part of our everyday. Besides, we’re far, far away from having reached even the tiniest of the most modest goals here; truth commissions and the like are like discussion of nice-if cherries on the pie.

      This here is the very first thought-through, intelligent strategy statement since the early 80s. Is it also supposed to address anything beyond general long-term goals?

  3. gamal on August 6, 2018, 7:52 pm

    in support of this statement can i offer this lecture by rachad antonius ostensibly about the Syrian refugee issue but it contains helpful concepts and history of the region

  4. jeffhalper on August 8, 2018, 4:56 am

    I’m glad my piece on Mondoweiss, written as a member of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), generated such a good discussion. It is clear that the one-state solution is in the air, especially since its become crystal-clear that the two-state solution is dead and gone and a full apartheid regime is upon us. When Aljamal & Co. criticized my statement that “The time is far overdue to begin formulating a genuinely just and workable political settlement,” they misunderstood what I meant. There has been a great deal of thought put into the notion of a single democratic state, and they properly note the most relevant literature. What I meant, however, is that we have as yet to translate our analyses and ideas into an effective, operative political plan that we can bring forward into the political arena as a genuine alternative. In another recent piece on Mondoweiss, Yoav Haifawi reports on an organizational meeting held by the ODSC. In it, he quotes Awad Abdelfattah, a founder of the Balad Party in Israel and a leading member of the ODSC on this point. The one-state idea we present today, says Awad,

    “is not new. Our initiative to revive the program is neither the first nor the only one. We are building on the intellectual heritage of the previous initiatives and on the values ​​of freedom and ethics that this solution represents. But we also begin with a critical reading of previous attempts, which failed to take off and become an influential public movement. We are living in a period of confusion and uncertainty, not only because of the inability to change the situation due to the skewed balance of power, but also in the absence of a vision and a lack of a clear definition of the goals of the struggle around which the Palestinian people can unite. Against this backdrop, there is a growing tendency to adopt an alternative based on the desire for freedom and a humanistic approach that can re- emphasize the components of the strength of the Palestinian struggle, based on moral dimensions, the struggle for the rights of a people suffering under a racist colonial regime, not a struggle over defining borders.”

    As we move towards an operative one-state plan, we enjoy the benefits of being able to dip into a wide range of analyses and alternative approaches in order to formulate an approach that is substantially just and addresses the major issues facing both peoples (without supposing a symmetry between them) but that can serve as an effective political vehicle, not just another plan that satisfies a few of us on the left but which is a non-starter. As Aljamal et. al.’s paper demonstrates, there is significant agreement among our movements, certainly enough on which to build.

    The main bone of contention, a principle that in my view makes the difference between a plan that can actually serve as an effective political vehicle and a plan I might agree with but has no currency in the political world, has to do with the issue of collective rights. Our ODSC program says:

    “Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and culture can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group, party or collectivity have the ability to leverage any control or domination over others. Parliament will not have the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community under the Constitution.”

    Aljamal and the others properly fear ethno-nationalism, as we all do. That is why we do not accept the idea of a bi-national state, which would only perpetuate these differences and the competition of one over the other for political, economic and cultural dominance. On the other hand, we do not feel we can ignore the national identities of either Palestinians or Israeli Jews, nor the ethnic and religious identities of others in our multicultural society (Arab/Ethiopian/Indian Jews, a large African Asylum-seeker community that may well remain, ethnic Russians, Muslims, Druze, Christians and other “minorities,” the LGBTQ community and others). We do not live in a society composed solely of individuals — and especially the Middle East which, like orthodox Judaism, has no concept of the individual in a Western sense — and we do not agree that collective rights can be subsumed to individual liberties.

    But Aljamal et. al. raise a key concern. We wonder “what concrete, tangible form the advocated ‘collective rights’ might take. Indeed, how are the collectives which should enjoy explicit legal protection or ‘rights’ be defined? Which rights, indeed, adhere to collectives over and above any which constitutionally adhere to individuals? These definitions, and what the ‘collective rights’ in the ODS would be, is not made clear by Halper.”

