Palestine Update 369
Two defining political facts – Two must-read excerpts from articles
In the history of oppression committed on an entire peoples or nation, those afflicted must not erase the memory. Revenge is not the ideal option. But justice is non-negotiable, and so, silence is not the answer. It can come from resistance – preferably peaceful.
Sometimes repression is much too brutal. It provokes people to fight back. To sit back and await justice is to accept oppression as though it was deserved. Oppression is evil and must be contested. You can turn the other cheek, but not repeatedly. The violence must cease or be challenged.
The problem with revenge is that it could easily lead to a cycle of violence and, more often than not, that takes innocent lives. This is why asymmetric dialogue remains the ideal pathway to peace. If the side with mightier power – economic or military – enters dialogue to impose a solution that suits their political preference, then the outcome will fall.
This has been the failure of Palestine-Israel talks and accords. They have been crafted to hand Israel the advantage. The USA has been a particularly dishonest and devious negotiator. Nor has the EU been a principled party for peace. It has allowed its economic and other strategic interests to take precedence over justice as the cornerstone. The dominant narrative spread by the pro-Western/Israel media in the West is that Palestinians will one day lose the battle for land and be compelled to leave. Israel seeks ethnic cleansing and this racist design is played out in countries within Europe and North America. The rest of the world can vote for all they care in favour of Palestine but there are vetoes to be reckoned with and the big payers finally negotiate in self interest.
Palestinians are disheartened, but in no mood to surrender. In their towns and villages there are brave young people- women and women, even elders, who hold on to the memory of the historical happenings from the Nakba and even before. This narration of accounts from history keeps the Palestinian resolute even in the face of odds. They know that the land does not belong to Israel regardless of whatever evidence they concoct and maneuver from Biblical and historical sources. Indeed, as Ramzy Baroud argues, memory is the Palestinians greatest weapon. Or, as Rana Shubair, boldly proclaims “we are all unified in our call for the right to return, the right to visit our own country and the right to live in dignity and freedom… No generation ever wavered those rights. Our existence on this land is as entrenched into the soil as the timeless olive trees”.
How memory became the Palestinians’ greatest weapon
Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com.
72 years after the destruction of historic Palestine at the hands of Zionist militias lies an opportunity to reassert the centrality of the right of return for 5 million Palestinian refugees.
Just 48 hours before thousands of Palestinians rallied on the streets, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid an eight-hour visit to Israel to discuss the seemingly imminent Israeli annexation (theft) of nearly 30 percent of the West Bank. “The Israeli government will decide on the matter, on exactly when and how to do it,” Pompeo said. Clearly, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu has America’s blessing to further its colonization of occupied Palestine, to entrench its apartheid regime, and to act as if the Palestinians simply do not exist.
Considering the US’ massive political sway, why do Palestinians insist on making demands which, according to the pervading realpolitik of the so-called Palestinian-Israeli conflict, seem unattainable? Since the start of the peace process in Oslo in the early 1990s, the Palestinian leadership has engaged Israel and its Western benefactors in a useless political exercise that has, ultimately, worsened an already terrible situation. After more than 25 years of haggling over bits and pieces of what remains of historic Palestine, Israel and the US are now plotting the endgame, while demonizing the very Palestinian leaders that participated in their futile political charade.
Strangely, the rise and demise of the so-called peace process did not seem to affect the collective narrative of the Palestinian people, who still see the Nakba — not the Israeli occupation of 1967 and certainly not the Oslo Accords — as the core point in their struggle against Israeli colonialism. This is because the collective Palestinian memory remains completely independent from Oslo. For Palestinians, memory is an active process; it is not a docile, passive mechanism of grief and self-pity that can easily be manipulated, but a generator of new meanings. Despite the numerous unilateral measures taken by Israel to determine the fate of the Palestinian people, the blind and unconditional US support of Israel, and the unmitigated failure of the Palestinian Authority to mount any meaningful resistance, Palestinians continue to remember their history and understand their reality based on their own priorities.
Palestinians have been accused of being unrealistic, of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” and even of extremism for simply insisting on their historical rights in Palestine, as enshrined in international law. These critical voices are either supporters of Israel or are simply unable to understand how Palestinian memory factors in shaping the politics of ordinary people, independent of the quisling Palestinian leadership or the seemingly impossible-to-overturn status quo. True, the two trajectories — the stifling political reality and the people’s priorities — seem to be in a constant state of divergence. The more belligerent Israel becomes, the more stubbornly Palestinians hold on to their past. There is a reason for this.
