By Mazin Qumsiyeh
It seems like yesterday that we watched Israeli tanks rolling down the hills towards our sleepy town of Beit Sahour 45 years ago today. As a child it was the most frightening sight. The second stage of the Zionist expansion on the land of Palestine unleashed terror that our generation had not experienced but my parents’ generation had during eth Nakba when between January 1948 and the end of 1949, some 530 villages and towns were ethnically cleansed.
The changes I witnessed the 45 years since the "6 day" invasion of 1967 have been nothing short of monumental. Those hills that the tanks rolled down on are all now filled with colonial settlements that scar the ancient landscape. The Israeli quarries have literally dug up other hills and trucked stone and soil away to build the "Jewish state" while destroying Palestinian lives.
But I do not want to take time here to write of these violations. I think anyone can find thousands of documents and reports from independent human rights groups and international agencies describing the horrors of colonization, apartheid, and occupation in this "holy land". Nor will I address how people who teach their children about Jewish suffering over the ages teach them that it is OK to inflict this suffering on native/indigenous people. Nor do I want to write on this occasion of the treachery of western countries who profess human rights and international law actually become complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Nor do I want to address the treachery of Arab leaders (yes including some Palestinians) who were complicit in helping make 7 million of us refugees or displaced people. I do want to talk about us, the people, and especially about mental occupation.
Occupiers/colonizers are of course always dependent not just on military might but also on propaganda and psychological manipulation to reach their goals. For example, from the late 19th century, the Zionists successfully infiltrated the minds of their victims with notions like "Arabs" and/vs. "Jews". With this one simple concept, Zionists succeeded in,
1) equating a linguistic group with a religion and elevating Jewishness to a supposed national structure ("a people")
2) removing Arab Jews as a viable group whose allegiance lies naturally with their fellow Arabic speaking people
3) fostering anti-Jewish feelings (mistakenly called anti-Semitism) to help their cause in conflating Zionism with Judaism. Before that they coined and popularized the term anti-Semitism to confuse the Europeans and claim they are Semites.
From those early efforts in the 19th century, the people of the world were subjected to sustained intensive efforts at brainwashing.
We actually understand these propaganda efforts as natural and expected in efforts to propel racist ideologies. What we do not understand is why many native Palestinians accepted defeat and even adopted the Zionized version of history. Even some of our school textbooks perpetuate the mythologies that keep the Zionist nightmare a reality. It is easy to keep it alive when we, the victims keep the myth of the exodus from Egypt to Masada to the falsified history of Josephus to the suppression of our Canaanite ancestry to the notion that Jewishness is somehow biological.
Some of this is due to those who are religious confusing metaphors and myths with historiography. Some of it is due to ignorance: e.g. ignorance of the fact that the Philistines were actually Canaanite people and not from Crete or that both ancient Arabic and Hebrew were dialects of Canaanite Aramaic. Some of it is pure foolishness; for example that somehow we can "return" Palestine to an idealized (fictional) Islamic or Jewish state.
Would it not be better to admit the wrong that was done to the native people, do some restorative justice, and begin to discuss among ourselves how we Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and others can live TOGETHER in a country in full equality?
How about a new joint political movement to reform and to dismantle the dysfunctional Israeli and Palestinian political structures so as to build a new reality? Aren't 64 years of Nakba and 45 years of Naksa long enough?
There are 11.5 million Palestinians in the world and billions of fellow human beings who know what is right to contend with at best half a million deluded Jewish Zionists (and the equally deluded Christian Zionists who support them). What prevents justice (i.e. peace) is apathy and ignorance.
Is it not time to shed these?
- Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in occupied Palestine. He is author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle" and “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment”.