For a Secular, Democratic, Single State of Palestine 21

Events in Palestine are terribly sad. Forgive the banality, but it needs to be said. The terrible plight of the Palestinian people is a sore on the world. They have been uprooted from their homes and decamped into appalling conditions, with what little land they have left being constantly squeezed, hemmed in and deprived of water.

I thought I was well-informed on Palestine, but still reading Hilda Reilly’s The Prickly Pears of Palestine was an eye-opening experience. It is a difficult book to read. At first I found the constant repetition of the word “Martyr” to describe the dead annoying. But then, as misery piles upon misery, it brings a full understanding of just how devastating and all-pervasive is the reach of Israeli violence into the lives of Palestinian families. Reilly also does much to explain the disillusionment with Fatah, its corruption and lack of achievement, and the enthusiasm for Hamas, particularly among younger people.

In these circumstances appalling distortion of Palestinian society is inevitable. Those of us concerned for the Palestinians have been, rightly I think, concerned to correct the one dimensional view of Hamas portrayed in the Western media, and concerned to expose Western hypocrisy in seeking to penalise Palestinians for their democratic choice.

But it was nonetheless not a good choice. The Palestinians are victims of terrible racial persecution. Turning to religious fundamentalism is an understandable process, but very unhelpful. Above all, the Palestinians have never been a religious mono-culture. A former girlfriend of mine was a Palestinian Christian.

She and I used to campaign for a unitary, secular, democratic state in Palestine, that would encompass Palestinians, Jews and others who live there, in the combined lands of Israel and the occupied territories. That is what I still believe to be the solution. I am not sure how and when it became de rigeur to support a so-called “Two state” solution, with a tiny, fractured, walled, dry and non-viable Palestinian “state”. I don’t believe the UK was committed to that idea until Blair supported it in the Rose Garden all those years ago.

By associating themselves so completely with Islamic fundamentalism, the Palestinians are making the situation worse, and the Zionists very happy. But what did we expect? Palestine has been a prolonged genocide for sixty years, the worst example of ethnic cleansing since the eradication of Native Americans. Desperate people do things that seem stupid from the comfort of our armchairs. It is our comfort and indifference that has brought them to this.

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21 thoughts on “For a Secular, Democratic, Single State of Palestine

  • writeon

    Everything you write, is, of course correct and deeply depressing. The destruction of Palestine and the subsequent degredation and brutalization of its people was bound to have a profound and devastating effect on their political culture, with dire consequences for the Palestinians, and the wider region, if not the world.

    People in desparate situations often choose desparate remidies to their woes, and the support for Hamas is understandable. The problem with religious political movements is that they often ligitimize martyrdom. This is a very dangerous concept. In some ways it is the ultimate weapon of the powerless against an overwhelmingly strong enemy. They may have the tanks, planes and army, but I have my life to give. I will not be afraid or fear death, but greet it with a pure heart and clear conscience. I will choose to sacrifice myself for my people and strike a blow against the oppressor. My reward for my noble and just martyrdom will be received in heaven.

    Once such ideas become an integral part of the political/religious culture one is in real trouble. It's not as if the concept of martyrdom is so alien to us. During the crusades the Catholic church promissed knights absolution for all their sins if they died in battle and a direct route to heaven. Usually, in our many wars, giving up one's life for one's country was regarded as exemplary conduct.

    The problem is that the cult of martyrdom has consequences for the wider middle east. We are driving the whole process forward by our policies, which appear to be encouraging people to embrace death rather than life.

    The implications of the recent war in southern Lebanon cannot be underestimated. Here, well-trained fighters showed an almost Spartan-like contempt for death and fought the Israeli army to a standstill. The myth of Israeli invincebility was punctured for ever. People all over the Middle East could see that it was possible to fight Israel and "win". Perhaps the most important factor here was not that the fighters were well-trained and well-armed, but that their moral and fighting spirit was so high.

    It's like we are creating an enemy which not only has contempt for death, but contempt for us too. They are no longer afraid of us.

