This is an except from an interview with the U.S.-based Palestinian writer, journalist and editor (of Palestine Chronicle), Ramzy Baroud, by Linda Ramsdens, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition. It appears in ICAHD’s November, 2020, newsletter, and is reprinted here with ICAHD’s permission.
With reference to Oslo, you stated that, “25 years of a frivolous ‘peace process’ and the competing narratives that resulted from this futile exercise, have increasingly rendered the refugees irrelevant, thus marginalizing the core issue of the Palestinian struggle. Without justice for Palestinian refugees, there can never be peace in Palestine.” Is it because of the refugee issue that you have not supported a two-State solution?
The ‘two-State solution’ was never workable, even when it was still a popular buzzword among politicians and intellectuals alike. Oslo was never an opportunity to earnestly bring a just end to the Israeli occupation or to give Palestinians a truly independent State. It was a ploy, and many Palestinians at the time saw through it, but they were deliberately muted by the media and the political euphoria many years ago.
It was obvious that negotiating fundamental Palestinian rights was unwise. To some extent, Oslo allowed Israel to colonize the rest of Palestine with the consent of the Palestinian leadership. With time, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which once represented all Palestinians everywhere, was turned into a local body with the inception of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994. The rights of millions of Palestinian refugees in the diaspora were relegated. The West Bank was divided into areas A, B, and C, each governed by different rules, mostly under the control of the Israeli military.
The ‘Palestinian revolution’ turned into an agonizing process of ‘state-building’, but without state or even contiguous territories. Palestinians who rejected the horrific outcomes of Oslo – the protracted expansion of Jewish colonies, continued violent Occupation which was normalized through ‘security coordination’ between Israel and the PA – were often abused and deemed ‘extremists’.
Meanwhile, successive US administrations continued to fund and defend Israel, unconcerned about its self-tailored job title as the ‘honest peace broker.’
The PA played along because the perks were far too lucrative to be abandoned on principle. A new class of Palestinians had risen, dependent on Oslo for its wealth and affluence.
Even when the Trump Administration cut off the Palestinian Refugees Agency, UNRWA, from all funds, and scrapped the $200 million in humanitarian aid to the PA, the US still released $61 million to the PA to maintain its ‘security cooperation’ with Israel. ‘Israel’s security’ is just too sacred a bond to be broken.
Oslo was a horrific miscalculation and remains dangerous. It is not the agreement itself that matters, but the mindset behind it – the political and diplomatic discourse that is wholly manufactured to serve Israel exclusively.
Some argue that there must be two states first, then, after five or ten years, people will be ready to move on to one state. How do you respond to that?
As I see it, the question now is: “Why does the West continue to use the two-state solution as its political parameter for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while, at the same time, ensuring its own prescription for conflict resolution is never to become a reality?”
The answer, partly, lies in the fact that the two-state solution was never devised for implementation, to begin with. Like the “peace process” and other pretences, it aimed to promote, among Palestinians and Arabs, the idea that there is a goal worth striving for, despite it being unattainable.
However, even that goal was, itself, conditioned on a set of demands that were unrealistic at the outset. Historically, Palestinians have had to renounce violence (their armed resistance to Israel’s military occupation), consent to various UN resolutions (even if Israel still rejects those resolutions), accept Israel’s “right” to exist as a Jewish state, and so on. That yet-to-be-established Palestinian State was also meant to be demilitarized, divided between the West Bank and Gaza, but excluding most of occupied East Jerusalem.
Yet, while warnings that a two-state solution possibility is disintegrating, few bothered to try to understand the reality from a Palestinian perspective. For Palestinians, the debate on Israel having to choose between being democratic and Jewish is ludicrous. For them, Israel’s democracy applies fully to its Jewish citizens and no one else, while Palestinians have subsisted for decades behind walls, fences, prisons and besieged enclaves, like the Gaza Strip.
Fed up with the illusions of their own failed leadership, according to a recent poll, two-thirds of Palestinians now agree that a two-State solution is not possible.
Therefore, it makes no sense to argue that the impossible two-state solution would have to occur first for the one-state solution to be implemented. This argument places yet more obstacles before the Palestinian quest for freedom and rights. If the two-state solution was ever feasible, it would have been achieved when all parties, at least publicly, championed it. Now, the Americans are no longer committed to it and the Israelis have moved past it into whole new territories, plotting the illegal annexation and permanent occupation of Palestine.
Millions of Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews are living between the Jordan River and the Sea; they are already walking on the same earth and drinking the same water, but not as equals. While Israeli Jews represent the privileged, Palestinians are oppressed, caged in behind walls and treated as inferior. To sustain Israeli Jewish privilege as long as possible, Israel uses violence, employs discriminatory laws and, as [the Israeli ‘new’ historian Ilan] Pappe calls it, ‘incremental genocide’ against Palestinians.
A one-state solution aims to challenge Israeli Jewish privilege, replacing the current racist, apartheid regime with a democratic, equitable, and representative political system that guarantees the rights for all peoples and all faiths, as in any other democratic governance anywhere in the world.
For that to take place, no short cuts are required and no further illusions about two states are necessary.
What attracted you to give time to be part of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC)?
Perfect justice is not attainable because history cannot be erased. No truly just solution can be achieved when generations of Palestinians have already died as refugees without their freedom or ever going back to their homes. Nevertheless, allowing injustice to perpetuate because ideal justice cannot be obtained is equally unfair.
For many years, I have advocated a one-state as the most natural outcome of terribly unjust historical circumstances. However, I have refrained from making that my cause celèbre, simply because I believe that any initiatives regarding the future of the Palestinian people must be championed by the Palestinian people themselves. This is necessary to prevent the kind of cliquism and intellectualism that wrought Oslo and all of its ills.
Now that opinion polls in Palestine clearly communicate that the majority of Palestinians do not believe that two states are possible and a growing number support the one state, I am able to publicly take that stance as well. I support the one state – and ODSC – because Palestinians in Palestine are increasingly advocating such a rightful and natural demand. I believe it is only a matter of time before the one state becomes the common cause of all Palestinians.
Much of the time you are based in the States. Does that give you an insight into what role you see internationals playing in promoting ODSC?
First, real solidarity should be focused on listening to Palestinians, understanding and amplifying their voices and viewpoints. The same thing applies here, as most Palestinians are now walking away from the two-state illusion and more Palestinians believe that one state is right, moral and possible.
Second, solidarity activists around the world must familiarize themselves with the changing political dynamics in Palestine and position themselves as true advocates of the rights and aspirations of Palestinians as communicated by the Palestinians on the ground. Indeed, the Palestinian political landscape has changed vastly in recent years: the struggle for Palestinian rights has now finally broken away from the political regionalization – Gaza, West Bank, Palestinians in Israel, Palestinian Bedouins and so on – that has afflicted the Palestinian body politic for far too long. The PA has little credibility. Factions and factionalism have diminishing appeal among Palestinians.
Hence, advocating dead ‘solutions’ is a waste of precious time and effort. All attention should now focus on helping Palestinians obtain their rights, including the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees and holding Israel morally, politically and legally accountable for failing to respect international law. Living as equals in one state that demolishes all walls, ends all sieges and breaks all barriers is one of these fundamental rights that should not be up for negotiations.
Ramzy Baroud’s books include ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada’, ’My Father Was a Freedom Fighter; and ‘The Last Earth’. His latest book is ‘These Chains Will be Broken’. To see the entire list and to learn more about him, go to http://www.ramzybaroud.net/
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