Tearing down the walls

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My ears are full of war cries; there is no doubt that we sit on the edge of a maelstrom of violence. But the “peace” that the world wishes upon us is based on walls: a two-state proposal that is mistakenly being called a “solution”.

This solution will maintain the ethnic exclusivity of occupation and propagate profound inequalities in land and resources, water, economy, advancement and military between the two states. This solution will reward foreign occupiers by offering them legal status and normal relationships in the Middle East, while giving Palestinians bits and pieces of our homeland, cantons that are separated from each other by Jewish-only settlements and their safe roads.

This two-state solution advocates a demilitarized “Palestinian state” with no direct borders with any of its Arab neighbors, but surrounded by the Middle East’s only nuclear power. A “transitional state,” says the American administration, that will be bestowed on one condition–that we Palestinians behave and “elect” a “reformed” and “democratic” authority–and then only after another three years of occupation.

And so, while Israel continues to welcome “refugees” from 2,000 years ago, extolling its war criminals as national heroes and electing them as prime minister, we Palestinians are expected to give up the right of return, to abandon our political prisoners and to condemn our fighters.

Palestinians are described sometimes as the last colonized people, the last frontier of genocide and ethnic cleansing–words we deign to speak for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic. Always we must coach our own horror in appreciation for Jewish suffering.

At home, I look out of the kitchen window to see that the Israeli flags have moved forward, closer to our neighborhood, demarcating the new boundaries of the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement. The Israelis claim that they want peace after separation–they are establishing a wall between us for security reasons. They want separation, a separation that will ensure that Palestinians are denied access to the land of their immediate fathers and forefathers, while Israelis continue to traverse their secure bypass roads to settlements lying in the heart of the Palestinian territories.

The vision of two states does not meet any minimal ambition of peace, freedom and a dignified future for Palestinians. It jeopardizes our basic human and national rights of sovereignty. Except for municipal matters like collecting our own garbage, our nation will be totally dependent on the state of Israel. In return, we will be expected to collect Israel’s garbage, wash Israel’s dishes and offer cheap labor to our oppressors.

However, I oppose the two-state solution not only because it is impossible, but because it is immoral.

The Palestinians are a cosmopolitan nation. We are the descendants of civilizations that have lived in this land since the Stone Age. We have Canaanite, Semite, Aramaic, Arab, Turkish, African and European blood in our veins. Here we were born, and here our forefathers have lived. A common history, a common passion for our homeland and the same unstaunched wound unite us.

We are not xenophobic or exclusive. We are Muslims, Christians, indigenous Jews, Baha’is and Druze. Over the centuries our doors were open to foreigners. The Armenians fleeing genocide found shelter among Palestinians, Africans came as pilgrims and were entranced by the magic of Jerusalem. Early Jewish immigrants fleeing persecution were accepted within the Palestinian community, worked with Palestinians, lived in their towns, and intermarried with them. According to the Palestinian National Charter, the document that lays out our national principles, Jews who immigrated to Palestine before the 1948 Nakba are Palestinians.

Our rejection of the Zionist project is not based on hatred, but on the rejection of foreign occupation, the theft of our homeland and resources, and the crimes that have been committed in realizing the dream of an exclusively Jewish state.

I acknowledge that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very complex. The emergence of two generations of Israelis born in the land occupied by their forefathers makes things infinitely more confused. It means that this conflict will not be solved until we recognize the presence and the humanity of the other, rectify the wounds of the past, acknowledge the wrong that has been done to Palestinians and then undo those wrongs as best we can.

My hope lies in a multi-national, multi-ethnic democratic state of historic Palestine for all its citizens. I do not care about the safety of Israelis any less than I care for the safety of my own people, nor am I suggesting that we jump into this process without preparation. We must start by demanding that Israelis remove their armed children from our doorsteps, with a United Nations force as a common buffer zone. We Palestinians everywhere need to heal and work with each other to elect new democratic representatives instead of the same tired faces. And then, as two equal nations, we need to set out upon the business of making right the wrongs. It is time for something new.

“You are asking us to commit mass suicide,” one Israeli told me. No, I am calling for Israelis’ moral and ethical liberation from the sin of occupation, for their freedom from pathological fear and the neurosis of security, and the restoration of their human rights as equal citizens in a free country.

This is not my fantasy–it is my enduring hope. The making right of colonization has been achieved in recent history. South Africa is a living example of the triumph of hope and reconciliation over oppression and prejudice.

When Palestinians live together as equals with the people of Israel, when not only Israeli security matters, but Palestinian security as well, and when both of us take the same bus to work, stand at the ministry of interior together, endure the same procedures at the airport and have equal wages for the same jobs, then the last shall be first in keeping the peace.

Samah Jabr is a Palestinian physician and a writer living in East Jerusalem.

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