The Pen Trumps the Sword Anytime (Part 3)
Sat 6th Dec 2014
The worst scenario, which is the probable one as is evidenced by current global politics, religious extremism, Western double standards and other recent developments, will be the a repeat of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947 and 1948 through intimidation, murder and wholesale expulsions (“How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.” Golda Meir, March 8, 1969, Lilienthal, Alfred, The Zionist Connection II: What Price Peace, 1978.“We must do everything to insure they never do return. The old will die and the young will forget.” David Ben-Gurion’s Diary, 18 July, 1948, Michael Bar Zohar, Ben-Gurion: The Armed Prophet, 1967).
Indeed, Israel had always claimed that there is already a Palestine called Jordan. In other words, the Jordanian people are being told to hand over their territory to newly arrived Palestinians so that they can then live in peace under an illiberal, autocratic and unelected government. This ethnic cleansing is already happening through the creation of ‘Jews only’ areas in many parts of the occupied ‘West Bank’ and through the ‘Judaisation’ of Jerusalem and other areas. Palestinians living in these occupied areas (designated “territories” in order to avoid any association with nationhood, i.e. Palestine), have become so accustomed to being occupied that they adopt an utterly fatalistic approach as shown by a great deal that they say and do (“We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves.” Chairman Heilburn of the Committee for the Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat, The Mayor of Tel Aviv, October 1983).
A Palestinian student living under Israeli occupation speaks for many when he says:
"I know you would have expected us as Palestinians to tell you about our lives, and how Israel has ruined everything for us, and killed our friends and families. But that’s not the case. Yes when we hear and see our beloved Palestinians die, we feel or I feel like somebody just ripped my heart out of my chest (and I’m not exaggerating about how I feel), but that does not stop us from moving on.Instead it motivates us even more to continue our education in order to help Palestine to become once and for all FREE! Yes it hurts me so much to see settlements from my window, or to be specific, from my school ground, it is like so clear from our school. And yes it hurts me even more that I have to get an approval or permission from Israeli people in order to get into Jerusalem, Akka, **** (which is where I’m originally from, but NEVER been there). It does hurt, words can’t even describe how I feel, but we don’t live on remembering the past, or wishing things were different. Our role in this world is to live a life of love and happiness, because no power in this world will take that from us. If it had to come down to one thing that the Israeli people taught us, it will surely be LOVE. I actually have a lot to share…"
Such sentiments from the new generation of Palestinians give me hope…
Aspirations for freedom aside, life continues as normal in occupied Palestine partly because it has to and partly because Israel has created the reality that makes it so despite the repressive occupation. Another Palestinian living in Ramallah shows how, despite being occupied, her life is relatively normal:
"…the conflict does not make my life very different from anyone anywhere else in the world, but it does often create huge obstacles for things like transportation and the freedom of expression. This is probably because I live in Ramallah which is not very involved in the direct confrontations between the two sides; however, many Palestinians do have to go through horrible experiences just to get through an ordinary day."
In other words, the economy is relatively buoyant in Ramallah and so, by the grace of the occupier, Palestinians can live in relative comfort as long as “they behave themselves” as a moderate Israeli so eloquently put it. Indeed, these Palestinians do “behave themselves” by facilitating the occupation as witnessed by a Diaspora Palestinian visiting Nablus:
"One new development I have found in this visit is the very general loss of interest to indulge in any discussion of any political, military, or occupational matters of the region, or even of the local community with municipalities of Palestinian towns elected less than a year ago… Rather, people in general were more focused on their individual and at the same time, controversial concerns on issues related to economy: their own family’s financial situation, how to make more money, and entertainment. This self-centred attitude, and shift from interest in national matters to the family microcosm only, was never the norm in the West Bank society that I am familiar with. I also find it difficult to explain because these new areas of interest are directly impacted by the wider circle of factors related to the occupation, yet one commonly senses something of a denial to make this link, and a preference to busy themselves with whims of which new restaurant to try/ car to buy/ shopping to do inside Palestine of 1948!"
Another Palestinian wrote to me responding to an article that I had written on the role of integrated education in creating peace between Israelis and Palestinians.She agreed with my sentiments but warned of her deep feeling of pessimism after having just visited the West Bank. She felt that this deniability of occupation was coupled with economic needs as well as economic greed amongst the occupied Palestinians. She described what she had witnessed during her visit. The following is a faithful summary of what she wrote.
During the Ramadan Eid in 2013, Israel made over 100 million Israeli Sheqels (29,000,000.00 US Dollars – 17,000,000.00 British Pounds) from Palestinians traveling into Israel proper after obtaining special permits over three days that allowed them to cross the Green Line and shop interminably. Special buses were laid on to transport them across the Green Line to spend money that most did not even have since the main payment methods were credit cards – clear hostage to fortune in an ailing Palestinian economy.
A young Palestinian writes of his deep sadness as he surveys “dazzling and wide fields” destroyed by “settlements, checkpoints, and barriers that prevent me from reaching” the fields so sought after. He describes his life in a Palestinian town as being “normal” but regrets his inability to visit “occupied cities” in Israel because he does not have the necessary permit. He speaks eloquently about his sadness at not being able to visit his family home because it is now lived in by “Jews” and Palestinians are actively excluded from the area.Another young Palestinian speaks quite fatalistically about her inability to visit anywhere in “Areas B or C” without an Israeli permit which she claims is rarely granted and which, when granted, takes an inordinately long time.
