Acknowledgements, Forward by Dr. Abusitta, About the Author, Glossary
To write a book of this nature is really not a project that is done in isolation. As a Palestinian American I was first and foremost influenced by my upbringing under Israeli occupation, in my undergraduate studies at Jordan University, among Palestinian refugees in Jordan, and in my 24 years in the United States. I am grateful to those people who touched my life whether their intent towards others or me was positive or negative. Thus, I am grateful to the Israeli soldier throwing a tear gas bomb into my class, as I am grateful to the Israeli University employee who kindly apologized to me as a young and naive Palestinian student for her country's actions. I am also grateful for the journalists and editors we tried to educate with varying degrees of success. These experiences, good and bad, helped shape my life. I feel privileged to have been alive in this time in world history and I appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow from interactions with so many people of so many varied persuasions, ethnicity, and religions. I am thus grateful for all those who had their paths in life cross mine. More specifically, in the last three years as the idea for this book crystallized and evolved, I got significant help and encouragement from so many people. To name a few key ones: Roman Bystrianyk, Justine McCabe, Salman Abu Sitta, David Kirsh, Bob Hartman, John Hartman, Jess Ghannam, Stanley Heller, and members of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and the Middle East Crisis Committee. I am also grateful to Pluto Press and in particular Julie Stoll and Roger van Zwanenberg for their efforts. My wife Jessie Chang, and son Dany gave significant positive influence, work, and encouragement. To those and many others, I am deeply grateful. I take responsibility for any mistakes whether of omission or commission. Finally, to you the reader, I am grateful for reading this with an open mind. I would consider it a success if this book makes some readers want to find out more and would consider it even a greater success if this book prompts some to work harder for peace in the troubled Land of Canaan.
Esse cuam videri (to be rather than to seem).
Forward by Dr. Salman Abu Sitta
On the evening of Wednesday 31 October 1917, Allenby's army, known as the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, encircled Beer Sheba in a surprise move and overcame the small Turkish garrison. The British flag was raised and Palestine lay open to Allenby's conquest. Thus ended 1400 years of Arab and Muslim rule (with the exception of the brief Crusades period). The British military handed over Palestine to the Civil Administration headed by the Zionist High Commissioner Herbert Samuel. His mission was to put into effect the Balfour Declaration and implant a Jewish state on Arab soil.
Thus, Palestine came under foreign rule, first the British, then the Israelis until this day. Palestine entered a century of wars, bloodshed and suffering; the victims were the national majority of the country.
Why? European colonialism of the nineteenth century found its belated expression among European Jews in colonizing Palestine, for a complexity of historical and financial reasons, first riding on the shoulders of the British Empire, then on its home-grown strength, still supplied generously by Western resources.
One of the little known facts is that Zionism, which took the form of a socialist character, is in fact a capitalist movement aiming to secure a territory from which it would express its ambitions, instead of manipulating European policies and wars. In other words, the Zionist capitalist movement aimed to exercise its power openly and with the recognition of the Western world, not indirectly by proxy.
Some examples to illustrate this will suffice. One of the first colonial settlements in Palestine was established by the French financial tycoon Rothchilde in Ceasaria. The affluent bourgeoisie families became Israel's ruling class. Hacohen, Ruppin, Shertok and Elyashar are all related or intermarried. From this 'family' emerged Rosa Cohen, Yitzhak Rabin, Pinchas Sapir, Yigal Yadin, Uzi Narkis, Arthur Ruppin, Asher Yadlin, Eliahu Golomb, Moshe Dayan, Ezer Weitzman, Lord Mund, Ya'akov Meridor and many others who created and ran the military - financial - industrial complex of Israel.
They have no time for international law or human rights. They forged ahead with ethnic cleansing of Palestine, resting assuredly on the support of the British Empire and now on the new US imperial power.
The image conveyed in the West is of a peaceful ingathering of exiles in 'the promised land'. To achieve this end, they fabricated a web of myths, all turned out to be false but only after they achieved their purpose: Palestine is a country without a people; the old will die and the young will forget Palestine; the refugees left on Arab orders; the Palestinians are terrorists ...etc.
