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'Israel has never recognized its Palestinian citizens'

Thousands of Palestinians participated in the March of Return on Tuesday, gathering at the site of the destroyed village of Al-Kabri in the Galilee. Below is a translated transcript of the speech given by Anat Matar, a member of the Israeli Committee for Palestinian Prisoners, at the event. 

By Anat Matar

Palestinians participate in the March of Return, Galilee, May 2, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills)

Palestinians participate in the March of Return, Galilee, May 2, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills)

I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today.

We’re said to be in an age in which the truth is unimportant. But the truth is unimportant only for those who have something to hide, who refuse to give up their power should the truth come to light.

We — the entire Palestinian public and the Jews who wish to join them in building a state for all its citizens — are sticking with the truth. It’s the main goal of the march of the displaced. It’s the goal of events marking the Nakba. The stories of the destroyed villages, the depopulated towns, the demolished cultural centers, the vanished way of life, the killed, wounded and displaced, those whose lands were stolen and who can’t return — these are the stories we must tell, and which we must fight to correct.

But the truth is also that the Nakba continues. We see it this year more than ever in the sweep of home demolitions: in Umm al-Hiran, al-Araqib, Qalansuwa, the Jordan Valley, the south Hebron hills, and beyond. This process is systematic and intentional. Exactly a month ago the “Kaminitz Law” passed in the Knesset, which allows for home demolitions to be expedited and for Palestinians — whose towns have no master plans — to be incriminated. Instead of recognizing land theft and attempting to rectify it, Israel continues its policy of robbery and oppression.

Palestinians participate in the March of Return, Galilee, May 2, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills)

Palestinians participate in the March of Return, Galilee, May 2, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills)

The Zionist state has never recognized its Palestinian citizens: it recognizes them neither as citizens nor as Palestinians. As citizens, Palestinians are discriminated against in every area: education, the courts, securing work, public transportation and civic services, rights granted to non-citizen spouses of Israeli citizens, allocation of land to regional councils, and of course in the planning and building of new communities. Palestinian citizens are also discriminated against in how crime within Arab communities is addressed, particularly in the disturbing phenomenon of the murder of women. This is a further aspect of the state’s denial of Palestinian citizens’ existence — citizens it is supposed to protect.

Even worse is that the police and the state not only fail to protect Palestinians, they also incite against them and — as we learned time after time this year — present them as an enemy, whether in the racist statements from the prime minister, the internal security minister or the police commissioner, regarding the wave of wildfires and the events in Umm al-Hiran.

We are already seeing the flip side of the state’s refusal to recognize its Palestinian citizens: the refusal to accept their identity, and the harassment of Palestinian political actors. The outlawing of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement — along with all its religious, welfare and educational services and the media outlets it operated — is the sharpest and most terrible expression of this attitude.

Palestinians participate in the March of Return, Galilee, May 2, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills)

Palestinians participate in the March of Return, Galilee, May 2, 2017. (Maria Zreik/Activestills)

The repeated harassment of Palestinian artists is a further manifestation of this refusal to accept Palestinian society as Palestinian, and the refusal to allow this society to tell its own stories, to organize its own religious affairs, welfare and education, and to develop its own language, values and culture. The Al-Midan Theater and the poet Dareen Tatour have both been victims of such harassment.

Discrimination against Palestinian political prisoners is also connected — above all those who are citizens of the state. The prisoners’ hunger strike, which is now in its third week, calls on us not to forget these people, some of whom have been in jail for more than 30 years — among them my dear friend Walid Daka, whose release I expect with every passing day.

We are living in fraught times of regression rather than progress, in which the populist and violent Right’s power is increasing the world over. But we cannot give up hope, nor on practical efforts to realize it. And so I want to call out from this stage today:

No to home demolitions! No to incitement against the Palestinian population! No to political arrests!

Yes to the return of the displaced! Yes to the release of political prisoners! Yes to a policy of justice, recognition and equality!

Anat Matar is a senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Tel Aviv, and a member of the Israeli Committee for Palestinian Prisoners. This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. Translated by Natasha Roth.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      The non-recognition of Palestinians goes back further, to Britain in the mid-19th century. “The ominous signs of how these seemingly religious and mythological beliefs might turn into a real program of colonization and dispossession appeared in Victorian Britain as early as the 1820’s. A powerful theological and imperial movement emerged that would put the return of the Jews to Palestine at the heart of a strategic plan to take over Palestine and turn it into a Christian entity.” – page 12, “Ten Myths About Israel” by Ilan Pappe.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Don’t listen to the degenerate liar, Pappe. He is not so a Historian as more ex-historian or more accurately a post-truth historian. Lets read what he himself writes in his own book.

