We are printing the following paper, delivered to the World Social Forum Free Palestine in Brazil by Ghazi Sourani, recently translated to English:
On the road to a secular, democratic Palestine for all its inhabitants by Ghazi Sourani, Gaza, Occupied Palestine
A paper presented to the World Social Forum in Solidarity with the Palestinian people, Brazil, 29 Nov. 2012
Comrades and friends in the World Social Forum
From occupied Palestine, from the heart of the Zionist aggression, blockade and occupation of our homeland, I extend the greeting and respect to the friendly people of Brazil for hosting the World Social Forum under the banner “Free Palestine” in solidarity with our Arab Palestinian people’s struggle and our rights to freedom, return and self-determination. I also express appreciation and thanks to you comrades and friends participating in World Social Forum in solidarity with our Palestinian working to struggle to confront the Zionist imperialist alliance and its plans for our country.
Dear Friends and comrades:
Since the inception of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century, then the establishment of the “Israeli state” on 15 May 1948, biblical religious myths have been used for political goals in order to serve the big lie of the so-called “Jewish nation.” It is well known historically that religious belief has never been personally essential for the Zionist movement leaders and theoreticians, some of whom wholly rejected the Jewish religion. In addition, many Jewish thinkers, historically and at present, have rejected the “Jewish nation” argument. One such prominent Jewish writer today is Shlomo Sand, a professor of history at Tel Aviv University, who wrote in the introduction to the Arabic-language edition of his book “The Invention of the Jewish People”:
“Although the term ‘people’ is loose and ambiguous, I don’t believe that there was, at any time, a homogeneous Jewish people, exactly like nor were there a homogeneous Muslim people. There were (and there still are) Jews and Muslims in history, their history is rich, varied and interesting. Judaism is similar to Christianity and Islam, was always an important religious civilization, but not a popular national culture.”
In this concern, Sand affirms that the historical narrative saying that the “Jewish people” as such has existed since the revelation of Torah in Sinai; that Jewish males and females, who are from the Jewish origin, are the children of that people, which “went out” from Egypt, occupied the “land of Israel” and settled in it because it was supposedly a divinely “promised land”, then established the two kingdoms of David and Solomon, and finally that this people was expelled for about two thousand years in diaspora after the second temple destruction, is utterly untrusted narrative.
In the frame of this situation, Sand views the “Jewish people’s” expulsion from its homeland as something that has in practical reality has never taken place. He continues saying, the expulsion and vagrancy narrative was necessary for the construction of a collective memory which posits an imagined exiled race of people, a direct continuation of the biblical line. Sand writes:
I engaged in a search for books discussing the expulsion of the Jews from the country. This has been discussed as a seminal and underlying event in Jewish history, almost akin to the Holocaust, but I was surprised when I realized that there were no books or literature documenting such an event. The reason, simply, lies in the fact that no one expelled the people of the land. The Romans never expelled peoples after occupying them. They weren’t able to do that even if they wanted since there weren’t trains or trucks to deport them or the force to exile peoples or whole inhabitant groups.
It is clear that the religious and biblical myths historically used – and still used – for political aims on the basis that Zionism is the national arm of Judaism.
“Israel” is, in fact, a political realization and practical materialization of two phenomena, in the framework of the organic relationship between the Zionist movement on one hand and the interests of the capitalist imperialist system, on the other. Therefore, this relationship confirms that “Israel”’s role and function was to serve in the expansionist interests of capital.
Israeli state identity, which is connected to the concept of the “Jewish nation” and the “Jewish people” will continue to be a created and imposed identity that is not part of the fabric of the Arab area or the region. This identity could not be centred in the region as a dominating and exclusive power without brutal coercive force supported by the imperialist forces. Israel will continue to be a rejected imperialist entity in the Arab area. This “state” is no more than a military base composed of multiple nationalities, such as Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, European, Asian, and African. Each group has its own culture and heritage, and are seeking the opportunity made available by world imperialism for them to come to Palestine and colonize it under the pretext of the “return to the promised land,” as an outlet from their local crises, or in order to realize their class interests. Without the encouragement and support of European capitalism, and specifically British capitalism, the Zionist movement would not have made its initial steps forward. And it has followed since that the economic and military progress that the Israeli enemy state has achieved would not have been possible without the unconditional support to the Zionist movement and later the Israeli state by the bourgeois imperialist forces in Europe and the United States of America.
