One of the perils in writing about the Palestine/Israel question is that one can sometimes be misunderstood. There are so many nuances that when one writes in a fashion outside the normal lines of the debate, he might receive the same criticism and praise from all sides.
Last week, I wrote a satirical column about how we Palestinians could rediscover our lost “Jewishness” and become citizens of Israel. I also claimed that Santa Claus wasn’t real since he never got me what I really wanted for Christmas: justice for the Palestinians. I then received some furious responses.
E-mail from a Jew: “Amer, how dare you say you want to be a citizen of Israel?!”
E-mail from an Arab: “Amer, how dare you say you want to be a citizen of Israel?!”
E-mail from Santa Claus: “Amer, maybe next year. Oh, and the Easter Bunny says hello.”
When I wrote my last column, I was being, um, how do you say, sarcastic. A mass Palestinian conversion to Judaism would of course solve nothing, since Israel’s moniker as a Jewish state has very little to do with actually being Jewish, and much more to do with being a colonial-settler project. That is to say it is much less concerned with what it brought to the land of Palestine, and much more concerned with eliminating what was already there. Israel, in its own eyes, can never fully succeed unless it rids itself of its “Palestinianness.”
Israel has always had this nagging problem… us. See, it turns out that “a land without a people for a people without a land” actually wasn’t true. I can imagine that if it were, we may have never seen Ethiopian, Iranian, Iraqi, and Russian Jews (and non-Jews) brought into Israel. Israel has always seen itself as fighting a demographic war for its soul. Moreover, it has propagated this massive myth that somehow the Jews are the “natives” and the Palestinians the “foreigners.” This is how Israel gets away with talking about “tolerating” the Palestinian presence, or “integrating” them into Israeli society.
In this sense, it is not much different from early American settlement, which came to see itself existing only in opposition to the native population, first undertaking policies to wipe them all out, then creating a society in which they were essentially non-persons, or even worse, a “nuisance.” In fact, on the 2010 Census form, the term “Native American” is not even used. It instead uses “American Indian,” a term that is inaccurate, and most importantly, does not connote that these people in fact had a preexisting tie to the land we all live on today. This kind of talk might disturb and confuse most Americans, and, frankly, ruin the myths we have been taught. In fact, I would love to go to the next major Republican gathering and ask all the Native Americans to identify themselves. I think Sarah Palin might raise her hand.
Palestinians are ready for peace. Let me tell you how I know this to be certain. Some time ago, even before the laughable 1993 Oslo Accords, Palestinians far and wide fully came to accept that whatever solution is ultimately reached would include our living, breathing, and working alongside Jewish Israelis in everyday life. Conversely, high-ranking Jewish leaders and politicians are still, in 2011, having discussions about how to get rid of the Palestinians.
Well, Israel, let me tell something that many of your neighboring countries already know. We’re bad houseguests. We don’t leave when you ask us to. Except… oh, yeah… we’re not guests in Israel. You are. But you know what, you can stay as long as you like… forever even. We Palestinians should adopt a new strategy, being the first society in the last 500 years to tell Jews they are completely welcome. Of course, the last society to do that was also Arab and Muslim. Jews lived freely in Muslim and Arab empires, economically, religiously, intellectually, and politically. So with open arms, we accept you. I know, Hamas is being a little bitchy, but let me talk to them. They’ll come around.
But Israel, you have to accept us too. We’re not going anywhere. Unlike Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, we actually exist.