Divesting from Apartheid… Investing in Equal Rights… Building One Secular Democratic State in Palestine/Israel

“As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel, it is going to be either non-Jewish or non-democratic,” Barak said. “If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” — Prime Minister Ehud Barak, 2010 www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/03/barak-apartheid-palestine-peace

“If you change the names, the description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would be a description of what is happening in South Africa.” — Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu, 1989 www.itisapartheid.org

“The day will come when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights.” — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Haaretz, 2007 http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-11-29-olmert-mideast

In November 2011, The Russell Tribunal on Palestine held sessions in Cape Town, South Africa “to assess if Israel’s practices against the Palestinian people are a breach of the prohibition on apartheid under international law. On 5-6 November, the jury of the tribunal heard many witnesses  testify on apartheid and persecution…. After two days of hearings, the jury of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine published its final statement , concluding that ‘Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalized regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law.’ The jury said:

This discriminatory regime manifests in varying intensity and forms against different categories of Palestinians depending on their location. The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid. Palestinian citizens of Israel, while entitled to vote, are not part of the Jewish nation as defined by Israeli law and are therefore excluded from the benefits of Jewish nationality and subject to systematic discrimination across the broad spectrum of recognized human rights. Irrespective of such differences, the Tribunal concludes that Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.

“The legal definition of apartheid applies to any situation anywhere in the world where the following three core elements exist: (1) that two distinct racial groups can be identified; (2) that ‘inhuman acts’ are committed against the subordinate group; and (3) that such acts are committed systematically in the context of an institutionalized regime of domination by one group over the other.”

“Jeff Halper, an Israeli professor of anthropology and head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, testified on Sunday, saying the situation in Israel was ‘ugly’ and ‘more than just the separation of people’.

“’If you look at the map of the region, you can see the bantu state that has been created,’ said Halper. “The Israeli government… has demolished houses to displace people and move them out of the region….”

“Jamal Juma’a, co-ordinator of the Palestinian organization Stop the Wall, said the practice amounted to ethnic cleansing. The Israeli government went as far as developing separate roads for Palestinians living in Israel, he said. ‘It’s worse than apartheid in South Africa.’” http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/western-cape/palestinians-plight-worse-than-apartheid-1.

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In January 2009, in response to Israel’s military attack on Gaza — Operation Cast Lead — “a group of 60 Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders in Boston, USA issued a joint statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, asserting their common humanity and recognizing the intense pain of the conflict. In a rare acknowledgment of the ‘wide range of deeply held beliefs and intensely felt narratives on all sides,’ the statement recognizes ‘the legitimate needs of all peoples, including all those living in the Middle East, for dignity, peace, safety and security regardless of religion, race or national origin.’

“’In the most difficult of times we are prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder and stretch out our hands to each other,’ states Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, ‘in the hopes that others will see that this can be done….’ And says Rabbi Barbara Penzner, ‘If we can’t talk to each other here in Boston, where can we talk….’ ‘Those who signed this declaration showed that, in time of painful crisis, they did not retreat into their corners but turned to each other,’ reflects Reverend Ray Helmick. The statement concludes: ‘Through this joint statement we affirm our commitment to engage with one another, even, and especially, during times of great stress. We also affirm our common humanity and our common belief – as Jews, Muslims and Christians – that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must cease.'” —  http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/8369

During an interfaith vigil calling for a Gaza ceasefire, Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, President Emeritus of the Islamic Council of New England, told the Boston Globe: “We want to expose the big lie that if you love Israel you must hate Palestinians, or if you support basic human rights of Palestinians you are endorsing terrorism. The coalition that we have formed has come together to say: ‘Look, antagonism and hostility is not going to lead to long-term peace for anyone. It’s mutually destructive, and we must get people thinking in a different way.'”

Rabbi Barbara Penzner, former president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis and spiritual leader of Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, a Reconstructionist congregation in West Roxbury, told the Globe: “The intention is to focus on what we can share and how we can build peaceful bridges together.'” (hub_religious_voices_call_for_gaza_cease_fire/)

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To build “peaceful bridges” of equality and trust, Americans must understand that ongoing, excessive U.S. aid to Israel, which enables Israeli apartheid and discrimination against Palestinians, is a longstanding source of mistrust of the United States throughout the Muslim world. Common Ground believes that by supporting the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law, the unanimous Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as an ethno-nationalist “Jewish state,” and Palestinian-Israeli “co-resistance” to oppression and occupation and cooperation to build one secular democratic state/federation with equal rights for all, we can promote de-colonized self-determination for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. By upholding American values of freedom, inclusion and democracy, we can help to strengthen mutual respect and goodwill among our peoples, cultures and faiths, and support equal rights, security and lasting peace for all in Palestine/Israel.

Common Ground supports the One State Foundation mission “to increase popular debate among Palestinians and Israelis on a one state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” and the declaration of The Popular Movement for One Democratic State on Historical 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.”

Common Ground affirms the declaration of Ronnie Barkan, Co-founder of Boycott from Within: “We want democracy, not demography…. The one-state discourse is important because it challenges the type of thinking that surrounds demography, and because we are actually offering something for the future, so we are sowing the seeds for a brighter future.” (UN-CUT FOR PALESTINE)