It should be noted that weaknesses and backward conditions in the Arab world, due to the domination of semi-feudal and bourgeois reactionary Arab forces over the leadership of the national movements since the early 20th century (1920-1950), helped to generate the favourable circumstances for the success of settler colonialism in Palestine, including the establishment of Zionist settlements and political, military and economic institutions. These preparations came in advance of the declaration of the establishment of the “state of Israel” and the theft of Palestine, on May 15, 1948. The United Nations conditioned its recognition and acceptance of this state upon the pledge of Ben Gurion’s government, and his foreign minister Moshe Shertok, to apply both UN Resolutions 181 (the Partition resolution of 29 November 1947) and 194 (the Right of Return resolution of 11 December 1949). However, immediately upon attaining that recognition, the Zionist state retreated from its pledges as it has since that time rejected all resolutions and agreements of international legitimacy from 1948 to the present day, including its own refusal to apply even the terms of the infamous Oslo accords and the later agreements and plans termed the “Road Map,” despite the injustice of all these resolutions and agreements against Palestinian legitimate rights.
Friends and Comrades:
This Zionist refusal of international law and resolutions would never be possible without the direct support of Britain for Zionist settler colonialism during the Mandate period and later, American imperialism, and also without the continuation of the policies of surrender, subordination and backwardness of the Arab states acting as accomplices with the imperialist system. This means that we must do the following:
- Awaken the Arab liberation movement,
- Lift this force from its crisis toward restoring its political and democratic struggle to support steadfastness and resistance in Palestine,
- Overcome the reactionary, subordinate and despotic regimes, and
- Liquidate the bureaucratic, bourgeois/comprador alliance.
All of these four points mean transfer of leadership and state power to radicalized and previously oppressed social classes and sectors which are able, based on a revolutionary party, to provide the economic and military elements and capabilities needed to defeat Israel and establish a democratic Palestine for all its residents.
However, despite all retreats in our people’s national liberation movement and democratic constants, the question of land and the right of return constitute the essence of the Palestine question. These are political, humanitarian and moral questions, but also directly material issues – and form the core of the Palestinian struggle in the Arab/Zionist conflict. In fact, the right of return is a scale against which the rightness and seriousness of any proposed project or political solution can and should be measured. Political forces and individual political figures’ stances and credibility can also be tested against this scale.
The urgent task in front of the Palestine national democratic movement is to reconsider the strategic, liberation, democratic and territorial/national vision in its political and social dimensions. It is also necessary to revive and renew our national awareness of the nature of the Zionist state, and its function and role as an imperialist project that not only targets Palestine, but also ensures imperialist control over the capabilities of the Arab world and its underdevelopment.
The conflict with the Zionist project is a struggle against the capitalist and imperialist system for change and to overcome the existing Arab comprador system. It is a strategic conflict on the road to achieve the national democratic revolution and its struggle with imperialism. Furthermore, it is a struggle against the Zionist project, to bring about the end of the settler-colonial state and create, instead, the democratic state of Palestine for all of its citizens.
The Palestinian struggle is an Arab struggle. Israel was established as a bulkhead and military base in the Arab region, to support and maintain the imperialist/Zionist project of hegemony and control over the Arabs. Understanding this issue of hegemony and control is essential in understanding the nature of the conflict and in determining the possible solution.
Through the so-called “peace process”, from 1990 to the present, it is clear that the Zionist entity continues to refuse, as it has since 1948, the establishment of two states, Jewish and Arab. The Zionist entity considers all Palestine as being “Israel” and it still sees the Palestinian population as a dangerous “demographic threat” that must be overcome and a problem in need of a solution.
The ceiling of the negotiations under this “peace process” is the concept of “autonomy,” or incomplete sovereignty/self-rule over portions of the West Bank of Gaza relinquished by the Israeli enemy, or consolidating the separation of a “state of Gaza.” All of these solutions are based in the maintenance of Zionist and imperialist hegemony and its “5 NOs”: no for withdrawal from Jerusalem, no for withdrawal from Jordan Valley, no for removal of settlements, no for refugee return and no for a complete sovereign and independent Palestinian state.
The “two-state solution,” in accordance with Israeli terms, is nearer to an illusion than a solution under the current deep power imbalance. It does not constitute an interim solution or partial objective. Instead, it is merely an application of the Israeli/American vision which has distorted the concept into one of “autonomy,” or “temporary state, incomplete sovereignty, or sharing of authority,” all of which do not contradict US/Israeli terms. It is time for all Palestinian national forces to affirm their commitment to national constants and Palestinian historical rights as it is quite clear that the two-state solution of a “Jewish state” and a “Palestinian state with sovereignty” is impossible, and the solution within the framework of one state of Israel is utterly impossible as well. These two “solutions” are in fact impossible because they are prevented from any viability by the Zionist commitment to exclusivity, domination and dispossession and the definition of the exclusionary “Jewish state.”
Thus it is important to re-examine the Zionist project, its nature, and relationship with world imperialism.
