Maen Rashid Areikat is the Palestine Liberation Organization’s chief representative to the United States.
The issue of Palestinian identity and national history has become a source of controversy, with many Americans making deeply disturbing and alarming statements. As the representative of my people to the United States, I would like to tell you what the Palestinians, as a people, are all about.
We go far back, much further than those doubting our existence can remember. Jericho, my home town, goes as far back as 10,000 B.C., making it the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. We Palestinians also happen to live in a place that many consider important, at the crossroads of three continents and containing a site of holy reverence for more than half of the world’s population. It has been a mixed blessing: Palestine managed to draw the good and the bad from what the world has had to offer. We lived under the rule of a plethora of empires: the Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, Israelites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Mongols, Ottomans and, finally, the British. This has made our region rich in history, culture and heritage. Indeed, if our olive trees could speak — some are centuries old — they would have a lot to say.