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A Palestinian refugee's open letter to all Israelis

I know your fear is very real to you, even if it makes little sense to me. I know you see my desire to return to the land of my parents as an attack on your very existence. I wish our rights weren’t framed in zero-sum terms.

By Israa Thiab

A boy launches a Palestinian flag kite during an event commemorating Nakba Day, Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, West Bank, May 14, 2012. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A boy launches a Palestinian flag kite during an event commemorating Nakba Day, Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, West Bank, May 14, 2012. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Dear Israeli Citizen,

I am writing this appeal as a Palestinian refugee who is concerned with the endless cycle of violence that has continued throughout my life. There has been no time when I was not saddened to see fellow human beings supporting the oppression of another people, oppression so reminiscent of that suffered by their forefathers. While there are those in your country who strongly condemn and resist the actions of your government, the majority seems to support these actions. Chances are that you support them. And that is why I am speaking directly to you.

I believe that politics is inherently dirty, driven by personal interests of power and money, with true human interest playing too little a role. At the same time, I see how at the grassroots level ordinary people of all backgrounds can coexist peacefully together, and have always done so throughout human history when politics did not interfere. I believe that only human-to-human contact, free of interference from politicians, can bring people together. I believe in the inherent goodness of all people, and I refuse to believe that you are truly at peace with injustice or the oppression of anyone. To believe that would be to write you off as human beings, and thus to lose my own humanity.

History shows that entire nations have been consumed by hate and fear, and that these emotions can be destructive on the individual level. I know your fear is very real to you, even if it makes little sense to me. I know you see the simple desire of a person like me to return to the land her parents fled in fear as an attack on your very existence. I wish my right and yours to freedom, justice and security did not have to be framed as a zero-sum game.

I appeal to your reason, and ask you to think critically about what you hear from your government, as it is driven by politics and not by your true interests.

I appeal to your intelligence, to your ability to read history, to seek out the truth for yourself, and to challenge the interested and divisive distortions of the corporate media.

I appeal to your empathy, to your ability to see the other side of the story, to put yourself in the place of those who are being oppressed, and to imagine what you would you feel, think and do in their place.

I appeal to your natural capacity to transcend all feelings of hate and fear and to see the truth of what is happening.

I appeal to your deepest, truest self in assuring you that I, as a Palestinian refugee, seek nothing but to live in peace under just conditions. And given such conditions, I know that we will be able to rejoice together, to share our happiness and sadness, and to build a better world together.

Finally, I appeal to you to go beyond all of the mental and emotional walls that separate you from the Palestinians living around you, to talk to your Palestinian neighbor, to reach out and meet Palestinians and to see that they are just as human as you are, just as I know that you are as human as I am.

Yours Sincerely,

Your Fellow Human Being; a Palestinian refugee who will always have faith in your humanity

Israa Thiab is a Palestinian refugee by birth and holds Jordanian nationality. Her parents are from Haifa and Jaffa. Israa holds a Master of Science degree in environmental studies and works in that field. She is vocal about global justice issues ranging from the environment to human rights, and particularly the Palestinian cause. This letter was originally sent to De-Colonizer.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Gustav

      “I know your fear is very real to you, even if it makes little sense to me.”

      Nice words. But our fears are well founded. We remember the massacres and hatreds that we endured from SOME of your forebears while you were under the mistaken impression that you could dominate us. Massacres such as the Hebron and Tzefat massacres back in 1929.

      And today? While I don’t doubt the sincerity of individuals such as you (the open letter writer), I am also aware of the existence of the likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa amongst you, and no matter how hard you try to pretend, they are not just a small minority. We found that out at the last democratic elections which you the Palestinian Arabs held in 2006. Oh, and let’s not forget about the existence of Hezbollah and the Islamic state around us, I need not spell out what fate they would have in store for us if we would be foolish enough to voluntarily weaken ourselves.

      So no thank you. Is a Jewish Israeli citizen, I appreciate your kind offer but most of us, I am sure, have to say that we respectfully decline. We are happy to stick to the two state solution which will give you the opportunity to exercise your human rights in your own state. But please remember that if we give up lands which would allow that to happen, you and your people must also be willing to renounce your old policies which clearly stated that you reject the Jewish state in the Middle East. Yes, a Jewish majority state. So long as you consider that a dirty word, while there are 22 Arab states, many of them Islamic, around us, we will get the message and we won’t weaken ourselves by accepting inevitably more the vulnerable borders which would come with the two state solution. Either we both make painful sacrifices for peace or we will continue with the present situation. It is your choice. You as a Palestinian Arab people…

