Introduction to Common Ground

The Qur'an: Sura 49:13

"O humankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you should despise one another). Indeed the most honorable among you is the most righteous."

The New Testament: Matthew 7:12

"So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

The Torah: Leviticus 19:34

"The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you and you shalt love him. He is like you, for you, as well, were strangers in the land of Egypt."

                            *                 *                *               *               *               *                *               *

"A State of All Its Citizens" -- a secular, democratic, multicultural, nonsectarian republic 

While promoting the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights, Common Ground for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land hosts Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis to discuss why all Palestinians and the PLO, who recognized the "State of Israel" in 1988 and 1993, do not accept Israel's 2014 demand to be recognized as an ethno-nationalist "Jewish state," stipulated in the 2020 Trump plan, and as Yousef Munnayer advises: "Neither should anyone else" (Why 'Jewish state' demand is a non-starter / Why Palestinians Can't Recognize a 'Jewish state'‘Jewish state’ recognition adds new Israeli-Palestinian trip wire), to invite Palestine solidarity groups to endorse/defend the unanimous Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state," like the Arab League endorsed the Palestinian refusal and like solidarity groups endorse the Palestinian call for BDS, and to discuss why achieving justice and lasting peace in Palestine/Israel calls for repeal of Israel's "supremacist" 2018 Nation State Law, as petitioned by Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset, and the creation of one secular, democratic, multicultural, nonsectarian state or federation with equal rights for all -- a state of all its citizens -- as proposed by Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset.

As Palestinian-Israeli Umar al-Ghubari (Zochrot Staff) wrote in In the Jewish state, equality for Arabs is impossible by definition (2016): "Because of these deeply-rooted conceptions, which stem from the very definition of the state as the state of the Jewish people, there is no chance of achieving equality in the State of Israel.... This is not just about what people want, it is a question of whether it is even possible. The State of Israel, with its self-definition, its mission, the way it was established, its priorities, its symbols, name and national anthem, cannot — even if it wanted to — bring about equality between Jews and non-Jews. The state of the Jews is by necessity a racist state. It cannot be anything else. This is structured and rooted in its very definition. It was founded on Jewish privilege, supremacy and sovereignty, and many of its laws were legislated and many of its goals were formulated on the basis of giving preference to its Jewish citizens.... Equality in the state of the Jews is unattainable, and the struggle to achieve such equality is a futile one. Even if you will it, it will remain a dream. It’s an illusion…. To eliminate discrimination and change the power relations between Jews and Arabs toward real equality, it is necessary to give up on the ideology that produces inequality. Those who carry the banner of the struggle need to change direction and demand the establishment of a truly democratic political framework — one that will not give preference to one race over another. This will pave the way for a struggle that has a chance of implementing the principle of equality.... Equality without reservations, which eliminates the equation of rulers and ruled, occupiers and occupied, expellers and expelled. That is where the struggle has to go.”

In Palestinians have indeed missed an "opportunity" -- to surrender to Zionism (2020), Dr. Joseph Massad of Columbia University states: "Trump’s 'deal of the century'... (requires) Palestinians to surrender all their rights to the Zionist Jewish colonization of their homeland, end their resistance once and for all, and grant legitimacy to the Zionist theft of their country. The recently released Trump plan does not mince words at all on this: 'Palestinian leaders must embrace peace by recognizing Israel as the Jewish state, rejecting terrorism in all its forms.' ...That Israel demands that the Palestinians recognize its right to oppress them by granting Israel legitimacy is a fact that the Palestinians understand well, but have always rejected.... Trump’s 'Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People' is simply the latest version of this colonial and racist demand."

In a 2016 Head to Head interview, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat declared: "I will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state.... No force on earth will make me change my narrative.... I am speaking for 11 million Palestinians."

In a 2013 lecture, tweeted in 2019 by Jewish Voice for Peace, Omar Barghouti, Co-founder of the BDS Movement, declared: "A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the land’s indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically. As we would oppose a Muslim state or a Christian state, or any kind of exclusionary state, definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian — rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian — would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine. Accepting modern-day Jewish-Israelis as equal citizens and equal partners in building and developing a new society free from all colonial subjugation and discrimination, as called for in the democratic state model, is the most magnanimous, rational offer an oppressed indigenous population can offer to their oppressors. So don't ask for more."

In a 2017 television interview, Miko Peled, Israeli peace activist and author of The General's Son, offered a critique of Zionism and declared: “I don’t see the need for a Jewish state because the Jewish state is precisely the problem. You can’t have a Jewish state in Palestine without infringing on the rights of the indigenous people, which are the Palestinians.”

In "Enough Fearmongering: Only One Democratic State is Possible in Palestine and Israel" (2017), Palestinian-American Ramzy Baroud advocated: "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."

In a 2017 Ha'aretz interview, "Two State Solution is Over," Top Palestinian Diplomat Says After Trump's Jerusalem Speech, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat declared: "President Trump has delivered a message to the Palestinian people: the two-state solution is over. Now is the time to transform the struggle for one-state with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine, from the river to the sea."