Even the specter of co-existence was falsely marketed in the pre-Nakba. A Zionist agent would scout land for sale among Palestinian villagers. He would approach them saying: "sawa, sawa, ya khabibi ", (together, together, my friend), rubbing his two forefingers vigorously.
That was on the eve of Al Nakba in which 530 towns and villages were depopulated by expulsion and massacres. The expelled inhabitants constituted 85% of the Palestinians in the land that became Israel. Their land makes up 92% of Israel's area in 1948 / 1949.
Zionist leaders vowed that "no Arab village or tribe" would remain in the conquered land. As early as Feb. 1948, during the British Mandate and before the creation of Israel, the Zionists planned the settlement of 1.5 million new immigrants on Palestinian land. By June 1948, after the state was established, Israel made public its longtime policy, still held today, that no Palestinian would be allowed to return to his home. So much for the peaceful exclamation "sawa, sawa".
The pseudo-legal web of laws created to confiscate Palestinian property were soon promulgated and are still in practice today. After 50 years of military victories, financial consolidation and political recognition, Israel started to shed its socialist skin.
The kibbutz, the main pillar of Zionism, is dying and about to close. The land, rented from the state by the kibbutz, which is the Palestinian refugees' land from which they were expelled, is now offered for sale to any Jew, even if not Israeli. The labor union, the Histadrut, is being dismantled. In short, Palestine, the land of dispossessed Palestinians, is being privatized. What is left of old idealistic Zionism? The answer may lie in the reason for denying the Palestinians' Right of Return.
Serious studies in the last decade have shown that there is no demographic, geographic, legal, water, agricultural, economical or social reason to prevent the return of the refugees to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors, as per the wording of the famous UN resolution 194.
There is one major impediment: that is the ethno-religious-racist laws of Israel. There are at least two-dozen laws, unique in the world and condemned by the international community, which discriminate, segregate and violate decent norms of civilized behaviour. As long as these laws are not repealed, bloodshed will continue and peace cannot prevail.
Here comes this book, as a breath of fresh air. The author, a well-known human rights activist, defies all (Israeli) odds and proposes a scheme of co-existence. He envisages a pluralistic society in which human dignity and rights are respected. He eloquently and gently guides you through the maze of obstacles towards the natural and sensible solution of co-existence.
As a Palestinian, whose people have lost 78% of Palestine by conquest and 22% by occupation and endured countless rounds of wars, raids, oppression and suffering, his is a remarkable journey in the road to humanity.
It is more genuine than the effected rubbing of forefingers (sawa, sawa, ya khabibi). It is in fact an expression of Palestinianism. Even to the casual observer, it is known that Palestine was the refuge to Turkomans, Armenians, Circassians, Bosnians, German Templars and a multitude of Europeans in Palestinian ports or holy cities.
None of these communities attempted to annihilate their hosts. None of them attempted to dominate them. None of them tried to impose their habits or ideology on the national majority of the land or to erase their cultural and physical landscape. The Israelis did all that in various degrees of success. They are still doing this now.
The pluralistic solution articulated by the author is therefore essentially Palestinian. In fact, even the UN Partition Resolution No. 181 of 29 Nov. 1947, which recommended, not decreed because it does not have the right, two sovereign states, stipulated the means for the protection of the Arab and Jewish communities and the preservation of their rights in both states. Such ideas have now become a necessity since brutal naked force used by the Israelis to force the Palestinians into submission have failed. It earned the Israelis the condemnation of the world and caused the Palestinians such agony for which Israelis will always be accountable.
The Israeli contentions of preserving 'the Jewish character' and the demographic supremacy are dangerous dreams which can, as it did, cause much bloodshed. These archaic racist ideologies have no place in the twenty-first century world.
The thesis, advanced by the author, in such humane and lucid manner, should come natural to all who seek genuine and permanent peace. It is not foreign to Palestinians, as their historians, writers, and even politicians, have frequently proclaimed.