    Our response to that (although I am speaking only as someone who helped formulate the ODSC program, not as a formal representative or spokesperson) is not to get entangled in defining collectivities or their rights. I would say we agree with Aljamal & Co.’s statement that “all groups… should go about their business privately and within the law.” That is precisely what we mean. A Constitution simply guarantees and protects your right to define yourself any way you like, more as an individual or more as part of a community, period. It removes from Parliament any ability to pass laws that discriminate against community, whoever they are. That’s it. No defined “collectives,” no special privileges, no ability to leverage domination over others. Why this protection, which every group in this country would want and which would allow us to move forward, is objectionable in a multicultural reality, I fail to understand.

    Which is also why I can’t understand Aljamal & Co.’s objection to the creation of a common civil society, the positive, constructive even exciting challenge that is at the heart of our vision of what can be created here. “We are also skeptical,” they write, “about placing emphasis at this stage on what Halper writes of as ‘reconciliation,’ a ‘new society,’ ‘mutual trust,’ ‘building a shared civil society’ and even ‘economic justice.'” If on the one hand you don’t want to perpetuate ethno-national differences but seek a situation where all the inhabitants of historic Palestine (including returning refugees) live together as individuals, how would this work? What are your institutions? To say, as they do, that envisioning and planning for a future society is “biting off more than the ODS movement can chew” is precisely why we have failed to formulate a genuine political alternative. Indeed, they “suggest to other ODS supporters that we should also try switching the discourse from negative to positive,” although by that they mean only considering “the positive rights of all the Palestinians.”

    There is much else, of course. Beyond positions — which I submit are less fundamental than it would appear and often hinges on language alone, which is why we based our program on the ODS’ Munich Declaration — we must begin (and I mean begin) to formulate an effective strategy. The Munich Declaration was released in 2012, six years ago, but as Awad says, it failed to take off and become an influential public movement. We must move more rapidly to an operational phase. Unfortunately, many of us in the left are not sensitive to political moments as they arise. There is an urgency here. People continue to die, the suffering of the refugees only increases in Syria, Lebanon and now with Trump seeking to defund UNRWA altogether, house demolitions remain devastating, settlements expand and apartheid/Trump’s “Plan” takes root, the PA is repressive and on the brink of collapse, the Palestinian issue is being marginalized even in the Arab world and many Palestinians are both desperate and disheartened, even as they continue to struggle. With all due respect to our declarations, programs internal discussions, the time has come to MOVE. We should, if we must, agree to disagree on certain matters, but mobilize ourselves towards an effective political movement. And such a movement must be led by Palestinians, supported by critical Israelis and endorsed by organizations and activists abroad. The day when we can all support Palestinian rights and their struggle without a political end-game should be over.

