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ONE DEMOCRATIC PALESTINE, FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA.

WHAT IS THE ONE DEMOCRATIC STATE INITIATIVE?

The Zionist settler-colonial endeavor to establish a Jewish state in Palestine has come at the cost of untold suffering —oppression, dispossession, massacres, forced displacement, apartheid, occupation, and others— to the Palestinian people. As a movement that politicizes identity and segregates on its basis, Zionism has further proven to be a danger to the cohesion and health of societies already plagued with sectarianism beyond the borders of Palestine.

The “two-state solution” has proven not to be a solution at all. Neither can one identitarian aspiration be fought with another. The fundamental antithesis to the Zionist project can only be a project that depoliticizes identity: The establishment of one democratic state, for all its citizens, from the river to the sea. The purpose of this initiative is thus to mobilize individuals, entities and political parties, in Palestine and abroad, behind such an endeavor.

ONE DEMOCRATIC STATE — THE VISION

What is the One Democratic State solution?

The “One Democratic State” solution is a political vision that identifies Zionism’s settler-colonial endeavor as the root cause of suffering and violence in Palestine, and its politicization of identity as a danger to the cohesion and health of societies already plagued with sectarianism beyond the borders of Palestine. Accordingly, it proposes the transition to One Democratic State as the only possible solution.

Such an inclusive Palestinian state would be:

  • DemocraticAll citizens would be equal in the eye of the state, including its laws, institutions and policies, regardless of identity. This includes the right of those who have been ethnically cleansed from Palestine to return and enjoy full citizenship.
  • Secular: Freedom of worship would be guaranteed, and one’s religion or identity would not be a factor in granting or denying rights to citizens or non-citizens. Radical measures would be taken to protect society from sectarian or racist ideologies, individuals and movements.
  • Socially just: Stolen land, homes and property would be restituted to all victims of dispossession. Resources and social welfare would be allotted fairly to all citizens. The income, poverty and education gaps would be bridged.

As such, the ODS solution differs from existing approaches to the Palestinian cause, as it:

  • Refuses proposals that politicize identity such as a state that discriminates against non-Jews or against Jews, one state exclusive to Jews next to another exclusive to Arabs, or a binational or confederate state.
  • Differs from approaches focused on means of liberation (such as military resistance or BDS efforts) or on rights or crimes (such as the right of return or Israeli apartheid) outside the context of a political solution to dismantle the Jewish state and establish a democratic state in its stead.

By refusing the politicization of identity altogether, the One Democratic State solution thus proposes the fundamental antithesis to the Zionist settler-colonial project: A project that views state as tools to administer the affairs of society rather than war machines in the hands of identity groups against others, and that thus proposes the dismantling of the Jewish state and the establishment of one secular, democratic state from the river to the sea.

Relevant Readings:

Cultural resistance against Zionism: Key expressions and concepts — ODS Initiative
‘From the River to the Sea’: Really? — Blake Alcott
One Democratic State: An Ongoing Debate — Naji El Khatib and Ofra Yeshua-Lyth

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Why is it crucial to depoliticize identity?

Politicizing identity fragments societies, which are naturally made of individuals of different identities. It has been at the heart of the European “us vs. them” colonial nation-state model which has oppressed billions of humans over centuries. Depoliticizing identity and establishing a democratic state that functions as an apparatus to administer the affairs of society rather than a bellicose tool in the hands of an identity against others is the only solution to the occupation, segregation and colonization of Palestine.

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Why focus on the ODS solution now?

There is a pressing need to define the objective of all means of liberation such as armed resistance, BDS or raising awareness of Palestinian rights and Israeli crimes. By identifying Zionism’s politicization of identity and Israel’s nature as a state exclusive to Jews as the root issue of the suffering and injustice in Palestine, the “One Democratic State” solution clearly defines liberation as the dismantling of the apartheid, settler-colonial state and the establishment of one democratic state in its stead.

Rallying around the ODS solution as the objective prevents settling for mere “improvements” such as less crimes in the West Bank, less discrimination among Israeli citizens or the two-state proposal, whereupon Israel could argue its actions no longer constitute occupation or apartheid according to certain internationally recognized laws or standards, while its nature as a non-democratic settler colony remains. This prevents normalizing with the existence of a sectarian settler-colony by turning the Palestinian liberation struggle into a mere moral or real estate issue that should be resolved by good will. It also prevents the infiltration of Palestinian or pro-Palestinian efforts by so-called “liberal” Zionists who criticize Israel’s practices but are keen on maintaining the existence of a state exclusive to Jews.

