Article one of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It does not, however, say “with the exception of Palestinians.”
But we, 11 million Palestinians, know very well that we are the exception to that rule. Whether we are “Israeli Arabs,” “Arabs of the occupied territories,” or diasporic Arabs, we cannot have the same rights as “all human beings.” Others have the right to life, work, security, health, movement, democracy, education, electricity, water, medicine, food, love, marriage. We don’t.
Any attempt to understand the rationale behind these blatant human rights violations – what Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, John Dugard, and many others call apartheid – is faced with accusations of anti-Semitism, a weapon used to silence voices calling for justice in the Middle East. Take, for example, the accusations hurled at the organizers of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) event at the Brooklyn College. Of course, no American president wants to be at the receiving end of such accusations.
As Ben White wrote: “The abuse of the charge of anti-Semitism to shield systematic human rights abuses and to smear activists, while tired and transparent to many, is still a favorite tactic.”
The possibility of peace with justice at this moment is far from realization. The impossibility of the realization of the national dream of one third of the Palestinian people has brought forward the embarrassing question of the rights of the remaining two thirds, namely the dispossessed refugees living in miserable camps.
What is the Palestinian cause if not the right of return of the refugees both inside and outside Palestine? Is there a slight possibility of having ‘peace’ in the Middle East without resolving this question? If, as some Israeli leaders claim, there is a way of finding a ‘just solution’ that does not include their return, does that guarantee a just comprehensive peace?
The whites of apartheid South Africa defined the institutions of the country as democratic – albeit white democracy, i.e. by and for whites only. Native Africans never recognized the ‘white nature’ of that country. The idea of defining the country as exclusively white and democratic at the same time was never accepted by the international community. It was considered blatant racism. Unlike Palestinians, black Africans are considered human beings, and therefore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to them.
That is precisely what the call for the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state means. Forget about 6 million refugees scattered all over the world as a result of the process of ethnic cleansing that accompanied the establishment of Israel.
According to this formula, the Palestinians are only those who live in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. ‘The Middle East conflict,’ in case you didn’t know, will be resolved if the latter are given a flag and three to four truncated bantustans with a chief that we can call a president.
US President Barack Obama’s expected talks in Ramallah and Tel Aviv next month are not going to allude to the refugees’ issues. Obama also won’t utter a word about the civil rights of 1.2 million Palestinian citizens inside the state of Israel. One thing he will not forget to say again and again: The US is committed to the security of the state of Israel! Hendrik Verwoerd and P. W Botha, the architects of Apartheid, would have been vindicated.
Haidar Eid is an assistant professor at al-Aqsa University in Gaza.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar’s editorial policy.
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