    • drsar56 on August 14, 2018, 12:21 pm

      We would like to thank MOUNDOWEISS for their interest in debating the merits of one democratic state (ODS) and Jeff Halper for enriching the discussion on ODS. ODS is the Palestinian civilized response and direct alternative to settler colonial apartheid Israel.
      Awad Abdelfattah is quoted by Dr. Halper as saying:
      We are living in a period of confusion and uncertainty, not only because of the inability to change the situation due to the skewed balance of power, but also in the absence of a vision and a lack of a clear definition of the goals of the struggle around which the Palestinian people can unite.
      With due respect to both, allow us to disagree with this statement and here is why:
      1. The efforts and plan to establish and maintain Israel are colonial in nature.
      2. The efforts to convince European Jews and transfer them to colonize historic Palestine for Jews were and remain colonial in nature.
      3. The anatomy of Jewish colonialism in Palestine entails occupying Palestine by force. It inevitably involves the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by all means but mainly by violence and terror’ It requires the empowering Jewish colonists by vesting in them rights that are available to Jews but not to Palestinians, resulting in a matrix of Jewish control and dominance over Palestinians.
      The above realities were clear from the beginning of the Zionist project in 1897. Some would argue that some ideas were exchanged and debated among Zionists regarding this issue or the other, but we maintain that no fundamental changes were made to the Zionist colonial project.
      There is no “confusion and uncertainty” about the colonial reality of the Israeli-Jewish society in Palestine. The late Prof. Leibowitz who died in 1994 said “There are Judeo-Nazis. Israel Represents the Darkness of a State Body.” Also, there is no misunderstanding of the true balance of power between the colonial Israeli state and the Israeli-Jewish colonists on the one hand and the Palestinian people under their control and dominance or in refugee camps in the surrounding countries or in forced exile on the other hand. The historical record shows that the balance of brutal power has always been on the side of the colonists. If one is to wait until the balance of brutal power reaches equilibrium or is reversed, the oppressed people would remain oppressed forever. Moreover, the international legal system does not recognize individual nor collectives sovereign rights of colonial powers and colonists in occupied territories as in the cases of the ICJ Advisory Opinion on South West Africa (Namibia) and the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. What are the collective rights of Israeli-Jews in Palestine? What are the bases for such claims?
      Certainly, diagnosing the issues at hand and understanding their manifestations on the ground ultimately lead to articulating and advancing a more civilized non-violent vision of liberation. One that could terminate and defeat Israeli -Jewish colonialism, end Israeli-Jewish control and dominance over Palestinians in historic Palestine, restore justice to the Palestinian people, and establish a one democratic state in Palestine for all its citizens including all those who currently live there and all those who were expelled over the past century and their descendants. Each reality is a huge hurdle that needs and must be overcome in order to create a new one, ODS. The great ODS compromise invites Israeli-Jews to give up their colonial privileges and join with the Palestinians to build a new democratic civil society for all.
      This is the vision of the one democratic state (ODS) that we adhere to and believe in as enshrined in both The Munich ODS Declaration and The Dallas ODS Declaration (for complete texts of the Declarations please visit
      We recognize that documents of this nature need not to be static, but be debated and ideas exchanged and considered. What is needed is for all activists to unify their efforts behind the ODS vision enshrined in both ODS declarations and to invest and contribute skills, talents and resources to structure the ODS movement and to adopt a plan of action to realize the vision of ODS. While the vision remains unchanged, the structure and plan of action can and should be amended to satisfy local, regional and global changes.
      ODS does not belong to individuals or groups. It belongs to those who care enough to make it happen.
      Samir Abed-Rabbo, TX, USA Jafar Ramini, London, UK Mohammad Atta Tawil, IL, USA Rita Couture, CA, USA Mahmoud Ayyash, FL, USA Amani Barakat, CA, USA Jumah Abdel All, Aalborg, Denmark

