Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Letter to Our International Activists … Please, Pick a Side.

 Dear international friends and activists,

(I apologize beforehand if this is too harsh for some of you, but well … it was asked for)

I love you all, really, I do, but we need to clarify some important matters here. I believe we’re past the “any kind of support is good” phase and we need an upgrade.

There are millions of “Pro-Palestine” activists out there, but to each and every one of them Palestine holds a different definition, and even though having any kind of support to Palestinians is important, sometimes it’s not enough, not any more.

There are two issues affecting Pro-Palestinian activism worldwide. The first issue is that there is no one unified definition of what “Palestine” is. And the second is that some of this activism stands neutral, supporting “both sides” of the “conflict”. And none of these issues are their fault, it’s our fault as Palestinians for not making the matters clearer, and by writing this today it is nothing but a small attempt in changing some of the misunderstood facts, at least directed to my own friends and acquaintances who are pro-Palestinian activists.

The first and most controversial issue is: What is Palestine?

To most of the world – at least those who acknowledge its existence- it’s the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and sometimes East Jerusalem as well (which is always stupid for me to refer to one city as two) and this terrible terrible mistake of defining Palestine as such must stop. I know, it’s the Palestine Liberation Organization’s fault for agreeing on these terms to define Palestine with in the first place, and it’s our fault as the Palestinian people for not speaking up, but let’s set the record straight.

Palestine is the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and what is now called Israel. By only defining Palestine as the West Bank and Gaza Strip means that you are OKAY with everything that’s happened during 1947-1948 Nakba (Palestinian Catastrophe where thousands were murdered, hundreds of massacres and genocides, and where over 700,000 people were forcibly kicked out of their homes and are now refugees that reached 6 million people worldwide) and you completely accept it as something normal. 

Palestine’s “occupation” as it’s now legally called and acknowledged worldwide hasn’t started only in 1967, it started 66 years when Israel was created on Palestinian soil after eliminating thousands of people and leaving other thousands homeless and scattered around the world, where they are denied the right to come back; denied their “Right of Return”.  

I don’t mean to scare you off when I say that Palestine is also “Israel”, which is what we as Palestinians simply refer to as Palestine 48 (tracking it back to the day where it lost its name as Palestine and was turned into Israel). When I say so, don’t translate it as me saying “Oh, I am anti-Semitic (always funny to hear though, considering I’m technically a Semite myself), I don’t want the Jews to have a home, I am racist, let’s kick the Jews out and send them back to Europe or even better .. drown them in the sea!” No, this is what most people assume we mean when we refer to Israel as Palestine instead. So let’s set the record straight once and for all.

I as a Palestinian, a very proud one too, will never ever allow or want to make other people suffer the same way my people did. I will not kick someone out and take over their home, claim it to be my own, then erase their entire history as if it has never existed, or burn them to death, or demolish their homes, or torture them, or bomb their schools, or steal their land, or build walls –HUGE cement walls- to separate them, or humiliate them on checkpoints … I will try as hard as I can, as long as I breath, to never be turned into the monsters that my culprits were turned into. A holocaust survivor would never want to see another human being suffer the same as he\she did, but if they did eventually do so, or allow such inhumane-cruel crime to take place, then technically the Holocaust was never really over.

Therefore again, saying that Palestine is in fact is “Israel” translates into us not forgetting the tragic history that occurred 66 years ago, it does not mean we want to do the same crime against other people –in this case the Jews, Never! The logo “Never Again” is always connected to the crime of the Holocaust, but when we say “Never Again” it means none of these crimes should ever happen again; Holocaust or Nakba.

Hence no, saying that Palestine is actually what is now called “Israel”-from the river to the sea- won’t make you anti-anything, except being anti-injustice. The concept of Israel is pretty clear, it’s a racist state and a colonial power that keeps gaining its power through genocide and injustice, and being against a state with such “concept” behind it won’t make you any less human, Jewish, activist or anything.

If you’re truly concerned with Palestinian rights, you should be concerned with all Palestinians (West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, Diaspora, Palestinians with Israeli IDs) from the very beginning. You can’t start the story of Lion King from where Simba ran off, there is plenty that’s happened prior to that which led him to run (I know irrelevant story and example, but it’s the only thing I could come up with at the moment). It’s not a cause where you “select” what you want to support, either you are in all the way or you’re not. The tragedy started 66 years ago, not 47 years ago, acknowledge this fact.

Also remember, as nice (to Zionist liberals that is) as the idea of a “Two-State” solution is, it’ll only mean that years and years of crimes against Palestinians will go unpunished and not taken care of, and this is not what being a “human rights advocate” and an “activist” is about. There are huge numbers of Israeli activists, historians, scholars, and journalists (such as Gideon Levy) that consider themselves to be pro-Palestinian just because they support a Two-State solution, example of such is “J Street” group. This group defines itself as following, J Street is the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans fighting for the future of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. We believe that Israel’s Jewish and democratic character depend on a two-state solution, resulting in a Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace and security.

Well, I’m sorry to break it for you “J Street” people - and other Israelis and Americans who think they’re pro-Palestine because they support the Two-State solution- technically you’re worse than Settler-Colonial-Zionists themselves; at least these guys are honest, they don’t like us, they want us out of the country so they can have their promised land for the Jews and only the Jews. You people, J Street people and those of the sort, are nothing but –and sorry for being too forward- hypocrites. If you truly cared about Palestinian rights or even human rights for that matter, you would oppose such segregation and racism in the first place. 

