I read a speech delivered by the former Israeli president, Ezer Weizman. I found it a romanticization of Zionism. Being one of the victims of Zionism, I know that this ideology has two faces: a tender, moralistic memory-enriched face which prepares its followers to cope with the other face. The other face is one of racism, fascism and insensitivity to others’ human rights. A similar two-faceted ideology is the source of power for most pathologically sick ideologies in the history of mankind. “Shoot and cry,” some call it.
The Nazis smothered their youth with the idealism of Nazism, teaching them to want a “pure” society, and giving them pride in the supposed superiority of the Germanic race and the build up of the Third Reich. This twisted battery of morals was able to compensate for the other face of Nazism. It made it possible for the Germans to willingly undertake a mass deportation of minorities and, beyond that, to kill millions of people through an acceptable and supposedly essential process of “purifying” their society.
You have told me how Zionists whom you meet in America tell you that what happened to those of Jewish faith during the Holocaust was unique, the worst genocide in history, carried out systematically and that they must support Israel so that this can never happen again. I wanted you to see the Weizman speech. I wanted to de-construct it so you could understand how I see this particular man sinking to a false sentimentalization of the Zionist point-of-view. His speech concerns only his “pure” Jewish culture, race, people, whatever you want to call it. He discounts all others as if they were not even a part of history.
For me, having experienced the Palestinian Nebka, not exactly like the Holocaust, but close enough, his words swim in a warm pool of lies, plots, twisted morals all leading to the death of innocent humans who lost their dreams and lives because of Zionist idealism, just as those of Jewish faith lost theirs to the ugly premises of the Third Reich. I think to myself, there were few, if any, Arabs in Germany before World War II, so how would Hitler have treated us had we been among those of Semitic heritage? Would being Arab have made a difference to Hitler?
So, I started to write. When I touched my keyboard, I found myself not taking apart Weizman’s arguments, but reconstructing his speech from my point-of-view and sentiments. I replaced the word Jew with Palestinian and episodes from Zionist history books to those we learn about as our heritage. Then, I gave rationales for the way I want this war to end. The results speak for themselves.
A Palestinian’s Reconstruction of a Speech by Ezer Weizman
It was fate that delivered me and my generation into this great era, a time when the Palestinians have to struggle for existence in their homeland. I no longer dwell on my family’s land. I am a wanderer, a Palestinian who migrates from country to country, from exile to exile. All Palestinians in every generation have been as I. They still reside in the shadow of our trees, in the warmth of our homes, in previous generations, places, and events. I now wander, a refugee along the far reaching paths of the world. I am dreaming of the day when I will migrate through the expanses of time, from generation to generation, down the paths of memory to my home in Palestine.
Memory shortens distances. Four-hundred generations have passed since my people first came into being; to me this seems like a few days. Only four-hundred generations have passed since the pioneering Arabs, escaping the hot deserts of Arabia, fell in love with the green fields and hills of Palestine from which I have been expelled. Only three-hundred generations have passed since my Canaanite ancestors built Or Salim, the City of the Sun. Or Salim’s borders are lost to me; they are only a dream. Only two-hundred and fifty generations have passed since the mighty ships of my Canaanite ancestors where carrying jars of purple dyes and the hearts of brave dreamy men, stroked the sea with the long oars of trireme’s. Oh, that I could stand on the Canaanite shore instead of being uprooted and placed far from the shore of my people’s place. My people went as traders, not warriors, to spread the alphabet, mathematics and the art of Arab civilization. We went to Spain. We went to India.
Only two-hundred generations have passed since a man named Abraham rose up and climbed Mt. Sinai to take from God, from Allah, the laws for the country I’ve lived in since my birth. The grandfathers of our traditions welcomed the wisdom of Abraham and believed it came from God, from Allah. Our ancestors sold Abraham our snow-white sheep and gave him a tent in which to dwell. Our men of God respected Abraham because he did not steal our land or destroy our homes.
Only two-hundred generations have passed since the dark-eyed Philistines landed their elegant triremes at Lud and Ramlah and created art out of their fine glass work. Then, a dark day came when the inhabitants of Lud and Ramlah, following the orders of a victorious general, passed into the terror of exile.
Only one-hundred generations have passed since a bare-footed Jesus Christ walked on the Sea of Galilee declaring that love and forgiveness are the most powerful and important motivators in the world. These ideas became Christianity and a great part of Islam, as well.
Only seventy-generations have passed since the angels carried a trader called Muhammad supporting the message of Jesus Christ to the city of the prophets from where he rose to heavens. Only seventy-generations have passed since the tender steps of Omar the Just soothed the streets of Jerusalem and declared an era of human brotherhood.