    • GusCall on September 6, 2018, 11:07 am

      As one of the authors of ‘Aljamal & Co’, but replying for myself only, I want to deflect a few of Jeff Halper’s misinterpretations. He implies that we disagree that “the time has come to MOVE” whereas it is a matter of record that all of us have been trying to move ODS for years. What is the point of claiming a monopoly on a desire to MOVE?
      He also claims that we find it “objectionable” that “communities” or “groups” wish constitutional “protection” against discrimination – a claim so improbable that I can only go back to what we actually wrote, namely that such protection should be codified in constitutional individual rights of free speech, press, political activity and freedom of association, the latter rigorously implying freedom for such associations.
      Speaking of the dozen conferences, half-dozen books and several groups exclusively devoted to ODS, Halper says these “previous attempts … failed to take off and become an influential public movement.” Failed to take off, yes, but ODS certainly has achieved the status of an influential goal, solution, or set of ideas. Yet instead of offering a serious critique of why an organised “movement” hasn’t yet emerged – i.e. large membership-NGOs, or political parties, which precisely inside Israel have dismally failed to “take off” despite the courageous efforts of many within Tajamoa (the ‘Balad’ Party) – Halper denigrates all these “previous attempts” (in his mind associated with the Munich Declaration), polemically implying in language not helpful in bridge-building that they are burdered with ideas that are “non-starters” and have “no currency in the political world”.
      But Halper’s Answer as to what went wrong – assuming more was even possible – seems to be that we don’t want ethno-religiously-defined collective rights built into the constitution, and he does. Yet instead of polemically re-stating our positions, let’s go deeper. I’ve read through about two dozen democratic constitutions and find only two which explicitly mention the ethnic or religious communities Halper has in mind when speaking of “Jewish Israelis” – those of Lebanon and Kosovo. Far more in terms of language than ethnicity or religion, and almost exclusively in terms of rights adhering not to the language communities themselves but of the individuals in or “members of” those communities, the Canadian, Macedonian and Belgian constitutions do list various groups specifically. From them, and especially from the the Macedonian constitution’s Articles 19 and 20, we can learn. The constitutions of India, South Africa, the U.S., France, Switzerland, Colombia, and many others, on the other hand, do entirely without ‘collective rights’ language. As well as theorising we should look empirically at the results of various historical examples.
      Halper also misreads us in insinuating, again improbably, that we think we “live in a society composed solely of individuals” – clearly a straw man with no basis in our text. He moreover then adds the sweeping generalisation that the “Middle East … has no concept of the individual in a Western sense”. Is this a serious, if Orientalist, claim that ‘Middle Eastern’ people don’t have any idea of the CITIZEN, of individual property, of voting by individuals, or that the Koran does not deal with the individual’s proper behavior and relation to God, before whom all individual Moslems are equal? I believe this claim is transparently false. I would in any case ask Halper if this means his proposed constitution would therefore necessarily discriminate against the individual in favour of the collective.
      As for our criticism that he falls into the ‘parity trap’ of treating his “two groups” in Palestine as ethically equal, he denies that he is assuming “symmetry between them”. But it is hard to read the granting of collective political rights to the colonising, oppressing group in any other way. At least it is legitimate to ask Halper if there is room in either his program or plan, as we suggest, for explicitly identifying the ethical asymmetries.
      Finally we did not, as Halper claims, take “objection to a common civil society”. How could anyone be against such a thing? We only warned against seeing “reconciliation” as a precondition for a political solution, which it is not if we are right that at this stage ‘hate me, don’t hurt me’ is good enough. Such a civil society must emerge bottom-up, not top-down as part of a plan.
      I hope my co-authors will correct any false impressions I’ve given, and that others involved in the ODS Campaign will Comment, giving their thoughts on the issue of collective ethnic rights, seemingly the only issue dividing (some of) us.

  5. jrg on August 9, 2018, 9:09 pm

    I have a question for the authors: If property restitution for Palestinian returnees is to include 94% of all the land, from whom would it be taken? What would happen to those from whom it is dispossessed (Israeli Jews, presumably)? How can this be carried out without turning the current situation on its head, with Palestinians and Jewish Israelis merely changing places in the social hierarchy? It’s all very well to speak of a secular state consisting of individuals without any special standing for religious or ethnic groups, but how is that to be established and maintained on the ground when the self-concepts of the vast majority of the people involved, both Arab and Jewish, consist of their their ethnic/religious identities?

