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What Palestinians need from our Jewish allies

We want to work with the Israeli Left to build a future based on equality and justice for all. But not at any cost.

Illustrative photo of pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters on campus. (Matanya Tausig/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters on campus. (Matanya Tausig/Flash90)

I was recently asked about what kind of conditions need to exist to for real Arab-Jewish partnership to exist in the Israeli Left.

Opinionated, smart Palestinians (I try my best to be one of them) will do all they can to avoid this question. That makes sense, since any attempt to rise to the challenge is actually roundabout way of admitting that such partnership is possible. This takes the Arab, and the Jew for that matter, out of their comfort zone.

Left-wing Israeli Jews are already in an uncomfortable position, and they have stopped dreaming of taking power long ago. At this moment they are busy trying to position themselves as victims of the Right’s persecution. I understand that the feeling of perpetual, stinging defeat over having no potential Jewish political partners is too difficult to bear, and thus they must find a different partner. And yet, Israeli Jews still have an easier time than Arabs in fantasizing about a left-wing Arab-Jewish partnership.

Tired of cleaning up the mess

One of the reasons is that we Palestinians have one last outpost that won’t be occupied by any Israeli: we are the ultimate victims of the Zionist enterprise. This becomes all the more complex when taking into account that our status is a result of the doings of the socialist-Zionist founders of the Zionist movement. They are the ones who carried out the Nakba of the Palestinian people. And yet their descendants now find themselves a minority in Israeli society. It is hard to wrap our heads around this concept, I know, but the time has come to deal with this fact — at the very least on a theoretical level.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of a portrait of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of a portrait of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

I will go out on a limb and try to rise to the challenge: how can we built partnership, alliances, or coordination between Palestinian and Jewish citizens against the violent rule of the Right?

I do not take this challenge on because I am especially brave. On the contrary, I am actually afraid. The last two years, full of incitement by politicians — including our prime minister — and a never-ending list of anti-Arab laws has led to this fear. Blaming Palestinians in Israel for the ills of society, including the Holocaust, means that fear is inevitable.

But these generalizations never include Jews in positions of power who sexually assault women, major corruption scandals, racism against minorities. These phenomena have yet to be pinned on Arabs, meanwhile Israeli society’s trash can always be dumped on my doorstep. As a Palestinian, I am tried of doing the cleaning, of condemning, of defending myself, of denying, of struggling over just about everything.

Therefore, potential future Jewish friends, here are some of the steps that can form a foundation for cooperation, and psychologically help the average Palestinian take a step forward toward sustainable partnership.

Stop the denial, do away with Zionism

First of all, stop with the denial. Admit that there were killings and expulsions in 1948. There is no need to beautify or hide it.

Recognizing the injustices of our Nakba is the first step in rehabilitating any relationship. We need this in order to move forward. We have feelings just like every nation, and we demand that you recognize what happened 70 years ago. Palestinians, by the way, admit they were routed. You won that war, khalas. No need to boast about it while demanding the Arabs forget what happened, especially when our educational curriculum demands Arabs remember what happened to Jews some 3,000 years ago.

Secondly, it is very important to show a real willingness to open the Pandora’s box called “Zionism.” Zionism, my dear Jews — not Judaism.

Palestinians put a sign marking the destroyed village of Lajjun in northern Israel, Nakba Day, May 15, 2015. (Photo by Omar Sameer/Activestills.org)

Palestinians put a sign marking the destroyed village of Lajjun in northern Israel, Nakba Day, May 15, 2015. (Photo by Omar Sameer/Activestills.org)

The Zionist movement is a very serious obstacle for us, especially as it relates to the exclusive rights that Jews believe they have over this land, rather than the right of Jews to live here in peace and security. Since millions of Palestinians live between the river and the sea, and they have no intention of going anywhere — much like the millions of Jews living here — we demand that you forgo your exclusive right to this place, for the sake of a better future for all of us.

I personally understand the need of most Jews to take pride in the establishment of Israel, in light of the oppression Jews faced around the world. I understand, yet do not accept the final outcome, which forces me and my family to pay the price. Hasn’t the time come to open your eyes and speak candidly about this? Are we not mature enough to talk about the elephant in the room?

We’re at the end of 2016 and the Jewish state still insists on fighting with the entire world, while claiming that it is under attack. It insists on arming itself and creating weapons that can destroy the entire Middle East. There is no one in the world who does not understand Israel’s military capabilities. We get it, believe me.

The Zionism of the 20th century has run its course, don’t you think? The right-wing settlers brought God into the mix, while the opposition is still dreaming of building a Zionist Union that will bring us back to the good ol’ days. Establishing factories in the periphery is considered “Zionism,” while demolishing Umm al-Hiran and building a Jewish town on its ruins — is that also “Zionism?”

On the other side of the Wall, settlers cry that building settlements on top of every inch of Palestinian land is “Zionism.” How can they claim that the settlement enterprise, which sucks up the public coffers, steals land owned by Palestinians under military rule, and goes to war against the High Court of Justice is also Zionism? And all the while they argue that Zionism and democracy do not contradict one another, selling this lie to the world.

Residents of Umm el-Hiran packed all of their belongings and removed them from their homes in anticipation that Israeli authorities would demolish the village Tuesday morning, Umm el-Hiran, the Negev, November 22, 2016. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Residents of Umm el-Hiran packed all of their belongings and removed them from their homes in anticipation that Israeli authorities would demolish the village Tuesday morning, Umm el-Hiran, the Negev, November 22, 2016. (Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Before Jews decide among themselves what “real Zionism” looks like — and I doubt that anyone can come to a single, solid conclusion — tell me why the concept is even necessary in our world today? When Israeli society, or at least the part of it that believes in living together side by side, in distributive justice, and in an end to the occupation of the Palestinian people gains enough power to struggle for its beliefs, I and many others will join. But the more you “sit on the fence,” the more you will push entire groups of Jewish Israelis to the right.

To tell you the truth, we Palestinians don’t have that many options. We must continue struggling for our rights, for our children’s future, for justice and equality. We’re happy for you to help us, despite the internal contradictions between our Israeli citizenship, our Palestinian national identity, a Jewish-majority state and our yearning for equity.

If there remains even the slightest bit of Jewish supremacy and the desire for exclusive Jewish control over this land, building real Arab-Jewish partnership will be a difficult mission. Difficult, yet I believe it is possible for people to change. As a feminist, I believe that no man will give up on his privileges without a struggle, without demands, and without a painful change in consciousness. From experience, I know this is possible. It is not easy, but one can be rehabilitated from privileges. Believe me.

We’ll discuss practical steps for doing so in the future.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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