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Al-Nakba day protest on Israel's Independence Day
May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion's declaration of Israel's independence
Photo: Government Press Office

Another anniversary of suffering

May 14 symbolizes two different things for two different peoples. For Israel it is Independence Day. For Palestinians it is al-Nakba day

May 14 symbolizes two different things for two different people and maybe that's a big part of the problem. Neither side ever tries to show compassion for the other because Palestinians and Israelis have made a career out of looking at everything differently.

 

For Israelis, it is their "Independence Day." For Palestinians it is the "Catastrophe." There is no reconciling, especially since both sides always use history as a justification to inflict more pain and suffering on the other.

 

How do Palestinians view the Israeli celebrations? With disdain. It comes across like the Israelis are celebrating Palestinian suffering.

 

The Palestinian "al Nakba," however, is about looking into ones own suffering, much like the way the Jews viewed their Diaspora. Although there is no comparison, Palestinians view the Nakba as an event that mimics the Holocaust.

 

Certainly Israelis are not sending Palestinians to the gas chambers. But they are pushing them into prison-like reservations, taking a lot of their land, denying them a lot of their rights, and doing much compromising of compromise.

 

Yet, what Israelis do to Palestinians is not an excuse for Palestinians. Palestinians cannot take their suffering and blame it all on Israelis.

 

I don't expect to get much sympathy from Israelis. They are living in an arrogant time when things seem to be going their way. Maybe that is true in the short term, but in the long term, all that is happening is that the Palestinian movement for independence is slowly converting from a secular movement that is capable of compromise into a religious movement that can only see one vision, defeating Israel.

 

Achieving a lasting peace would seem like the best option for Israelis. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems determine to define the borders between Israeli and Palestinian rights. If he does it in a reasoned and fair way - swapping land for land - it might work.

 

But, if he uses the situation to merely grab more land, "legitimize" the illegal settlements and expand Israel into annexing more of the West Bank, then all he is doing is setting us up for a conflict our children will have to face.

 

'The enemy of my enemy is my friend'

 

Maybe we should be thinking about the future instead of the past when we remember May 14, 1948. Maybe we should be trying to figure out ways to live together.

 

I live by certain principles as a Palestinian. It doesn't win me accolades among many Israelis, Jews or even from Palestinians or Arabs. It especially makes me the favorite punching bag of the Islamists who are as vicious in attacking me as are the Israeli conservatives. They both hate equally.

 

First, I believe that the only real answer to our conflict is to do our best never to let go of the vision of two-states. An Israeli state and a Palestinian state.

 

Second, we can't continue to use history as an answer to the claims of each side. For example, Israelis always point out correctly that Palestinians and Arabs rejected the two-state solution in 1947. Yes they did, but for specific reasons that no longer apply today.

Rather than respecting the change in attitudes, some continue to use it as an obstacle to prevent moving forward.

 

Palestinians wanted one state for all three religions. It was unrealistic, thanks in part to the British Mandate, European anti-Semitism and resistance from countries including the United States. Although some Palestinians supported the Nazis in the same Biblical belief that Jews embrace - the enemy of my enemy is my friend - it's often taken out of the context of the conflict.

 

'We want an end to this conflict'

 

At the same time, I also understand the Israeli perspective on history. I don't like it all but I understand it and I also respect it.

 

I believe that Palestinians and Israelis have to stop looking at the past as an excuse not to move forward. We should be able to accept that we both view history differently. If we can't do that then the truth is neither side really wants peace or compromise.

 

We must instead accept that we have different views of peace but we should share one vision of the future. We need to look at the future and define one answer to our conflict and focus on that.

 

Yes, it is hard to define that answer, but part of the problem is that with all that has happened, even those who want to be fair can't always be fair. We get greedy. We both want more and want to give each other less.

 

There is only one real answer to prevent the conflict from getting worse and to eventually eliminate all violence - it won't happen right away. It will take time.

 

That answer is two states. One Palestinian. One Israeli. We both must be able to share Jerusalem. Not divide it. Share it.

 

The Palestinian state must be viable. And, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, must address the issue of refugees openly, honestly and by showing respect to both sides.

 

Many Jews left Arab countries. Many Palestinians left what is now Israel. We don't need to engage in a defeatist argument over who caused what to whom. That is embracing the dual interpretations of history that can never be reconciled.

 

We should simply view the refugees as people. We should acknowledge their rights and work to resolve the issue, not push it away or be callous.

 

What the solution really comes down to is that Palestinians and Israelis both want the same thing. We want an end to this conflict. We know there are forces on both sides who do not want a compromise ending to the conflict. They both want to defeat each other. That's never going to happen. The sooner we recognize that fact, the sooner we can find answers to our problem.

 

'Fate of Palestinians and Israelis is inseparable'

 

Israelis and Palestinians each have something the other does not have. Israelis have the power to do what's right. They can impose a peace accord that is just with or without a partner.

 

I also believe Palestinians have the power to make things worse or to make things better. They can stop the failed strategy of always doing worse to the Israelis than what the Israelis do to them. Palestinians can embrace non-violence not just as a strategy but as a lifestyle.

 

A person recently asked me if I thought we were in the second or a third intifada. I said defining the conflict that way is misleading.

 

The reality is that this conflict began in the 1920s and it has been marked by periods of increased and lessened violence. The real conflict has never been resolved.

 

We need to resolve the conflict before we can prevent the violence.

 

Call it whatever you will, but the fate of Palestinians and Israelis is inseparable.

 

On the anniversary of Israeli Independence Day and on the commemoration of the Palestinian al-Nakba, I hope one day we will find a way to end the conflict and then, end the violence.

 

Imagine how powerful Palestinians and Israelis can be in this world if they are allowed to shift their enormous energies and passion from hating each other to working together.

 

It's what keeps me going.

 

Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com

 


פרסום ראשון: 05.13.06, 20:22
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