    One can see this idea of martyrdom and resistance spreading thoughout the region. The capacity of the Iraqi resistance to absorb punishment and still carry on fighting is impressive. The Iraqis will never allow the Americans to rule and loot their country. They would rather burn it down, in a scorched earth tactic than let the Americans have it.

    Then there's Iran. Martyrdom is deeply imbedded in Iranian culture. We may regard this as a form of religious fanaticism, but it is also a source of incredible strength. That's why a coming American attack on Iran would be a disaster of historic proportions for the West. Iraq would indeed be a cakewalk compared to the horrors a war with Iran would unleash.

    American/Western policies are pushing the Middle-East towards disaster. Are all these conflicts and wars going to flow into one another, into one huge conflagration? What would happen if there was a popular revolution in Eygypt? Just imagine urban warfare in Cairo?

    But is this all our real objective? Do we actually want to burn the whole Middle-East down and then start again with a clean slate? In such a deadly scenario nuclear weapons are the great leveller. We clearly can't occupy the whole region, we don't have enough troops, but we do have nuclear weapons. Would a nuclear attack on Iran pacify the region for decades to come, at least until all the oil's gone, or would a nuclear strike have the opposite affect?

    I think the Bush gang wants to attack Iran with nuclear weapons, but the problem is how to do it. They desparately need some kind of excuse and the Iranians are determined not to give it to them! However, is there a backdoor way to launch a nuclear strike on Iran by escalating various other conflicts in the region?

    This is a very depressing subject, but one of fundamental importance. How do we stop the Americans attacking Iran?

  • Friend

    Democracy can produce awkward results. When the Palestinians people voted for a government that didn't fit the western construct, the US/UK/EU failed to recognise it and worked to undermine it. My guess is that Mossad and the CIA are extremely pleased with the current result. Divide and prevent internal rule – a simply variation on a well worn device.

  • Randal

    "But it was nonetheless not a good choice."

    Maybe, maybe not.

    A society needs a healthy idealism to inspire at least some of its leaders with something above the brute pursuit of power and self-aggrandisement. The secular Arab nationalism of the late 20th century had run its course, if it were ever a healthy inspiration in any event. Islamic faith has been the new wave, in various forms.

    Organisations like Hezbollah and Hamas seem to me to be competent, efficient and broadly uncorrupt structures that could give rise to some dynamism in their societies, were they allowed to get established.

    Had we worked with them, instead of appeasing Israeli nationalist extremists, our relations with the islamic world would almost certainly not now be in the parlous state they are, and probably Israel would have been forced to reach some sort of reasonably just peace based upon the 1967 borders with some agreed adjustments. The world would be a much better place.

    Don't let the anti-muslim and Israeli nationalist fanatics fool you. The root of the problem has not been the rhetoric of the moderate islamists of Hamas and Hezbollah, but rather Israel's determination to continue colonisation of the West Bank and achieve supposed security through utter dominance (similar to the approach of the similarly paranoid and violent men who have a lot of influence in US and UK society also). Hamas and Hezbollah have fought because they have had to, not because they are aggressors. They are essentially defensive organisations.

    We should have (and still should) support the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. Once they are established in the positions their popular support would justify, they would be the best bulwarks we could ever need against the likes of Al Qaeda. Instead of making Arab nationalism work against us, it would be working for us, and instead of Islam inspiring defensive jihad against us, its most influential proponents in these areas would be busy with the task of building modern societies and fighting off the extremists who would prevent them doing so.

    As an example, the reality is that the reason for the current violence in Gaza and the West Bank is the attempt by the defeated secularist faction to cling to power with US and Israeli support, in the face of the clear popular will of the Palestinian people. We have made the mistake of allowing ourselves to be dragooned into the attempt to strangle the Hamas state by starving it of resources. This was yet another foolish and monstrous crime against the Palestinian people, but no doubt when further bitterness and hatred of the west results in continued violence, we will be shocked and hurt and declare ourselves bewildered as to why they should have anything against us. If we succeed in crushing the idealism of the Hamas generation, the next will turn to something more like Al Qaeda.

  • Randal

    "The problem with religious political movements is that they often ligitimize martyrdom. This is a very dangerous concept."

