By Frank Barat
Before I start, I’d like to make it clear that not all views/takes on the subject will be mentioned in this piece. I will not talk about the ‘views from Mars’ (actually if there is ‘people’ on Mars they will probably be offended by the comparison. So if you do indeed exist, please forgive me) of certain ‘Palestinian People deniers’ US politicians that manage to be lunatic and mainstream at the same time. The fact that those views are hardly challenged and condemned in mainstream US politics and media says a lot about the ‘land of the free’.
The easiest way to define Palestinian is to say that ‘a Palestinian’ is either someone coming from historical Palestine, born from a Palestinian mother or a Palestinian father or someone born from a Palestinian father and mother but leaving outside of Palestine. A land, in its historical sense, extending from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.
A land full of history, conflicts and occupations.
Without going too far back in history, the land of Palestine has been, throughout the 20th century, occupied by the Ottoman Empire, followed by the British (the Brits did not like the word occupation much so found a nicer name to describe it: A mandate.), the Kingdom of Jordan and Egypt. From 1948, something else happened with the creation, on top of ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, of the State of Israel.
This State then went on to occupy from 1968 till now, what is today known as the West Bank and Gaza (including East Jerusalem that Israel illegally annexed, also in 1968).
People saying that the Palestinians never saw themselves as a People, or waited till 1964 to adopt the flag of the 1916 Arab revolt as their flag, are missing the point.
The concepts of land ownership and Nation States, represented by flags, are not part of what Native people believe (being Palestinians, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals…). Those concepts where forced upon them by colonialism, imperialism and the self-proclaimed ‘enlightened people’ of the West.
Before they were forced to adopt a flag to justify their existence, the indigenous People of Palestine, relied on logic and respect. If a particular family had cultivated its olive trees in one place for a generation, then others will not intrude into that place. On the other hand, if a land was not cultivated for a few years, others could start using it. They felt as a People. They just did not feel the need to justify it, either by proclaiming a State, raising a flag or singing a national anthem. Their link to the land and their neighbours was, and still is, organic.
That’s what we could call, the broadly accepted (outside of lunatic circles) definition of ‘being a Palestinian’. (Pardon me for the use of shortcuts in the story).
Now, let’s try to push the envelope further. What if ‘being a Palestinian’ was much more than that, and included in fact, many, many more people.
What if, the ‘we are all Palestinians’ that we often hear in demonstrations, actually meant something a lot deeper than we think.
With the exportation and reproduction of the occupation in the daily lives of millions of people throughout the world, the words Palestine and Palestinian, resonates in thousands of different places, in hundreds of different ways and have out-lived their more historical definition.
Could ‘being palestinian’ over write DNA, genes, place of birth, Nation State and flag?
The Palestine issue has truly become a global issue. The Palestine struggle is nowadays a symbolic cause that has brought thousands, millions of people, all over the world, together. People fighting for the right of the Palestinian People to be free, but also for a better, fairer, more beautiful world. Finding the key to the Palestine question could have repercussions for millions of people around the globe. Finding this key, will not only open the door of Palestine for millions of Palestinian refugees, it will also open a door, a window, in everyone’s consciousness. This key could also free us from the chains of vulture capitalism, globalisation, individualism and neo-liberalism.
It will open a window of solidarity, change and hope for the future.
‘Being Palestinian’, before having anything to do with nationality, means being someone that stands for justice, freedom and equality for all of us, regardless of our religion, ethnicity and place of birth. ‘Being Palestinian’ is someone that stands for the oppressed, against the oppressor.
‘Being Palestinian’ could be the first truly global and free worldwide citizenship based on ethics instead of ‘race’ or nationality.
The question facing us now is how to convince millions more people to adopt this citizenship.
You can agree or disagree of course, but please, don’t call me a lunatic.
– Frank Barat is a Human Rights activist based in London. He has edited two books; ‘Gaza in Crisis’ with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, and ‘Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation’ with Asa Winstanley. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.