by Susan Abulhawa
(Originally posted June 15th, 2009, at dissidentvoice.org)
Following Netanyahu’s much anticipated policy speech, politicians and journalists, like mindless automatons, have set about repeating Israel’s tired mantra that Palestinians should recognize Israel’s right to exist. Never mind the fact that the PLO and Palestine Authority have obliged this ludicrous call, not once, but four times. And never mind that Israel has always denied Palestine’s right to exist, not only as a nation, but as individuals seeking a dignified life in our own homeland.
Does anyone find it interesting that Israel is the only country on the planet going around with this incessant insistence that everyone recognize her right to exist? Given that we Palestinians are the ones who have been dispossessed, occupied, and oppressed, one might expect that we should be the ones making such a demand. But t hat isn’t the case. Why? Because our right to exist as a nation is self-evident. We are the natives of that land! We know we have that right. The world knows it. That’s why Palestine doesn’t need Israel or any other country to recognize her right to exist. We are the rightful heirs to that land and this can be verified legally, historically, culturally, and even genetically. And as such, the only true legitimacy Israel will ever have must come from us abdicating our inheritance, our history, and our culture to Israel. That’s why Israel insists we declare she had a right to take everything we ever had — from home and property, cemeteries, churches and mosques, to culture and history and hope.
Israel is a country that was founded by Europeans who came to Palestine, formed terrorist gangs who set about a systematic ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians from their homes on 78% of Historic Palestine in 1948. Those Palestinians and their descendants still languish in refugee camps. Israel attempted a similar scenario in 1967 when they conquered the remainder of Palestine, but Palestinians then couldn’t be dislodged from their homes as easily. This remains true, despite 40 years of Israel’s violent and oppressive military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Despite home demolitions, land confiscations, rapacious building of Jewish-only colonies, endless checkpoints, targeted assassinations, bombings of schools, hospitals, municipal buildings and malls, closures and denials; despite the massive human rights abuses, the imprisonment and torture of men women and children alike, the separation of families, the daily humiliations; despite the massive killings — Palestinians remain. We still resist. We still live, love, and have babies. As much as we can, we rebuild what Israel destroys. Such are rights!
Rights are inherent and inherently just, like the right to live with dignity and to be masters of one’s own fate. It is a human right not be persecuted and oppressed because you happen to belong to one religion and not another.
That Israelis simply take property belonging to Palestinians is not a right. That is theft. That Israel cut off the movement of food, medicine and other basic goods to the Gaza strip, causing massive malnutrition, economic collapse and misery because Palestinians elected particular leaders is not a right. That is an affront to humanity. That Israel rain death from the skies on an already battered and starved Gaza, murdering over 3000 human beings and maiming thousands more in a single month is not a right. It’s a war crime. That Israel has employed every imperialistic tactic to subjugate, humiliate, break, and expel an entire nation of principally unarmed civilians because of their religion is not a right. It is a moral obscenity. That every Jew from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Australia be entitled to dual citizenship, one in their native country and one in Israel, while the rightful heirs to the land linger as refugees without citizenship anywhere is not a right. It is an outrage.
I’m sure my words will be twisted in some way to imply that I’m advocating pushing Israelis “into the sea” or some other asinine claim. So let me be explicit: We all have the right to exist, to live, to be masters of our own destiny. We all have the right not to be oppressed by others. Such rights are inherent to every individual living in that land: Jew, Muslim, or Christian. But Israelis do not have the right to create particular religious demographics by causing the demise of the natives. To be a Jewish [or Muslim or Christian] state, where privilege is accorded to those belonging to a particular religion at the expense of those who do not is not a right.
A nation that discriminates against and oppresses those who do not belong to a particular religious, racial, or ethnic group is not a light onto nations. It is a blight. And to recognize such racism as a human or national right goes against every tenet of international law. It defies the basic sense that the worth of a human being should not be measured by their religion, any more than it should be measured by the color of their skin or the language they speak.