    This is potentially misleading, writeon. Martyrdom, the sacrifice of one's own life for altruistic reasons, is not particular to religious movements, but is common to any system that recognises moral priorities above individual material well-being.

    The Tamil suicide bombers of the LTTE are aggressively anti-religious. The Kurdish PKK, which used suicide bombers, were Marxists. The motivation of the Japanese Kamikazes was as much Japanese nationalism as Shinto. There are plenty of examples of Communist or National Socialist fanatics laying down their lives for their cause in the 20th century.

    Indeed, the mother laying down her life for her children, the father for his family, the soldier for his people, these are all examples of martyrdom, in the broader sense.

    Why is it necessarily a bad thing? Whether it is a bad or a good thing surely depends upon the circumstances and the cause, does it not?

    I suspect that there are few, if any, examples of purely religiously inspired martyrdom. Robert Pape, in his comprehensive study of suicide bombings, suggests that they almost invariably involve an element of resistance to foreign domination. I find his thesis convincing.

    As you say, it is the ultimate weapon of the powerless against an overwhelmingly strong enemy. Pape also says:

    "If suicide terrorism were mainly the product of Islamic fundamentalism or any other evil ideology independent of circumstance, then suicide terrorism in Lebanon should not have ended when the Americans, French, and Israelis withdrew their combat forcees from the country. Since Hezbollah retained its Islamic fundamentalist ideology, we should instead have witnessed suicide terrorists following the Americans to New York, the French to Paris, and the Israelis to Tel Aviv – which did not happen."

    The problem is not some supposed "cult of martyrdom", but the aggression that gives rise to the resistance that uses martyrdom as a means.

  • ChoamNomsky

    "By associating themselves so completely with Islamic fundamentalism, the Palestinians are making the situation worse, and the Zionists very happy."

    Well they were sick of the corruption of Fatah, so overwhelmingly voted for Hamas. A lot of the problems since then have stemmed from the rejection of this government by the West and the crippling financial boycott, amounting to some $700 million. When that kind of money is withheld, anarchy is guaranteed. The US has been arming and training Fatah personnel and it is not surprising that this has been viewed with great suspicion by Hamas. Its a bit like Russia secretly arming and training the Liberal democrats, despite the fact that the people voted for Labour (unfortunately).

  • Yakoub

    The Association for One Democratic State in Israel/Palestine is a non-governmental organization incorporated according to the Swiss association law. Its headquarters is located in Geneva , Switzerland .

    Membership is open to all nationalities provided a candidate for membership accepts the principle of one democratic state in Palestine/Israel.

  • MilkMonitor

    According to this article Hamas was created and funded by Israel:

    "Wind-up Terror Toy

    Israel's supposed arch-enemy, the terrorist group Hamas, was founded and funded by Israel's dominant Likud party and continues to be bankrolled to this day by political bodies pushing a one world government system. This is not my opinion and I am not breaking an exclusive story. It is a documented fact reported on by mainstream news outlets and admitted by respected individuals within the US and Israeli governments and intelligence agencies.

    The objectives of Hamas dovetail with those of the Likud, no settlement at all costs. Whenever the prospect of a workable peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians arises, Hamas or one of their offshoots blows a bus, restaurant or a hotel to pieces. This gives Israel the justification needed to scupper any agreement and further entrench their occupation of disputed lands. All the outsider sees is carnage, death and a mainstream media that spins the issue so that these atrocities somehow represent the wishes of the Palestinian people."

    And this, the Executive Intelligence Review of 20 July 2001:

    "…Sharon, who was instrumental in launching the Hamas movement…"

    "In the 1970s, Hamas was built up by Israeli occupying forces as a "countergang" to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) of Yasser Arafat. Individuals who later emerged as Hamas leaders were granted licenses by Israeli authorities to set up food kitchens, clinics, schools, and day-care centers, to create a governing structure alternative to Arafat's Fatah."

    And, interestingly, from that same article, dated July 2001:

    "Sharon would use any pretext to justify a military strike against Iraq…

    By launching such a regional war "in reaction" to a terrorist attack, particularly in the context of simultaneous terrorist actions against American targets, Sharon would hope to assure that Israel would win the solid support of the United States and Western Europe."

