body#layout #main-top { display:none; } --> --> position:absolute;

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Palestinian story: The rise of terrorism

Death visits us on a daily basis only to confirm our contention that oppression thrives against our population. In a mixed world where a single invading soldier is valued more than the many civilians he kills, it is conceivable that we are seen as the terrorists.

But did us Palestinians ever live in peace? Have we always been the victim of their tanks and planes? When could the people of our ancient land breathe, live and die peacefully?

The turbulent history of our Palestine -- the fertile region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River -- starts with the rule of the prophets, the very men chosen to roam the earth and advocate coexistence and love between all its inhabitants.

Our land has been one of great symbolic significance for the adherents of three monotheistic religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The land of our forefathers hence changed hands several times during the course of history.

We lived in relative peace and harmony for many generations. Even though we were invaded by all sorts of powers, the people of our ancient land of Canaan had been able to rise to the challenge and live side by side despite our diversity.

Our Palestine was conquered by the Ottomans in the early years of the 16th century and became known as part of Bilad al-Sham or Greater Syria.

Among the many events that occurred at the time, there was a single statement of principle that reflects the overall push for co-existence of that era.

"From among the subjects, where I distinguish who is Muslim is at a mosque, who is Christian, in a church, and who is Jewish, in a synagogue. There is no difference between them on other days," said one of our Turk rulers.

So we the indigenous population of Palestine, the workers, artisans, women, merchants and the Bedouin lived side by side, not knowing what the colonialist powers had in store for us.

"The Palestinian peasant…energy and competence were an object of praise by visitors to Palestine from travelers, historians, tourists, and artists. [Furthermore] concrete indications prove that Palestine, before the Zionist invasion, flowed with resources and profits," Palestinian historian Abd al-Wahab al-Kayyali said of our situation.

The storm of oppression and hatred was however brewing in countries afar. A religious minority in Europe was being persecuted only for its belief in an Abrahamic faith. The majority tortured, gassed and killed many of them in cold blood.

A man from Hungary nevertheless had already provided a solution to the misery of the Jewish population of Europe. The father of political Zionism, Theodore Herzl, set the stage for the "chosen people" to "return" to the "promised land" which he claimed was "without a nation".

Understanding the hazards of Zionism and the centuries of misery that it would bring upon the region, our ruler Sultan Abdul Hamid II had shown his fierce objection as early as 1882. He told Herzl that he was "perfectly ready to permit the Jews to emigrate to his dominions, provided they became Ottoman subjects". He would, however, "not allow them to settle in Palestine".

The sultan knew that the "Jewish emigration may in the future result in the creation of a Jewish government."

But Herzl did not give up. He offered to free the empire of European debt in return for an Imperial Charter for the Colonization of Palestine by the Jewish people.

The sultan repulsed Herzl's efforts, finally sending a message warning Herzl "to take no further steps in this matter."

"I cannot alienate a single square foot of land, for it is not mine but my people's. My people fought for this land and fertilized it with their blood....Let the Jews keep their millions," the sultan said.

Despite the sultan's orders, a steady if small stream of Jewish immigrants managed through bribery and stealth to continue their invasion into our Palestine. Realizing the threat hanging over our population, we resented the Zionist assertion that Jews had a right to Palestine because they had once lived there two millennia earlier.

Nonetheless, the suspicions we harbored about the true intentions of the Zionists did not prompt us to change our fairly friendly attitude toward Zionists until 1908 when the Young Turk Revolution reversed the suspension of the Ottoman parliament by Sultan Abdul Hamid II, marking the onset of the Second Constitutional Era. The revolutionaries blamed the Sultan for the harried state of the empire.

As historian Neville J. Mandel writes, "By the eve of the Young Turk is clear that Arab anti-Zionism had not yet emerged."

Why would we want to revolt the immigrating Jews as they had promised to lead the Ottoman Empire to prosperity as their luggage contained money, intelligence and international connections?

But their private intentions proved to be far more hostile than the announced plan for our homeland. We, the natives of Palestine, were placed on the path of "deligimatization". We were portrayed as filthy and uncivilized people awaiting liberators.

They claimed to have come to modernize our land as it was, according to them, empty of civilized inhabitants and a land of peasants. Their plan was based on a Eurocentric assumption that all societies must proceed along a universal, linear path of development identical to that of the West.

Jewish immigrants flood the docks of a wharf in Haifa in 1929. In 1931, the number of Jews rose to 174,000 in comparison to the 837,000 Arabs who lived in Palestine.
By 1914, on the eve of World War I, there were about 604,000 of us Arabs and 85,000 Jews in Palestine, an increase of about 30,000 Jews in a decade.

It was then that terrorism rose against our nation and our peace was shattered. They killed us, tortured us, expelled us and terrorized us in the hope that they could deter us and claim the lands that were owned by us for generation after generation.

Most of us spending our days with the hope of living our life in peace, now suffer and die in refugee camps in Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon even though we have documents that put our name on the lands that currently house Zionists from around the world.

Mudalala Akel, 86, holds the key to her home in Palestine. She has lived as a refugee in Gaza since her family was forced to leave their home in Palestine during the Nakba in 1948.
The colonialist Zionists cannot understand the meaning of resistance. And as an exiled Palestinian friend put it: There is a major difference between the Palestinian nation and the rest of the world.

People around the world live inside the boundaries of their countries, but for us, the indigenous population of Palestine who have been either driven from our lands or have been internally displaced, the reality of life is different.

For us, it is the land of Palestine that lives in the hearts of men.

'The Palestinian story' is the title given to a series of articles that will look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a different perspective than that of mainstream media. 'The rise of terrorism' is the third part of the series. The writers have dedicated this article to the many Palestinians that have lost their lives in the deadly Israeli attacks on Gaza.