Adopting the ODS narrative also protects the legitimacy of the Palestinian liberation movement from falling into racist narratives that discriminate against Jews, non-Arabs or non-Muslims. To the contrary, remaining focused on the focal question “A Jewish state or a democratic state?” lays bare Zionism’s reality as a settler-colonial rather than democratic endeavor, does not get side-tracked by hasbara whataboutist tactics, and helps close Palestinian and pro-Palestinian ranks around a political project for genuine liberation and decolonization.

Relevant Readings:

The case for the One Democratic State Initiative as a counter-hegemonic endeavor — Alain Alameddine
What is the stand of the ODS Initiative regarding means of liberation such as armed resistance or BDS?

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Isn’t the ODS solution utopian?

Rallying around the One Democratic State solution in view of achieving it would require a shift from current Palestinian approaches which are currently focused on the two-state proposalidentitarian proposals or passive “status quo” normalization. Democracy’s prevailing further entails the defeat of Zionism as a racist, settler-colonial movement and the dismantling of the Israeli state as a state exclusive to Jews.

The power balance is currently not in favor of a democratic solution. However, the obvious failure of the two-state proposal, Israel’s further slide into fascism, efforts by Palestinians and allies, as well as Zionism’s inner contradictions as a movement that politicizes identity, are bound to tip the balance in favor of the decolonization and democratization of Palestine.

The purpose of the One Democratic State Initiative is to mobilize individuals, entities and political parties, in Palestine and abroad, behind such an endeavor. We call on you to sign up as a supporter of the One Democratic State solution and to take part in the efforts to make it a reality.

Relevant Readings:

One Democratic State: A real possibility
Nationalist-Religious Zionism Reveals Zionism’s True Nature: A Historic Opportunity for the Struggle Towards One Democratic State in Palestine? — Naji El Khatib

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Who would be eligible for citizenship or residency in this democratic state?

A state’s function being to administer the affairs of the society living in a certain territory, it follows that individuals who belong to a certain society would be eligible for citizenship in its state, regardless of their religious, ethnic, cultural or other identity.

Although there is no universal consensus on the conditions that define one’s belonging to a society, the principles of jus soli (“right of soil”, the right of an individual born in a territory to be a citizen of its state) and jus sanguinis (“right of blood”, the right of an individual to hold their parents’ citizenship) are commonly applied. Such principles help guarantee that those given the right to participate in the state’s administration of affairs, including the right to self-determination, are those whose interests are directly affected by said state’s administration, rather than individuals belonging to other societies. Other factors are also taken into consideration as indicators of the individual’s successful integration into society, such as their economic and social integration, respect of the law, owning property, marriage to natives, length of residency and learning the local language. In cases of colonization, another crucial principle comes into play: The individual’s sincere willingness to integrate the existing society as a citizen rather than supplant it as a settler.

In accordance with the above, the following suggestion might be of value: “Palestinian citizenship will be extended to all native Palestinians, including all who were expelled over the past century and their descendants. Citizenship will also be extended to all who were born in Palestine and who wish to become citizens of the new democratic Palestinian state. A law shall facilitate continuing residency for other current residents who wish to remain in Palestine under the sovereignty of the new democratic state and are deemed not to pose any threat to society. At no point shall religious, ethnic, cultural or other identity be a criterion for granting or denying citizenship or residency.”

The legitimacy of a post-colonial democratic state, which breaks free with Zionism’s politicizing of identity, and protects society by establishing a similar break among its residents, prospective citizens and citizens, is thus firmly established.

Relevant Readings:

The liberation of Palestine and the fate of the Israelis — Eitan Bronstein Aparicio

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What about the right of return?

The 1948 mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, rightly called “Al Nakba” or “The Catastrophe”, is not an isolated crime. For centuries, ethnic cleansing has been a hallmark of the national-colonial political project, which politicizes identity and establishes states as identitarian, racist, apartheid régimes rather than apparatuses to administer the affairs of society, irrespective of its citizens’ identities.

The human right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their land—as well as to freedom of movement, housing, socioeconomic inclusion and compensation—is therefore more than a moral imperative or a human right. It is a necessary milestone in the decolonization of Palestine and the global struggle against colonialism. As such, it is an issue that cannot be approached apolitically: Since a state exclusive to Jews cannot in principle honor non-Jewish refugees’ right to return, the latter can only be achieved within the context of a political project for a transition from the apartheid state to a democratic state in Palestine.


