By Mahmoud N. Musa
Before Palestinian politicians go to the General Assembly of the United Nations to ask for recognition of their nominal state, they have to answer this question: Is this what the Palestinian people want?
In a poll conducted by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion, pcpo.org, (poll number 169, published February 1st, 2010) conducted in Gaza, and available in Arabic and English, question 39 asked the following from a representative sample:
There are lots of strategic concepts for the resolution of the conflict in the region and the self-determination of the Palestinian people. What is your evaluation to each of the following?
1. One democratic state on the soil of the whole historic Palestine, in which all its citizens should enjoy the same rights without religious, racial or gender discrimination. 62.5%.
2. Two states, one Palestinian, the other Israeli, live in peaceful coexistence side by side as good neighbours (in conformity with the resolution of the Palestinian National Council of 1988 and the UN Resolution No 242). 36.8%.
3. I don’t know.0.7%.
Another poll was conducted by Middle East Consulting (middleeastconsulting.com) in the West Bank and Gaza and published on their website in February 2007, asked the following question: “Do you support or oppose a one-state solution in historic Palestine where Muslims, Christians and Jews have equal rights and responsibilities?” 70.4% approved and 29.6% opposed.
It is reasonable to expect that refugees and Palestinians in Israel would approve the one-state solution with higher rates for reasons we will elaborate below.
Why do Palestinians Support the One Democratic State?
In our discussions with Palestinians, these are some of the responses we received, they ranged from the pragmatic to the moral, and the importance of each varied from one person to another.
First, most people stated the obvious reality: there is no land to have a viable state. There is the geographic separation of the West Bank and Gaza; settlers control much of the West Bank making it non-contiguous. Furthermore, such a state would be economically controlled by Israel and dependent on outside assistance.
Second, even if all the area of the West Bank becomes available, other sources of tension such as Jerusalem and the other holy places, borders, over five hundred thousand settlers, natural resources including water and coastal natural gas, will persist and continue to be a source of tension that may lead to hostilities.
Third, the “two state solution” legitimizes Israel as a racist supremacist state that will continue to be a source of tension in the region and a supporter of international neo-colonialism.
Fourth, a “Palestinian state” considerably weakens the ability of refugees to return to their original homes. This also exposes the Palestinians in Israel to the possibility of being cleansed out, in order to create a truly Jewish state. This puts us in the difficult position of answering the question: “If you want a state for yourselves, why do you deny the same to the Jew?” In asking for two states, are we not contributing to apartheid?
Fifth, some of the Palestinians we discussed this issue with remembered the aim of the revolution in the 1960’s as the “Liberation of Man and Land” not just the creation of an entity no matter how insignificant that maybe. Some recalled the resolution of the fifth congress of the Palestinian National Council in January 1969 that stated: “to establish a free and democratic society in Palestine for all whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews.” (See Documents for Palestine 1969, Institute for Palestine Studies, Beirut, 1970, page 589.) This probably was the only action taken proactively and without capitulation to outside pressure or as a reaction to what Israel did.
Sixth, some of the respondents see the diversity of religions and cultures as a source of enrichment for Palestine and the whole region provided all believe in equality and solidarity. They support the concept of a religious and cultural home for Jews. Such a state would be a source of support of a culture of democracy and human rights for the whole region of West Asia and North Africa that includes all Arab countries together with Turkey and Iran.
Seventh, going with the grain of history.The era of the nation-state is passing; it is changing to the multinational state and regional organizations. Humanity has for long known identity, such as ethnicity and religion, as the source of conflict and solidarity. It is now moving to universal values, such as equality and human rights, as the focus of political contention and solidarity. The One Democratic State will shift the struggle from that over territory to a struggle for values.
Eighth, the political, military and economic elites who are calling for separation are continuously working and will continue to cooperate with their Israeli counterparts. This same stratum wants the mainstream Palestinian and Jewish communities to be separate.
In January 2004, Ahmed Qurae, then prime minister of the Palestine Authority, threatened to call for a bi-national state. A leader of the Democratic Front (name withheld) and its current representative on the executive committee of the PLO was interviewed on Al-Jazeera network for his opinion. He replied that he does not agree because the Palestinian elites are not at the level of the Israelis. This gentleman reminds one of the Roman who would rather be first in a small village than be the second in Rome. He wants to continue exercising his authority in an insignificant quasi-state. However, he needs to answer the question: How can the power-imbalance between two peoples destined to share this small land be corrected? The proposed Palestinian entity is by and for the privileged few and does not serve the interests of most Palestinians.
Addressing the International Community
Some of the peoples and governments who are supporting the two-state solution believe that this constitutes Palestinian independence from Israeli colonialism; however, please recognize that our experience is not the colonialism that many of you experienced. The situation of Palestine/Israeli is that of settler-colonialism. Such conflict has never been and cannot be resolved by separating the indigenous population from the colonialists. Separation can only be done artificially and possibly forcefully and will lead to perpetual tension because the physical and human geography of this small piece of land is totally intertwined. Please understand that this presumed entity is a trap with the flag being the bait. What we would like to you to do is boycott and sanction Israel till it agrees to equal political, social, economic and cultural rights to all who live in historic Palestine and also allow all Palestinian refugees to return to their original homes.
We say to the General Assembly of the United Nations: Those 33 members of your assembly, who are mostly Europeans or Latin American countries who were under the control of the United States, who voted to partition Palestine in November 1947 need to acknowledge that their action brought untold misery to the whole region. You should not persist with this disastrous mistake. Instead, you need to vote for one-state in historic Palestine.
The decision to call for one-state or two-states affects all Palestinians, be they living in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel or are refugees. A referendum should be conducted, after a reasonable period of discussion, on the course to be taken. In the meantime, the Palestine Authority should refrain from acting on behalf of Palestinians.
– Professor Mahmoud N. Musa teaches global politics at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Internationales in Paris. His most recent book is Contesting Global Values: Transnational Social Movements Confront the Neoliberal Order ( AuthorHouse, 2011).