Quest for Justice
I am a Jew. I was a participant in the Rally for the Right of Return
to Palestine. It was the right thing to do. I've heard about the
European holocaust against the Jews since I was a small child. I've
visited the memorials in Washington, DC and Jerusalem dedicated
to Jewish lives lost and I've cried at the recognition to what level
of atrocity mankind is capable of sinking.
Where are the Jews of conscience? No righteous malice can be held
against the survivors of Hitler's holocaust. These fragments of
humanity were in no position to make choices beyond that of personal
survival. We must not forget that being a survivor or a co-religionist
of the victims of the European Holocaust does not grant dispensation
from abiding by the rules of humanity.
"Never again" as a motto, rings hollow when it means
"never again to us alone." My generation was raised being
led to believe that the biblical land was a vast desert inhabited
by a handful of impoverished Palestinians living with their camels
and eking out a living in the sand. The arrival of the Jews was
touted as a tremendous benefit to these desert dwellers. Golda Mier
even assured us that there "is no Palestinian problem."
We know now this picture wasn't as it was painted. Palestine was
a land filled with people who called it home. There were thriving
towns and villages, schools and hospitals. There were Jews, Christians
and Muslims. In fact, prior to the occupation, Jews represented
a mere 7 percent of the population and owned 3 percent of the land.
Taking the blinders off for a moment, I see a second atrocity perpetuated
by the very people who should be exquisitely sensitive to the suffering
of others. These people knew what it felt like to be ordered out
of your home at gun point and forced to march into the night to
unknown destinations or face execution on the spot. The people who
displaced the Palestinians knew first hand what it means to watch
your home in flames, to surrender everything dear to your heart
at a moment's notice. Bulldozers leveled hundreds of villages, along
with the remains of the village inhabitants, the old and the young.
This was nothing new to the world.
Poland is a vast graveyard of the Jews of Europe. Israel is the
final resting place of the massacred Palestinian people. A short
distance from the memorial to the Jewish children lost to the holocaust
in Europe there is a leveled parking lot. Under this parking lot
is what's left of a once flourishing village and the bodies of men,
women and children whose only crime was taking up needed space and
not leaving graciously. This particular burial marker reads: "Public
I've talked with Palestinians. I have yet to meet a Palestinian
who hasn't lost a member of their family to the Israeli Shoah, nor
a Palestinian who cannot name a relative or friend languishing under
inhumane conditions in an Israeli prison. Time and time again, Israel
is cited for human rights violations to no avail. On a recent trip
to Israel, I visited the refugee camps inhabited by a people who
have waited 52 years in these 'temporary' camps to go home. Every
Palestinian grandparent can tell you the name of their village,
their street, and where the olive trees were planted.
Their grandchildren may never have been home, but they can tell
you where their great-grandfather lies buried and where the village
well stood. The press has fostered the portrait of the Palestinian
terrorist. But, the victims who rose up against human indignity
in the Warsaw Ghetto are called heroes. Those who lost their lives
are called martyrs. The Palestinian who tosses a rock in desperation
is a terrorist.
Two years ago I drove through Palestine and watched intricate sprinkler
systems watering lush green lawns of Zionist settlers in their new
condominium complexes, surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire
in the midst of a Palestinian community where there was not adequate
water to drink and the surrounding fields were sandy and dry. University
professor Moshe Zimmerman reported in the Jerusalem Post (April
30, 1995), "The [Jewish] children of Hebron are just like Hitler's
We Jews are suing for restitution, lost wages, compensation for
homes, land, slave labor and back wages in Europe. Am I a traitor
of a Jew for supporting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees
to their birthplace and compensation for what was taken that cannot
The Jewish dead cannot be brought back to life and neither can
the Palestinian massacred be resurrected. David Ben Gurion said,
"Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves... politically,
we are the aggressors and they defend themselves ...The country
is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here
and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them
Palestine is a land that has been occupied and emptied of its people.
It's cultural and physical landmarks have been obliterated and replaced
by tidy Hebrew signs. The history of a people was the first thing
eradicated by the occupiers. The history of the indigenous people
has been all but eradicated >as though they never existed. And
all this has been hailed by the world as a miraculous act of G-d.
We must recognize that Israel's existence is not even a question
of legality so much as it is an illegal fait accompli realized through
the use of force while supported by the Western powers. The UN missions
directed at Israel in attempting to correct its violations of have
thus far been futile.
In Hertzl's "The Jewish State," the father of Zionism
said, "...We must investigate and take possession of the new
Jewish country by means of every modern expedient." I guess
I agree with Ehud Barak (3 June 1998) when he said, "If I were
a Palestinian, I'd also join a terror group." I'd go a step
further perhaps. Rather than throwing little stones in desperation,
I'd hurtle a boulder.
Hopefully, somewhere deep inside, every Jew of conscience knows
that this was no war; that this was not G-d's restitution of the
holy land to it's rightful owners. We know that a human atrocity
was and continues to be perpetuated against an innocent people who
couldn't come up with the arms and money to defend themselves against
the western powers bent upon their demise as a people.
We cannot continue to say, "But what were we to do?"
Zionism is not synonymous with Judaism. I wholly support the rally
of the right of return of the Palestinian people.
Originally published in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle. The
editor who accepted the article for publication was promptly fired.
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