How to remain loyal to both your people and country
Palestinian citizens of Israel have a vested interest in a peace agreement between their people and their state. They want to be regarded as full citizens of Israel, but at the same time do not want to give up their ability to impact the country’s policy towards the Palestinian people. They need to help bring back the Arab peace plan, and in the meantime will lick the Gazans’ open wounds, says the author.
(From Jerusalem) ONCE AGAIN, MY COUNTRY recently went to war with my people. Being a Palestinian citizen of Israel has never been easy, and it has been especially difficult these past few weeks, during Israel’s raid into Gaza.
On one hand, we were asked by the leaders of Hamas to open up an internal front against Israel; on the other hand, Israel’s Jews demanded unconditional loyalty and patriotism from us. We were not able to satisfy either party. Rather, we were forced to take a balanced stance: fulfilling our civilian duty of maintaining public order and keeping the confrontation out of our country, while also upholding our moral and national obligation to oppose the war and its savage nature.
A DEMONSTRATION OF FORCE
“It will take many years to restore even basic faith between Israelis and Palestinians” At the outset of Israel’s offensive, many expected it to be a 2 or 3 day military campaign designed to reshuffle the political and diplomatic cards in the region. In fact, Israel was taking advantage of a temporary window of opportunity that had opened up: Europe was still deep in its winter holiday slumber and the Bush administration wanted to give Israel a going away present.
Furthermore, the Israeli public was recruited for the mission, whose main goal was to remind the region that it is not afraid to defy anyone, and that it is fully capable of strong retaliation. In a way, it was a demonstration of force, a warning that if it is not respected, Israel can go crazy and break all the rules. “Palestinian citizens of Israel were asked by the leaders of Hamas to open up an internal front against Israel, while Israel’s Jews demanded unconditional loyalty and patriotism” And Israel’s leadership did indeed go crazy during these past few weeks; no wise leadership concerned about the long term would ever dream of inflicting so much damage and devastation on its next door neighbors, and causing so many casualties. Surely, it will take many years to restore even basic faith between Israelis and Palestinians.
Many argue that it was necessary to weaken Hamas and reduce its influence on moderate Palestinians, in order to allow the latter to engage in peace negotiations with Israel. The truth of the matter is that the moderate Palestinians have emerged from the conflict debilitated, as a result of not having sided with their people. Mahmoud Abbas has lost much of his credibility and popularity among his own people, and in the Arab world in general. He will need a great deal of help if he is to bounce back from this current low point.
MAINTAINING SANITY…AND LEGITIMACY
In the midst of all of the events of the past few weeks, we Palestinian citizens of Israel have had to maintain our sanity. “Various racist groups use the gap between Israeli Palestinians and Jews to call for the delegitimization of Arab citizenship of Israel” Our conscience told us to exercise caution and refrain from causing the situation to escalate and spill over into Israel. We were reminded about life after the war, since the day the war ends, we will once again find ourselves in the uncomfortable situation of being a Palestinian national minority inside Israel. Still, it was a struggle, and passion did manage to drive many of our youth to engage in protests to end the madness and stop Israel from continuing with its offensive. Many demonstrations were staged, and more than 700 of our finest youth were arrested, with many of them still remaining in jail.
Our political leadership had asked for demonstrations, but had also asked that they be non-violent, “Palestinian citizens of Israel want to be regarded as full citizens, and do not want to give up their ability to impact the country’s policy towards the Palestinian people”and that we avoid clashes with the Israeli police, capable of not only resulting in casualties like in October 2000, but also of widening the gap between Israeli Palestinians and Jews. Various racist groups use this gap to call for the delegitimization of Arab citizenship of Israel, ultimately preparing the ground for a possible transfer of our population outside of Israel’s borders. These groups even succeeded in passing a motion in the elections committee against the only two Arab political parties, banning them from participating in the upcoming elections scheduled for February 10, 2009. This attempt at a political transfer could ultimately end in a much-feared physical transfer, although actions are being taken in the Supreme Court to overturn the committee’s decision.
BRINGING BACK THE ARAB PEACE PLAN
We Palestinian citizens of Israel have a vested interest in a peace agreement between our people and our state. “Israel should show its good will by accepting the Arab peace plan and taking the necessary steps to implement it” We do not want to remain conditional citizens suspected of constituting a fifth column. We want to be regarded as full citizens of Israel, but at the same time we do not want to give up our ability to impact the country’s policy, especially that towards our brethren, the Palestinian people.
We want to influence the Israelis’ point of view towards the Palestinians in particular, and the Arabs in general. The Arab peace plan must be brought back to life and presented to the Israelis, so that they cannot hide from reality: the Arab world is ready to accept Israel in its pre-1967 borders. Israeli leaders have not acknowledged this fact, so that they can continue to justify their aggressiveness towards the Palestinians. The longer they do so, the more they will weaken the moderate voices in the Arab world. Instead of just flexing its muscles, Israel should show its good will by accepting the Arab peace plan and taking the necessary steps to implement it.
In the meantime, we will continue to lick the Gazans’ open wounds and send them food to eat, medication to ease their pain, blankets to keep them warm, cement to help them fill in the holes in their walls, and love so that they know that they are not alone.
It is also time for Palestinian unity, as without it, Palestinians will never receive their own state.