One Democratic State: The sensible solution for Palestine

After 75 years of settler-colonialism, ODS is the antithesis to the Zionist project

“I am a fascist homophobe”. This audacious admission by Israeli finance minister Smotrich is testament to Israel’s continuous unhinged shift into more dangerous ultra-fundamentalist territory. In light of Benjamin Netanyahu’s return as the head of Israel’s most extremist government ever, continuous expansion of illegal settlements, and calls among the ruling coalition for Israel to wage its “final war to subdue Palestinians”, what should our stance be, and how can we support DiEM25’s envisioned solution?

Diagnosing the root cause: The politicization of identity as a hallmark of settler-colonialism

Proper treatment starts with a proper diagnosis. The root issue with Israel is not its current government or its historical and ongoing crimes, but its very nature as a state exclusive to Jews that views all Jews of the world as a single nation rather than members of their societies.

Benjamin Netanyahu accurately and boldly stated that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens… Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it”. The Zionist project has fabricated a distinct Israeli identity which supplants non-Israeli Jewish identities, and has assigned itself the right to make decisions pertaining to the land of Palestine without democratic mandate from the Palestinian population.

This politicization of identity turned what could have been the peaceful migration of American, European or Arab Jews to Palestine into a settler-colonial movement, i.e. a movement that seeks not to integrate into an existing society but to supplant it with another, on identitarian grounds.

Such politicisation of identity has particularly been at the heart of humankind’s politics and history since the 15th century, when the identitarian ‘nation-state’ model took shape in Europe and was exported to the ‘uncivilised’ world via colonialism. The result has been centuries of legal, political, economic and cultural segregation, apartheid, slavery, mass displacement, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and other horrors — all of which have been the plight of the Palestinian people over the last century.

Palestinians are not Zionism’s only victims. Reaching out to European or American Jews as if they were citizens of Israel rather than of their own countries weakens the fabric of their respective societies. Establishing a polity as distinct because of its Jewishness alienates it from its non-Jewish immediate surroundings while also paving the way for intra-Israeli segregation and fragmentation based on ethnicity or class, with the Ashkenazi-Mizrahim divide being one of many examples.

The recurring rise in religious fundamentalism on one side of the conflict also tends to increase Islamic fundamentalism on the other side. The oppressive aspect of such ideologies and movements fuels not only racial and religious violence between them but also oppression of their own citizens especially minorities, activists, progressives, free thinkers and dissidents.

Finally, claiming legitimacy for “a state exclusive to Jews” fuels similar isolationist ideologies and movements in neighbouring countries, such as Islamophobic political Maronism or anti-Kurdish Pan-Arabism among others.

Vibrant societies are made of individuals who have their own unique identities, but the politicization of identity fragments those societies and wreaks havoc within and well beyond the borders of its origin. Perhaps the label ‘regressive international’ befits such toxic political movements and trends in identity politics.

The establishment of political movements and regimes that depoliticise identity is therefore a necessary step in the quest for a democratic, post-colonial world.

The only possible solution: One Democratic State

The ‘two-state solution’, which perpetuates the colonial nation-state model of ‘one state per identity’, is not really a solution. Neither can one racist aspiration be fought with another. The fundamental antithesis to the Zionist project can only be a project that depoliticises identity: the establishment of One Democratic State, for all its citizens, in all of Palestine.

Steering towards this path for a viable solution also requires independence and the ability to exert positive political influence. The EU has recently signed a deal to supply the EU with gas from Israel. It would be a terrible mistake for the EU to free itself from Russian gas only to become dependent on Israeli gas that directly supports the colonial apartheid regime. In addition to weakening the EU’s efforts towards energy independence, building such a reliance would also limit its foreign policy influence on Israel, thus undermining the EU’s efforts towards a genuine peaceful resolution.

DiEM25’s stance on the only possible settlement being ‘a Single Democratic Secular State in the land of historic Palestine for Jews and Palestinians’ therefore places it at the forefront of European political parties (including ‘leftist’ ones), and is consistent with its political vision for “de-escalating tensions, ending colonial projects, and rejecting militarism and expansionism in the Middle East and elsewhere”.

The ODS initiative

Recently launched by Palestinian and non-Palestinian activists, including members of DiEM25, the One Democratic State Initiative is a political initiative that shares DiEM25’s outlook. It proposes a post-colonial vision of states as apparatuses to manage societies’ affairs rather than ‘nation-states’ that function as war machines on behalf of ethnicities, races, sects or identities against others.

This includes defining the occupation, not as the presence of Jews, but as the establishment of a Jewish state; and defining the struggle as ethnocracy vs. democracy rather than Arabs vs Jews. The ODS Initiative thus stands against identitarian solutions such as fighting Jews or the two-state proposal, and goes further than focusing on Israeli crimes or on BDS efforts by placing such strategies in the context of a political solution for the establishment of a democratic state.

The long-term political goal of the ODS Initiative is to help build a coalition of political movements and other groups rallied around the ODS solution, and working to impose negotiations on a transition from apartheid to secular democracy. This is very similar to what was achieved by means of the ANC in South Africa. Its short-term political goal is thus to challenge existing narratives by reframing the main issue as: Settler-colonialism or democracy?

In order to mobilise individuals, entities and political parties, in Palestine and abroad, behind such an endeavour, we are reaching out, both online and on the ground, to individuals and groups who support the ODS solution, who see Zionism for the danger it is but do not support the ODS solution, or who are simply willing to listen.

We invite other DiEM25 members who wish to support this Initiative to follow it on Facebook (in Arabic, English or Hebrew), share its website with their Palestinian or other interested friends, sign up as supporters of the ODS solution, or contact one of the authors of this article in view of creating a DiEM25 Thematic Collective. Let us walk one more step in our long journey towards a democratic, post-colonial world.

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