Bibi, Barack, & Recognition

As a Palestinian-American, I have spent the last week glued to my television set. The Palestinian-Israeli saga has been in headlines daily. After over 60 years, even tornadoes, floods and volcanoes can’t stop us. It seems that God is trying his best to rip us from the headlines, but it’s not working.

Presidential policy outlines, speeches to AIPAC, and an address to Congress by the Israeli Prime Minister are like crack to me. I’ve been unable to turn off the news for a week. For a Palestinian, that’s not saying much. While some people invite their friends over to watch a movie, we’re a little different. “Hey Jihad, I’m just made some popcorn… Wanna come over and watch Anderson Cooper?” Yes, we watch CNN too much… and yes, sometimes we name our kids Jihad.

Of course, there was not much news in the news, at least not for us. It was simply the same-old love-fest between American politicians and Israel. Barack Obama, like the 5 presidents before him, is trying his best to bring the ultimate peace. And like them, he will be unsuccessful.

See, what President Obama does not understand is that the Palestinian-Israeli peace process is not about Palestinians recognizing Israelis’ right to exist. It is about exactly the opposite.

Israel has been attempting to rid themselves of the Palestinians since its inception. Village massacres in the 1948 war, racist government policies, and settlement building on occupied Palestinian land have been some of the methods Israel has implemented in trying to achieve this goal.

We don’t need to recognize Israel. Israel needs to recognize us.

In 1993, the PLO (the sole representative of the Palestinian people at the time) recognized Israel’s right to exist. Israeli politicians, cabinet members, and Benjamin Netanyahu still talk about ridding themselves of the Palestinian “demographic threat.”

We don’t need to recognize Israel. Israel needs to recognize us.

After the 1993 Oslo Accords (which were approved in a manner much more beneficial to Israel’s interests than to the Palestinians’), Palestinians went on to build a quasi-governmental authority in an attempt to move forward in a process that would ultimately allow them to govern themselves. Yasser Arafat was received as a hero, though admittedly he was not. Yitzhak Rabin’s prize for attempting to make peace with the Palestinians was his assassination at the hands of one of his own Jewish citizens.

We don’t need to recognize Israel. Israel needs to recognize us.

And I really hate to keep harping on this, but hummus is not Israeli. Israeli hummus makers can keep making hummus. I just ask that they place a little disclaimer on the container: “Original recipe stolen from Palestinians.”

In what world is it sane to call the indigenous people of a land a “demographic threat?” This is not about how far back you want to go in history. This is not about who was there first. This is just about who was there. Palestinians are a reality that Israel still does not want to accept.

Israel has implemented its ethnic cleansing policies at a very slow rate. They are clearly patient. But patience is supposed to ultimately yield positive results. For Israel, that positive result is the expulsion of the native Palestinian population. And it’s not working. Israel sees that, and is clearly bothered by that reality. The whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict revolves not around land, nor around differing beliefs in the divine. It is simply about a powerful population trying to expel a less powerful one from the same land.

After President Obama declared that a settlement should be based on the 1967 borders, Netanyahu went crazy (or crazier). He declared those borders “indefensible.” We should of course remember that Israel fought the 1967 war against Jordan, Egypt, and Syria. As a result, it occupied the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Syria still lays claim to the Golan Heights (which would not be incorporated into a Palestinian state in any case), but Jordan and Egypt, with whom Israel now enjoys peace agreements, no longer lay any claim to Gaza or the West Bank. So against what threat exactly are these borders “indefensible?”

Israel has injected about 500,000 illegal settlers into the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel does not want to negotiate about these areas. See, Netanyahu lashed out at President Obama precisely because he does want to negotiate with the Palestinians, a people he sees as having no claim to the land they live upon.

We don’t need to recognize Israel. Israel needs to recognize us.

President Obama, of course, quickly apologized in a speech a few days later to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He reiterated that “1967 borders” actually meant “1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps,” and in any case did not include East Jerusalem. Jerusalem would remain “undivided.” He received thunderous applause. His remarks on that day were nothing short of disgusting.

The next day, Netanyahu addressed Congress saying exactly the same thing, with an applause-filled reception that would make any American president jealous. In other words, “1967 borders” means absolutely nothing. It means whatever Israeli wants it to mean. And if the pesky Palestinians complain, they are an “obstacle to peace.”

What Obama and Netanyahu need to understand and acknowledge is that the Palestinians actually exist. We’re not going anywhere. Only when Israel recognizes that essential fact can there be real discussions on how to move forward. We are not a “demographic threat.” We are a “demographic reality.” We are rightful inhabitants. We deserve security. We have good values. We have a culture, a history, a narrative.

In other words, we exist.

About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. Absolutely on the mark. You should be representing Palestinians instead of the defunct leaders who accept to negotiate within the Israeli-American framework

  2. it’s a revival of what the pilgrims did to North American natives…
    I am a Lebanese nationalist, my focus is how to replace the defunct sectarian ruling class in lebanon with one that represents the majority: Lebanese who believe in equal rights for all sects, and who have had a voice in politics since 1989. We (Lebanese patriots) were negated by arabs and west alike, but now are existence cannot be denied either.
    I therefore sympathize!

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