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An Interview with the One Democratic State Initiative

An interview by Basel El Husseini and Alain Alameddine with South African newspaper “Black Republic – Azania”

1. Why is the term “apartheid” used in describing Israel’s current rule over Palestinians?

That is due to Israel’s overwhelming scrutiny over the Palestinians. There are countless barriers and rigorous military checkpoints that deliberately restrict and limit the movements of the Palestinians; there are separate legal systems, one that favors the Jewish settlers and another, that is discriminatory in nature, for the Palestinians; racio-religious segregation is rampant, with many Jewish-only streets and neighborhoods that Palestinians, including those with Israeli citizenship, are not allowed to enter or live in; and, because of the imposed blockade on Gaza where the Israeli government controls the flow of goods and aid in and out of Gaza as well as the electricity, water supply, gas and energy, etc.

2. Who are the Palestinian citizens of Israel and what rights do they have?

They are former “Palestinian citizens” who did not live in Gaza or the West Bank prior to the establishment of the Israeli state. They are segregated from Israeli society and are second-class citizens who are subjected to systemic discrimination by local Israelis and the governmental bodies of the Jewish state.

3. What do Palestinians mean by the right of return?

When the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel was made in 1948, Israeli militias initiated a war against the native Palestinians, which led to war with the five neighboring Arab countries. This event is known as the Nakba – catastrophe – where around 750,000 Palestinians were forcefully displaced. Israel still does not allow these Palestinians to return, and they have been scattered in the Arab world and Gaza as refugees ever since.

4. Is life different for Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank compared to Gaza?

The Palestinian resistance liberated Gaza from physical occupation in 2005. Instead, Israel has sought to control it in different ways, such as destroying its airport, imposing a blockade, and forbidding it from becoming self-sufficient in terms of energy. On the other hand, in the West Bank, the so-called “Palestinian” Authority works hand in hand with the occupiers. They target, arrest, torture and kill freedom fighters. Meanwhile Israel keeps building more settlements and cutting off Palestinian towns from each other. Something similar is happening in Jerusalem where non-Jews are denied building permits and allocation of funds—that is, when they’re not being physically thrown out of their homes to make way for new settlers. All Palestinians feel the oppression of the “Jewish state” in different ways.

5. What is the ODSI, how did it come into being and what are the objectives of the ODSI?

The One Democratic State Initiative is a Palestinian political initiative working in Palestine and the diaspora to reclaim the narrative and center it on the solution: The establishment of one secular, democratic Palestinian state from the river to the sea. It was established in early 2023 by a number of longtime ODS supporters as well as more recent ones, and has since grown to over 1000 supporters.

6. What initiatives have been undertaken by ODSI so far?

As a Palestinian initiative, we have been working primarily in Palestine. We have an organized presence in Gaza and quite a number of signups in the West Bank. We also have a number of Palestinian and Israeli supporters in the 48 territories. We manage to reach over 1 million Palestinians online every month, and we contact each and every person that signs up and invite them to take part in the work. We also contact pro-Palestinian individuals and organizations to urge them to adopt ODS as part of their discourse.

7. Why a one Secular state as opposed to the two-state solution? What if Palestinian choose to accept a two state solution?

The term “secular” is used to emphasize the depoliticization of identity when it comes to governance. We are advocating for a state that is neutral in nature when it comes to identity and religion, in other words, one that is neither Jewish nor Islamic. The Palestinian Authority has accepted the two-state proposal before, but the Zionist movement, which Israel is predicated on, never intended for the Palestinians to have a state of their own, and the current Israeli government explicitly refuse the two-state proposal.

8. How realistic is the possibility of a one secular state solution? And how will it work?

The current balance of power is not in favor of a secular solution. However, the Palestinian resistance on the ground, the international efforts to isolate Israel and Zionism’s internal contradictions are tipping the balance. We have a twofold mission: first, to make ODS part of the Palestinian liberation discourse again, and force Israelis to side either with a democratic state or against it; second, to organize our supporters.

9. What explains U.S. and European policy toward Israel and the Palestinians? 

Capitalism. First, because the profit motive favors colonization, not liberation. For example, the CEO of Lockheed Martin (the world’s largest weapons manufacturer) said “There’s no point in restraining Israel from any military actions. There are conflicts which need to be resolved with arms and we are prepared to provide these arms.” Second, because the accumulation of wealth allows capitalists to control the media. For example, 90% of French media is in the hands of a few billionaires. This non-democratic control over the masses enables pro-Israel propaganda.

10. Can the solutions to the Palestinian colonization and other wars globally be resolved by imperialist institutions like the UN, ICC, and ICJ?

No. Let us not be fooled: International tools like the UN, the ICC and the ICJ were made to be imperialist tools. For example, the way the ICJ was designed forbids it from implementing its resolutions—Only the UN can do that. And the UN is designed to be subjected to the veto system between 5 major powers. This means that in practice, these tools represent the will of these 5 powers, not universal values of justice.

11. Then, what impact will the genocide case brought against Israel by South African government in the ICJ have?

Although it will not stop the genocide, it can still have an impact: It adds yet another layer of legitimacy to the Palestinian plea that Israel is committing a deliberate genocide. It brings awareness of the facts, giving viewers a clearer bigger picture of what is occurring. It shows Palestinians they are not alone. And when it fails to stop the genocide, it will reveal the real role of these imperialist tools. For all these, we thank South Africa!

12. Why is there less solidarity and collaboration between African and Palestinian people as both face an onslaught from western imperialism?

It is not that there is less solidarity or collaboration, aside from a very few countries, there isn’t any or it is very minimal to begin with, but that is because a great majority of African states do not educate their people about past or current Middle Eastern affairs, and the news the people receive is second-hand at best. This is linked to the fact that a lot of African countries have corrupt leaders and politicians who exploit their people for their own personal gain. Moreover, “Western” countries, particularly the United States, might impose sanctions or stop foreign aid from coming to countries that are dependent on them if they intervene. For these reasons, the Palestinian case is distant and might be seen as irrelevant by the general populace; we also understand that these countries are facing their own adversities, so we recognize that this isn’t happening deliberately or out of indifference.

13. What can be done to strengthen the campaign of ODSI on the African Continent?

We are also trying to get organized in Africa, particularly in Egypt and South Africa, where we have dozens of supporters. Africans can support our liberation struggle by joining us in our effort to contact local pro-Palestinian individuals and organizations to try to get them to support ODS. They can also support it by joining local political movements that struggle against capitalism, the politicization of identity, and colonialism.

Basel El Husseini is an Egyptian-born Palestinian-Lebanese whose family came to Egypt during the Nakba of 1948. He is currently studying Architectural Engineering at the American University in Cairo, and is a supporter of the One Democratic State Initiative.

Alain Alameddine is a member of Lebanese political party “Citizens in a State” and a supporter of the Palestinian “One Democratic State Initiative”

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