How Gaza’s Return March can elevate the one-state movement

The Great Return March has the potential to lend its momentum to grassroots and popular struggles beyond Gaza’s fence, in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and inside Israel.

By Awad Abdelfattah

Palestinians march toward the Israeli fence during the Great Return March in central Gaza, May 14, 2018. (Muhammad Zaanoun/
Palestinians march toward the Israeli fence during the Great Return March in central Gaza, May 14, 2018. (Muhammad Zaanoun/

It is still premature to predict the fate of the Great March of Return, which is the brainchild of primarily young activists who managed, with great success, to involve the entire political spectrum in the Gaza Strip in an unarmed civil resistance. The march is being viewed by many as a remarkable and exceptional development that, if sustained, could open a new horizon politically and strategically for the Palestinians — as well as for Israelis who are critical of Israel’s oppressive apartheid — to launch a serious campaign for an alternative vision and path of struggle.

Two main factors make this astonishing mobilization near Gaza’s apartheid fence distinctive. The first is the rise of young vanguards to motivate the entire Palestinian political polity to fully engage in this civil activity. For over a year, I have followed the writings of one of the young, leading figures of the movement, Ahmad Abu Rtema; he too has followed my writings. We chatted several times before he, along with his partners, helped to turn the idea of the march into action. It was clear that Ahmad represented a new and creative thinking among the young generation, and was eager to continue learning. What further attracted me was his civil discourse towards the Israeli public: his support for a single democratic state in historic Palestine – where Palestinian Arabs, including refugees, and Israeli Jews can live together as equals – is a part of his political convictions.

The second factor is the endorsement of the Return March by Hamas and other factions in Gaza. This indicates a shift in these organizations’ political thinking, which could resonate across Palestinian society and around the world. Hamas’ immediate support of the idea of the march was partly motivated by the severe humanitarian and political crises facing the movement and the entire population of Gaza. These include growing internal tensions and external pressures, aggravated by relentless Israeli aggression, the antagonism of Western governments and Arab regimes, and the latest sanctions imposed by the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, which have added insult to injury.

Palestinian protesters during the Gaza return march. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun /
Palestinian protesters during the Gaza return march. April 20, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun /

Indeed, in recent years, Hamas has been trying, without real success, to reform its political platform and discourse to make it more acceptable to the international community, and has cited its support for popular struggle on numerous occasions. The movement’s backing of the Return March is in line with this intention. However, the party which has the most interest in thwarting such a change is Israel, which wants to maintain Hamas’ image as a terrorist organization, and Abbas’ image as an objector to negotiations. The execution of Palestinian marchers along the Gaza fence also reflects Israel’s frustration with this type of struggle, because it cannot cope with its moral and nonviolent nature. This is further shown by Israel’s admittance that it lost the media war over Gaza these past few weeks.

Since it is not interested in starting a fourth war with Hamas, particularly due to the situation on the northern border with Syria, Israel may opt to silence the civil resistance in Gaza through an agreement that would temporarily ease the humanitarian crisis, without offering any major political or structural changes. The news about Israeli efforts to achieve such a short-term agreement worries the organizers of the march, because it could undermine their most important strategic political objectives: the full removal of the blockade of Gaza, and the growing momentum for the Palestinians’ right to return.

Two signs of hope

Amidst these difficult realities, two developments have emerged in recent years that offer important signs of hope. The first is the growing voices among Palestinians and allies working outside traditional factional structures who, like Ahmad, are calling for a single democratic state in historic Palestine as an alternative to partition, apartheid, and colonialism. These voices include prominent Palestinian and Jewish Israeli intellectuals, academics, activists, and organizations.

The second is the renewal of the Palestinian popular struggle, and the growing conviction among Palestinians that this method of resistance must be widely promoted and prioritized by all factions and movements. Although popular resistance and civil disobedience have always been integral to the Palestinian struggle (and have always faced suppression at the hands of Israel’s military force), over the last six years, Palestinians in Jerusalem and its neighboring villages, as well as other places in the West Bank, have witnessed small but notable “intifadas.” The most inspiring of these was the 11-day intifada against the metal detectors at the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), which achieved its specific goal of removing the electronic devices from the area.

Palestinian worshippers pray at Lions' Gate at the entrance to Al-Aqsa compound. Metal detectors were placed outside the site by Israeli authorities following an attack by Palestinian citizens of Israel on Israeli security forces, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Palestinian worshippers pray at the entrance to Al-Aqsa compound as an act of civil disobedience protesting metal detectors placed outside the site by Israeli authorities following an attack by Palestinian citizens of Israel against  security forces, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

How should we interpret and react to these two promising developments? The challenge, I believe, is to connect and utilize these developments as a catalyst and inspiration for building sustainable co-resistance, guided by a common vision: a united, democratic alternative to the existing apartheid regime. Given the demise of the two-state solution – which I believe is an unjust and racist proposal – we are finding ourselves in a historic phase where both the vision and the means to achieve an alternative future have become impervious to slander and defamation, and have become effective in rallying public opinion because of their morality and inclusivity.