Of all people, the Israelis should embrace this approach. They first have to shake themselves of their collective amnesia, in which the Palestinians do not exist, al Nakba did not happen, ethnic cleansing and war crimes are a myth. Second, they have to educate themselves about the merits of human rights and international law. This should not be difficult to do. The Israeli public must be told what Jews in Europe and USA tell their fellow citizens: to be tolerant, to have equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race or religion. In other words, they should practice in Israel what they preach abroad.
They would find in this book a well-reasoned and dispassionate formula for human-rights-based peace plan. The author has several qualities to credit him for advancing this vision: he is a Palestinian whose suffering did not prevent him from being sensible, he has such scientific education as to distance him from fanaticism, he is a human-rights advocate which enables him to see the rights of all, not some.
Regrettably, that is not the attitude of most Israelis. According to the Israel Democracy Institute (May 2003), most Israelis shun democracy in favor of a 'Jewish' Israel, the majority favor expelling the Palestinian citizens of Israel and oppose giving them full equality. The noted Israeli historian, Benny Morris, laments Ben Gurion's lack of action to expel the remnants of Palestinians who managed to remain in Israel, and clearly calls for ethnic cleansing by advocating 'them' or 'us'. This is the same view of all Israeli governments so far. Tragically, this is a bad omen for the future. But we must retain the hope that this will change.
If Israelis embrace human rights, they will win acceptance. If they do not, they will remain condemned by the world.
As to the Palestinians who suffered and lost so much, they have no intention of giving up their rights, however long it takes. History tells us that such people will always prevail.
Salman Abu Sitta
About The Author
I was born and raised in Beit Sahour, the biblical Shepherds' Field just on the outskirts of Bethlehem. My first hand experiences as a Palestinian Christian and my educational background in universities both in the Middle East and the US helped shape my evolving world views. I was raised under Israeli occupation and my large family still resides in the area.
My memories include vivid recollections of pastoral farm life, urban education, cultural events, and an overall mosaic of people of varied religions and backgrounds. They include a rich International coterie of friends and relatives visiting from Europe, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the US. As for Israelis, my interactions included not only Israeli soldiers and settlers/colonists but also average Israelis from all walks of life and all stripes.
My bachelor degree in Jordan included the close interaction with Palestinian refugee community in Jordan (Jordan has over 2 million Palestinian refugees). I got my Masters degree at the University of Connecticut, a Ph.D. at Texas Tech University and postdoctoral training at St. Jude Children Research Hospital and the University of Tennessee (included Clinical Fellowship). I was extremely lucky that my research and career turns necessitated extensive travels in Jordan, Israel/Palestine, North Africa, East Africa, Europe, and America. The advantage of the scientific work was accompanied with the advantage of meeting people of all walks of life. Thus visiting universities for their scientific collections or to get educated provided quite a different experience than trapping animals near rural isolated communities in the Middle of the Sahara desert or in the African savanna. This allowed me an understanding of societies not available to tourists.
I became active more directly in social and political causes about 15 years ago but never belonged to one of the many Palestinian liberation movements. My interests continued to evolve as I read more and had a chance to learn from my interactions with the thousands of people I met during my frequent travels. The educational resources available at the Universities I affiliated with allowed me to pursue activism in new directions. This included our abilities to quickly use the internet and web and email as tools for activism.
I was co-founder of a number of organizations and groups: The Triangle Middle East Dialogue, the Carolina Middle East Association, the Holy Land Conservation Foundation, the Middle East Genetics Association, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (http://al-awda.org), Academics For Justice (AcademicsForJustice.org), among others.
I published over 120 scientific papers in areas ranging from Zoology to Genetics. My later training was in genetics and I served as Associate Professor of Genetics and director of cytogenetic services both at Duke University and Yale University. I also published two books: Mammals of the Holy Land and Bats of Egypt. This book is the first I write on the Palestine question. However, I have published extensively on these issues including over 100 letters to the editor and over 30 op-ed pieces. I am also interviewed regularly on TV and radio (local, national and international). Appearances in national media included the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, CNBC, C-Span, and ABC, among others.
