This week, there has been much talk about John Kerry’s efforts to reignite the stalled peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Kerry is confident, or so he seems, about the prospects of bringing everyone back together for fruitful talks.
Israel has put off negotiations for some time, opting to keep the status quo going. It is working out pretty well for her. The settlement building business is booming, Jerusalem is becoming less and less Arab, and all of it is happening with very little mention on the news.
The latest news reports have stated that the Palestinians are telling Mr. Kerry that they will only come back to the table based on negotiations that would give a Palestinian state borders based on pre-1967 lines with minimal swaps. Israel has repeated its stance that she will not agree to any preconditions about discussions before discussing anything. Of course, that is just another way of saying that she doesn’t want to negotiate anything at all.
Do you know why she doesn’t want to negotiate anything? She doesn’t care. Israel just doesn’t care.
As a Palestinian, I think it’s pretty cute that we really try to demand anything. Of course we are powerless. Any form of statehood or independence is completely dependent on whether or not Israel wants to give it to us. And she doesn’t care.
There need be no discussion on borders. If you ask a Palestinian to draw the borders of his country, he draws that familiar triangle that encompasses all of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. That map is what we carry on our key chains. It is what we wear around our necks. It is what we know in our hearts.
If you ask an Israeli to draw his country, he draws the same thing. If you don’t believe me, you can believe the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. The map of Israel it uses on its website does not show any borders at all around the West Bank at all. It even fully includes the occupied Golan Heights.
I’ll tell you a secret. Even though we were kinda sorta expelled from our homes by Israel (even up until today), we’re willing to share the whole thing. But Israel is not interested in sharing of any kind. Do you know why? Because she just doesn’t care.
There is no such thing as a “starting point” for negotiations when the party who holds all the cards is not interested in negotiating anything.
Israel continues to find ways to de-Palestinianize East Jerusalem. While building new neighborhoods and confiscating more land, Israel upholds law meant to erase Palestinian existence there. Palestinians in East Jerusalem, although Israel annexed it long ago, are not citizens of Israel, but simply legal residents of the city. Families where one parent holds Jerusalem residency and the other does not may not live together in the city. This leads to many families having to make the hard choice to leave Jerusalem, therefore forever surrendering their Jerusalem residency.
Sounds inhumane and uncompassionate, right? But Israel doesn’t care.
Israeli soldiers systematically dehumanize Palestinians and anyone who supports them. They have used Facebook to say every Palestinian child is a “little shit” and deserves a “bullet in his mouth.” Just this week, reports surfaced that Israeli soldiers in training were making and eating “Rachel Corrie” pancakes. An Israeli bulldozer in Gaza flattened Rachel in 2003. Earlier this year, an Israeli solider posted an Instagram picture of a young Palestinian boy in the crosshairs of his rifle. How did Israel respond? She posted a YouTube video urging soldiers to use social media to show the “pretty face” of the IDF.
She really doesn’t care.
Last month, a 100-year old Israeli general told the world that forces under his command destroyed Arab villages in 1948. He proudly said, “My conscience is at ease with that, because if we hadn’t done so, then there would be no state by now. There would be a million more Arabs.”
You don’t really think she cares, do you?
Israel consistently tells us that it needs Palestinians to recognize her existence. Palestinians work in Israel, live under Israeli control, and use Israeli currency. We recognize Israel pretty strongly.
On the other hand, she still calls us a “demographic threat,” destroys our villages whenever possible, and pretends our recipes belong to her. We don’t need to recognize Israel, but maybe she should recognize us.
The starting point for dialogue is very simple. It is recognition of the truth. Palestinians can only feel comfortable speaking to Israel when she acknowledges the truth.
The time for denial is over.
Just say we were present.
Just say you kicked us out.
Just say you’re still trying.
Just say falafel was here before you were.
Just say it. It will probably feel good.
And just say you’re sorry. We don’t care about anything else. Just that.
Any talks between us Palestinians and Israel must be preceded by just one thing: an unmitigated, unqualified, and genuine apology from her to us.
Before anything happens, we need to know that you think that we are actually human beings. We need to know that you actually care.
Then we can start talking.