May 15 marked the 58th anniversary of Al Nakba (The Catastrophe). Every
year, Palestinians recount the tragedy of 1948.
I recall my grandmother’s anguish: she was seven months pregnant with
my mother when she was forced to flee to Lebanon by boat. She waited in Lebanon.
The weeks turned into months. The months turned into years . . . Fifty-eight
years later, my grandmother has yet to return to her house in Jaffa.
When the Zionists forces (the Haganagh, Irgun, and Stern Gang) tore Palestine
limb from limb, depopulating villages, uprooting cemeteries, and pillaging arable
fields, Israel had not even been created. Today we see a fight for Israel’s
“right to exist.” But what right does Israel have to exist in its
United Nations (UN) Resolution 194 states,
“The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with
their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,
and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not
Israel’s admittance into the UN was conditional: it must recognize
UN Resolution 194. Nevertheless, since the passing of UN Resolution 273 -- which
admitted Israel into the UN on May 11, 1949 -- Israel has openly rejected this
requirement. Commenting on Israel’s dismissal of the resolution, Professor
of Law Francis A. Boyle wrote in his book Palestine, Palestinians and International
Law, “Insofar as Israel has violated its conditions for admission
to UN membership, it must accordingly be suspended on a de facto basis from
any participation throughout the entire United Nations system.”
Yet, the world hasn’t seen one UN resolution concerning Israel enforced
by the UN or the international community. America specifically refers to “countless”
UN resolutions Iraq refused to comply with as a major reason to invade in 2003.
If America were to invade Iraq on this reasoning, one would think they would
at least attempt to enforce the UN resolutions pertaining to Israel.
The implementing of UN Resolution 194 was the condition for Israel’s
“right to exist.” Today we see many more factors that should make
one contemplate this right. Israel illegally occupies East Jerusalem, the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip. Post-disengagement, Israel continues to occupy Gaza
through control of borders, air, water, and resources. According to the Israeli
newspaper Haaretz, since March 31 of this year, Israel has fired more than 5,100
artillery shells at Gaza.
The occupation is illegal under international law and UN resolution 242 (reaffirmed
by resolution 338). UN resolution 242 explicitly states that Israel must “withdraw
from territories occupied.” On this basis, before going into the brutality
of the occupation, one cannot expect the Palestinian Authority to recognize
Israel’s “right to exist.”
Furthermore, Israel exists today as a Jewish state and not coincidentally a
racist state. The Palestinians living inside Israel are second-class citizens.
Discriminatory laws are in place regarding religion, marriage, and land ownership.
Access to education, jobs and economic stability has been hindered due to successive
Israeli administrations' prejudiced policies. One cannot expect those in the
Occupied Territories to recognize Israel, if Israel as a Jewish state does not
recognize the rights of one in five of its citizens.
Just this week the Israeli High Court voted down a law that would instate “family
reunification,” the unifying of Palestinians living outside of Israel
with their spouse living inside Israel. This is one more policy that tries to
force those living inside Israel to emigrate to the Occupied Territories or
elsewhere. One father who has been trying to get Israeli citizenship since 2004
to reunite with his wife and two daughters, asked the Israeli newspaper Haaretz,
“How do you explain to a five-year-old girl that daddy won't be home because
of a law?”
The discriminatory policy of the government is emblematic of the feeling in
Israeli society. A recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute found
that 62 percent of Israelis prefer that their government promote the emigration
of the Palestinian population living inside Israel. Electronic Intifada, a website
that covers the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from the Palestinian perspective,
published a piece by I’lam, “the only media centre for the Arab
minority in Israel,” which stated, “Recent polls have shown that,
while on average 40 per cent of Israelis want Arab citizens forced to leave
the country, that figure rises close to 60 percent when respondents are asked,
more ambiguously, if they want the Arab population ‘encouraged’
to emigrate.” Israel’s systemic desire for the separation and future
dispossession of its Palestinian citizens is yet another reason to question
its “right to exist” in its current form.
It is particularly absurd for Israel and the West to call upon the Palestinian
government to recognize Israel when Israel refuses to recognize the Palestinian
people. Take for example the policy implemented during the Oslo years, a policy
that continues today. During the Oslo years settlements expanded at an inordinate
rate with a clear mission to expand the borders of Israel, jeopardizing the
possibility of a future Palestinian state on 22 percent of historic Palestine
-- the internationally recognized 1967 borders.
Today we see Kadima’s plan for the recognition of the Palestinian people:
Judaize Jerusalem (while permanently dispossessing as many Palestinians as possible
though extensions and encirclements of the Apartheid Wall), expand and connect
desirable and densely populated settlements, and extend the policy of unilateralism,
thereby hindering any opportunity for cohesion, reconciliation or negotiations.
The border policy of Israel is compounded with a 38-year occupation, which includes
land confiscation, home demolitions, permanent checkpoints, flying checkpoints,
curfews, expropriation of vital resources such as water, strip searches and
various acts of humiliation and collective punishment.
On the physical front, Israel has illegally detained thousands of Palestinians
(in most cases torturing them), extrajudically assassinated hundreds of Palestinians,
killed hundreds of women and children, and has fired thousands of artillery
shells into the Occupied Territories. This course of action continues unabated,
while the world sits idly by. Furthermore, the illegal settlers in the Occupied
Territories abuse the Palestinian population with virtual impunity. Thousands
of cases have surfaced where settlers have beaten Palestinians, thrown rocks
at their children on their way to school, killed family livestock, and burnt
down or uprooted their olive trees. The Israeli government has done nothing
to stop these actions.
On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority has complied with the Sharm al-Sheikh
cease-fire and has maintained the agreement well past its expiration only to
be met with an economic and political boycott by Israel and the international
community. Israel and the West’s policy of not recognizing the Palestinian
people have driven up the figures of unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition.
The most significant point of hypocrisy is Israel and the West’s double
standard regarding the governments in the conflict. If the world is to believe
that Israel does not have to recognize Yasser Arafat or a Hamas-led PA because
they are terrorist entities, would Israel not be held to the same standard?
Their policies and tactics are in direct violation of international law and
the Geneva Conventions, while their practices have been criticized by every
major human rights organization in the world, not to mention the Hague’s
critical ruling on the Apartheid Wall. Israel does not recognize the Palestinian
Authority, not based on their refusal to recognize Israel, but on Israel’s
summation of what the PA represents. Should the PA not be able to make the same
No people, surely no occupied people, should be expected to recognize Israel
under these conditions. The international community should not demand the Palestinians
recognize Israel, but ask themselves an important question: given the circumstances
does Israel have a right to exist?
Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American, lives in New York
City. He is a freelance writer, and the founder and primary writer for the political
website, Poetic Injustice.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.