The pivotal question is grounded upon the fact that the conflict with the Israeli enemy state will not be solved without activating the democratic revolutionary social mobilization that alone ensures the elimination of the weaknesses in the Arab peoples’ movements, including all facets of this weakness: political, economic, technological, or cultural in the human, progressive, or democratic sense.
The conflict will continue along its current process until these critical changes are made. No matter how lengthy the talk about “peace negotiations,” these will never mean anything more than the consecration of American/Israeli control and hegemony in the name of “peace” illusions or “states” without sovereignty, or “expanded autonomy.” The responsibility to manage this battle is, at its core, that of the Arab people, and the Palestinian people at the forefront.
The question of Zionism is one of hegemony and domination; it is a joint Zionist/imperialist project. This definition is essential in understanding the nature of the conflict and understanding the potential solution. The Palestinian question is inevitably connected to the Arab democratic nationalist project, the project of independence, unity, development and modernization.
Based on that, there could be a solution based on working for a democratic Palestine to be part of an Arab united democratic state through a popular Arab struggle with the Palestinian people is its pioneer.
Comrades and friends,
We are now in the second decade of the 21st century, and our people, who have given thousands of martyrs, are continuing their steadfastness and struggle despite all political concessions and absurd negotiations and the internal division between Fateh and Hamas movements, often over narrow interests and authority.
This period urges all Arab democratic and Leftist forces to seek more unity and struggle with clear active support and solidarity from all of the friendly forces and supporters of justice all over the world. This support and solidarity aims to support the foundations of the democratic and national revolution and programs related to democratic liberation national revolution’s perspective in its international framework. It also requires Palestinian leftist forces to review their political discourse including the discourse of the two state solution. Such review aims also to revive the spirit of the Palestinian struggle as a national liberation movement in the Arab/Zionist conflict.
Thus, the vision of all Arab national leftist forces including the Palestinian revolutionary leftist vision at the forefront, should be based on this understanding. The Zionist state is the anchor of the imperialist existence in the Arab World and the existence of this state is decisive for the continuation of imperialist control and Arab weakness.
This struggle is in the first place the mission of Palestinian and Arab Marxists. Palestinian revolutionary leftists who reject Oslo, negotiating with the enemy, and participating in the illegitimate Palestinian Authority, should be leading the struggle for regaining the historical, national and human rights of the Palestinian people and restoring their land.
Comrades and friends,
Despite the imperialist and Zionist terror, expulsion, torture, killing and suffering practiced against the Palestinian people from the inception of the Zionist aggression in the early 20th century until the present day, all of these practices have not succeeded in wholly uprooting our people from their land in accordance with the plans derived to achieve this end.
64 years after the Nakba, 4.2 million Palestinians live in the cities, villages and camps of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while 1.6 million live in the cities and villages of 1948 occupied Palestine. Over 5 million Palestinians live outside Palestine, in refugee camps in Arab countries and abroad in exile and diaspora. The percentage of Israelis born in occupied Palestine does not exceed 45% out of the Israeli population according to 2010 estimates, despite numerous state policies encouraging “Jewish births”. The other 55% came mostly from European countries, especially the former Soviet Union, and American, Arab, African, Asian and other varied nationalities different in their origins, histories, languages and cultures, and Israel continually attempts to recruit immigrants to maintain its “Jewish majority.” There is no future for this artificially imposed apartheid state, that was created as a settler colonial project on the basis of brutal force and expropriation to forward imperialist interests in the Arab world; it never will be a naturalized part of the fabric of the area because of this role that it served and continues to serve.
The secular democratic Palestinian state is in fact the traditional solution of the Palestinian revolution and national liberation movement. After the bypasses of Oslo and “negotiations,” it is important to mobilize the left to reconsider its political discourse and arrive at a discourse that responds to the current situation and future needs, a process that begins by returning to this classical solution of justice. This is part of a new stage of re-establishing national democratic liberation movements and forces in order to mobilize the popular classes in Palestine and the Arab world. The working class and the oppressed and exploited must be prioritized and supported to play their leading role in this process.
The secular democratic Palestine state ensures a democratic future for the Jewish people who have been given the “Israeli identity” within a united, democratic, Arab social framework. Some may say that this is a utopian stance; but it is more than a revolutionary dream. This future can be realized in practice; it is a revolutionary dream that can become material through the action of the oppressed social sectors and classes of workers, farmers, and small bourgeoisie who are eager to participate in realizing this vision that embodies a national, democratic goal.
Secular, democratic Palestine manifests today as the revolutionary embodiment of the strategic optimum solution for our people’s rights and the whole Jewish question. It is a solution that ensures the restoration of our people’s historical and political rights in Palestine. However, making this vision reality means changing the current unfavourable balance of power. This leads back to activating the Arab/Zionist struggle which requires the work to overcome and change the current Arab systems, shifting the balance of power, in order to achieve and create the just solution of a democratic Palestine for all of its people.