In his 2012 blog Coexistence/Rav Shalom, Rabbi Brant Rosen of JVP Rabbinical Council admonished American Jews that Israel cannot be both a "democratic" and a "Jewish" state, therefore U.S. Jews must "choose between" the two: "Once we accept that a division into two states is no longer realistically possible, the calculus is sobering, to put it mildly:  We will be forced to choose between a patently undemocratic apartheid Jewish state, in which a minority rules over a majority or a civil democracy in which all citizens have equal rights under the law. For many liberal Zionists, this unbearably painful decision will represent a profound moment of truth. If forced to choose, which will it be? A Jewish state that parcels out its citizens’ rights according to their ethnicity – or a democratic state in which equal rights are enjoyed by all its citizens?"

In Affirming a Judaism and Jewish identity without Zionism (2012), Rabbi Brian Walt of JVP Rabbinical Council declared: "I finally had to admit to myself what I had known for a long time but was too scared to acknowledge: political Zionism, at its core, is a discriminatory ethno-nationalism that privileges the rights of Jews over non-Jews. As such political Zionism violates everything I believe about Judaism. While there was desperate need in the 1940′s to provide a safe haven for Jews, and this need won over most of the Jewish world and the Western world to support the Zionist movement, the Holocaust can in in no way justify or excuse the systemic racism that was and remains an integral part of Zionism.... As a Jew I believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. As a Jew I believe that justice is the core commandment of our tradition. As a Jew I believe that we are commanded to be advocates for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. Zionism and the daily reality in Israel violated each of these core values. And, I could no longer be a Zionist.... I came to understand that the democratic Jewish state is an illusion. There is no democratic Jewish state nor will there ever be. Israel will either be a Jewish state or a democratic state. A Jewish state by definition privileges Jews and cannot be democratic. Israel is a democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for Arabs. It is true that Palestinians who live within Israel have the franchise but they do not have equal rights in many different ways, nor could they ever be full and equal citizens of a Jewish state."

In One Democratic State: an ongoing debate (2018), One State Foundation members Naji El Khatib and Ofra Yeshua-Lyth (a Palestinian refugee and an Israeli Jew) agree with fellow Foundation member Jeff Halper that "we need a state which offers equal rights to all of its citizens" but disagree with Halper's proposal for a 'politically' multicultural or bi-national state. Asserting that a shared country should be founded on the "separation of church and state," El Khatib and Yeshua-Lyth declare: "In our view, true democracy can only be achieved, or even aspired to, through the complete separation between religious institutions (mosque, synagogue, ‎church) and the state. This is the single best regulation of relations between central government and civil society. It is precisely the so-called ‘Jewishness’ of the State of Israel that has never allowed it to become a true democracy. Replacing it with potentially Muslim, Christian or Jewish ‘communities’ would be equally disastrous." To avoid this danger, El Khatib and Yeshua-Lyth advise: "Citizenship is an entirely different concept than that of belonging to a community and the two must be distinguished legally in the clearest possible terms.... Only a secular state provides lasting protection and guarantees fundamental freedoms for the individual."

In What Kind of Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine Do We Want? (2019), Blake Alcott asserts: "This vision of the state made up of its citizens has answered the problem of discrimination against linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious groups, which is Halper’s concern. It cements the freedoms of association and assembly along with the other freedoms of religion, press, and general expression. Protection of the activities and collective life of any group defined on any criteria whatsoever follows unavoidably from these individual freedoms. The vision fulfills Halper’s demand for 'respect for collective forms of cultural and religious association.'"

In his 1999 New York Times Magazine article The One-State Solution, Edward Said advised: "I see no other way than to begin now to speak about sharing the land that has thrust us together, sharing it in a truly democratic way, with equal rights for each citizen.... This does not mean a diminishing of Jewish life as Jewish life or a surrendering of Palestinian Arab aspirations and political existence. On the contrary, it means self-determination for both peoples. But it does mean being willing to... finally give up special status for one people at the expense of the other.... The (key) is to develop... the idea and practice of citizenship, not of ethnic or racial community, as the main vehicle for coexistence. In a modern state, all its members are citizens by virtue of their presence and the sharing of rights and responsibilities. Citizenship therefore entitles an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Arab to the same privileges and resources... (and entitles)... each group (to)... the same right to self-determination; that is, the right to practice communal life in its own (Jewish or Palestinian) way."

In Jewish Nation State Law Sets Legal Parameters for Complete Takeover of Historic Palestine (2018), Nadia Ben-Youssef offers a silver lining of hope: "Codifying the myth of human hierarchy is deadly – when states elevate one group of people as more valuable, others are dehumanized and their very lives are threatened. At the same time... when the root of the problem is understood, so too is the solution. The alternative to this colonial, supremacist present is a decolonized future of equal rights for all. While settler-colonialism is a zero-sum game, decolonization is not. Supremacy insists that only one group of people deserve freedom; equality means we all do."

