Time and again, the bitter years have shown these courageous Palestinian men, women and children that no matter what they do, Israel does not want a Palestinian state, and the world, for all its fine talk will not lift a finger to help them.
With heavy heart I write this – Palestine is bleeding. All nine million Palestinians at home and around the world should be feeling the pain. So should everyone who supports them. Never before has Palestine suffered such a gaping wound. The Palestinian cause is teetering on the brink of oblivion.
I became Palestinian the day I felt the overwhelming injustice suffered by all Palestinians. Some might say it is because my children have Palestinian blood in their veins, but I know many others with no such connection who feel as I do. The injustice is universal, and the cause, a monumental human tragedy that has grown in numbers and years – the occupying enemy no more willing to relinquish its illegally-gotten gains than it is to stop its brazen designs to rob Palestinians of all their land. And all the while, Palestinians are systematically being herded into forbidding wall-bound and guarded corrals to await Israel’s final solution.
For years, I joined the struggle to be heard above the din of Zionist propaganda. In Australia, the film ‘Exodus’ left an indelible print on people’s consciousness about Zionist heroism in a hostile land. Back then, no one questioned the morality of the film’s hero, the Jewish captain and member of the Zionist terrorist group Haganah, who threatened to blow up his ship full of Jewish refugees if the British attempted to board it and stop it from reaching Palestine. And, I do not remember anyone labelling the Jewish Irgun as terrorists for blowing up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem with the loss of 91 lives. Somehow, the film’s rousing song “This land is mine/God gave this land to me” and “If I must fight/I’ll fight to make this land our own/Until I die, this land is mine” served to thrill people into believing that such sacrifice and death was justified in the quest to turn Palestine into Israel. Such reverently-held admiration has never surrounded the Palestinian fight for survival and freedom in their own land. Those who fought did so valiantly against the weight of public opinion that branded them terrorists and those who dared to speak for them were vehemently condemned as anti-Semitic. But it did not stop those of us who believed that Palestine never belonged to others to give away or take. Justice would surely triumph and Palestine would prevail.
Through all those years of hopes and setbacks and renewed hopes and stalled negotiations, I never knew anyone who gave up hope. Palestine was a beacon that drew more and more supporters as people came to know the terrible injustice that had been done to the Palestinians. The honeyed enticements to support Israel in the early years gradually gave way to the shrill demands for everyone to accept, even laud, Israel’s worst excesses. Whilst politicians continue to fall over themselves to wear Israel as a badge of Honour – as one Australian politician so eagerly put it – the general public has weaned itself away from the hard-sell propaganda and has become much more open to hearing the other side. It is after all one of Australia’s most endearing qualities to give everyone ‘a fair go’.
Israel and its supporters made their own terrible blunders. Attacking the Palestinian Hanan Ashrawi for winning the Sydney Peace Prize, and last year strafing Lebanon to smithereens, was hardly politic. Too many years of controlling public opinion gave Israeli supporters a false sense of what they could get away with, but they learned soon enough that Australians are not fools. This was a chance for Palestinian supporters to make inroads, regardless of tiny budgets and so few people able to volunteer their time. Little did we know that other forces were playing against us. We should have known that the stakes are too high to allow the Palestinians even a modicum of relief. The Palestinians were being prodded into some kind reaction, but few of us believed that it could lead to the bloodshed we are seeing now.
So many are watching in shocked disbelief that Palestinians are turning against each other. But really, it is no surprise after the years and years of repression, demonisation and the delegitimising of the Palestinian government. These are people under constant attack at home and from abroad. Already two generations have not known the catastrophic loss suffered by their parents and grandparents, only the misery under which they are being forced to live. Over half a century of deprivations have watered down the passions of those who have only heard the stories. But that does not exonerate Palestine’s leaders. They know what they must protect and they know that there are no deals that can compromise the inalienable rights of the Palestinians. That in itself requires a unity of purpose not a degeneration of method.
Every day, I read the numbing reports of Palestinians drawing blood from each other over what I don’t know. Some crazy notion that this or that party is more fit to govern, more responsible to maintain law and order, more capable of providing services, more likely to deliver a free Palestine. Since when does an ideology or faith feed the people? Since when does an honourable leadership accept foreign guns to turn on its own? Are Palestinians not all human first, Palestinian second and Fatah, Hamas or something else a long way after that? The first act of leaders should be to comfort the people against the common enemy. Israel created the prison – not Fatah, not Hamas. Israel is the jailer – not Fatah, not Hamas. Palestinians are all in this together – rich, poor, Christian, Muslim, non-believer, man and woman and all the hapless children.
