Opinion |

Should Israelis Determine the Fate of Conquered Palestinian Lands?

A leftist campaign that calls for a referendum on the future of the occupation is an affront to Palestinians.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
Israeli Arabs demonstrating in Nazareth.
Israeli Arabs demonstrating in Nazareth.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

The organizers of a petition called “Deciding on the 50th” wish to hold a referendum on the fate of the occupation without ever mentioning that word. The Umayad period poet Jarir wrote: “Al-Farazadaq has decided to kill Marba so, look forward to a long life, Marba.” In that case, dear occupation, if these are your opponents, you have many years ahead of you.

Not only is the word “occupation” missing from the text coined by its adversaries, but so is Palestinian land, termed in their lexicon “territories.” What does “territories” mean? Does this refer to a nature reserve with extinct creatures? Not mentioning the name of millions of people is highly insensitive. The petition’s organizers are ashamed to mention the name of the people they intend to make peace with.

The Arabs have a saying that goes: “Someone who is bashful in front of his wife will never have children.” This initiative, which is ashamed of calling the child, the occupation, by its name, is a sterile one.

Palestinian citizens of Israel also have cause for rejoicing. We’ll be asked to participate in a referendum which will determine the fate of Zionism. Really, what is this obsession with Zionism? If for most Jews Zionist means liberty, for Palestinians it signifies the destruction of homes and towns, splitting the nation between its homeland and its diaspora. Zionism destroyed Ma’alul, my parents’ village, and for 67 years its displaced residents cannot return to it. Now they want me to worry about Zionism’s future? That’s really too much.

Whoever insisted on including the phrase “the fate of Zionism” in this petition only wished to prevent Arab citizens of the state from participating in political decisions. They should finally understand that Zionism is an internal affair of Zionists only. They can get together and decide how to continue screwing the Arabs.

As for us, Arabs and non-Zionist Jews, what have we to do with Zionism, whether of the sane or crazy varieties? It was the party of brotherhood among nations, Mapam, which established its kibbutzim on the land of destroyed Arab villages.

Furthermore – and you’ll pardon my nit-picking the short text which is so full of pinpricks – what is all this reference to the Six-Day War? Why further humiliate Arabs whose lands were indeed conquered in six days? One can expect that war to soon be called the 50-year war, and the best is yet to come. One should remember that after the painful rout, Moshe Dayan waited by the phone for a surrender call from Arab states.

A different ring came later, in the form of the October war in 1973, after the arrogant government headed by Golda Meir did not heed the world’s demand that Israel withdraw from areas it had conquered. One should note that peace will never be established by those who humiliate and the humiliated ones.

When talk of a referendum about the fate of conquered Palestinian lands began, I gave it some thought. By what right can an Israeli citizen determine the fate of lands that don’t belong to him? Nevertheless, I though the issue would produce a public debate, since Israelis are the other side of the equation and they have an obligation to state their case. When I saw the wording of the initiative I was stunned to discover how far its proponents had strayed from the path.

What’s going on here? Everyone is veering toward the center, adhering to the “mainstream.” To hell with this mainstream, if it’s taking root at Metzudat Ze’ev, the Likud headquarters. With all this unwelcome self-restraint, people aren’t what they used to be. “Even the mosquitoes here don’t bite,” once said Syrian comedian Duraid Laham. Really, where has the renowned Israeli chutzpah disappeared when one needs it? Everyone wants to be Isaac Herzog.

This initiative originates in the old Mapai party, the progenitor of the occupation and settlements. Ending the occupation is the business of an alternative to Mapai, not of that party.

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