Re-imagining Palestine


        [Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications]



With Yassir Arafat’s departure, the doubling of the population of Jewish-Israeli colonial settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory, the latest Israeli slow genocide in Gaza and the fast disintegration of the last vestiges of Israeli "democracy," the two-state "solution" for the Palestinian-Israeli colonial conflict is finally dead. Good riddance! This was never a moral or practical solution to start with, as its main objective has always been to win official Palestinian legitimization of Israel’s colonial and apartheid existence on top of most of the area of historic Palestine. It is high time to move on to the most just, morally sound and sustainable solution: the secular, democratic unitary state. 

Blinded by the arrogance of power and the ephemeral comfort of impunity afforded to it by its US partner and a complicit Europe, Israel, against its own strategic Zionist interests, failed to control its insatiable appetite for ethnically cleansing more of the indigenous people of Palestine and for expanding its control at the expense of their lands, devouring the very last bit of land that was supposed to form the material foundation for an independent Palestinian state.

With its latest siege of Gaza which culminated in its televised massacre of more than 1,500 Palestinians, the great majority of whom are civilians, Israel has entered a new phase in its relentless policy of making life for the indigenous Palestinians so intolerable as to compel them to leave: the slow genocide phase.

I shall argue in this essay that a secular, democratic unitary state in British Mandate Palestine is the most just and morally coherent solution to the century-old colonial conflict, primarily because it offers the best hope for reconciling the ostensibly irreconcilable — the inalienable rights of the indigenous Palestinians, particularly the right to self-determination, and the acquired rights of the colonial settlers to live in peace and security, individually and collectively, after ridding them of their colonial privileges.

To establish such a state there is critical need for a long, intricate process of what I call ethical de-colonization, or de-zionization, involving two simultaneous, dialectically related processes: reflection and action, to borrow the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. [2]

Ethical decolonization anchored in international law and universal human rights is a profound process of transformation that requires, above everything else, a sophisticated, principled and popular Palestinian resistance movement with a clear vision for justice and a democratic, inclusive society, as well as an international movement supporting Palestinian rights and struggling to end all forms of Zionist apartheid and colonial rule and de-dichotomizing the conflict in parallel. Without vision and reflection, our struggle would become like a ship without a skipper. Without resistance, our vision would amount to no more than arm-chair intellectualism, if not irrelevant sophistry.  





Among the most discussed alternatives to resolving the question of Palestine, the democratic state solution lays out the clearest mechanism for ending the three-tiered regime of injustice that Palestinians have suffered from since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 on the ruins of Palestinian society: the occupation and colonization of the Palestinian – and other Arab — territory occupied by Israel in 1967; the system of institutionalized and legalized racial discrimination, [3] or apartheid, to which the indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel are subjected to on account of being "non-Jews;" and the persistent denial of the UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestine refugees, especially their right to return to their homes of origin and to reparations.

A two-state solution cannot adequately, if at all, address the second injustice or the third, the core of the question of Palestine. A bi-national solution, also, other than its inherent logical and legal flaws, cannot accommodate the right of return as stipulated in UNGA resolution 194, not to mention the fact that it infringes, by definition, the inalienable rights of the indigenous Palestinians on part of their homeland, particularly the right to self determination. Recognizing national rights of Jewish settlers in Palestine cannot but imply accepting their right to self determination, other than contradicting the very letter, spirit and purpose of the universal principle of self determination primarily as a means for "peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation" to realize their rights, may, at one extreme, lead to claims for secession or Jewish "national" sovereignty on part of the land of Palestine. A Jewish state in Palestine, no matter what shape it takes, cannot but infringe the basic rights of the land’s indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically.

Accepting the colonial settlers as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society, free from all colonial subjugation and discrimination, as called for in the democratic state model, is the most magnanimous offer any indigenous population, oppressed for decades, can present to its oppressors. For such a reality to be attained and sustained, however, the settlers must shed their colonial character and privileges, accepting justice, the Palestinian refugees’ return and reparations, and unmitigated equality. The indigenous population, on the other hand, must be ready, after justice has been reached and rights have been restored, to forgive and to accept the settlers as equal citizens, enjoying normal lives — neither masters nor slaves.


As the One State Declaration [4], issued by several Palestinian, Israeli and international intellectuals and activists states:

"The historic land of Palestine belongs to all who live in it and to those who were expelled or exiled from it since 1948, regardless of religion, ethnicity, national origin or current citizenship status; 

"Any system of government must be founded on the principle of equality in civil, political, social and cultural rights for all citizens. Power must be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all people in the diversity of their identities; …"