In the end the Palestinian mission comes down to individuals...who by standing before the world and before Zionism can ask the question, are you going to eradicate me to make way for someone else, and if so what right do you have to do so? Why is it right for a Jew born in Chicago to immigrate to Israel, whereas a Palestinian born in Jaffa is a refugee? The real strength of the Palestinian is just this insistence on the human being as a detail - the detail likely to be swept away for a grandiose project to be realised.
The Palestinian therefore stands on a small plot of land stubbornly called Palestine, or an idea of peace based neither on a project for transforming people into nonpeople nor on a geopolitical fantasy about the balance of power, but on a vision of the future accommodating both the peoples with authentic claims to Palestine, not just the Jews.
- Edward W. Said, The Question of Palestine; Apr 1992 edition, p.234.
Left - An elderly Palestinian woman cries after Israeli police confiscated her land in East Jerusalem; 21 Nov, 2004. (REUTERS/Mahfouz Abu Turk)
Right - A Jewish settler moves into an apartment in occupied East Jerusalem, guarded by Israeli border policemen; 31 March 2004. (Reuters/ David Furst)
When you blog about just one topic, it's easy to get carried away and assume that everybody is equally interested - and equally informed - about the same subject. Then you get brought back down to earth with a bump just by having a conversation with someone, or by reading the results of some survey (like Greg Philo's "Bad news from Israel", which found that most people get their news from TV, and know that there is day-to-day violence going on between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian "terrorists", but are clueless about who is occupying whom, which country the settlers come from, and even why there are Palestinian refugees in the first place). You realise that while you are blogging about the continuing repercussions of the Nakba and what options there are for a just resolution of it, a lot of the people you run into every day haven't got the faintest idea what you are talking about.
The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) has been running a Nakba awareness campaign this month, highlighting not only historical and statistical information about the events of 1948, but above all the personal testimony of Palestinians who lived through them and who would like Americans to ask themselves honestly: "What would you do if someone came and kicked you out of your house?”
The series culminates today with a roundtable discussion on the events of 58 years ago, by prominent diaspora Palestinians (including some like Diana Buttu, Saree Makdisi and George Bisharat, whose opinions you might have seen featured on Lawrence of Cyberia from time to time). Altogether the IMEU campaign is an approachable introduction to the Nakba, because it tells the story of what Edward Said called "the details". In other words, it brings home to Americans the fact that Palestine is not a geostrategic game, or a holy war, but a man-made disaster inflicted on ordinary people who are just like you and me, except that as Palestinians they can be displaced, dispossessed and ignored for no better reason than they are the wrong "sort" of people.
One final thing, while we are talking about George Bisharat, if you are interested in learning about the personal cost of Nakba and the restorative value of a simple "I'm sorry", you can't do better than to read Bisharat's published accounts of his journeys back to his family's (former) home in Jerusalem, and the differing reactions he encountered from the various Israelis who have lived in the house since 1948 e.g. Let Them Back and Rite of return to a Palestinian home.