And now? Only two-generations have passed since the shock and lasting pain of the Nakba traumatized my innocence. I, a descendant of the glorious Canaanites and Philistines, and a believer in Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad; I, born amongst the olive trees have been witness to it all.
I was a shepherd Canaanite boy singing to my goats and sheep at Majdal. I loved a Philistine girl picking wild-flowers and lilies at Gaza. I was a brave sailor at Akko. I built the first city at Jericho. I shaped limestones for the glory of the ancient god, Baal, and sacrificed animals for the beautiful Goddess Ishtar. I planted palms in the Jordan Valley. I raised cows in Askelon, and planted grapes and squeezed wine in Ashdod. I built Or-Salim for the glory of the sun. I ploughed my fields and refused to sell them even when our wells were dry. I stayed and I stayed and generations came and went.
Then, I lost my family at Deir Yasin. I was pushed with my nation into exile. My home was stolen; my olive trees cut down. Bulldozers demolished my dreamy village, my mosque became a dance hall or a museum with a menorah atop our traditional dome. Arab Christian churches were hidden or denied in false explanations of Arab religions and cultures.
I lived in a tent under the rain; I ate donated flour and oil. I died in the Kufr Qasim slaughter; I carried a gun in Lebanon and lost my dears in Sabra and Shatilla. I saluted the colors of my flag when I was twelve and threw stones at invaders’ tanks when I was thirteen. I was shot, beaten, humiliated, tortured, arrested, sent to a concentration camp in The Negev. But I never forgot Palestine, the country where I was born, from which I had been exiled and which I come from and to which I shall return.
Just as memories force us to respond within the context of our past, so does the virtue of hope prepare us for each day of our future. After all, in the past century alone we have been suspended between life and death, between hope and despair, between displacement and “rootedness”. Ours is the terrible century of terror and injustice in which the Zionists and their friends destroyed our delicate society and established their national home on the ruins of ours. It is also the mind-boggling century of revival, of independence, self-discovery, and an endless hope for peace with justice. It is not truce that we want, but justice which assures the end of war.
For more than a hundred years, we Palestinians have struggled against the darkness of injustice and ignorance. We did not leave our borders willingly; we left because of the horrors of ethnic cleansing. We cultivated our fields and planted grapes on our hills and as we did we saw that our land was being stolen piece-by-piece. Of course, we fought those who invaded us. We refused to sell our land to the foreigners. We suspected their ugly plans. We watched with horror, but we did not stand in line to see our end. We put aside our ploughs and picked up our stones. We had an Intifada. We were logistically weak and poor; all we had was the power of our determination.
Agreements were signed, but the terms were not written down and the invaders continued on while the world watched and held the invaders’ coats and ignored or misconstrued the intent of those who would take everything from us. Let me tell you, we Arab people are caught up by the power of men who long for their place on land instead of finding place within their souls. We see that those who cannot find solace or home within their hearts and souls cannot understand where we exist in our hearts and souls. They cannot see that spiritual power is more gratifying and stronger than military might and wrongful expropriation of other people’s land.
We Palestinians yearn for peace; we dream of it and pray for it. It appears at every juncture of our thought: in the Bible, the Quran, the songs, the breezes, lilies, and rain drops. Our religions, Christian and Muslim, give us our penchant for recalling our rights. Negotiators at the peace talks, great powers-that-be, say that we Palestinians cannot define what we want. We look from our sad eyes wondering how to be cautious and practical and fair. We ask only to be as we were, perhaps, only as we are. We want our families and neighbors near and far to be free to come and go; we want to work in our olive groves knowing that no soldiers will come and uproot our livelihood; we want our educations; we want to contribute to the world as we did in another age and time.
We deal with the fragile, delicate process of peace suffused with hope, “sang-froid” and wisdom. It is not our inability to say what we want that stops peace in its tracts. Fascist ideas and racist plans are the sabbotageurs. The atmosphere is charged. We know that there is more behind the conflict than expansionist dreamers striving to destroy peace. We know that even those who love peace are apprehensive, and both camps still have unhealed wounds and fresh memories of spilled blood. For us, the youth of Palestine, the blood of our brothers and sisters cry out to us, our refugees still hold their door keys in their grasp, unable to believe or accept that a people who suffered so much themselves would come and take from us and never give back what they took.
Many peace treaties have been signed in the course of history. They speak of economic relations and security arrangements, compensation and borders. We and our invaders sit today to discuss the practical. We are burdened by the questions of holiness: holy land, holy graves, and holy wars, holy places of worship. Holiness in the Holy Land seems only a memory. We think of the time of Joshua. Some Christians say that Joshua refused to do God’s bidding and choose not to “smite” people just to allow Israelite expansionism. Some say he used reason to make a choice. Other Christians say that we Muslims think only of war. They forget the Templar knights, and Pontius Pilate and the Romans and Greeks and modern nations and the ever vocal Christian right who want none of us Semitic folk, Jew or Arab, to live in their hometowns.
