An interview with Ali Abunimah

26 Apr

A lengthy yet thorough interview by Laila on her “Raising Yousuf, Unplugged: diary of a Palestinian mother” blog. The interviewee is Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada and the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

In the interview, he explains why a proposed one state solution may be more viable .

Excerpts of the interview:

Qns: You have repeatedly described efforts to push forth a two-state solution as “flawed conventional wisdom”. What do you mean by that?

… … You can’t partition something that is inhabited by the same people. That’s why partition failed in Ireland and brought about misery in India where still to this day [people] remember where they were displaced from and many bloody wars have since taken place.

Partition is about trying to create on the ground a purity that exists only in people’s minds. Human reality is always about mixing.

Qns: But are Palestinians as ready to live with Israelis as blacks were with whites?

… … Another common misunderstanding is that most Palestinians want their own state. In the West Bank and Gaza you have about 60% consistently over time that say they support a two-state solution.

But you also have consistently between a quarter and third who say they support a bi-national state or a secular democratic state. Not an Islamic state- but a state for Palestinians and Jews with equal rights. Support for an Islamic state gets 3 or 5 or 15% maximum.

So it’s remarkable that support for a two-state solution is so tepid even in the West Bank and Gaza when there is a full industry- a multi billion dollar industry, to promote the two-state solution. I also think its remarkable that support for a one state solution is so high and increasing given the fact that there is no official leadership that is advocating it… …

According to a recent poll of Arab-Israelis, only 14% of respondents thought that Israel should remain a Jewish democratic state in its current form. 57% said they wanted a change in the character and definition of the state, whether a state for all its citizens, a bi-national state, or a consensual democracy.

In other words, the clear majority want a bi-national state.

… … They are intertwined in the way that Catholics and Protestants are intertwined in Northern Ireland, a place I’ve traveled to quite a lot. Also in the sense that they are geographically completely interspersed, you have a million plus Palestinian in what is supposed to be Israel, and half a million Israelis inside what is supposed to be the Palestinian state…

And that situation remains-you cannot have a Jewish state without the forced transfer of Palestinians or a Palestinian state without forced transfer of Jews.

Qns: What do you see as the biggest challenge to a one-state solution?

There are many. But the biggest challenge is getting there… … I think peace of any kind, justice of any kind, seems very far from the perspectives of today. When you look at South Africa, the darkest period came before the dawn, let’s say. And I think we are going through the darkest period.

And we have to bring light to it, and I argue in two ways: one is to engage in principled resistance in what Israel is doing and the other is to offer an alternative vision-and it has to be a vision that both Palestinians and Israelis can identify with.

And we have to realize that Israelis will not look for a way out unless they feel they have to. And that’s how it was with white South Africans. With a clear message that at the end there is a vision that everybody is part of.

Click here to read the entire interview


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