Sunday, April 14, 2013

 What Americans do not know about Palestinians

Angry Arab is angry. It is a day away from Israel's 65th Independence anniversary celebration and he wants to remind the world of how Israel came to be, according to his perverted view of history. He provides a story:

"The late mother of friends, Riad and Imad Baalbaki, is Palestinian.  She went back to her birthplace in Acre, Palestine back in the 1960s.  She found her home and tried the old key that she always kept with her.  The door opened. She found a Jewish family occupying the house.  She roamed around the house and yelled at them in tears: these are our dishes.  These are our saucers.  These are our chairs.  These are our closets that are now filled with your clothes.  This is our house on our land.  The occupying family could only tell her (in tears): we are sorry for what happened.  When Michele and I heard the story from Riad recently, Michele (my American girlfriend) kept telling me: Americans need to hear stories like that about Palestinians.  They never hear such stories."

The details of the story seem somewhat unrealistic. How come her key of at least 15 years earlier opened the lock to a house inhabited by Israelis who occupied it after that event? Where did they get the key to fit into that lock? How come the lock had not changed during all those years? How come the residents in that house allowed this stranger to roam around the house, without calling the police? Why would they cry in response to her accusations? Did this really happen like it is told or was there some other context to this event? How was she allowed to enter Israel in the first place? Why aren't we told about the circumstances of this visit?  Perhaps because knowing the full story might render it  less sensationalistic and less likely to inspire the pity it aims for?

There is a double-tiered context to this story which is left outside the frame.

First context: What happened in Acre? A couple of details, gleaned from a very cursory search on google:

According to wiki:
"In the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Acre was designated part of a future Arab state. Before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War broke out, Acre's Arabs attacked neighbouring Jewish settlements and Jewish transportation. On 18 March 1948, Arabs from Acre killed Jewish employees of the electricity company who were repairing the damaged lines near the city."

"Fuad Abu Higla, then a regular columnist in the official PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida, wrote an article before an Arab Summit (Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, March 19, 2001), which criticized the Arab leaders fora series of failures. One of the failures he cited, in the name of a prisoner, was that an earlier generation of Arab leaders "forced" them to leave Israel in 1948, again placing the blame for the flight on the Arab leaders.
"I have received a letter from a prisoner in Acre prison, to the Arab summit:
To the [Arab and Muslim] Kings and Presidents, Poverty is killing us, the symptoms are
exhausting us and the souls are leaving our body, yet you are still searching for the way to
provide aid, like one who is looking for a needle in a haystack or like the armies of your
predecessors in the year of 1948, who forced us to leave [Israel], on the pretext of clearing
the battlefields of civilians... So what will your summit do now?" (Source)
Second tier context (as seen from the vantage point of Martha Gellhorn, a journalist in 1961): 

The best way to consider this case is close up, by looking at the Palestinian refugees themselves, not as a "problem," not as statistics, but as people. The Palestinian refugees, battered by thirteen years in the arena of international politics, have lost their shape; they appear as a lump and are spoken of as one object. They are individuals, like everyone else.

Despite the unique care and concern they have received, despite the unique publicity which rages around them, the Arab refugees, alas, are not unique. Although no one knows exactly how many refugees are scattered everywhere over the globe, it is estimated that since World War II, and only since then, at least thirty-nine million non-Arab men, women, and children have become homeless refugees, through no choice of their own. Their numbers grow every year; Angolans are the latest addition to the long list. The causes for this uprooting are always different, but the result is the same: the uprooted have lost what they had and where they came from and must start life again as handicapped strangers wherever they are allowed to live.

The world could be far more generous to these unwilling wanderers, but at least the world has never thought of exploiting them. They are recognized as people, not pawns. By their own efforts, and with help from those devoted to their service, all but some six million of the thirty-nine million have made a place for themselves, found work and another chance for the future. To be a refugee is not necessarily a life sentence.

The unique misfortune of the Palestinian refugees is that they are a weapon in what seems to be a permanent war. Alarming signs, from Egypt, warn us that the Palestinian refugees may develop into more than a justification for cold war against Israel. We ignored Mein Kampf in its day, as the ravings of a lunatic, written for limited home consumption. We ought to have learned never to ignore dictators or their books. Egypt's Liberation, by Gamal Abdel Nasser, deserves careful notice. It is short, low-keyed, and tells us once again that a nation has been ordained by fate to lead--this time, to lead the Arab nations, all Africa, all Islam. The Palestinian refugees are not mentioned, and today, in the Middle East, you get a repeated sinking sensation about the Palestinian refugees: they are only a beginning, not an end. Their function is to hang around and be constantly useful as a goad. The ultimate aim is not such humane small potatoes as repatriating refugees.

THE word "refugee" is drenched in memories which stretch back over too many years and too many landscapes: Spain, Czechoslovakia, China, Finland, England, Italy, Holland, Germany. In Madrid, between artillery bombardments, children were stuffed into trucks to be taken somewhere, out of that roulette death, while their mothers clung to the tailboards of the trucks and were dragged weeping after the bewildered, weeping children. In Germany, at war's end, the whole country seemed alive with the roaming mad -- slave laborers, concentration camp survivors who spoke the many tongues of Babel, dressed in whatever scraps they had looted, and searched for food in stalled freight cars though the very rail-yards were being bombed. From China to Finland, people like these defined the meaning of "refugee."
And today, on the eve of Israel's Remembrance Day, as Israelis once again brace themselves to remember those fallen so that the others can go on living, and being, we must never forget this:

"From the murder of a Jewish blacksmith in Nahalat Reuben (now Ness Ziona) in 1888 — considered to be the first act of Arab terror against Jews in the land of Israel — up to the most recent Israeli soldier to fall in battle, violence directed toward Jews in this land has taken many lives. This violence prompted pre-state Jewish communities to defend themselves. After the state was established, the Israel Defense Forces took over that task. The Jews have never been the initiators of violence and war here, something that must be reiterated today."


At 5:25 PM EDT, Anonymous Brian Goldfarb said...

I posted a comment to the article below that will serve just as well here. Especially as Noga quotes the (as always) not merely angry but also arguably slightly deranged Arab, especially when considering the creation of the fact that became the State of israel:

Never mind fiction, try (especially for non-Israelis) Benny Morris "1948: The First Arab-Israeli War". Tells the story well, and is from an Israeli historian who's moved from the 'New Historian' camp to a more "centrist" position.

For a shorthand version, try my review of the book here:

Of course, those like the "angry arab" are far from interested in facts: fiction is their line. It's far more comforting thatn facing reality.


Post a Comment

<< Home