Children of a lesser God?


Consistent with my frequently expressed revulsion at “selective indignation ” – depending on the nature of the victims or the identity of the perpetrators – I wish to voice my total and unequivocal condemnation of the horror that took place in the United States.

As a Palestinian who, for twelve endless months, witnessed the continuous daily bombing of Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps, my sympathy today goes entirely to the victims of this despicable undertaking. Having watched a cascade of daily funerals, I understand and share the pain of their families and friends. Having joined the unheeded call for international protection and the deployment of international observers in Palestine and having advocated an imposed solution by the international community on the basis of international legality, I sincerely wish that international law, and only that, will guide American decision makers in the aftermath of this revolting act.

At a moment when globalisation has become an undeniable and irreversible international reality, now more than ever before, universal principles and the highest possible standards should be set and equally observed by everybody all over our ” planetary village”. Unfortunately this is not yet the case. In these tragic days, we will hear more of revenge, retaliation and the clash of civilisations, rather than a rational debate over why such atrocities find volunteers to accomplish them.

Alas, I fear that much of the discourse that will pour out of TV channels will appeal more to the instincts rather than the intelligence of viewers, to their hatred rather than their humanity.

I have often explained that the way the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the status of Jerusalem are addressed, handled or mishandled, will affect relations not only at the regional level but also at a global one. Whether there is one kind or different kinds of men and women is not a rhetorical or a polemical question. Since the inception of the Palestinian tragedy, the Arab and Muslim world had the impression of total Western insensitivity to their ordeal. The “exploits” that led to the dispossession and the dispersion of the Palestinian people were welcomed in mainstream Western public opinion with admiration, applause and were considered sometimes even as “miraculous”.

I personally tend to believe in the innocence of God even though the Zionist project was presented as “a divine mission for a chosen people on a promised land”. We were inundated with massive propaganda about the desert turning green, but nobody bothered to answer the moral questions: in the name of what and since when does the planting of a tree justify the uprooting of a human being? Since when does planting a forest justify the uprooting of an entire people? Israel still addresses the Palestinian refugee issue in the most dismissive manner. Their possible return is seen as a threat to the Jewish nature of the state. But no one in a senior capacity will take this argument to its logical conclusion that the Palestinian refugees were precisely driven out of their homeland with that purpose in mind. From the very beginning there were successful attempts to trivialise and banalise the Palestinian tragedy as though Palestinian victims were fatherless, motherless, childless, nameless, faceless… worthless.

I have never likened the Naqba to the Holocaust. My conviction has always been that there is no need for comparisons and historical analogies. No one people has a monopoly on human suffering and every ethnic tragedy stands on its own. If I were a Jew or a Gypsy, the Nazi barbarity would be the most atrocious event in history. If I were a black African, it would be slavery and apartheid. If I were a native American, it would be the discovery of the New World by European explorers and settlers that resulted in near total extermination. If I were an Armenian, it would be the Ottoman massacres. As a Palestinian, it is the Naqba (catastrophe) of 1948. Humanity should consider all the above repugnant.

I do not consider it advisable to debate hierarchies of suffering. I do not know how to quantify pain or measure suffering, but I do know that we are not children of a lesser God.

In the United States there will be a debate on whether last week’s event will result in isolationism, unilateralism, multilateralism or interventionism.

American foreign policy in the Middle East has been most intriguing. It is the only remaining superpower in the international system, yet in our part of the world it seemed as though it had abdicated this role in favour of its regional ally, Israel, which it shields unconditionally at the UN and elsewhere. The US is committed to Israel’s existence, a message everybody had understood for decades. Does it need also to endorse the territorial appetite, the expansionist inclinations of its regional protégé? To condone its ferocious repression of the Palestinians’ for freedom out of captivity and bondage?

America is a nation of nations. In today’s monopolar international system, nonalignment in regional conflicts should be what characterises American foreign policy, because alignment with the preferences of one belligerent actor results not only in antagonising other regional players but also in alienating one component of its domestic national fabric.

In his memoirs “Present at the creation”, former American secretary of state Dean Acheson writes that the UN Charter was a condensed version of American political philosophy. All I can hope for is that America will reconcile tomorrow its power with its principles.

The writer is the Palestinian general delegate to the United Kingdom and to the Holy See. He contributed this article to the Jordan Times.