Yet, every Friday, Palestinian villagers losing precious agricultural land to Israel’s wall turn out to protest peacefully. Unarmed farmers and entire families march to defend their lands. They do so though 16 have been killed, many just kids. They continue to show up though thousands have been injured.
In October, I expressed concern over the arrest of my colleague Mohammed Othman. Shortly before his arrest, Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint took him aside and warned, “We’re going to arrest you, but it’s difficult with you because all you do is talk.” I wrote then, “If talking is a crime, if urging the international community to hold Israel accountable for theft of our land is a crime, then we all are vulnerable.”
Less than two months later I, too, was sitting in an Israeli prison cell – for talking too much.
As they dragged me from my house, Israeli occupation forces threatened my family’s well-being, saying they would only see me again after a prisoner exchange.
Because we Palestinians are under military occupation, where military decrees sharply limit political activity, the struggle for our most basic human rights is, by default, criminalized. Once arrested, protesters do not face civil courts, but military courts which blatantly violate international standards of fair trial.
Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to enable Israel's oppression and theft of land to the tune of $5.5 billion annually, fueling more anti-American feeling in the Middle East.
I've been thinking for a while that there are (at least) two unlikely pre-conditions that must be met before there will be peace in this region:
- The existence of Israel must be recognized a fait accompli. It has no special "right to exist" any more than than did the U.S.S.R., Austria–Hungary, or any of the other nations that have come and gone; but the people living there now are there and, so long as they respect the rights of others, have the right to be free from violence. This does not mean that the Palestinian people give up the right of self-defense.
- The existence of Israel must be recognized and admitted to be based on a huge crime, dating back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration when the U.K. decided it could exploit the Zionist movement for its own geopolitical benefit by supporting a "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people," and never mind all the people already living there. This does not mean that the people of Israel all have to pack up and leave, any more than the fact that the United States was founded on the genocide of the Native peoples means that I need to move to the homeland of my ancestors.
But so long as so many Americans believe that Palestine was essentially empty until Israel was formed, and so many Palestinians still think it's possible to expel the invaders, and so many Israelis actually believe that they have some divine right to that land, and so long as we ignore the fact that most of the trouble can be traced to the goddamn British Empire and fail to demand aid and compensation for the region from the U.K., the blood and the tears will continue.