It is most certainly the case that every era is marked by key inflection points when the decisions we make dictate the kind of lives future generations shall lead. Today we are at such a point in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Decisions cannot be postponed forever or denied their existence. One of the main benefits of the “road map” is that the die has been cast for real decisions to be made. There has been a “disconnect” for many years as Israeli leaders believed they could maintain occupation forever. As a Palestinian living in America, one fights to remain connected. And the connection lies in the dream of Palestine.
There are those who would crush the dream of returning to the land from Palestinian hearts, thus paving the way for “political realism”. These include Palestinian, Israeli and American leaders. For them, the coldness of realpolitik animates their beliefs. But they forget that every noble idea or accomplishment in history emanated not from the frozen recesses of the mind but from the heat of a flaming heart.
So what I write today hopefully will give voice to that flame. No person on earth can waive another Palestinian’s RIGHT to return to their place of dispossession. These are individual rights guaranteed to each Palestinian not just by international law but a higher commandment in which justice reigns. Decisions… we cannot escape them.
Let every Palestinian decide. The choice is clear. One can settle inside Israel, a country that sanctions racism or one can help build a new state based upon equality for all, regardless of ethnicity, race or religion. Refugees, whether in the camps of Lebanon, Syria or Jordan…or supplanted Palestinians in Diaspora from Europe to America, each must decide. But it is THEIR choice…not Abu Mazen’s, not Sharon’s, and not GW Bush’s choice.
I believe that if the alternatives are made clear, Palestinians will overwhelmingly choose to help create and be part of a new Palestine. Palestine needs their spirit, their courage and their dreams. Refugees are not bartering chips, but the lifeblood of a struggle that has withstood over fifty years of the worst kind of subjugation. Yet they have more than endured.
They refused to lose their identity and for that alone must be treated with the respect they deserve. Palestine needs them and they need Palestine. Instead of appealing to the best impulses in Palestinians all over the world, many Palestinian leaders, like Sari Nusseibeh, ask them to relinquish their legitimate rights. These devotees of realpolitik denigrate the dream because they have forgotten how to dream. They cannot promote a grander vision and offer despair instead of hope.
As long as Israel is a Zionist entity, it can never truly be a welcome, friendly neighbor worthy of normalized relationships. Its ideology is inherently racist and these types of neighbors rarely make comfortable bedfellows. With this in mind, how many refugees would rather live under systemic, institutional racism when they can become a productive citizen of Palestine with full rights?
But if any refugee makes the decision to live under Israeli sovereignty, with its institutionalized racist core, that is their decision to make, their RIGHT to exercise…and theirs alone.