In February 2017, the New York Times published an article written by a Jewish Settler on Occupied Palestinian land. The writer, Yishai Fleisher, proposed various solutions to the disastrous Palestinian-Israeli situation. I wrote to the editor of the New York Times seeking to engage with Mr Fleisher. I did not expect to be given the space to do so. I never had been for over half a century – why should the New York Times change the habits of a lifetime. After all, I speak for Palestine. And like my beloved country, I have been written out of history. I also eschew all use of violence and seek a peaceful coexistence within Palestine for all inhabitants regardless of race, faith, nationality…
This is the response that I submitted to the New York Times…
“Reading Yishai Fleisher’s article ‘A Settler’s View of Israel’s Future’ was a surrealistic experience – a repetition of the theatrical postures that we have witnessed for decades.
As a Palestinian who has worked, spoken and written tirelessly in pursuit of peace between us and Israelis, I am instantly dismissed as an interloping “Arab” in Judea and Samaria which “belong to the Jewish People”.
Apparently, the allegedly “exaggerated” figure of 2.7 million Palestinians (not “Arab” as we are called by most Israelis in order to deny us our Palestinian nationhood) living there have five options.
Be exiled to Jordan (Has Mr Fleisher asked the Jordanians?), continue to live in Israel as “other minorities do, with personal rights, not national rights” like “expats do” (that’s so kind of him), have self-rule in Palestinian “population centers” (Presumably like Bantustans), live in “non-contiguous emirates” (A bit like Indian Reservations of yore – how quaint!), be granted residency rights as “a pathway to citizenship for those who pledge allegiance to the Jewish State” (Can he really not hear himself suggesting this incredible imposition on people’s freedom to follow whatever religion they choose without the state imposing its morality on them?), or, finally, Palestinians can be paid to leave in a form of exchange (which is so nice of Mr Fleisher especially as those nasty Arabs expelled “800,000 Jews around the time of Israeli independence” (what a lovely name for occupation) when the nice founding fathers of Israel did not expel a single Palestinian (those refugee camps in the countries surrounding Israel are figments of our overheated Palestinian imagination).
Really, Mr Fleisher, are you serious? Is this some kind of theatre or sleight of hand to allow you and other Israeli settlers to stay precisely where you are at no cost to your conscience, to your moral code (remember the Golden Rule or is that just for academics?) or are you just carrying on the age old Hasbara con of a gullible Western World continuing to do your bidding regardless of the injustice that it causes to us Palestinians?
We really need to stop rewriting history to satisfy our own ends. In 1967 it was Israel that attacked three of its Arab neighbours. The Golan Heights are occupied Syrian territories. East Jerusalem is a Palestinian city occupied in the 1967 war.
I am a Palestinian. Do not relegate me to some imperial design suiting Israel’s ends and tell me to pack off to Jordan or anywhere other than where I was born and where my forefathers have lived for well over a thousand years. Do not dispose of my property, my past, my family, my dreams, my aspirations and so much else just to fulfil your Zionist dreams. Israel has won the military war. We Palestinians are too weak to do much to regain our homeland. Our Arab brothers and sisters have ditched us after years of sublime in fighting, treachery and self-interested stupidities. It is over.
Show some compassion. Some mercy. Some humanity. Some empathy. Some of the essential Jewish decency that your people have shown all through their history of thousands of years. Let my people be.
What happened to your people was the result of European and Western anti-Semitism. My forefathers had nothing to do with these horrors. Don’t ask me to pay for them. Seek your redress from Germans, British, French, Russian and American persecutors.
Many of us welcomed your forefathers to Palestine and helped the early Jewish refugees. And you reward us with national disappearance from the face of the earth. Worse still, you condemn us to living under Arab rule. Where? Sabra and Shatila? Yarmouk? Nahr al Bared? Mieh Mieh? Rashidiyah?
What have we Palestinians done to deserve this?
Come. Come, Mr Fleisher, desist these theatrical postures and let us work together to find a way out of this deplorable situation.
Mr Fleisher, there is only one way to achieve peace between us Palestinians and you Israelis: we sit around the table as equal partners, we agree as a basic principal to forget our past behaviours, forgive our mutual stupidities and cruelties and begin to discuss the best way for our mutual co-existence, benefit and future prosperity. No one else will do it for us. We have no friends to help – only those with self interest whose support wavers with the prevailing winds. We only have ourselves to make peace.
All else is bunkum aimed at more land grab and will almost certainly cause more suffering and more agony to all of us.
Come, join me in calling for an equitable peace for all. In arguing for peace. In working for peace.”
I am still awaiting a response. Not through the columns of the New York Times – unless invisible ink has already been used. Just from those who seek peace and harmony.
It is fifty years since Israel attacked and occupied Eastern Palestine, Eastern Jerusalem and Gaza. And it is almost seventy years since the cataclysmic partition of Palestine by those who had no authority over the country. And it is one hundred years since an arrogant imperialist handed out an illusory and unrealisable promise to help create a Jewish homeland provided that the rights of the indigenous population are not infringed…
Enough is enough. Peace takes no time, no effort and no cost if only we both have the will and the faith.
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This post was written by Faysal Mikdadi