First published ten months ago in the October 2009 issue of the newsletter of the Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians, Capital Region (APAC). Since then, it seems that very little has changed on the Palestinian-Israeli “theatre”, thereby rendering this article to continue to be relevant today.
With the increasing uncertainty that is engulfing the Palestinian‐Israeli conflict; with many hopes hanging in the balance with the new administration in the White House; with the looming threats from the right‐to‐extreme‐right-wing Israeli government, and with the deeply divided Palestinian house; many are asking: What are the options facing the Palestinian people? This is an attempt to respond to that question.
The option of resistance against oppression, dispossession, and occupation continues to be the dominant option upon which virtually all of the Palestinian people agree. Palestinian resistance takes many forms; from civil actions (including advocating boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the state of Israel and its institutions), to armed struggle, to dialogue, to full engagement with the international community in search for a just solution to the conflict. Palestinian political parties may disagree on which form of resistance is the most effective, but they all agree on the necessity for Palestinian resistance to continue against the Zionist state and its policies and actions until the Palestinian people regain their rights of liberty, self‐determination, and equal humanity.
The second option that is facing the Palestinian people is to continue the struggle to implement what has become the international consensus. It appears that in the last few years, the international community has reached a consensus view that the best resolution to the Palestinian‐Israeli conflict would be in the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip to live in peace and harmony with the state of Israel. This option is what has become known as the two‐state solution that was widely accepted since it was launched through the Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut during the Arab summit of 2002. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has adopted the two‐state solution as its official position. Additionally, it has been widely reported that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis seem to accept the two‐state option. However, the varying views among the relevant parties on the details of the borders (between the two states), the fate of the Palestine refugees, the status of Jerusalem, and the fate of Israeli colonies (i.e. settlements) in the West Bank, are rendering this two‐state solution near impossible to implement. In spite of international calls to the contrary, Israel never ceased to impose facts on the ground that are incompatible with the concept of the two states. Erecting the separation wall deep inside Palestinian territories; expanding Israeli colonies; building Israeli‐only highways and roads to connect Israeli colonies to one another and to the state of Israel; cutting off Jerusalem from the West Bank, and slicing Palestinian territories into smaller and smaller enclaves and isolated population centres without the ability of Palestinians to freely move from one place to another, are among the many Israeli facts on the ground. These Israeli facts on the ground in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have resulted in rendering the two‐state solution near impossible. Many informed observers have already concluded that the two‐state option is dead as a result of Israeli actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
As the Palestinian people continue to exercise their legitimate right with the first option (i.e. resistance), and as the PLO leadership continues to work with the international community to attempt to find ways to implement the second option (i.e. the two‐state solution), and as Israeli actions of defiance in the West Bank and Jerusalem are increasingly making the two‐state solution impossible to implement; an increasing number of Palestinians are starting to consider a third option. Many intellectuals, thinkers, writers, and political activists are seriously considering and studying the possibilities and obstacles for the creation of a one constitutional democracy on the entire territorial mass of Palestine (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean) for all Israelis and all Palestinians alike. This is what has been known as the one‐state option; a state where all Palestinians and all Israelis would be equal citizens. Advocates of the one‐state concept argue that Israeli actions, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, have rendered the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible. By declaring the death of the two‐state solution, those advocates propose an alternative solution for all Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace together in one constitutional democracy.
There are many ideas for the structure of the contemplated one state. Some advocate a liberal democracy based on the principle of one person one vote. Others advocate the creation of a bi‐national state to be structured based on the principles of individual equality of all citizens and the collective equality for two communities that make up the state. Some dismiss the one-state as utopia. Those people forget the fact that by calling an idea utopia, they admit that it is the better idea. What would be left is to find the mechanism(s) to implement it, or implement whatever can be as close to it as humanly possible. The fact remains, however, that there is no Palestinian or Israeli political party that has adopted this concept as part of its political program, thereby rendering this one‐state option to remain – for the time being – an idea in the minds of thinkers, writers, and intellectuals that lacks the political force that would be necessary for its realization. The prospects for such political movement(s) to emerge are becoming stronger by the day, especially as the hope for success of the main alternative option (i.e. the two‐state solution) is vanishing.
One last word: The one option that is not being contemplated by anyone – including mainstream Zionists – is for the Palestinian people to disappear and go away. That is not “in the cards” and it only exists in the fantasy dreams of the most extreme elements within the Zionist movement. No volume of oppression, dispossession, or occupation can break the will of the Palestinian people or weaken its resolve to regain its liberty, self‐determination, and equal humanity. All signs confirm that the repeatedly affirmed and fully understood lesson of history will continue to be true; i.e. until some resolution to the conflict arrives, the Palestinian people will continue with their first option of resisting the ethnic cleansing, oppression, dispossession, and occupation by all means available.
Ottawa , Canada
Hope is the stuff from which life is made!