by Susan Abulhawa / November 28th, 2007
In the 80s, we gave up 78% of our homeland to try to pick up the pieces of our lives on the remaining 22% of Palestine. This was, and remains, the only true (brave or otherwise) concession ever made in the so-called ‘Middle East Conflict.” Next came Camp David, then Madrid, then Oslo, then another Camp David, Taba, Wye, (deep breath) Sharm el Sheikh, the Disengagement, the Road Map. Through it all, Israel continued to divide, carve out, confiscate and settle that 22%. They scattered us into a diaspora, shut down our schools, bombed damn near every inch of the West Bank and Gaza, herded us into ghettos, set up checkpoints all around us and employed every tool of imperialism, times ten, to get rid of or subjugate us as a cheap labor force.
Now we arrive at yet another surreal meeting in the clouds: Annapolis. Everyone is invited except the PLO — the sole and only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people — and the democratically elected members of the Palestinian Authority (that would be Hamas). At this meeting, Israel will throw us a few bones, like releasing some prisoners (who will most likely get rounded up again when the hype dies down) while it is intentionally starving 1.4 million human beings in Gaza, cutting off fuel, electricity and clean drinking water. Annapolis will serve only to move Israel a little closer to stamping out the “refugee problem,” those Palestinians and their descendants whose homes, farms, property and history Israel stole.
Palestinians are the natives of the land that was called Palestine for the last several thousand years until 1948 when Jewish foreigners changed its name to Israel. We are the natives in every sense of that word: historically, legally, culturally, ethnically, and even genetically! True there were Jewish tribes in that land some 3,000 years ago. There were also Canaanites, Babylonians, Sumarians, Philistines, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, and Brits. Palestinians are the natural descendants of all of these peoples who passed through that land, intermarried and converted between religions. When you understand this, it becomes clear why Palestine has always been a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society. In other words, the idea of “tolerance” and co-existence that the West fought to attain and claims to cherish and hold dear, was already a reality in Palestine. Israel has taken that ideal, turned it on its head, and beat it to a pulp so every Jew in the world can have a place where he or she can go and see none but fellow Jews. Remarkably, the world sees nothing wrong or out of the ordinary with this and would like us to simply live with it, negotiate with a juggernaut military power that has made no secret of its desire and intent to take all of Palestine and get rid of as many of us Gentiles as it possibly can.
Never in history has the world so cruelly called on an oppressed, robbed, and battered native people to sit down with their oppressors to “negotiate” for their freedom. Even worse, what we are expected to negotiate away are our basic human rights, in order to have a few checkpoints removed so we can call those ghettos — surrounded by a 20 foot concrete wall with guard towers — a “state.”
We are being asked to give up our natural right to return to the homes from which we were forcibly removed because, and only because, we are not Jewish. We are asked, as native Muslims and Christians, to give up our natural right to live and thrive in Jerusalem as we have for all of time. We are told that we should not expect to have the right to control our own water, economy, airspace, or borders. Why? Why should we accept such an inferior status and inferior fate? We are not children of a lesser god that we should be expected to relinquish God-given, self-evident rights accorded and upheld for the rest of humanity. We are not animals to be disposed of so that Jewish individuals around the globe can have dual citizenship, a sort of summer country in the Hamptons.
Would anyone have thought to support the desire of White South Africans to live as separate and superior humans and expect Black South Africans to “negotiate” with the Apartheid government for their basic human rights? Of course not! Anyone with a mind and conscience took for granted that Blacks have equal rights as Whites. That is self-evident and non-negotiable. So is our right as non-Jews in Palestine to be accorded the same rights and privileges as Jews in our ancestral homeland. Human dignity and equality simply should not be topics of negotiation in the 21st century.
Even more vulgar is Israel’s insistence that we recognize its right to be a state of the Jewish people. This country that stole everything from us – our homes, our holy places, our trees and farms, our institutions, our history and heritage, the cemeteries where our grandparents and forefathers are buried – because we are not the right kind of human in their eyes. They want us not only to attest that such an affront to humanity is legitimate and appropriate, but that it is somehow a right!
Let me, as one dispossessed and disinherited Palestinian, say with all the force of my love and anguish for my country, my family, and my countrymen, that I do NOT recognize such right. A right is something inherently and unquestionably just. Jewish exclusivity and entitlement at the expense of non-Jews is not a right, for God’s sake, it is racism!