Call to Action ~

Calling on Palestine solidarity groups to endorse and defend the unanimous Palestinian rejection of Israel’s “Jewish state” demand

Recognizing that all human beings “are created equal,” we consider Israel’s policies of discrimination against non-Jews in ’48 Israel, hafrada, apartheid, occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank and military siege of Gaza to be a violation of our shared moral values. We support the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society and the 2009 call by Kairos Palestine for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and companies that profit from the Israeli occupation until Israel ends its occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, lifts its siege of Gaza, upholds full equality for Palestinians in Israel, upholds the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees as recognized in UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.

Common Ground hosts Palestinians and Jewish Israelis to assess the social and political conditions necessary to achieve “freedom, justice and equality” for all in Palestine/Israel, and:
1) to discuss all Palestinians’ “adamant rejection” of Israel’s 2014 demand to be recognized as an ethno-religious “Jewish state,” stipulated in the 2020 Trump plan (p. 4) — Why Palestinians Can’t Recognize a ‘Jewish state’Why ‘Jewish state’ demand is a non-starter / ‘Jewish state’ recognition adds new Israeli-Palestinian trip wire,
2) to invite Palestine solidarity groups to endorse and defend the unanimous Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” as the Arab League endorsed the Palestinian refusal in 2014 and as solidarity groups endorse the Palestinian call for BDS,
3) to discuss why achieving justice and lasting peace in Palestine/Israel calls for repeal of Israel’s “racist” 2018 Nation-State Law “that constitutionally enshrines Jewish supremacy,” as petitioned by Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset, and
4) to debate and promote the Palestinian-Jewish call to create one secular, democratic, multicultural, non-sectarian state or federation throughout historic Palestine with equal rights for all and protection of minority rights — “a state of all its citizens” — as proposed by Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset.

Executive Director //// highlights the need for a Palestinian-Jewish political end-game to establish lasting peace through “conflict transformation,” not just “conflict resolution,” enabling the creation of one constitutional democracy (Israel has basic laws but no constitution) for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews, with equal rights for all citizens.

Common Ground invites Palestine solidarity groups to endorse the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC).

Intercultural/Interfaith Political Frameworks for One Democratic State~

Toward a One-Secular-Democratic-State End-Game in Palestine/Israel   

Common Ground shares the view of Israeli peace activist Dr. Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Co-founder of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), expressed in his 2013 article What Comes Next: Towards a bi-national end-game in Palestine/Israel: “In our struggle for a just peace in Palestine/Israel, we find ourselves at a precarious crossroads. It is clear that the two-state solution is dead and gone, the victim of deliberate Israeli policies of settlement, territorial confiscation and Israel’s refusal to relinquish control over Palestinians’ lives. Yet the Palestinians, whose lead we must follow, have only just begun formulating alternatives, mainly around the notion of a single democratic state. Finding ourselves locked in a political struggle with no end-game for which to advocate is dangerous and self-defeating; it only invites other forces to step into the breach and impose their own agendas.”

Dr. Halper observes that while the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is an essential strategic and tactical tool in the struggle for Palestinian equal rights — the three goals of BDS outline the demands of equality — neither the Boycott National Committee (BNC), the Palestinian Authority nor any other group has proposed a political framework for implementing equal rights to be voted on and approved by Palestinians and Israeli Jews, therefore BDS alone cannot provide a solution to the conflict. “BDS is a valuable tactic for keeping the issue alive,” Halper states, “but it cannot replace an end-game and an effective strategy for achieving it.” (Towards An End-Game In Palestine/Israel While Imagining The Future)

In 2020, Dr. Haider Eid, Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Al Aqsa University in Gaza and Co-founder of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), expressed the same concern: “I personally have been involved in BDS since its inception and wholeheartedly support it. I am also, however, one who is concerned about public attention being limited to the immediate demands of the (BDS) campaign at the cost of developing a coherent plan for Palestine’s political future…. (A)s the campaign limits itself to ensuring the rights of Palestinians are respected, it is lacking a vision for the political reality within which such rights will be extended…. I am of the view that opting for silence on important political questions about Palestine’s future is the wrong tactic. Focusing on the end of occupation, rights for Palestinians in Israel and the right of return has to be put within a political programme that endorses a one-state solution.”

