“The Popular Movement for One Democratic State on the Land of Historical Palestine” and “The Jaffa Group for One Democratic State” held joint study day on Saturday, November 2, 2013, to discuss the prospects of the “one democratic state” program and challenges in the way. More than a hundred activists from all over historic Palestine, from Haifa, Jaffa and the Galilee, Ramallah, Jerusalem and other villages and cities, gathered in the hall of the “Retno” hotel in Ramallah. The study day started at eleven and the discussions continued until five o’clock in the afternoon.
A delegation from the “Haifa Group”, which announced its formation in September 2013, joined and took active part. A representative of ODS supporters from Britain presented a brief report on the progress towards organizing support for this program in Europe.
The study day was guided by Mounir Al-Aboshi, Radi Jarai, Omar Assaf and Awni Mashni of the Popular Movement from Ramallah, in addition to Ofra Yeshua-Lyth and Khaled Jabarin of the Jaffa group and Muhannad Abu Ghosh and Yoav Bar of the Haifa group. Most of the time was devoted to listen to the views of the participants and to an open discussion about the objectives and ways of working of the new movement.
The organizers clarified at the opening that the ODS program aims at restoring all the usurped rights of the Palestinian people, first and foremost the right of return for all refugees. Confirming this goal refutes any intersection between our program, which is based on democracy and liberty, and the empty political balloons waved recently by some spokesmen of the Israeli right. The starting point and ultimate goal of the program of the Zionist Right and Left alike is to prevent the application of the right of return, solidify the results of the crime of ethnic cleansing and maintain the Jewish apartheid state.
The participants also stressed that ODS is the only program that provides the conditions for the application of the right of return and to fully get rid of the occupation and the racist apartheid regime. For this reason it is the only program that can be considered as a solution. In contrast, the continuation of the occupation and the re-division of the country could only lead to increased suffering and the continuation of the bloody conflict.
The organizers pointed to the symbolic significance of holding the study day on November 2, the anniversary of the “Balfour Declaration”. By this document Britain awarded legitimacy to Zionist colonization at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people, in order to establish a foothold for Western imperialism in the Arab region and the Middle East in general.
After the opening there were two open discussion sessions. The first discussion was designated to concerns and challenges. Several participants spoke about the existing obstacles to converting the ODS program from a dream and a lofty goal into reality on the ground. Others stressed that this is a program for struggle that can be realized through our collective efforts. Raising this program helps us to unify anew the Palestinian people’s struggle in all geographies. In addition this program puts our conflict with the Zionist movement in the true perspective as a struggle against an occupation regime, opposing racist colonization that contradicts all the concepts of democracy and human rights. This way, working for ODS may contribute to isolate Israel internationally.
One of the main concerns expressed by the participants was of continuing the old power relations and the dominance of “white” immigrants (of European origin) over the resources and the economy, even in the framework of a single democratic state that will revoke privileges and forbid racial segregation on the legal level.
The experience of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the abolition of this regime were mentioned as proof of the efficacy of this type of struggle. But South Africa was also mentioned as an example of political change and the establishment of a formal democratic system without paying attention to the need for a radical change in power relations in society and the economy.
The second dialogue session addressed the issue of converting ODS from a concept to a program of struggle. Many speakers stressed that ODS does not legitimize settlement, nor eliminates the daily struggle against the occupation in all its forms. It rather supplements these struggles by bringing together resistance to the settlements and the wall and all partial confrontations with the occupation as one political struggle directed by a comprehensive strategy.
Speakers proposed many practical suggestions for specific steps to defend the people’s rights, stemming from the urgent needs of the masses, while creating awareness and interest in the ODS program as a comprehensive solution that will ensure these rights.
The study day provided a distinguished opportunity for a meeting between activists from both sides of the Green Line as a step towards building a new type of movement for democratic struggle. This movement will unite freedom activists from the country’s residents and from the Palestinian refugees and supporters of rights, democracy, justice and equality regardless of religion or origin.
Some participants commented on the problematic labeling of our partnership: Should we speak about a partnership between Arabs and Jews while we know that Arabism is based on language and Judaism is religion? Some suggested talking about a partnership between Arabs and “Ivrim” (Hebrew Speakers)… Some spoke of “Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews”. But, most importantly, a true partnership is built through the joint struggle against oppression and colonialism in all its forms and through confidence that this is the best and fastest way to reach the common goal, the return of the Palestinian refugees and ensuring free and safe life and well-being for all.
The audience received with applause the news of the arrival of a letter of support on behalf of the International Committee of the Green Party of the United States. The representative of the party, Justine McCabe, reported in the letter about continuous increase in the number of Americans who are convinced that one democratic state is the only just and sustainable solution to the conflict in Palestine.