Action plan for One Democratic State
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
(from a presentation at conference in Munich June 30-July1, 2012)
Last week I was in a small threatened Palestinian community in Jiftlik in the Jordan valley. Their homes were demolished and livelihood threatened daily. One man who has not gone through formal education but whose hands and face show that he got the education of the fields said to us: life is not difficult, only we humans make it difficult. This reminded me of what black people in the deep South in the US used to say during the civil rights movement: “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow!” Indeed I tell my students that they can do anything they choose to do. The external obstacles are actually far less a problem than the internal obstacles we keep (the chains on our minds).
We are working on a movement for one democratic state. All of us here believe it is inevitable. In fact a survey of Israeli Jews a few years ago showed that nearly 70% believe there will not be a Jewish state by 2048. Palestine was and continues to be one country from the past few thousand years. Only for very brief periods it was divided for example between 1948-1967. Since 1967, we had one political system but it is a system of apartheid (and this is not my description but a legal definition based on the International Convention For the Suppression and punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and Racial Discrimination. All of us in this room are convinced that we can do better than that: we can have democracy, justice, human rights. How to go from here to there (point A to point B) is why we are gathered here. We hope to build on the movement for one democratic state.
What is the definition of movement? Change in position or posture, transference from one situation to another. The agents of change are human beings and humans act when they are informed and convinced of a certain direction. I personally read and write first so that I can understand/change myself. In the 1990s I was very active in the rights of refugees and we collected 700,000 signatures by 1999 for the ROR. This exercise and its positive results showed everyone how action on the ground can CHANGE perceptions and create MOVEMENT in a positive direction. This led me to write a book which was published in 2004 called “Sharing the Land of Canaan” now out of print unfortunately. In it I argue in a scientific way (my background is biology and medicine) why there is no other logical scenario to arrive at a durable peace: a win-win situation. Here are some of the chapters:
People of the Land: Here I address as to why we are one people and not two people, who are the natives, how can people coexist.. etc
Biology and Ideology: I addressed how biology of humanity and our genetics should be clearly and wisely interpreted and not distorted to support racism
Palestinian Refugees: This is the most important issue that makes notions of segregation/separation is impossible. It is the basic and elemental right of us Palestinians 11.5 million of us, 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people.
Jerusalem as a Pluralistic City
Zionism. Yoav mentioned in his talk that Zionist apartheid is not about separating Palestinians from Israelis but separating Palestinians from their lands and building the country up into a Jewish state. Indeed peace is incompatible with Zionism as a political idea (not cultural or religious Zionism that duied out over 100 years ago)
Is Israel a Democracy? This chapter built on the previous one because Israeli laws were natural outcome of racist Zionist ideas in the same sense that laws in Apartheid South Africa were natural outcome of the Afrikaaner Apartheid philosophy.
Human Rights: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides a very good base for a real road map to peace, a durable peace.
The Conflict and Sustainable Development: On issues of water and other natural resources, the tourism industry etc all argue against separation/segregation.
Political Context: Politikos in Greece described relationship of citizens to government. Many times the interests of the few who are in political leadership position are contrary to citizenship interests. But the relationship is dynamic
International Context and International Law: I argued that this is not hostile to ideas of unity nor is it in support of segregation/separation
In the last chapter of this 2004 book I point that “Peace can be Based on Human Rights and International Law” and proposed specific short term, medium term and long term goals for our MOVEMENT. Others like my late friend Prof. Edward Said and Prof. Ghada Karmi argued along the same line. Subsequent people like Virginia Tilley and Ali Abunimah wrote books in 2006 also argued along the same line. So the theory and philosophy underling work has already been done but implementation now is most urgently needed. The Arab spring provides both opportunities and challenges as a new geopolitical landscape is created.
We also had several conferences in London, Dallas, Stuttgart, Haifa and now in Munich that put the theory in writings and in concise declarations and documents. Just recently a group of intellectuals (Israeli and Palestinians published a vision for one democratic state in significant detail that could provide a framework for a constitutional covenant or charter (ala what Rachel suggested is needed). The group that formulated it include me, Ghada Karmi, George Bisharat, Haim Bresheet, Nur Masalha, Alma Jadallh, Naseer Aruri, Ilan Pappe etc.
We should also study (not necessarily adopt all aspects) material such as:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1949
- The PLO charter 1968
- The Canaanite movement
- Palestinian Civil Society Call to Action 2005
- The Palestinian Christian Kairos document 2009
- The various declarations and manifestos
Ghada Karmi and Norton Mezvinsky suggested a struggle for human rights to change the status quo and move us and suggested that we need to be concrete about What are we doing? What are we building?
From Palestine after some discussion we suggest here specifics:
1) Communication group to put documents and arguments together and create such a formidable body of knowledge that is tailored to convincing human beings to support what we all know is right. The communication group also produces communications and press releases.
2) Outreach group to quickly expand the network and reach out various Israeli and Palestinian constituencies and people around the world with various backgrounds. Part of the function is to think of creative ways to reach out to the different community (religious, political, social, unions, educators etc).
3) Youth group. Students and young people in general are critical for the future of the movement.
4) Action group: Sometimes simple but powerful actions can change perceptions and help us reach our goals. This includes actions like boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns, direct actions with resistance committees on the grounds.
5) Finance Group: Movements are greased with money. A finance group raises money for our activities and decides how to spend the money.
6) Legal group that deals with the legal arguments and explore venues for legal struggles locally and globally. People like Richard Falk and Francis Boyle can be involved.]