I am a Jew. I was a participant in the Rally for the Right of Return to
Palestine. It was the right thing to do. I've heard about the European
holocaust against the Jews since I was a small child. I've visited the
memorials in Washington, DC and Jerusalem dedicated to Jewish lives lost and
I've cried at the recognition to what level of atrocity mankind is capable of
Where are the Jews of conscience? No righteous malice can be held against the
survivors of Hitler's holocaust. These fragments of humanity were in no
position to make choices beyond that of personal survival. We must not forget
that being a survivor or a co-religionist of the victims of the European
Holocaust does not grant dispensation from abiding by the rules of humanity.
"Never again" as a motto, rings hollow when it means "never again to us
alone." My generation was raised being led to believe that the biblical land
was a vast desert inhabited by a handful of impoverished Palestinians living
with their camels and eking out a living in the sand. The arrival of the Jews
was touted as a tremendous benefit to these desert dwellers. Golda Meir even
assured us that there "is no Palestinian problem."
We know now this picture wasn't as it was painted. Palestine was a land filed
with people who called it home. There were thriving towns and villages,
schools and hospitals. There were Jews, Christians and Muslims. In fact,
prior to the occupation, Jews represented a mere 7 percent of the population
and owned 3 percent of the land.
Taking the blinders off for a moment, I see a second atrocity perpetuated by
the very people who should be exquisitely sensitive to the suffering of
others. These people knew what it felt like to be ordered out of your home at
gun point and forced to march into the night to unknown destinations or face
execution on the spot. The people who displaced the Palestinians knew first
hand what it means to watch your home in flames, to surrender everything dear
to your heart at a moment's notice.
Bulldozers leveled hundreds of villages, along with the remains of the
village inhabitants, the old and the young. This was nothing new to the
world. Poland is a vast graveyard of the Jews of Europe. Israel is the final
resting place of the massacred Palestinian people. A short distance from the
memorial to the Jewish children lost to the holocaust in Europe there is a
leveled parking lot. Under this parking lot is what's left of a once
flourishing village and the bodies of men, women and children whose only
crime was taking up needed space and not leaving graciously. This particular
burial marker reads: "Public Parking".
I've talked with Palestinians. I have yet to meet a Palestinian who hasn't
lost a member of their family to the Israeli Shoah, nor a Palestinian who
cannot name a relative or friend languishing under inhumane conditions in an
Israeli prison. Time and time again, Israel is cited for human rights
violations to no avail. On a recent trip to Israel, I visited the refugee
camps inhabited by a people who have waited 52 years in these 'temporary'
camps to go home. Every Palestinian grandparent can tell you the name of
their village, their street, and where the olive trees were planted. Their
grandchildren may never have been home, but they can tell you where their
great-grandfather lies buried and where the village well stood.
The press has fostered the portrait of the Palestinian terrorist. But, the
victims who rose up against human indignity in the Warsaw Ghetto are called
heroes. Those who lost their lives are called martyrs. The Palestinian who
tosses a rock in desperation is a terrorist.
Two years ago I drove through Palestine and watched intricate sprinkler
systems watering lush green lawns of Zionist settlers in their new
condominium complexes, surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire in the
midst of a Palestinian community where there was not adequate water to drink
and the surrounding fields were sandy and dry. University professor Moshe
Zimmerman reported in the Jerusalem Post (April 30, 1995), "The [Jewish]
children of Hebron are just like Hitler's youth."
We Jews are suing for restitution, lost wages, compensation for homes, land,
slave labor and back wages in Europe. Am I a traitor of a Jew for supporting
the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their birthplace and
compensation for what was taken that cannot be returned? The Jewish dead
cannot be brought back to life and neither can the Palestinian massacred be
David Ben Gurion said, "Let us not ignore the truth among
ourselves...politically, we are the aggressors and they defend
themselves...The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want
to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from
them their country..."
Palestine is a land that has been occupied and emptied of its people. Its
cultural and physical landmarks have been obliterated and replaced by tidy
Hebrew signs. The history of a people was the first thing eradicated by the
occupiers. The history of the indigenous people (only 52 years old) has been
all but eradicated as though they never existed. And all this has been hailed
by the world as a miraculous act of God.
We must recognize that Israel's existence is not even a question of legality
so much as it is an illegal fait accompli realized through the use of force
while supported by the Western powers. The UN missions directed at Israel in
attempting to correct its violations of have thus far been futile.
In Hertzl's "The Jewish State," the father of Zionism said, "...We must
investigate and take possession of the new Jewish country by means of every
I guess I agree with Ehud Barak (3 June 1998) when he said, "If I were a
Palestinian, I'd also join a terror group." I'd go a step further perhaps.
Rather than throwing little stones in desperation, I'd hurtle a boulder.
Hopefully, somewhere deep inside, every Jew of conscience knows that this was
no war; that this was not God's restitution of the holy land to it's rightful
owners. We know that a human atrocity was and continues to be perpetuated
against an innocent people who couldn't come up with the arms and money to
defend themselves against the western powers bent upon their demise as a
We cannot continue to say, "But what were we to do?" Zionism is not
synonymous with Judaism. I wholly support the rally of the right of return of
the Palestinian people.