Here is a unique proposal – become the newest indigenous people in the world. In other words, Palestinian Arabs, you can write your own future. I dare you to. Or, you can continue to bask in the attention afforded you as you persist in the victimhood imposed upon you years ago by your fellow Arabs, based upon an imaginary past.
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Pro-Palestinians want to see one state “between the river and the sea”; in other words, they want Israel to cease to exist. No-Palestinians deny the Palestinian Arabs the right to define their own identity. I am an Okay-You-Want-To-Be-Palestinian-But Not-Like-That kind of person. If you really want a name that symbolizes subjugation and failure, that is your prerogative; but does it mean you really have to be a failed People?
The Pro-Palestinian Argument
Pro-Palestinians have tried to convince the world that the Palestinian Arabs are indigenous to the land of Israel – saying, in turn, that they are the descendants of the original Canaanites, the original Philistines, or even the original homo sapiens who settled the land eons before Abraham breathed his first breath on Earth. These are all ridiculous claims that hold no water.
For the Palestinian Arabs to even suggest such possibilities is like shooting themselves in the foot. For, if true, it would mean that the Arabs living in the area governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) are not Arabs at all and, therefore, would negate any claim they would have to being part of the Arab World, or “Uma“. And I do not think that they really intend to detach themselves from their glorious Arab roots nor from membership in one of the currently most influential ethnic groups in the world even if that influence is, today, largely destructive.
The No-Palestinian Argument
No-Palestinians use the argument that a sovereign Palestinian Arab state never existed before in all of history and therefore has no right to exist in future. They talk about how Palestine was a Jewish province under Rome during Roman Empire times and later a mandate overseen by Britain after World War I. No-Palestinians go on and on about how there was never a Palestinian coin, flag, newspaper, etc., except for those so named under the British Mandate and adorned with symbols from Judaism with script in Hebrew, Arabic and English. These are all true facts, showing that Palestine originally referred to a region associated with the Jews.
But this historical truth has little bearing on the contemporary situation, except as background, because the future is not decided upon by the past but by decisions made now, based upon either an understanding of, or, demonically, attempts at re-writing, the past or simply ignoring it.
I Dare the Palestinian Arabs To Write Their Own Future
The Arabs living under the PA have a unique opportunity before them today. I do not know if they are courageous enough to take advantage of it, but they have the opportunity to turn themselves into the newest (quasi-)indigenous population on Earth.
An indigenous population is one that has seen its culture, spirituality, language, and traditions develop on a particular geographic space that has sacred significance to the People. That rules out the Arabs who colonized the area of the Palestinian Mandate just as it rules out the Romans whose empire predated the Arab Conquest and the Ottomans who came after the Arabs. If a Roman pigeon came to roost and claim Palestine as its own, one can only hope it would be laughed out of the region. But the Arabs, like the Jews, have had a long-term continuous presence on the land (Arabs, obviously, for a much much shorter time than the indigenous Jews), leading to the current confusion on the part of those who are ignorant of the history of the region or who willfully ignore that history.
The pages of history are rife with stories about the establishment and demise of indigenous peoples around the globe. Some are totally extinct and others, such as the Sami of northern Scandinavia, are under threat of extinction. Many indigenous peoples today are struggling for recognition of their rights to self-rule on their ancient homelands with Israel a role model for how an ancient indigenous people can regain its land. Given the topsy-turvy history of indigenous peoples, there is no reason that a new indigenous or quasi-indigenous people could not arise in modern times.
So, how can the Palestinian Arabs, some of whom are relatively recent migrants and others descendants of colonial invaders, turn themselves into an indigenous population? The only way is if they take advantage of what made losing the war a Nakba for them: the fact that their fellow Arabs rejected them except as useful idiots.
Arab leaders used as pawns in their war against Israel those categorized by UNRWA as Palestinian refugees. Refusing to resettle them in Arab lands, they preferred to see them languish in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon — and even in Gaza and Judea & Samaria (J&S, aka the West Bank) even after the PA took over administration of the disputed territories. In this way, they used, and continue to use, some of their own Uma as human weaponry against the hated Jews. (Their very own PA leadership uses them as milk cows, diverting international aid funds into their own personal coffers.) By doing this, Arabs outside the region turned the Arabs of the former British Mandate of Palestine into a separate population unit and a new Palestinian Arab identity was born.
If the Palestinian Arabs were to play their cards well, however, these abuses can open up for them a way to a life of self-respect and dignity . . . and perhaps sovereignty. It is even possible that the Palestinian Arabs have, by now, become two separate peoples – those of Gaza and those of J&S.
While the Palestinian Arabs share a religion and a language with the Arab Uma (the proportion of Christians is minuscule today – another issue, but beyond the scope of this article), that does not mean that they cannot cement their identity as a thing apart from the rest of the Arabs. They need to decide on the nature of their attachment to the land: does it lie in continuing to see the land as a war-zone for soaking up the blood of dead Jews or can they develop a unique relationship with the land that has nothing to do with anyone else but themselves?
That means believing themselves a people apart from the larger Arab world and not as a unit of martyrs fighting for general Arab honour to be subsumed by the the other Arab countries once their task is over. This would set the stage for the development of a particular culture of their own making – including their relationship with their own religion and with the religious sites they share with Jews and Christians.
This would likely set the stage for “civil” war between them and other Arabs who would not take such a move lying down. The New Palestinians would find that Israel would be on their side of the battle lines and we are a formidable force to have on one’s side. That is a kind of Pro-Palestinian the world has not seen and it would put all current so-called pro-Palestinians to shame.
It all depends on the value-culture they wish to develop. Do the Palestinian Arabs want to distinguish themselves as a healthy society with a growing economy that contributes to mankind, or do they prefer to stay wedded to a culture that devours its own by sending them off to knife, car-ram and suicide-bomb Jews for a 72-virgin-prize-in-Paradise fantasy?
The choice is theirs and theirs alone. They just have to decide to re-write their future all by themselves.
Do I believe they can do that, or that they even want to? Not very likely, I think. And even if the answer was “yes”, how long would it take me to trust them? A very long time. But I never say never. And the dare stands.
This was originally published on Israel Diaries.