Occupied, oppressed and confined to refugee camps, Palestinians have little control over many of the realities that directly impact their lives. There is little that a refugee from Gaza can do to dissuade Pompeo from assigning the West Bank to Israel, or that a Palestinian refugee from Ain Al-Hilweh in Lebanon can do to compel the international community to enforce the long-delayed right of return. But there is a single element that Palestinians, regardless of where they are, can control: Their collective memory, which remains the main motivator of their legendary steadfastness.
Israel is afraid of Palestinian memory, since it is the only facet of its war against the Palestinian people that it cannot fully control. The more Israel labors to erase the collective memory of the Palestinian people, the more Palestinians hold on tighter to the keys of their homes and to the title deeds of their land in their lost homeland. There can never be a just peace in Palestine until the priorities of the Palestinian people — their memories and their aspirations — become the foundation of any political process with the Israelis.
Refugee or citizen – that is the question (a chronicle)
WHEN I chose to participate in the Great Return March protests two years ago, people thought I was a refugee from occupied Palestine. I never shied to clearly state that I was originally from Gaza, but that I belonged to all of Palestine. Growing up, people in our society would boggle me with the question of: Are you a citizen or a refugee? In my childhood years, I didn’t even know how to answer that because my parents didn’t tell me that our community was divided into two categories: refugees and citizens.
When my family and I came back from our five-year stay in the US, I was in the 10th grade. I was disappointed to find that my Palestinian classmates asked me that same question I was asked in elementary school. Deep down it felt insulting to be asked this question wherever I went because I never believed that there was any difference between the two. At this time and age, I found that the refugee/citizen gap has more or less closed. All residents of the Gaza Strip are living under the same circumstances when it comes to occupation and blockade. During the three major aggressions launched against Gaza in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 refugees and citizens were targeted and killed by the Israeli war machine. This refugee/citizen conundrum opened my eyes to the plight of our people at an early age.
I was surprised to find that many of the refugees viewed the Gazans with envy because they were the ones who owned land and houses back then, whereas the refugees lived in camps built by the UN agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) in destitute conditions. I recall to this day visiting a friend at Khan Younis refugee camp when I was six or seven and, as I went to wash my hands, the whole ceramic sink suddenly fell, shattering into pieces on the floor. The homes at refugee camps were built in a way that gave an impression of their temporary existence. Roofs were of corrugated metal and the houses were built literally glued next to one another with very narrow and filthy alleys. Neighbours could hear each other talking, arguing and even flushing the toilets. Growing up in the mid ’90s, I would occasionally hear my refugee friends and acquaintances living in those camps talk of how temporary their houses were and that going back to their homes in their original lands was only a matter of time. Every generation would pass this legacy to the next: we will return one day. The first generation of refugees (the surviving ones) who were displaced in 1948 still hold the keys to their homes and the land deeds. On March 30 2018, the people of Gaza decided that it was time for the day of return. The 1948 Nakba was already 70 years ago and nothing seemed to be changing on the ground.
The Israeli occupation was annexing more land, demolishing more homes, killing more Palestinians, and imprisoning thousands. The blockade on Gaza was entering its 12th year Gaza and had become a concentration camp with two million people locked inside in deplorable conditions. The UN had predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020. But it was already unfit for human habitation long before that. When I participated in the protests, my children were astonished and appalled at the same time to see a glimpse of our occupied land.
On the first day of protest, I pointed from afar to the separation fence and what lay behind it. We could see large expanses of green areas behind the snipers stationed on small hills. “This is our country,” I said suppressing my sobs. My children, like all other children here, have only visited cities of Palestine in their school textbooks. It was baffling to them when I tried to explain why we Palestinians couldn’t go to Jerusalem or Hebron. Now that they’ve grown up, they’ve stopped asking questions. It has become one of the many hard realities they cope with as Palestinians. With the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic, countries around the world may have started to get a grasp of what a lockdown really means. To us Gazans, we’ve been like this for 14 years now.
People in other countries would be planning for their summer vacation destination. However, for us, travel by and large takes place only out of necessity. On the 72nd commemoration of the Nakba, I can adamantly say that we are all unified in our call for the right to return, the right to visit our own country and the right to live in dignity and freedom. No generation of my people ever wavered those rights and no generation ever will. Our existence on this land is as entrenched into the soil as the timeless olive trees.