A definite shift has taken place in the Palestine solidarity movement. Not so long ago people who call for a one state solution in Palestine were a clear minority.
Now it seems the opposite is true. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)—the largest and broadest pro-Palestinian organisation in Britain—held a conference last Saturday where the main theme was ending apartheid in Palestine.
Two keynote speakers—theorists Virginia Tilley and Hazem Jamjoum—kicked the day off explicitly rejecting the two-state solution and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Both argued that the partition of Palestine in 1948, creating a state of Israel based on discrimination against Arabs, could only be racist. Both also criticised the PA for accepting that racial division by agreeing to the two state solution.
It used to be the case that this kind of argument was barely tolerated in the PSC. This time there was hardly a whisper of disagreement.
Most people at the conference seemed to accept as a given that the two state solution is dead. Discussion turned to how solidarity with Palestine means more than just opposing the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
This change hasn’t come out of nowhere. The reality of the occupation has made it glaringly obvious that the two state solution could never mean freedom or justice for Palestinians.
The Oslo Accords—which were supposed to lay the groundwork for an independent Palestinian state—were signed more than 25 years ago.
In those 25 years Israel has consistently sabotaged “peace talks” while the PA took responsibility for managing and policing Palestinians under occupation.
All the while Israel has massively grown the size and population of its settlement in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Any Palestinian state based on the land that’s left would be fragmented and under Israeli military control.
That’s caused a crisis for the Israeli state, which openly frets about maintaining its Jewish majority in order to remain a “Jewish state”. The myth of the two state solution has helped bolster the occupation and deny Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendants the right to return.
Israel’s crisis is made worse by the fact that its violence has led to growing support for Palestinians.
Its response has been to increase its persecution of Palestinians, exclude them from politics and erase their history. Earlier this year the Israeli government passed a racist “Nation State” law that denies Palestinians citizenship inside Israel.
It has also fought to make describing Israel as racist an antisemitic attack. It has done the same for discussing its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, or calling for a one state solution. That’s another reason why the PSC has had to shift.
In Britain, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism has been adopted by the government, several councils, and the Labour Party.
Examples attached to the definition mean that activists now face accusations of antisemitism if they call Israel a racist or apartheid state.
So Palestine solidarity activists now have to say clearly exactly why it’s right to brand Israel racist.
Much of the PSC’s conference last Saturday dealt with why Israel meets a legal definition of apartheid. But ultimately explaining why Israel is a racist state means talking about how it was founded on racial division and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Ending that division means fighting for a single state in all of Palestine, with equal democratic rights for all its citizens—Arabs and Jews.
Some in the PSC look to a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party as the best way of pressuring Israel. But the argument for a one state solution still has to be won among Labour members. And the Labour Party, including Corbyn, is committed to the two state solution.
Support for a one state solution means looking for other ways to win freedom and justice for the Palestinians. It means putting resistance by ordinary people in Palestine and across the Middle East at the centre.