Through Racist Eyes

As soon as someone of Palestinian descent decides to engage the world in a self-explaining narrative, one immediately confronts racist attitudes. Many reading this right now may be thinking that I am exaggerating. Would that it was true.

This phenomenon is especially acute in the US with the aftermath of the 9-11 tragedy. While a significant portion of the Palestinian community is Christian, this rarely gets mentioned. All Palestinians are "lumped in" with Muslims. One might think ignorance is at the heart of the grouping together, but there is something darker behind it.

Palestinians are also "lumped" together with Arabs in general. Despite having its own unique history, dialect and culture. Many see Palestinians as just another Arab tribe.

You do not need to call a Palestinian a "sand nigger" to exhibit racism. Defining ethnicities in ways that are detrimental to the group is the beginning of a racist creed.

Palestinians are defined as "terrorists," "radicals," and "savages" often enough. These are obviously racist epithets. But maybe even more pernicious is the benign definitions that rob Palestinians of their essential identity. It is cultural identity theft and what makes it racist is its political implication.

This is not a new phenomenon. Cherokee, Sioux, Iroquois and Apache Native Americans were "just Indians" despite having different languages and culture. With the westward push of "Manifest Destiny" all Indians were the same. Subtle and not-so-subtle differences were to be ignored. Their individual cultural identities were destroyed as the great westward migration uprooted tribe by tribe.

All Native American tribes were defined as "savages," "uncivilized," "barbaric" and needed to be rounded up and put on reservations. Oh yes, possessing one drop of "Indian blood" in Virginia could disqualify you from the right to vote.

It is obviously racist to lump all Native Americans into one people. Was this an accident? Is it now an accident to group all Arabs into one tribe? The answer to both is a resounding "NO!"

Racists have an agenda and they use definitional language to further that agenda. Creating one overriding group is a way to destroy individual cultural identities. In the case of Palestinians, the racist argot goes something like:

"There are a lot of Arab nations with a lot of land in the Middle East. Why don’t Palestinians go live there, instead of Israel."

There are many people reading right now, nodding their heads in approval. They are not even aware that the above is a racist statement. But the intention or thought process is purely born from racism.

Palestinians have a separate identity and culture. We want to live in our ancestral home. We want to live in an area that is holy to us, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Our own identity is at stake. Just as Apache and Cherokee were different tribes, we have a different tribe as well.

Racism has a purpose. In the Palestinian case, it is to divert attention away from justice and to preserve a state dedicated to racist principles; namely Israel. For Israel will welcome Jews from any part of the world, but not let Palestinians come home. So they must try to eradicate the Palestinian identity and subsume it into being "Muslim" or "Arab".

To be Palestinians and to assert one’s identity will provoke the racist. You can see this when Palestinians demand the "Right to Return" to their homeland as promised in the UN charter. Racism is about defining others in one’s own terms. "They" become all alike in the racist lexicon. Understand, one need not say with mock inflection "Ay-rabs are all the same" or use derogatory epithets to be a racist. Intention is enough.

Golda Meir was a master propagandist – and racist par excellence. Her racism led her to exclaim, "There are no such things as Palestinians." Denying a people’s existence is the ultimate racist creed. It means Palestinians have no standing. They simply do not exist. A generation of hard-line Israelis still clings to this notion. This has lead to many people in the US parroting the same line of reasoning. If a Palestinian identity does not exist, they are not unique and should live anywhere else in the Arab world. Anywhere else except the land of Israel.

The logic is inexorable.

So when Palestinians demand the Right to Return to their homeland what does the racist say? The racist says, "But the ‘character’ of the Jewish state will be compromised if Palestinians return. Jews can return, but Palestinians (who don’t really exist anyway) must live somewhere else pick an "Ay-rab country," – "they are all the same anyway."

When racist eyes are trained on you, it is not pleasant. There is more than a psychological reason for institutionalized racism. The entire state of Israel has institutionalized racism because its charter is to preserve a Jewish character. Any other country in the world would be lambasted for such ethnic exclusionary premises.

But in the US, Israel is celebrated.