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May 16, 2002
Rethinking The Palestinian Cause

By Omar Jubran


In the mid seventies, I spent one year at the University of Oregon where I met and mad freinds with an American Jew, David. David called himself a "Liberal" Zionist. He tried to explain to me the difference between a "Liberal" Zionist and a Conservative Zionist. To me, a Zionist was a Zionist. To David, the difference between the two type of Zionism is that the Liberal Zionist cared for the Palestinians and their rights and is willing to share Palestine. How generous of them, I told him. Share a land that you stole. To a Palestinian, the idea of sharing Palestine was very absurd. The Jews stole the land, we thought naively. You want us to share it? No, Palestine was ours, and we were entitled, by nature and by law, to live in the land of our fathers.

This kind of thinking really did a lot of damage to the Palestinian cause. The Zionist used this motto of "our right of return" against us to spread the lies that the Palestinians want the Jews, all Jews, out of Israel and dumped into the sea.

I am not your typical Palestinian: I did not grow up in a refugee camp. Even though as an Israeli Arab, I suffered from discrimination and Land confiscation at the hand of the Israeli government, I did not lose my house. I did not lose relatives and friends to the Israeli aggression. So, my suffering as a Palestinian was a lot less than that suffered by close to 1 million Palestinians who were displaced by Israel. I grew up in Israel, as an Israeli Arab. As such, I kind of knew how the Jews think. As a school boy, I learnt their mythology from their 'history' text books. I shared to some extent, their feelings. So, I was out of the norm from what Palestinian friends thought at the time.

I co-authored an article with David to the University newspaper. In that article, we called for a two state solution to the Palestinian/Israeli problem. After that article appeared in the newspaper, my Palestinian friends kind of turned on me. I stopped being asked to the Palestinian students meetings. All of a sudden I was not a "Good" Palestinian. David, also, suffered a similar outcome from his Jewish friends and groups.

That was close to 30 years ago. Now, most Palestinians are willing to give up the dream of a one state solution. Most Palestinians reached the realization that they had to compromise with Israeli realities. It is no small compromise to settle for 22% of what once was all theirs.

I would like to break the Palestinian cause into phases: 1) The revolutionary phase, where we established our selves as people, rather that just refugees in need of charity. That phase has now been accomplished under the leadership of Yaser Arafat. I always thought that Yaser Arafat was a good leader during the revolutionary phase of the Palestinian struggle.We know who we are and the world knows who we are.

2) The negotiation phase, where we would deal with Israel as equals.

I think that Arafat should have resigned after the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993. After Oslo, the second phase started and Arafat should have turned the leadership over to someone else. Someone who grew up in Palestine. Someone who knows how to deal with the Israelis. Palestinians have a lot of talent to offer. Talent that is a lot better than Arafat.

Instead, Arafat insisted on leading the Palestinians. As a result, Israel is using him as an excuse to avoid making peace with the Palestinians. Sharon's Likudniks are using him as an excuse to massacre and further displace Palestinians. They make him the central issue, when the issue is our right to live as a free people independent of their army and their settlers. So they reduce the conflict to narrow questions about whether Arafat is a 'terrorist' or a statesman??

By removing himself from the position of leadership, Arafat would be opening the way for other bright Palestinians who can carry the cause in a much more effective manner. Israel will lose all the 'Arafat' excuses. We all know that Israel could have gotten rid of Arafat a long time ago. They did not do that because they want to keep him around so that they can use him to gain more time to confiscate more land and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. Netenyahu and his deranged followers proved that basic point this week.

Israeli motives are simple enough to figure out. What I don't understand is how we, as Palestinians, are allowing Arafat to hold center stage. Don't misunderstand me, I respect the man and what he has accomplished. But the time is ripe for a change. Where are all those intelligent Palestinians? We are supposed to be the highest educated people percentage wise among the Arabs.

It is time for a voice of real moderation. Stop the policy of being wishy washy. Israelis looks at Arafat and see a man that is not committed to what ever he says. But the Palestinians cannot do this task alone. A voice of real moderation needs to also emerge from Israel. They need to kick the habit of electing war criminals.

Some how, I believe that most Israelis will respond really well if they see a real Palestinian voice that calls for peace. Arafat carries with him a taboo, a stigma. We (Palestinians) somehow put Sharon in a very strong position with the Israelis. They like this thug. This is a man who committed war crimes. This is a man that was shamefully removed from the Israeli government. Now, he is a hero. For the Palestinians, Sharon also carries a stigma. The Israelis would be very wise to get rid of him.

I know that this is very hard to do, as Palestinians. Perhaps if I suffered as much as most Palestinians have, I would not be writing this. Perhaps I can say these things very easily because I am living in the comfort of my American home thousands of miles from the conflict. But, I also believe that my distance from the conflict allows me to think a little more clearly and rationally.

We Palestinians do not have the luxury of time. We need something drastic to happen soon. Otherwise, we will condemn another generation of Palestinians to continue to suffer Israeli occupation.

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