Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Time for a Bi-National State

I discovered this article from Le Monde Diplomatique titled:

Time for a Bi-National State

Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas may have affirmed that they want a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but it may be more promising to return to a much older idea.

By Leila Farsakh

There is talk once again of a one-state bi-national solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oslo peace process failed to bring Palestinians their independence and the withdrawal from Gaza has not created a basis for a democratic Palestinian state as President George Bush had imagined: the Palestinians are watching their territory being fragmented into South African-style bantustans with poverty levels of over 75%. The area is heading to the abyss of an apartheid state system rather than to a viable two-state solution, let alone peace (1).

There have been a number of recent publications proposing a one-state solution as the only alternative to the current impasse. Three years ago Meron Benvenisti, Jerusalem’s deputy mayor in the 1970s, wrote that the question is “no longer whether there is to be a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel, but which model to choose” (2). Respected intellectuals on all sides, including the late Edward Said; the Arab Israeli member of the Knesset, Azmi Bishara; the Israeli historian Illan Pape; scholars Tanya Reinhart and Virginia Tilley; and journalists Amira Haas and Ali Abunimeh, have all stressed the inevitability of such a solution.

The idea of a single, bi-national state is not new. Its appeal lies in its attempt to provide an equitable and inclusive solution to the struggle of two peoples for the same piece of land. It was first suggested in the 1920s by Zionist leftwing intellectuals led by philosopher Martin Buber, Judah Magnes (the first rector of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Haïm Kalvarisky (a member of Brit-Shalom and later of the National Union). The group followed in the footsteps of Ahad Ha’am (Asher Hirsch Ginsberg, one of the great pre-state Zionist thinkers).

Underlying their Zionism was a quest for a Jewish renaissance, both cultural and spiritual, with a determination to avoid injustice in its achievement. It was essential to found a new nation, although not necessarily a separate Jewish state and certainly not at the expense of the existing population. Magnes argued that the Jewish people did not “need a Jewish state to maintain its very existence” (3).
No to partition

Although supporters of the bi-national state remained a marginal group in Zionist politics under the British mandate, they made sure they were heard both in official Zionist circles and the international arena. They also pleaded before the 1947 United Nations special committee on Palestine. When the commission finally recommended partition, they strongly opposed it, calling for a bi-national state in Palestine, forming part of an Arab federation. They campaigned for a federal state that would respect the rights of all citizens, while guaranteeing the national aspirations of the Jewish people to cultural and linguistic autonomy. They proposed, in line with the British, the creation of a legislative council based on proportional representation, safeguarding the rights of its nationals but also assuring equal political rights for all citizens of the state.

But with the UN’s partition plan and the Arab-Israeli war that broke out in 1948, a one-state solution was shelved. It came to light again in 1969 with the call by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement for the creation of a “secular and democratic state” in Palestine. The new state was based on the right of return — while accepting a Jewish presence in Palestine — and it was to end the injustices stemming from the creation of Israel and the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinian villagers. Although it called for the destruction of Israel as a colonial entity, it upheld the principle of a single state for all, Muslim, Christian or Jew. This was the first official attempt by the Palestinians to address the relationship between national and individual rights of citizenry. The idea met with no enthusiasm in Israel, and none internationally, and again lost momentum.

The failure of the one-state option has often been attributed to the idealism of its cause and its failure to come to terms with local realities. Nevertheless, as Magnes pointed out, the option offered significant advantages in demographic and territorial terms in 1947 to the Jewish cause (4).

In fact, the idea failed because the political actors of the time rejected it: the Zionist organisations were not interested, the British were unsupportive and the Arabs too suspicious. Between 1948 and 1993 the only significant change in these positions came from the Arabs, who finally came to terms with the existence of Israel.

Despite the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s calls for a secular, democratic state, Arafat prepared Palestinians for partition as the only available option. The PLO’s national council accepted the position in 1974, and confirmed it with its declaration of Palestinian independence in 1988 and the acceptance of the UN partition plan. A separate, independent Palestinian state was the best hope, even if it had to be on only 22% of the territory. The long Palestinian struggle for statehood culminated in 1993 with the Oslo accords.
From dream to nightmare

The tragedy of Oslo is that it turned the dream of two states into the nightmare of a single new state of apartheid. Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin declared that the great success of the accords, perhaps their only success, was to recognise that Israelis and Palestinians were “destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land” (5).

Since 1994 the Palestinians have not been liberated; they have been imprisoned by the Israeli system of permits and the installation of 50 permanent checkpoints and terminals fragmenting the territory into eight bantustans (6). Since 2002 the Palestinian Authority has seen its territory further eroded by the 700km-long wall being built with the aim of severing the West Bank from the remaining 46% of the territory.

