Today, forty nine years ago, at nineteen years of age, I was woken up by a sound that I had never heard before. Aircraft passing by shaking the whole building that I slept in. I ran to the window and looked up. I saw three shining fighters zooming by without recognising what they were.
By then the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian Air Forces had been obliterated. Israel, within two hours of launching its massive surprise attack – the first time in my young life that a preemptive strike was trumpeted as self defence – had begun its inexorable triumph over three Arab nations, as ever, embroiled in empty rhetoric and flexing tired muscles and an ineffective military.
We did not really understand what that cataclysmic defeat really meant. We had no idea that, on that day, Israel had become the regional superpower whilst we Arabs had retreated into a new history of chaos, self-hatred, mutual destruction and political mayhem.
Since that memorable Monday, we have had revolutions, civil wars, internecine inter-Arab wars, coup d’Ã©tats, endless self destruction unparalleled in our long history.
And the real victim? The poor, innocent and unsuspecting Arab man or woman in the street going about his/her daily business. They have paid the price for Arab politicians’ obfuscation and personal glory grabbing as well as for Israel’s greed.
It is not that peace is not possible. It is that war is more profitable. It is that governments on all sides do not have the will to make peace work. It is that leaders lack the humanity and imagination necessary to make peace a reality. It is that the Western and other arms manufacturers need a laboratory to test their killing machines in: Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Gaza, Jenin, Hebron… an endless list of cynicisms and cruelties without end.
It is difficult to believe that ours is a world that constantly embraces idealistic desirables like peace, equality, humanity, mutual care… whilst accepting to collude with the reality of millions of refugees living at subsistence levels in Gaza, West Bank, in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere. A world that accepts the fact of Palestinian dispossession without apparently even conceding the irony of such hypocrisy in its political arena.
Ours is an event on a spool repeating itself so much that we have grown accustomed to our refugee status. Accustomed to being invisible. Accustomed to being told to stop fussing and be grateful for our existence in Yarmouk, in Sabra and Shatila, in Nahr al Bared, in Karantina and other killing fields watered by innocent blood awaiting the dreamt of return to Palestine and clutching a rusting key never to unlock a disappeared door on broken hinges.
Forty nine years since the Six Day War. Sixty eight years since the Nakba which started our endless woes.
Should we feel sorry for ourselves? Self pity is a luxury denied us amidst our continuing daily struggle to make ends meet, to create a life on shifting sands and under intolerable cruelties from both Israelis and fellow Arabs.
Should we weep for our dark existence? The darkness is in our hearts and our tears have dried long ago. And, as we have noticed for every second of the last sixty eight years, nobody is watching or listening or even pretending to care.
Should we despair? No. Our hearts may be full of the inescapable despair of eternal exile, but they are also full of hope.
There is but one thing that we should and can do: strive for peace. Peace is possible and will come. It always does in the end. Let us agree to give up our own and our dispossessors’ grip like habit of missing every opportunity for making peace. It is in our hands if only we would. If only we had the will.
The future is ours and ours alone. Our past is gone and can not be retrieved. Let us throw off our cynicism, our weakness, our self pity, our self hatred and don the mantle of that imaginative leap: a leap into a better world of peace, collaboration and mutual forgiveness.
It can be done. For our sakes. For our children’s sake. And for the sake of all of those poor souls who, when the time comes to commemorate their passing, will be acknowledged to have died for nothing if only we had the courage to make peace. For in peace we will have the luxury of pretending heroic martyrdom out of the victimhood of the innocent. Palestine and Israel can live in peace and harmony. If only we could just glimpse all that we have in common in our humanity and ignore all the differences in our greed and stupidity.
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This post was written by Faysal Mikdadi