In the long run, Israelis and Palestinians will learn to live side by side

From The Spokesman Review, May 8, 1994
By Mohammad H. Said

Feb, 5, 1993 was a cold day in Amman, Jordan. At 2 AM, two gentlemen knocked on my door at the Jerusalem Hotel to accompany me to meet with Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Mr. Arafat knew of my activities as a member of the Washington state Democratic Committee for many years. However, I met with him in Amman and later in Tunis as a Palestinian-American who has dedicated my life so Palestinians can have their own homeland in Palestine.

I asked him to put on the peace table the issues that are most relevant to the Palestinians – the status of Jerusalem, the settlements in the occupied territories and protection for Palestinians. Trying to get the White House or Congress to support those rights would be a waste of time, I explained, because of the Pro-Israeli lobby’s tremendous influence.

More than 4,000 pro-Israel political action committees collected more than $27 million in the past decade and distributed more than $13 million to congressional candidates. Most were elected.

During that period Israel received more than $30 billion from American taxpayers. I told the chairman he must go directly to the American people.

I described how the Washington state Democratic Party passed a resolution in 1988 calling for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1990, they reaffirmed that resolution and passed a new one calling for withholding U.S. economic and military aid until Israel respects Palestinian human rights and accepts U.N. resolutions 242 and 338.

Most important, in 1992 Washington Democrats called for Jerusalem to be an open city for all faiths – Christians, Muslims, and Jews – and opposed its annexation and its becoming the capital of Israel. I reminded Arafat that Israeli settlement of the occupied territories is unpopular among Americans as those settlers are right-wing zealots who don’t care about others’ human rights.

In my little town of Burin, for instance, the 5,000 residents have too little drinking water. Yet Itzar and Baraka, two settlements surrounding my village, have plenty of water for their swimming pools. It was settlers who took my village land, burned its mosque and harassed the school children. I spent my own money to build a concrete wall with barbed wire around the school for security.

Because of settlements along the road, I no longer can show my children how I walked to high school in Nablus in the 1950s.

In 1993 a group of Washington state Physicians for Social Responsibility visited Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and witnessed the brutalization of the Palestinians by the Israelis.

Israelis have violated the sanctity of hospitals, dragging injured kids form their beds. They force doctors to report any injured patient to the authorities within 10 minutes.

I told Arafat how Harbi, my niece’s husband came to me in Jerusalem. With sadness and desparation in his eyes, he told me about spending a night in jail because he had no permit to enter Jerusalem in his own country. They fined him $80, all he had to feed his children for a month.

Those resolutions, passed by 2,000 delegates at Washington state Democratic conventions prove that the American people are fair people. They support peace based on justice but they need to know the facts which the mighty pro-Israel lobby has clouded.

Unfortunately, Chairman Arafat did not heed my advice until after the Jewish Zionist Dr. Baruch Goldstein entered the Cave of the Patriarchs last Feb. 24 and massacred Moslems who were prostrate on the floor in prayer.

I am pessimistic that negotiations between Israel and Palestine will lead to a lasting peace. Everyone has his own agenda. For Palestinians, it is simple: Palestine is theirs. The British gave their land to other people in 1917. Britain gave the European Jews a homeland in Palestine in hopes of colonizing the Eastern flank of the Suez Canal and safeguarding England’s communication with India.

At the time, the Palestinians were the majority in Palestine, comprising 96 percent of the population and owning more than 94 percent of the land.

The Jews’ claim to Palestine is absurd. They are not descendents of the Biblical Hebrews but of later converts to Judaism whose ancestors never lived in Palestine.

On the contrary, the Palestinian people are the indigenous people who lived in the land for the last 5,000 years.

The Koran teaches me that were chosen people during a short period of history, probably less than 200 years, during the time of the prophets. Any human being who believes in God, prophets and the day of judgment and is good to himself and others is a chosen person.

The Jews of today are just like any other people. Palestine was not given to the Jews by God but by the British monarchy, and Israeli might is not an act of God but an act of the West and Congress whose billions of dollars provide Israel with the most sophisticated weaponry.

So the agenda for the Palestinians is to get autonomy in Jericho and Gaza. Then they will not settle for anything less than getting all of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, all of which is less than 15 percent of the Palestine that once was theirs.

The Israeli agenda is to end the Intifada and get rid of one of the largest ghettos in the world, the Gaza strip.

They want to remove the horrible image they earned by brutalizing the Palestinians. They want time to increase the settlements and to secure their grip on Jerusalem. They want to open trade and communication with Arabs and the Muslim world while giving the Palestinians little.

I predict Israel will prevail in the short run. They have the guns. But the Palestinians will prevail in the long run, as they are determined and believe in a just cause.

My idea is to compromise: two people, living side by side in Palestine, descended from a common father, the patriarch Abraham.

Israel should recognize the Palestinians’ right to have their own state, their own flag, and a resolution for the 2 million Palestinians who were forced from our homes when Israel was established in 1947.

Palestinians need to forgive the Israelis for what they have done and to recognize Israel’s right to internationally secure borders as was stated in the resolution I drafted with the help of a Jewish representative from Seattle at the 1988 state Democratic Convention.