How and where do we start?

Even if Israel manages to stifle the Return March, or other states or parties manage to block its strategic goals, popular resistance should continue to be embraced as a key strategy of resistance – not only in Gaza, but in Jerusalem, the West Bank, in refugee camps in Arab countries, and inside Israel. For that objective to materialize, a clear and well-planned strategy of grassroots struggle, composed of different phases, is required. The shift by all Palestinian factions to unarmed resistance, in the style of the First Intifada, also offers opportunities not only for all Palestinians to partake in the struggle, but also for Israelis who fight against apartheid.

Earlier this year, some 20 Palestinians and Israelis met in Haifa and decided to start the ‘One Democratic State Campaign’ (ODSc). The number of supporters – intellectuals, academics, activists, and others – who have joined so far, within a short period of time, is far greater than we had hoped, showing that the time is ripe for such an initiative. Our mission is to engage in an organized framework to create an alternative political consciousness, which entails a moral obligation to fight injustices, colonization, racist separation, and all forms of oppression.

This movement can begin with Palestinians and progressive Israelis inside the Green Line, while networking and coordinating with interested groups in the occupied territories and in the diaspora. However, for this joint struggle to succeed, this progressive coalition must be transformed into a mass grassroots movement with wide public support. It is a long walk to liberation, freedom, equality, and social justice – and it is not an easy walk. But we believe that it is the only way to promote life, instead of more death and destruction.

Awad Abdel Fattah is a former head of the Balad Party and a co-founder of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSc).

27 responses to “PODCAST: The other two-state solution”

  1. Lewis from Afula says:

    What if the Israelis do not want to be confederated together with the honor killing, Gay-bashing, Apsotate-burning loons who attempted to destroy them in 1948 and 1967 ?

    • Firentis says:

      That is very intolerant of you. Open your heart. Once they have free access to live in Israel as part of the confederation they will surely moderate and that will be the end of it. History will end and we will all leave happily ever after.

      • john says:

        more intolerant than proposing cyanide-poisoning gaza’s water?

      • Ben says:

        Being realists, we are not interested in people like Afula’s Lewis opening their heart. We want the state’s forces (or intervening international forces) to stay such sociopathic individuals by all means at their disposal.

      • Ben says:

        The whining here about intolerant sectors of Palestinian society is empty far right posturing. Have you checked out ugly Afula lately, Firentis? Afula is just the place where they say in public what other right wing Israeli Jews think, and say behind closed doors.

        The truth is that Ahed Tamimi is a liberated, strong, modern, assertive, non-submissive woman but Israelis hate her most of all. Israelis were incredibly threatened by this woman standing up to a male soldier.

        Israel tenaciously blocks every attempt by Palestinians to travel and obtain a liberalizing Western education, and if an Arab resident of Jerusalem goes abroad to obtain a liberalizing education the Israelis cancel his residency status and blocks his return.

        If Israel were truly interested in Palestinian society liberalizing as Lewis and Firentis whine and carry one about, Israel would act differently. The truth is that the last thing Israel wants is to encourage moderating, liberalizing trends in Palestinian society and Israel determinedly thwarts any attempt to move things in that direction. Because Israel wants to demonize, secretly loves violence and loves the extremists.

        The last thing the mass of Israeli Jews want to do is share the land or relinquish Jewish hegemony or give up violence as their main modus operandi. All the rest is just excuses.

        • Firentis says:

          Yeah, because getting Western educations really helps liberalize the other Arabs. Shall we talk about Saudi Arabia which sends hundreds of thousands of students abroad to study yearly? Nice red herring there, but hey, everything is about the “occupation” with this one.

          What about Afula? That there are racists in Israel? Sure. No argument there. I am sure they will get along great in a single state with the Arabs. Brilliant whataboutery there braniac.

          • Ben says:

            “Saudi Arabia” is the whataboutery. Afula is more representative than you want to admit. “Lewis” from Afula insists on it.

          • Ben says:

            “Yeah, because getting Western educations really helps liberalize the other Arabs.”

            This is casually racist.

            Look at the young people in the picture captioned “Members of Sol Band (Left to Right) singer Rahaf Shamaly, oud player Said Fadel, and lead singer Hamada Naserallah”:

            These young people are like Jewish teenagers in Tel Aviv and like young people anywhere. Do they look like “terrrorists” to you?

            Yes education does liberalize and open minds. (The Haredim would not be so deathly afraid of educating their young people if this were not the case.) Arabs are not some broad racial exception.

          • Firentis says:

            Right, blaming Israel for the backwardness of Palestinian society is ok and on point because supposedly Israel doesn’t allow them to get Western educations is ok. Pointing out that that Palestinian society doesn’t differ from the society of surrounding countries where large chunks of the population is Western educated is whataboutery. Good logic there buddy.

          • Ben says:

            Of course…

            — no one here is actually “blaming Israel for the backwardness of Palestinian society.”

