The Jewish state's creation came at an awful price that Palestinians continue to pay today.
Minnesotans gathered Wednesday at the Metrodome to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary. For some, this was a joyful event. But at what price did this statehood come?
Those who celebrated should read the letter signed by British Jews in the Guardian on April 30, "We're not celebrating Israel's anniversary." The letter says, "Surely it is now time to acknowledge the narrative of the other, the price paid by another people for European anti-Semitism and Hitler's genocidal policies. As Edward Said emphasized, what the Holocaust is to the Jews, the Naqba [Catastrophe] is to the Palestinians."
The price of Israel's creation can be read in the book, "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine," by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe. Pappe writes: " ... on 10 March 1948 ... veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches to a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine." This led to 750,000 Palestinians being driven from their towns and villages in 1947-48. Many fled in the wake of atrocities such as the massacre of the villagers in Deir Yassin by Jewish forces on April 9, 1948. Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed, and vast tracts of land, houses, shops, olive and orange groves were confiscated.
The Naqba did not end there. The late Rabbi Elmer Berger, founding executive director of the Florida-based American Council for Judaism, asserted that "the Zionists did not draft a constitution for their new Jewish-Zionist state. Rather, they passed 'Basic Laws' that protect and elevate those of one religion and denigrate those of other faiths." What value is Israeli democracy if there is no constitution, but "Basic Laws" that elevate Jews and denigrate those of other faiths? Israel is violating international law by constructing and expanding Jewish-only settlements connected by Jewish-only bypass roads to each other and Israel proper. Are democracies allowed to violate international law?
If Israel and many Jewish voices for peace can begin to face these realities, why can't America?
Nearly 3 million Arabs and Arab-Americans live in the United States. Many of them can visit, but never return, to the land of their ancestry and birth, whereas Jews from all over the world can go live as citizens in Israel. While Israelis can enjoy dual citizenship, many Palestinian refugees are left stateless in refugee camps.
Palestinians in Jerusalem have been defined as "foreign immigrants" or "permanent residents," not as native citizens -- so they cannot vote. This way, Israel is able to continue its expulsion of Arabs by taking away their citizenship if they live abroad for a number of years.
Some Jewish political leaders have suggested that Israel's Arabs, who can vote, should eventually live in a future Palestinian state. What value is the Arabs' vote if Israel is planning to erase them from their ancestral homeland?
Today, most Palestinians are exiles, and more than 95 percent of their homeland is still under Israeli control. Palestinians are being pushed out, tortured, detained without charge or trial. They endure humiliation and degradation at checkpoints, as well as racism, oppression, fear and injustice in their homeland.
Why has the world looked the other way? Because Jews were persecuted 60 years ago. The atrocities that happened in Europe were horrific, and inexcusable, but they don't justify the sufferings of Palestinians and their forced removal from their homeland.
While Palestinians cry out for justice and mercy, people around the world are celebrating the 60 years of injustice and ethnic cleansing that Palestinians have endured. Minnesotans must join voices of conscience everywhere and refuse to celebrate until Israel recognizes Arabs as a people with rights and until Jews and non-Jews are treated with the same human dignity before the law.
Fedwa Wazwaz, Brooklyn Park, leads EngageMN.Com, a program to foster dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims in Minnesota.