  • Craig

    I can imagine israel may have seen an interest in encouraging Hamas thirty years ago as part of the old divide and conquer stategy. I don't imagine it still does now though.

  • Randal

    Badger ( has a good piece summarising Al-Quds al-Arabi's coverage, under the heading: "Without Fatah-Hamas talks, the US and the West will likely escalate, re-arming Fatah".

    As the editorial implies, this may well open the door to the US finalising the establishment of Fatah (under Abbas if he is willing, or whatever other strongman succeeds him) as yet another of the pseudo-democratic corrupt but compliant dictatorships of the kind the US generally favours to control Arab and other muslim nations by brutal suppression of the rising islamist tide.

    And yet again, we will be on the wrong side of history, using brute force to prevent and distort the natural development of these suffering nations. Doubtless there will be a more competently rigged "election" in the West Bank in due course, to provide the usual western figleaf, and as the Fatah forces sink further into the kind of corrupt malaise that inevitably accompanies a ruling party's collaboration with external enemies of its own people, the islamists' moral ascendance will be countered as usual by ever greater and more murderous firepower and brutality.

  • Degrees

    Does anyone have any more information regarding Israeli influence over Hamas?

    It was undoubtedly obvious when Hamas was created, but what is the level of control/influence now?

    It's hard to imagine US-trained Fatah against IL-trained Hamas.

  • writeon

    If one goes to the BBC website and looks at the map of Israel/Palestine, one can see Israel inside its 1967 borders, and Gaza, then the West Bank. Both Gaza and the West Bank are shown as two distinct and solid areas of colour on the map, as is Israel. However, is this an accurate map? Surely it gives the impression that the West Bank unoccupied and under Palestinian control and larger than Gaza. But is this really true? A more realistic map would show the West Bank split into far smaller peices and surrounded by territory occupied by Israel! On a map showing who controls the land Gaza would probably appear larger any of the unoccupied areas of the West Bank.

    This may seem unimportant, a mere detail, but I believe these kind of maps frame and define the way we think and perceive reality, and these maps don't really show just how little of the land area the Palestinians have left and how they are actually surrounded, under almost total control, living in reservations or even ghettoes.

  • MilkMonitor

    Degrees: "Does anyone have any more information regarding Israeli influence over Hamas?"

    I searched a couple of days ago. The most info I could find was on, but there was nothing recent. This is a link to their list of articles on "israel hamas" –
    <a href="” target=”_blank”> <a href="htt…” target=”_blank”>

    I also searched but found nothing about it there.

  • hulehvalley

    Hey now, hey now….don't dream it's over!

    Face facts though it is over, the myth of "Palestine" has come crashing to the floor in the past week. The biggest scam in history has reached its bloody conclusion.

    Mark Steyn eloquently sums up:


    This is the logical consequence of the fraudulence of "Palestinian nationalism". There has never been any such thing. There is no evidence anywhere in the "Palestinian Authority" that anyone there is interested in building a state and running it. In conventional post-colonial scenarios of the Sixties and Seventies, liberation movements used terrorism as a means to advance nationalism. By contrast, Arafat's gang used nationalism as a means to advance terrorism. With him out of the way, it was deluded to assume that the "Palestinian people" would stick with a bunch of corrupt secular socialists with little appeal to anyone other than French intellectuals and Swiss bankers. The Mahmoud Abbas types play well on CNN and in EU subsidy negotiations, but because "Palestinian nationalism" was always bogus it's no surprise that the population of Gaza would seek a real identity elsewhere. In the Islamism of Hamas, they have found it. And, if it causes problems for all those Arab League deadbeats who promoted the pseudo-struggle of the "Palestinian people" for their own ends, well, they should have thought of that before they loosed this particular genie.


  • hulehvalley

    Degrees said:

    "If one goes to the BBC website and looks at the map of Israel/Palestine, one can see Israel inside its 1967 borders, and Gaza, then the West Bank. Both Gaza and the West Bank are shown as two distinct and solid areas of colour on the map, as is Israel. However, is this an accurate map?"

