Saturday, August 20, 2016

Putting a Face on the Facts... An Easy to Understand Essay by Nancy Harb Almendras outlining a Global Controversy: The conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian Woman in traditional Ramallah dress.
A Global Controversy: The conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinians. 
An Essay
by Nancy Harb Almendras

A global controversy for which there has been no solution for sixty-eight years is the conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinians.   

In 1967 the United Nations proclaimed the state of Israel on two-thirds of historic Palestine.  At this time the land set aside for the Jewish State had a majority of Palestinian Arab inhabitants. The solution for the problem is to afford those Palestinian Arabs who want to return to their original towns and villages in what is now Israel to return and to allocate the area which Israel has occupied since 1948, referred to as the West Bank and Gaza for a Palestinian State.

A majority of Israelis will argue that if Palestinians who wish to return to their homes in present day Israel do so, then Israel will cease to be a Jewish state.  One could argue that it is a racist concept to define a state based upon religion and to keep those out whose ethnicity or religion differs from the majority.  Besides, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “every man may leave his home and return to his home.”

Imagine if one was born in California, but due to a political issue, could not return to California.  Not return to California to see Sequoia National Forest, Yosemite, the Golden Gate Bridge, the trees in one’s own backyard.  This is precisely what happened to the Palestinians even prior to 1948, when the leaders of Jewish militias put in place a plan, Plan Dalet, to ethnically cleanse the future Jewish state of its Palestinian Arab inhabitants.  This is a historical fact attested to by Palestinian historians, i.e., Princeton Professor Emeritus Walid Khalidi, researcher Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, as well as Israeli historians, Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris.  Proponents of the state of Israel will say that Israelis were defending the emergent state from invading Arab armies, but before any Arab armies entered Palestine, many of its inhabitants were already ethnically cleansed.  Ghassan Kanafani writes beautifully of the trauma he and his family endured upon becoming refugees in the moving short story “Land of Sad Oranges.”

What will become of Israel’s Jewish citizens if Palestinians decide to exercise their right of return?  Researcher, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, has written that on many of the over 530 Palestinian villages that were destroyed in the aftermath of the state of Israel, Israel has not rebuilt and Israelis do not live in them.  Palestinians and their descendants who return could rebuild their villages with little disruption to the lives of the current Jewish Israeli inhabitants.  Keep in mind that Israel currently has a Palestinian Arab minority of roughly one-quarter. 

Currently, Israel, when one includes occupied Gaza and the West Bank, rules over a majority of Palestinian Arabs.  These Palestinians enjoy few civil rights, including the right to self-determination, as they are not allowed to vote.  Contrary to international law, Israel has moved its own citizens to the territories which it occupies, taking prime Palestinian land, using an inordinate amount of the water, raiding Palestinian villages, demolishing Palestinian homes, and displacing Palestinians.  Little has changed since 1948.  Many Israelis ask what will become of the settlers if the West Bank becomes part of a Palestinian state.  Just like Palestinians will have a right whether to return to their original homes in Israel or instead live in the new Palestinian state, the settlers will have the same choice: live in a sovereign Palestinian state or return to Israel.

Some Palestinians argue that instead of a separate Palestine and Israel there should be just one state in which all of its citizens enjoy equal rights, just as some Israelis argue that if Palestinians return, Israel will cease to exist as a “Jewish” state.  Basically, what exists now is one state, albeit, one in which Palestinians have no rights.  One must take into consideration that if there are no separate states, how will the economically inferior Palestinians fare?  Will it be much of the same as under occupation?  To those who say that Israel will lose its “Jewish” character, well welcome to the twenty-first century.  How ludicrous does it sound if one maintains that the US must retain its white character?

Edward Said once said that it’s unfortunate that the foe of the Palestinian-Arab is the Jew.  One reason is that the Jewish people, because of the tragedy which occurred to them in World War II, have the sympathy of the world.  He also showed that it is not impossible for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis to work together; he and Daniel Barenboim, an Israeli Jew, together sponsored the Palestinian Youth Orchestra, which travels the world to much acclaim.   Today, there are many Jewish advocates, working alongside people of many ethnicities, for the end of the occupation and the creation of a separate Palestinian state.  In an increasingly globalized world, it is important to both honor and set aside ethnic and religious differences.  It is still possible to believe that human beings are capable of living together in a spirit of respect and trust.

Putting a face on the facts
Nancy's father- from Palestine- Basil Harb
Nancy at 19 in traditional dress- Her first visit to Ramallah Palestine
Nancy Harb Almendras in 2014

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