Monday, July 11, 2005
Clement Leibovitz - Israelis and Palestinians, brotherhood
Fifty seven years have passed since the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians at the hands of Israel. And though the world public opinion has many times been expressed by the United Nations in favor of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, no progress has been made in this respect. In addition, in the last 38 years, the Palestinians have lived under an Israeli colonial rule which has imposed on the West Bank and Gaza a regime of persecution, humiliations and deprivations.
Why is it that, at the time at which overt colonialism has disappeared everywhere else, Israel succeeds in maintaining on the West Bank and Gaza a colonial regime? What is then the characteristic of the Israeli colonization of Palestine?
East is East and West is West. The Twine shall never meet. The worst in the West is Better than the Best in the East
The felt necessity to keep the two peoples, colonizer and colonized, separated is obvious in this quote from Rudyard Kipling: "the twine shall never meet". The separation between the colonizer people and the colonized people was easy to maintain when the two countries were at such great distances from each other. The difference of language, that of culture made the colonized people alien to the colonizer people.
The Palestinian population is not nomadic. People can cite more names of thriving Palestinian cities established centuries ago, then names of Israeli cities. Palestinians have worked the land for centuries, they had the tolerance of adopting into their religion Jesus and all the Jewish prophets. Many Palestinians are Christians, and some are Jews. As to their civilization, it predates the European civilization by many centuries. Besides the European civilization has been inspired and triggered by the Arab civilization.
Finally, there is a strong similarity between the Arab and Hebrew languages, be it in their vocabularies or their syntaxes. This is an indication of strong ethnic closeness. The two languages, Arabic and Hebrew are much closer than any two roman languages are. The closeness between the two people is reinforced by the closeness of their aims. Both peoples are in need of long-term peace, long-term security and prosperity. Still, most Israelis and Palestinians are not aware of it. It would be enough that:
1) the two people be in contact in peaceful relations of equality
2) for a relatively short period of time,
3) for them to discover how similar they are, how easily they could live together, peacefully and brotherly.
This was not in line with the Zionist objectives. That is the reason why, more than in any other colonization case, it was essential for the Zionists to create a distance between the Palestinian and the Israeli people, maintain and increase it,. This had to be done with the prospective Israeli immigrants, even before they land in Israel. They were told that Palestine was a "land without people made for a people without land". There was no need to worry about the Palestinians: they were not a people. Their land was not cared for, was unproductive. Israel would transform it into a land of "milk and honey". For the Zionists, this was just a good start. However, the physical distance between Arabs and Jews was small. There were opportunities for Jews and Arabs to meet, to learn more about each other, to discover how close they ethnically are.