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Lack of voice

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  • World View
    When discussing the Middle East, the voices and narrative of the victims are silenced. Lack of voice Mazin Qumsiyeh http://www.qumsiyeh.org/lackofvoice/ The
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 13, 2006
      When discussing the Middle East, the voices and narrative of the
      victims are silenced.

      Lack of voice
      Mazin Qumsiyeh

      The Day published a commentary by the editors titled "Visions for
      Middle East Peace" followed by seven contributed editorials totaling
      over 8100 words. The amalgam of opinion ranged from advocating the
      Rand program for connecting the Palestinian
      cantons/ghettos/reservations to calls for compensating Palestinian
      refugees from International sources and settling them in places other
      than their homes and towns from which they were evicted. None of
      these articles was by a Palestinian (Christian or Muslim). We in teh
      local Palestinain community were tempted to try to write an article
      responding to the various false assertions and misdirected plans
      advocated. Then we thought perhaps this this would be to long.
      Besides it is like native Americans trying to respond to a series of
      articles authored by white Europeans in a newspaper in the mid 1800s
      debating what to do with the native Americans. Instead, the advise of
      the late Professor Edward Said of Columbia University was to simply
      tell our long suppressed narrative.

      I am a Palestinian Christian, an American citizen, and above all a
      human being not merely an object for management. The larger
      Palestinian community consists of nearly 9 million people (some 2000
      live in CT); two thirds of us (Muslims and Christians) are refugees or
      displaced people. This displacement of native people is the core of
      our struggle. The displacement was the natural and predicted outcome
      of Zionism as Zionist leaders themselves acknowledged and as Israeli
      historians now document. Afterall, how else can you create a state
      for members of a particular religion (Judaism) on land that was
      inhabited for millenia by natives of various religions (mostly Muslims
      and Christians, and very few native Palestinian Jews). We
      Palestinians, like all people under the yokes of colonial rules
      yearned and struggled for freedom and independence (first from Ottoman
      then British rule). When Israel was established by force of arms in
      1948 on 78% of Palestine, over 500 Palestinian villages and towns were
      ethnically cleansed (see palestineremembered.com). Palestinians were
      literally pushed into the sea (at Jafa refugees were loaded into boats
      to Gaza in 1948); they were not the ones who wanted to push others
      out. My grandfather's best bfriend in school (under Ottoman rule) was
      Jewish. We coexisted for millenia. Anyway, Israel now has the fourth
      or fifth strongest military in the world and is well stocked with WMD
      including over 300 nuclear weapons and the Palestinains are refugees,
      displaced, and those who remain live in shrinking open-air prisons
      surrounded by massive walls, ditches, and fences (see stopthewall.org).

      Israel is strong and able to do this only because it funded and
      supported by the sole remaining superpower using our tax money. Our
      Palestinian struggle was a struggle for RETURN and self-determination
      as enshrined in International law. We were not yearning for a
      "statelet" called Palestine. Afterall, the countries and borders in
      the so-called "Middle East" (a colonial designation) were colonial
      machinations to "divide and rule". This started with 1916 Sykes-Picot
      agreement to divide Arabia into British and French "protectorates" and
      continues today with US and British designs on places like Iraq and
      Jordan. As an example, it is no surprise that a monarchy in Jordan is
      kept in power with US government support but only as long as they push
      the "Jordan First" government campaign and help the Israeli economy
      with full trade and normalization. Open borders and trade between
      Israel and Jordan does not include Palestinians and does not include
      open borders and trade between Iraq and Jordan (no Aranb Nationalism
      allowed in Iraq or Jordan).

      But let me go back to the issue of Palestine. We Palestinians were
      interested in having our basic human rights implemented per
      international law. This includes the right to return to our homes and
      lands (UN resolutions like UNGA 194), the rights to be treated equally
      regardless of religion (e.g. Universal Declaration of Human Rights),
      and the right to self determination (UN Charter and a number of
      specific UN resolutions on Palestine). Basic human rights cannot be
      sacrificed in a futile attempt to protect discrimination and racism.
      If one is really interested in two state solution, then issues like
      borders and economies and rights of people to live on their land are
      delineated well in UN resolution 181 (unfair as it maybe by allocating
      only 45% to a Palestinian state). Palestinian leadership, with support
      from the United Nations, was willing to compromise even more: a state
      on 22% of Palestine (the areas occupied by Israel in 1967 including
      Jerusalem) and a refugee return based on resolution 194. All Arab
      countries have also accepted these far reaching compromises. But
      Israel refuses because it kept building colonial settlements on
      Palestinian land making such historic compromise now virtually
      impossible. 40% of Palestinians consider Arafat and Abbas to have
      sold out Palestinian liberation for a truncated state even though
      Israel would not even agree to this far-reaching compromise. 450,000
      colonial Jewish settlers now live in the occupied West Bank. The
      Sharon/Peres plans (funded by our taxes as always) is for a token
      number of settlers to be removed to make the Palestinian Ghettos
      slightly more contiguous and viable as markets and cheap labor for the
      developed Israeli economy. It provides a last ditch effort to salvage
      the otherwise failing Zionist ideology based on the concept of maximum
      geography (for Jews) with minimum demography (of non-Jews living in
      the Jewish state). But as most people (including Amnesty
      International) know, and history shows, those who sacrifice freedom
      and human rights for a false sense of security will get neither
      security nor peace.