    No, it's not an accurate map, the fact that it's on the BBC should be enough to tell you that.

    If it was an accurate map it would include Jordan–which is 4/5ths of British Mandated "Palestine."

    If it was an accurate map the "West Bank" would be labelled by its actual name, Judea/Samaria.

    Hope that helps.

  • hulehvalley

    Randal said:

    "A lot of the problems since then have stemmed from the rejection of this government by the West and the crippling financial boycott, amounting to some $700 million. When that kind of money is withheld, anarchy is guaranteed."

    And here is the reality of the situation:


    Aid to Palestinians Rose Despite an Embargo

    Despite the international embargo on aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas came to power a year ago, significantly more aid was delivered to the Palestinians in 2006 than in 2005, according to official figures from the United Nations, United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund.


    I bet you all clicked on the article all ready to shoot-down my source, and then you discovered that it was the anti-Israel NYT and you died a little inside.

  • Tonys Akiller

    hulehvalley said:

    There is no evidence anywhere in the "Palestinian Authority" that anyone there is interested in building a state and running it.

    First off stop reproducing Israeli nonsense and spite. Secondly, the Palestinian leadership suffered from self paralysis. The leadership of Fatah were enriched by the US and its zionist masters, in order to ensure people like Yessir Arafat could drive around in fancy cars and live in relative luxury while the Palestinian people bled.

  • MilkMonitor

    hulehvalley: "I bet you all clicked on the article all ready to shoot-down my source, and then you discovered that it was the anti-Israel NYT and you died a little inside."

    And you think your link is something to crow about do you:

    'One side effect of the redirected aid, some officials said, is that while starvation has been avoided, institutions are withering and a culture of dependence is expanding.'

    'He [Alexander Costy, UN] added: "What we do know for sure is that Palestinians, and their economy and society, are becoming increasingly dependent on humanitarian handouts, and this dependency is growing fast. For a state in the making, I think this was a step backwards in 2006 and a cause for alarm."

    'A United Nations official who asked for anonymity in order to speak frankly, said "aid is going down the sink hole," keeping people alive rather than creating jobs or helping them to create economic opportunities."

    "There is a real fear that Palestinian institutions that the international donor community has toiled to build and beef up over the years are being gradually undone," he said. "This has grave political consequences, since these institutions are meant to be the foundation on which, one day, a Palestinian state will be built."'

    I take it you think that's a good result.

  • Craig


    Of course the Arabs were not really divided into distinctive nation states in the modern sense under colonialism – Ottoman or European. But nation states in the modern sense are a relatively recent historical innovation anyway. Other than Ethiopia your argument applies better to pretty well all of Africa – Nigeria, for example, is a totally imperial creation – but nobody now argues it has no right to be a nation.

    Palestine has existed as a concept for a long time – it is of course the same word as Philistine. You can't conceptually disappear the people who lived there before Israel ethnically cleansed them, which is what you are attempting to do intellectually to justify their genocide.

  • Randal

    Sometimes the west can move quickly, when it's a case of throwing our tax monies away as bribes to encourage foreign people to sell their futures to our preferred proxies.

    Badger has another summary from al-Quds al-Arabi today, noting that NGOs have received an urgent request from USAID for suggestions as to massive bribery projects for the West Bank in order to buy Palestinian support for Fatah.

    Meanwhile – "not even one dollar" is to be allowed to reach Gaza.

    Between corruption and the fact that such schemes are easily seen through, it seems likely this will be another colossal waste of American taxpayers' money. Still, at least this bit isn't being used to actully butcher people with cruise missiles and cluster bombs.

  • ummabdulla

    I hadn't heard of "The Prickly Pears of Palestine", so I went to and didn't find it. I did find it at Has it been published in the U.S. under a different name? Or has it not been publsihed there? (Which wouldn't be surprising.)

  • Craig


    "Prickly Pears of Palestine" perhaps unsurprisingly doesn't seem to be available in the States. You can order it from for about an extra $4 postage. It really is worth reading.

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