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April 16, 2004


>The current situation in Israel/Palestine is unsustainable. It will
>collapse, just as apartheid collapsed in South Africa.

Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more like the one in the former
Yugoslavia, where the international community has backed partition, or
more like the one in the former South Africa, where the international
community demanded dismantlement of the Bantustans? The key
difference between the two cases would seem to be that in Yugoslavia,
the warring parties have similarly sized populations, while in the
latter case blacks greatly outnumbered Afrikaaners. On the other
hand, former South African prime minister F.W. deKlerk remarked that
partition would have worked in South Africa had the Afrikaaners not
grabbed all the best lands for their sector. (Whatever you may think
of deKlerk personally, you have to admit that he successfully presided
over resolution of one of the world's bitterest conflicts.) In
Yugoslavia a relatively equitable historical distribution of lands was
in place when conflict broke out, so reinforcing existing boundaries
to create a partition made sense. One question therefore is, is the
current distribution of land in Palestine equitable?

The other recent historical example of partition is India and
Pakistan, who are famously still fighting. Can partition ever really
lead to peace? Perhaps having armies fight each is better than having
individuals battle on the streets.

Seems that at least one scientist, rational friend is listening. Thanks for the perspective comparing Yugoslavia, Pakistan/India, South Africa, and the Israeli/Palestinian situation.

There's also the example of Lebanon, which fought a 17 year civil war in the late 20th century. The wounds have not fully healed but the stitched together patchwork society functions. Many Lebanese called for partition, which seems laughable in such a small country. In the 19th century the Ottomans practiced a kind of ethnic partition by establishing villages of different religions as buffers between opposing groups (i.e. a string of Christian villages in the South, separating a Shi'ite area from a Druze stronghold- those two groups slaughtered each other in the mid 19th as well as late 20th century) When I think about it, this partition didn't work much better than India/Pakistan.

Oh, Leila, we already knew you were a kook ;-)

It's hard to imagine that the current land distribution could be considered equitable. It's one thing to partition a stable region (assuming the populations within those regions are more or less homogeneous); it's quite another to partition after a forced or coerced migration.

BIL writes:
>It's hard to imagine that the current land >distribution could be considered equitable.

Because the Palestinian right-of-return has not been guaranteed, or because the Gaza Strip/West Bank are worse land than pre-1948 Israel? I'm just curious.

"Because the Palestinian right-of-return has not been guaranteed, or because the Gaza Strip/West Bank are worse land than pre-1948 Israel? I'm just curious."

I don't really know very much about the conflict, I'm just speculating, really, but it seems like it's kind of an either/or proposition.

A right of return in an otherwise two-state solution just doesn't seem feasible. If a single-state, non-apartheid solution could be found, there might be a possibility that return or compensation could be addressed in a legitimate way, by a judiciary with some real democratic authority. I can't see that happening without a lot of healing on all sides.

One can only talk about the adequacy of the West Bank and Gaza in the context of a two-state solution, so we're back to the question of whether any partition is viable. I just don't know. Back to India/Pakistan analogies, it seems like splitting into noncontiguous regions is not sustainable, like in the case of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Introducing the Movement for One Democratic Secular State

As the Israeli occupation continues to grow ever more entrenched, more and more people around the world are reaching the conclusion that the ethnic separatist "two-state solution" is no longer viable possibility. The level of physical integration between Palestinians and Israelis, both inside and outside the Green Line, as well as simple demographic realities has effectively negated any realistic separatist schemes aside from the current "ghettoization" policy being employed by the Israeli government, which is not sustainable.

The alternatives to ethnic separation within Mandatory Palestine (“between the river and the sea”) are the "one state models", both racist one state models based on ethnically cleansing "the others" from Israel/Palestine and the progressive one state models based on integrating Palestinians - including the refugees - and Israelis into a single state and polity. For progressives, the idea of ethnic cleansing is utterly anathema and can therefore be ruled out as an acceptable solution.

Among the progressive one state models there is an extremely broad array of opinion on how this can best be brought about. The federalist model envisions separate ethnic states or cantons, and draws much of its inspiration from the examples of Belgium and Switzerland. The binational model envisions separate group-specific laws and rights within the framework of a united state, similar to the existing status quo in Israel proper or the situation in modern Lebanon, sans the overt discrimination against particular communities. The integrationist models hold the view that separate can never be equal and generally look to the South African model for inspiration, based on core principles of anti-racism, "one person - one vote", and the nondiscriminatory employment of the rule of law to all citizens. Each of these models has its own advantages and disadvantages and it is impossible to say which model will eventually gain the most support.

Right now the one state perspective is a minority one. However, some 25-30% of Palestinian refugees, the vast majority of Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship, and smaller percentages of other Israelis and Palestinians already view the one state proposition as an acceptable compromise. All of these percentages can be increased if we, as in the global peace, justice, and human rights community take on the issue and make it mainstream.

In order to advance the progressive one state concept - regardless of the model preferred - we have decided to launch the "Movement for One Democratic Secular State" project. At this early stage we are primarily forming an online community in order to enable networking between one state activists, to share tips and opinions on effective one state advocacy, as well as to generally develop the progressive one state concept by allowing advocates of the various models to make their respective cases and then debate the issues. This is an essentially progressive project, meaning that we expect all participants to stay within the basic - though very broad - perimeters of the project as defined on the "Positions of the Movement" page. Further the community is fully democratic, each member has the right to propose new initiatives, vote on previous initiatives as well as to discuss various concerns in an open forum among other members.

The Movement is meant to accommodate both the intellectual as well as the activist, though you need not be either to participate. On the intellectual front there are the discussions regarding the various models as well as how to get from where we are today to actually realizing the one state ideal in Palestine/Israel. For the activist, we discuss ways and means of arguing the point, effective rebuttal of ethnocentric/racist positions, examples of other activities elsewhere that can be employed in your area, as well as a news service to advertise your own efforts at promoting the one state ideal.

Please visit the Movement for One Democratic Secular State website at http://www.onestate.org Read the "Positions" and "Purpose" of the Movement and if you find your own views compatible with ours, please consider joining us. In most respects, the one state case is much easier to make than the ethnic separatist "two-state solution" one, therefore it behooves us to encourage the one state case to become a mainstream suggestion. The initiative is new, having only went public on August 7, so there is plenty of room to for everyone to participate.

John Sigler

Movement for One Democratic Secular State

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