The Passion of Zionism
Jordan Times. March 18,2004
AFTER WATCHING `The Passion of Christ', I thought both Mel Gibson and his critics were wrong. Jesus did walk this earth but what exactly did he say and what happened to him may or may not be correctly recorded in the Gospels we use today, let alone in Gibson's film.
Aramaic is actually closer to modern-day Arabic than modern-day Hebrew. I understand some Aramaic because I know Arabic and Hebrew and thus I can decipher words common to their ancestral language but dropped from one or the other. Some Palestinian Christians still speak a modified version of Aramaic.
My family lives in Beit Sahour, the biblical Shepherds' Field. The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem is about 700 yards from the house in Beit Sahour where I was born and the church where I was baptised. Many, but not all, Palestinians adopted Islam over the years, just as not all Palestinian Jews and pagans became Christians. Despite the usual problems between minorities and majorities, we all coexisted. That is until a European colonial idea called Zionism came about in the 19th century.
In 1850, Palestine had 80 per cent Muslims, 15 per cent Christians, 5 per cent Jews and others. Today, 70 per cent of Palestinian Christians and Muslims are refugees. In parallel, millions of non-native Jews from some 60 countries came to Palestine under the banner of Zionism. The Zionist movement refuses to allow refugees to exercise their inalienable right of return. This is done to maintain “the Jewish character' of the state.
Over the last 57 years, Palestinians suffered ethnic cleansing, massacres (over 33 just between 1947-1948), societal destruction, land confiscations and grave violations of basic human rights. All of this was well documented by human rights groups and is ruled illegal by dozens of yet-to-be enforced UN resolutions. This large-scale theft of land did occur elsewhere. What is unique here is that this is still happening. Just last year, Israeli colonial forces demolished hundreds of houses, confiscated thousands of properties, rendering thousands homeless and jobless.
The apartheid walls are squeezing Palestinians into 5 cantons (10 per cent of historical Palestine). Walls separate remaining Palestinians from their lands, from work, from schools, from hospitals, from their urban centres, and from each other. Unemployment is at 70 per cent and rising, while all access to humanitarian aid is controlled. Meanwhile, the 1.3 million Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) with Israeli “citizenship” are considered at best strangers in the “Jewish state” and at worst a “demographic threat”.
Now thousands of Christians and Muslims are being choked out of areas like Bethlehem after they were removed from areas inside the Green Line. It is a crime against humanity that the 2000-year-old community of Christians is being intentionally decimated. Zionists continuously play the victim card while finishing the destruction of Palestinian society and culture and shifting the blame.
European Zionism suppressed Sephardic and Mizrachi culture, discarded Yiddish to develop Hebrew, discarded international law to develop chauvinistic violence and territorial expansion, and discarded Jewish morality and justice to develop Jewish supremacism. To sustain this, a myth is advanced: a Jewish supremacist state is an answer to inherent gentile discrimination and violence against Jews. Many Jews and others now wonder whether Israel offers safety to Jews by oppressing another people? Does Zionism combat anti-Semitism or are they faces of the same coin
In this context, criticism of Gibson's movie by Zionists is simply not credible. Why not criticise the dozens of movies that vilify Muslims and Arabs today (not those who lived 2000 years ago)? Why not criticise a state claiming to represent Jews when it daily kills Palestinians and takes their land using our US tax money and diplomatic support?
Imagine if we were told the truth, that Israel can and must evolve into a post-Zionist state for all its citizens! That the US can and must evolve into a post-imperial era in which we advance democracy and human rights instead of oppression and injustice! These are the real issues and the key to durable security and peace in our world.
The writer is a Palestinian American associate professor at Yale and co-founder of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and AcademicsForJustice.org. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.