My soul burns for a sovereign Palestinian State. No such thing has ever existed before. We have always been a territory, up for grabs by the strongest fist, whether Turks, British, Jordanians or Israelis.
Our need for independence is so strong, so deeply embedded that we are willing to sacrifice anything. Pay any price. Fight to our last drop of blood.
But do we know what we are fighting for?
We have suffered for more than half a century, only to fill Israeli prisons and Palestinian cemeteries.
What if tomorrow’s headlines announced the establishment of the independent State of Palestine, recognized by the entire global community?
What would it look like? Do we even know? Cuba maybe?
Like Palestinians, the Cuban people fought for decades to gain independence from Spain. They succeeded in the Treaty of Paris. Since 1902, however, the independent Republic of Cuba has been ripped apart by one revolution after another. In 1959, the people cheered when Fidel Castro seized control. But all he has accomplished is to make Cuba an international pariah and a prison of more than 11 million people. Every year, for the past 20 years, the UN Human Rights Commission has received resolutions condemning Cuba’s egregious human rights record.
I do not think we want to model ourselves on Cuba, ruled like China and Vietnam by doctrines to which everything and everyone must conform.
Nor do I believe that we want a Palestinian version of North Korea or Sudan, ruled by tyrants who govern by force and fear.
What’s left? Absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia? A theocracy like Iran?
Led by Hamas, Palestine would be an Islamic state, oppressed by religious leaders ruthlessly wielding sharia law. Led by Fatah, Palestine would be a corrupt nation like Romania, structured on bribes.
What about democracy? Democracy has proved throughout the ages to provide a firm and stable foundation. If the building topples, the foundation remains. What and how we build upon that foundation, however, is determined by our choices. While I love the freedoms and opportunities of America, I see that it has made moral, economic and political choices in recent decades that threaten its continuation as a world leader.
Sadly, because of the mistakes and excesses of many Western democracies, we refuse to consider a democratic Palestine. The word itself carries too much negative baggage.
But democracy does not mean America or Israel. It means “government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” It means you and I decide what we want a national homeland to be and how to build it. It means excising corruption with ballots instead of bullets. It means creating a binding constitution and a just judicial system. It means human rights over personal agendas. It means active, constructive membership in the global community, instead of continuing as an unproductive, non-contributing people group trapped in a hopeless struggle for we don’t know what.
We have become like a hunter in the forest, driven nearly mad by hunger. But he has never seen a deer and does not know what one looks like. So he shoots at rocks and trees, up in the air and into the wind. Finally, he starves to death in a wood filled with game. We have isolated ourselves from all of the opportunities the world offers to us and our children. We don’t know what a Palestinian State would look like. We don’t know how to join the international community. We have let ourselves be defined by what we call our cause.
But if we don’t know our endgame, why are we willing to pay such a heavy price?
What would happen if we stopped fighting?
Is there not one Palestinian with wisdom, love for our people and courage to sit across the table from the Israelis? Is there no hope of redeeming the Oslo offers? Do we still not see the stupidity of demanding all or nothing?
And once we became autonomous, is there no one among us with wisdom, love for our people and humility to ask thriving, successful democracies to show us how to build our own democracy? To show us how to avoid making the mistakes they’ve made?
If we stop fighting and start building, won’t the world be amazed?
Won’t the World Bank and International Monetary Fund provide us with enough resources to build a modern infrastructure and establish global commerce when they see that we have replaced our corrupt leaders with men and women of integrity, compassion and vision? Men and women who respect justice and human rights?
When they see what we can accomplish peacefully and creatively, won’t the global community demand that Israel withdraw its settlers and restore our land?
When we develop our land, won’t we be able to offer our refugees the right of return, as Israel offered it to Jews in the Diaspora?
And when we are a sovereign nation, won’t Israel be forced to empty its prisons of thousands of Palestinian sons, fathers and daughters and send them home?
Today, a Palestinian mother is honored if her husband or son is arrested and tortured or dies a martyr. Don’t our daughters, wives and mothers deserve better? Don’t our children deserve opportunities to become all they can—not terrorists and martyrs and victims of oppression, but men and women recognized by the world for their accomplishments in science, education, art, philosophy and industry?
Aren’t we tired of being a cause in the Middle East instead of an example?
Palestinian creativity has been channeled into digging tunnels, forming terrorist cells and planning attacks. We don’t have creative ideas because we are prisoners of a single destructive thought. What if we broke out of that suicidal mindset, stopped fighting for we don’t know what and unleashed our creativity?
Generation after generation dreams the same dream: drive out the Israelis, kill the Israelis, destroy Israel. We cannot see beyond our borders because we are blinded by our pain and hatred.
I am not saying that we can or should excuse the bloodshed, atrocities, assassinations, imprisonments and torture, theft and loss. I am saying that we need to move beyond it. We need to rise above it like a plane climbing through a deadly thunderstorm into the clear, open sky.
When will we stop dreaming the impossible dream and start dreaming of limitless possibilities? When will we stop targeting settlers, buses, schools and pizza parlors and target constructive goals as a nation, communities and families?
We can lift our hands in victory over a land charred by fire and soaked in Palestinian blood, or we can have jobs and industry, income and prosperity, health and education, freedom to travel anywhere in the world, whenever we want.
We can have leaders imposed on us or elected—and, if necessary, replaced—by us. We can have a Palestinian State that oppresses its people as the Israelis have during the occupation or a country with no limits on what we can achieve, how much we can accomplish or how big of a footprint we leave behind.
When will we begin fighting with our brains instead of our bombs? With reason instead of retaliation?
Even a two-year-old child can destroy. Only men and women of wisdom, vision and courage can build a nation.