            — Israel not only does not allow them to travel to get an education, if the Jerusalem residents travel then Israel uses the chance to lock them out of coming back

            — large chunks of Saudi society are not Western educated or else the Saudis would not have to import so many of their academic and technical experts from the West. It is also not a democracy and so the engine of education and social change works quite differently than in democracies.

            — You cannot pass of Afula as the exception:

            “…Afula is a racist mirror of broad sections of Israeli society, the legacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent years in office. The spirit of the nation-state law – the Netanyahu government’s crowning glory – wafts over the Afula demonstration and gives legitimacy to discriminatory, ugly behavior toward Arab citizens. Israel urgently needs local and national leadership that will facilitate ways for Jews and Arabs to live together.”

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Ben: Making some ridiculous Israel-bashing argument and then giving an Haaretz link to back it up just emphasizes its own absurdity. Getting the approval of Pappe, G. Levy, A. Hass, A. Burg et al., just disqualifies you as a rational observer.

          • Ben says:

            Yeah I guess I lost all credibility with you when I came out against genocide by cyanide.

          • Ben says:

            That Israel has always consciously manipulated the access of Palestinians to education and has done this with the express purpose of furthering its dispossessing and colonizing designs, is borne out by the history of the “Professors Committee”:


          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Nothing wrong with Israel annexing land from JORDAN.
            The “fakestinyans” did not exist in the late 1960s – they were not invented yet.

          • john says:

            ‘they weren’t people then, so they aren’t people now, so it’s okay to want to expel & kill them’

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            The JORDANIANS will never escape from their JORDANIAN guilt.
            Their name-changing tactics are irrelevant to their victims (the Israelis)

          • Ben says:

            Rivka Koen nicely demolished this “Jordanian” claptrap here:
            “Jordan and Jordanians were invented in the 20th century; Palestine and Palestinians were not…”

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Rivka Koen is a Neo-Marxist Social Justice Warrior who lives in the Haaretz Clown World.
            No wonder you support her.

          • Ben says:

            I don’t care if Rivka Koen is an alien from outer space sent to observe the strange ways of primitive, retrobate Earthlings (although all signs indicate she is an intelligent American or Israeli Jew), she demolished your “Jordanian” rubbish anyway. That’s all you’ve got? 100% ad hominem? As vacant as Halevy’s “leftist blah blah.”

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Re: “primitive, retrobate Earthlings”
            Yes, that sounds like a certain US-based, deranged leftist nutter who enjoys pontifying about Israeli policies.

          • Arthur Milner says:

            You mean the Suadi Arabia that is Israel’s closest ally in the Middle East?

    • Ray says:

      Because, as a National-Religious, you love gay people so much?

  2. George P. Smith says:

    This proposal is a mess, because Dr. Scheindlin insists on her “tribe” maintaining ethnic sovereignty over the 78 percent of geographic Palestine from which the Zionists exiled 83 percent of the indigenous people. Anything but democracy and equality. The point of resolution proposals is not to devise plans that will be acceptable to Zionists like her. It is to mobilize the global community of conscience to exert so much economic and ultimately military pressure on the Zionists that they’ll finally be FORCED to agree to democracy—just as the Nationalists were ultimately forced to agree to democracy in South Africa.

  3. yonah fredman says:

    I do not think that the Israeli voting public is anywhere near to accepting this proposal. But I have questions regarding security. Who will be the army guarding the border between Palestine and Jordan? will it be a joint Zionist/Palestinian army? Who will be the army guarding Lod Airport? I assume the Zionist army. I cannot imagine a Palestinian traveling from Hebron to the Temple Mount agreeing to pass through a Zionist army checkpoint. I have to assume that once someone lives in Hebron inside the confederation they will not have to pass through checkpoints to reach the Temple Mount. Checkpoints between Hebron and Tel Aviv will those also be a thing of the past? Sounds utopian. (meaning unrealistic).

  4. dgfincham says:

    Readers might be interested in the One-State-Two-Nations Proposal which is a form of confederation. Google it.

  5. Frank Adam says:

    Effectively this is a return to the actuality of the Mandate when in the British legal Latin the Yishuv created an imperium in imperio – a state within the state at communal level. It did not work anymore than the overall one state solution that was the Mandate because the Arab party did not want it to work – and is still wilfully obstructive to any proposal bar Islamic Arab supremacy. That is still the nub after we have gone “in and out the houses” and then “beaten about the bushes”[in the garden].

    When you have a scheme that the Arab parties agree to but which squares the circle by accepting accepts Enlightenment civil rights, equalities and opportunities for all; and constitutional checks and balances somewhat better than the average of the 23 Arab states, – or for bonus better than your criticisms of Israel – let us know.

    • Ben says:

      What are you talking about? It’s the Jewish parties that won’t accept the one state solution or even the Arab Peace Initiative. You sound like Rip van Winkle of the Middle East, having just woken from a twenty year sleep.