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Why not the two-state proposal?

All evidence points to the fact that Israel never intended for the two-state proposal to succeed:

  • David Ben Gurion explicitly stated that a Jewish state on only part of the land is not the end but the beginning. Indeed, Israeli plans to annex the West Bank predate 1967
  • Oslo architect and signatory Yitzhak Rabin declared that he would grant the Palestinians less than a state and ensured that no reference was made to a Palestinian state in the accords he signed
  • In the years following the Oslo accord, the colonization of the West Bank has continued, with thousands of housing units being built for Jews, hundreds of Palestinian homes destroyed, thousands of Jews brought in, and thousands of Palestinians displaced. Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed that all Palestinians could have was a state-minus

The two-state proposal thus seems to have been more about Israel gaining time and hiding the reality of colonialism than about being an actual solution.

More importantly, however, the two-state proposal relies upon the premise that identity should be politicized: Since Palestinians and Jews exist on this land, the land should be partitioned to allow for the establishment of a state for Palestinians and another for Jews. This reproduces the colonial model that views states, not as apparatuses to administer the affairs of society in a certain territory, but as aggressive machines in the hands of a certain identity against others. The danger of this political vision can be seen in the implications of the establishment of two identitarian states: Cementing the injustice of occupation, dispossession and colonization, further fragmenting society into two groups, institutionalizing this enmity as opposed resolving it by means of a non-segregative democratic state, a denial of the right of return (why would Palestinians return to a Jewish state? Let them return to “their” state), and a door wide open for further ethnic cleansing of Arabs from the Jewish state (why would Palestinians remain in a Jewish state? Let them go to “their” state).

Colonization must be understood for what it is: not the migration of individuals to another land and integrating the indigenous society/polity, but their choosing to supplant the indigenous society/polity with one exclusive to “them”. The question is, therefore, not about the number of states, but about the successful decolonization of Palestine and the triumph of democracy over identitarianism and colonialism.

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Why should it be a democratic “Palestinian” state?

For the same reason why Theodor HerzlArthur Balfourthe World Zionist Organizationthe British Mandate and the League of Nations called it Palestine, why the “Jewish Agency for Israel” was originally called the “Jewish Agency for Palestine”, why they considered naming the Jewish state “Palestine” (and only dropped it in anticipation of partition), and why Shimon Perez and Golda Meir held Palestinian citizenship: Because “Palestine” has been the land’s name for over 2500 years.

Unlike the Hebrew word “Israel”, which is exclusive to Judaism and therefore exclusive of non-Jews, “Palestine” refers, not to an Arabic or Islamic identity, but to the geographical area where a democratic state can treat all its citizens equally, regardless of how they choose to identify.

Relevant Readings:

One Democratic State: Palestine, Israel or Palestine-Israel? — Alain Alameddine

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Isn’t Israel a democratic state already?

Democracy, being government by the people, is based on the premise of equality between citizens. The state of Israel, however, politicizes identity and discriminates between Jews and non-Jews: In the words of Benjamin Netanyahu, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens, but rather the nation-state of the Jewish people and only them.”

Read more about the many ways in which Israel is an identitarian settler colony rather than a democracy.

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Doesn't the state of Israel have the right to exist?

There is such a thing as human rights; no such thing as states’ rights. No state has a “right to exist”—Neither Israel nor any other state. States are apparatuses which administer the affairs of a certain population in a certain territory, not war machines on behalf of a certain identity against others. It is thus the persons who make up this society who have the democratic right to exist and to decide how their state will administer their society, including what is commonly known as the right of self-determination.

The Zionist project has disregarded the basic democratic rights of the (Jewish and non-Jewish) population of Palestine by effecting, with essential British colonial help, the mass immigration of non-Palestinians to Palestine prior to 1948 and by establishing a “state exclusive to Jews” in Palestine in 1948 with no democratic mandate to do so. The continued existence of a state exclusive to Jews rather than a democratic state of all its citizens means that the trampling of these democratic human rights is ongoing and is therefore not “right”.

A transition to a democratic state of all its citizens would right this century-old wrong and would be a historic step in achieving just and lasting peace in Palestine and the Middle East.

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Is the establishment of a democratic state antisemitic?

Claiming that a democratic solution is antisemitic implies that Judaism is antidemocratic, and that is antisemitic.

