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One-State-Solution in Palestine/Israel
Interview of Dr. Sami Aldeeb
Chairman of the Association for one Democratic State in Palestine/Israel
by Andrea Bistrich [email protected]
for Share International http://www.shareintl.org/
From 23 to 25 June, a conference gathered in the University of Lausanne about 150 participants coming from 20 countries and the five continents. Many of them were Jews and Palestinians living inside and outside Palestine/Israel. More than 40 participants presented a paper. The participants adopted a final Declaration in which they sustain the creation of One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel with equal rights for all the inhabitants, and recognise the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. This solution is considered as « the best vehicle for achieving the full political, economic and security interests of all inhabitants ».
This conference was organised by the Collective for Peace in Palestine/Israel, an ad hoc organisation composed of different associations, the main one being the Association for on Democratic State in Palestine/Israel, created in Switzerland April 15, 2003. This Association has today more than 500 members, and every day new members join it. After the conference, Share International spoke with the chairman of this Association, Dr. Sami Aldeeb, a Christian Palestinian with Swiss citizenship, expert in Arab and Islamic Law. We asked him the following questions:
1) To what extend the Palestinians and the Jews are represented in the conference, and what is their importance among the Palestinian and Israeli population?
The participants in the conference are mainly intellectuals. We did not want to gather politicians. Before launching the idea of one-state-solution, one should first establish it intellectually and give a rational basis for it. Then it must be presented to the people from both sides. Once you have the support of the intellectuals and of the people, you can ask the politicians to realise it. You cannot in the first step work with the politicians. Otherwise, you will perpetuate the dilemma in the Middle-East where the intellectuals and the people are excluded from any political decisions, these decisions being taken by politicians who have their egoistic and personal interests.
There have been some political personalities in the conference, but we did not even mention their names. They were sitting in the room as simple persons, without any special privileges and pretensions. Let me mention here that Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, who is in favour of the one-state-solution, wanted to speak through satellite in the conference, but we refused his intervention.
2) You are calling for one Democratic State in Palestine/Israel. Does it mean that you are in favour of a binational state?
The creation of one Democratic State in Palestine/Israel is not our invention. We find it in the PLO programs. It was also promoted by many Jews (as Martin Buber, Judah Magnes and Meron Benvenisti), and Palestinians (as Naim Khader and Edward Said). Some of them proposed a binational state, which means the creation of a society where each religious/ethnic community maintains its own laws and courts, with its privileges. This is the case in different Arab countries asEgypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq… and even inside Israel, West-Bank and Gaza. Such a solution is not acceptable for us, because it means the perpetuation of religious divisions and discriminations. What we look for is the creation of a Unitarian State, with unified laws, unified courts, unified army, unified police, unified parliament and unified government… and even with unified cemetery. Certainly we like to respect the religious freedom as well as the cultural and linguistic diversity, but these elements should not become an instrument to violate human dignity and discriminate people because of their religion, gender or language.
3) Your proposition seems completely impossible in the present situation dominated by violent clashes and extremism among Palestinians and Israelis. Isn’t utopian?
Our proposition comes from the fact that all the initiatives on the International and Arab level failed and will fail because they are based on wrong premises. These initiatives deem that it is possible to divide Palestine/Israel in two states, which is geographically and economically absolutely impossible. The land is too small and both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, need each other more than ever before. Even Sharon needs the Palestinian workers to build his new Berlinwall or to drink his cup of coffee in the morning.
And if a partition of the country is imposed, it will create more problems than the present ones. Such a partition means the dismantlement of a large number of settlements, which is in itself impossible. Jews living in these settlements will resist any evacuation and will feel betrayed by their own government which encouraged them to settle there. The great majority of them believe that all the land of Palestine/Israel belongs to them and that there is no difference between Tel-Aviv and any of their settlements. Many of them are born in these settlements. A forced evacuation may provoke a civil war in Israel, with many innocent victims.
On the Palestinian side, a partition of the country means a renouncement of the right of the Palestinian refugees to go home. This is clearly said in the Geneva Initiative and other previous agreements. The Palestinian refugees have suffered a lot during more than half a century and always cultivated the hope to return home. Many of them still keep the keys of their destroyed homes. They will resist any denial of their right to return and will manifest their refusal by suicide… as we see it already now. And suppose that a Palestinian state is created, after the first attack in Tel-Aviv or Haifa, the Israeli army will reoccupy the newly created state. We will then be soon in square zero.
Although many may think that our proposition is utopian, any other solution will just be a nightmare for the region. Furthermore, the present situation cannot continue as it is now. Unless both sides reject the idea of the partition of the country, they will develop an extremism which will endanger the entire region. Israelis are more and more repressive towards the Palestinians, and they are enlarging their nuclear arsenal. But this arsenal will become their own trap, polluting the land and the water. They are beginning to distribute to the population living around Dimona nuclear reactor medicaments against cancer. As Dimona reactor is an old one, it will be soon fissured, exposing all the Middle-East to nuclear radiation as what happened with Chernobyl. On the Palestinian side, Palestinians may recourse to non conventional weapons to counter the supremacy of the Israeli army. Many articles express such a fear. These expected and unavoidable developments will affect not only the populations from both sides, but also all the region, as well as the animals and the vegetables. All this region will become a desert in which nothing can survive.
