The Long Walk Home… Finding Palestine

So, this week marked the nakbeh (the catastrophe).  For those who live outside these circles, this commemorates the day that Palestinians were tossed out of their homes in 1948.  The day is considered a tragedy for the damage that it wrought on Palestinian families everywhere.  The stories abound at how people left, some were forced out at gunpoint, others heard of the massacre at Deir Yassin and left to ensure their families survived.  Some men escorted their families to a safer location (Amman, Lebanon, etc.) and then snuck back in to attempt to defend their homes.  The bottom line was that these families felt the unique connection with their land and homes shared by agrarian communities everywhere but were sent packing.

I’m not from a line of farmers.  Far from it, in fact.  However, my home state, and my home region of my home state are very much agrarian.  One of the towns even has a statue of a boll weevil (a bug that eats cotton crops).  So, I’ve seen people who have such a strong connection to the land.  These are people who see no need to travel the world.  They love their homes and they are happy staying there.  I’ve met people who have never left their TOWN, much less the state of Alabama.  So, I’ve seen that mindset.  And, that’s who Palestinians were.  People who lived in a rocky, semi-arid, olive producing region.  Their land wasn’t the most fertile or the most beautiful.  But it was the most beautiful to them, it was home.  Think of the feelings that word conjures up.  Home.

One of the many activities that took place this year to commemorate the tragic time when these people were ripped from their homes was a march of sorts.  I’ve been hearing about it for months now.  TetaBean and JiddoBean’s families both left Palestine and scattered.  When TetaBean first told me that a group of people was organizing to “walk to Palestine” I thought, well that’s a long walk home.  My second thought was that the idea, while perhaps visually poignant, was a terrible one.  First, the people will be far from population centers and places where they can be heard.  Second, the chances for it going wrong are many.  Third, you don’t just walk across an international border.  You just don’t.  This morning, I saw this article on the event.  Not surprisingly, violence broke out between protesters and police.

You may note that a group was arrested after attempting to cross the bridge that links Jordan and the West Bank.  I get the statement these people are trying to send, but I’m not sure anyone listened to the message.  If you want to protest the nakbeh, I’d recommend having all of your people dress in black, put duct tape over their mouths and stand lining Zahran Street in Amman, and every major thoroughfare in every major city that you can.  Make your point visually.  Don’t block traffic, don’t cross the bridge… remind people that you are still here, that you are still waiting.  SHOW them who you are and that you are peaceful.  In fact, make it more visually impactful by having each person wear a sign with the name of a city that was destroyed or a person killed in one of Israel’s aggressive actions.  Serve as human tombstones.  It seems to me that is a more effective way to capture people’s attention than having clashes with police in a remote town on the border.

And, while I’m on the topic, let’s talk about this “Right of Return” bogeyman that Israel is so terrified to accept.  How ridiculous are they?  Has anyone stopped to think about how few people WANT to return?  When we took a trip to Nazareth some years ago, El 3atal was, for the first time, viscerally impacted by the realization that he doesn’t want to live there.  While it may be home in the broader sense of the word, his connection on a very personal level to it is gone.  It isn’t really home (in the sense of well-being that conjures up).  Amman is home for him.  Jordan is his country.  He may be Palestinian, but he’s as much Jordanian.  But how meaningful would it be for Israel to simply accept saying everyone has the RIGHT to return.  Very few will return.  Very few.  People built lives elsewhere.  They aren’t likely to give them up just to go live in a place that has grown more and more decayed as the years have gone by.  Some will return to try and rebuild.  Some will return to try and find a better place for themselves and their families.  But for most life will go on.

The Israelis are facing a population issue that has no actual resolution.  Their birthrate is so low compared to Palestinians (and Arab Israelis) that they will be outnumbered.  The only question is when.  So, if they give up this fear and trembling and accept that sooner or later it will come to this, they will be better off.  They can keep the status quo… but the status quo isn’t staying the same.  The longer their repression goes on, the more stabilizing families will leave.  Increasingly they will be left with an ever more militant population.  Christians have, for the most part, fled to countries willing to take them in.  They went to the US, to Sweden, to England.  Our numbers grow fewer and fewer every year.  Emigration passed crisis level long ago across the entire region.  And, once all of the stabilizing elements are gone, what will Israel find?  They will find that the “status quo” to which they have clung so hard no longer exists.  They will find themselves prisoners in their own homes, afraid to go out into the streets.  Because that fear that drives them now will become worse and worse and worse.  Eventually that fear will take over everything and status quo will become a horrible set of circumstances that they have created.

So, to the Palestinians out there trying to send a message, get some really great PR people on board.  Figure out how to most effectively send your message.  Stop all of the pointless demonstrating and grab world-attention through peaceful, meaningful events.  And to the Israelis, take a step back from the personal side of the situation.  Leave behind the propaganda and look into the future that you are creating.  Is it really the future you want?  Is that the world in which you want your children to live?  Because it is the 20 somethings who will have to solve this problem.  Are you brainwashing yours to such a degree that they will be unable to?  Or are you enabling a step into the future by understanding that your actions have consequences?

Happy Strolls!

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8 thoughts on “The Long Walk Home… Finding Palestine

  1. Momma bean, thank you for remembering this important day. I love your lining zahran street.

    I just wanted to say that many people want to return, your family (husband and his family since he’s of Palestinian origin) is living a stable life, and a very good one relatively. Comparing to Palestinians who still live in camps in Jordan/Syria/Lebanon etc.

    Many people live in camps, on land that’s not theirs, really waiting for their time to return back home. Palestinian refugees in some countries are not allowed to build a roof over their house in the camp, they are not allowed jobs in certain sectors and not allowed the same rights as normal citizens, these people do have a life yes, but not an amazing one that they wouldn’t give up to go back home. I just thought i’d let you know. 🙂

    • Dee, I do recognize that there are many Palestinians living in camps. I expect they will want to return. But when you look at the actual numbers, I really fon’t think they’re that big. I could be wrong. Perhaps I’d be surprised and learn that there are millions of folks in the camps, but that really WOULD surprise me ;). Thanks for letting me know, though.

      • “UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for some 4.8 million registered Palestine refugees in Gaza, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank.”

        “As of January 2010, UNRWA cites 1,396,368 registered refugees in camps and 3,370,302 registered refugees not in camps.”

        These are the registered refugees, people like me are of palestinian origin but not registered as a refugee, and i’d take it all refugees ie. 4 million would want to go back home.

        Not to mention –> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_diaspora

        Check out the numbers in the box on the right, not all refugees or in camps, but all originally Palestinian.

      • Interesting, so maybe the numbers are much larger than I expected. Never mind, Israelis should be worried. They should still do the right thing, but…

      • Looked at the link. Then I checked UNRWA’s site and it states that 1.4 million live in camps (a number much closer to what I was expecting). Only about 346,000 of Jordan’s registered refugees are in camps. Total numbers outside of the heritage Palestinian lands is less than 800,000 in camps.

        Clearly, they have many more registered refugees. Perhaps they registered because they want to go back. They define eligible people as “These are persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. Palestine Refugees, and descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are eligible to register for UNRWA services.” Although I also wonder if that counts a family of 5 and if only mom and dad would want to go back. What an interesting research project this would be. Not for me, mind you, but…

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