I share this rather complex background so that you the reader understand more about how I came to understand the importance and the centrality of a pluralistic solution to the simmering conflict in the Land of Canaan.
Al-Nakba: Literally the catastrophe. This is the name given to the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homelands between 1947 to 1949.
Apartheid: An official government policy of segregation based on race, ethnicity, or religion. This was officially renounced in 1992 in South Africa.
Arab: Refers to those whose mother-tongue is Arabic regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation.
Ashkenazi, Ashkenazim: Jews who have developed culturally and linguistically starting from areas of the ancient Khazar empire and then into Eastern Europe. Yiddish developed as a unique language of Ashkenazim.
Balfour and Balfour Declaration: Lord Balfour was British foreign secretary when he issued in 1917 a declaration addressed to the Zionist movement relaying the support of "her majesty's government" for the establishment of a "Jewish homeland in Palestine."
Bedouin: Seminomadic tribes. In Palestine these tribes inhabited discrete geographic areas and subsisted on raising domestic animals, trade and even occasionally agriculture in desert valleys in the Negev. Most Palestinian Bedouins likely derive from Nebateans ancestry.
Canaan, Canaanite. Refers to land and people inhabiting the Eastern Mediterranean region. Most spoke Semetic languages and many had flourishing local kingdoms between 2000 BCE to the Roman conquests.
Dunum: Land size measurement. A dunum is about a quarter of an acre.
Ethnic cleansing: The violent removal by one ethnic group of another ethnic group from a particular area. Good examples is what happened in Palestine in 1947-1949 and in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Fellahin: Arabic for farmers. The vast majority f Palestinians in the 19th century were farmers. Few were Bedouin (semi-nomadic).
Fertile Crescent: Area stretching from present day Iraq through Syria and Lebanon to Israel/Palestine. Named for its rich agricultural land.
Israel: The origin of this word comes from ancient Aramaic YSR (struggle) and EL (the higher God). It is believed it refers to the Biblical story of Jacob struggling with God. After the death of King Solomon, the tribes were separated into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah (see Jew below).
Jew: The root of this word is the ancient Aramaic word Yehudah (Judah) generally accepted as referring to the son of Jacob (also known as Israel), who is the son of Isaac, and who is the son of Abraham. Originally the concept of Jew (Yehudi) referred to descendents of this tribe/line of Yehudah (Judah) and later to anyone who hails from the Kingdom of Judah which contained three tribes. As conversions to newer religions came about and various converts joined, the term started to refer to those who follow a particular religion now called Judaism based the belief in the laws of Moses. This religion continued to evolve with Rabbinical Judaism domineering in the 3rd century ACE then branching into reform and conservative ideologies later.
Jewish National Fund: " non-profit organization founded in 1901 to serve as caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners - Jewish People everywhere" (per their description).
Knesset: The Israeli parliament or legislative body.
Nabateans: A Canaanitic civilization that flourished in Southern Canaan (present day Jordan and Israel/Palestine) and built many wealthy and prosperous cities. Incorporated into the Roman Empire and later resurrected as the Christian Ghassasin Kingdom. Many Palestinians and Jordanians (especially in the Southern parts of these countries) trace ancestry to Nabateans.
Semitic: Refers to the language group that includes Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, Phoenician and other languages spoken in the Eastern Mediterranean region (the Land of Canaan).
UNRWA: United Nations Relief and Works agency for Palestinian Refugees. A UN agency set-up for humanitarian aid to the Palestinian refugees following the creation of the state of Israel.
Zionism: A term coined by Nathan Birnbaum to refer to the political ideology or movement about the need to develop a separate national homeland for Jews as a form of self-emancipation. Cultural Zionism believed in development of Hebrew and other cultural national trappings while political Zionism believed in developing a modern national state.