May 2010 marks 62 years of apathy by the world towards the Muslims of Palestine. However, since May 1948 the people of Pakistan have reconciled their emotions with the Palestinian movement — we have refused to acknowledge Israel.
Following are extracts from an article written by Dr Nabil Sha’ath, former foreign minister of Palestine. It’s an eye-opening account of personal and national tragedy.
“I experienced exile first-hand. On May 13 1948, one day before Israel’s declaration of independence, my hometown of Jaffa was captured by Zionist forces. Seventy thousand Palestinian inhabitants were forced to leave, most of them by sea to Gaza, Egypt, and Lebanon. We were literally driven out to the sea. I was 10. We were never allowed to return. In the wake of the expulsion, more than 418 Palestinian villages were razed to the ground. Nearly all Palestinian property was confiscated by the nascent State of Israel for the exclusive benefit of Jews. In 1952, when Israel’s parliament passed its nationality law, Palestinian refugees were denied the option of citizenship in the new state. The expulsion of Palestinians and the subsequent measures to render the displacement permanent were taken in contravention of international law.
“These events were compounded by the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 when Israel expanded its control over the remaining 22 per cent of our historic homeland.
“Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees. They constitute the largest refugee population in the world. Palestinian refugee vulnerability is contributing to Middle East regional instability and insecurity, from Iraq to Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.
“I profoundly regret that Israel continues to disregard the Arab Peace Initiative (API), adopted by the Arab League in Beirut in March 2002. The API calls for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip along the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UNGA Resolution 194, in exchange for normalisation of relations with Israel and a lasting peace. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which represents 57 Islamic countries has endorsed the API as the basis to end the conflict. What this means is achieving peace between Israel and more than 1.2 billion Arabs and Muslims worldwide.
“Peace is made between equals, through the respect of each side’s history and identity, and understanding the discourse of the “Other”. As history proves, States commit wrongs, but States are strengthened when they acknowledge and apologise for those wrongs. To end the denial, the suffering, and the resentment that has led to violence and conflict, to reach the accommodation proposed by the API, it is necessary that the Palestinians be recognised as dignified human beings entitled to the same treatment and laws as other refugees and victims of conflict including their right to return and to exercise freedom of choice consistent with peace and security for all.
“To achieve real peace, it will be necessary for Israel to acknowledge its responsibility in the creation and perpetuation of the plight of the refugees. Such an acknowledgment is not a threat to its existence. It is in fact the exact opposite. By doing so, Israel would inevitably empower our respective citizens and leadership to establish peace based on political accommodation.”
Published in the Express tribune, May 26th, 2010.