Acknowledging the need for “an end-game and an effective strategy for achieving it,” asserted by Dr. Halper, and “a political programme that endorses a one-state solution,” asserted by Dr. Eid, Common Ground hosts Palestinians and Jewish Israelis to discuss why all Palestinians reject Israel’s 2014/2020 demand to be recognized as an ethno-religious “Jewish state” and why international allies should endorse and defend the Palestinian refusal and should advocate and debate the Palestinian-Jewish call to create one secular democratic state with equal rights for all throughout historic Palestine, modeled on the U.S.A. and South Africa. Palestinians and Israeli Jews must decide what political framework will bring lasting peace, and Israelis “must follow” the “lead” of Palestinians, as Dr. Halper acknowledges, yet if “the notion of a single democratic state” is to gain viability, the international community has a key role to play in inviting debate on the merits of this framework, as advocated by the Movement for One Democratic State/Principles of Activism:

This Movement does not replace existing groups or organizations or diminish the role played by activist individuals. It supports such groups and individuals to debate and adopt the Declaration of ODS as an integral part of their mission and to unite behind this vision…. Palestinian-Arabs… Israeli-Jews… and (international) groups need separate debates about one democratic state as well as mixed (debates). Each group has different perspectives, fears, hopes and concerns regarding a democratic state solution, so sometimes separate conversations are needed…. Consensus only among the Palestinians, or only among Israeli Jewish communities, will not enable progress toward one democratic state. All must agree that one democratic state is the best hope for a stable peace in order for all to be confident about its prospects and allow its peaceful creation. Allowing internal and mixed discussions will help thrash out these issues…. Many people who are neither Palestinians, Israelis, Muslims, Jews nor Arabs are affected by this conflict, care about the conflict, and want to be part of the solution…. Just as the Movement bases its mission on universal values, it should be universally inclusive. Anyone is welcome to join, be active, and take leading roles in the Movement as long as they sign the Declaration and respect its principles.”

To encourage Israeli and American Jewish support for one secular democratic state in Palestine/Israel, Common Ground recognizes the potential compatibility of “cultural” — not “political” — Zionism and Palestinian self-determination, as discussed by Dr. Leila Farsakh, Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts/Boston, in her 2007 article Time for a bi-national state. Dr. Farsakh writes:

“The idea of a single, bi-national state is not new. Its appeal lies in its attempt to provide an equitable and inclusive solution to the struggle of two peoples for the same piece of land. It was first suggested in the 1920s by the Zionist left-wing intellectuals led by Martin Buber, Judah Magnes and Haim Kalvarisky…. Underlying their Zionism was a quest for a Jewish renaissance, both cultural and spiritual, with a determination to avoid injustice in its achievement. It was essential to found a new nation, although not necessarily a separate Jewish state and certainly not at the expense of the existing population. Magnes argued that the Jewish people did not ‘need a Jewish state to maintain its very existence’…. In 1969… Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement (called) for the creation of a ‘secular and democratic state’ in Palestine. The new state was based on the right of return — while accepting a Jewish presence in Palestine — and it was to end the injustices stemming from the creation of Israel and the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinian villagers. Although it called for the destruction of Israel as a colonial entity, it upheld the principle of a single state for all, Muslim, Christian or Jew.”

Upholding the 1960s and ’70s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) call for a “secular and democratic state” throughout historic Palestine, Awad Abdelfattah, Co-founder of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC) and former Secretary-General of the Balad party, which calls for Israel to become a “state of all its citizens,” asserted in 2020: “My movement and the other co-founders of Balad… have viewed themselves as part of the Palestinian national movement, which embraces the solution as one secular democratic state in all of Palestine. ”

In 2009, CBS correspondent Bob Simon was asked what chance there was for a viable two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, and Simon replied: “History has passed it by” (Remembering Bob Simon, 16:02). Because ongoing Israeli settlement expansion has made the creation of a sovereign, viable, independent Palestinian state impossible, Palestinians are shifting their struggle for self-determination from advocacy for a Palestinian state to advocacy for equal rights, as recognized in Frank Barat’s 2013 interview with Dr. Leila Farsakh and Noura Erakat Esq.