Another Palestinian student says that life under occupation is “so boring because there’s nothing to do other than going to coffee shops and restaurants and of course we can’t visit places other than the West Bank like Jaffa or Haifa where there are lots of parks, shopping centres and of course a lot of beaches because the Israelis forbid it and have endless checkpoints to discourage any travel…”
These are only a small sample of Palestinian youngsters living under occupation in precisely the way that any young person lives anywhere in the world – except for the amazing fatalism that makes them accept their lot as inevitable. Although peace loving and self-sufficient by necessity, theirs is a tragic existence since there is apparently little light at the end of the tunnel and a peaceful co-existence with Israel is currently not even on their horizon. They are making the best of a bad job. Not much has changed since 1983 when Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the IDF said: “We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimetre of Eretz Israel… We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” (New York Times, April 14, 1983).
Another group of Palestinians is made of some one and a half million Palestinians living in pre-1967 Israel. They are the “Arabushim” so marginalised by Israel despite being its alleged ‘citizens’. They suffer all the indignities heaped on second class citizens anywhere in the world. Their schools are underfunded. Their areas are indifferently served by their local municipalities. In many areas, the contrast between the first world living luxury of European, Arab and other Jews in Israel is starkly contrasted with the relative poverty and squalor of third world living by Palestinian Israelis. They also suffer the most terrifying race laws since Hitler’s Nuremberg laws. Indeed, the experience of Palestinians within Israel goes counter to every pretence that Israeli society wishes the world to see of its civilised Jewish norms (Indeed, Ariel Sharon expressed great impatience with Israel’s ‘pure’ image because he felt tired of being accused of waging “a dirty war”: “We’ll hear no more of that nonsense about the unique Jewish morality. No more talk about a unique people being a light upon the nations. No more uniqueness and no more sweetness and light.Good riddance.” Davar, December 17, 1982). These civilised norms do exist, but only for Jews. Recently, the Knesset has promulgated a law that allows the same rights to Israeli Palestinian Christians (who, according to Israel, are not really Arabs anyhow – since Arabs are Muslims who are professed enemies of Israel). Many Israeli friends and colleagues write movingly of the isolation of Israeli Palestinians professing a Muslim faith. Almost everyone who is of Palestinian origin always specifically requests that they are not to be quoted in any of my writings for fear of repercussions. This is the new anti-Semitism. Palestinians are also descendants of Abraham and his Bondswoman Hagar to whose son Ishmael God promised greatness and glory. If the current Arab situation on the ground is a result of this so-called Promise, then God must have a spectacularly quirky sense of humour!
A good Israeli friend has suggested that Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular were not the descendants of Abraham. They were purely the descendants of an invading Islamic horde that streamed northwards from the Arabian Peninsula and stole the land, lived there until the land was liberated by Israel.
A Christian friend cheerfully agreed with this analysis and added that what befell the Palestinians may have been sad but that it was inevitable as a result of the sins of their fathers who occupied the land in the first place. When I suggested that what happened to us Palestinians does take the concept of “the sins of the fathers” a little far, she insisted that this was the case and that it was purely God’s will which we Palestinians were now called upon to accept as part of “coming to the Lord”. I tried to paint a picture of Palestinian suffering and dared compare it to what happened to Jews in Europe. Another Israeli friend objected to this comparison saying that there was no equivalence whatever. I desperately wanted to know what one would say to a Palestinian mother who had lost her child, to a Palestinian family watching their house being demolished to make way for ‘Jews only’ areas, to a Gazan living in squalor as if s/he were living in medieval times, to the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died since 1948 and to the millions living in abject poverty in camps around the Arab world and inside the Occupied Territories… My Israeli friend wanted me to accept that their suffering was less than that of the Jews – apartheid lives even beyond the grave.
“O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest things superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is as cheap as beast’s.”
We Palestinians are as King Lear – and Bedlam is our lot in this world of indifference, cruelty, force and double standards. These rules only apply to us and no one else. Of course, there is yet another cohort of Palestinians who have now been naturalised American, British, French, German and many other nationalities. I have always found my “Naturalisation” papers delightfully amusing given Shakespeare’s use of the term ‘natural’ as being “a fool” or “a simpleton”. On balance these days, I would rather be a British “fool” than an Arab one despite being severely reprimanded for saying this by many Arab family and friends. But then my observations of the vast hypocrisy that both Arabs and the Western world evince in their dealings with Palestinians, the truth is that I have reached a stage where I couldn’t care less what any of such two faced alleged persons of faith think about me or my country.
As a Palestinian, my biggest difficulty has always been the staggering hypocrisy of the Western world when it comes to Palestine. I have become almost neurotic about what I hear – or, more often, about what I do not hear – from the leaders of the so-called “free world”. I often wonder if I am the only person who cringes with sheer disgust when I hear Cameron, Hague, Obama, Kerry, Merkel and so many others talk about justice, decency, democracy, humanity and all things so precious to our freedoms. Precious and necessary – except, of course, when it comes to us Palestinians.