Israel’s Colonialism Must End

Ali Jarbawi

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — Centuries of European colonialism have provided the world with certain basic lessons about subjugating colonized peoples: The longer any colonial occupation endures, the greater the settlers’ racism and extremism tends to grow. This is especially true if the occupiers encounter resistance; at that point, the occupied population becomes an obstacle that must either be forced to submit or removed through expulsion or murder.

In the eyes of an occupying power, the humanity of those under its thumb depends on the degree of their submission to, or collaboration with, the occupation. If the occupied population chooses to stand in the way of the occupier’s goals, then they are demonized, which allows the occupier the supposed moral excuse of confronting them with all possible means, no matter how harsh.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is one of the only remaining settler-colonial occupations in the world today.

And it is not limited to East Jerusalem and the West Bank: Although Israel withdrew its settlers and army from Gaza in 2005, it is still recognized by the United Nations as an occupying power, due to its complete control of Gaza’s airspace, sea access and of almost all of its land borders.

Over the years, Israel has used all forms of pressure to prevent the Palestinians from achieving their national rights and gaining independence. It hasn’t been enough for Israelis to believe their own claims about Palestinians; they have sought incessantly to impose this narrative on the world and to have it adopted by their Western allies.

Unsurprisingly, all of this has led to complete shamelessness in mainstream Israeli rhetoric about Palestinians. After all, if one is not held accountable, then one has the freedom to think — and do — what one wants. With no internal or external checks, one can act with impunity.

The Israeli left is a relic, all but extinct, and the extremist right is entrenched in the Israeli political establishment. Attacking the Palestinians has become officially sanctioned policy, embedded in Israeli public consciousness and politely ignored in Western political circles.

There is now an extremist, racist ideological current in Israel that not only justifies the recent onslaught on the Gaza Strip, but actually encourages the use of enormous and disproportionate violence against civilians, which has led to the extermination of entire families.

Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Knesset, recently called on the Israeli army to attack and occupy Gaza, paying no heed to anything but the safety of Israeli soldiers. He then demanded that Gaza be annexed to Israel, and asked the army to use all means at its disposal to “conquer” Gaza, by which he meant that obedient Palestinians would be allowed to stay, while the rest — the majority — should be exiled to the Sinai Peninsula. This cannot be understood as anything less than a call for ethnic cleansing.

Ayelet Shaked, a Knesset member for the Jewish Home Party, a member of the governing coalition, called on the Israeli army to destroy the homes of terrorist “snakes,” and to murder their mothers as well, so that they would not be able to bring “little snakes” into the world.

And Mordechai Kedar, a professor at Bar Ilan University, publicly suggested that raping the mothers and sisters of “terrorists” might deter further terrorism. The university did not take any measures against him.

Such statements are no longer isolated incidents, but reflective of the general sentiment within a country where chants of “Kill the Arabs” are increasingly common. It is no longer an aberration to hear these opinions expressed in public, or by politicians and academics. What is unexpected — and unacceptable — is that such statements are not met with any sort of condemnation in official Western circles that claim to oppose racism and extremism.

The rise in Israeli racism and extremism against Palestinians would not have happened without the unconditional support that Israel receives from its allies, most significantly the United States.

Israel cannot continue to be the exception to the rule of international law and human rights. The international community must hold it accountable for its rhetoric and its actions, and begin to treat it like all other countries. It should not be allowed to continue to enjoy its state of exceptionalism and to use this to wreak destruction on the Palestinian people.

After 47 years of occupation, two decades of stalled peace talks and almost eight years of a strangulating siege of the Gaza Strip, the international community must demand that Israel clearly state what it intends to do with its occupation of the Palestinian people. Since the Palestinians are not the occupiers, but rather those living under occupation, this question cannot be asked of them.

If Israel wants to continue its occupation and hinder Palestinians’ path to freedom and independence, then it should be aware that the Palestinian people will continue to resist with all the means at their disposal. If Israel intends to end the occupation, then it will find that the Palestinians are more than ready for an agreement.

What the Palestinians are enduring today in Gaza should be a clarion call for the entire world to end the bloodshed. But it will take more than a cease-fire. It will take peace. And peace cannot happen without an end to the occupation.

Ali Jarbawi is a political scientist at Birzeit University and a former minister of the Palestinian Authority. This article was translated by Ghenwa Hayek from the Arabic.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/opinion/ali-jarbawi-israels-colonialism-must-end.html?_r=2

Do Palestinians Really Exist?

We’re not all terrorists, we’re not “cockroaches,” and we’re certainly not an “invented” people. What you don’t know about Palestinians.

Palestine. My late father, Abdul Musa Obeidallah, was born there in the 1930s. When I say Palestine, that’s not a political statement. It’s just a statement of fact. When he was born, there was no state of Israel. There was no Hamas. No PLO. There were just people of different faiths living together on the same small piece of land called Palestine.

And to be honest, but for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I doubt you would’ve heard much about Palestinians. My father, like the seven generations of Obeidallahs born before him in his sleepy farming town of Battir, didn’t harbor grand dreams or bold plans. They lived a simple life of growing fruits, vegetables, and lots of olive trees. (Palestinians love olives!) Their biggest battles weren’t with other people, but with the elements.