You will ask for citizens to be treated equally and not have a country for people with a certain religion while others will be treated as second-class citizens or even less. You will ask for consequences and sanctions to be imposed for all the crimes that have been committed ever since 1948 in order for your “Jewish democratic homeland” to be established. In other words, “wanting peace for Palestinians”, “the Two-State Solution, and “Israel as a Jewish Democratic homeland” don’t even fit in the same paragraph. Groups like these, who preach peace but couldn’t be further away from it, only make matters worse not better; they literally preach racism under the name of peace.

When such groups go with this approach they should think of the following: agreeing to the Two-State suggestion is like telling the persecuted Jews in Europe –back then during the Holocaust- that they should live side by side (after all that’s been committed against them, without any kind of consequences against the culprits) with the Nazis and just deal with that reality, while knowing that they have homes that were taken from them, family members that were brutally murdered, and years and years of injustice. Injustice going unnoticed, unpunished, and without consequences is simply not right. The Jews have refused to let such oppression go unnoticed and prosecuted Germany, so why should we – as Palestinians- just “forget and forgive”?

The second issue with pro-Palestinian activism is being neutral. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to give up your humanity or anything, trust me, if there’s anyone out there who would love nothing more than people actually hold on to their humanity regardless of race, ethnicity, color, and religion, it’s us: Palestinians. But … being neutral, is not being humane: it is being a coward.

When you say “both sides are to blame for the Gaza war”, or that “I’m with both sides and this madness should end”, or “Both sides should stop being so stubborn and bury their differences in order to bring peace”, or “well, there’s always two sides to each story”, and some more “both sides, both sides, both sides …” you’re actually making the matters worse, not better.

By saying such statements you’re implying two things: either you don’t know enough about what’s really going on, or that you’re just another conflicted person in the world with double standards and not enough courage.

Only a couple of hours ago, the famous HONY photographer Brandon Stanton shared a picture from occupied Jerusalem, a beautiful picture.

In his recent travels and part of a worldwide journey, he started inserting the names of the cities he’s visiting with the name of the country right in the same space. But when he shared this beautiful picture from Jerusalem, he left the “country” space blank. I know his website is based on focusing only and solely on our humanity, but as all of us grown-ups here know, humanity alone is never enough.

As humans we make decisions, we pick our fights, and chase our passions with all of our hearts. We choose, that is what makes us who we are and helps us become the people we want to be. By choosing we create our identities. But by standing neutral on the sidelines, refusing to choose, in fear of losing popularity or fans, or in fear of criticism, then we become no one. I know by criticizing HONY’s Brandon I am going to be criticized for not “being human” or sympathetic, and that I’m too political … which is fine, because I at least know where I stand. As Aristotle has put it perfectly, “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, BE NOTHING.”

It’s okay to pick a side, and if you picked the Palestinian side it doesn’t mean that you are against Jews or that you’re against Israelis themselves, and it doesn’t say that all Israelis are horrible, we know … there are good Israelis out there who refuse to be part of what the their government is doing under their names, they are not the problem. By criticizing Israel, you are criticizing colonialism, racism, apartheid, genocide, forced expulsion, arbitrary arrests … etc. Here you’re not against “people”, so when picking a side, you’re not losing your humanity, on the contrary, you’re taking a stand and defying inhumanity.

There is this phrase that’s been circulating on Facebook and Twitter during the last Gaza War that I find fitting to help understand what the problem is with such logic, and it says, “Blaming Hamas for firing rockets at Israel, is like blaming a woman for punching her rapist!” And when you, ladies and gentlemen, say “let’s hear what both sides have to say”, it is like asking the rapist how he felt raping her and how much it hurt when he got punched in the face by his victim. Total nonsense right?

So the statement “both sides” better be annihilated from your dictionary. Besides, I’m pretty sure that whoever came up with this “two sides” notion is some bastard colonial settler who wanted to justify why he was murdering innocent people, stealing lands he did not own, and enslaving others to forcibly work on his plantations, since according to him he’s only bringing “civilization” to humanity.

But, if you still want to stick to the whole “two sides” drama, I will give you these two sides you’ve been yearning for. Actually Rafeef Ziadah has already given us the two sides; you have the Occupier and the Occupied, the Colonizer and the Colonized.

So, there you have it, where would you rather stand?

I’d rather have someone come up and say straight to my face that they’re Zionists or Pro-Israel, than come and tell me both sides are hurting and both sides are suffering. I know, we’re all suffering, but there’s a difference between when a murderer suffers and goes unpunished and when a victim –as much as I hate being one- is suffering and no one is doing anything because some people were too afraid to take a stand. You don’t have to be passionate about “Palestinian rights” when talking privately to me, and then whispering the word “Palestine” when surrounded by a group of your international friends, so you wouldn’t hurt your Pro-Israel acquaintances and injure their ears with the word “Palestinian”, or God-forbid you refer to it as a country or a state on its own as Palestine.

Don’t be neutral, take a stand. Neutral is being passive, and isn’t the whole point of being an activist is to actually be “active” and make a clear decision? 

And I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I really am so much grateful to anyone raising awareness or doing anything in support of Palestine, but some of the fogginess surrounding this cause had to be lifted.

We’re at dark times right now, where massacres are being committed against helpless victims; men, women, children … if we don’t take a stand, a clear stand, to end injustice now, then who would?

In the end, I apologize if I sound too harsh or impolite, but it all came from a heart filled with love and appreciation for you all. If being a Palestinian has taught me anything, it’s being brave, and being brave starts with simply “being”… with taking a stand. You don’t have to necessarily take my stand or support my cause; just don’t be passive and let things pass you by out of fear or ignorance.

So, my beautiful people, be brave.

Much love,


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