What is the attraction of a bi-national state in these circumstances? For a start, a two-state plan appears to be less of a solution to the nationalist aspirations of either Zionists or Palestinians. Before 1947 partition had not been tried; since then it has taken root in circumstances of total Israeli domination. Despite the historic compromise of 1993, the Palestinians have not obtained the independent, viable state they sought. Palestinian nationalism has also met its limits: its leaders have failed to guide their people to independence and are now reduced to tearing themselves apart.

But partition has also failed to give Jews the security the state of Israel promised. About 400 Israelis were killed in suicide attacks in the 1990s, and 1,000 more have died since the second intifada of 2000. Antisemitic feelings are worsening around the world.

Demographic changes will continue to undermine any plans for partition. In 2005 there were 5.2 million Israelis living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, and 5.6 million Palestinians. Despite Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and its plans to demarcate the West Bank frontier, a separate Israeli state will have to deal with the much more rapid demographic growth of the Palestinian population within its own frontiers. This will have not only economic but political consequences, given the Palestinian population’s current lack of basic rights.

There is another factor that argues against a two-state solution: the idea of citizenship founded on justice and equality. History has shown that, in this region as elsewhere, partition cannot be achieved without the expulsion and transfer of populations. This raises ethnic issues. There can be no peace, from a moral point of view, without an equitable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, based on the right of return or compensation, as required as early as 1948 by resolution 194 of the UN General Assembly.

But this right of return, and the expansion of the Palestinian population, endangers Israel’s Jewish identity. This has always been a major problem for Israelis.
Essential anachronism

According to historian Tony Judt, this is where Israel reaches its limits. No state can claim democratic credentials whilst practising ethnic exclusion; not after the crimes of the last century (7). Virginia Tilley says that partition, and the very existence of Israel, are “flawed from the start, resting on the discredited idea, on which political Zionism stakes all its moral authority, that any ethnic group can legitimately claim permanent formal dominion over a territorial state” (8).

The establishment of a bi-national state would redefine the identity of the state; it would favour democracy over nationalism. For Ali Abunimeh it would allow “all the people to live in and enjoy the entire country while preserving their distinctive communities and addressing their particular needs. It offers the potential to deterritorialise the conflict and neutralise demography and ethnicity as a source of political power and legitimacy” (9). At the heart of this conflict there remains a persistent territorial issue. Ethnicity (and, even more, religion) continues to be the main source of legitimacy and the quest for power.

Those arguing for a single democratic state now detect growing popular support for this solution, inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement. Boycott campaigns are being organised in Europe and the United States against what is often now called Israeli apartheid (10).

Groups in Israel and in Palestine are working together against the construction of the separation wall and are inventing new forms of resistance. The struggle has been redirected, against Israel’s policies rather than its people, and for rights for all rather than separate states for each.

True, the three political protagonists seem far from convinced. Israel’s politicians and the majority of its population insist on separation, as their wholehearted support for the wall seems to prove. The international community seems intent on a two-state solution, but does little to bring it about or influence progress. The Palestinian leadership is at a loss for a strategy, and the differences between Hamas and Fatah continue to generate conflict. But the present deadlock has created new conditions. Perhaps the time is ripe for original ideas and untried solutions.


Leila Farsakh is an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts, Boston, and author of ‘Palestinian Labour Migration to Israel: Labour, land and occupation’ (Routledge, London, 2005)

(1) Leila Farsakh “Israel: an apartheid state?”, Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, November 2003.

(2) Meron Benvenisti, “Which Kind of Bi-national State?”, Haaretz, Tel Aviv, 20 November 2003.

(3) See

(4) Judah Magnes, Like All Nations, Weiss, Jerusalem, 1930.

(5) Yitzhak Rabin’s statement at the signing of the Declaration of Principles, Washington, 13 September 1993.

(6) tics/. See Dominique Vidal, “Jerusalem’s apartheid tramway”, Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, February 2007.

(7) Toni Judt, “Israel: the Alternative”, New York Review of Books, 23 October 2003.

(8) Virginia Tilley, The One-State Solution, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2005.

(9) Ali Abunimah, One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, Henry Holt, New York, 2006.

(10) See the calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against

ONE Democratic State

I have just discovered a group called The Association for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel. They believe (as I do) that the only just solution in Palestine is one secular and democratic state and not the two-state solution which is painfully obvious that it is not working. Here's something about them:

The Association

The Association is a non-governmental organization incorporated according to the Swiss association law. Its headquarters is located in Geneva , Switzerland .

