At first blush it seems confusing, even rather silly and reactionary, for Palestinians to object to the rather innocuous move by Israel of declaring that in the West Bank there are features that are of Jewish historical significance. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared them to be Jewish archeological and 'Zionist' heritage sites, according to
The sites in question are Ibrahimi Mosque, (also known variously as the Sanctuary of Abraham, and the Cave of the Patriarchs), and Rachel's Tomb.
In understanding why this might in any way be provocative, we first ought to be mindful of the fact that Abraham, who is believed to be buried at the Ibrahimi Mosque location, is revered by all three religions: Jewish, Christian and Muslim.
But some are loathe to acknowledge this shared reverence for either Abraham or the land of Palestine itself. In 1994, a militant New York-born Zionist, Baruch Goldstein, murdered, in a scene of utter carnage, as many as 52 Muslim worshippers while injuring 150, in the Ibrahimi Mosque. (Goldstein was disarmed and subsequently beaten to death - Wikipedia.)
In the Palestinian rioting that followed, Israel imposed a two-week curfew on the 120,000 Palestinian inhabitants of the city of Hebron, while 400 settlers continued to enjoy freedom of movement within their midst.
Goldstein is a hero to some Zionist settlers. His grave was actually a shrine where settlers made pilgrimage. In 1999 after a legal ruling outlawing monuments to terrorists Goldstein's shrine and prayer area near his grave were bulldozed by the Israeli army. (But reportedly, every year Jewish Zionist settlers have parties to celebrate the Goldstein murders.)
At Goldstein's funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin declared that “one million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.”
Baruch Goldstein was a physician, with all of the presumptive reverence for human life that ought to have entailed.
The fear which arises from Israel's listing of West Bank historical sites partly stems from the fact that Israel is viewed as being hostile to preserving Palestinian cultural heritage (see, for example, the 1,000 year old Mamilla cemetery in Jerusalem. Also, article, 'History Erased'; Meron Rapoport; '07; Haaretz.) Conversely, it is fair to say that there is sometimes a dirth of trust between both Jews and Palestinians when it comes to respecting and preserving each others' heritage at the site of al-Aqsa Mosque/Temple of the Mount.)
So, on the one hand there is concern that the history of the Palestinian people in the region - that stretches back millenia - is at risk of being destroyed and by its absence used to disprove the significance and long-term existence of Palestinians in Israel.
On the other hand you have the highlighting of so-called 'Zionist' heritage sites in the occupied territories and the inviting of outsiders to come in to enjoy them while holding millions of Palestinian people hostage in a military occupation. To do so ignores or tacitly minimizes the suffering caused to Palestinians by the illegal military occupation as if it, or they, didn't exist..
It seems to me that the objections by Palestinians of this recent declaration by Israel regarding the historical significance of places in the Palestinian territories, which, I repeat, is currently under Israeli military occupation, really has nothing to do with whether or not there is Jewish historical significance attached to them. It has everything to do with the fact that all historical sites in Palestinian territory should be under the care and stewardship of the Palestinians, who in turn should be in ownership and control of their own lands. This follows Israel's own argument that the two peoples should be separated and apart.
In reality, Palestinians are denied the right to live free within their lands by the illegal, racist military occupation. This military cover is used by Jewish-supremacist settlers to evict Palestinians from their homes and lands on the basis of religious and racist discrimination.
For some Israeli Jews it may be that, after the ultimate horrors of the Final Solution and the Holocaust, in their hearts
Auschwitz: child victims of Holocaust terror rolling up sleeves to show concentration camp I.D. tattoos.
Gaza, Operation Cast Lead; Khalil Hamra; AP
And of course, similar levels of fear and mistrust are instilled in the hearts of many Palestinians, too.
The underlying mindset of the far-right wing Likud Party currently in power in Israel, is articulated in the 1999 Likud Charter which proclaimed it is the right of Jews to settle in Gaza and the West Bank.
Some Likud members have been quoted as stating outrageously racist, derogatory slurs against the Palestinian people. And it is not hard to find similar slurs toward Jews by Palestinian representatives.
But are there any signs for hope? Wikipedia states that Netanyahu outlined in June, 2009, his vision of a future Palestinian state. With current pressure to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians coming both from the Arab League and the U.S., presumably sooner or later the Likud-ruling government of Israel will have to come clean on whether or not they are willing to deal on peace and how far they are willing to go.
And there are reports that Hamas may be more willing to negotiate, and have a more pragmatic view, than perhaps many Israelis realize. For example, 'Ismail Abu Shanab (assassinated by Israel) said that Hamas would halt its armed struggle if "the Israelis are willing to fully withdraw from the 1967 occupied territories and present a timetable for doing so." ('Hamas: The Last Chance for Peace?' - Henry Siegman; Apr. 27, '06; The New York Review of Books.)
As I allude to above, I am of the view that reconciliation would require the ability of both sides to articulate, and have acknowledged, the pain and suffering endured by both sides.
In a recent New York Times Op-Ed, 'Therapeutic diplomacy, not rational negotiation, is the way forward in the Middle East', Carlo Strenger, chairman of the clinical graduate psychology program at Tel Aviv University, argues that:
'The region’s collective traumas may easily lead one to conclude that the situation is hopeless. But the peace process stands a chance if it is seen not as a rational intervention but as a course of therapy that will allow both sides to work through emotional aspects of their traumas, dreams and shattered hopes.'
So in answer to the question what is wrong with Palestinians, as in all things context and inquiry are key to understanding. And understanding can bring us closer to resolution of conflict. That is what I continue to believe.
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