Building American Support for One Secular Democratic State in Palestine/Israel

American citizens cherish the freedoms of the United States as a constitutional, multicultural, nonsectarian democracy “with liberty and justice for all,” yet while the U.S. gives more foreign aid to Israel than to any other nation, many Americans are unaware that Palestinians in Gaza have lived under Israeli military siege since 2006, Palestinians in the West Bank live under Israeli military laws of occupation, hafrada and apartheid, and despite its claims to democracy Israel has no constitution and over 50 laws discriminate against non-Jews in Israel. The undeniable fact is that “in the Jewish state, equality for Arabs is impossible by definition.”

To end discrimination against non-Jews in Palestine/Israel and ensure equal rights for all, Common Ground supports the unanimous Palestinian rejection of Israel’s 2014 demand to be recognized as a “Jewish state,” and supports the creation of one secular democratic state, as advocated by BDS Co-founder Omar Barghouti in his 2009 article Re-imagining Palestine: Self-determination, Ethical De-colonization and Equality: “(A)lthough the BDS movement has never taken a position in the one-state/two-states debate, being a rights-based movement, the only solution that can logically accommodate the three basic rights stated in the BDS Call is a one democratic state solution… By emphasizing equal humanity as its most fundamental principle, the secular democratic state promises to end the fundamental injustices that have plagued Palestine and, simultaneously, to transcend national and ethnic dichotomies that now make it nearly impossible to envision ethical coexistence in a decolonized Palestine, based on equality, justice, and freedom.”

In a 2015 interview, Dr. Haider Eid, Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, declared: “The two-state solution is a racist solution. The two-state solution means apartheid because it means a Palestinian state for Muslims and Christians and Israel as a Jewish state for Jews only. This is anachronistic, historically speaking. It’s a 19th Century idea to think of nation states based on exclusive ethno-religious identities…. We need a paradigm shift. We must start fighting for civic democracy. One person one vote. We need a secular democratic state for all its citizens…. The secular democratic state we are suggesting… should be supported by liberals. If you are a liberal, I don’t think you have a problem with secular democracy, with civic democracy. That’s what you have in the United States of America. Why should you have it in the United States and in South Africa and we should not have it in Palestine? If you are opposed to that, you are either an Orientalist or a racist…. A secular democratic state is pragmatic, practical, and it’s the only solution that can guarantee peace with justice because it is a principled solution. The essence of the Palestinian question is the Right of Return. In principle, you need to allow more than 6 million refugees to return to their homes and towns, and practically speaking, this is the only solution. Our struggle is universalistic. It is nontribalistic. It is one person one vote. It is a state for all its citizens regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity. This is the minimum that we should be fighting for.” — Boycott From Within: Ronnie Barkan and Haidar Eid (2015)

In “Enough Fearmongering: Only One Democratic State is Possible in Palestine and Israel” (2017), Palestinian-American Ramzy Baroud declares: “It is time to… focus all energies to foster co-existence based on equality and justice for all. Indeed, there can be one state between the river and the sea, and that is a democratic state for all of its people, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.”

To encourage American support for the BDS movement, the unanimous Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” Palestinian-Israeli “co-resistance” to Israel’s colonization, occupation and apartheid, and building one secular democratic state or federation in Palestine/Israel with equal rights for all, Common Ground provides:

  • an opportunity for Americans to discuss with Palestinians and Israelis how one secular democratic state with equal rights for all and protection of minority rights will guarantee freedom and dignity for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews and ensure equality, security and lasting peace for all in the Holy Land, and why an inclusive, egalitarian democracy in Palestine/Israel is worthy of American support, and
  • an umbrella fund that supports both Palestinian and Israeli human rights NGOs “co-resisting” Israeli occupation, discrimination, oppression and apartheid — Palestinian-Israeli “Co-Resistance” to Occupation and Oppression Aid

The heart of Common Ground is our two-fold purpose to:

  • acknowledge the truth of inequality, discrimination, apartheid and oppression in defacto Israel/Palestine, and
  • celebrate and uphold the moral teachings of our humanist and religious traditions that compel us to face, not deny, painful moral truths, take responsibility, rectify injustice and cease oppression so that peace can prevail.

International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist Caoimhe Butterly negotiates with Israeli soldiers to allow a Palestinian ambulance to travel through an IDF checkpoint to the hospital in Jenin, West Bank, 2002 -- (photo by Rains Rouner)

American-Israeli Rabbi Arik Ascherman, President and Senior Rabbi of Rabbis for Human Rights (left), appeals to IDF soldiers and Ariel settlement police to "uphold the law" and protect Palestinian farmers attacked by Israelis from Kfar Tapuach hilltop settlement (background), West Bank, 2002 -- (photo by Rains Rouner)