While the Jews in Israel celebrate their independence every year in May, Palestinians remember it as the time when hundreds of their villages were destroyed, civilians were massacred in huge numbers and more than 800,000 men, women and children were displaced from their homes (including my grandparents).
60 years down the line and Palestinians are still living under occupation. Of the total Palestinian population 45% of us are refugees (and that doesn’t even count the unregistered refugees) – that’s around 5.3 million people worldwide.
Each year we lose more of our land and more children are born detached from their Palestinian roots. Ask any diaspora Palestinian about their origins and you’ll find each one has a more complicated story than the next.
Now lets not dwell on the past because what’s done is done. Fast-forward to the year 2013 and the solution for the future.
Clearly our chances of establishing our own Palestinian state have long been eroded. There are now over 550,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank most of who are living in Jerusalem. What are we supposed to do with these Jewish settlers – throw them out? What about the millions of refugees? What about the question of Jerusalem – is it our capital or theirs?
Too many questions and no one to answer them.
For me it’s very simple. Just as we do not deny the persecution of the Jews and their struggle for freedom for hundreds of years, the Palestinians should be given that same acknowledgment of suffering.
If we were given the same civil and political rights as Israelis and treated equally, we could all live under one roof. We could learn and teach one another. We could have citizens speaking both Hebrew and Arabic. We could be one people living under one rule of law. We could have a government comprising of both representatives of Palestinians and Israelis. It would mean an end to the brutal occupation that discriminates against Arabs and shuns their rights and it would mean an end to Israel’s unsustainable ‘iron fist’ policy. It would be mutually beneficial.
Heck, if they wanna call the country “Israel” then fine we will call it “Israel” – so long as we are not discriminated against for being Palestinian. We did not choose to be Palestinians, just as Jews did not choose to be Jewish.
But no, maybe I am too idealistic. Zionists would never let that happen. The idea contradicts their dream to create a homeland for the Jews, a purely Jewish state. The idea contradicts their desire to ethnically cleanse and destroy our national, cultural and geographic connections to the homeland.
So what do we do?
We continue to resist and fight the occupation.
Israel wants new generation Palestinians and the diaspora to forget and lose our attachment to the land, they do not want us to fight and they do not want us to remember our identity.
I vow to never be one of these people.
I am Palestinian and I do not forget.