Palestine

From Brer Rabbit Redux:

By: Matthew Johnson

For those who have never been to the land of Palestine, whose name alone is heavily politicized, this is my attempt at a brief summary based on my two-week tour this past July with Interfaith Peacebuilders, a nonprofit organization based in D.C.

P is for people. The people of Palestine are far more diverse than what is commonly known. Palestine is home to Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others. I’ve met people from the east coast of the United States who are living there now. One lives on a settlement in Hebron and carries a Glock pistol.

A is for apartheid. Some say the situation in Palestine doesn’t fully compare to what was called ‘apartheid’ or ‘separateness’ in South Africa, but the use of the term ‘bantustans’ to describe isolated, dependent Palestinian enclaves is appropriate. It is also true that Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens within Israel proper and that the Palestinian population as a whole is treated as a demographic threat to the Israeli government. There are countless smaller examples of apartheid, such as separate license plates for Israelis and Palestinians. The most symbolic is the large concrete wall or ‘security barrier’ stretching across the West Bank. Although much of it actually separates Palestinians from other Palestinians, the part that does correspond to the Green Line, which demarcates Israel proper from the West Bank, was built to be more aesthetically pleasing on the Israeli side.

L is for liberation. This does not just mean liberation for the oppressed living under occupation. It also means liberation for those who oppress and for those whose humanity has been buried behind fear, misguided religion, and blind ideology. The liberation of one depends on the liberation of all.

E is for existential threat. This is how Palestinians are perceived by the Zionist government and its supporters. It’s quite ironic, given Israeli’s oft-stated need for recognition, that some go so far as to deny the existence of a Palestinian nation, insisting on referring to Palestinians as simply ‘Arabs,’ with the implication that they are no different from their neighbors in Jordan or Lebanon, and therefore, should join their brethren and leave the land of Abraham to the Jews.

S is for stone. It’s for stone buildings, which are ubiquitous in such an ancient place, and throwing stones that have come to symbolize Palestinian resistance to the Israeli Goliath.

T is for terrorist. This is what still comes to mind when many people, particularly in the United States and Israel, think of the Palestinians. While suicide bombings are the source of much of this stereotype, the biggest culprit is the mainstream press for failing to include moderate Palestinian voices and to place Palestinian violence in context. Moreover, the world has all-but ignored examples of Palestinian nonviolent resistance, such as the town of Beit Sahour’s attempt at self-reliance during the First Intifada and current campaigns against the ‘Apartheid wall’ in the villages of Budrus and Bil’in.

I is for independence. May 14, 1948, is Independence Day to the mainstream Israeli citizen, who does not question how an emerging nation could drive out 800,000 people, destroy 500 towns and villages, take over more than 80% of what was then British Mandate Palestine, and still claim to be the heroic victim. One also has to question whether a nation is really independent if it relies so heavily on aid from abroad to sustain itself. The United States supplies $3 billion a year in military aid to the Israel government.

N is for Nakba. Nakba means ‘great catastrophe.’ This is how Palestinians refer to 1948. Many living in exile in the region and around the world still hold the keys to the homes they were forced to abandon due to hostilities.  The refugee topic is a sensitive and divisive one — best ignored by those comfortable with the status quo. Nevertheless, multiple United Nations resolutions recognize the Palestinians’ Right of Return to their homes.

E is for equality. This is what most Palestinians are asking for: to be treated as equals in their own land. I don’t think this is too much to ask. Whether the eventual (and inevitable) solution comes in the form of one state, two states, or no states, this is the bedrock principle for peace.

Source: P-A-L-E-S-T-I-N-E

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