4) You are describing an apocalypse. How could we escape from it? Is this region a damned region?
Yes it is a damned region, for all the world. The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis has its daily international consequences… through terrorism and religious fundamentalism.
The only way to escape from this apocalypse is to return to reason and rationality. As both Palestinians and Israelis pretend that all the land belongs to each of them, give all the land to both. Leave the settlements where they are and allow to the Palestinian refugees to go home. Notice that the majority of the Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel (more than 400 villages), are still empty. They are covered by forest to erase their trace. The return of the Palestinian refugees will not create a problem. Take the case of Emmaus. This village has been completely destroyed by Israelin 1967 and its inhabitants expelled. Israel planted there a forest and transformed it in a picnic place called Canada Park (which costed 15 million dollars paid by the generous Jewish community in Canada!).
The return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and lands, and the maintaining of the settlers in their settlements, must be accompanied by the creation of one state with equal rights and duties for all and the abolition of all discriminatory laws in both sides. This is the only possible solution to guarantee peace and prosperity in the region and in the world.
5) Your proposition is in contradiction with many declarations of the Palestinian authorities, including Yasser Arafat, according to which the Palestinians accept the creation of a Palestinian state living peacefully with Israel.
The PLO was always in favour of one-state-solution although it did not elaborate this concept enough, creating confusion and fear in the mind of the Israelis who are afraid to become a minority. Our Association established a clear legal framework, the first ever done, for an equalitarian state, where religious or ethnic origin will be neither a privilege nor criteria for discrimination. In such a state, there will be no minority and no majority. Just equal individuals.
Now concerning the Palestinian declarations about the creation of a Palestinian state, we have to say that such declarations are done under force and necessity. Palestinians are forced to do so. Legally and morally speaking, such declarations are not binding, and nobody among the Palestinians agrees that such declarations are final and definitive. They just consider them as transitory declarations, waiting for a more favourable wind to change the direction. Ask the Israelis themselves, and you will see that they don’t believe in the Palestinian declarations. And they are absolutely right.
If this is the case, why then should we force the Palestinians to accept the unacceptable, and the Israelis to believe in temporal and unreliable declarations? We should be honest with ourselves and our neighbours and say it clearly that the only possible solution for all our problems is the creation of one Democratic State in Palestine/Israel, with equal rights for all.
Look to history. Who would today divide South Africa between Black and White people? Who would like to divide Germany between East and West? Who would like to divide Switzerlandbetween Catholics and Protestants? Why should we then accept the division of Palestine/Israel between Jews and non-Jews and create a catastrophic and explosive situation for the entire world?
6) Even if your proposition seems rational and optimal, how could you realise it on the ground?
There are many steps which should be undertaken. The first one is to bury once for ever the previous initiatives aiming to divide the country. The presence of such initiatives creates confusion in the mind of people. They are time, energy and money wastage. If you like to go with the train to a city in the north, you have to forget the trains going to the south and look for a train which travels to the north.
Then you have to convince the people that to reach peace, the only possible solution is the creation of one state with equal rights, whatever is their religion. You have to inform them that human beings must be treated equally if we like to avoid their revolt and despair. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in its preamble: « it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law ».
Once you have convinced the people, you have to oblige the politicians to accept the choice of the people. Palestinians and Israelis will discover slowly that they have to choose between mutual extermination and peaceful coexistence in one democratic state. All what we can do as association, is to show them the road to peace instead of the road to extermination. But we cannot choose instead of them.
Website of the Association
Association for one Democratic State in Palestine/Israel
Writings of Dr. Sami Aldeeb in:
Final declaration of Lausanne conference:
Initiative for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel
The conference to promote the Initiative for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel took place at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, on June 23-25, 2004. The participants, drawn from different nationalities and religions inside and outside Palestine/Israel, adopted the following Declaration.
The Initiative for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel aims to remedy the tragic consequences of the forced partition of the territory in 1948 that led to dispossession, further occupation and chronic conflict beyond the region.
The Initiative for One Democratic State in Palestine/Israel aims to change the political organization of the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, basing this on full sovereignty and equality for all the inhabitants and also for the Palestinian refugees since 1948 and their heirs. This is to be done on the basis of one person one vote, and in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and standards of international law. It is proposed that full measures be implemented to enable the Palestinian refugees to return to the homeland and receive lawful restitution and compensation. All the inhabitants should be entitled to purchase, lease and rent land and housing in the entire territory of Palestine/Israel.
Recognizing the difficulties of implementing the one-state solution in the present circumstances, the initiative aims:
1) to support all efforts at ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land,
2) to promote the one-state idea amongst Israeli and Palestinian communities.
The conference looks to the international community to assist in these efforts. We believe that the one democratic state is the best vehicle for achieving the full political, economic and security interests of all inhabitants of the new State.
The Association for one Democratic State in Palestine/Israel, assisted by representatives from the member groups of the Collective for peace in Palestine/Israel, will ensure follow-up of relevant activities worldwide, including Palestine/Israel, and will try to muster international support for these activities. A follow-up meeting is envisaged in the near future.
Lausanne, June 25, 2004.