Tearing Down The Walls
June 16, 2003
My ears are full of war cries; there is no doubt that we
sit on the edge of a maelstrom of violence. But the "peace"
that the world wishes upon us is based on walls: a two-state
proposal that is mistakenly being called a "solution".
This solution will maintain the ethnic exclusivity of occupation
and propagate profound inequalities in land and resources,
water, economy, advancement and military between the two
states. This solution will reward foreign occupiers by offering
them legal status and normal relationships in the Middle
East, while giving Palestinians bits and pieces of our homeland,
cantons that are separated from each other by Jewish-only
settlements and their safe roads.
This two-state solution advocates a demilitarized "Palestinian
state" with no direct borders with any of its Arab
neighbours, but surrounded by the Middle East's only nuclear
power. A "transitional state," says the American
administration, that will be bestowed on one condition--that
we Palestinians behave and "elect" a "reformed"
and "democratic" authority--and then only after
another three years of occupation.
And so, while Israel continues to welcome "refugees"
from 2,000 years ago, extolling its war criminals as national
heroes and electing them as prime minister, we Palestinians
are expected to give up the right of return, to abandon
our political prisoners and to condemn our fighters.
Palestinians are described sometimes as the last colonized
people, the last frontier of genocide and ethnic cleansing--words
we deign to speak for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic.
Always we must coach our own horror in appreciation for
At home, I look out of the kitchen window to see that the
Israeli flags have moved forward, closer to our neighbourhood,
demarcating the new boundaries of the Pisgat Ze'ev settlement.
The Israelis claim that they want peace after separation--they
are establishing a wall between us for security reasons.
They want separation, a separation that will ensure that
Palestinians are denied access to the land of their immediate
fathers and forefathers, while Israelis continue to traverse
their secure bypass roads to settlements lying in the heart
of the Palestinian territories.
The vision of two states does not meet any minimal ambition
of peace, freedom and a dignified future for Palestinians.
It jeopardizes our basic human and national rights of sovereignty.
Except for municipal matters like collecting our own garbage,
our nation will be totally dependent on the state of Israel.
In return, we will be expected to collect Israel's garbage,
wash Israel's dishes and offer cheap labour to our oppressors.
However, I oppose the two-state solution not only because
it is impossible, but because it is immoral.
The Palestinians are a cosmopolitan nation. We are the descendants
of civilizations that have lived in this land since the
Stone Age. We have Canaanite, Semite, Aramaic, Arab, Turkish,
African and European blood in our veins. Here we were born,
and here our forefathers have lived. A common history, a
common passion for our homeland and the same unstaunched
wound unite us.
We are not xenophobic or exclusive. We are Muslims, Christians,
indigenous Jews, Baha'is and Druze. Over the centuries our
doors were open to foreigners. The Armenians fleeing genocide
found shelter among Palestinians, Africans came as pilgrims
and were entranced by the magic of Jerusalem. Early Jewish
immigrants fleeing persecution were accepted within the
Palestinian community, worked with Palestinians, lived in
their towns, and intermarried with them. According to the
Palestinian National Charter, the document that lays out
our national principles, Jews who immigrated to Palestine
before the 1948 Nakba are Palestinians.
Our rejection of the Zionist project is not based on hatred,
but on the rejection of foreign occupation, the theft of
our homeland and resources, and the crimes that have been
committed in realizing the dream of an exclusively Jewish
I acknowledge that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very
complex. The emergence of two generations of Israelis born
in the land occupied by their forefathers makes things infinitely
more confused. It means that this conflict will not be solved
until we recognize the presence and the humanity of the
other, rectify the wounds of the past, acknowledge the wrong
that has been done to Palestinians and then undo those wrongs
as best we can.
My hope lies in a multi-national, multi-ethnic democratic
state of historic Palestine for all its citizens. I do not
care about the safety of Israelis any less than I care for
the safety of my own people, nor am I suggesting that we
jump into this process without preparation. We must start
by demanding that Israelis remove their armed children from
our doorsteps, with a United Nations force as a common buffer
zone. We Palestinians everywhere need to heal and work with
each other to elect new democratic representatives instead
of the same tired faces. And then, as two equal nations,
we need to set out upon the business of making right the
wrongs. It is time for something new.
"You are asking us to commit mass suicide," one
Israeli told me. No, I am calling for Israelis' moral and
ethical liberation from the sin of occupation, for their
freedom from pathological fear and the neurosis of security,
and the restoration of their human rights as equal citizens
in a free country.
This is not my fantasy--it is my enduring hope. The making
right of colonization has been achieved in recent history.
South Africa is a living example of the triumph of hope
and reconciliation over oppression and prejudice.
When Palestinians live together as equals with the people
of Israel, when not only Israeli security matters, but Palestinian
security as well, and when both of us take the same bus
to work, stand at the ministry of interior together, endure
the same procedures at the airport and have equal wages
for the same jobs, then the last shall be first in keeping