ODS Movement looks to popularize one-state solution for Palestine

Israeli security forces restrain a Palestinian protester during a protest in Arab East Jerusalem on Saturday against the US recognition of the holy city as Israel's capital. (AFP)
Updated 31 December 2017
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ODS Movement looks to popularize one-state solution for Palestine

AMMAN: The Popular Movement for One Democratic State in Historic Palestine (ODS) is stepping up efforts to increase the awareness and the popularity of its cause.
ODS spokesman Radi Jarai told Arab News that his movement wants to make the concept “much more accessible and understandable to people.”
Jarai, an active member of Palestine’s nationalist Fatah party who has spent years in Israeli prisons, said the movement is currently made up of academics and thinkers, so, “We need to make the idea understandable to the common person so that it begins to gain traction.”
The board of the movement met in Istanbul in early December and agreed on a plan to popularize its credo. “This week, we will tape a number of episodes to be broadcast on Palestine TV with the hope of triggering discussions about a democratic state,” Jarai told Arab News.
Lectures are scheduled at Bethlehem and Al-Quds universities, along with a major conference in Ramallah on March 16.
ODS was founded in March 2013 and welcomes both Jews and Palestinians as members.
“There are Israeli Jewish groups that support our goal but have chosen not to join us at the moment,” Jarai said.
Yoav Haifawi, an Israeli activist and publisher of the Free Haifa blog, told Arab News that he is a longtime supporter of the one-state concept.
“The biggest obstacle we face is that Israel is a privileged country for Jews. Therefore, as a colonial state that gives privileges through discrimination, the decolonization of Palestine cannot happen as long as Israel is strong and Palestinians are weak.”
Uri Davis, a Jewish member of Fatah, told Arab News that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is the representative of the Palestinian people.
He continued that, in his opinion, the replacement of the two-state solution with the ODS paradigm is best seen as a process, one which he suggested should begin with some type of negotiation between the PLO and Israel, supported by the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and mediated by the UN.
The one-state solution, Davis said, would mean a change “from the current state of affairs into a single Palestinian sovereignty (stretching) from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River under a liberal-democratic Palestinian Constitution; single Palestinian citizenship; and a single Palestinian currency, hopefully leading to a socialist democratic Federal Republic of Palestine.”
Few PLO factions have been supportive of ODS so far, but lately more have warmed to the idea, according to Jarai. But he added that the idea is still seen by many as a tactic, rather than an actual change of direction.
“Their minds are still set on the two-state solution and they use the one-state idea as a threat,” Jarai said. “That includes President (Mahmoud) Abbas who wants to change the international sponsors of the peace process, not understanding that Israel doesn’t want peace, regardless of who the sponsors are.”
In his speech at the opening session of the UN General Assembly in September, Abbas mentioned the two-state solution 13 times but warned of what would happen if this vision were to “be destroyed due to the creation of a one-state reality with two systems — apartheid — from the unchecked imposition of this occupation that is rejected by our people and the world.”
Abbas concluded by saying that if the two-state solution were to fail, “We will have no choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine.”


In rebel Syria, a race to save precious property deeds

Updated 14 min 21 sec ago
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In rebel Syria, a race to save precious property deeds

BEIRUT: The external hard drive had been smuggled from Syrian regime territory through jihadist-held towns and into Turkey. When Ghazwan Koronful finally got his hands on it, he sighed in relief.
Loaded onto the disk were pictures of thousands of title deeds from towns in central Syria recently recaptured by government troops and largely emptied of their residents.
Fearing Syria’s regime would expropriate abandoned properties or tamper with deeds, a network of activists and lawyers set their covert plan into motion.
“It was our most complex operation yet,” said Koronful, a 65-year-old Syrian lawyer who heads the network from Turkey, where he has lived in exile since 2012.
For nearly five years, Koronful’s Free Syrian Lawyers (FSL) have been working to preserve property deeds and other civil paperwork in Syria’s opposition areas.
They enter town registries, photograph the documents, carefully log and organize them, then smuggle the hard drives across Syria’s sealed northern border into Turkey.
“In total, we’ve got eight terabytes of documents, about 1.7 million documents — court records, wills, birth, marriage, and death certificates,” said Koronful.
Among them are up to 450,000 land-related documents from northern and central Syria — title deeds, contracts, and other papers that displaced Syrians could use to prove property ownership.
These documents are crucial now, Koronful explained, as the government passes a series of laws that rights defenders fear may unfairly dispossess Syrians from their homes.
“Our work simultaneously protects against hostilities that could damage the deeds, and against the regime’s attempts through these new laws to tamper with people’s properties,” he told AFP.
“Those files represent the hope of return.”


FSL sprang into action after Homs city’s registry was destroyed in a fire in 2013, which activists suspected was a regime bid to strip oppositionists of their land.
Smuggling out original deeds from other towns was risky and could be considered tampering, so the FSL’s 15 lawyers opted for the next best thing: digital copies.
With help from civil society group The Day After, they traveled to Turkey to learn how to handle, photograph, and archive documents.
Back in Syria, they began working through abandoned registries in northern rebel towns: Harem, Azaz, Saraqeb.
“We set up a little studio in the room with the most light,” said an FSL lawyer still in Syria who identified himself as Samer.
With just four Canon digital cameras, two laptops, flashes, and tripods, they photographed thousands of deeds, making sure names and dates were clearly visible.
“As soon as we’d finish one 200-page ledger, we’d upload the SD card onto the computer. Meanwhile, the camera didn’t stop. We’d put a new card in and start photographing again,” Samer, 43, told AFP.
Each month, they emptied their computers onto external drives which they sent to Koronful in Turkey.
They raced against air strikes that damaged cameras and wounded staff members, worrying registries would be bombed to pieces before they could finish.
“When we reached the last page, we’d be so happy to be finished. Whatever happens now, if we get bombed, we have a drive with everything on it,” said Samer.
Sometimes they lost the race. In 2013, days before FSL was to begin photographing deeds in the northern town of Al-Bab, Daesh swept in and destroyed the registry, Koronful said.
They now struggle to get permission to enter registries from suspicious rebels, especially in militants-run Idlib, occasionally photographing in secret.


Since Syria’s war erupted in 2011, more than six million people have been internally displaced and another five million have fled the country.
More than 920,000 have been displaced this year alone, the UN said, the fastest rate yet in the seven-year war.
A vast majority leave behind property-related papers, the Norwegian Refugee Council found in polls last year.
That puts them at risk of losing access to their land through decrees like Law 10, which allows for property expropriation for urban development.
Koronful fears the regime could also dispossess refugees through legislation on re-issuing damaged deeds.