Common Ground Executive Director ********** highlights the need for a political end-game to establish lasting peace through "conflict transformation," not only "conflict resolution," enabling the creation of one secular constitutional democracy -- Israel has 'basic laws' but no 'constitution' -- for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews with equal rights for all and protection of minority rights.

Common Ground's mission to invite Palestine solidarity endorsement of the unanimous Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as an ethno-nationalist "Jewish state" and host Palestinians and Israeli Jews promoting the creation of one secular democratic state throughout historic Palestine with equal rights for all, is based on recognition of our common humanity, our equality and interdependence, and on:

  • the teaching of Judaism that all human beings are made in the image of God,
  • the teaching of Islam that no one is a believer until one desires for ones neighbor that which one desires for oneself,
  • and the Christian baptismal vow to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

Common Ground endorses the mission of the One State Foundation "to increase popular debate among Palestinians and Israelis (and Americans) on a one state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," and the declaration of The Popular Movement for One Democratic State on Historic Palestine: "We reject the Zionist claim that Jewish people can seize Palestine while depriving Palestinians of their rights to live freely and with equal rights in their ancestral homeland. But we reject just as strongly the equally racist idea that Israeli Jews and Palestinians cannot share a non-ethnic democratic state in Palestine peacefully and find a new future together in a unified country. We believe and affirm that the only just, viable and stable solution to the conflict is a non-ethnic unified democratic state in all the territory now controlled by Israel."

                          *                 *                *               *               *               *                *               *                

The Two-State Solution is Dead... Solidarity... Co-Resistance 

 The two-state solution is dead. Let us take the obvious and humane path forward, by Former US Senator Mike Gravel

The Two State Solution Is Dead. Supporting It Is Supporting Occupation, by Yousef Munayyer

Two-State Hypocrisy, by Mohamed Mohamed

As Jews, we reject the myth that it's anti-semitic to call Israel racist, by Rebecca Vilkomerson and Richard Kuper

"Under conditions of colonial oppression, genuine coexistence between the communities of oppressors and oppressed should entail co-resistance (that is Israeli alongside Palestinian resistance) to oppression." -- Omar Barghouti, Lighting a Torch Within

Solidarity among Palestinian and Israelis cooperating to resist and overcome Israeli colonization, occupation, apartheid and discrimination is essential to build a future "based on justice and non-separation" and "sharing the Land of Canaan." 

To empower nonviolent human rights activists on both sides of the 1967 border in de facto Palestine/Israel, Common Ground promotes Palestinian and Jewish-Israelis advocating one secular democratic state with equal rights for all and protection of minority rights, and encourages Americans to "pay attention to nonviolence" and support the legacy of Palestinian nonviolent resistance discussed by Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh in Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment, and proclaimed by if Americans Knew Co-founder Alison Weir in Calling Bono: Your Palestinian Gandhis Exist... in Graves and Prisons.

The 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel / / / http://interfaith-boycott/ / Op-Ed by Saree Makdisi: Why Israel's schools merit a U.S. boycott

Israeli support for BDS  

'Such a state is not a democracy': Israeli citizens respond on proposed amendments to Anti-Boycott Law (2018)

Ronnie Barkan, Co-founder of Boycott From Within: Anti-Israel group urges support for Palestinians [VIDEO] / Boycott From Within / Who Profits / 

Intercultural/Interfaith Endorsement of the BDS Movement 

"In solidarity with Palestinians as they peacefully struggle for self-determination and liberty, the American Muslims for Palestine stands with the Palestinian BDS National Committee in commemorating Land Day this year." -- AMP endorses Global BDS Movement in commemoration of Land Day (2011)

"In late July, 2011, the Palestine Israel Network’s Steering Committee joined the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s National Executive Council in endorsing the International Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights." --

"Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) endorses the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people. We believe that the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real." -- Jewish Voice for Peace on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions | 2015

I’m Jewish, and I want people to boycott Israel -- Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace (2016)

Governor Cuomo, Put Me on Your BDS Blacklist -- Yousef Munayyer, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (2016)


Stephen Hawking makes a peaceful protest -- (Boston Globe editorial, May 11th, 2013)

"The decision to withdraw from (Israel's Presidential) conference is a reasonable way to express one’s political views. Observers need not agree with Hawking’s position in order to understand and even respect his choice. The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means. In the context of a Mideast conflict that has caused so much destruction and cost so many lives, nonviolence is something to be encouraged."

Photo Montage 01

**********, Executive Director of Common Ground and Founder of the Gaza program Let the Children Play and Heal, and Dr. Jeff Halper, Co-Founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, introduced by Rains Rouner, Co-Founder of Common Ground, discuss the need for a political "end-game" to build one democratic, culturally binational state in Palestine/Israel, First Baptist Church, JP, MA, March 2016

Photo Montage 2

Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, human rights activist, author of Sharing The Land of Canaan and Popular Resistance in Palestine, Professor of Biology at Bethlehem University and Founder of the Palestine Museum of Natural History, Rains Rouner, Co-Founder of Common Ground, Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird, Pastor of First Baptist Church, and Boston-area activists, First Baptist Church, Jamaica Plain, MA, October 2015

All photos by Pat Westwater-Jong