Membership is open to all nationalities provided a candidate for membership accepts the principle of one democratic state in Palestine/Israel.

An international conference and general assembly will be held in Geneva on Octobre7 and 8, 2006.

Who we are

We are Palestinians who have been continuously acting reflexively because of the atmosphere of urgency that we have lived under for decades, and now find it imperative to plan strategically. We are the Palestinians, who inspite of being brutalised for generations have not lost our humanity and have not become racist or exclusivists. We are calling for PEACE, RECONCILIATION and EQUALITY with Israelis in one political entity. We are the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who are not intimidated by the wealth, political skills or the connectedness of the Israelis to superpowers; for we are an educated and energetic people who excel when provided the opportunity. We are the refugees who realize that they can have a homeland only in a reunified country in historic Palestine

We are Jews in and outside Israel who overcame Zionist indoctrination and do not want to support a brutal, racist state. We do not want to be an appendage of world imperialism in their drive to subdue and exploit the Middle East . We are the Israelis who realize that we can thrive and prosper in a country at peace with its neighbors with a vast economic market open for it. We are the Jews who want a spiritual-cultural home in Palestine/Israel rather than a mercenary-military state that exists to fight and destroy

We are the Europeans and North Americans who are cognisant of the role of their countries in establishing and maintaining a colonial-setter state in Palestine at the expense of its indigenous population. We realize that at the root of the tension between the Arab and Muslim societies and those of Europe and North American is the Palestine/Israel conflict. Our states are based on citizenship not ethnicity, and we are not going to support a supremacist exclusivist state for one ethnic group. We are Europeans who understand that, because of geographic proximity, our strategic and economic well-being depend to a large extent on a stable Middle East .

We are members of the international community who are keenly aware of the threat that this conflict constitutes to world peace. We want it resolved in the same manner that all other colonial-settler experiments, most recently South Africa , were resolved: one country, with one person-one vote, and without apartheid.

We all subscribe to the highest standards of human rights. We do not patronise, denigrate or discriminate against any group.

We are not naïve dreamers, for we realize that the road is rough, but it is the only road to peace and justice. We shall not be demoralized, cynical or complacent.

Also they have a forum of discussion, that you may want to join by using the following link:

You will need a Yahoo!'s FREE though...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Patriarch: Son of a Refugee

ince hip-hop was born on the streets of the Bronx in the 70s, it has been a mechanism by which disaffected people have expressed their concerns and empowered themselves through music. Through the years, different groups have put their own stamp on the rap world and this tradition continues today through a man who goes by the name of Patriarch.

Born in San Francisco and raised in the East Bay, Hayward, California, Patriarch's love for communication through art began early. In elementary school, he played a bevy of musical instruments, including the violin and by the age of 12, he was writing poetry. These talents later manifested themselves in a lyrical form of music - hip hop.

Patriarch never let obstacles deter his drive to become someone respected and admired for his work. Patriarch developed a rare speech impairment as a child which limited his ability to communicate with others which in turn only secluded him from the outside world. At the age of 11, Patriarch witnessed a divine event in his life when miraculously with the help of his and his grandmother's prayers his speech impairment was rid from his life in one night. His strength and his strong faith comes from the lessons and teachings of his grandmother.

Growing up in a predominantly African-American and Latino community, Patriarch was immersed in West Hayward bred rap artists such as Spice 1 and influenced by other local artists such as Tupac Shakur, Digital Underground, Richie Rich, E-40, Dru Down, The Luniz, Too Short and many more. Living only a block away from Spice 1 in Patriarch's West Hayward neighborhood, Patriarch would see a lot of the artists he grew up listening to visiting the East Bay Legend Spice 1, and would only inspire him to pursue music even more.

Patriarch has now worked or performed with such great artists such as, The Dogg Pound, The Outlawz, Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Akon, Tyrese, San Quinn, D12, Obie Trice, Furious, Get Lit Ent. and the list goes on and on. Patriarch has traveled across the world to perform and is only getting started

It is the dichotomy of the struggle of the African in America and the plight of the Palestinian that makes Patriarch's choice to rap a natural one. Hip hop is like air for Patriarch. With a determination to change the world through his art, this Son of a Refugee is destined to touch the lives of true hip hop fans, make a difference and introduce you to a whole new shade of hip-hop.

Download the song "Palestine" here for FREE!

Buy the album on iTunes

Learn more: Patriarch on MySpace

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hot Winter

My friend Lucy, has been MIA for a while...last I heard she was back in Nablus. And then all of this:

Tell me this DOESN'T remind you of stormtroopers during WWII...I hope she's alright.