To all Palestinians, I beg you, look at the graves in which your martyrs lie. If only they knew for what they had sacrificed their lives. They fervently believed it was for your honour not the squabbling over crumbs. They believed that Palestine would one day emerge from the shadows of occupation and it was worth giving their life for the possibility of a future for their children and children’s children. No matter how remote the hope, it was there like a dormant seed with the potential for life. It was passed on from father to son, from mother to daughter. It had a power of its own that no enemy could destroy. But now, the seed is beginning to shrivel because the lifeblood of a people is seeping away, poisoned by the incitement to hate where there has never been hatred before.
In the fighting between Fatah and Hamas, the common enemy has been forgotten. Now the streets are littered with dead, dying and wounded Palestinians felled by their own hands and not just from Israeli bullets. What envious hearts and malicious minds have succumbed to the lure of false promises from the West’s Trojan horse? What devious persons have traded wisdom for brutish acts against their own? Is it not enough that Israel’s menacing shadow and cruel deeds darken every aspect of Palestinian lives and that empty words from the so-called free world have time and again condemned Palestinians to decades of misery?
Everyone speaks about democracy, but there is no democracy in chains. Democratic countries faced with the threat of an advancing enemy show bi-partisan support to repel it. This has not happened in Palestine. It was bad enough that Palestinians were asked to vote and were then punished by the international community for their democratic choice, but worse still the new government was undermined from within while the enemy watched from without. This was a time when all Palestinians should have come together against those who would see them corrupted. Which leader can call for death on his brother knowing that it will be death to Palestine? With conditions worsening daily, those that can, will run away, and those that can’t, will be swept up in something so awful that some might say it would be better to forget that Palestine ever existed. Has it really come to this?
After 40 years of Israeli military occupation and almost 60 years of dispossession, displacement and rejection by European Jews who settled in Palestine after the United Nations decided – without consulting the Palestinians – to unequally divide the land in favour of Israel, Palestinians know very well their position. God knows, they have faced every adversity, every cruelty and held out for justice long after the rest of us would have given in. Time and again, the bitter years have shown these courageous Palestinian men, women and children that no matter what they do, Israel does not want a Palestinian state, and the world, for all its fine talk, will not lift a finger to help them. Thus, there is no solution as long as Israel covets the whole of the land to which it has openly laid claim. There is no solution as long as the US arms and finances Israel’s ventures in the Middle East for its own strategic interests. There is no solution if a weak United Nations does not demand that Israel abide by its resolutions and adhere to international law. The only card Palestinians hold is resilience until justice is done.
And that is the crux of it. As long as Palestinians remain stalwart, Israel and the world are hamstrung in their self-serving quest to deny Palestinians their rights. But, Palestinians are justifiably asking where will it all stop? Demolishing people’s homes, separating families and communities, imprisoning thousands without charge or trial, causing businesses to collapse, preventing people from going to work, school, shopping and visiting each other, constant humiliations, killings, deprivations – all this, and still Israel’s apartheid acts have not caused a worldwide outcry. Last year’s relentless bombing of Gaza and the slow starvation of its people barely raised a whimper of protest. Well might the Palestinians ask, will the world finally say stop when ethnic cleansing begins in earnest?
The Palestinians are no different from the rest of humanity. They are human too and just as susceptible to the lure of peace, an easy life and opportunities. To struggle, no matter how just the cause, takes enormous courage and requires many sacrifices. When the whole world is against you, the burden becomes staggering, and if there is a cancer within, the battle to survive becomes monumental. Who could take the daily assaults and humiliations without wishing for something better? We who live outside, no matter how much we fight for Palestinian rights, still go to sleep without fear of jackboots shattering the night’s silence and we still wake up in the morning with food on the table and an easy day ahead without spirit-breaking restrictions. Perhaps after all, it is time to call it quits and say Israel do what you will.
But where will 4 million people go? How can any of them go knowing that the blood and bones of their people is the Palestine to which they are forever bound? O Palestine, so much heartache, so much pain, so many memories burning as human flesh aches for home. How much worse will it be knowing that your enemy triumphs over the wounds you have inflicted on each other and the unbearable loss you will all then have to endure? As the darkness of oblivion closes in, the echoes of Abu Ammar’s words from yesteryear still resound faintly – don’t forget Palestine . . .
Palestine in my heart and on my head, I cannot forget. I urge all Palestinians and those who believe in justice, humanity and peace, to do the same. It is a principle worth joining together for in solidarity, so that the bleeding wound can be stemmed and hope renewed. It is time for all good and decent people to stand up for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and a free and peaceful Palestine. Until then, we cannot forget.