Prime Minister Trudeau at the opening of Canada’s Holocaust Memorial, 2017. Are Jewish Israeli fears about a new Holocaust real, or are they only an excuse to keep on oppressing Palestinians? Canadian Palestinian Monzer Zimmo thinks that human rights activists interested in bringing an end to the Israel/Palestine conflict need to think carefully about Jewish fears and how to deal with them. Read more.
Jewish Fear and the Right of Return:
Confronting the greatest obstacles in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
Justly resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict requires acceptance by both parties (i.e. Jews and Palestinians) that they are equally human beings who need to understand each other in a manner that recognizes the right of both parties to live in peace, security, and human dignity.
When Jewish Fear is mentioned, many think of the Holocaust. The truth about Jewish Fear is that it had existed as a Jewish reality for centuries before the Holocaust. The Holocaust gave Jewish Fear validation, but it is not its source.
For centuries earlier, Jews – especially European Jews – were discriminated against in more ways than what can be accounted for in an article. Anti-Semitism, as it is commonly understood to mean anti-Jewish, rendered Jews inferior and resulted in treating them as less than equal human beings. The reality of anti-Semitism produced Jewish Fear.
Late in the 19th century, Zionism emerged as an organized Jewish political force advocating the cause of establishing a homeland for Jews. Such homeland would be a safe haven to which Jews can flee in an event of danger that seemed to Jews to be imminent everywhere all the time.
To illustrate how deep Jewish Fear is in the Jewish psyche, I invite readers to consider the current balance of power in the Middle East. The State of Israel is far stronger than the Palestinians and is more powerful militarily than the entire Arab countries put together. Yet, concern for the security of the State of Israel continues to dominate mainstream Jewish thinking.
Jewish Fear is real; it exists; it is deeply felt; comprehending it is fundamental to understanding the Zionist narrative domination over Jewish communities worldwide; and addressing it is essential to justly solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Impact of Jewish Fear on the Palestinian people:
The Zionist movement focused on Palestine as the place in which to establish a homeland for Jews. Additionally, establishing a state for Jews away from Europe was a Zionist “gift” to Europeans, for that would resolve what was then called the “Jewish Problem”; basically a bi-product of anti-Semitism.
Around the turn of the last century, “The Mother of All Lies” was pronounced. Zionists declared Palestine to be “A land without people for a people without land.” Based on that lie, Palestine was a ripe land for the taking, without the Palestinians.
On November 2, 1917, the British government – through the infamous Balfour Declaration – promised a homeland for the Jews in Palestine without consulting the Palestinian people. In implementing the Balfour Declaration, the British facilitated the transfer of waves of European Jews into Palestine. Palestinians rejected the denial of their existence, asserted their presence on their land, and resisted British and Zionist actions to reshape their society without their consent. Facing overwhelming odds, Palestinian resistance was crushed, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians intensified, and Zionist efforts continued to score success after success as Jewish immigration became the new face-changing reality of Palestine.
After establishing the State of Israel, Jewish Fear caused most Jews to feel reluctant to tolerate any criticism of the State of Israel, for the preservation of their safe haven is far more important than any other consideration. Most Jews see the State of Israel as the only place where Jews constitute a strong majority capable of stopping persecution against them, and they would preserve it; at any cost.
It is important to remember that while Jewish persecution is an undeniable historic fact, it is also an undeniable historic fact that the Palestinians did not cause it; did not initiate it; did not participate in it; and were not in any way responsible for it. Jewish Fear, as a direct result of anti-Semitism, had been a Jewish reality for centuries prior to Palestinians becoming part of any conflict with Jews.
The Right of Return:
When the State of Israel was established on the ruins of Palestinian society in 1948 more than 750,000 Palestinian civilians were displaced. They, with their descendants, became known as the Palestine Refugees. Today, seventy years later, the Palestine Refugees have grown to more than seven million people living all over the world, but the majority of them live as refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
On December 11, 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 (III) in which the Right of Return was confirmed. It is worth noting that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted a day earlier (i.e. December 10, 1948) by the same UN General Assembly.
The Right of Return is the right of the Palestine Refugees to return to their homes and resume their lives in peace. Hundreds of the villages to which millions of Palestinians seek to “return” no longer exist, but the hope to return and the dream to rebuild and reconstitute their presence over their land grows stronger with every new generation of Palestinians. History does not record any people ever accepting denial of their existence, and the Palestinian people will not be the first to do so.
Reconciling Jewish Fear with the Right of Return:
In Zionists’ eyes, the Right of Return would eliminate the safe haven for Jews. Zionists claim that implementing the Right of Return and satisfying Jewish Fear are mutually exclusive; thus, the current impasse.
I assert that it is possible to implement the Right of Return and satisfy Jewish Fear at the same time. I see that happening in the peaceful creation of a bi-national constitutional democracy on all the land of historic Palestine, rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others are treated as equal citizens and made to feel safe, secure, and at home. While the details of the specific structure of the bi-national state are obviously numerous, the following would be its main shaping characteristics:
- Jews would not lose anything except dominating Palestinians, and Palestinians would gain everything except dominating Jews.
- The Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not end with either party victorious over the other, but with both parties winning.
- Mutual respect would be the law, the culture, the norm, and the new path to a shared future for all in a country that would be as much Jewish as it is Palestinian.
- Diversity will be celebrated and linguistic duality (Arabic and Hebrew) embraced.
- Laws impacting religious and/or cultural rights would not pass with simple majority but only with clear majority from both communities.
- There would be two levels of equality; individual equality before the law; and collective equality for the two communities, where they agree on an arrangement by which neither community would dominate the other by means of population growth or otherwise.
Empathically dealing with Jewish Fear is in the best interest of Palestinians, and justly dealing with the Right of Return is in the best interest of Jews. When the Right of Return is realized, it will be the destiny of the Palestinian people to bring an end to Jewish Fear.
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