An interview with IAW 2010 keynote speaker Ali Abunimah from this week’s Vue Weekly.
Two nations should be one
Israeli-Palestinian solution may lie in creating one nation, not two
Samantha Power / email@example.com
One of the world’s oldest and most intertwined conflicts has hammered against a solution for decades—a solution that may be the cause of more problems than it seeks to solve. The resolution to the human rights abuses and oppression heaped onto the Palestinian nation has been to seperate the two nations into their own countries, but progress has been slow in coming. Journalist and author Ali Abunimah proposes the reason is the two nations should not be seperate, but together.
A radical proposal long forgotten, Abunimah posits the reason these two nations have not realized the two-state solution is because they are meant to be together. Abunimah submits the only way to realize the rights of every person is to fully realize a single state with full citizenship rights for each nation within it.
It’s a difficult solution for any two nations that have committed atrocities against each other, but it may be the answer that guarantees the democratic freedoms of the oppressed Palestinian nation. Abunimah, author of the book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, believes the only way to guarantee the full citizenship rights of Palestinians is to start looking at a one-state solution. Vue Weekly spoke with Abunimah in anticipation of his talk next week for Israeli Aparthied Week.
VUE WEEKLY: The idea of separating into two states is the most talked-about solution, and seen as the most legitimate; what made you decide it was impossible?
ALI ABUNIMAH: Partition is impossible and becoming more so everyday with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which no one has done anything to stop. And morally and legally it’s problematic because it doesn’t provide any justice to the principal victims: Palestinian refugees, Palestinians living in Israel and Palestinians living in occupation. So it’s not just and it’s not practical. That’s why people keep talking about it, but that’s also why it doesn’t happen.
VW: Currently Palestinians live without basic human rights and living conditions. How could the two nations live in a single state and guarantee the rights of Palestinians?
AA: There would have to be a process of decolonization and restitution so that Palestinians currently deprived of fundamental human rights and resources receive those rights and resources. And that’s where we have to look at the difficult and ongoing processes of decolonization in South Africa and Northern Ireland, which shows that it is very difficult but not impossible.
VW: It’s interesting the majority of conflicts over the last 20 years are civil wars and their resolution has been to seperate, but here you’re proposing the opposite.
AA: The problem created is in the effort to partition a country that was whole. So I don’t think part of the solution is more segregation, more apartheid, more war—it’s recognizing the reality there are multiple groups living in this land and it’s important to find a way for them to all live there in equitable conditions.
VW: The two-state solution has been around for decades. What type of opposition do you get from your single-state solution?
AA: People make a number of arguments that Israelis wouldn’t accept it or that Palestinians don’t want it, but I would argue the other examples around the world show that this is very difficult but not impossible.
What I would say is, when you have had people talking about the two-state solution for so many decades producing nothing you need to start looking at other alternatives, which have been implemented in other areas of the world and have had similarly violent, intractible conflicts.
VW: Often it’s leadership preventing any type of progress from being made. What types of leadership would you have to have in place to for a single-state solution to even be considered?
AA: Well I think the problem is deeper than leadership. You need a grassroots shift, and you see that happening on the ground amongst Palestinians where people are talking about this more and more. You also need the discussion to emerge among Israelis and I think that’s starting to happen along the edges. One of the things that will push Israelis to think about alternatives is when they start to realize the status quo is untenable and one of the facts that will push them is the growing global movements of sanctions, boycott and divestment modelled on the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.
VW: The international community, and especially the US, does play a major role in this conflict. Do you think the Americans would ever approach a one-state solution?
AA: Probably not initially, but they’re also doing nothing for a two-state solution. So I don’t look for leadership to governments that have talked for decades, monopolized the process and failed abjectly; I think we have to look elsewhere. The US and other countries allied to it have played an obstructionist role while claiming they’re pushing a peace process. And I think it’s time we moved past them and built the sort of grassroots movement that pushed western countries to adopt sanctions against apartheid in South Africa when they didn’t want to.
VW: Do you think something like a national reconciliation would have to happen before this could work?
AA: I think a lot of processes would have to happen at a lot of levels and that is one of the lessons we can learn from South Africa and Northern Ireland, where these processes are ongoing. These processes don’t end with a peace treaty, they really start with it. There are a lot of rich lessons there and Palestinians and Israelis would have to adopt the right models that work for them, but there’s lots of models out there that they can choose from. V
Beyond Apartheid: Paths to Ending the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse
A lecture by Ali Abunimah
[Co-sponsored by the Canada-Palestine Cultural Association (CANPAL)]
Monday, March 1
Telus Centre Theatre 150, U of A Campus