Sunday, November 07, 2004

Why Palestine Is So Dear to Us

Many Americans cannot appreciate the link between the anger of 1.5 billion Muslims and the plight of few million Palestinians on a small piece of land that makes less than one percent of the Muslim world. To them, this is a sorrowful affair, but not enough of a cause for the resultant clash of civilizations. Instead, they suggest, Palestinians could easily be absorbed in the Arab and Muslim world. Life goes on. End of story.
Just imagine if someone suggested that the destruction of a couple of towers in New York, and a single wall in the Pentagon, and the death of some 3,000 people, not all of them Americans, do not deserve the anger of 260 million Americans. There are more people killed in accidents and crimes in a day. An earthquake or a hurricane could have caused similar destruction and loss of lives.
What is the big deal? The buildings can be easily rebuilt. The families of the victims and the owners of affected buildings can be nicely compensated. Life goes on. End of story.
But no. America was rightly upset, rightly angry, and rightly resolute on punishing those responsible for mass-murdering Americans and insulting America. We do disagree on why this happened, what is the appropriate response, and who should be punished. But we certainly agree that America was attacked and insulted and must respond in kind. Punishment should match the crime.
Similarly, how could any just person suggest that the uprooting of millions from their ancestors’ homeland can be easily compensated somewhere else? I understand that in America people move around. Except for Natives, all came from other continents. In the Old World, it was different. A land where my ancestors were buried, my history was made, my culture is based can’t be easily replaced. Given the choice, an old family house in a poor village is a world better than a luxurious Manhattan apartment or a Swiss chalet.
If the Jews of the world feel the same toward a homeland they left four thousands years ago, what of the Palestinians who were kicked out only forty or fifty years ago and have no place they could call home.
But if that is the case for the Palestinians, what is the stake for Muslims and Arabs? I could ask the same question of Americans. What was in it for the West to intervene on behalf of Christians of East Timor, Sudan and the old Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania?
In Islam, we are a big family, all for one, one for all. Fellow Muslims are regarded as brothers and sisters. What affects one in Chechnya or Kashmir hurts us all.
In addition, Palestine is a holy land. Jerusalem is as holy to Muslims as it is to Christians and Jews.
For us, Palestinians, Muslims and Christians, are an extended family. Of course, we care about the schoolgirl who was shot twenty times by an Israeli solider who wasn’t justly punished for it. Surely, we feel bitter about what happened to the little boy who was targeted by Israeli soldiers and died in his father’s hands. You bet we feel the pain of hundreds of families, whose homes were destroyed in days by Israeli bulldozers as a collective punishment.
We don’t need to be Arabs or Muslims to feel sorry for them, any decent human should, as Americans, rightly, expected us to feel about the victims of 9/11. The world felt the pain of both Americans and Palestinians and demanded justice. The difference is: America is a nuclear superpower, and can take justice into its hands, never mind the UN, world law and opinion. The Palestinians can only hit back against the sophisticated, overwhelming Israeli killing machines, with stones, small fire, and human bombers.
Now that our stand, as Muslims and Arabs, is, hopefully, clear, let me explain why we blame America, more than Israel, for our pain. First, America was the first in the world to recognize Israel. It took President Truman 10 minutes to do so in 1948. On the other hand, it took generations for the US to recognize any Palestinian representative. The US was the last country in the world, other than Israel, to recognize the PLO, years after the UN recognized it as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
For fifty years now, the US chose to blindly support Israel against the Arabs. It vetoed tens of Security Council resolutions. It voted, mostly alone, with Israel some eighty UN resolutions. It supplied Israel with hundreds of billions of dollars in cash and sophisticated arms and guaranteed loans. In short, by providing the bloodline to an otherwise failed state, the US is more than a partner in crime. It is the mother ship.

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