The great challenge that faces our people today must begin with radical political change, and taking up the class struggle against the tyrannical, exploitative and corrupt regimes that rule our people. These regimes have formed the primary basis for increasing and expanding imperialist domination over our Arab people’s capabilities, resources and wealth. They also paved the ground for the increase and expansion of the Israeli state’s racism, smugness and savagery.
We know that there is no historically determined moment, of which the time and place are set for real change. What this does mean is that we must activate and struggle to build revolutionary leftist parties capable of struggling for real democratic change and building a revolutionary movement among the popular classes.
Comrades and friends,
Sixty-five years have elapsed since UN Resolution 181, the partition resolution of 29 November 1947. In that time, our people have never been provided even a minimum of our national goals, self-determination and establishing a state on their homeland. Our people’s struggle, that of the popular masses of workers and farmers specifically, has never stopped. We have continued the fight against imperialism and the Zionist movement which continued after the founding of the Zionist state up to the present day using all forms of resistance, including popular and armed struggle. Our people have given hundreds of thousands of martyrs, injured, and prisoners, but the conditions of struggle were unfavourable, and contradicted our people’s aspirations for freedom, self-determination and return. Instead, the hegemony of the Zionist state, its hostility, illegal expansionist colonization continued with no commitment to fulfilling any international laws or resolutions from that date to the present.
Sixty-four years have passed since the Zionist movement, the capitalist imperialist system, and its followers in the Arab reactionary regimes, perpetrated one of the most vicious crimes of the modern era: the crime of uprooting most of our Palestinian people from its homeland, replacing them with Zionists by force of arms and terror and the distortion of history. This is how the “Israeli state” was established, on a functional basis that ensures the fragmentation of Arab peoples and the protection of imperialist capitalist interests. This is not simply a Palestinian-Israeli conflict; it is a conflict between the progressive Arab liberation movement, hand in hand with the world’s leftist and democratic forces, against the imperialist-Zionist alliance. It is also natural and inevitable that the Palestinians and their national movement have a pioneering role in that struggle to achieve its goals of self-determination and return to the secular democratic Palestinian state for all of its people, founded in the victory over the Zionist state, as an integral part of the Arab united democratic society.
Comrades and friends, the conference members,
As a reflection of your true solidarity with our people and their right to return and self-determination, I say: the story of our revolution is a national epic created by our people’s sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of martyrs, causalities, captives, and detainees in the Zionist prisons. This gathering, today, is an embodiment of a true solidarity with our people to achieve our legitimate national ends. Therefore, you must continue your active solidarity with our people’s revolution: support it, with pride and dignity, through your people, colleagues, fellows, relatives and friends.
See our revolution, our hopes and our inspiration in the eyes of the people, and in the steadfastness of the refugees in the camps. See them in your faces, minds, hearts, and emotions supporting us. Read in them revolutionary human, democratic, international, and national values. This is a popular revolution – human, revolutionary and democratic, which always aligns to those in the “bottom,” as was Guevara’s commitment to the poor, to the salt of the earth. The revolution fights for its liberation, freedom and progress until victory despite all forms of oppression and Zionist-imperialist aggression, and all sources and colors of right-wing storms.
A revolutionary struggle is based on integration with the popular classes through its national fighting factions and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is at the forefront.
We find in your awareness, and in your moral and material solidarity with our revolution, a source of strength, power and reinforcement that lead to the escalation of the political and military struggle. This revolution lightens the future path for the masses and all workers. It is faithful to our people’s sacrifices, our martyrs, those who paid years of their lives in the enemy’s prisons, at their head the imprisoned PFLP General Secretary, the steadfast and revolutionary intellectual, Ahmad Sa’adat, the Fateh national fighter Marwan Al Barghouti, and all brother fighters from Hamas, Jihad, the Democratic Front and the People’s Party.
We need more solidarity with our revolution, with our prisoners, more demonstrations, actions and conferences in all of your countries, cities and capitals under the calls: “Freedom for the Prisoners!” “Support the Palestinian resistance and its popular and armed struggle!” “Down with imperialism!” and “Freedom, independence, and the right of return for the Palestinian people!”
Glory and eternity for the martyrs; long live free, Arab Palestine; long live the progressive international friendship between the peoples of the world as they struggle jointly against the imperialist system and against all forms of colonialism, aggression and racism, against all forms of tyranny, oppression and class exploitation. Long live the Palestinian democratic national liberation revolution as an integral part of the Arab democratic national revolution with socialist horizons. We will definitely be victorious!