        “My bias is apparent despite the desire of my peers that I stick to facts and the “truth” when reconstructing past realities. I view any such construction as vain and presumptuous.” – Ilan Pappe (A History of Modern Palestine) p. 11

        Reply to Comment
    2. carmen

      ‘We’re said to be in an age in which the truth is unimportant. But the truth is unimportant only for those who have something to hide, who refuse to give up their power should the truth come to light.’

      That perfectly describes the whitehouse and its current renters and netanyahoo. So many lies. “I stand by nothing” – donald tRUMP.

      “Morally it must end because the United States cannot be complicit in incentivizing terror,” the three said. “And strategically it must end because the PA will never convince Americans, the Congress, or Israel that it is serious about peace while it is still funding terror.” Says members of the u.s. congress that has been complicit in incentivizing israeli terrorism in palestine for decades.

      Reply to Comment
    3. i_like_ike52

      I am afraid that the title of this piece is meaningless because of the following…
      The name “Palestine” refers to two things that overlap. The first is the land which today consists of two (actually three, but I won’t get into that) geopolitical entities… Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This is the land of “Palestine” which the Jews traditionally refer to as “Eretz Israel”. There are various groups of people living in this territory… mostly Jews, and Christian and Muslim Arabs. Thus, all of these people are “Palestinians”, including the Jews. The other use of the term refers to the geopolitical entity “The Palestinian Authority”. One can therefore refer to any citizen of that entity as “Palestinians” as well. Now, inside Israel, all the residents are “Palestinians” according to the geographical use of the term “Palestine”. Most are Jews, most of the rest are Christian or Muslim Arabs plus Druzim and Circassians and a few others. Thus, if one wants to refer to Israeli Arabs as “Palestinian Israelis”, one is not conveying any information, since all Israelis citizens, including the Jews are “Palestinians” in the geographical sense. Israeli Arabs are NOT “Palestinians” however, in the geopolitical sense since they are not citizens of the Palestinian Authority. Thus, to be precise one needs to refer to “Israeli Arabs” if one is indeed referring to the Arab population of Israel. BTW-A resident of the Palestinian Authority is also not necessarily an Arab, and there are no doubt some non-Arabs who are “Palestinian” in the geopolitical sense. Thus, the use the term “Palestinian” when referring to a member of the ethnic/linguistic group of Arabs is meaningless.

      The true subtext of those who insist on using the term “Palestinian” when they mean “Arab” is to delegitimze the Jewish presence in the country.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        What is meaningless is your ridiculous attempt to occupy the word “Palestinian.” We could call it linguistic or etymological occupation and dispossession. Not content just to misappropriate land, now you gotta occupy names and words too, in true totalitarian fashion. I know full well what Anat Matar means and does not mean by “Palestinian, by what means she arrived at it and how she employs it. It is entirely meaningful and clear and useful. And honest. I don’t find useful your dishonest attempt to turn absolutely everything, including people’s very identity and attempts to describe and determine themselves into your property you feel entitled to steal and into yet another exercise in victimology and crude anti-Semitizing. They can’t even call themselves Palestinian without the descendants of European immigrants saying “no fair! We want that name too!”

        But, on the other hand, let’s be open minded, if “we are all Palestinians now,” then hey, what stops you from declaring one state of all its Palestinians, river to sea, all citizens of Palestine. After all, everyone’s a Palestinian, kumbayah. Go to it tiger, one Palestinian state of all its citizens. Everyone’s a Palestinian and it is silly and meaningless to call an Israeli Jew an Israeli instead of a Palestinian. A Palestinian Jew. A Jewish Palestinian. I knew you’d come around. No need for that word “Israeli.” “We’re all Palestinian now.” You heard it here first and you heard it from Ike52. A true Palestinian patriot.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Benny Morris, the leftist historian wrote: “There was no Zionist plan or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of ethnic cleansing and the demonisation of Israel is largely based on lies”.
      It is time to tell the truth on the myth of the “Palestinian people”.

      Reply to Comment
      • duh

        OTOH the Zionist movement had a policy of creating a state with a colonial-settler majority and thus a vested interest in ethnic cleansing. They started off hoping an imperialist power, be it the Ottomans, Germany or Britain, would help them obtain their objective without the normal dirty work of a military invasion. Otherwise their goal was itself a recipe for conflict.

        Reply to Comment
      • Nathanael

        The terrorist members of the Irgun who have written personal articles about their own experiences violently expelling Palestianians from their homes in 1948 will tell you that Benny Morris is full of it. They were told quite explicitly that their job was ethnic cleansing.

        You can find those articles on Haaretz.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Lewis from Afula

      Gee, will any Mizrchi Jews go on a march to their razed or confiscated homes in the Arab World?
      NO, they are not even allowed in to most of these countries whereas some are no longer in existence (Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen).

      Reply to Comment
    6. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      A Jewish traitor who uses the language of the enemies of Israel. What a shame! Fortunately things are changing in Israel.

      Reply to Comment