We are dealing today with people who allow ancient fundamentals of vengeance and settling of scores to intermingle these emotional responses with any notions of peace. We strive to be practical and judicious, but we step up to the conference table with feet soiled by the residue of the past. How can we help but remember the ramparts of Or Salim where we pruned our trees with one hand and clutched a weapon in the other.
One recent agreement between the Zionists and the Palestinians includes a clause about educating Jews and Arabs without the rhetoric of hate. Those of us with educations believe that schools on both sides of Jerusalem’s Road Number One must teach archeology and anthropology with sound historical material taken from both sides of our histories. Understanding must replace fear. It is not our religions that are the evil before us. Judaism, Christianity and Islam gives us rules to live by and in all our literature we can read about war and invasion and fear and hate as well as of love. The Christian version of our monotheistic religions sums up the meaning of our holy books in the lines, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Judaism and Islam assess morality with similar verses. Our holy books tell us how to live in peace; it is people who use religion as an excuse to carry out evil, to take what they want in primitive disregard for modern morality that has gotten us to where we are today.
Do not dismiss what I say. We are trying to achieve a peace that will heal the wounds of ten million wounded souls. But ancient Crusader maps hang on the wall, and ancient Torah memories hover in the atmosphere, and primeval prophecies strive to fulfill themselves. Seated with us at the discussion table, watching us carefully, are guests from time immemorial, representatives of bygone eras: Canaanites and Philistines, Joshua and David, the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ. Sometimes the burden is too heavy to bear. However, despite the difficulty and pain, it may also be the source of our strength and hope. Let us bear in mind that this Holy Land is composed not only of holy places, but also of homes and fields, factories, schools, and workshops. There are not only cemeteries and dead bones, but also live people whose fate is in our hands.
We have invested too much time, resources, and physical and psychological effort in the struggle for our national existence. The struggle is still not over, but now we have work to do in our fields, schools, research institutes, workshops, and laboratories. Our true aspirations reside there, as well as in the battlefield for our rights. Our very essence is anchored in study and education. Those who fashion our ethics always prefer the pen to the sword.
We are just like the flowers that I see now from my window. No matter how in the cold and harsh winter they are broken, no matter how in the hot summer they are burned and dried, no matter where in the autumn wind they are scattered, a day comes when they bloom again, fresh, young and so beautiful. From their tiny seeds, springs renewal. Amazingly, the soft green stems defeat the hard earth. They find the cracks amid the stones and raise their heads to face the bright sun. Could it be that those who would take our land have lost their feeling for the land as generations of them moved away from the soil and the ploughed fields and into the market place becoming new powerful governments where right is the product of might?
Dear friends, we Palestinians are a people of memory and prayer. We are a people of words and hope. We have established empires and built castles and palaces. We have fashioned ideas; we have built memorials. Our dreams are towers of aspiration. For us, allowing Palestinians the right to return, even in principle, is a statement that could begin the process of soothing our pain and healing our wounds. It is a facing saving apology, a quiet admission of culpability and that Israeli power used to accomplish endless human rights violations will cease. We know we will not receive just reparation for every Palestinian who has lost a part of himself or herself to solidification and expansion of the state of Israel. We can live with personal pain if we can see that our national interests will receive respect and support from the Israeli government and the international community. That’s what we want.
Of course, our people will always want to come home. Some, however, will not return to the realities of land with little water, of a state without a strong infrastructure in competition with a well-financed neighbor with the educational expertise, military machine and international connections to stay put. We ask for the right of return; the details can come after the recognition. Internally, we are a weary people arising from a hundred years of internal and external strife. Tired as we are, our future will not blend into the here and now in peaceful, economic, social and spiritual growth unless the people of Palestine receive the respect and support that Zionists, Israelis, Americans and Europeans fully understand through their educations and ability to absorb available information, more information than has ever been available to the human family before. We remember Or Salim, the Jerusalem of old, Al-Quds, opened for all the faithful and descendants of Abraham-Ibrahim, but we ask for the reality of a peace based on a strong foundation of morals and justice and we ask that this will be swiftly and speedily established so that both Israelis and Palestinians can get on with the business of showing the world that there are people alive today can say “no” to apartheid, violence, insistent emotional memories that cannot ease anybody’s soul.
Thameen Darby is a a freelance writer and medical student at Al-Quds University and Native of Palestine.