  6. GusCall on August 14, 2018, 6:18 am

    jrg, you have put your finger on perhaps the most difficult question facing ODS, namely what property restitution really means for those now living or working on property that would revert to Palestinian ownership, either private or public. Thanks for that. As one of the authors, but speaking only for myself, I can only offer a few words on framing the question and possible answers.
    But first, I think that realising how difficult this problem is should not lead to just throwing the ODS idea into the bin. That would be a blanket denial of all Palestinian claims to their previous property – surely too one-sided to be anywhere near fair.
    On the traditional, individualist-liberal concept of property, the owner has the non-abrogable right to say what happens on and who lives or works on that property, whether it is individually owned or owned by a waqf or municipality or central government. In my own life I have been evicted twice by owners who wanted to use the property in some way other than renting to me. In Eastern Europe much property was returned to Jews who had been dispossessed with the understanding that it was now their private say whether anybody would be evicted. Eviction is simply contained in this concept of property.
    While you are asking the question from the point of view of the person (mostly Israeli Jews, but also some Palestinians) living on the property that would in the ODS revert at least on paper legally to Palestinian ownership. But please put yourself in the shoes of the Palestinian individual, family or group. How would you feel if you were told, ‘Yes, the property is yours again, but you can’t return to it or live on it.’? Financial compensation, or ownership of property elsewhere, might not be good enough for you.
    Amongst ODS supporters I have encountered all thinkable variations on a solution, from ‘No evictions in any case’ to ‘Evictions with several years notice.’ Don’t forget, ODS holds that all present Israeli citizens can remain citizens in the new state, so it is not a question of being ‘evicted’ from Palestine!
    The renowned researcher Salman Abu Sitta has reckoned that perhaps as few as a half a million people are actually living on property from which they could, on the conventional understanding of property rights, be evicted if the returning Palestinian owners want to actually use the property. But what matters is the principle, and these half-million cases are also important in and of themselves. I personally think it would apply to more people, considering, as you say, that 94% of Palestine was in Palestinian (non-Zionist or non-Jewish) ownership. But I am not an expert like Salman so accept his figures until they are possibly corrected.
    Maybe experience would show – we don’t know yet, do we? – that many Palestinians would feel that being re-patriated as a citizen and obtaining property at least near their old property is good enough. But what about others who ‘want their house back’?
    Others see that some sort of ‘political’ solution solving large numbers of cases is the only realistic possibility. This places the individual and the family or firm in the back seat, in the interests of a solution which is only on average fair.
    So while it is hard and maybe unfair to kick anybody off property that he, she or their family has been on for several decades, it is likewise hard and maybe unfair to deny a Palestinian actual access to and use of land or buildings that had belonged to them possibly for centuries.
    As soon as we state your question from BOTH sides, then, we have to WEIGH and compare the claims, rights and feelings involved. I admit that, as an outsider not personally affected, my sympathies are with those whose property was stolen. I think at least official titles should be transferred back. But I suppose some compromise is likely, so it is not a win-win situation.
    My only solace is that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel, as this question has arisen many times in history. Look only at the USA, where I would personally argue for a much more pro-Indian regulation of property restitution. But I just don’t know anywhere near enough about this history. It needs research, starting now.
    A really tough one, to my mind, but I agree it should be asked now. We shouldn’t just ‘cross that bridge when we get to it.’ What do you think?

  7. drsar56 on August 14, 2018, 12:06 pm

    I think the issue of Palestinian property is a simple one for the following reasons:
    1. Most of the Palestinian land is held by the Jewish National Fund for the benefit of Jews only. This property should be returned forthwith to its Palestinian owners.
    2. The property of many Palestinian villages and city sections are not in use or closed shut. This property should be returned to its Palestinian owners.
    3. Property of Palestinians that is used for the benefit of all citizens should be evaluated and its market value should be paid to its Palestinian owners.
    4. Palestinian properties that are in use for the benefit of Israeli-Jewish colonists should be returned to its Palestinian owners. Colonists should not be rewarded.
    5. Properties of Palestinians can be used for public domain only if the market value is paid to its Palestinian owners.
    6. No Palestinian property should be used to build or benefit exclusive communities or to reward colonial projects.
    7. Palestinians should be compensated for the use of their properties.
    8. Palestinians should be compensated for lands that cannot be returned with public properties of equal market value or fair market value.
    Where would the money come from?
    a. America and other countries should be required to pay the equivalent to their contribution to settler colonial apartheid Israel.
    b. All accounts and properties of Zionist organizations inside or outside of historic Palestine should be liquidated or used to satisfy this purpose.
    c. Savings from the spending on wars and violence.
    d. Add your ideas.
    The above are a few ideas to think about and consider. If there’s a will there’s a way!