Dr. Farsakh states: “Today if you talk to the youth in Palestine, they don’t care about a state. They are very clear about their identity. They care about rights. They don’t give a damn if the next door neighbors are Israeli or not as long as they have the same access to education, health and freedom of movement as they do. This is different from thirty years ago when (Palestinians) wanted to create a state. This has changed.” (What Comes Next: The struggle we are fighting for is the right to assert what our life will look like).

In his 2015 article What Palestinians Really Want, Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, cites polling data that show a majority of Palestinians no longer support a two-state solution. Munayyer advises that “the focus of Palestinian national strategy should not be statehood but rather on reclaiming rights. This means officially declaring the two-state solution dead…. Palestinian leaders should support coexistence over nationalism, integration over exclusion and equality over separatism.”

In Yavne: A Jewish Case for Equality in Israel-Palestine (2020), Peter Beinart acknowledges: “The painful truth is that the project to which liberal Zionists like myself have devoted ourselves for decades—a state for Palestinians separated from a state for Jews—has failed…. It is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish–Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish–Palestinian equality.” In I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State, Beinart declares: “It’s time to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. It’s time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state…. Israel-Palestine can be a Jewish home that is also, equally, a Palestinian home. And building that home can bring liberation not just for Palestinians but for us, too.”

Discussing his 2012 book After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine (co-authored with Antony Loewenstein), Ahmed Moor recommends federalism as a viable political framework for Palestine/Israel: “What is paramount is the preservation both of culture and individual rights. Palestinians do not want to lose sense of what it is to be Palestinian, and I am confident that Jewish Israelis do want to preserve something about their culture. As individuals, however, we need to focus on civil liberties for everyone in the country. Federalism, in my mind, provides a good framework as to how to do that.”

“True democracy can only be achieved… through the complete separation between religious institutions (mosque, synagogue, ‎church) and the state…. Only a secular state provides lasting protection and guarantees fundamental freedoms for the individual.” ~ Naji El Khatib and Ofra Yeshua-Lyth

The failure of the Oslo Accords and the two-state paradigm is acknowledged in mainstream media and support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel is growing worldwide, nevertheless Palestine solidarity groups have largely failed to discuss and fully consider alternatives to the defunct two-state solution, as urged by the Movement for One Democratic State. Recognizing this omission as “dangerous and self-defeating,” Dr. Jeff Halper asks: What is our end-game? What are we BDSing about? We know what we’re fighting against, but what are we fighting for? Halper suggests an answer: BDS for BDS! Boycott, divestment and sanctions for a (culturally) binational democratic state.

In the 2018 Ha’aretz op-ed The ‘Two-State Solution’ Only Ever Meant a Big Israel Ruling Over a Palestinian Bantustan. Let it Go, Jeff Halper invites Israeli and international Jews to view “cultural” — not “political” — Zionism as a starting point for Jews to join in equal partnership with Palestinians to build one democratic state: “We want a way out of political Zionism’s dead end, and a return to the cultural Zionism of Ben-Yehuda, Henrietta Szold, Ahad Ha-am, Judah Magnes and Martin Buber that envisioned a Hebrew people living together with their Palestinian neighbors. This is a challenge that will truly liberate both peoples, a positive project of a new generation of cultural Zionists. We need a state which offers equal rights to all of its citizens – one citizenship, one vote, one parliament – but which constitutionally ensures the right of both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs to their identities, narratives and institutions…. This is the challenge the ‘hard’ left must work to bring to reality.”

In One Democratic State: an ongoing debate (2018), One State Foundation members Naji El Khatib (a Palestinian refugee) and Ofra Yeshua-Lyth (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 by 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.’…  The (key) is… acceptance of this idea of the equality of all individuals. To the extent it is won, minorities are ipso facto protected, and if it is not won, not even constitutional ‘guarantees’ for collectives will suffice.”