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        There were massacres and hatreds and attempts to gain the whole land on both sides. This can’t be dressed up in a cloak of self-righteousness and forgetting; and oversimplifications: with stock heroes and villains. The actual events in Palestine were a lot more complicated than that. And a relentless focus on the past in the most grievance-nurturing way does not help matters. The Palestinian leadership accepted in writing the State of Israel a long time ago. The newly invented “Jewish State” rider Bibi attached is an outright cynical ploy and gives the game away: Bibi will do anything to avoid a fair and decent final status accord;?and insists, as did his father before him, on Jewish Supremacy on both sides of the green line. His utter contempt for the Palestinians, as human beings, even his own citizens, radiates from him, as it did from his father before him. About this business and who Bibi’s true partners in crime are Edo Konrad has the right assessment:
        http://972mag.com/why-the-hijacking-of-israeli-democracy-is-a-myth/113746/
        As I’ve said, it is easy to make things fail. But for someone so sure one state is just too great a risk you show a remarkable nonchalance about your chances with a two state solution in the context of Netanyahu’s assiduous avoidance of a realistic version of it. Noam Sheizaf is right, one state two state blah blah blah–it’s meaningless until we get down to it and talk about specifics. What do people really mean when they talk of two states? Bibi’s is a nonstarter. Yet you are quick to shut down conversation with a Palestinian who addresses four-square your fears about a one state solution. (And, one more time, the two state (78/22%) solution itself is a “painful sacrifice for peace” for Palestinians.) So whatcha gonna do?

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          Well Benny dear, you do what is good for America and we will do what is good for us.

          We don’t want to become a minority in our country. We don’t want to be massacred nor do we want to massacre others. That is why we don’t want to repeat the Yugoslav, the Rawanda, the Syrian and the Lebanese civil war model. Let them have their state and we will have our state. But they DO have to renounce their 100 year REJECTION of the Jewish state by specifically accepting the Jewish state. Bibi has got that right.

          You don’t like all that, Benny? That’s ok. We don’t pay attention to obsessive, one eyed haters like yourself.

          Reply to Comment
      • sigh

        Gustav, you have a sickening sense of privileged. What makes you believe Israel has the right to hold out another nations land, which it violently stole, as a bargaining chip in your deranging negotiations for a fictitious “two state solution”. This is a “solution” that predates the country of Israel and is still yet to happen. How convenient to pretend to be a “partner for piece” with a nation you occupy.

        And militarily controlling the entire land (both Israel and any theoretical Palestinian state that Israel will never allow under any kind of equitable terms) isn’t even enough for you. No, you want it labeled a “Jewish State” with some disgustingly bigoted notion of it having a “Jewish majority”. Yet, awful people like yourself will then go and brag about how much of democracy your country is. As if a legally mandated ethnic majority has anything to do with the “will of the people”. An state obligated religious majority is a hellish sounding concept to any real supporter of democracy, although I doubt someone with your predilections would be interested in allowing citizens of a country to think for themselves (look at how you write with the plural “we” as if you were the singular voice of the Israeli people, how telling.)

        Reply to Comment
    2. Joe

      Your well written article falls on deaf ears on both ends of this so called conflict. The situation is far beyond resolving at this point. You plea to Israelis so that they would seek out the truth themselves, and not become blinded by media and politics’ hared, but things are far beyond this point.

      People on both sides of the fence (literally) aren’t interested in learning more. The more cohesive your information is, the more detailed your arguments are, the lower the likeliness of you making an impact on “the public”. Maybe 5% of the population is exempted from this generalization and in any case these are the 5% which aren’t really the issue here.

      Fighting is futile. Look around you. What do you see? The Middle East. People who are obsessed with things like religion, revenge, reticulation, all of which are symptoms of blind hatred. War mongers here, war mongers there, war mongers everywhere.

      Reply to Comment
    3. sigh

      Israa Thiab, this is a sad poignant article. It comes completely from a place of peace and understanding but it will still be interpreted with hostility by warmongering Zionists. I hope it gets through to at least a few people.

      Also, while I put the blame on moderating comments to you, it is likely that this is simply a re-publish in which case you probably have no editorial control here. If that is true then I blame whoever is editing this page for letting anything awful on it, and not you. I apologize if I got it wrong. Someone here really needs to filter out the racist material from the comments (there is enough of that on every other website on this topic already.)

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        “Sigh”? Is that you Benny-leh in yet another new pseudonym? I smell the smell of Benny wafting from “Sigh”. Are you embarassed by yourself? Is that why you changed your name?

        sigh (my sigh) not you…

        S:”Gustav, you have a sickening sense of privileged. What makes you believe Israel has the right to hold out another nations land”

        More of the same propaganda. Here is reality.

        Before there was occupation, the Arabs resorted to violence in order to make this land 100% Arab Muslim and 0% Jewish state. But their appetite was bigger than their competence that is how the occupation started.

        We have made more than one offer to end this conflict but your Arabs insist that their formula is the only solution in town. And that just does not wash because their formula poses dangers to us so the occupation continues till the agressors (the Arabs) compromise.

        Heck, that’s what happens in all other human conflicts. The agressors who lose the war militarily have to compromise.

        To be continued…

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          S:”which it violently stole, as a bargaining chip in your deranging negotiations for a fictitious “two state solution”.

          Deranging negotiations? A bit amotive isn’t it? Wanna clarify?