      Israel defines itself not as a country of its citizens but of "Jewish
      people everywhere". No other country defines itself as a country for
      members of a particular religion (including converts) regardless of
      where they live. No other country has supranational entities that
      have authority superceding state authority and native people rights.
      The net result is that land was historically taken and continues to be
      taken from native Christians and Muslims and turned over for Jewish
      settlement. New Zionist immigrants who settle on Palestinian lands
      are indoctrinated in messianic concepts of redeeming Eretz Yisrael
      (the Land of Israel, Israel is defined as the nation of Israel to
      include all Jews regardless of where they live). Redeem from whom you
      might ask: goyim (gentiles) who by definition have no equivalent
      rights to the land of "Israel". This logic justified the atrocities
      committed daily against native Palestinian Christians and Muslims for
      the past 57 years (most of it hidden from the US public by a compliant
      media) . World sympathy was to the victims of this historic injustice
      and native resistance were as predictable as happened with South
      Africa under apartheid. It is thus not surprising that the US and
      Israeli governments stand isolated in supporting oppression.

      A true vision for peace is rather simple. If you want a real road map
      to peace, take the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Just like
      South Africa was not a struggle between white and black but a struggle
      for equality and justice, the struggle here is not between Jews or
      even Israelis and Palestinians (Muslims and Christian) but a struggle
      also for equality and justice. Many Israeli Jews (as well as
      essentially all Palestinians who live within and outside the borders
      before 1967) believe the essence of the conflict resolves around
      shedding the discriminator practices of the past. Such moral stances
      stretch from the Israeli group that is publicizing the Palestinian
      Nakba (see http://www.zochrot.org, what Israeli Professor Baruch
      Kimmerling termed the Palestinian "Politicide") to the Israeli
      Artists' declaration:

      "If the state of Israel aspires to perceive itself as a democracy, it
      should abandon once and for all, any legal and ideological foundation
      of religious, ethnic, and demographic discrimination. The state of
      Israel should strive to become the state of all its citizens. We call
      for the annulment of all laws that make Israel an apartheid state,
      including the Jewish law of return in its present form" (artists'
      Declaration 2002).

      Ofcourse one need to tackle issues of why people do what they do in
      developing tribalistic and fear based and chauvenistic political
      structures. Nationalism is a fluid phenomena that changes from
      local/geographic, to language based (e.g. pan-Arab), to religious
      based (ideology of Osama Bin Laden of pan-Islamic nation or Zionism of
      a Jewish nation). I urge readers (especially Jews) to read the books
      of Jewish theologian Marc Ellis about such issues.

      But, one need not be anti-nationalist or even anti-Zionist in the 21st
      century to to call for basic justice and equality. Many Israeli Jews
      are now post-Zionist who recognize that the mindset of a Hertzl or Ben
      Gurion was shaped by their own upbringing and circumstances. Instead,
      now one can look to a future where people can coexist based on human
      rights and equality (a model of dissolving borders exist in Europe).
      Most Palestinians never argued for political separateness (us here,
      them there). We have always welcomed persecuted people and integrated
      diverse communities in Palestine: Druze, Ethiopians, Circasians,
      Copts, Syriacs, Hebrews, Ashkenazim, Mizrachim, Samaritans, and
      Armenians (who came after the pogroms and genocide in Turkey). The
      problem arise when one group wants to dominate the landscape and
      remove others.

      Rather than villifying others, we must advance real peace scenarios
      and not mere pacification. These would grant human, civil and
      religious rights for all people. Equality is the key. No long-term
      peace can arise while laws exist that prevent natives from returning
      to their land while saying that any Jew (including converts) can
      acquire automatic citizenship and live on confiscated Palestinian
      land. Like in the struggle against apartheid South Africa, everyone
      (Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, all others) needs to take a moral
      stand based on the principle that there is no room in the 21st century
      for racism and discrimination.



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