    • GusCall on October 4, 2018, 6:03 am

      Resolution 194 says clearly, for what it’s worth, that the ‘governments responsible’ must pay the compensation. That means Israel, then Britain, the U.S. etc.
      I think your 1st and 4th points can be consolidated: return of stolen land now used exclusively by Jews, by definition and Israeli law. Also the 3rd and 5th points. And in point 7 do you mean compensation for all PAST use?
      But the tough question: What about the people now living and working on the reclaimed property? Homes, businesses, livelihoods? This presents a huge humanitarian problem because one cannot just say ‘They are colonialists and have no individual rights.’ Maybe on humanitarian grounds they do have claims, at least to a generous relocation or compensation if the rightful owners really want to start using the property again. This question is full of dynamite and we should think about it and learn about precedence cases, say in Europe with the restoration of stolen Jewish property. I understand a fairly hard-nosed approach was taken there, but that is not necessarily a good guide. I don’t know. But what is the right thing to do, assuming always that one indeed does not accept a COLLECTIVE right of the colonists? Very difficult. Maybe this question should be decided once the citizenry of the new single state is established, by normal voting either in a parliament or in referenda. There would be a Palestinian majority, but no tyranny of that majority. Thanks.

  8. MHughes976 on August 14, 2018, 1:42 pm

    Is there much substantial difference between Halper and Aljamal, especially in the light of Halper’s not wishing to define his collective groups too closely? In principle I’m not too happy with collective rights: I don’t see how individual rights can exist if there is another set of rights cutting across them. But guarantees that there will be no discrimination against anyone for belonging to a certain group would be fine. Mind you, I read with a sinking feeling. It all seems so far from reality

    • echinococcus on August 14, 2018, 10:10 pm


      It all seems so far from reality

      What really is with no relationship to reality is “guarantees that there will be no discrimination against anyone for belonging to a certain group” as soon as any “collective rights” are even mentioned. When one of the so-called collectives comprises the invaders, any “collective” rights automatically presuppose that invaders have any rights.

      That’s what was intended by “It should however be a matter of debate within the ODS movement whether this is a right of individuals who, like all of us, could not help where they were born, or is a generous political gift to the oppressing immigrant group”.
      There remains the sticky question of how to get authorization for such a “generous gift”.

      But then, as impossible as it may look, of course one needs a clear program. The Algerian FLN had already defined the quuestion of rights on day 1 –in 1954, in the darkest days:
      “All the French people who wish to remain in Algeria will have a choice: either keeping their citizenship and being considered aliens before the law, or opting for the Algerian citizenship, in which case they shall be considered Algerians with regard to their rights and duties.”

      • GusCall on September 6, 2018, 11:37 am

        Thanks, I didn’t know this about the FLN.
        I also like ecinococcus’s subtle point that having collective ethno-religious rights mentioned doesn’t necessarily provide the a ‘guarantee’ Hapler is looking for. In fact, to my mind this shows that it might be an illusion for any of us to speak of guarantees at all. I mean, what a constitution does is try to ‘protect’ by means of a constitutional court, checks and balances and proportional representation in legislatures, and if a significant majority agrees then it works.
        But a constitution is only as good as the majority supporting it. Not only can Power stage a coup and take over, but look at what has happened in the country where I live, Turkey, where about half the people seem to have voted for doing away with constitution protection of freedoms.
        So constitutions are a sine qua non, but the bigger job is for individuals as individuals and also as members of minority ethnic, religious, sexual-orientation or language groups to seek daily to keep majority support for human-rights constitutions. In the longer run this means behaving as an individual or member of such a group in a way that respects others’ rights. Of course even this is no guarantee. I’m just saying that there is no technical solution to be written into constitutions that solves rights problems once and for all. But there are certainly pitfalls to be avoided – and one of them, in my book, is to give political weight to ethnicity and religion by writing such groups into the text. This is necessarily sloppy because some individuals or even groups must fall through the cracks, and it is not smart to emphasise from the get-go what divides, rather than what unites, us – which is citizenship and humanity.

  9. Mooser on August 14, 2018, 4:42 pm

    Gonna have to do something with the IDF.

Leave a Reply