Most of my Palestinian ancestors lived and died within a few miles of where they were born. That would likely have been my father’s path as well. But as we are all keenly aware, fate had far different plans.

I share this story because I think that lost in the current Gaza conflict is the story of the Palestinians as a people. Instead, they’ve been continually defined as being the “bad” part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They’ve been broadly labeled as terrorists or seen as acceptable losses. Some Israeli leaders have alleged Palestinians don’t exist, or called them “cockroaches,” “crocodiles,” or a “cancer.”

As you might imagine, being Palestinian is unique. When you tell someone you’re of Palestinian heritage, it’s not just an ethnicity, it’s a conversation starter. In fact, just saying the word Palestine inflames some. People will tell me to my face that there has never been a Palestine and there are no such thing as Palestinians. To them, I guess Palestinians are simply holograms.

When I ask these people what the land where Israel is now located was called before 1948, they tend to stammer or offer some convoluted response. The answer is simply Palestine. Not a big deal, really.

Indeed, the United Nations debate in 1947 over the creation of the state of Israel was described in terms of the “question of Palestine.” The U.N. even explained in its official summary that “It is recognized that Palestine is the common country of both indigenous Arabs and Jews, that both these peoples have had an historic association with it,” adding that “Palestinian citizens, as well as Arabs and Jews who, not holding Palestinian citizenship, reside in Palestine.” It’s hard to hold legal citizenship of a place that doesn’t exist.

Nowadays, few disagree there is a Palestinian people. After all, there are more than 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel alone. Of course, that didn’t stop Newt Gingrich from commenting during his failed 2012 run for president that the Palestinians are an “invented” people. Here, I thought for years my father had been a cook, but apparently he was an inventor. If Gingrich—who was simply parroting his then-benefactor Sheldon Adelson’s views—had engaged in the most basic of research, he would have found that most historians mark the beginning of the Palestinian Arab nationalist movement as happening in 1824, when the Arabs there rebelled against Ottoman rule.

The Palestinians, along with Israelis, have been through a lot, to say the least, since 1948, when Israel was created and the boundaries of Palestine were revised by way of UN Resolution 181. That moment immediately changed the destiny of countless Palestinians who until then had been living a humble life.

As most know, a war immediately erupted, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Palestinians being driven from their home or fleeing. Ironically, this war was waged by the surrounding Arab nations—Egypt, Jordan, etc.—which claimed they were doing it for the Palestinian people. But when Palestinian refugees sought to move into these Arab countries after the war, they often were met with horrible discrimination. In some instances, they would not be able to obtain government benefits, were not hired because of their ethnicity, or worse, were fired from a job because a citizen of that country wanted it.

To this day, many are relegated to overcrowded refugee camps, which still exist in the occupied territories as well as in Lebanon and Jordan, which is home to 22 refugee camps and millions of registered refugees per the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). I’ve visited some of these refugee camps in the West Bank, and the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon. The Palestinians there don’t live in tents, as we see with the more recent Syrian refugee crisis. It’s more akin to overcrowded ghettos where dreams are deferred on a daily basis.

That’s the life of millions of Palestinians. They have survived upon the “kindness of strangers.” You see, there’s nothing that truly links Arabs across the region. Moroccans don’t have much in common with those in Dubai. Egyptians view themselves as leaders of the Arab world, while many in Lebanon, which is relatively close to Egypt in terms of kilometers, see themselves as more European than Arab. But sympathy for the Palestinians, on varying levels, is one issue that unites them.

My forebears didn’t flee their homes in Battir during the 1948 war. Since then, they have been under Jordanian rule and then Israeli after the 1967 war. They have endured intifadas and an often cruel military occupation. My grandmother’s land outside Bethlehem was even confiscated by Israeli settlers, who made it part of a Jewish-only settlement. Not because she did anything wrong but simply because she was the wrong religion.

In the 1950s, my father, along with many other Palestinians, immigrated to America in search of a better life. I’ve often wondered what would’ve become of me if I had been born in the West Bank instead of New Jersey. Would I have been able to go to college and law school? Would I have a job? Would I even be alive?

When I think back to growing up in New Jersey, I realize it was a far different time for Palestinians than today. Then we were generally unknown, almost exotic. Sure, the PLO was starting to grab headlines with its deplorable terrorist attacks, but the overwhelmingly negative images we currently see associated with Palestinians had not yet taken hold.

In fact, when I was about 9 years old in the late 1970s, my teacher asked about the ethnicity of each student so she could pin it on a map of the world. When she came to me, she was stumped—she didn’t know much about Palestinians, and of course she couldn’t find it on the map since it wasn’t there. Thankfully for her I’m also half Sicilian, and she found that easily, since most of my classmates were Italian.

Later that night, I relayed that story to my father and asked him: “Where is Palestine?” He paused for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. He then touched his heart and head and responded: “In here.”

I wonder what my response will be if I have children and one day they ask: “Where is Palestine?” Will I be able to take out a map and simply point it out, like most people do when they are asked about their heritage? Or will my only option be mimicking my late father’s answer? What’s most painful to me is not that those are my two options but that I feel powerless to change which answer I will be able to offer.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/31/yes-we-palestinians-are-human-beings.html