Encouraging discussion of the one-state paradigm, Ronnie Barkan, Co-founder of the Israeli anti-Zionist group Boycott from Within, declares: “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)

“An apartheid Jewish state… or a civil democracy in which all citizens have equal rights under the law…. This decision will represent a profound moment of truth…. Which will it be?” — Rabbi Brant Rosen, JVP Rabbinical

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) recognized the “State of Israel” in 1988 and 1993, nevertheless all Palestinians reject Israel’s 2014/2020 demand to be recognized as an ethno-religious “Jewish state” because doing so would deny Palestinian history and indigenous identity and, in effect, condone the 1948 Naqba in which more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland.

In ‘Jewish state’ recognition adds new Israeli-Palestinian trip wire, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the PLO, declared: “This is like telling the Palestinians they did not exist all these hundreds and thousands of years, that this historically has been a Jewish land. Palestine historically has been diverse. There have been many tribes here. Our history is not going to be something we can deny.”

In 2016, 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 Moment of Truth for Liberal Zionism (2012), Rabbi Brant Rosen of JVP Rabbinical Council admonished American Jews that Israel cannot be both a “democratic” and a “Jewish” state, therefore US 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?… Perhaps it’s time to stop talking about mythic ‘windows of opportunity’ and open a new discussion: what will it take for us to admit that it is finally closed? And what will our options be then?”

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 March, 2015, at The Palestine Center in Washington D.C. following Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reelection, Dr. Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, declared: “The very idea of Israel, the notion, the concept that you can have a Jewish state that privileges some of its people at the expense of other people, which is racist and has been at the core of the Zionist enterprise and Israel’s foundation, and which has been hidden from Western eyes for decades, is now on full view. This concept is simply not acceptable in the 21st Century.” (The Challenges Posed by the Vacuum in Palestinian Political Leadership)

“A new future together” ~ The Popular Movement for One Democratic State on Historic Palestine 

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 right 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.”

Dr. Jeff Halper, Co-Founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Dr. Sa'ed Atshan, Postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Studies at Brown Univ., and Rains Rouner, MSW, Co-Founder of Common Ground, discuss building one secular, democratic, binational state in Israel/Palestine, Harvard University, February 2015 [LINK]
(photos by Pat Westwater-Jong)

"Merry Christmas World, from Bethlehem Ghetto" -- a message from Palestinian children written on the Israeli Separation Wall that divides the town of Bethlehem, which, in 2004, the International Criminal Court decreed to be illegal due to its theft of Palestinian land -- West Bank, 2010

A Palestinian woman weeps amid the debris of her destroyed home and neighborhood devastated by Israel's war on Gaza -- Shuja'iyya, Gaza, 2014

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, President Emeritus of Rabbis for Human Rights, arrested by Israeli soldiers and police for protesting Israel's occupation of the West Bank, blockade of Gaza and policy of denying building permits to Palestinian families and demolishing Palestinian homes, 2008

"We want a relationship of freedom and equality with Israeli Jews, and with Americans, too." ~ Akram Abu Sabaa, Jenin refugee camp, 2002: Read about interfaith aid building people-to-people communication and mutual respect... (photo by Rains Rouner)

Israeli activists from Rabbis for Human Rights and Palestinian women during the olive harvest, Jama'in, West Bank, October, 2002 -- (photo by Rains Rouner)

A big sister looks after her siblings, Jenin camp, West Bank, 2003 -- (photo by Rains Rouner)

Imam Abdullah Faaruuq

Imam Abdullah Faaruuq of Masjid Al-Humdulillah, Roxbury MA, member of the Islamic Council of New England, speaking at an interfaith event with Rabbi Brian Walt of Jewish Voice for Peace on the first anniversary of Israel's 2008 assault on Gaza, St. Paul's Cathedral, Boston Ma, December 2009 -- (photo by Pat Westwater-Jong)

Rains Rouner, Co-founder of Common Ground, ISM activist, liaison for RHR/ICAHD and Fatah/Al Aqsa in '02 and '03 with host/friend Ala Abu Nassi's wife Muna and baby Ibrahim in Ala's home, Jenin camp, West Bank, 2003

Rains Rouner, MSW, Co-founder of Common Ground, introducing Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Founder of the Palestine Museum of Natural History and author of Sharing the Land of Canaan, First Baptist Church, Jamaica Plain, MA, February 2015 -- (photo by Pat Westwater-Jong)