Growing up Palestinian in the Israeli "Occupation"
Zionism and Israel Commentary
Thoughtful articles about Zionism, anti-Zionism and the Israeli - Palestinian conflict
By Sarah Elshazly
Ever since I was a child, I've heard different accounts from different sources on what happened to the Palestinians and Palestine. I heard the Jewish side and the Arab side. The side that no one seems to want to hear, is of those who lived and live there. The Israeli Arabs. Rare as we are in terms of a world wide nation, we exist. Despite the fact that some Jews may want us out of Israel and some Arabs believe that we are extension of the Zionists, we exist. We keep our culture and tradition. Mahshy, or stuffed grape leaves, remain our favorite meal and not lox and cream cheese (Which is actually the food of Eastern European Jews and not Israeli Jews). We love Arabic music and sing old folk songs which include "wein aa Ramallah" a name of a famous Palestinian city, as well as songs from all over the Arab world. We are however different. We have vested interest in both sides and are angry at both sides.
Israeli Arabs have lived side by side with Jews for as long as this generation can remember. We have lived as Israeli citizens since 1948. Before that, the region wasn't quite as divided. Families lived in different cities in the area which includes the West Bank, Gaza, Amman and other Arab cities in areas where borders were created later. All of the sudden, Palestinians became strangers to their own families. We were divided by boundaries set by the Europeans and those within the boundaries of Israel became "Israeli Arabs". The Israeli Arabs have become the unwanted, unloved, illegitimate, biracial step-child of the Middle East conflict. No one wants to associate themselves with us and no one wants us to identify ourselves as one of them. We have to apologize for our existence.
What angers me the most about this is the stories that I heard as child from those ones who stayed behind. Palestinians who fled their homes and lost their families and children and most of all their dignity are angry, bitter and distraught. No one can blame them. They seem to have been taught who they are supposed to hate, who is the guilty party and who should be punished for their problems. Peoples' memories are so short . It is easier to have a focused on one enemy- especially an enemy who does not belong to the same "tribe", than to analyze a situation such as the Palestinian refugees disaster.
The question is, why did Arabs living in what became Israel flee? The ones who remained in their homes actually live and prosper. So why didn't they stay. There is the one focused obvious enemy, Israel. But is that the truth? It is not my place or my purpose to discuss who belongs in that tiny region called Israel, but it is my intent and reason for risking shunning by my own community to set the record straight. The Arab world warned the Palestinians of staying with the Jews. They also warned them that they were going in to fight the Zionists and that the Palestinians should leave in order for them not to get hurt. Many Palestinians trusted these Arab leaders and left. Bad blood had existed between some groups of Arabs and Jews- enough to flame the Propaganda machines. Those who lived with Jews for a long time, were not as easily convinced and stayed home. My family members have always told us that there were cars going around telling people to stay put. The cars contained Jews. They told everyone that they will not harm them. Thus we have the situation where Jews are begging Arabs to stay and live with them and other Arabs from outside the country were telling them to flee for their lives.
Palestinians have gotten the short end of the stick in the Arab society. They are kept in poverty and turmoil because it suits the leadership of the Arab world to keep them in this position. What better way to do it than to take away every last means of dignity and power, shift the attention of the average Arab towards the perfect target- Jews.
You don't believe me? Then ask yourself why Jordan, Egypt or Syria didn't they give the Palestinians a country when they were the ones who had our land? Why didn't they give Jerusalem to the Palestinians and why do they expect more of Israel? If I hear one more time a non Palestinian, especially American Muslims ,repeat the phrase "Over 50 years of the Zionist occupation" I'm going to burst. Can no one actually read history? I don't mean ancient history, I'm talking about 1948-1967. Who had that land? Even with the assumption that they wanted the Palestinians to have "all" their land, there is no excuse for not giving them an independent state. And we blame Israel?
I remember as a child watching a Syrian play with a very famous Syrian comedian. The play was about the 1973 war which took place in October. The comedian played a young man who fought in the war and was taken hostage. After his release he was detained by his government. At one point, the guards slapped him and he started crying. A fellow inmate who was also a fellow hostage asked him with puzzlement "Why are you crying? I've seen the enemies do much more to you and you just laughed it off? This was only a slap." He replied "The enemy is an enemy and I expected that of them, a slap is only a slap. From a brother however, it's a slap in the heart."
Let's take this another step. The Arab world is full of Palestinians. Yes, the same Arab world that pretends to care and wants to fan the fire of the poor Palestinians and get so exited when they are killed. Yes, the same Arab world that sits by the TV to watch a young Palestinian get killed by Israel in order to justify their hate of the Jews right before they go to their cozy beds. The same Arab world that has taught the Palestinians to fight. That same Arab world will not give a Palestinian citizenship. Now the argument that it is because they will go home to their rightful land doesn't sit well with me. Even if that is so, to me it indicates an admission that they do not have a land. What are they to do in the mean time? Why can't they give them equal rights? Why can't they go to schools for free? Why can't they get the same jobs and pay as the person who was born and grew up the their same area? Where is that love, for that matter, where is that hate for Israel that they use the Palestinian issue to justify?
Let's go to the refugees! First the Arab Governments starts with the scare tactics, then they take what ever they could from the United States and Israel and then they stick them in camps with deplorable living conditions. WHY? Why didn't they leave them alone in their homes? Why did they promise them refuge and reward them with what are essentially prison camps? And most of all, why didn't they provide them with homes in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan heights when they had control over them? Please do not say "Money". The Palestinian refugees receive aid from all over the world and yet, they don't seem to have a better living conditions. The "hosting" Governments siphons off some money into its' pockets and the Palestinian authority, or lack of it, siphons off the rest and as a result the poor deserving people get nothing.
I am not writing this to say merely to say that the Arab world had not done enough or done nothing nor am I suggesting that they do anything now. I am merely pointing out the truth and basically, as a Palestinian, I would like to ask the entire world to stop exploiting our issue. If you want a do a good deed find your own. To the singers who are romanticizing the Palestinian suffering, it is not romantic. There is nothing dreamy about it. There is no heroism in a small child throwing rocks at a tank. Either warn the child to stay away or Please shut up! How dare you do this to our children? Our suffering gives you good video materials and a good rating? Not to mention fame and the good old all mighty Dollar?
To the average citizen in the Arab world, stop crying crocodile tears for us. We don't need you to talk about the "poor Palestinians" or to protest. We thank you for your kind feelings, but please, leave us alone. We do not want to be the object of your pity. To the Arab and Islamic Governments, fix your own problems. Do not use our misery to blind your subjects to what is really wrong with your countries. What are you afraid of? If the people wise up and stop hating Israel they're going to turn on you? Maybe, I mean, when you condone so much hate you will pay the price. You've created monsters and you won't be able to handle them. Worry about creating jobs for your own poor people and educating the children and leave us alone. In short to all those who are driving our children to die, please, stay away from us.
This article originally appeared at http://www.arabsforisrael.com/pages/20/index.htm and is reposted by permission.
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