Zionism has used Judaism to justify its settler colonial project. ODS, on the other hand, is simply about the right of those forming society in Palestine—Jewish or otherwise—to take democratic control of the administration of their affairs. Prior to 1948, it would have meant their having a choice in accepting or refusing the mass migration of foreigners—Jewish or otherwise— as part of an endeavor to supplant and dominate the existing population; in and after 1948, it means that no state—Jewish or otherwise—may be created or maintained atop an existing people that are then discriminated against on the basis of their identity.

Palestinians, however, are not the only victims of Zionism. By politicizing Jewish identities and claiming that Jews throughout the world form one distinct people, Zionism has also estranged, or further estranged, Jewish citizens from their own states and societies. It has also been the source of infighting and disillusionment within Jewish communities outside Palestine. It has devalued centuries-old Yiddish, Sephardic, Middle Eastern, and other Jewish cultures. It has relied on European anti-Semitic tropes to construct a toxic image of Jewish masculinity. It has diverted charitable contributions away from the Jewish communities that raised them to the JNF and other colonial enterprises. It has put Jews in the line of the Palestinian resistance’s fire, whether by indoctrination, coercion, or other means, and has effectively conflated Judaism and Jewishness with colonialism in the eyes of Jews and non-Jews alike.

It is noteworthy that although Zionism is the only ideology to have succeeded at establishing a state for one identity over others in Palestine, the ODS solution does not single it out as the sole ideology to aim at doing so, and is also opposed to the creation of a state exclusive to Arabs, Muslims, or any other identity. Nor does it view Zionism as an isolated project, but rather, as one of many expressions of the colonialist political project that is based on the politicization of identity. Proposing the establishment of democratic states that function as apparatuses for the administration of society’s affairs rather than war machines in the hand of identitarian groups against others is proposing a political model that is the fundamental antithesis, not only to Zionism, but to the nation-state model and its ideological foundations, beyond the borders of Palestine.

Relevant Readings:

To Our Other — Secular Palestine
An open letter to our Jewish allies — ODS Initiative
Antisemitism? Let’s focus on Palestinians — Blake Alcott
The transition from a Jewish state to true democracy will benefit all — Ner Kitri
Debunking the Myth that "Zionism is Not Colonialism, Just Jewish Self-Determination" — Decolonize Palestine
Ben Ami: Israel support threat to American Jewish community — Philip Weiss

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ONE DEMOCRATIC STATE — THE INITIATIVE

What is the ODSI about?

The One Democratic State Initiative is a Palestinian political endeavor that aims at making the central issue “A Jewish state or a democratic state?” (rather than simply solidarity with Palestinians or criticism of Israel without a definite political objective) the core of the Palestinian liberation discourse, a key milestone in the struggle for the decolonization of Palestine.

The purpose of the Initiative is thus to mobilize individuals, entities and political parties, in Palestine and abroad, behind such an endeavor. To do so, we are reaching out both online and on the ground to individuals and groups who support the One Democratic State solution, who see Zionism for the danger it is but do not support the One Democratic State solution, or who are simply willing to listen.

The more people take part in our campaigns, the more successful we will be. If you share our vision for a transition from settler colonialism to democracy in Palestine, we invite you to declare your support for it by signing up and checking the “I might be able to help” box to take part in the Initiative—There’s tons to be done, and you can make a difference. You may also use our visuals (banners, flyers, posters, stickers) however you see fit.

Relevant Readings:

The case for the One Democratic State Initiative as a counter-hegemonic endeavor — Alain Alameddine

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How is the ODSI funded?

The “One Democratic State” Initiative has no employees. Although we occasionally require a freelancer’s services for a task, we are all volunteers, which helps keep expenses to a bare minimum. We cover these expenses from our personal funds and from donations. We do not accept donations from political movements or states.

If you share our vision for a democratic state in Palestine, we welcome your donation, but most of all, we urge you to declare your support for it by signing up, and by checking the “I might be able to help” box to take part in our efforts—There’s tons to be done, and you can make a difference.

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How can I contact and/or support the ODSI?

To keep updated with our news, follow our Facebook page, and sign up to receive our newsletter. You may also take part in our efforts by checking the corresponding boxes when signing up. For public discussions, join our Facebook group or the r/OneState Reddit group. For private enquiries, please fill this form, and we’ll get back to you—generally within 24 hours, always within 3 days. You may also use our visuals (banners, flyers, posters, stickers) however you see fit.

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Sign up to express your support of the One Democratic State solution.