          Fictitious two state solution? According to whom? Your Arabs? Yep, that’s true. They were the ones who originally rejected that concept. Hamas still rejects it and the PA seems to as well even if they pretend not to. Otherwise the occupation would have ended by now and they would have signed a peace deal with us.

          S:”This is a “solution” that predates the country of Israel and is still yet to happen.”

          True. Have you asked yourself why though? I’ll tell ya. Because your Palestinian Arabs rejected it historically. Go read real history books you will find that all proper history books confirm this indisputable fact.

          Hamas still openly rejects it and they represent over 50% of the Palestinian Arabs.

          And the PA also rejects it otherwise they would not insist on the so called right of return. They would accept that any descendants of refugees should settle in the Arab state same as our Jewish refugees settled in the Jewish state.

          S:”How convenient to pretend to be a “partner for piece” with a nation you occupy.”

          Pretend? Are you talking about the Palestinian Arab leadership? I agree that the PA leaders pretend to be partners for peace while Hamas doesn’t even bother to pretend. They openly declare their Jihad on us.

          To be continued….

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            S:”And militarily controlling the entire land (both Israel and any theoretical Palestinian state”

            Yep and we will continue to control it until such time that a new Palestinian Arab leadership will agree to our terms for peace.

            S:”that Israel will never allow under any kind of equitable terms) isn’t even enough for you.”

            The terms that your Arabs are offering us are not equitable. We won’t accept millions of descendants of Arab refugees settling in our state because we already took care of settling Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

            S:”No, you want it labeled a “Jewish State”

            And what is wrong with a Jewish state? Why does a Jewish majority state bother you so much? All states in this world have some ethnic group as majorities and none of those have ever willingly given up their majority status.

            S:”with some disgustingly bigoted notion of it having a “Jewish majority”.

            Yea, a Jewish majority state is disgusting according to you. But I don’t see racists like you complaining about the myriad of Muslim majority or Christian majority states. Did you know that England is formally a Christian state, Benny (Sigh)? So is Greece and many others. And What about the dozens of Islamic states? No problems with that, Benny (Sigh)? No of course not you racist bigot!

            S:”Yet, awful people like yourself will then go and brag about how much of democracy your country is.”

            Awful people like me? And here I am thinking that YOU are awful. Go figure…

            S:”As if a legally mandated ethnic majority has anything to do with the “will of the people”.”

            Yes, the will of the people. We the Jewish people of Israel are people too and that is OUR will, get it?

            S:”An state obligated religious majority is a hellish sounding concept to any real supporter of democracy,”

            Yet England is formally a Christian state. Why aren’t you calling England Hellush then, Benny (Sigh)? Because ONLY a Jewish majority state is hellish?

            I’ll tell you why we insist on a Jewish majority state Benny (Sigh). Because of bigoted Jew haters like you. We have had enough of 2000 years of persecution at the hands of scum like you. That’s why we formed a Jewish majority state where we can defend ourselves from haters such as yourself.

            S:”although I doubt someone with your predilections would be interested in allowing citizens of a country to think for themselves (look at how you write with the plural “we” as if you were the singular voice of the Israeli people, how telling.)”

            Like it or not, I represent the majority point of view in Israel. You on the other hand just a cheap pro Arab propagandist.

            Reply to Comment
        • sigh

          LOL Gustav, this confirms that you are an old cranky man. You apparently don’t understand how comment threading works and now you have gone and responded to the wrong post. Your obsession and pet names for the user “Ben” is kind of creepy and gross, you might want to get over that (seriously, you know this guy by “smell”, yikes.) Maybe an old man like you has difficulty understanding that not all the people you disagree with online are the same irresistible person?

          I’m not going to take history lessons from a guy who uses the made up term “Arab Muslim” to describe the Palestinian nationalist movement, since apparently differing concepts like states and religion are beyond your meager comprehension. But needless to say everything you mention about history is beyond wrong, not even worthy of serious response. Still I’ll wait for your sources for all those “real history books”, your definitive list for “all proper history books”, which you base your rants on. Please share a list of these texts, enlighten us. I await eagerly your totally impartial serious cool real completely not faking it historical accounts by all the “real” historians around.

          I would respond to some of your other challenges, but it appears you lack the reading comprehension skills necessary to actually figure out what you are responding to. It is no surprise then, that you lack basic numerical skills as well. For example you claim “Hamas still openly rejects it and they represent over 50% of the Palestinian Arabs.” Forget the rest of your uninspired arguments, these are a crazy number since: a) more Palestinians live in the West Bank than Gaza, so even without including exiled Palestinians your “50%” figure is obviously wrong b) Hamas got less than 45% of the votes in an election with less than 75% turnout, again showing how you fail at math with your “50%” number. How am I supposed to debate with someone who can’t even do basic arithmetic? So apparently you fail at math, history, identifying unique users, not fawning over “Ben”, and being a decent person. Is there anything you don’t fail at? That was a rhetorical question, please please don’t respond with another useless misinformed rant.

          Reply to Comment

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